Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry

Matt. 6:25-34; Luke 12:22-31
(Huck 35, 157; Aland 67, 201; Crook 49, 236)[1]

Revised: 10-January-2018

[וַיֹּאמֶר לְתַלְמִידָיו] לְפִיכָךְ אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם אַל תְּהַרְהְרוּ לְנַפְשְׁכֶם מַה תֹּאכְלוּ וּמַה תִּשְׁתּוּ וְלֹא לְגוּפְכֶם מַה תִּלְבְּשׁוּ הֲלֹא הַנֶּפֶשׁ מְרֻבָּה מִן הַפַּרְנָסָה וְהַגּוּף מִן הַכְּסוּת הַבִּיטוּ בָּעוֹרְבִים שֶׁאֵינָם זוֹרְעִים וְאֵינָם קוֹצְרִים וְאֵינָם מַכְנִיסִים לְאוֹצָרוֹת וְשָׁמַיִם מְפַרְנֵס אוֹתָם עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה אַתֶּם שֶׁחֲמוּרִים מֵעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּמִי בָּכֶם שֶׁמְּהַרְהֵר יָכוֹל לְהוֹסִיף עַל קוֹמָתוֹ אַמָּה אַחַת וְעַל כְּסוּת לָמָּה אַתֶּם מְהַרְהְרִים הִסְתַּכְּלוּ בְּצִיץ הַשָּׂדֶה הֵיאַךְ הֵם צוֹמְחִים אֵינָם עֲמֵלִים וְאֵינָם טוֹוִים וַאֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם אַף שְׁלֹמֹה בְּכָל כְּבוֹדוֹ לֹא הִתְכַּסֶּה כְּאַחַד מֵהֶם אִם כָּךְ אֶת חֲצִיר הַשָּׂדֶה שֶׁהַיּוֹם קַיָּם וּמָחָר בַּתַּנּוּר נָתוּן מַלְבִּישׁ שָׁמַיִם עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה אַתֶּם מְחוּסְּרֵי אֲמָנָה לְפִיכָךְ אַל תְּהַרְהְרוּ לוֹמַר מַה נֹּאכַל אוֹ מַה נִּשְׁתֶּה אוֹ בַּמֶּה נִתְכַּסֶּה שֶׁכָּל אֵלּוּ אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם מְבַקְּשִׁים וְיוֹדֵעַ אֲבִיכֶם שֶׁאַתֶּם צְרִיכִים כָּל אֵלּוּ אֶלָּא בַּקְּשׁוּ אֶת מַלְכוּתוֹ וְאֶת צִדְקָתוֹ וְכָל אֵלּוּ יִתְוַסְּפוּ לָכֶם לְפִיכָךְ אַל תְּהַרְהְרוּ לְמָחָר כִּי מָחָר יְהַרְהֵר לְעַצְמוֹ דַּיּוֹ לַיּוֹם רָעָתוֹ

[And Yeshua said to his disciples,] “So don’t be filled with anxiety about your lives, how you will eat and drink, or about your bodies, how you will be dressed. Isn’t life itself more important than the fuel that keeps it going? And isn’t the body more important than the clothes that keep it covered? If God provided the former, won’t he provide the latter as well? Take a look at the ravens who neither sow seed, nor harvest crops, nor store their harvest in storehouses. Nevertheless, God maintains them. How much more, then, will God maintain you, who are far more important than the birds of the sky?

“Or which of you worriers is able to make his body grow taller? Then why are you filled with anxiety about clothing? See how the flowers of the field grow: they neither labor nor spin, but I can assure you that even when Solomon was decked out in the finest of his royal robes, he wasn’t dressed as well as them. If this is how God chooses to clothe the grass of the field, though it lasts only for a day and then is burned in an oven, how much more adequately will God clothe you, you doubters?

“So don’t be filled with anxiety asking, ‘What will we eat?’; or, ‘What will we drink?’; or, ‘How will we clothe ourselves?’ These are all the things Gentiles constantly demand; and your father already knows you need all these things. Rather, seek God’s Kingdom and his deeds of salvation, and he will add all these things to you as well.

“So don’t be filled with anxiety about tomorrow. Tomorrow can worry about itself. It is enough to let each day deal with its own difficulties.”[2]










To view the reconstructed text of Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry click on the link below:

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Story Placement

Robert Lindsey believed that Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry should be regarded as the continuation of Jesus’ response to Martha’s protest that her sister Mary had failed to help her in serving Jesus and his disciples.[3] According to Lindsey, the Miryam and Marta story (Luke 10:38-42) was the narrative introduction of a teaching complex that included not only Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry (Matt. 6:25-34 // Luke 12:22-31), but also the Rich Fool parable (Luke 12:16-21) and the Rich Man and Lazar parable (Luke 16:19-31), which he regarded as twin illustrations.[4] In support of his reconstruction, Lindsey noted that Jesus stated that Martha was “worried” about many things (Luke 10:41), which corresponds to Jesus’ instruction “Do not worry” in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry (Matt. 6:25 // Luke 12:22)[5] Lindsey also believed that the description of the birds that do not store in barns (Matt. 6:26; cf. Luke 12:24) and the foolish man’s plan to build bigger barns in which to store his produce (Luke 12:18) demonstrated a literary connection between Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry and the Rich Fool parable.[6] In addition, Lindsey argued that the rich fool had too much food (corresponding to “What will we eat?”), whereas the rich man in the Rich Man and Lazar parable had too many clothes (corresponding to “What will we wear?”).[7] Moreover, Lindsey found his reconstruction to be satisfying because it supplied the identity of the mysterious “one thing [that] is needed” (Luke 10:42), namely, “Seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33 // Luke 12:31). The overarching lesson Lindsey drew from the reconstructed complex was that it is wrong to be concerned about material goods when one’s attention should be focused on the Kingdom of Heaven.

Drawing of Jesus, Mary and Martha attributed to Rembrandt. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Despite our acceptance of Lindsey’s premise that it is possible to restore larger narrative-sayings complexes from literary fragments preserved in the Synoptic Gospels, Lindsey’s arguments in favor of the specific reconstruction of the “Sin of Worrying about Material Things” complex are ultimately unconvincing. The first major weakness of Lindsey’s reconstruction is the change in audience between the Miryam and Marta story, where Martha is addressed (“Martha, Martha, you are worried, and troubled…”; 2nd per. sing.), and Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, where a wider audience (presumably consisting of the disciples) is addressed (“Do not worry…”; 2nd per. plur.). Not only does Jesus turn away from Martha to address the disciples, but according to Lindsey’s reconstruction, Jesus never returns to Martha. It is as though Jesus, having begun by addressing Martha, forgot that she was there at all. Indeed, not only does Lindsey’s reconstruction lose sight of Martha’s person, according to Lindsey’s reconstruction Martha’s concerns are entirely eclipsed by those of the disciples, as well. Whereas Martha was perturbed because of having too much work, Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry addresses fears regarding the inability to scrounge up enough of the barest necessities of life, fears that were familiar to the disciples who did not work for a living (cf. Matt. 12:1), but which were not shared by Martha, overwhelmed with work as she was in her kitchen. While the verb μεριμνᾶν (merimnan, “to worry”) does occur in both pericopae, the root causes of the anxiety and the objects of concern, as well as the audiences addressed, are entirely different.

The second major weakness of Lindsey’s reconstruction is that the two parables he selected as the continuation of the argument made in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry are not illustrative of the worries described in that pericope. Neither of the rich men were worried about how to meet their most basic necessities. Both rich men enjoyed an overabundance. The rich man in Luke 12:19 explicitly stated that he hadn’t a care in the world. What characterizes the rich men is their freedom from anxiety and their total lack of social consciousness. Thus, not only does Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry fail to address the cause of Martha’s distress in the Miryam and Marta story, but the two parables Lindsey selected as the conclusion of his reconstructed complex fail to address worries of any kind.

The third major weakness of Lindsey’s reconstruction is the claim that the Rich Fool and the Rich Man and Lazar parables are twin illustrations.[8] True twin parables tell the same story with different actors and different props (e.g., a shepherd and a woman both recover a lost possession, or a farmer and a merchant both discover an object of value). In Rich Fool and Rich Man and Lazar, by contrast, we have entirely different story lines—the rich fool discovers that his plans for the future were futile, whereas the rich man who ignored his neighbor discovers that a reversal of fortunes awaited him in the world to come—but the central character is of the same type, namely, a rich man. Moreover, the points made by the two parables are entirely different. The point of the Rich Fool parable is that there is no profit in wealth if one loses one’s soul; the Rich Man and Lazar parable, on the other hand, illustrates the concept that the wicked squander any reward they may have earned in this world, storing up only punishment for the world to come.[9] Thus, not only are the Rich Fool and Rich Man and Lazar parables shown formally not to be twins, but the points they illustrate are dissimilar.

The fourth major weakness of Lindsey’s reconstructed complex is his argument for verbal unity. While it is true that the verb μεριμνᾶν occurs in the Miryam and Marta story (1x) and in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry (6xx), this is the only verbal link between the two passages, and as we have noted above, the root causes of the anxiety and the objects of concern in the two passages are entirely different. Moreover, neither the verb μεριμνᾶν, nor the noun μέριμνα, nor even a synonym for “worry” occurs in either the Rich Fool or the Rich Man and Lazar parables. Thus, Lindsey’s reconstructed complex lacks a verbal and thematic unity that could tie it all together. The verbal links between Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry and the Rich Fool parable are likewise unimpressive. “Storing in barns” admittedly occurs in both passages, but in an agrarian society the mention of storing grain in barns is hardly exceptional.[10] Since Jesus typically drew on imagery from everyday life, the mere presence of “storing in barns” is insufficient to establish a literary relationship between the two pericopae. The verbal links connecting the Rich Fool parable to the Rich Man and Lazar parable are similarly weak. Aside from “rich,” the only distinctive vocabulary common to both parables is the term “goods” (τὰ ἀγαθά; Luke 12:18, 19; 16:25).[11] As we have seen, the fact that both main characters are rich men argues against viewing them as twin parables (true twin parables tell the same story with different props and characters), and a term as generic as “goods” is hardly enough to establish a literary connection. Thus, although we are deeply indebted to Lindsey for his insight that the original literary context of some synoptic pericopae can be recovered on the basis of thematic and verbal clues, we are forced to conclude that Lindsey failed to make a convincing case in this particular instance.

Where, then, are we to place Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry within our reconstruction of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua? Building on Lindsey’s observation that narrative-sayings complexes can be reconstructed from the literary fragments preserved in the Synoptic Gospels, we observed in our work on the “How to Pray” complex that something was missing. There is a gap between the narrative setting in which the disciples request that Jesus teach them to pray, which in response prompts Jesus to compose what is commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer, and the several illustrations intended to persuade the disciples that God’s good character ensures that he will indeed respond to the disciples’ prayers. The gap consists of an explicit acknowledgement of the disciples’ worries and the cause of their anxiety.

Regarding the Fathers Give Good Gifts pericope, which we consider to be the conclusion of the “How to Pray” complex, Piper made the following observation: “The impression is that the persuasion [in the Fathers Give Good Gifts pericope—DNB and JNT] is employed to counter doubts about very real problems of need facing followers.”[12] Piper’s observation is only strengthened by our hypothesis that the Persistent Widow parable and the Friend in Need simile were likewise given to allay the disciples’ very real, pressing anxieties. But what those pressing concerns might have been are not explicitly stated. There are clues on either side of the gap, however, that suggest what those concerns might have been. The Friend in Need simile and the Fathers Give Good Gifts pericope both address the need for food, specifically bread. The Lord’s Prayer contains a petition for bread, a petition that also reads like a vow of poverty: “Give us this day our daily bread,” not “Give us in advance a three-month’s supply,” nor even “In addition to what we need for today, give us also a small surplus for tomorrow.” In other words, the type of prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray and the rigorous lifestyle that prayer implies were probable cause for anxiety. This impression is confirmed by the several illustrations that argue that God can be trusted to give the disciples what they ask for when they pray the Lord’s Prayer.

The clues we have collected from the material surrounding the gap prove that Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry would fill that gap admirably. The surrounding context suggested that the disciples would be anxious about obtaining their most basic necessities, and that is precisely the issue Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry addresses.

Another advantage to placing Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry into the “How to Pray” complex is that it supplies the otherwise missing imagery of prayer as “seeking,” which occurs in the application of the Friend in Need simile: “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7; Luke 11:9). Friend in Need and Fathers Give Good Gifts both compare prayer to “asking,” and Friend in Need conjures up the imagery of “knocking,” but without including Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry in the “How to Pray” complex, with its command to “Seek the Kingdom [of God],” there is nothing outside the application of the Friend in Need simile to suggest that prayer is a kind of seeking.

Moreover, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” mirrors the structure of the rest of the “How to Pray” complex. The Persistent Widow parable describes a quest for justice (righteousness and justice are a common pair in Hebrew and are nearly synonymous), while Friend in Need and Fathers Give Good Gifts reinforce the promise that “all these things” will be supplied for the disciples as well.

One final advantage to the placement of Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry within the “How to Pray” complex is that, although it rejects one of Lindsey’s suggestions, it actually conforms better to Lindsey’s overarching hypothesis regarding how the narrative-sayings complexes were dismantled in the process of transmission. According to Lindsey, it was the Anthologizer (the creator of the Anthology [Anth.]) who began the process of breaking apart the complexes. But, ignoring for the moment the logical gap that Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry so perfectly fills, Luke 11:1-13 contains nearly all of the “How to Pray” complex as Lindsey envisioned it.[13] The only thing missing from Luke 11:1-13 is the Persistent Widow parable, and we have found that it was probably the author of Luke himself who removed this parable from its original position right before the Friend in Need simile.[14] But if that was the case, then the Anthologizer must have preserved the “How to Pray” complex entirely intact, a dramatic departure from his usual practice. By recognizing the logical gap between the Lord’s Prayer and the several illustrations that follow, we realize that the Anthologizer actually did follow his usual procedure by removing Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry from its position between the Lord’s Prayer and the illustrations. For whatever reason, the Anthologizer preferred to present condensed teaching units, and evidently he felt that Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry could stand on its own two feet. Thus, while we have disagreed with Lindsey regarding specific conclusions, we are entirely indebted to his brilliant insight into the way the synoptic materials passed from their original setting into their present positions within the Gospels of Luke, Mark and Matthew.



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


Conjectured Stages of Transmission

Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry is a Double Tradition (DT) pericope characterized by high verbal identity, which suggests that the authors of Luke and Matthew copied Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry from their shared source, the Anthology. The differences between the two versions are the result of redactional changes made by the authors of Luke and Matthew to the wording of their source.

Versions of Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry have also been preserved in the writings of Justin Martyr[15] and in the Gospel of Thomas.[16]

Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 655 (early third century C.E.), which preserves a Greek fragment of the Gospel of Thomas containing a parallel to Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Crucial Issues

  1. Why were the disciples so worried about the basic necessities of life?
  2. What was the original context of Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry?
  3. Did Jesus speak about the impossibility of lengthening one’s lifespan or of increasing one’s stature?


L1-2 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς (Luke 12:22). It is difficult to determine whether the words “And he said to his disciples,” with which the author of Luke introduces Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, were copied from Anth. or composed by the author of Luke himself. Elsewhere we have accepted similar constructions for GR, such as εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτοὺς,[17] εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς,[18] etc., and Luke’s εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς reverts easily to Hebrew as וַיֹּאמֶר לְתַלְמִידָיו. In addition, the author of Matthew might have omitted this phrase, since he incorporated Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry into the Sermon on the Mount, which was addressed to a wider audience, rather than just to the disciples. On the other hand, the phrase “And he said to his disciples” leading into a concluding statement (“Therefore, I say to you…”) might be perceived as intrusive. Due to our uncertainty, we have placed GR and HR in L1-2 in brackets.

L3 διὰ τοῦτο λέγω ὑμῖν (GR). Since “Therefore, I say to you” occurs in both the Lukan and Matthean versions, there can be little doubt that διὰ τοῦτο λέγω ὑμῖν was the reading of Anth. This phrase clearly implies that Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry was the continuation of a larger block of teaching material. As Allen noted, the “therefore” in L3 must originally have referred back to a promise of God’s provision for the disciples.[19] Neither Luke nor Matthew preserves the original placement of Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, however, which indicates that this pericope had already been separated from its original context by the Anthologizer.

לְפִיכָךְ אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם (HR). Elsewhere, we have used לְפִיכָךְ (lefichāch, “therefore”) to reconstruct οὖν (oun, “therefore”).[20] Here in L3, διὰ τοῦτο (dia touto, “because of this”) serves the same function as οὖν, making לְפִיכָךְ a suitable option for HR.

L4 μὴ μεριμνᾶτε τῇ ψυχῇ ὑμῶν (GR). The readings of Luke and Matthew are identical apart from Matthew’s inclusion of the possessive pronoun “your” after “soul.”[21] We believe it is more likely that the author of Luke dropped ὑμῶν than that the possessive pronoun was added by the author of Matthew, since the omission of pronouns is a characteristic redactional improvement.[22]

The sense of ψυχή (psūchē) must be understood to be “life” or “life force” rather than “[immortal] soul,” since ordinary food is what keeps the ψυχή alive. The ψυχή is the inner force that keeps the body animated, but it is mortal just like the body, since without food the ψυχή quickly expires.

אַל תְּהַרְהְרוּ לְנַפְשְׁכֶם (HR). Hebrew lacks a precise equivalent to μεριμνᾶν (merimnan, “to think about,” “to be anxious about”).[23] In LXX μεριμνᾶν occurs 9xx, but represents six different Hebrew terms.[24] Although Delitzsch rendered μεριμνᾶν as דָּאַג (dā’ag, “be afraid of/for,” “be sorry”) in his translations of Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry in Matthew and Luke, we have preferred to reconstruct μεριμνᾶν with הִרְהֵר (hirhēr) for the following reasons:

  1. The verb הִרְהֵר (“think about,” “be anxious about”) is closer to the semantic range of μεριμνᾶν (merimnan, “to think about,” “to be anxious about”) than is דָּאַג (“be afraid of/for,” “be sorry”).
  2. In tannaic sources דָּאַג is quite rare.[25]
  3. We have an excellent parallel to Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry in the name of a Second Temple period sage, where we find the noun הִרְהוּר (hirhūr, “oppressive thought,” “preoccupation”), a cognate of the verb הִרְהֵר:

רבי חנניה סגן הכהנים אומר כל הנותן דברי תורה על לבו מבטלין ממנו הרהורין הרבה. הרהורי רעב. הרהורי שטות. הרהורי זנות. הרהורי יצר הרע. הרהורי אשה רעה. הרהורי דברים בטלים. הרהורי עול בשר ודם שכן כתוב בספר תהלים על ידי דוד מלך ישראל פקודי ה′ ישרים משמחי לב מצות ה′ ברה מאירת עינים. וכל שאינו נותן דברי תורה על לבו נותנין לו הרהורין הרבה. הרהורי רעב. הרהורי שטות. הרהורי זנות. הרהורי יצר הרע. הרהורי אשה רעה. הרהורי דברים בטלים. הרהורי עול בשר ודם. שכך כתוב במשנה תורה על ידי משה רבינו והיו בך לאות ולמופת ובזרעך עד עולם תחת אשר לא עבדת את ה′ אלהיך בשמחה ובטוב לב מרוב כל ועבדת את אויביך אשר ישלחנו ה′ בך ברעב ובצמא ובעירום ובחוסר כל. ברעב כיצד בזמן שאדם תואב לאכול פת שעורים ואינו מוצא אומות העולם מבקשין ממנו פת נקייה ובשר שמן. ובצמא כיצד בזמן שאדם מתאוה לשתות טיפה של חומץ טיפה של שכר ואינו מוצא אומות העולם מבקשין ממנו יין משובח שבכל המדינות. ובעירום כיצד בזמן שאדם יכא ללבוש חלוק של צמר או של פשתן ואינו מוצא אומות העולם מבקשין ממנו השיראין והכלך שבכל המדינות. ובחוסר כל בלא נר ובלא סכין ובלא שלחן. דבר אחר בחוסר כל בלא חומץ ובלא מלח זו היא קללה שמקללין בני אדם אל יהא לך חומץ ומלח בתוך ביתך

Rabbi Hananyah the prefect of the priests says, “In the case of everyone who sets the Torah’s words on his heart many anxious thoughts [הִרְהוּרִין] are banished from him: thoughts of hunger, thoughts of foolishness, thoughts of sexual impropriety, thoughts of the evil inclination, thoughts of an evil wife, thoughts of idle matters, thoughts of the yoke of flesh and blood. For thus is it written in the Book of Psalms by David, king of Israel: The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, causing the eyes to be bright [Ps. 19:9].[26]

But in the case of everyone who does not set the Torah’s words on his heart, many anxious thoughts [הִרְהוּרִין] are given to him: thoughts of hunger, thoughts of foolishness, thoughts of sexual impropriety, thoughts of the evil inclination, thoughts of an evil wife, thoughts of idle matters, thoughts of the yoke of flesh and blood. For thus it is written in Deuteronomy by Moses our master: And they will be among you for a sign and for a wonder, and among your seed forever because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy, and with goodness of heart, on account of the abundance of all things. And so you will serve your enemy, whom the LORD will send among you, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things [Deut. 28:46-48].

In hunger: How so? At a time when a person desires to eat even a barley loaf, but he cannot find it, the Gentiles of the world [אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם] seek from him a loaf of white bread and succulent meat. And in thirst: How so? At a time when a person desires to drink even a drop of vinegar or a drop of beer, but he cannot find it, the Gentiles of the world [אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם] seek from him the finest wine in all the provinces. And in nakedness: How so? At a time when a person is eager to wear even a tunic of wool or of flax, but he cannot find them, the Gentiles of the world [אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם] seek from him the finest silks and cottons in all the provinces. And in want of all things: Without a lamp, and without a knife, and without a table. Another interpretation of In want of all things: Without vinegar and without salt. This is the curse with which a person curses: ‘May you not have vinegar or salt in your house!’” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 20:1 [ed. Schechter, 70-71])

Hananyah the prefect of the priests was second-in-command in the Temple hierarchy toward the end of the Second Temple period.[27] Hananyah’s homily is parallel to Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry not only in that it addresses the theme of anxiety, but the specific examples of hunger, thirst and nakedness are parallel to the three expressions of worry (“what you will eat or what you will drink…or what you will wear”) in Matt. 6:25 (cf. Luke 12:22). Common to both sources is the role of the Gentiles who demand these very things. Moreover, being in want of all things when the Torah is ignored in Hananyah’s saying is parallel to Jesus’ promise that all these things will be added when the disciples seek the Kingdom of Heaven. These shared features in Hananyah’s homily and Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry suggest that both may be based on a common tradition, perhaps an early midrash based on Deut. 28:47-48.[28] Since Hananyah’s saying is so close to Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry in terms of themes and content, and since, like Jesus, Hananyah the prefect of the priests lived prior to the destruction of the Temple, we believe this source is a good indicator of the verb we should adopt for HR, namely הִרְהֵר.

Additional examples of הִרְהֵר are found in the following sources:

בשלום ובמישור הלך אתי שלא הירהר אחר דרכי המקום כדרך שלא הירהר אברהם

In peace and uprightness he walked with me [Mal. 2:6]: in as much as he [i.e., Aaron—DNB and JNT] did not have anxious thoughts [הִירְהֵר] concerning the Omnipresent one, just as Abraham did not have oppressive thoughts [הִירְהֵר]. (Sifra, Shemini [ed. Weiss, 46a]; cf. Lev. Rab. 3:6 [ed. Marguiles, 1:71])

תמים פעלו, פעולתו שלימה עם כל באי העולם ואין להרהר אחר מעשיו

His work is perfect [Deut. 32:4]. His work is complete with all who come into the world, and there is no cause to have anxious thoughts [לְהַרְהֵר] concerning his deeds. (Sifre Deut. §307 [ed. Finkelstein, 344])

אחרי הדברים האלה הירהורי דרבים היו שם, מי הרהר, אברהם הרהר, אמר לפני הקב″ה רבון העולמים כרתה ברית עם נח שאינך מכלה את בניו, עמדתי וסיגלתי מצות ומעשים טובים יותר ממנו ודחתה בריתי לבריתו, תאמר שאחר עומד ומסגל מצות ומעשים טובים יותר ממני, תדחה בריתו לבריתי

After these things there were anxious thoughts about things there. Who was preoccupied [הִרְהֵר] with them? Abraham was preoccupied [הִרְהֵר]. He said before the Holy one, blessed be he, “Master of the worlds, you made a covenant with Noah, that you would not cause his children to cease. Then I arose and stored up more mitzvot and good deeds than him, and my covenant superseded his covenant. Might someone hereafter arise and store up more mitzvot and good deeds than me, and his covenant will supersede mine?” (Gen. Rab. 44:5 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:428-429]; cf. Gen. Rab. 55:4 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:587]; 57:3 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:614])

In the following source we find an example of הִרְהֵר in a negative imperative:

אם ראיתה תלמיד חכם שעשה עבירה ביום אל תהרהר עליו למחר. שמא עשה תשובה בלילה

If you saw the disciple of a sage who committed a transgression in the day, do not have anxious thoughts [אַל תְהַרְהֵר] concerning him on the morrow. Perhaps he repented in the night. (Eliyahu Rabbah 3:11 [ed. Friedmann, 16])

In many of the examples above the verb הִרְהֵר approaches the meaning of “doubt,” a meaning that is not far away from the sentiment discussed in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, where the disciples are fearful that God might not provide for their most basic needs.

לְנַפְשְׁכֶם (HR). On reconstructing ψυχή (psūchē, “soul”) with נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, “soul”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L9. For HR we have preferred the form נַפְשְׁכֶם (nafshechem, “your [plur.] soul”) over נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם (nafshotēchem, “your [plur.] souls”), since τῇ ψυχῇ in L4 is singular.[29]

L5-8 Above, in Comment to L4, we noted that Hananyah’s homily on anxious thoughts focused on hunger, thirst and nakedness. The lesson to be drawn from his homily is that anxious thoughts about these sources of worry are dispelled when the Torah is made a disciple’s exclusive concern. The same lesson is to be drawn from a saying of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus:

ר′ אליעזר אומר לא ניתנה תורה לדרוש אלא לאוכלי המן. הא כאיזה צד היה אדם יושב ושונה ואינו יודע מאין יאכל וישתה ומאין ילבש ויתכסה הא לא ניתנה תורה לדרוש אלא לאוכלי המן שנייה להן לאוכלי תרומה

Rabbi Eliezer [ben Hyrcanus][30] says, “The Torah was not given for study except to the eaters of manna. For how[31] can someone be sitting and repeating [his lessons] and not know from where he will eat and drink, or from where he will dress and cover himself? Thus, the Torah was not given for study except to the eaters of manna, and second to them are eaters of terumah [i.e., priests—DNB and JNT].” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai, BeShallaḥ 16:4 [ed. Epstein-Melamed, 107])

Here, too, the saying addresses the concerns of full-time disciples whose total devotion to Torah study has left no time for making an ordinary living. Whereas Hananyah the prefect of the priests suggested that the Torah provides its own nourishment (“the commandment of the LORD…causes the eyes to become bright”), Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus suggests that a full-time disciple had access to the heavenly manna.[32] The two ideas might amount to the same thing, however, if “causing the eyes to become bright” is an allusion to honey (Ps. 19:11; cf. 1 Sam. 14:29),[33] since manna was said to have the flavor of honey (Exod. 16:31). In any case, Eliezer’s statement also refers to eating, drinking and wearing clothes.

Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry also addresses the anxiety caused by the abandonment of property and profession in order to become a full-time disciple, and just like Hananyah the prefect of the priests and Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, Jesus also appears to have believed that his disciples had access to heavenly manna.[34] Given these similarities, we believe that it is significant that both Hananyah the prefect of the priests and Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus specify drink as well as food and clothing. This agreement may suggest that the inclusion of “what you will drink” in Matthew’s version of Yeshua’s Discourse on worry (L6) is original.

Scholars have noted that in addition to food, drink and clothing, ancient authors typically included having a home among the most basic necessities of life.[35] The following examples are representative of this ancient tradition:

Ἀρχὴ ζωῆς ὕδωρ καὶ ἄρτος καὶ ἱμάτιον καὶ οἶκος καλύπτων ἀσχημοσύνην

Life’s beginning is water and bread and clothing and a house for hiding indecency. (Sir. 29:21; NETS)[36]

διὰ τοῦτο ἐσθίουσι μέν, ὥστε μὴ πεινῆν, πίνουσι δέ, ὥστε μὴ διψῆν, πλησμονὴν ὡς ἐχθρόν τε καὶ ἐπίβουλον ψυχῆς τε καὶ σώματος ἐκτρεπόμενοι. ἐπεὶ δὲ καὶ σκέπης διττὸν εἶδος, τὸ μὲν ἐσθής, τὸ δὲ οἰκία, περὶ μὲν οἰκίας εἴρηται πρότερον, ὅτι ἐστὶν ἀκαλλώπιστος καὶ αὐτοσχέδιος, πρὸς τὸ χρειῶδες αὐτὸ μόνον εἰργασμένη· καὶ ἐσθὴς δὲ ὁμοίως εὐτελεστάτη, πρὸς ἀλέξημα κρυμοῦ τε καὶ θάλπους, χλαῖνα μὲν ἀπὸ λασίου δορᾶς παχεῖα χειμῶνος, ἐξωμὶς δὲ θέρους ἢ ὀθόνη.

Therefore they [i.e., the Essenes—DNB and JNT] eat enough to keep from hunger and drink enough to keep from thirst but abhor surfeiting as a malignant enemy to both soul and body. As for the two forms of shelter, clothes and housing, we have already said that the house is unembellished and a makeshift constructed for utility only. Their clothing likewise is the most inexpensive, enough to protect them against extreme cold and heat, a thin coat of shaggy skin in winter and in summer a vest or linen shirt. (Philo, Contempl. §37-38; Loeb)

Τὰ περὶ τὸ σῶμα μέχρι τῆς χρείας ψιλῆς παραλάμβανε, οἷον τροφάς, πόμα, ἀμπεχόνην, οἰκίαν, οἰκετίαν· τὸ δὲ πρὸς δόξαν ἢ τρυφήν ἅπαν περίγραφε.

In things that pertain to the body take only as much as your bare need requires, I mean such things as food, drink, clothing, shelter, and household slaves; but cut down everything which is for outward show or luxury. (Epictetus, Enchiridion 33.7; Loeb)

Bovon notes that shelter is not mentioned in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry.[37] This omission is probably intentional, since Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry was addressed to full-time disciples who had left their homes in order to itinerate with Jesus. While Jesus and the disciples often enjoyed the hospitality of friends and strangers,[38] sleeping in the outdoors was probably not unfamiliar to them (cf. Matt. 8:20 // Luke 9:58).[39]

Note that the inclusion of drink in each of the above sources provides additional support for our supposition that “or what you will drink” in L6 is original.

L5 מַה תֹּאכְלוּ (HR). In LXX ἐσθίειν (esthiein, “to eat”) most often appears as the translation of אָכַל (’āchal, “eat”).[40] Likewise, we find that the number of times אָכַל was translated with ἐσθίειν outnumber by far the instances when the LXX translators chose to render אָכַל with some other Greek verb.[41] Elsewhere, we have reconstructed ἐσθίειν with אָכַל in Call of Levi, L53; Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, L95; Preparations for Eating Passover Lamb, L19, L41.

A rabbinic comment on Exod. 16:4, pertaining to the manna story, deals with the anxiety that prompts a person to ask, “What will I eat?”:

ר′ אליעזר אומר שלא ילקט אדם מן היום למחר. וכן היה ר′ אליעזר אומר מי שיש לו מה שיאכל היום ויאמר מה אני אוכל למחר הרי זה ממחוסרי אמנה שנ′ דבר יום ביומו. מי שברא יום ברא פרנסתו

Rabbi Eliezer [ben Hyrcanus] says, “[A day’s portion in its day means] that a person should not gather today’s manna for tomorrow.” And thus Rabbi Eliezer would say, “Whoever has something that he can eat today but says, ‘What will I eat [מה אני אוכל] tomorrow?’: behold, this one is among those who lack faith, as it is said, a day’s portion in its day [Exod. 16:4]. The one who created day created its sustenance.” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai, BeShallaḥ 16:4 [ed. Epstein-Melamed, 106])[42]

L6 ἢ τί πίητε (GR). As we noted above in Comment to L5-8, drink is usually mentioned along with food, clothing and shelter as one of the basic necessities of life. Perhaps the author of Luke dropped the mention of drink in L6 in order to create better symmetry so that one need would be attributed to the “soul” and one need to the body.[43]

וּמַה תִּשְׁתּוּ (HR). In LXX πινεῖν (pinein, “to drink”) most often appears as the translation of שָׁתָה (shātāh, “drink”).[44] It is also the case that in LXX no other verb was used to translate שָׁתָה more often than πινεῖν.[45] Since שָׁתָה continued to be used in MH, there is no better option than שָׁתָה for HR.

L7 וְלֹא לְגוּפְכֶם (HR). We have reconstructed σῶμα (sōma, “body”) with גּוּף (gūf, “body”), a Mishnaic Hebrew term, in accordance with our preference for reconstructing direct speech in a Mishnaic style. The pairing of גּוּף with נֶפֶשׁ, which we used to reconstruct ψυχή in L4, is common in rabbinic sources, as the following examples demonstrate:

אָמְרוּ לוֹ מָה בֵּין טְמֵאָה לִטְהוֹרָה אָמַ′ לָהֶן שֶׁהַטְּהוֹרָה נַפְשָׁהּ לַשָּׁמַיִם [וְגוּפָה שֶׁלּוֹ וְהַטְּמֵאָה נַפְשָׁהּ וְגוּפַה לַשָּׁמַיִם] אָמְרוּ לוֹ אַף הַטְּ<מֵאָהּ> נַפְשָׁהּ לַשָּׁמַיִם וְגוּפָה שֶׁלּוֹ שֶׁאִם יִרְצֶה הֲרֵי מוֹכְרָהּ לַגּוֹיִם אוֹ מַאֲכִילָהּ לַכְּלָבִים

They said to him [i.e., to Rabbi Eliezer—DNB and JNT], “What is the difference between an impure animal and a pure one?” He said to them, “In that the pure animal’s life [נַפְשָׁהּ] belongs to Heaven, but its body [גּוּפָה] belongs to him [i.e., the animal’s owner—DNB and JNT], but the impure animal’s life [נַפְשָׁהּ] as well as its body [גּוּפַה] belong to Heaven.” They said to him, “Even [in the case of] the impure animal, its life [נַפְשָׁהּ] belongs to Heaven, but its body [גּוּפָה] belongs to him, for if he wants, he can sell it to the Gentiles or feed it to the dogs.” (m. Ned. 4:3)

פושעי ישראל בגופן ופושעי אומות העולם בגופן יורדין לגיהנם ונדונין בה כל שנים עשר חדש לאחר שנים עשר חדש נפשם כלה וגופם נשרף וגיהנם פולטתן ונעשות אפר והרוח זורה אותן ומפזרתן תחת כפות רגלי הצדיקים שנ′ ועסותם רשעים וגו′‏

Those of Israel who sinned with their body and those of the Gentiles of the world who sinned with their body descend to Gehenna and are judged in it for a whole twelve months. After twelve months their life [נפשם] is ended and their body [גופם] is burned and Gehenna vomits them out and they become dust and the wind blows them and scatters them under the soles of the feet of the righteous, as it is said, and you will tread down the wicked [Mal. 3:21 (ET: 4:3)]. (t. Sanh. 13:4; Vienna MS)

רבי אליעזר אומר אם נאמר בכל נפשך למה נאמר בכל מאדך ואם נאמר בכל מאדך למה נאמר בכל נפשך, יש לך אדם שגופו חביב עליו מממונו לכך נאמר בכל נפשך ויש לך אדם שממונו חביב עליו מגופו לכך נאמר בכל מאודך

Rabbi Eliezer says, “If it says with all your soul [Deut. 6:5], why does it say with all your strength [ibid.]? And if it says with all your strength, why does it say with all your soul? You have someone whose body [גופו] is more dear to him than his wealth, thus it says with all your soul [נפשך], and you have someone whose wealth is more dear to him than his body, thus it says with all your strength.” (Sifre Deut. §32 [ed. Finkelstein, 55])

וכן היה ר′ סימיי אומר כל בריות שנבראו מן השמים נפשם וגופם מן השמים וכל בריות שנבראו מן הארץ נפשם וגופם מן הארץ חוץ מאדם זה שנפשו מן השמים וגופו מן הארץ

And thus Rabbi Simai would say: “Every creature that was created from heaven: their soul [נפשם] and their body [גופם] is from heaven. And every creature that was created from earth: their soul [נפשם] and their body [גופם] is from earth. Except for humankind, whose soul [נפשו] is from heaven and whose body [גופו] is from earth.” (Sifre Deut. §306 [ed. Finkelstein, 340-341])

L8 מַה תִּלְבְּשׁוּ (HR). In LXX ἐνδύειν (endūein, “to clothe”) almost always translates the root ל-ב-שׁ.‎[46] Note the saying of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, cited above in Comment to L5-8, where he asks, “How can someone be sitting and repeating [his lessons] and not know…from where he will dress [ילבש] and cover himself?”

L9 οὐχὶ ἡ ψυχὴ πλεῖόν ἐστιν (GR). Whereas Luke’s version has a statement here (“For the soul is more than food”; Luke 12:23), Matthew’s version has a question (“Is not the soul more than food?”; Matt. 6:25). We have adopted Matthew’s version for GR, which is more in keeping with the style of teaching in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry.

הֲלֹא הַנֶּפֶשׁ מְרֻבָּה (HR). On reconstructing οὐχί (ouchi, “not”) with הֲלֹא (halo’, “Is not?”), see Tower Builder and King Going to War, Comment to L3.[47] On reconstructing ψυχή with נֶפֶשׁ, see above, Comment to L4.

In “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” (L42) we reconstructed πολύς (polūs, “much”) with מְרֻבֶּה (merubeh, “plentiful”). Here we have followed suit, on the basis of the following examples where מְרֻבֶּה is used in rhetorical questions with the meaning “of greater importance”:

ומה אם מידת פורענות מעוטה אמר הקב″ה לעשות ועשה מידה הטובה מרובה על אחת כמה וכמה

If with regard to the apportionment of punishment, which is of less importance, the Holy one, blessed be he, says he will act and he follows through, with regard to the apportionment of good, which is of greater importance [מרובה], how much more so? (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Pisḥa chpt. 7 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:39])

ומה אם מדת פורענות מעוטה העושה בסתר המקום מפרסמו בגלוי מדה טובה מרובה על אחת כמה וכמה

If the apportionment of punishment, which is less important, for what was done in secret the Omnipresent one publishes openly, the apportionment of good, which is more important [מרובה], how much more so? (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Pisḥa chpt. 13 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:71])

ומה אם מדת פורענות מעוטה אמרה תורה כי לא אצדיק רשע קל וחומר למדה הטובה מרובה

If with regard to the apportionment of punishment, which is less important, the Torah said, For I will not vindicate the wicked [Exod. 23:7], how much more so with regard to the apportionment of good, which is more important [מרובה]? (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Kaspa chpt. 3 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:475])

L10 מִן הַפַּרְנָסָה (HR). In LXX τροφή (trofē, “sustenance”) appears mainly as the translation of לֶחֶם (leḥem, “bread”),[48] מָזוֹן (māzōn, “food”)[49] or אֹכֶל (’ochel, “food”).[50] While any of these options would be suitable for HR, we have preferred to reconstruct τροφή with the MH noun פַּרְנָסָה (parnāsāh, “sustenance,” “provision”),[51] in part because the verb τρέφειν (trefein, “to rear,” “to support”), a cognate of τροφή, appears in Matt. 6:26 // Luke 12:24 (L18). Since פִּרְנֵס (pirnēs, “support,” “maintain”) is a good candidate for reconstructing τρέφειν (see below, Comment to L18), it makes sense to use a noun of the same root for our reconstruction in L10. Moreover, the noun פַּרְנָסָה frequently occurs in rabbinic discussions of God’s care for his creatures.

Above, in Comment to L5, we already encountered one example of פַּרְנָסָה, which occurs in Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus’ saying, “The one who created day created its sustenance [פרנסתו].” This example is useful not only for its linguistic parallel, but also for illuminating the point of Jesus’ argument. Jesus is not suggesting that food, drink and clothing are unworthy concerns, rather he argues that if God can create life, then God is surely able to nourish it, and if God can create a body, then God is surely able to furnish it with clothes.[52]

Additional examples of פַּרְנָסָה are found in the following parable that illustrates an aspect of the manna from heaven story:

ר′ שמעון אומר מפני מה לא היה יורד מן לישראל בפעם אחד בשנה כדי שיהפכו את לבן לאביהם שבשמים משל למה הדבר דומה למלך שגזר על בנו להיות מפרנסו פעם אחת בשנה ולא היה מקביל פני אביו אלא בשעת פרנסתו. פעם אחת חזר וגזר עליו להיות מפרנסו בכל יום אמר הבן אפילו איני מקבל פני אבי אלא בשעת פרנסתי דיי לי. כך ישראל היו בביתו של אדם חמש זכרים או חמש נקבות היה יושב ומצפה ואומר אוי לי שמא לא ירד המן למחר ונמצינו מתים ברעב יהי רצון מלפניך שירד ונמצאו הופכים את לבם לשמים

Rabbi Shimon says, “Why did the manna not descend for Israel only once a year? So that they would turn their hearts to their father in heaven. A parable: To what may the matter be compared? To a king who decreed concerning his son that his provision be given once in a year. But his father did not receive his company except at the time of his provision [פרנסתו]. One time he reconsidered and decreed concerning him that his provision be given every day. The son said, ‘Even if I visit my father only at the time of my provision [פרנסתי], it is enough for me.’ So with Israel. In the house of a man who had five boys or five girls, he would sit and look ahead [to the future] and say, ‘Woe to me! Perhaps the manna for tomorrow will not descend, and we will be found dead from hunger. May it be pleasing before you that it will descend!’ So they were found turning their hearts toward Heaven.” (Sifre Num. §89 [ed. Horovitz, 90])[53]

L11 וְהַגּוּף מִן הַכְּסוּת (HR). In LXX ἔνδυμα (endūma, “clothing”) is usually the translation of לְבוּשׁ (levūsh, “clothing”), but in MH this term appears to have become rare, occurring only once in the Mishnah (m. Ukz. 1:2). Another alternative for HR is מַלְבּוּשׁ (malbūsh, “clothing”), but this term also became rare, again with only one instance in the Mishnah (m. Shek. 5:1 [printed eds.]). A far more common term for clothing in rabbinic sources is כְּסוּת (kesūt, “clothing,” “covering”), a term that is found 9xx in MT[54] and 39xx in the Mishnah. Occasionally we find כְּסוּת paired with גּוּף, as in the following example:

ר′ יהודה בשם ר′ אלעזר אומר שלשה דברים הדרך עושה, מבלה את הכסות, ושוחקת את הגוף, וממעטת את היציאה, אבל הקב″ה לא עשה כן לישראל, אלא שמלתך לא בלתה מעליך, ה′ אלהיך עמך בבריאות הגוף, לא חסרת דבר, [זו היציאה].‏

Rabbi Yehudah says in the name of Rabbi Eleazar, “The road does three things: it wears out the clothing [הכסות], grinds down the body [הגוף], and decreases [money for] expenses. But the Holy one, blessed be he, did not do this to Israel, rather your robe did not wear out upon you [Deut. 8:4], the LORD your God was with you [Deut. 2:7] in the health of the body [הגוף], you did not lack a thing [Deut. 2:7]—this refers to [money for] expenses.” (Midrash Tehillim 23:3 [ed. Buber, 198])

L12 ἐμβλέψατε (GR). Whereas Matthew’s version uses different verbs for directing the disciples to pay attention to the examples of God’s provision for his creatures, ἐμβλέπειν (emblepein, “to look at”) in L12 and καταμαθεῖν (katamathein, “to examine”) in L31, Luke’s version uses the same verb, κατανοεῖν (katanoein, “to consider”), in both illustrations. We suspect that it was the author of Luke who was responsible for this homogenization, once again for the sake of symmetry.[55]

הַבִּיטוּ (HR). Whether we had adopted Luke’s κατανοεῖν or Matthew’s ἐμβλέπειν for GR, הִבִּיט (hibiṭ, “look at”) would have remained a good choice for HR.[56] In BH הִבִּיט often takes the preposition אֶל (’el, “to,” “toward”), or simply an object without a preposition, but as early as the DSS הִבִּיט began to take the preposition -בְּ (be, “in”).[57] An example of הִבִּיט with the preposition -בְּ, such as we have in HR for L12-13, is found in the following rabbinic comment on the creation narrative:

וירא אלהים את כל אשר עשה והנה טוב מאד ר′ יוחנן ור′ שמעון בן לקיש ר′ יוחנן אמר מלך בשר ודם בונה פלטין מביט בעליונים [ראייה אחת ובתחתונים ראייה אחת אבל הקב″ה מביט בעליונים] ובתחתונים ראיה אחת, אמר ר′ שמעון בן לקיש הנה טוב מאד, זה העולם הזה, והנה זה העולם הבא, העולם הזה והעולם הבא הביט בהם הקב″ה ראיה אחת

And God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good. Rabbi Yohanan and Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish [discussed this verse]. Rabbi Yohanan said, “A king of flesh and blood builds a palace and looks at the heights in one glance and at the depths in another glance. But the Holy one, blessed be he, looks at the heights and the depths in a single glance.” Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said, “Behold it was very good refers to this world, And behold refers to the world to come. The Holy one, blessed be he, looked at this world and the world to come in a single glance.” (Gen. Rab. 9:3 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:68])[58]

Hooded crows (Corvus cornix) photographed in the Hinnom Valley on the western side of the Old City of Jerusalem by Joshua N. Tilton.

L13 εἰς τοὺς κόρακας (GR). We believe that the author of Matthew substituted “the birds of the air,” a phrase he most likely found at the end of the illustration (see below, Comment to L21), for “ravens,” which the author of Luke copied from Anth. Luke’s reading, τοὺς κόρακας (tous korakas, “the ravens”), has a good claim to originality: first, because ravens are a stock example of God’s gracious provision for his creatures in Scripture and in rabbinic sources; second, because the illustration pertaining to clothing begins with a specific example (flowers) and ends with a general example (grass), which leads us to expect the same pattern (viz., ravens, birds) in the illustration pertaining to sustenance;[59] third, because, as Flusser suggested,[60] ravens were notorious carrion birds associated in Greek sources with the gallows, which might have caused the author of Matthew to avoid mentioning ravens.[61]

Regarding the first point in favor of Luke’s reading, ravens are cited in the Psalms as an example of God’s provision for his creatures:

נוֹתֵן לִבְהֵמָה לַחְמָהּ לִבְנֵי עֹרֵב אֲשֶׁר יִקְרָאוּ

He gives to the beasts their bread and to the young ravens when they cry. (Ps. 147:9)

διδόντι τοῖς κτήνεσι τροφὴν αὐτῶν καὶ τοῖς νεοσσοῖς τῶν κοράκων τοῖς ἐπικαλουμένοις αὐτόν

…giving to the animals their food and to the young of ravens that call on him. (Ps. 146:9; NETS)

Likewise, in the book of Job the LORD cites his own care of the ravens as an example of his awesome power, asking Job the following:

מִי יָכִין לָעֹרֵב צֵידוֹ כִּי יְלָדָ[י]ו אֶל אֵל יְשַׁוֵּעוּ יִתְעוּ לִבְלִי אֹכֶל

Who provides for the raven his prey when his children cry out to God for deliverance and wander without food? (Job 38:41)

τίς δὲ ἡτοίμασεν κόρακι βοράν; νεοσσοὶ γὰρ αὐτοῦ πρὸς κύριον κεκράγασιν πλανώμενοι τὰ σῖτα ζητοῦντες

And who prepared food for the raven? For its young have cried to the Lord as they wander about, searching for food. (Job 38:41; NETS)

The verse from Job is cited in a rabbinic tradition relating to God’s special provision for full-time disciples, who rely on him for their sustenance:

אמ′ ר′ שמואל בר אמי דברי תורה צריכין השחרה, פרנסה מנ′, מי יכין לערב צידו, כך אם אין אדם נעשה אכזרי על גופו ועל בניו ועל בני ביתו כעורב הזה אינו זוכה ללמוד תורה

Rabbi Shmuel bar Ami said, “The words of Torah require the dawn [and the evening, and all the time between for study—DNB and JNT]. From whence will sustenance come? From the one who provides the raven with his prey [Job 38:41]. Accordingly, if a person does not deal harshly with his body and with his sons and with the members of his household like this raven, he will not succeed in studying Torah.” (Lev. Rab. 19:1 [ed. Marguiles, 1:415])

Note the similarity of this saying to that of Jesus, which we have entitled Demands of Discipleship (Matt. 10:37-38 // Luke 14:25-27, 33).

In a rather different vein, the following story demonstrates that provision for ravens was at least semi-proverbial:

רבי פתח אוצרות בשני בצורת אמר יכנסו בעלי מקרא בעלי משנה בעלי גמרא בעלי הלכה בעלי הגדה אבל עמי הארץ אל יכנסו דחק רבי יונתן בן עמרם ונכנס אמר לו רבי פרנסני אמר לו בני קרית אמר לו לאו שנית א″ל לאו אם כן במה אפרנסך [א″ל] פרנסני ככלב וכעורב פרנסיה בתר דנפק יתיב רבי וקא מצטער ואמר אוי לי שנתתי פתי לעם הארץ אמר לפניו ר′ שמעון בר רבי שמא יונתן בן עמרם תלמידך הוא שאינו רוצה ליהנות מכבוד תורה מימיו בדקו ואשכח אמר רבי יכנסו הכל

Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] opened the storehouses during a period of privation. He said, “Students of Scripture, students of Mishnah, students of Gemara, students of halacha, students of aggadah may enter. But ame haaretz [i.e., common folk—DNB and JNT] may not enter.” Rabbi Yonatan ben Amram pressed in and entered. He said to him, “Rabbi, give me sustenance!” He said to him, “Have you learned Scripture?” He said to him, “No.” He said to him, “Have you learned Mishnah?” He said to him, “No.” “If so, why should I give you sustenance?” “Give me sustenance like the dog and like the raven [פרנסני ככלב וכעורב].” So he gave him sustenance. After he went away, Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi]’s conscience smote him and he said, “Woe to me that I gave my piece of bread to an am haaretz.” Rabbi Shimon ben Rabbi Sama said before him, “It was Rabbi Yonatan ben Amram, your student, who wishes never to receive benefit from the glory of the Torah.” It was checked and found to be the case, so Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] said, “All may enter [the storehouse].” (b. Bab. Bat. 8a)

Illustration of a raven from H. B. Tristram’s The Natural History of the Bible, 198.

Regarding the second point in favor of ravens, note that the illustration concerning clothing, in both its Matthean and Lukan versions, which teaches us to expect the specific (flowers)→general (grass) pattern, is in fact what we find in Luke’s version of the illustration concerning sustenance: specific (ravens)→general (birds).[62] Matthew’s version of the illustration concerning sustenance, on the other hand, has an entirely different pattern: general (birds of the heaven)→pronoun (them), with the general example as the antecedent. Note, too, that in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry the author of Luke had a tendency to shorten the Hebraic construct-like phrases that occur in Matthew’s version, and which were probably original: “the flowers of the field” (Matt.)→“the flowers” (Luke), L31; “the grass of the field” (Matt.)→“the grass” (Luke), L38.[63] Given this tendency, it is entirely likely that where Luke has “the birds” his source (Anth.) had “the birds of the heaven” (L21). Thus, Luke’s τῶν πετεινῶν (“the birds”) in L21 shows us the original location of Matthew’s more original wording τῶν πετεινῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (“the birds of the heaven”). The deviant pattern of Matthew’s illustration concerning sustenance (general→pronoun) can be explained in the following manner: having chosen to avoid ravens, the author of Matthew moved “the birds of the heaven” from its original location (L21) into the slot vacated by the ravens (L13). He then inserted the bland pronoun “them” into the space originally occupied by “the birds of the heaven” (L21).[64] Each author preserved something of Anth.’s wording of the illustration concerning sustenance, but each author also made redactional changes that obscured the original wording of the pre-synoptic source. Only by carefully comparing the Lukan and Matthean versions to one another and to ancient Jewish sources is it possible to recover the wording of Anth.

בָּעוֹרְבִים (HR). Every instance of עֹרֵב (‘orēv, “raven”) in MT is rendered κόραξ (korax, “raven”) in LXX,[65] excluding examples of עֹרֵב as a personal name, in which case it was transliterated as Ωρηβ (Ōrēb).[66] According to Tristram, “Under the [Hebrew—DNB and JNT] term ‘raven,’ is included the whole family of the Crow tribe: crows, rooks, jackdaws, &c.”[67] Above we cited several instances in biblical and post-biblical Jewish sources in which עוֹרְבִים are cited as examples of God’s providential care for his creatures.

Ravens foraging for food at Beit Guvrin National Park in Israel. Photographed by Joshua N. Tilton.

L14-18 Scholars have long noted the similarity between Jesus’ illustration of the ravens/birds that neither sow nor reap nor store and the following rabbinic statement, which has come down to us in long and short forms:[68]

הֲרָאִיתָה מִיָּמֶיךָ אֲרִי סַבָּל צְבִי קָיָיצ שׁוּעַל חַנְוָונִי זְאֵב גּוֹדֵר גְּדֵירוֹת וַהֲרֵי הַדְּבָרִים קַ{ו}ל וַחוֹמֵר וּמָהּ אִם אֵלּוּ שֶׁנִּיבְרְאוּ שֶׁלֹא לשַׁמֵּשׁ אֶת קוֹנָן הֲרֵי הֵן מִיתְפַּרנְסִים שֶׁלֹא בְצַעַר אֲנִי שֶׁנִּיבְרֵאתִי לְשַׁמֵּשׁ אֶת קוֹנִי אֵינוּ דִין שֶׁתְּהֵא פַרִנָסָתִי שֶׁלֹּא בְצַעַר וּמִי גָרַם לִי לִהְיוֹת מִתְפַּרְנֵס בִּצַעַר הֱרֵי אוֹמֵ′ חֲטָאַיִי לְפִי שֶׁהֵירַעְתִּי אֶת מַעֲשַׂי וֶקֵיפַחְתִי אֶת פַּרְנָסָתִי

Have you ever seen in all your days a lion [working as a] porter, a gazelle as a fruit-picker, a fox as a shopkeeper, or a wolf as a cooper? But look, it is a matter of kal vahomer. How is it that if these, who were not created to serve their Maker, have their provision without toil, when I, though I was created to serve my Maker, do not have my provision without toil? Who has caused me to provide for myself by toil? Say, therefore, “It is my sins, because I made my deeds evil and scorned my provision.” (m. Kid. 4:14)

ראית מימיך חיה ועוף שיש להם אומנות והן מתפרנסין שלא בצער והלא לא נבראו אלא לשמשני ואני נבראתי לשמש את קוני אינו דין שאתפרנס שלא בצער אלא שהורעתי מעשי וקפחתי את פרנסתי

Have you ever seen an animal or a bird that has a craft? Yet they are sustained without toil. And were they not created only to serve me? But I was created to serve my Master. Then shouldn’t I make a living without toil? But I have made my deeds evil and scorned my provision. (b. Kid. 82a)

Note that the shorter version specifically mentions birds, which is parallel to the “ravens/birds of the sky” mentioned in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry.

Despite the similar images and vocabulary, the point of the rabbinic saying is different from the message of Jesus’ illustration. According to the rabbinic saying, human beings have forfeited their right to automatic provision, and must work for their sustenance in addition to serving their creator. Jesus, by contrast, wished to convince his disciples that, having devoted themselves exclusively to serving the Kingdom of Heaven, God would in turn provide for their lives and bodies.

The idea that animals are cared for by nature, whereas human beings must work for a living, is also encountered in ancient Greek sources. Flusser compared Jesus’ illustration to the following statement from the second-century C.E. philosopher Celsus:

ἡμεῖς γε κάμνοντες καὶ προσταλαιπωροῦντες μόλις καὶ ἐπιπόνως τρεφόμεθα τοῖς δ᾽ ⟨Odyssea, IX, 109⟩ «ἄσπαρτα καὶ ἀνήροτα πάντα φύονται»

Though we struggle and persevere we sustain ourselves only with difficulty and toil, whereas for them [Odyssea, IX, 109] “everything grows without sowing and tillage.” (Origen, Cels. 4:76)[69]

Another example in a similar vein is placed on the tongue of the Cynic philosopher Diogenes:

Second or third-century C.E. mosaic depiction of the Cynic philosopher Diogenes, famed for his disdain of wealth and for having taken to sleeping in a large jar or tub. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

οὐχ ὁρᾷς τὰ θηρία ταῦτα καὶ τὰ ὄρνεα, ὅσῳ ζῇ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀλυπότερον, πρὸς δὲ καὶ ἥδιον, καῖ μᾶλλον ὑγιαίνει καὶ πλέον ἰσχύει καὶ ζῇ χρόνον ἔκαστον αὐτῶν ὅσον πλεῖστον δὺναται, καίτοι οὔτε χεῖρας ἔχοντα οὔτε ἀνθρώπου διάνοιαν; ἀλλ᾽ ὅμως ἀντὶ πάντων αὐτοῖς τῶν ἄλλων κακῶν ὑπάρχει μέγιστον ἀγαθόν, ὅτι ἀκτήμονά ἐστιν.

Consider the beasts yonder and the birds, how much freer from trouble they live than men, and how much more happily also, how much healthier and stronger they are, and how each of them lives the longest life possible, although they have neither hands nor human intelligence. And yet, to counterbalance these and their other limitations they have one very great blessing—they own no property. (Dio Chrysostom, Tenth Discourse: On Servants §8; Loeb)[70]

L14 שֶׁאֵינָם זוֹרְעִים (HR). The Hebrew root ז-ר-ע was usually translated in LXX with the verb σπείρειν (speirein, “to sow,” “to scatter seed”),[71] and we also find that most instances of σπείρειν in LXX occur as the translation of the root ז-ר-ע.‎[72] Since the same root continued to be used for “sowing” in MH, there seems to be little reason for searching for a different verb for our reconstruction. We have accordingly adopted זָרַע (zāra‘, “sow”) for HR.

We find examples of זָרַע + אֵין in the following sources:

כָּל מִין זְרָעִים אֵין זוֹרְעִים בָּעֲרוּגָה כָּל מִין יְרָקוֹת זוֹרְעִים בָּעֲרוּגָה

They do not sow [אֵין זוֹרְעִים] every kind of seed in a garden bed, but every kind of vegetable they do plant in a garden bed. (m. Kil. 3:2)

שדה שניטיבה אין זורעין אותה במוצאי שביעית

A field that was improved [during the Sabbatical year—DNB and JNT]: they do not sow [אין זורעין] it the year following the Sabbatical year. (t. Shev. 3:10; Vienna MS)

מודה ר′ עקיבא שאין זורעין ואין חורשין ואין מנכשין בסוריא

Rabbi Akiva confesses that they do not sow [שאין זורעין] and they do not plow and they do not weed in Syria [during the Sabbatical year—DNB and JNT]. (t. Shev. 4:12; Vienna MS)

L15 וְאֵינָם קוֹצְרִים (HR). In LXX θερίζειν (therizein, “to reap,” “to harvest”) occurs mainly as the translation of קָצַר (qātzar, “reap,” “harvest”).[73] In MH קָצַר continued in use, and we have accordingly adopted this verb for HR.

We find an example of קָצַר + אֵין in the following source:

פֵּיאָה אֵין קוֹצְרִין אוֹתָה בַּמַּגָּלוֹת

They do not harvest [אֵין קוֹצְרִין] peah [i.e., the crops at the edges of fields, which were reserved for the poor—DNB and JNT] with sickles. (m. Peah 4:4)

L16 οὐδὲ συνάγουσιν εἰς ἀποθήκας (GR). Here, it is the author of Luke who has disturbed the original pattern of enumerating three activities—sowing, reaping and storing in the illustration concerning sustenance; growing, spinning and laboring in the illustration concerning clothing—by instead referring to ownership (storerooms and storehouses).[74]

וְאֵינָם מַכְנִיסִים לְאוֹצָרוֹת (HR). In LXX ἀποθήκη (apothēkē, “storehouse”) occurs as the translation of מִשְׁמֶרֶת (mishmeret, “safe keeping”; Exod. 16:23, 32), טֶנֶא (tene’, “basket”; Deut. 28:5, 17), מַאֲבוּס (ma’avūs, “granary”; Jer. 27[50]:26), אוֹצָר (’ōtzār, “storehouse,” “treasury”; 1 Chr. 28:12 [2xx]; 29:8) and חֶדֶר (ḥeder, “room”; 1 Chr. 28:11). Of these equivalents only אוֹצָר is suitable for HR. Whereas the other terms listed above are inappropriate for the present context (viz., חֶדֶר), or had either fallen into disuse in MH or were no longer used with the same meaning, אוֹצָר remained a common term for “storehouse” in rabbinic sources.[75] In fact, in Comment to L13 we already encountered an example of אוֹצָר in the sense of “storehouse for agricultural produce” in the story about Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi, who opened up the storehouses (אוֹצָרוֹת) during a time of famine (b. Bab. Bat. 8a). Another example of this use of אוֹצָר is found in the following source:

אוצר שישראל וגוים מטילין לתוכו אם רוב גוים ודאי ואם רוב ישראל דמאי מחצה על מחצה ודאי דברי רבי מאיר

A storehouse [אוצר] into which Israelites and Gentiles were putting [agricultural produce—DNB and JNT]: If the majority were Gentiles its status regarding tithes is certain [i.e., it was certainly not tithed—DNB and JNT], and if the majority were Israelite the status of half is considered dubious regarding tithes and the status of half is considered certain [i.e., it was certainly not tithed—DNB and JNT]: the words of Rabbi Meir. (t. Dem. 1:12; Vienna MS)

In the above-quoted source the verb for putting the produce into the storehouse is הִטִּיל (hiṭil, “throw,” “put”), which is not a very close approximation of συνάγειν (sūnagein, “to gather”). In LXX συνάγειν is sometimes the translation of צָבַר (tzāvar, “heap up”), which is used for the gathering of grain in the story of Joseph in Egypt (Gen. 41:35, 49). More commonly, συνάγειν is the translation of אָסַף (’āsaf, “gather,” “assemble”), which is used for gathering produce (e.g., Exod. 23:10; Lev. 25:3, 20; Deut. 16:13). In MH, however, while we hear of אֲסוּפֵּי שְׁבִיעִית (“gatherers of Sabbatical year produce”; m. Sanh. 3:3), we do not find examples of אָסַף for gathering into storehouses. Instead, in rabbinic sources we find the verb הִכְנִיס (hichnis) for storing up in storehouses:

בראשונה היו שלוחי בית דין יושבין על פתחי עיירות כל מי שמביא פירות בתוך ידו נוטלין אותן ממנו ונותנין לו מהן מזון שלש סעודו′ והשאר מכניסין אותו לאוצר שבעיר הגיע זמן תאנים שלוחי בית דין שוכרין פועלין עודרים אותן ועושים אותן דבילה ומכניסין אותן לאוצר שבעיר הגיע זמן ענבים שלוחי בית דין שוכרין פועלין ובוצרין אותן ודורכין אותן בגת וכונסין אותן בחביות ומכניסין אותן לאוצר שבעיר הגיע זמן זתים שלוחי בית דין שוכרין פועלין ומוסקין אותן ועוטנין אותו בבית הבד וכונסין אותן בחביות ומכניסין אותן לאוצר שבעיר ומחלקין מהן ערבי שבתות כל אחד ואחד לפי ביתו

At first the emissaries of the court would sit at the entrances of the cities [to look for] everyone who brought in their hand [Sabbatical year] produce. The emissaries would take it from him, giving him food for three meals from it, and as for the rest they would store it in the storehouse [מכניסין אותו לאוצר] that was in the city. When the time came for figs, the emissaries of the court would hire workers, and they would pick them and make them into cakes, and store them in the storehouse [ומכניסין אותן לאוצר] that was in the city. When the time came for grapes, the emissaries of the court would hire workers, and they would cut them [from the vine] and tread them in the winepress, and put them in storage jars, and store them in the storehouse [ומכניסין אותן לאוצר] that was in the city. When the time came for olives, the emissaries of the court would hire workers, and they would harvest them and pack them in the olive press, and put them in storage jars, and store them in the storehouse [ומכניסין אותן לאוצר] of the city. And they would distribute from these on the eve of the Sabbath to everyone according to the size of his house [i.e., the number of members in his family—DNB and JNT]. (t. Shev. 8:1; Vienna MS)

The root כ-נ-ס means “collect,” “gather” as well as “bring in,” “store up,”[76] making it a good equivalent for συνάγειν, and as we have seen from the above quotation, הִכְנִיס is precisely the verb used for storing agricultural produce in a storehouse. We have therefore adopted this verb for HR.

L17 καὶ ὁ θεὸς (GR). Notice that in the parallel illustration concerning clothing both Matthew and Luke agree that it is God (ὁ θεός) who provides (L41; Matt. 6:30; Luke 12:28). Here, in the illustration concerning sustenance, we would expect the same. In addition, Catchpole pointed out that using “God” with reference to the animals and plants, and reserving the title “your Father” for what directly relates to the disciples gives the argument a stronger punch.[77] Most decisive, however, is the fact that Matthew does not have the highly Hebraic construction ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς (“the Father of you, the one in the heavens”). Instead, we find in Matt. 6:26 the Grecized formula ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος (“the Father of you, the heavenly”).[78] Had the author of Matthew used the more Hebraic construction, choosing between the Matthean and Lukan readings would have been more difficult. As it is, Luke’s καὶ ὁ θεός is more likely to be original.

וְשָׁמַיִם (HR). We suspect that the Greek translator of the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua frequently translated שָׁמַיִם (shāmayim, “heaven”) as θεός (theos, “God”) when it was clear to him that שָׁמַיִם was a substitute for the divine name. Our reconstruction presupposes that Jesus, like his contemporaries, refrained from uttering the divine name in ordinary speech.[79]

L18 τρέφει αὐτούς (GR). Having accepted Luke’s “ravens” in L13 it is necessary to adopt in L18 the corresponding pronoun, αὐτούς (avtous, “them”).

מְפַרְנֵס אוֹתָם (HR). In LXX τρέφειν (trefein, “to rear,” “to support”) translates הֶאֱכִיל (he’echil, “feed”) only in Prov. 25:21. Above, in Comment to L13, we encountered a rabbinic parallel to Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry (b. Bab. Bat. 8a) in which the verb פִּרְנֵס (pirnēs) is used for maintenance of ravens. We have adopted פִּרְנֵס for HR not only because of the rabbinic parallel, but also because פִּרְנֵס (“support,” “maintain”) is closer to the meaning of τρέφειν than הֶאֱכִיל or זָן (zān, “feed”), the other options we considered for HR.

L19 πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὑμεῖς (GR). We have adopted Luke’s πόσῳ μᾶλλον (posō mallon, “How much more?”) construction, which looks like an attempt to render the Hebrew idiom עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה (‘al ’aḥat kamāh vechamāh, lit., “Concerning one, how many and how many?”), a phrase that occurs regularly in kal vahomer arguments and that means “How much more?” (see Fathers Give Good Gifts, Comment to L15).[80] Matthew’s οὐχ ὑμεῖς μᾶλλον διαφέρετε (“Don’t you have more importance?”) looks like an attempt to make the Hebraic idiom more intelligible for Greek readers.

L20 שֶׁחֲמוּרִים (HR). Although διαφέρειν (diaferein, “to carry through,” “to be different”) does occur in LXX, it lacks a Hebrew equivalent, and mainly occurs in books originally composed in Greek.[81] We have reconstructed διαφέρειν with the adjective חָמוּר (ḥāmūr, “heavy”),[82] which in kal vahomer arguments can have the sense of “important,” as the following examples demonstrate:

ומה אם מזבח החמור אם רצה לשנות ישנה קל וחומר לשאר כל הכלים

If with regard to the altar, which is the more important matter [החמור], if one wants to change the building material he may change it, how much more so for all the rest of the Temple furnishings? (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BaḤodesh chpt. 11 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:351-352])

אם מוציאה הכתוב מידי מכר החמור קל וחומר מידי רציעה קלה

If Scripture makes an exception for selling, which is the more important matter [החמור], how much more so for piercing, which is the lighter matter? (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Nezikin chpt. 3 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:369])

אם נדחו טמאים ממחנה הארון הקל ק″ו ממחנה שכינה חמור

If ritually impure things are forbidden from the camp of the Ark, which is a less important matter, how much more so from the camp of the Shechinah, a more important matter [חמור]? (Sifre Num. §2 [ed. Horovitz, 2])

Although the addition of the relative pronoun -שֶׁ (she-, “that,” “which,” “who”) is not indicated by the Greek text, the Hebrew construction demands its presence. Without the -שֶׁ the meaning of the clause would be “…how much more important are you than the birds of the sky?” which is a non sequitur. The conclusion to be drawn from Jesus’ argument is not that the disciples are more important than birds—a given—but that if God provides the birds (which are of less importance) with food, then he will all the more provide the disciples (who are of greater importance) with food. Compare Fathers Give Good Gifts, L18, where we also felt compelled to add -שֶׁ to HR in a kal vahomer argument.

Dead Sea sparrow (Passer Moabiticus) as drawn by Joseph Wolf in H. B. Tristram’s “On the Ornithology of Palestine (Part VI),” Ibis 3.11 (1867): 360-371 (Plate VII opposite p. 371); idem, The Survey of Western Palestine: The Fauna and Flora of Palestine (London: Palestine Exploration Fund, 1884), Plate IX opposite p. 65. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L21 τῶν πετεινῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (GR). As we discussed above in Comment to L13, we believe the author of Luke dropped the qualifier “of the sky.” The author of Matthew, who saw “the birds of the sky” at this point in his source (Anth.), used this phrase as a substitution for “ravens,” and therefore simply wrote “them” opposite Luke’s “the birds” in order to avoid repetition. The phrase τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ occurs 7xx in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 6:26; 8:20; 13:32; Mark 4:32; Luke 8:5; 9:58; 13:19). In every instance οὐρανός (ouranos, “sky,” “heaven”) occurs in the singular form.

מֵעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם (HR). On reconstructing πετεινόν + τοῦ οὐρανοῦ as עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם (‘ōf hashāmayim, “the birds of the heavens”), see Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, Comment to L10.

L22-27 The question regarding the disciples’ ability to add to their stature or lifespan (on which is intended, see below) is often regarded as a later accretion that was inserted into Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry at a pre-synoptic stage of transmission.[83] Scholars typically regard Matt. 6:27 // Luke 12:25 as a further elaboration of the illustration concerning sustenance,[84] but the τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν (“Who among you?”) construction usually introduces a new illustration.[85] Perhaps it is better, therefore, to regard Matt. 6:27 // Luke 12:25 as leading into the illustration concerning clothing. Note that a rhetorical question—“Is not the soul more important than life, and the body more important than clothes?”—led into the illustration concerning sustenance, so regarding the rhetorical question in Matt. 6:27 // Luke 12:25 as a lead-in to the illustration concerning clothing gives balance to Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry. The ability of the rhetorical question to lead into the illustration concerning clothing, however, depends on whether adding to one’s stature, rather than to one’s lifespan, is the correct interpretation of the saying, since only an increase of stature leads naturally into the illustration, “Examine the flowers of the field, how they grow….”[86]

L22 וּמִי בָּכֶם (HR). On reconstructing the phrase τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν (tis ex hūmōn, “Who among you?”) as מִי בָּכֶם (mi bāchem, “Who among you?”), see Tower Builder and King Going to War, Comment to L1.

L23 μεριμνῶν δύναται (GR). While Luke and Matthew agree as to the wording, how the participle ought to be understood requires further elucidation. According to Hagner, the participle μεριμνῶν (merimnōn, “worrying”) has an instrumental force, hence the question ought to be understood as “Who among you by worrying is able…?”[87] Betz, on the other hand, rendered the question as “Which of you who are (so) worried is able…?”[88] Which interpretation of the participle is correct?

A comparison of Matt. 6:27 // Luke 12:25 with the other τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν questions may help resolve the issue. In the Tower Builder simile (Luke 14:28), in the Lost Sheep simile (Luke 15:4) and in the “Just Doing My Job” simile (Luke 17:7) we have three examples of the τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν formula followed by a participle:

τίς γὰρ ἐξ ὑμῶν θέλων πύργον οἰκοδομῆσαι

For who among you wishing to build a tower…? (Luke 14:28)

τίς ἄνθρωπος ἐξ ὑμῶν ἔχων ἑκατὸν πρόβατα

What person among you having a hundred sheep…? (Luke 15:4)

τίς δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν δοῦλον ἔχων

But who among you having a slave…? (Luke 17:7)

In each of these instances, rendering the participle with an instrumental meaning would be nonsensical.[89] The above examples suggest that here, too, in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, interpreting the participle in an instrumental sense is unwarranted. Jesus did not ask whether anyone can add to their stature or lifespan by means of worrying, rather he asked, “Who among you worriers is able to increase his stature/lifespan?”

שֶׁמְּהַרְהֵר יָכוֹל (HR). On reconstructing μεριμνᾶν with הִרְהֵר, see above, Comment to L4. On reconstructing δύνασθαι (dūnasthai, “to be able”) with יָכוֹל (yāchōl, “able”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L10.

L24 προσθεῖναι (GR). Matthew and Luke differ with respect to the placement of the verb προστιθέναι (prostithenai, “to add”). In Matthew the verb comes before the phrase ἐπὶ τὴν ἡλικίαν αὐτοῦ (“upon the stature of him”), while in Luke it comes after the same. We have accepted Matthew’s word order for GR, since it is more Hebraic.

לְהוֹסִיף (HR). The vast majority of instances of προστιθέναι in LXX are the translation of הוֹסִיף (hōsif, “add”).[90] Conversely, הוֹסִיף is rendered in LXX with προστιθέναι far more often than with any other verb.[91]

L25 עַל קוֹמָתוֹ (HR). In LXX προστιθέναι ἐπί (“to add upon”) is the usual translation of הוֹסִיף עַל (“add upon,” i.e., “add to,” “increase”).[92] We also frequently encounter הוֹסִיף עַל in rabbinic sources.[93] Therefore, the reconstruction of προστιθέναι ἐπί as הוֹסִיף עַל in L24-25 is not in doubt.

More problematic is how to interpret the meaning of ἡλικία (hēlikia) in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry. The primary meaning of ἡλικία is “age,”[94] but it also acquired the secondary meaning of “height” or “stature.” Both meanings are attested in the Gospels: ἡλικία refers to the stature of the twelve-year-old Jesus in Luke 2:52, and to the short stature of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:3, whereas in John 9:21, 23 ἡλικίαν ἔχει (hēlikian echei) means “he is of age.” On the other hand, the use of ἡλικία in the sense of “length of life,” which is the meaning required in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry if ἡλικία is interpreted temporally, is not attested in the ancient sources.[95]

In LXX ἡλικία occurs 22xx, but mainly in books originally composed in Greek. There is only one instance of ἡλικία in LXX that is the translation of a Hebrew word, and in that one instance that word is קוֹמָה (qōmāh, “height,” “stature”; Ezek. 13:18). It is also the case that opposite ἡλικία in Sir. 26:17 a Hebrew MS of Ben Sira (MS C) reads קוֹמָה. The noun קוֹמָה never means “age” or “lifespan.”[96]

In 2 Kgs. 20:6 we find an example of a promise to extend the length of a person’s life, where this is expressed as וְהֹסַפְתִּי עַל יָמֶיךָ חֲמֵשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה (“And I will add upon your days fifteen years”). The LXX renders this promise as καὶ προσθήσω ἐπὶ τὰς ἡμέρας σου πέντε καὶ δέκα ἔτη (“And I will add to your days fifteen years”; 4 Kgdms. 20:6; NETS). Neither the Greek nor Hebrew expressions of the promise to extend a person’s lifespan resemble the saying in Matt. 6:27 // Luke 12:25.

In light of the above evidence it is difficult to justify any reconstruction of ἡλικία other than קוֹמָה, with the corollary that we must understand the rhetorical question in terms of adding to one’s physical stature.

L27 πῆχυν ἕνα (GR). We suspect that the author of Luke dropped ἕνα (hena, “one”) from his source.[97] Davies and Allison regard the placement of ἕνα after πῆχυς (pēchūs, “cubit”) as a Semitism.[98]

In this mosaic from Tzippori (Sepphoris) two youths chisel cubit markers onto a “Nilometer,” a device used to measure the flood levels of the Nile River. The top marker reads ΙΖ (= 17 cubits). According to the second-century C.E. satirist Lucian, the flood waters of the Nile were often personified in Greco-Roman art as sixteen little childlike creatures known as οἱ πήχεις (“the cubits”), since a rise of sixteen cubits was considered to be the optimal annual flood level (A Professor of Public Speaking §6). The mosaic depiction and the personification of the Nile’s cubits in Lucian are both excellent examples of πῆχυς (pēchūs, “cubit”) as a spatial, rather than a temporal, unit of measure. Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

אַמָּה אַחַת (HR). The noun πῆχυς refers to a measure of space (viz., the distance between the elbow and the tip of the middle finger).[99] It is not a unit of time.[100] There are no attestations of a temporal use of πῆχυς in the ancient sources.[101] Although scholars who favor a temporal meaning for Jesus’ saying in Matt. 6:27 // Luke 12:25 regularly cite a temporal use of the cognate adjective πήχυιος (pēchūios) in the works of the seventh-century B.C.E. poet Mimnermus in support of their interpretation,[102] a single obscure example of a different, albeit related, term cannot justify reading “add a moment to your life” in Matt. 6:27 // Luke 12:25.[103] The correct interpretation, despite the problems it may create, must be “add a single cubit to his stature.”[104]

In LXX πῆχυς is the equivalent of אַמָּה (’amāh, “cubit”).[105] The phrase אַמָּה אַחַת occurs in the Hebrew Bible and in rabbinic literature.[106] An illuminating example of this phrase is found in the following rabbinic source:

מלבו ולמטה שתי אמות ומלבו ולמעלה אמה אחת

From his heart down [a person’s height—DNB and JNT] is two cubits, and from his heart up [a person’s height—DNB and JNT] is one cubit [אמה אחת]. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa‘ chpt. 4 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:238])

The point of Jesus’ question is that worriers cannot add a single cubit to their height, but God, who creates the body, adds three or so cubits to a person’s height between the time of his conception and the attainment of his full stature. Since God was able to grow the disciples’ bodies to their full stature, he can surely provide their bodies with clothes.

L28-29 Luke 12:26 has no parallel in the Matthean version of Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry. We believe that the question “If you are not able to do the littlest things, why do you worry about the rest?” was the author of Luke’s attempt to paraphrase the gist of Jesus’ argument.[107] Some of the vocabulary in Luke 12:26 (περί, μεριμνᾶτε) also occurs in Matt. 6:28 (L30), which may indicate that the author of Luke recycled some of Anth.’s wording when composing his paraphrase. Since we regard Luke 12:26 as a Lukan composition, this verse has been omitted from GR and HR.

L30 καὶ περὶ ἐνδύματος τί μεριμνᾶτε (GR). We have adopted Matthew’s introduction to the illustration concerning clothing for GR. As we noted in Comment to L28-29, Luke 12:26 betrays awareness of this introduction, confirming our supposition that Matthew’s wording in L30 was copied from Anth.

וְעַל כְּסוּת לָמָּה אַתֶּם מְהַרְהְרִים (HR). In LXX περί (peri, “concerning,” “around”) is often the translation of עַל (‘al, “upon,” “concerning”).[108] We have collected a few examples of περί as the translation of עַל, which are parallel to our reconstruction:

וְעַל הִשָּׁנוֹת הַחֲלוֹם אֶל־פַּרְעֹה פַּעֲמָיִם כִּי־נָכוֹן הַדָּבָר מֵעִם הָאֱלֹהִים וּמְמַהֵר הָאֱלֹהִים לַעֲשׂתוֹ

And concerning [וְעַל] the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh two times, it means that the matter is firmly established with God and God will hasten to do it. (Gen. 41:32)

περὶ δὲ τοῦ δευτερῶσαι τὸ ἐνύπνιον Φαραω δίς, ὅτι ἀληθὲς ἔσται τὸ ῥῆμα τὸ παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ ταχυνεῖ ὁ θεὸς τοῦ ποιῆσαι αὐτό

And as for [περὶ δὲ] Pharao’s dream being repeated twice: because the matter that is from God will be real, and God will hasten to do it. (Gen. 41:32; NETS)

על אלה אל תבוש…על תורת עליון וחק ועל משפט להצדיק רשע

Concerning [על] these things do not be ashamed…concerning [על] the Torah of the Most High and [his] statute, and concerning [ועל] judgment lest the wicked be justified. (Mas IV, 6-7)

μὴ περὶ τούτων αἰσχυνθῇς…περὶ νόμου ὑψίστου καὶ διαθήκης καὶ περὶ κρίματος δικαιῶσαι τὸν ἀσεβῆ

Concerning [περὶ] these things do not be ashamed…concerning [περὶ] the Law of the Most High and [his] covenant, and concerning [καὶ περὶ] judgment lest the impious be justified. (Sir. 42:1-2)

On reconstructing ἔνδυμα as כְּסוּת, see above, Comment to L11. On reconstructing μεριμνᾶν with הִרְהֵר, see above, Comment to L4.

L31 καταμάθετε τὰ κρίνα τοῦ ἀγροῦ (GR). We have accepted Matthew’s wording in L31, since the verb κατανοεῖν (see above, Comment to L12) and the omission of the construct-like phrase “of the field” (see above, Comment to L13) in Luke’s version are probably redactional.

הִסְתַּכְּלוּ בְּצִיץ הַשָּׂדֶה (HR). Out of the eight instances of καταμαθεῖν (katamathein, “to examine”) in LXX, two are the translation of רָאָה (rā’āh, “see,” “look”; Gen. 34:1; Lev. 14:36). Although we could reconstruct καταμαθεῖν using רָאָה we have preferred to use the more colorful MH verb הִסְתַּכֵּל (histakēl, “look at,” “reflect upon”). Compare our reconstruction to the following example from an early rabbinic source:

אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה אמור להם לישראל הסתכלו בשמים שבראתי לשמשכם

The Holy one, blessed be he, said to Moses, “Say to Israel, ‘Look at the heavens, which I created to serve you….’” (Sifre Deut. §306 [ed. Finkelstein, 332])

Wildflowers in Israel photographed by Gloria E. M. Suess. The red blossoms are those of the Corn Poppy (Papaver subpyriforme).

בְּצִיץ הַשָּׂדֶה (HR). Although in LXX κρίνον (krinon) is usually the translation of שׁוֹשַׁנָּה (shōshanāh, “lily”),[109] the phrase שׁוֹשַׁנֵּי הַשָּׂדֶה (shōshanē hasādeh, “the lilies of the field”) never occurs in MT, DSS or rabbinic sources. However, since κρίνον can be used generically for “flower,[110] we have preferred to reconstruct τὰ κρίνα τοῦ ἀγροῦ as צִיץ הַשָּׂדֶה (tzitz hasādeh, “the flower of the field”), a construct phrase that occurs twice in the Hebrew Bible:

כָּל־הַבָּשָׂר חָצִיר וְכָל־חַסְדּוֹ כְּצִיץ הַשָּׂדֶה׃ יָבֵשׁ חָצִיר נָבֵל צִיץ כִּי רוּחַ יי נָשְׁבָה בּוֹ אָכֵן חָצִיר הָעָם׃ יָבֵשׁ חָצִיר נָבֵל צִיץ וּדְבַר אֱלֹהֵינוּ יָקוּם לְעוֹלָם

All flesh is grass and all his covenant loyalty [ḥesed] is like a flower of the field [LXX: ἄνθος χόρτου (“flower of grass”)]. Grass dries out and a flower withers when a wind of the LORD blows over it. Indeed, the people are grass. Grass dries and a flower withers, but the word of our God will endure forever. (Isa. 40:6-8)

אֱנוֹשׁ כֶּחָצִיר יָמָיו כְּצִיץ הַשָּׂדֶה כֵּן יָצִיץ כִּי רוּחַ עָבְרָה בּוֹ וְאֵינֶנּוּ וְלֹא יַכִּירֶנּוּ עוֹד מְקוֹמוֹ וְחֶסֶד יי מֵעוֹלָם וְעַד עוֹלָם עַל יְרֵאָיו וְצִדְקָתוֹ לִבְנֵי בָנִים

As for a man, his days are like the grass. Like a flower of the field [LXX: ἄνθος τοῦ ἀγροῦ (“flower of the field”)] he flowers. For the wind passes over it, and it is no more and its place is no longer recognized. But the covenant loyalty [ḥesed] of the LORD is from forever unto forever upon those who fear him, and his righteousness extends to the children’s children. (Ps. 103:15-17)

Mountain Tulip (Tulipa montana) photographed by Gloria E. M. Suess.

Neither instance of צִיץ הַשָּׂדֶה is translated τὰ κρίνα τοῦ ἀγροῦ in LXX, which makes “the flowers of the field” in Matt. 6:28 a non-Septuagintal Hebraism. Note that although צִיץ in the construct phrase צִיץ הַשָּׂדֶה is singular, in the Greek phrase τὰ κρίνα τοῦ ἀγροῦ “flowers” are plural. This parallels the translation of עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם (“the bird [sing.] of the sky”) as τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (“the birds [plur.] of the heaven”) in LXX.[111] In Hebrew עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם (“the bird [sing.] of the sky”) can take either singular or plural verbs,[112] and although the two instances of צִיץ הַשָּׂדֶה in MT are accompanied by singular verbs, this Hebrew construct phrase could probably take plural verbs as well, as Matthew’s use of plural verbs in L32 and L33 suggests.

Crown Anemone (Anemone coronaria) photographed by Gloria E. M. Suess.

The contexts in which the two instances of צִיץ הַשָּׂדֶה in the Hebrew Bible appear strengthen our conviction that this was the phrase that τὰ κρίνα τοῦ ἀγροῦ in Matt. 6:28 was intended to represent. Both Isa. 40:6 and Ps. 103:15 pair “flower of the field” with “grass,” and both verses reflect on the transience of a flower’s beauty (cf. Matt. 6:30 // Luke 12:28). If Jesus did intend to allude to Psalm 103 by directing his disciples to look at the flowers of the field, can the mention of God’s righteousness in Ps. 103:17 (צִדְקָתוֹ = ἡ δικαιοσύνη αὐτοῦ) and Matt 6:33 (L56) be mere coincidence? On the other hand, LXX points to a variant version of Isa. 40:6, which may have been current in the time of Jesus. Whereas MT reads, “All flesh is grass, and all his covenant faithfulness [ḥesed] is like a flower of the field,” LXX reads, “All flesh is grass, all a person’s glory [δόξα ἀνθρώπου] is like a flower of grass.” The comparison of a person’s glory to the flowers of the field in the LXX version of Isa. 40:6 (and the Hebrew text-tradition it may represent) may have inspired the comparison of the flowers to Solomon’s glory in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry (L35-37). Of course, a double allusion to Isa. 40:6 and Ps. 103:15 in Jesus’ illustration concerning clothing would not be at all surprising. If two verses shared a word or phrase that appears nowhere else in Scripture, it was common for ancient Jewish exegetes to read those verses together, a principle known in rabbinic sources as gezerah shavah. That Jesus was familiar with this exegetical technique and made use of it on occasion is proven by his citation of the “double love commandment” based on the occurrence of וְאָהַבְתָּ (“and you shall love”) in Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18.[113]

On reconstructing ἀγρός with שָׂדֶה, see Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl, Comment to L4.

Scarlet Crowfoot (Ranunculus asiaticus) photographed by Gloria E. M. Suess.

L32-33 When Codex Sinaiticus was exposed to ultraviolet light it was revealed that the scribe who produced this manuscript had originally written πῶς οὐ ξένουσιν οὐδε νήθουσιν οὐδε κοπιῶσιν (“how they do not card or spin or labor”) in Matt. 6:28. The scribe then erased what he had written and inscribed πῶς αὐξάνουσιν οὐ κοπιοῦσιν οὐδὲ νήθουσιν (“how they grow: they do not labor or spin”) in its place.[114] There is a visual similarity between οὐ ξένουσιν (“they do not card”) and αὐξάνουσιν (“they grow”), which may have contributed to the scribal error, but it is also possible that the scribe who produced Codex Sinaiticus was familiar with a different version of Jesus’ saying that mentioned carding, since we find the statement “You are far better than the lilies, which do not card nor spin [οὐ ξαίνει οὐδε νήθει]” in a Greek fragment of the Gospel of Thomas (see above, “Conjectured Stages of Transmission”). Perhaps both explanations of how the variant reading in Codex Sinaiticus came about are correct: being familiar with a different form of the saying, the scribe who produced Codex Sinaiticus initially misread αὐξάνουσιν (“they grow”) as οὐ ξένουσιν (“they do not card”), but upon taking a closer look at his text, he saw his mistake and immediately corrected his error.

There is also an important textual variant in Luke 12:27. Whereas Codex Vaticanus reads πῶς αὐξάνει οὐ κοπιᾷ οὐδὲ νήθει (“how it grows: it does not labor and it does not spin”), basically in agreement with the Matthean parallel, Luke 12:27 in Codex Bezae reads πῶς οὔτε νήθει οὔτε ὑφαίνει (“how it neither spins nor weaves”). Some scholars accept the reading of Codex Bezae as the original text of Luke,[115] but whether or not they are correct in this assessment, it is unlikely that the reading in Bezae can be traced back to Anth. It seems more probable that either the author of Luke or a later scribe inserted “weave” as a replacement for the non-specific “toil,” and that the change from “how it grows…” to “how it neither spins nor weaves” was an attempt to streamline Jesus’ argument. We have therefore adopted Matthew’s wording in L32-33 for GR.

Painting of flowers located near the entrance to the Edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Photographed by Gary Asperschlager.

L32 πῶς αὐξάνουσιν (GR). Opposite Matthew’s “how they grow” Luke’s version (according to most MSS) reads “how it grows.” Since it is more elegant in Greek to use singular verbs with plural neuter nouns, we suspect that Luke’s use of singular verbs in L32 and L33 is redactional.[116] Matthew’s use of plural verbs is more coarse and likely reflects a literal translation of the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua, which reached the author of Matthew via Anth.

הֵיאַךְ הֵם צוֹמְחִים (HR). In LXX πῶς (pōs, “how”) is mainly the translation of אֵיךְ (’ēch, “how”), and less frequently of אֵיכָה (’ēchāh, “how”), but in MH these were largely replaced with הֵיאַךְ (hē’ach, “how”).[117] Non-interrogative uses of הֵיאַךְ, as in our reconstruction, are found in the following examples:

אמ′ ר′ יוחנן בן נורי בא וראה היאך הלכה זו רווחת בישראל

Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri said, “Come and see how [היאך] this halachah is widespread in Israel.” (t. Yev. 1:9; Vienna MS)

אין אומ′ אילו היה אביהן קיים היה נותן להן כך וכך אלא רואין שכנגדן היאך מתפרנסות ונותנין להן

They do not say, “If their father had been alive he would have given them such and such,” rather they see how [היאך] those who are their peers were being maintained, and they would give to them accordingly. (t. Ket. 6:2; Vienna MS)[118]

In LXX αὐξάνειν (avxanein, “to grow”) usually translates either פָּרָה (pārāh, “bear fruit”) or גָּדַל (gādal, “grow”).[119] The former is not suitable in the present context, but the latter might be a viable option for HR. Another option we considered for HR is פָּרַח (pāraḥ, “flower,” “sprout”). This verb is used with צִיץ in a post-biblical text discovered at Qumran:

כי הנה כח[צ]יר יצמח מארצו ופרח כציץ חסדו נשב[ה–] רוחו ויבש וציצו תשא רוח עד אייקום

For behold, like grass he sprouts from his earth and his covenant loyalty blossoms [פרח] like a flower. His wind blows and it dries and the wind carries his flower to nothingness. (4Q185 1-2 I, 9-11)

In the end we decided to reconstruct αὐξάνειν with צָמַח (tzāmaḥ, “sprout,” “grow”), a common verb for describing plant growth in Mishnaic as well as Biblical Hebrew.[120] In the hif‘il stem the root צ-מ-ח is used to describe the growth of grass (חָצִיר [ḥātzir]; Ps. 104:14; 147:8), which is found parallel to צִיץ (tzitz, “flower”) in verses that may have influenced Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry (see below, Comment to L38).[121]

A spindle and whorl used for spinning wool. Photographed at the Golan Archaeological Museum by Todd Bolen. Image courtesy of

L33 οὐ κοπιῶσιν οὐδὲ νήθουσιν (GR). Although the text of Vaticanus reads οὐ κοπιοῦσιν (ou kopiousin), this unusual spelling is probably a scribal error.[122] We have therefore adopted the more usual spelling οὐ κοπιῶσιν (ou kopiōsin, “they do not toil”) for GR, which is attested in the majority of MSS.

אֵינָם עֲמֵלִים וְאֵינָם טוֹוִים (HR). Settling on a verb with which to reconstruct κοπιᾶν (kopian, “to toil”) is difficult. In LXX κοπιᾶν is the translation of several different Hebrew verbs, although it translates יָגַע (yāga‘, “be weary,” “toil”) far more frequently than any of the others.[123] In MH יָגַע continued to be used for “toil” or “labor,”[124] making יָגַע a perfectly acceptable option for HR. Another verb translated as κοπιᾶν in LXX is עָמַל (‘āmal, “toil,” “labor”),[125] and this verb likewise remained current in MH.[126] We have adopted עָמַל for HR simply because it is slightly more common in the Mishnah than יָגַע. An example of the plural participle עֲמֵלִים (amēlim, “they are toiling”) is found in a prayer of Rabbi Nehonyah ben ha-Kanah:

וביציאתו מהו אומר מודה אני לפניך ה′ אלהי ואלהי אבותי שנתת חלקי מיושבי בית המדרש ובתי כנסיות ולא נתת חלקי בבתי תרטיות ובבתי קרקסיות שאני עמל והן עמלים אני שוקד והן שוקדים אני עמל לירש גן עדן והן עמלים לבאר שחת שנאמר כי לא תעזוב נפשי לשאול לא תתן חסידך לראות שחת

And when he [i.e., Rabbi Nehonyah ben ha-Kanah—DNB and JNT] exits [the house of study] what does he say? “I am giving thanks before you, O Lord my God and God of my fathers, that you have set my portion among those who sit in the house of study and synagogues, and that you have not set my portion in the theater houses or in the circus arenas, for I am toiling [עמל] and they are toiling [עמלים], I rise early and they rise early. I am toiling [עמל] to inherit the Garden of Eden, but they are toiling [עמלים] for the pit of destruction, as it is said, For you will not abandon me to Sheol or let your faithful one see the Pit [Ps. 16:10].” (y. Ber. 4:2 [33a])

Deciding how to reconstruct the verb νήθειν (nēthein, “to spin”) is less difficult. In LXX νήθειν translates either טָוָה (ṭāvāh, “spin”) or שָׁזַר (shāzar, “twist”), but since the latter does not occur in the Mishnah, while the former does, טָוָה is the obvious choice for HR. A mishnaic example of טָוָה is found in the following rabbinic statement:

וְאֵיזוֹ הִיא דַת יְהוּדִים יוֹצָא וְרֹאשָׁהּ פָּרוּעַ וְטוֹוָה בַשּׁוּק וּמְדַבֶּרֶת עִם כָּל אָדָם

And who is she that transgresses Jewish custom? She that goes out with her head uncovered or spins [טוֹוָה] in the market or speaks with any person. (m. Ket. 7:6; cf. t. Sot. 5:9)

This unpalatable opinion identifies spinning as women’s work.[127] Scholars often suggest that in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry the ravens are said not to perform men’s work and the flowers are said not to perform work done by women.[128]

L34 λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ὅτι (GR). The presence or absence of ὅτι is the only point of disagreement between Matthew and Luke in L34. Since the author of Matthew generally followed the wording of Anth. more closely in this pericope than did the author of Luke, we have retained ὅτι in GR.[129]

וַאֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם (HR). For other examples of אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם (“I am saying to you”) as the reconstruction of λέγω ὑμῖν (“I say to you”), see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, L102; Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, L34, L53; Persistent Widow, L25; Friend in Need, L15, L21; Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, L116; Blessedness of the Twelve, L10.

Here in L34 the coordinating conjunction -וְ (ve-) is used in the sense of “yet” or “nevertheless.”

L35 אַף שְׁלֹמֹה (HR). In LXX אַף (’af, “also,” even”) is more commonly translated as καί (kai, “and”), but there are a few instances where opposite אַף we find οὐδέ (oude, “and not”):

אַף בַּל נִטָּעוּ אַף בַּל זֹרָעוּ אַף בַּל שֹׁרֵשׁ בָּאָרֶץ גִּזְעָם וְגַם נָשַׁף בָּהֶם וַיִּבָשׁוּ

They are not even planted, they are not even sown, their stem has not even taken root in the ground, when he blows on them and they dry up. (Isa. 40:24)

οὐ γὰρ μὴ σπείρωσιν οὐδὲ μὴ φυτεύσωσιν, οὐδὲ μὴ ῥιζωθῇ εἰς τὴν γῆν ἡ ῥίζα αὐτῶν· ἔπνευσεν ἐπ᾿ αὐτοὺς καὶ ἐξηράνθησαν

For they will not sow, nor will they plant, neither will their root take root in the earth; he blew upon them, and they withered…. (Isa. 40:24; NETS)

אַף אֵין מַגִּיד אַף אֵין מַשְׁמִיעַ אַף אֵין שֹׁמֵעַ אִמְרֵיכֶם

There is no one declaring, and no one making it heard, and there is no one listening to your pronouncements. (Isa. 41:26)

οὐκ ἔστιν ὁ προλέγων οὐδὲ ὁ ἀκούων ὑμῶν τοὺς λόγους

There is none who foretells nor any who hears your words. (Isa. 41:26; NETS)

לֹא נָאוָה לְנָבָל שְׂפַת יֶתֶר אַף כִּי לְנָדִיב שְׂפַת שָׁקֶר

Fine lips are not seemly for a fool, likewise lying lips [are not seemly] for an aristocrat. (Prov. 17:7)

οὐχ ἁρμόσει ἄφρονι χείλη πιστὰ οὐδὲ δικαίῳ χείλη ψευδῆ

Faithful lips will not suit a fool, nor false lips the righteous. (Prov. 17:7; NETS)

The spelling Σολομών (Solomōn, “Solomon”) is the accepted rendition of the name שְׁלֹמֹה (Shelomoh, “Solomon”) in NT,[130] but this spelling occurs only once in LXX (2 Kgdms. 8:7), where there is no Hebrew equivalent. Josephus also adopted the spelling Σολομών in his works, as did most other Greek writers.[131] The usual LXX spelling is Σαλωμων (Salōmōn).[132]

L36 בְּכָל כְּבוֹדוֹ (HR). On reconstructing πᾶς (pas, “all,” “every”) with כָּל (kol, “all,” “every”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L26. In LXX the noun δόξα (doxa, “glory”) can represent a number of Hebrew terms, but by far the most common is כָּבוֹד (kāvōd, “glory”).[133] Likewise, כָּבוֹד was translated in LXX as δόξα in the vast majority of instances.[134]

King Solomon as depicted in the 13th-cent. C.E. illuminated MS known as the North French Hebrew Miscellany. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Embedded in an aggadic tradition is a saying that appears to be proverbial, which may illuminate Jesus’ description of “Solomon in all his glory”: כְּבוֹדוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם כְּסוּתוֹ (“a person’s glory is his clothing”).[135] This proverbial statement is not the only source to associate clothing with glory.[136] A fragment of Ben Sira discovered at Qumran mentions “robes of glory” (בגדי כבוד),[137] and in a Greek addition to the book of Esther (Addition D) we read:

καὶ ἐγενήθη ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ, ὡς ἐπαύσατο προσευχομένη, ἐξεδύσατο τὰ ἱμάτια τῆς θεραπείας καὶ περιεβάλετο τὴν δόξαν αὐτῆς

And it happened on the third day, as she ceased praying, she took off the garments of service and put on her glory. (Esth. 5:1; NETS)

In light of these ancient Jewish parallels we could paraphrase “Solomon in all his glory” as “Solomon in his finest clothing.”

Tomson noted the similarity between Jesus’ reference to “Solomon in all his glory” and rabbinic references to “Solomon in his time”:[138]

אֲפִילּוּ אַתְּ עוֹשֶׂה לָהֶם כִּסְעוֹדַת שְׁלֹמֹה בְשַׁעְתוֹ לֹא יָצָאתָה

Even if you make for them [a meal] like a banquet of Solomon in his time, you have not fulfilled your obligation. (m. Bab. Metz. 7:1)

תשעה באב שחל להיות בשבת אוכל אדם כל צרכו ושותה כל צרכו ומעלה על שולחנו כסעודת שלמה בשעתו ואין מונע מעצמו כלום

When the ninth of Av [i.e., a fast day commemorating the destruction of the Temple—DNB and JNT] coincides with the Sabbath a person may eat all he needs and drink all he needs and he may set his table like a banquet of Solomon in his time and he does not deny himself a thing. (t. Taan. 3:13; Vienna MS; cf. t. Sanh. 11:6)

The comparisons to “Solomon in his time” always refer to his extravagant meals, and although Solomon’s wealth was legendary in other respects,[139] Solomon’s clothing is not especially mentioned in other ancient Jewish sources. As Vermes observed, “The latter twist is due to the imagination of Jesus.”[140]

L37 לֹא הִתְכַּסֶּה כְּאַחַד מֵהֶם (HR). In LXX περιβάλλειν (periballein, “to put around”) usually translates the root כ-ס-ה,‎[141] or, less often, ל-ב-שׁ.‎[142] We have adopted the former for HR since it is consistent with the discussion concerning clothing (περὶ ἐνδύματος = וְעַל כְּסוּת; L30). Examples of הִתְכַּסֶּה (hitkaseh, “dress oneself”) in rabbinic sources include:

יָרַד לִטְבּוֹל אִם יָכוֹל לַעֲלוֹת וּלְהִתְכַּסּוֹת וְלִקְרֹאות עַד שֶׁלֹּא תָנֶץ הַחַמָּה יַעֲלֶה וְיִתְכַּסֶּה וְיִקְרֵא

If he went down to immerse: if he is able to come up and to dress himself [לְהִתְכַּסּוֹת] and recite [the Shema] before the sun has risen, he dresses himself [יִתְכַּסֶּה] and recites. (m. Ber. 3:5)

נוֹתֵן לָהּ כֵּלִים שֶׁלְּחֲמִישִּׁים זוּז בִימוֹת הַגְּשָׁמִים וְהִיא מִתְכַּסָּה בִּבְלָיוֹתֵיהֶין בִּימוֹת הַחַמָּה

He gives her garments worth fifty zuz during the days of rain [i.e., winter—DNB and JNT] and she dresses herself [מִתְכַּסָּה] in these worn-out clothes during the days of sun [i.e., summer—DNB and JNT]. (m. Ket. 5:8)

לֹא הָיוּ יְשֵׁינִים בְּבִגְדֵי קוֹדֶשׁ אֶלָּא פוֹשְׁטִין וּמְקַפְּלִין וּמַנִּיחִין אוֹתָן תַּחַת רָאשֵׁיהֶן וּמִתְכַּסִּין כְּסוּת עַצְמָן

They [i.e., the priests on duty in the Temple—DNB and JNT] would not sleep in the holy robes, rather they would disrobe and fold them up and place them under their heads, and they would dress themselves [מִתְכַּסִּין] in their own clothing. (m. Tam. 1:1)

Note that in the final example cited above הִתְכַּסֶּה is used in conjunction with כְּסוּת, precisely as in our reconstruction.

Compare our reconstruction of ὡς ἓν τούτων (“like one of these”) with the LXX translation of כְּאַחַד + ‎מִן in 1 Kgdms. 17:36:

גַּם אֶת הָאֲרִי גַּם הַדּוֹב הִכָּה עַבְדֶּךָ וְהָיָה הַפְּלִשְׁתִּי הֶעָרֵל הַזֶּה כְּאַחַד מֵהֶם

Both lion and bear has your servant struck down, and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them. (1 Sam. 17:36)

καὶ τὴν ἄρκον ἔτυπτεν ὁ δοῦλός σου καὶ τὸν λέοντα, καὶ ἔσται ὁ ἀλλόφυλος ὁ ἀπερίτμητος ὡς ἓν τούτων

And your slave would smite both the bear and the lion, and the uncircumcised allophyle shall be like one of these. (1 Kgdms. 17:36; NETS)

The construction כְּאַחַד + ‎מִן is found in biblical and post-biblical sources.[143] An example of כְּאַחַד + ‎מִן from the Mishnah is found in the following statement:

הַחוֹלֵץ לִיבִמְתּוֹ הֲרֵי הוּא כְאֶחַד מִכָּל הָאָחִים בַּנַּחֲלָה

The one who has been released by his dead brother’s wife from levirite marriage: he is like one of all the brothers [כְאֶחַד מִכָּל הָאָחִים] in terms of inheritance. (m. Yev. 4:7)

Jesus’ assessment that not even Solomon’s luxurious robes could match the clothing worn by the flowers has parallels in other ancient sources.[144] It was widely held in the Greco-Roman world that arts and crafts produced by human beings could never match the beauty produced in nature. Thus we read in the works of Pliny the Elder (died 79 C.E.) that “Not even the painter’s art, however, suffices to copy their [i.e., the flowers’—DNB and JNT] colours and the variety of their combinations” (Nat. Hist. 21:1; Loeb). Likewise, Diogenes Laertius (third century C.E.) recorded the following story about a legendary king named Croesus:

Illustration of peafowl by Edward Neale from Indian Sporting Birds (1915).

There is a story that Croesus in magnificent array sat himself down on his throne and asked Solon if he had ever seen anything more beautiful. “Yes,” was the reply, “cocks and pheasants and peacocks; for they shine in nature’s colours, which are ten thousand times more beautiful.” (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 1:51; Loeb)

L38 εἰ δὲ τὸν χόρτον τοῦ ἀγροῦ (GR). It is clear from the Lukan-Matthean agreement to associate “grass” with “field” that both authors drew this association from Anth., and since Matthew’s τὸν χόρτον τοῦ ἀγροῦ (“the grass of the field”) looks like an attempt to woodenly translate a Hebrew construct phrase, it is likely that the author of Matthew preserved Anth.’s wording more exactly than did the author of Luke. Luke’s version (“but if in a field God so clothes the grass”)[145] looks like an attempt to polish the Greek style of Anth.’s more Hebraic wording.[146]

אִם כָּךְ אֶת חֲצִיר הַשָּׂדֶה (HR). Although Luke and Matthew agree that οὕτως (houtōs, “thus,” “so”) belongs later in the verse (L41), Hebrew syntax prefers כָּךְ (kāch, “thus,” “so”), the MH equivalent of οὕτως,[147] at the beginning of a sentence, as we observe in the following examples:

אִם כָּךְ הָיְתה {לו} נוֹהֵג לֹּא קִיַּימְתָּה מִצְוַתַ סוּכָּה מִיָּמֶיךָ

If thus you were behaving, you have not fulfilled the commandment of the sukkah in all your days! (m. Suk. 2:7; cf. m. Maksh. 3:4)

אִם כָּךְ אָמַר הַכָּתוּב מִצְטָעֵר אֲנִי עַל דָּמָן שֶׁלָּרְשָׁעִין קַל וָחוֹמֶר עַל דַּם צַדִּיקִים שֶׁנִּישְׁפַּךְ

If thus the Scripture says, “I am grieving over the blood of the wicked,” how much more over the blood of the righteous? (m. Sanh. 6:5)

ר′ עֲקִיבָה אוֹ′ לֹא בָא הַשְּׁלִישִׁי אֶלָּא לְהַחְמִיר עָלָיו וְלַעֲשׂוֹת דִּינוֹ כַיּוֹצֵא בָאֵלּוּ וְאִם כַּךְ עָנַשׁ הַכָּתוּב לַנֵּיטְפַּל לְעוֹבְרֵי עֲבֵירָה כְּעוֹבְרֵי עֲבֵירָה עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה יְשַׁלֵּם שָׂכָר לַנִּיטְפַּל לְעוֹשֶׂה מִצְוָּה כּעוֹשֵׂה מִצְוָה

Rabbi Akiva says, “The third [witness] is not mentioned except to demonstrate stringency concerning him and to make his judgment the same as these [lying witnesses—DNB and JNT]. And if thus [וְאִם כַּךְ] the Scripture punishes the one who supports committers of transgression like the ones committing transgression themselves, how much more will it pay a wage to the one who supports the doer of a commandment like the one doing the commandment himself?” (m. Mak. 1:7)

אָמַ′ ר′ מֵאִיר…אִם כֵּן חָסָה הַתּוֹרָה עַל מָמוֹנוֹ הַבָּזוּיִי קוֹל וָחוֹמֶר עַל מָמוֹנוֹ הֶחָבִיב אִם כָּךְ עַל מָמוֹנוֹ קוֹל וָחוֹמֶר עַל נֶפֶשׁ בָּנָיו וּבְנוֹתָיו אִם כַּךְ עַל שֶׁלָּרָשָׁע קַל וָחוֹמֶר עַל שֶׁלַּצַּדִּיק

Rabbi Meir said, “…If thus the Torah has pity on the property of the despised, how much more so on the property of the beloved? If it is thus concerning his property, how much more so concerning the life of his sons and daughters? If it is thus in the case of what belongs to the wicked, how much more in the case of what belongs to the righteous?” (m. Neg. 12:5)

Note how the majority of the examples of אִם כָּךְ occur in sentences that draw conclusions from kal vahomer arguments. Since Matt. 6:30 // Luke 12:28 likewise draws a conclusion from a kal vahomer argument, we believe אִם כָּךְ is the right choice for HR.

חֲצִיר הַשָּׂדֶה (HR). The phrase [ὁ] χόρτος [τοῦ] ἀγροῦ (“[the] grass of [the] field”) is used in Gen. 2:5; 3:18 and 4 Kgdms. 19:26 to translate עֵשֶׂב [הַ]שָּׂדֶה (“[the] herbs of [the] field”). Nevertheless, we have preferred to reconstruct χόρτος (chortos, “hay,” “grass”) with חָצִיר (ḥātzir, “grass”), since חָצִיר is paired with both instances of צִיץ הַשָּׂדֶה in MT (Isa. 40:6; Ps. 103:15) and with צִיץ in 4Q185 1-2 I, 10. The construct phrase חֲצִיר הַשָּׂדֶה is not found in MT, nor have we found examples of this phrase in DSS or in rabbinic sources. The closest example we have found is in the phrase חציר וירקות שדה (“leeks and vegetables of a field”), which occurs once in the Tosefta (t. Shev. 5:16; Vienna MS). As our translation of the Tosefta passage indicates, in MH חָצִיר came to refer to leeks rather than to grass.[148] Our reconstruction presumes that Jesus used חָצִיר in the older BH sense of the term.[149]

L39 σήμερον ὄντα (GR). We have adopted Matthew’s word order for GR in L39 mainly because the author of Matthew seems to have adhered more closely to the wording of Anth. than did the author of Luke.

שֶׁהַיּוֹם קַיָּם (HR). We have reconstructed the participle ὄντα (onta, “being”) with the MH adjective קַיָּם (qayām, “existing,” “enduring”). An example of קַיָּם used in reference to grass is found in the following midrash on Psalm 119:

זדים הליצוני עד מאד מתורתך לא נטיתי…ועוד חוזרין ואומרים לי, לא תמולו, ולא תשמרו את השבתות, ולא תקראו, ואני מתיירא ממך, ואין אני שומעת להם, שהם חציר יבש, כשם שאין חציר קיים, כך אין דבריהם קיימים לעולם, וכן אמר הכתוב יבש חציר נבל ציץ, וכשם שאתה קיים לעולם, כך דבריך קיימים לעולם, שנאמר ודבר אלהינו יקום לעולם.‏

Insolent persons mocked me to the extreme, but from your Torah I did not stray [Ps. 119:51]…. Once more they [i.e., hostile Gentiles—DNB and JNT] were returning and saying to me, “Do not circumcise! Do not keep the Sabbaths! Do not recite [the Shema]!”[150] But I feared you and I did not listen to them, for they are dry grass [חציר]. Just as grass does not endure [אין חציר קיים], so their words will not endure [קיימים] forever. And thus the Scripture says, Dry grass, a fading flower [Isa. 40:7]. But just as you [i.e., God—DNB and JNT] endure [קיים] forever, so your words endure [קיימים] forever, as it is said, but the word of our God is established forever [Isa. 40:8]. (Midrash Tehillim 119 §20 [ed. Buber, 495])

The short-lived beauty of flowers is a theme common to the Hebrew Bible (Isa. 40:6-8; Ps. 103:15-16; Job 14:2), DSS (1QM XV, 11-12; 4Q185 1-2 I, 10-11), NT (James 1:10-11; 1 Pet. 1:24-25), and the works of Greco-Roman authors (Pliny, Nat. Hist. 21:1).[151]

A reconstructed oven at the Qatzrin museum photographed by Todd Bolen. Image courtesy of

L40 וּמָחָר בַּתַּנּוּר נָתוּן (HR). In LXX αὔριον (avrion, “tomorrow”) is almost always the translation of מָחָר (māḥār, “tomorrow”).[152] Since מָחָר continued to be used in MH, this is the obvious choice for HR. The choice of תַּנּוּר (tanūr, “oven”) is equally straightforward: in LXX κλίβανος (klibanos, “oven”) always translates תַּנּוּר,‎[153] and in MH תַּנּוּר continued to be used for “baking oven.” More difficult is how to reconstruct βάλλειν (ballein, “to throw”). Although “throw into an oven” is attested in rabbinic sources,[154] “putting” (נ-ת-ן) into an oven was the more common expression.[155] In an unpublished essay Lindsey noted that in Koine Greek the verb βάλλειν lost its intensive sense and came to be used for “to place” or “to put,” a usage that is also reflected in the Gospels.[156] Given the weakened sense of βάλλειν in the Greek of the Gospels, and in light of the use of נָתַן in MH sources for “place in an oven,” we have reconstructed βάλλειν with נָתַן in HR.

The use of stubble and straw as fuel in ovens is mentioned in m. Shab. 3:2. In t. Shev. 5:15 we read of various herbs that were collected for use “as wood” for fires.

L41 ὁ θεὸς οὕτως ἀμφιέννυσιν (GR). Between Matt. 6:30 and Luke 12:28 there is disagreement about whether to use the verb ἀμφιεννύναι (Matt.) or ἀμφιάζειν (Luke) for God’s clothing of the grass. Both verbs are rare in LXX, and since they are synonymous it is difficult to decide which ought to be accepted for GR. We have adopted Matthew’s wording in L41 since in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry the author of Matthew adhered more strictly to Anth. than did the author of Luke.

מַלְבִּישׁ שָׁמַיִם (HR). The shift in verb from περιβάλλειν (L37) to ἀμφιεννύναι (L41) may indicate the use of different verbs in the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua. For HR we have adopted הִלְבִּישׁ (hilbish, “clothe”) since the root ל-ב-שׁ is more or less synonymous with the root כ-ס-ה.

On reconstructing θεός with שָׁמַיִם, see above, Comment to L17.

L42 πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὑμᾶς (GR). As in L19, we believe the author of Luke copied the πόσῳ μᾶλλον (posō mallon, “How much more?”) construction from Anth.[157]

עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה אַתֶּם (HR). On reconstructing πόσῳ μᾶλλον with עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה, see above, Comment to L19.

L43 מְחוּסְּרֵי אֲמָנָה (HR). Basing his opinion on the supposed lack “of any real equivalent” to ὀλιγόπιστος (oligopistos, “small of faith”) “in the Semitic languages,” Fitzmyer concluded that the label “you of little faith” cannot be traced back to the historical Jesus.[158] Fitzmyer believed that this term must have originated at a Greek stage of the pre-synoptic tradition. Somehow Fitzmyer either overlooked or dismissed the appellation מְחוּסַּר אֲמָנָה (meḥūsar ’amānāh, “deficient of faith”), which appears in tannaic sources such as the following:[159]

וכן היה ר′ אליעזר אומר מי שיש לו מה שיאכל היום ויאמר מה אני אוכל למחר הרי זה ממחוסרי אמנה שנ′ דבר יום ביומו. מי שברא יום ברא פרנסתו.‏

And thus Rabbi Eliezer [ben Hyrcanus] would say: “Whoever has something that he can eat today but says, ‘What will I eat tomorrow?’: behold, this one is among those who lack faith [מחוסרי אמנה], as it is said, a day’s portion in its day [Exod. 16:4]. The one who created day created its sustenance.” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai, BeShallaḥ 16:4 [ed. Epstein-Melamed, 106]; cited above, Comment to L5)[160]

Given the similarity between Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus’ saying and the message of Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, as well as the temporal proximity between Rabbi Eliezer (late first century C.E.) and Jesus (early first century C.E.), there is little reason to doubt that Jesus did make use of the appellation “deficient of faith” to chide his disciples when they doubted God’s ability or willingness to supply their most basic needs.

L44-49 Although similar in many respects, there are important differences between Matt. 6:31 and Luke 12:29. Matthew’s version begins with “Therefore, do not worry, saying…,” it incorporates direct speech, and it mentions food, drink and clothing. Luke’s version prohibits seeking rather than worrying, and it omits the opening “therefore,” the direct speech and the reference to clothing. On the other hand, Luke’s version includes a prohibition against being perturbed that does not appear in Matthew’s version. We suspect that most of these differences are due to the author of Luke’s editorial activity. The addition of the prohibition μὴ μετεωρίζεσθε (mē meteōrizesthe, “Do not be perturbed”; L49) in particular looks like an attempt on the part of the author of Luke to compensate for the omission of μὴ μεριμνήσητε (mē merimnēsēte, “Do not worry”; L44). Likewise, the replacement of “Do not worry” with “Do not seek” at the opening of the verse appears to have been motivated by a desire to balance the negative command with the positive imperative to seek the Kingdom (L55). The author of Luke may have removed the direct speech for stylistic purposes.[161]

L44 μὴ οὖν μεριμνήσητε (GR). We initially hesitated to accept Matthew’s wording for GR because precisely the same phrase introduces yet another admonition against worry in Matt. 6:34 (L60). We could not ignore the fact, however, that Luke’s μὴ μετεωρίζεσθε (“Do not be perturbed”) in L49 looks like a paraphrase of Matthew’s μὴ οὖν μεριμνήσητε (“Therefore, do not worry”) in L44. If our surmise is correct, then we must conclude that Matthew preserves the reading of Anth.

לְפִיכָךְ אַל תְּהַרְהְרוּ (HR). On reconstructing οὖν (oun, “therefore”) with לְפִיכָךְ (lefichāch, “therefore”), see “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves,” L44; and cf. Praying Like Gentiles, L7. On אַל תְּהַרְהְרוּ, see above, Comment to L4.

L45 λέγοντες (GR). As we noted in Comment to L44-49, it was probably the author of Luke who eliminated the direct speech from this verse. We have therefore included Matthew’s λέγοντες (legontes, “saying”) in GR.

לוֹמַר (HR). Since in L45 we are reconstructing speech rather than narrative, we have used the MH infinitive לוֹמַר (lōmar, “to say”) as opposed to the BH infinitive לֵאמֹר (lē’mor, “to say”).

L46 מַה נֹּאכַל (HR). On reconstructing ἐσθίειν with אָכַל, see above, Comment to L5. Compare our reconstruction in L46 to the following verse from Leviticus:

וְכִי תֹאמְרוּ מַה נֹּאכַל בַּשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִת

And if you say, “What will we eat in the sabbatical year…?” (Lev. 25:20)

ἐὰν δὲ λέγητε Τί φαγόμεθα ἐν τῷ ἔτει τῷ ἑβδόμῳ τούτῳ

But if you say, “What will we eat in this sabbatical year…?” (Lev. 25:20)

L47 אוֹ מַה נִּשְׁתֶּה (HR). The vast majority of instances of אוֹ (’ō, “or”) in the first five books of the Bible are rendered (ē, “or”) in LXX.[162] In MH אוֹ continued to be used, making אוֹ a solid choice for HR.

On reconstructing πινεῖν with ‎שָׁתָה, see above, Comment to L6. Compare our reconstruction in L47 with the following verse from Exodus:

וַיִּלֹּנוּ הָעָם עַל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר מַה נִּשְׁתֶּה

And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What will we drink?” (Exod. 15:24)

καὶ διεγόγγυζεν ὁ λαὸς ἐπὶ Μωυσῆν λέγοντες Τί πιόμεθα

And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What will we drink?” (Exod. 15:24)

L48 אוֹ בַּמֶּה נִתְכַּסֶּה (HR). On reconstructing περιβάλλειν with הִתְכַּסֶּה, see above, Comment to L37. Although in the Greek text there is nothing corresponding to the preposition -בְּ (be, “in,” “with”), the Hebrew reads awkwardly without it.[163] In the following examples we find that although the combination -הִתְכַּסֶּה בְּ occurs in the Hebrew text there is no corresponding preposition in the Greek translation:

וְהוּא מִתְכַּסֶּה בְּשַׂלְמָה חֲדָשָׁה

…and he dressed himself in a new robe…. (1 Kgs. 11:29)

καὶ ὁ Αχιας περιβεβλημένος ἱματίῳ καινῷ

…and Achias had clothed himself with a new garment…. (3 Kgdms. 11:29; NETS)

וַיִּקְרַע אֶת בְּגָדָיו וַיִּתְכַּס בַּשָּׂק

And he tore his garments and dressed himself in sackcloth…. (2 Kgs. 19:1)

καὶ διέρρηξεν τὰ ἱμάτια ἑαυτοῦ καὶ περιεβάλετο σάκκον

…he tore his own clothes and put on sackcloth…. (4 Kgdms. 19:1; NETS)[164]

The absence in these examples of a Greek preposition corresponding to -בְּ strengthens our conviction that -בְּ ought to be attached to מָה (māh, “what?”) in HR.

L49 καὶ μὴ μετεωρίζεσθε (Luke 12:29). As we noted above in Comment to L44-49, we believe Luke’s addition of “Do not be perturbed” at the end of this verse was an attempt to compensate for his omission of “Do not be worried” at the verse’s opening. The verb μετεωρίζειν (meteōrizein) primarily refers to elevation or buoyancy, which explains its use in LXX as the translation of הִגְבִּיהַּ (higbiah, “make high”), נָשָׂא (nāsā’, “lift”) and רָם (rām, “be exalted”).[165] In a figurative sense, μετεωρίζειν was used for being tossed about or unsettled.[166] The author of Luke used μετεωρίζειν as a synonym for “to worry,” hence our translation, “Do not be perturbed.”

L50 πάντα γὰρ ταῦτα (GR). According to Matthew, “the Gentiles seek all these things,” whereas according to Luke, “all the Gentiles of the world seek these things.” In Comment to L4 we discussed the possible influence of Deut. 28:48 (“And so you will serve your enemy, whom the LORD will send among you, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things”) on Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry. We also saw how a rabbinic midrash developed this warning by portraying Gentiles demanding material goods from Israel at the very moment when Israel lacked all things. Given the similarities between Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry and the rabbinic midrash, and the possible influence of Deut. 28:48 on both, we believe Matthew’s wording preserves the word order of Anth.

L51 τὰ ἔθνη τοῦ κόσμου (GR). There are three main reasons why we have adopted Luke’s longer epithet, “the Gentiles of the world,” for GR:

  1. The explanation that the author of Luke added “of the world” in order to soften the criticism of Gentiles in this verse is unconvincing.[167]
  2. Despite using ἔθνος (ethnos) frequently in his writings to refer to Gentiles, Luke 12:30 is the only place where the author of Luke used the phrase “the Gentiles of the world,” which strongly indicates that this particular usage reflects the wording of his source.[168]
  3. Luke’s τὰ ἔθνη τοῦ κόσμου looks like an attempt to render a Hebrew construct phrase corresponding precisely to אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם (’ūmōt hā‘ōlām, “the Gentiles of the world”), a common designation for Gentiles in rabbinic sources.[169] The author of Matthew may have omitted τοῦ κόσμου either because he regarded it as redundant (where else do Gentles come from?), or because he was aware of the derogatory tone of the expression “the Gentiles of the world.”

אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם (HR). In BH the noun עוֹלָם (‘ōlām) referred to a (very long) duration of time, which explains why עוֹלָם was usually rendered in LXX as αἰών (aiōn, “age,” “aeon”), but never rendered as κόσμος (kosmos, “world,” “universe”) in LXX.[170] In MH, however, עוֹלָם acquired the meaning “world” or “universe,”[171] as seen in phrases such as אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם (“Gentiles of the world”). Thus it appears that in Luke’s phrase τὰ ἔθνη τοῦ κόσμου we have a non-Septuagintal rendering of עוֹלָם with κόσμος, which reflects the evolution of the meaning of the Hebrew term.

Above in Comment to L4 we cited a rabbinic source in which the אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם (“Gentiles of the world”), make impossible demands of Jews for food and drink and clothing. The image of food-, drink- and clothing-obsessed Gentiles must have been a widespread stereotype among Jews in the Second Temple period. The author of the Letter of Aristeas contrasted Jews and Gentiles in this manner:

…οἱ Αἰγυπτίων καθηγεμόνες ἱερεῖς…ἀνθρώπους θεοῦ προσονομάζουσιν ἡμᾶς· ὃ τοῖς λοιποῖς οὐ πρόσεστιν, εἰ μή τις σέβεται τὸν κατὰ ἀλήθειαν θεόν, ἀλλ᾿ εἰσὶν ἄνθρωποι βρωτῶν καὶ ποτῶν καὶ σκέπης· ἡ γὰρ πᾶσα διάθεσις αὐτῶν ἐπὶ ταῦτα καταφεύγει. τοῖς δὲ παρ᾿ ἡμῶν ἐν οὐδενὶ ταῦτα λελόγισται, περὶ δὲ τῆς τοῦ θεοῦ δυναστείας δι᾿ ὅλου τοῦ ζῇν ἡ σκέψις αὐτοῖς

…the priests who are the guides of the Egyptians…have named us [i.e., the Jews—DNB and JNT] ‘men of God,’ a title applicable to none others but only to him who reveres the true God. The rest are men of food and drink and raiment [ἄνθρωποι βρωτῶν καὶ ποτῶν καὶ σκέπης], for their whole disposition has recourse to these things. With our countrymen, however, these things are reckoned as of nothing worth, but throughout the whole of life their contemplation is on the sovereignty of God. (Let. Arist. §140-141)[172]

The contrast between Gentiles who are wholly consumed with consumption and Jews who contemplate God’s sovereignty is a striking parallel to the contrast Jesus made between the seeking that characterizes the Gentiles of the world and the kind of seeking his disciples ought to pursue. This parallel challenges those scholars who assume that “seeking the Kingdom” in Matt. 6:33 // Luke 12:31 introduces an intrusive eschatological motif into the pericope, which must have been added to Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry at a Greek stage of the pre-synoptic transmission.[173] In light of the above-cited passage from the Letter of Aristeas, Jesus’ advice to “seek the Kingdom of God” rather than food, drink and clothing looks like a typical piece of Jewish instruction.

L52 מְבַקְּשִׁים (HR). Matthew and Luke agree to use the compound verb ἐπιζητεῖν (epizētein, “to seek earnestly”) to describe the inappropriate seeking of the Gentiles in contrast to the correct manner of seeking (ζητεῖν) recommended to the disciples (L55). In LXX ἐπιζητεῖν is more often the translation of דָּרַשׁ (dārash, “seek,” “demand”) than of בִּקֵּשׁ (biqēsh, “seek,” “request”).[174] We suspect, however, that the same verb, בִּקֵּשׁ, stands behind ζητεῖν and ἐπιζητεῖν in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry. On reconstructing ζητεῖν with בִּקֵּשׁ, see Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl, Comment to L12.

Above, in Comment to L4, we already discussed one source in which “the Gentiles of the world” (אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם) were said to be “seeking” or “demanding” (מְבַקְּשִׁין) food and drink and clothing (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 20:1 [ed. Schechter, 70-71]). Another example that discusses improper seeking (or demanding) on the part of the Gentiles of the world is found in a rabbinic parable:

ופניתי אליכם. משלו משל למה הדבר דומה למלך ששכר פועלים הרבה והיה שם פועל אחד ועשה עמו מלאכה ימים הרבה. נכנסו הפועלים ליטול שכרם ונכנס אותו הפועל עמהם אמר לו המלך לאותו הפועל בני אפנה לך. הרובים הללו שעשו עמי מלאכה ממועטת ואני נותן להם שכר מועט. אבל אתה חשבון רב אני עתיד לחשב עמך. כך היו ישראל בעולם הזה מבקשים שכרם מלפני המקום. ואומות העולם מבקשים שכרם מלפני המקום. והמקום אומר להם לישראל בניי אפנה לכם. אומות העולם הללו עשו עמי מלאכה מועטת ואני נותן להם שכר מועט. אבל אתם חשבון רב אני עתיד לחשב עמכם לכך נאמר ופניתי אליכם

And I will turn to you [Lev. 26:9]. They told a parable: To what may the matter be compared? To a king who hired many workers, and there was one worker there who worked for him many days. The workers entered to take their wage, and that same worker entered with them. The king said to that same worker, “My son, I will turn to you presently. These many who did little work for me—I am giving them little pay. But you—in the future I will settle a large bill with you.” In this way Israel was seeking [מבקשים] their wage in this world from the Omnipresent one and the Gentiles of the world were likewise seeking [ואומות העולם מבקשים] their wage from the Omnipresent one. So the Omnipresent one says to Israel, “My sons, I will turn to you presently. These Gentiles of the world [אומות העולם] did little work for me, and I am giving them little pay. But with you I will settle a large bill,” as it is said, I will turn to you [Lev. 26:9]. (Sifra, BeḤukotai 2:5 [ed. Weiss, 111a])

Here, too, the improper seeking (or demanding) of the Gentiles is contrasted with Israel’s right conduct.

L53 οἶδεν γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν (GR). We have accepted Matthew’s wording in L53 with the exception of ὁ οὐράνιος (ho ouranios, “the heavenly”). As we discussed above in Comment to L17, the uniquely Matthean formula ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος (“the father of you, the heavenly”) is a Grecized version of the highly Hebraic construction ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς (“the father of you, the one in the heavens”). Not only does the appellation “heavenly Father” bear the marks of Greek retouching, but there is only one example in which ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν/μου ὁ οὐράνιος in Matthew is supported by a synoptic parallel.[175] In DT pericopae there are two cases where opposite Matthew’s “your heavenly Father” Luke simply reads “your Father” (Matt. 5:48 vs. Luke 6:36; Matt. 6:32 vs. Luke 12:30), and one case where in place of “your heavenly Father” Luke has “God” (Matt. 6:26 vs. Luke 12:24). The rest of the uses of “heavenly Father” occur in verses unique to the Gospel of Matthew, where the likelihood of Matthean redaction is high.[176] While we entertained the possibility of amending ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος to the more Hebraic ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς in GR, in the end we preferred to adopt the simpler epithet “your Father.”[177]

There are several instances in the Synoptic Gospels where Jesus refers to God as “your Father” when speaking to his disciples. While some of these examples may be redactional (e.g., Matt. 6:15; Luke 12:32), others likely reflect the wording of Anth.[178] Especially pertinent to the present discussion is the example in Praying Like Gentiles (L8-10), which contains a statement parallel to that in Matt. 6:32 // Luke 12:30:

Matt. 6:8 Matt. 6:32
οἶδεν γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὧν χρείαν ἔχετε πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς αἰτῆσαι αὐτόν οἶδεν γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος ὅτι χρῄζετε τούτων ἁπάντων.
For your Father knows what need you have before you ask him. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these.

Thus, “heavenly Father” in L53 is not even supported by a parallel from elsewhere in Matthew’s own Gospel. Under these circumstances, adding ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς to ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν seems gratuitous. Undoubtedly the disciples were able to discern from the context of Jesus’ teaching that “your Father” referred to God, especially since not all Jesus’ disciples shared the same human father.

L54 ὅτι χρῄζετε τούτων ἁπάντων (GR). The scribe who produced Codex Vaticanus accidentally wrote χρῆτε (chrēte, “you use”) in Matt. 6:32 instead of χρῄζετε (chrēzete, “you need”). Apart from this scribal error, the wording of Matthew and Luke in L54 is identical, except for Matthew’s use of ἅπας (hapas, “all,” “every”) at the end of the sentence. Matthew and Luke differ with respect to “all” again in L59, with Matthew including “all” and Luke omitting it. Since we believe that Deut. 28:48—which warns that disobeying God’s commands will result in being in want of “all things”—probably stands somewhere in the background of Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, we regard the repetition of “all” as original.

שֶׁאַתֶּם צְרִיכִים כָּל אֵלּוּ (HR). The verb χρῄζειν (chrēzein, “to need”) does not occur in LXX; neither does the adjective צָרִיךְ (tzārich, “needing”) occur in MT. Nevertheless, צָרִיךְ is the obvious choice for HR.

Although in LXX כֹּל (kol, “all,” “every”) was most commonly rendered with πᾶς (pas, “all,” “every”),[179] in nearly every instance where ἅπας was used to translate a Hebrew term in LXX that word is כֹּל.‎[180] We do not know why πᾶς was used in L50 and L59, while ἅπας was used in L54. Perhaps the variation was simply because, like the author of Luke, the Greek translator of the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua felt that the repetition of “all” was tiresome.

L55 ζητεῖτε δὲ (GR). We have accepted Matthew’s wording for GR, omitting πρῶτον (prōton, “first”), which looks like a concession intended to temper the harshness of Jesus’ injunction. The conjunction πλήν (plēn, “but”) in Luke 12:31 is likely redactional.

אֶלָּא בַּקְּשׁוּ (HR). אֶלָּא (’elā’) is a Mishnaic Hebrew conjunction meaning “but” or “rather.” On reconstructing ζητεῖν with בִּקֵּשׁ, see above, Comment to L52.

L56 τὴν δικαιοσύνην (Matt. 6:33 [Vaticanus]). The scribe who produced Codex Vaticanus “corrected” the word order, placing “righteousness” ahead of “his Kingdom,” perhaps assuming that righteousness was a prerequisite for entry into the Kingdom (cf. Matt. 5:20).[181] Unlike Matt. 5:20, however, the issue at stake is not “your righteousness” but “his [i.e., God’s] righteousness.”[182] God’s saving deeds are often referred to as “righteousness” in the Hebrew Scriptures, making God’s Kingdom and his righteousness roughly synonymous.

L57 אֶת מַלְכוּתוֹ (HR). The antecedent of “his kingdom” is “your Father” in L53. While “Kingdom of Heaven” or “Kingdom of God” is more common in the Gospels, whose kingdom was meant would not have been misunderstood. In the Lord’s Prayer the disciples prayed “your Kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10). Likewise, in the benediction בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד (“Blessed is the name of the glory of his Kingdom forever and ever”), which was pronounced in the Temple on the Day of Atonement (m. Yom. 3:8; 4:1), whose kingdom was intended was unambiguous.

L58 καὶ τὴν δικαιοσύνην αὐτοῦ (GR). We have accepted Matthew’s “and his righteousness” as original. The author of Luke, as elsewhere in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry (L6, L48), trimmed away what he regarded as unnecessary.

וְאֶת צִדְקָתוֹ (HR). In LXX δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosūnē, “righteousness”) is usually the translation of צֶדֶק (tzedeq, “righteousness”) or צְדָקָה (tzedāqāh, “righteousness”). According to Weinfeld, in the Hebrew Scriptures the distinction between these two terms is between the abstract principle (צֶדֶק) and concrete action (צְדָקָה).[183] Compare our Hebrew reconstruction of δικαιοσύνη to the following verse from the Psalms:

הוֹדִיעַ יי יְשׁוּעָתוֹ לְעֵינֵי הַגּוֹיִם גִּלָּה צִדְקָתוֹ

The LORD has make known his salvation, before the eyes of the Gentiles he has revealed his righteousness. (Ps. 98:2)

ἐγνώρισεν κύριος τὸ σωτήριον αὐτοῦ, ἐναντίον τῶν ἐθνῶν ἀπεκάλυψεν τὴν δικαιοσύνην αὐτοῦ

The Lord made known his deliverance; before the nations he revealed his righteousness. (Ps. 97:2; NETS)

In Lord’s Prayer (Comment to L13) we discussed the conceptual link in ancient Jewish sources between the Kingdom of Heaven and the sanctification of God’s name. Here, God’s Kingdom is linked to his saving deeds of righteousness. Since it is through God’s righteous deeds on behalf of Israel that the Gentiles are made to recognize the God of Israel as the one true God, all three concepts are almost inextricably related. The mention of God’s Kingdom and his righteousness is a mirror image of the petitions for the sanctification of God’s name and the coming of his Kingdom in the Lord’s Prayer.

L59 καὶ ταῦτα πάντα προστεθήσεται ὑμῖν (GR). Once again, we have accepted Matthew’s “all” in GR (cf. L50, L54).

וְכָל אֵלּוּ יִתְוַסְּפוּ לָכֶם (HR). Here, Jesus insists that if the disciples make the Kingdom of Heaven their sole focus God will provide their food and drink and clothing, just as he had provided for Israel during their wanderings in the desert. The promise was not for wealth or abundance. God’s provision for the disciples would be like that which is allotted to the ravens: enough for each day without the burden of having to store away extra against an uncertain future. Jesus does not specify the means by which God would supply the disciples with these provisions. Although Jesus, like some other Jewish sages, described God’s provision for full-time disciples in terms of the gift of manna, practically speaking, Jesus probably meant that God would see to it that the disciples received hospitality from friends and strangers in return for the teachings, healings and exorcisms they performed in Jesus’ name.[184]

Above, in Comment to L24, we discussed reconstructing προστιθέναι with הוֹסִיף. Here in L59 a passive form is indicated by the Greek text. In MH the passive of הוֹסִיף was expressed with the hitpa‘el or nitpa‘el stem, as the following examples demonstrate:

זכיתי לכם ולכל שנתוספו עליכם

I have acquired it for you and for all who were added [שנתוספו] to you. (t. Eruv. 6:1 [Vienna MS])

מניין לדורות הבאים אחריכם ולגרים שנתוספו עליכם

From where [do we learn that Moses spoke] to the generations coming after you and to the proselytes who were added [שנתוספו] to you? (t. Sot. 7:5 [Vienna MS])

ויאמר לא יעקב יאמר עוד שמך וגו′ הראשון נתקיים לו והשני נתוסף לו

And he said, “No more shall your name be called Jacob” etc. [Gen. 32:29]. The first [name] was continued for him, and the second was added [נתוסף] to him. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Pisḥa chpt. 16 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:91])

לא הגלה הקדוש ברוך הוא את ישראל לבין האומות אלא כדי שיתוספו עליהם גרים

The Holy one, blessed be he, did not exile Israel among the peoples, except in order that proselytes might be added [יתוספו] to them. (b. Pes. 87b)

The above examples also demonstrate that the nitpa‘el of י-ס-ף‎ could take either the preposition עַל ( ‘al, “upon”) or -לְ (le, “to”). Since -לְ more closely resembles the dative of the Greek text, we have adopted it for HR.

L60-63 Matthew 6:34, which contains another saying about worry, has no counterpart in the Lukan version of Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry. This raises the possibility that the author of Matthew tacked this additional saying on worry onto the end of the discourse proper. Scholars note that Matt. 6:34 makes no reference to food, drink or clothing, and that the reasoning does not take the form of a kal vahomer argument, which makes this additional saying distinct from the rest of the discourse. Moreover, Matt. 6:34 introduces a new theme—anxiety about the future—whereas the rest of the discourse deals with anxiety about obtaining basic human needs.

However, if our hypothesis is correct that Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry originally belonged to a longer teaching complex that covered the instruction Jesus gave to his disciples on prayer, then the disconnect between Matt. 6:34 and the rest of Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry may be less severe than many scholars assume. In the petition for bread in the Lord’s Prayer the meeting of basic human needs is made contingent upon time: “Give us today our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11; cf. Luke 11:3). This temporal contingency is mirrored in the shift from addressing anxiety about food, drink and clothing to addressing anxiety about tomorrow in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry. Since we believe it was precisely the anxiety generated by the disciples’ commitment to rely solely on God’s provision for their basic needs from day to day that Jesus addressed in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry (as well as in the several illustrations that followed in the conjectured “How to Pray” complex, including the Friend in Need and Fathers Give Good Gifts similes), we do not believe it is necessary to suppose that the author of Matthew secondarily tacked the saying in Matt. 6:34 onto the end of the discourse. We regard Matt. 6:34 as an integral part of the discourse that addresses the temporal aspect of the disciples’ petition for daily bread.

L60 לְפִיכָךְ אַל תְּהַרְהְרוּ (HR). On our reconstruction of μὴ οὖν μεριμνήσητε, see above, Comment to L44.

L61 לְמָחָר (HR). In LXX εἰς [τὴν] αὔριον (eis [tēn] avrion, “to [the] tomorrow”) is the translation of לְמָחָר (lemāḥār, “for tomorrow”) in Exod. 8:6; Num. 11:18; Josh. 7:13; Esth. 5:12. The only instance of לְמָחָר in MT not translated with εἰς [τὴν] αὔριον is in Exod. 8:19, where לְמָחָר is rendered ἐν τῇ αὔριον (en tē avrion, “in [the] tomorrow”).

Above, in Comment to L10, we cited a rabbinic parable in which Rabbi Shimon illustrated the reason why the manna was parceled out every day rather than allowing the entire year’s allotment to be given once per annum. The answer was that it created a close familial bond between God and Israel, as each day Israel would come before their heavenly Father to pray for the manna. In the application of his parable we learn that Rabbi Shimon regarded daily prayer as a remedy against worry about tomorrow:

כך ישראל היו בביתו של אדם חמש זכרים או חמש נקבות היה יושב ומצפה ואומר אוי לי שמא לא ירד המן למחר ונמצינו מתים ברעב יהי רצון מלפניך שירד ונמצאו הופכים את לבם לשמים

So with Israel. In the house of a man who had five boys or five girls, he would sit and look ahead [to the future] and say, “Woe to me! Perhaps the manna for tomorrow [למחר] will not descend, and we will be found dead from hunger. May it be pleasing before you that it will descend!” So they were found turning their hearts toward Heaven. (Sifre Num. §89 [ed. Horovitz, 90])

Similar to the above statement, we believe Jesus’ counsel against worrying about tomorrow is related to daily prayer for manna-like provision from God.

L62 ἡ γὰρ αὔριον μεριμνήσει ἑαυτῆς (GR). Codex Vaticanus reads μεριμνήσει αυτῆς (“it will worry of it”) instead of μεριμνήσει ἑαυτῆς (“it will worry for itself”) as in critical texts. The difference concerns merely one letter, and it is likely that it was accidentally dropped by the scribe who produced Codex Vaticanus. We have therefore accepted the reading of the critical editions for GR.

כִּי מָחָר יְהַרְהֵר לְעַצְמוֹ (HR). The adverb αὔριον (avrion, “tomorrow”) is the LXX equivalent of מָחָר (māḥār, “tomorrow”).[185] The use of עֶצֶם + pronominal suffix as a reflexive pronoun is characteristic of MH, but is not found in earlier sources.[186] Compare our reconstruction to the following examples of לְעַצְמוֹ (le‘atzmō, “for itself/himself”).

הָיוּ יוֹשְׁבִים כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מְבָרֶךְ לְעַצְמוֹ הֵסַבּוּ אֶחָד מְבָרֵךְ לְכֻלָּם

If they were sitting each by themselves, each one blesses for himself [לְעַצְמוֹ], but if they were reclining together, one blesses for all of them. (m. Ber. 6:6)

ר′ יְהוּדָה או′ כּוֹתֵב הוּא אָדָם תְּפִילִּים וּמְזוּזוֹת לְעַצְמוֹ וְטווֶֹה עַל יְרֵיכוֹ תְכֵלֶת לְצִיצָיתוֹ

Rabbi Yehudah says, “A person may write tefillim [i.e., phylacteries—DNB and JNT] and mezuzot for himself [לְעַצְמוֹ] and spin the blue cord for his tzitziot [i.e., fringes (cf. Num. 15:38)—DNB and JNT] on his thigh.” (m. Moed Kat. 3:4)

L63 דַּיּוֹ לַיּוֹם רָעָתוֹ (HR). The adjective ἀρκετός (arketos, “sufficient”) does not occur in LXX. In MT דַּי (dai, “enough”), which we have used as the Hebrew equivalent of ἀρκετός, occurs occasionally with a pronominal suffix.[187] In MH this became much more common. Examples of דַּי + pronominal suffix + -לְ include the following:

דַּיָּיהּ לַקּוֹרָה שֶׁתְּהֵא רְחָבָה טֶפַח

It is enough for the beam that it be a handbreadth wide. (m. Eruv. 1:3)

דַּיּוֹ לַבָּא מִן הַדִּין לִהְיוֹת כַּנָּדוֹן

It is enough for the ruling reached by deliberation to be like that which is explicitly stated. (m. Bab. Kam. 2:5; m. Nid. 4:6)

דַּיּוֹ לַיָּחִיד שֶׁיְּהֵא פַחוּת מִן הַצִּיבּוּר אֶחָד

It is enough for the individual that he be less than the public by one. (m. Men. 12:4)

דיו לעבד שיהיה כרבו

It is enough for a servant that he be like his master. (Sifra, BeHar chpt. 4 [ed. Weiss, 108b])

אהיה אשר אהיה אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה לך אמור להם לישראל אני הייתי עמכם בשעבוד זה ואני אהיה עמכם בשעבוד מלכיות אמר לפניו רבונו של עולם דיה לצרה בשעתה אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא לך אמור להם אהיה שלחני אליכם

I AM that I AM [Exod. 3:14]. The Holy one, blessed be he, said to Moses, “Go say to Israel, ‘I was with you in this slavery and I will be with you in the slavery of the empires to come.’” Moses said before him, “Master of the universe, it is enough for distress to be in its own time [דיה לצרה בשעתה]!” The Holy one, blessed be he, said to him, “Go say to them, I AM has sent me to you” [Exod. 3:14]. (b. Ber. 9b)

The last of the above examples is often compared to Jesus’ saying in Matt. 6:34.

On reconstructing ἡμέρα (hēmera, “day”) as יוֹם (yōm, “day”), see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L5.

In LXX, where κακία (kakia, “badness”) is found, it is almost always the translation of רָעָה (rā‘āh, “evil”).[188] The noun רָעָה is more frequently translated with κακός (kakos, “bad”) in LXX, but κακία is the second most common translation.[189]

Redaction Analysis

Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry is a DT pericope with a relatively high degree of verbal agreement between its Lukan and Matthean versions. The differences between the two versions are probably due to the editorial activity of the authors of Matthew and Luke rather than to each author’s reliance on a different source.

Luke’s Version

The author of Luke made changes to every one of the verses in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry. Some of the changes were quite invasive, whereas others were relatively minor. The minor redactional changes in Luke are stylistic in nature: the author of Luke subtracted or added details for the sake of symmetry (L6, L16), he converted a rhetorical question into a positive statement (L9), he selected more refined vocabulary (L12, L31, L41, L49, L55), he eliminated clunky Hebraic construct-like phrases (L21, L31, L38), he made omissions for the sake of brevity (L27, L34, L54, L58, L59), he varied word order (L26, L38, L39, L49, L50, L53), he changed the plural verbs accompanying plural neuter nouns to singular in accordance with proper Greek style (L32, L33), he changed “worry” to “seek” in order to achieve greater cohesion (L44), and he homogenized the texture of the pericope by removing direct speech (L45-48). None of these stylistic changes greatly affected the meaning or content of Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry.

More significant are the addition of an entire verse (Luke 12:26; L28-29), in which the author of Luke paraphrased Jesus’ argument in order to clarify the message for his readers, and the omission of the saying corresponding to Matt. 6:34, which the author of Luke may have felt added little to the overall message of the discourse.

Despite the many redactional changes the author of Luke made to his source, there are points at which Luke’s version is superior to Matthew’s. The author of Luke correctly preserved “ravens” as the subject of the illustration concerning clothing (L13), he rightly named God as the provider for the ravens (L17), and he preserved the reference to “the birds” in L21. The author of Luke also designated the Gentiles as τὰ ἔθνη τοῦ κόσμου (L51), thereby preserving the earliest evidence for the phrase אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם, which is ubiquitous in rabbinic sources.

It is quite possible that the author of Luke added the introductory explanation (“And he said to his disciples”; L1-2) to the beginning of the discourse.

Matthew’s Version

The author of Matthew reproduced the wording of Anth. with remarkable fidelity. Even when he decided to eliminate “ravens,” the author of Matthew borrowed terminology from elsewhere in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry (L13; cf. L21).[190] Two other changes of note are Matthew’s insertion of “your heavenly Father” in place of “God” in L17 (cf. the addition of ὁ οὐράνιος [“the heavenly”] in L53), and his avoidance of Anth.’s πόσῳ μᾶλλον construction (L19, L42). Perhaps the author of Matthew dropped “of the world” from the phrase τὰ ἔθνη τοῦ κόσμου out of sensitivity to the negative overtones of the Hebrew phrase אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם (“Gentiles of the world”).

Results of This Research

Small birds pecking at crumbs in the picnic area at Beit Guvrin National Park in Israel. Photographed by Joshua N. Tilton.

1. Why were the disciples so worried about the basic necessities of life? The anxiety the disciples experienced, to which Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry so poignantly attests, was almost certainly the result of their renunciation of property and profession in order to itinerate full-time with Jesus.[191] Without a normal means of income, the disciples had to rely on God to provide for their most basic needs. While Jesus promised that God would indeed provide for them, sometimes that provision was as sparing as that which is given to the wild birds that peck at seeds and crumbs. The Gospels suggest that sometimes the disciples experienced hunger (cf. Matt. 12:1). The disciples’ anxieties were realistic and Jesus did not castigate them when their confidence faltered. In Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry we see how Jesus engendered trust in God’s good character with sensitivity and gentle humor.

2. What was the original context of Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry? This question has to be answered in two parts. First, we will address the social context of the discourse, after which we will address its probable literary context.

As we noted above, Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry addresses the disciples’ anxieties arising from their decision not to support themselves during the tenure of their discipleship from their own property or labor in a secular occupation. Not all Jewish teachers made such radical demands, and rabbinic sources reveal that opinions among the sages were divided on the issue of whether Torah study ought to be balanced with work, or whether discipleship ought to be an exclusive endeavor. A moderate or balanced approach was adopted by sages such as Rabbi Meir, who said, “Do a little business, but be busy in the Torah” (m. Avot 4:10), and Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi, who opined that “Torah study with a worldly occupation is comely, since these two labors cause sin to be forgotten, but all Torah that is unaccompanied with work in the end is nullified and causes sin” (m. Avot 2:2). A more radical position was adopted by Rabbi Nehorai, who said, “I have forsaken every trade that is in the world and I have not taught my sons anything but Torah, for they consume the wage of their work in this world, yet its whole value remains for them in the world to come. For there is no trade that stands by a person for more than his youth. Rather, if he becomes sick, or experiences suffering, or if he enters old age, he is not able to remain at his work, and he is found dead from hunger. But the Torah is not like that, rather it guards a person from all evil during his youth and it gives him an end and a hope in his old age” (m. Kid. 4:14).[192]

These opposing opinions were championed by two of Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai’s disciples, with Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus taking the radical view that discipleship ought to exclude other pursuits, and Rabbi Yehoshua taking the view that Torah study should be balanced with a secular occupation. Juxtaposed to Rabbi Eliezer’s opinion that only “eaters of manna” are able to study Torah, since discipleship is a full-time occupation (quoted above, Comment to L5-8), we find Rabbi Yehoshua’s opinion that “a person who studies two halachot in the morning and two halachot in the evening and does manual labor all day: it is attributed to him as though he fulfilled the entire Torah” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai, BeShallaḥ 16:4 [ed. Epstein-Melamed, 107]). In succeeding generations the two views were championed by Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai, with Rabbi Ishmael adopting a moderate stance and Rabbi Shimon taking the hardline approach. The moderate approach eventually prevailed, as we learn from the following source:

Our rabbis taught [in a baraita]: And you shall gather your grain [Deut. 11:14]. What is the need for this commandment? Because it says, Do not let this book of the Torah depart from your mouth [Josh. 1:8], and these words could be taken literally. Therefore, this commandment teaches And you shall gather your grain, that you should conduct a worldly occupation. These are the words of Rabbi Ishmael. Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai says, “It is possible that a person plows at the time for plowing, and sows at the time for sowing, and harvests at the time of harvest, and threshes at the time of threshing, and winnows when there is wind, and the Torah—what becomes of it? Rather, when Israel does the will of the Omnipresent one their work will be done by others, as it is said, Strangers will stand and tend your flocks, etc. [Isa. 61:5], but when Israel does not do the will of the Omnipresent one their work is done by themselves, as it is said, And you shall gather your grain. And not only that, but the work of others shall be done by their hands, as it is said, And you shall serve your enemy, etc. [Deut. 28:48].” Abaye said, “Many have done according to Rabbi Ishmael’s advice, and succeeded, and according to Rabbi Shimon’s advice, and it did not succeed.” (b. Ber. 35b; cf. Sifre Deut. §42 [ed. Finkelstein, 90])

This intra-rabbinic debate over whether discipleship ought to be balanced with secular work appears to be the social context with which to appreciate Jesus’ radical demands. Jesus was an early representative of the hardline approach that saw discipleship as a full-time occupation in its own right.

It is important to emphasize that those who took the more radical approach to discipleship did not have a negative view of manual labor as such; they simply believed that discipleship was equal to any other full-time occupation, and that it must be pursued as seriously and as wholeheartedly as any other profession if it is to meet with success. Jesus referred to the apostles as “workers” (Matt. 9:37 // Luke 10:2)[193] and stated that they deserved their wage (Matt. 10:10 // Luke 10:7),[194] which shows that he did not consider them to be idle.

The original literary context of Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry may well have been an extended teaching on prayer. Supporting this view are the following considerations:

  1. A contrast is drawn in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry between the inappropriate seeking/demanding (ἐπιζητεῖν, בִּקֵּשׁ) of the Gentiles on the one hand and the proper seeking/requesting (ζητεῖν, בִּקֵּשׁ) of the disciples on the other. This contrast parallels that which is made between the inappropriate manner of praying exhibited by the Gentiles and the correct manner of praying recommended to the disciples in Praying Like Gentiles (Matt. 6:7-8).
  2. In the Friend in Need simile (Matt. 7:7-8 // Luke 11:9-10) and in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry (Matt. 6:33 // Luke 12:31) “seek” (ζητεῖν = בִּקֵּשׁ) is used as a metaphor for prayer.[195]
  3. The petition for daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer touches upon the root cause of the disciples’ anxiety: their radical commitment to full-time discipleship, which required utter dependence on God to provide for their needs. It appears that, having taught his disciples to daily renew their commitment to rely on God for their physical needs through the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus found it necessary to underscore God’s generous and trustworthy character in order to reassure the disciples. This Jesus proceeded to do in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry and in the several illustrations that followed, including the Friend in Need and Fathers Give Good Gifts similes, which we believe belonged to the same teaching unit.

3. Did Jesus speak about the impossibility of lengthening one’s lifespan or of increasing one’s stature? The use of the noun ἡλικία to refer to “age” as well as “stature” has given rise to the interpretation that Jesus referred to the impossibility of adding time to one’s lifespan. Several points argue against this interpretation, however. Foremost among these is the complete absence of evidence that the noun πῆχυς (“cubit”) was ever used figuratively as a measure of time. Also creating difficulty for this interpretation is the meaning of ἡλικία, which can mean “age,” but not “lifespan.” Moreover, the structure of Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry shows that the rhetorical question about adding to one’s ἡλικία leads into the illustration about the flowers and how they grow. All this suggests that in Matt. 6:27 // Luke 12:25 Jesus referred to the impossibility of increasing one’s stature.


In Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry Jesus confronted one of the most serious concerns of the disciples: how would their basic needs be met now that they had given up their possessions and livelihoods in order to itinerate full-time with Jesus? By using familiar illustrations, alluding to Scripture, and injecting a little light humor, Jesus gently reassured his disciples that God was both willing and able to supply what they could no longer provide for themselves.



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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 Lindsey, JRL, 101-105.
  • [4] See Lindsey, “Jesus’ Twin Parables.”
  • [5] See Lindsey, JRL, 101.
  • [6] See Lindsey, JRL, 102.
  • [7] See Lindsey, JRL, 103.
  • [8] On identifying twin illustrations, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Criteria for Identifying Separated Twin Parables and Similes in the Synoptic Gospels.”
  • [9] On the theme of the wicked who squander their reward in rabbinic sources and in the teachings of Jesus, see Joshua N. Tilton, “Why Do the Wicked Prosper?
  • [10] In addition to Luke 12:18, which Lindsey connected to Matt. 6:26 // Luke 12:24, gathering into barns is also referred to in Matt. 3:12 // Luke 3:17 and Matt. 13:30, always expressed as συνάγειν εἰς ἀποθήκην (sūnagein eis apothēkēn, “to gather into a barn”).
  • [11] See Lindsey, JRL, 103-104. Aside from Luke 12:18, 19; 16:25, in the Synoptic Gospels the use of the neuter plural ἀγαθά to denote “goods” also occurs in Matt. 7:11 (2xx); Luke 1:53; 11:13.
  • [12] See Ronald A. Piper, “Matthew 7:7-11 par. Luke 11:9-13: Evidence of Design and Argument in the Collection of Jesus’ Sayings,” in The Shape of Q: Signal Essays on the Sayings Gospel (ed. John S. Kloppenborg; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994), 131-137, esp. 135.
  • [13] Lindsey reconstructed the “How to Pray” complex in the following manner:

    1. Narrative Incident: “Teach Us to Pray” (Luke 11:1-2a)
    2. Teaching: The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13)
    3. Teaching: Ask…Knock (Matt. 7:7-11)
    4. Illustration: Friend in Need (Luke 11:5-8)
    5. Twin Illustration: Persistent Widow (Luke 18:2-8a)

    See Lindsey, “Jesus Twin Parables,” under the subheading “Jesus’ Parables and Their Contexts”; idem, JRL, 112-113.

  • [14] See Persistent Widow, under the subheading “Story Placement.”
  • [15] The early Christian apologist Justin Martyr (mid-second century C.E.) cited Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry this way:

    μὴ μεριμνατε δὲ τί φάγητε ἢ τί ἐνδύσησθε. οὐχ ὑμεῖς τῶν πετεινῶν καὶ τῶν θηρίων διαφέρετε; καὶ ὁ θεὸς τρέφει αὐτά. μὴ οὖν μεριμνήσητε τί φάγητε ἢ τί ἐνδύσησθε· οἶδε γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος ὅτι τούτων χρείαν ἔχετε. ζητεῖτε δὲ τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν, καὶ ταῦτα πάντα προστεθήσεται ὑμῖν.

    But do not worry about what you might eat or what you might wear. Are you not more important than the birds and the beasts [τῶν θηρίων]? Yet God maintains them. Therefore do not worry about what you might eat or what you might wear, for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of these. But seek the Kingdom of Heaven and all these will be added to you. (1 Apol. 15:14-16)

    Text according to The Apologies of Justin Martyr (Cambridge Patristic Texts; ed. A. W. F. Blunt; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911).
    It is surprising that Powell did not cite Justin’s version of this saying in support of his argument that the reading τὰ κρίνα (“the lilies”; Matt. 6:28 // Luke 12:27; L31) is a gloss for τὰ λείπια (“the lilies”), which was itself a corruption of τὰ θηρία (“the beasts”). See J. Enoch Powell, “Those ‘Lilies of the Field’ Again,” Journal of Theological Studies 33.2 (1982): 490-492.

  • [16] Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 655 (early third century C.E.), which preserves a Greek fragment of the Gospel of Thomas, gives the following version of Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry:

    [λέγει Ἰ(ησοῦ)ς μὴ μεριμνᾶτε ἀ]πὸ πρωΐ ἕ[ως ὀψέ, μήτ]ε ἀφ᾽ἑσπ[έρας ἕως π]ρωΐ, μήτε [τῇ τροφῇ ὑ]μῶν τί φά[γητε, μήτε] τῇ στ[ολῇ ὑμῶν] τί ἐνδύ[ση]σε. [πολ]λῷ κρεί[σσον]ές ἐ[στε] τῶν [κρί]νων, ἅτι[να ο]ὐ ξα[ί]νει οὐδε ν[ήθ]ει κ[αὶ] ἓν ἔχον[τες ἔ]νδ[υ]μα, τι ἐν[…..]..αι ὑμεῖς; τίς ἂν προσθ<εί>η ἐπὶ τὴν εἱλικίαν ὑμῶν; αὐτὸ[ς δ]ώσει ὑμεῖς τὸ ἔνδθμα ὑμῶν.

    [Jesus says, Do not be anxious] from dawn to [late, nor] from eve [to] dawn, either [about] your [food], what [you are to] eat, [or] about [your] robe, with what you [are to] clothe yourself. [You are] far better than the lilies, which do not card nor spin. And having one clothing,…you…? Who might add to your stature? That one will [give] you your clothing! (P. Oxy. 655 I, 1-17; cf. Gos. Thom. §36)

    Text and translation according to James M. Robinson and Christoph Heil, “The Lilies of the Field: Saying 36 of the Gospel of Thomas and Secondary Accretions in Q 12.22b-31,” New Testament Studies 47.1 (2001): 1-25, esp. 9.

    Whereas Robinson and Heil regard the non-canonical version represented in the Gospel of Thomas as more original, other scholars regard the source shared by the authors of Luke and Matthew as the more authentic version. See Luz, 1:340; Nolland, Matt., 308; Robert Gundry, “Spinning the Lilies and Unravelling the Ravens: An Alternative Reading of Q 12.22b-31 and P. Oxy. 655,” New Testament Studies 48.2 (2002): 159-180.

  • [17] We accepted εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτοὺς for GR in Lost Sheep, L8.
  • [18] We accepted εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς for GR in Lord’s Prayer, L8.
  • [19] See Allen, 63.
  • [20] See “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves,” Comment to L44.
  • [21] Although Codex Vaticanus, our base text, reads τῇ ψυχῇ ἡμῶν (“our soul”) in Matt. 6:25, the overall context, as well as most NT MSS, prove this reading is a scribal error. Therefore, we believe the correct reading in Matt. 6:25 is τῇ ψυχῇ ὑμῶν (“your soul”).
  • [22] On the dropping of possessive pronouns from Anth., see Lord’s Prayer, Comments to L5 and L10.
  • [23] See Betz, 463 n. 319.
  • [24] The Hebrew equivalents of μεριμνᾶν in LXX are as follows: Exod. 5:9 (= עָשָׂה ;שָׁעָה); 2 Kgdms. 7:10 (= רָגַז); 1 Chr. 17:9 (= רָגַז); Ps. 37[38]:19 (= דָּאַג); Prov. 14:23 (= עֶצֶב); Ezek. 16:42 (= כָּעַס).
  • [25] We have found two places where דָּאַג occurs in a tannaic source (excluding biblical quotations):

    היה ר′ מאיר או′ בזמן שהמאורות לוקין סימן רע לשונאיהן של ישראל מפני שהן למודי מכות משל לסופר שנכנס לבית הספר ואמ′ הביאו לי רצועה מי הוא דואג מי שלמוד להיות לוקה …בזמן שישראל עסוקין בתורה אין דואגין מכל שנ′ כה אמר ה′ אל דרך הגוים אל תלמודו וגו′‏

    Rabbi Meir used to say, “In a time when the heavenly lights are eclipsed, it is a bad sign for the haters of Israel [a euphemism for Israel itself—DNB and JNT], for they are accustomed to injuries. A parable: [It may be compared] to a scribe who entered a school house and said, ‘Bring me a strap.’ Who is afraid [דואג]? The one who is accustomed to being strapped.” …In a time when Israel is occupied with the Torah they need not be afraid [דואגין] of anything, as it is said, Thus says the LORD: Do not learn the way of the Gentiles [and do not be afraid of the signs in the heavens, for the Gentiles are afraid of them; Jer. 10:2]. (t. Suk. 2:6; Vienna MS)

    רבי אומר העושה מצוה אחת לשמה אל ישמח לאותה מצוה לסוף גוררת מצות הרבה והעובר עבירה אחת אל ידאג לאותה עבירה לסוף שגוררת עבירות הרבה שמצוה גוררת מצוה ועבירה גוררת עבירה

    Rabbi [Yehuda ha-Nasi] says: “The one who does a mitzvah for its own sake: let him not rejoice in that alone, for that same mitzvah in the end will bring about many more mitzvot. And the one who transgresses one transgression: let him not be sorry [אל ידאג] about that alone, for that same transgression in the end will string along many more transgressions. For a mitzvah strings along a mitzvah and a transgression strings along a transgression.” (Sifre Num. §112 [ed. Horovitz, 120])

    In neither of these examples does דָּאַג have the meaning “worry.”

  • [26] The connection between the proof text and Hananyah’s claim that the Torah banishes anxious thoughts is the enlightening of the eyes (מִצְוַת יי בָּרָה מְאִירַת עֵינָיִם; Ps. 19:9). According to 1 Sam. 14:29, the hungry Jonathan’s eyes became bright after he ate honey (אֹרוּ עֵינַי כִּי טָעַמְתִּי מְעַט דְּבַשׁ הַזֶּה). Note that in Ps. 19:11 the Torah is said to be sweeter than honey. Since the proof text only explains how the Torah can dispel anxious thoughts about hunger, it is possible that the other kinds of anxious thoughts enumerated in the homily (“thoughts of foolishness, thoughts of sexual impropriety…”) are a later addition.
  • [27] On the role of the Temple prefect, see Shmuel Safrai, “The Temple” (Safrai-Stern, 2:865-907, esp. 875-876).
  • [28] See Joshua N. Tilton, “Gentiles Demand All These Things.”
  • [29] For examples of נַפְשְׁכֶם see Gen. 23:8; Lev. 26:15; Deut. 11:13, 18; 13:4; Josh. 22:5; 23:14; 2 Kgs. 9:15; Isa. 55:2, 3; Jer. 6:16; 48:6; Ezek. 24:21; Job 16:4; 1 Chr. 22:19.
  • [30] Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus was a rabbinic sage of the first and second century C.E. who survived the destruction of the Temple. He was known to be a preserver of earlier traditions rather than an innovator (cf. m. Avot 2:8).
  • [31] Reading כיצד, as in the parallel in Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa‘ chpt. 3 (ed. Lauterbach, 1:235), instead of כאיזה צד. The parallel in Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael attributes this saying to Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai.
  • [32] According to rabbinic tradition, Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus not only left his home and his family, but also forsook his inheritance and endured extreme privations in order to become a full-time disciple. See Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 13 (ed. Schechter, 30-33) and the parallel in Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 6:3 (ed. Schechter, 30-31).
  • [33] See above, footnote 26.
  • [34] The petition for daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:11; cf. Luke 11:3) probably alludes to the manna story. See Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L17. Likewise, Jesus’ assurance that the heavenly Father will give good gifts to the disciples when they ask (Matt. 7:11; cf. Luke 11:13) probably alludes to the manna, one of three “good gifts” God has given to Israel, according to rabbinic tradition. See Fathers Give Good Gifts, Comment to L16-18. Jesus’ promise of treasure in heaven (Matt. 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 18:22) also may be related to the manna story, since according to rabbinic tradition the manna came from God’s treasure in heaven. See Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L17. The promise of manna also lurks behind Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, as we will demonstrate below.
  • [35] See Betz, 472 n. 385, 483 n. 471; Bovon, 2:215.
  • [36] Unfortunately, this portion of Ben Sira has not been preserved in Hebrew MSS.
  • [37] Bovon, 2:215.
  • [38] Examples of Jesus enjoying the hospitality of his friends include Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42) and the owner of the house with the upper room in Jerusalem, where Jesus and his disciples shared their final Passover meal together (Matt. 26:18; Mark 14:14; Luke 22:11). On the supposition that the owner of the house was a friend of Jesus, see Preparations for Eating Passover Lamb, Comment to L22-33. In the Sending Discourse Jesus instructed the apostles to stay with strangers, an instruction that may have agreed with Jesus’ usual practice. See Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L88.
  • [39] On Jesus’ saying “…the son of man has no place to rest his head” (Matt. 8:20 // Luke 9:58) and its relationship to the rigors of full-time discipleship, see Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple.
  • [40] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:554-557.
  • [41] See Dos Santos, 9.
  • [42] In Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa‘ chpt. 3 (ed. Lauterbach, 1:234-235) this saying is attributed to Rabbi Eliezer of Modiin, but as Flusser noted, the parallels in Mechilta de-Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai, b. Sot. 48b and Midrash ha-Gadol prove that this saying goes back to Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus. See David Flusser, “‘Have You Ever Seen a Lion Toiling as a Porter?’” (Flusser, JSTP2, 331-342, esp. 335 n. 15).
  • [43] Cf. Luz, 1:338 n. 1.
  • [44] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1134-1135.
  • [45] See Dos Santos, 217.
  • [46] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:471.
  • [47] Cf. McNeile, 87.
  • [48] In LXX τροφή is the translation of לֶחֶם in Ps. 135[136]:25; 145[146]:7; 146[147]:9; Prov. 6:8; 30:25.
  • [49] In LXX τροφή is the translation of מָזוֹן in 2 Chr. 11:23.
  • [50] In LXX τροφή is the translation of אֹכֶל in Ps. 103[104]:27; 144[145]:15; Job 36:31.
  • [51] In the Mishnah examples of פַּרְנָסָה are found in m. Peah 8:7; m. Hal. 3:8, 9; m. Ned. 11:2; m. Kid. 4:14 (2xx); m. Tem. 3:5.
  • [52] See Montefiore, TSG, 2:111.
  • [53] Other versions of this parable occur in Sifre Zuta 11:9 (ed. Horovitz, 270); Mechilta de-Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai, BeShallaḥ 16:4 (ed. Epstein-Melamed, 106-107); b. Yom. 76a.
  • [54] In MT the noun כְּסוּת appears in Gen. 20:16; Exod. 21:10; 22:26 (2xx); Deut. 22:12; Isa. 50:3; Job. 24:7; 26:6; 31:19.
  • [55] Harnack (6), Fitzmyer (2:978), Davies-Allison (1:648) and Bovon (2:211) likewise regard Luke’s choice of verb in L12 as secondary.
  • [56] In LXX κατανοεῖν is the translation of הִבִּיט in Exod. 33:8; Ps. 9:35[10:14]; 21[22]:18; 90[91]:8; 93[94]:9; 118[119]:15, 18; 141[142]:5; ἐμβλέπειν is the translation of הִבִּיט in Isa. 5:12; 8:22; 22:8, 11; 51:1, 2, 6.
  • [57] Examples of הִבִּיט with the preposition -בְּ in DSS are found in 1QS III, 7; XI, 19; 1QHa XVIII, 20.
  • [58] Additional examples of הִבִּיט with the preposition -בְּ are found in Gen. Rab. 30:10 (ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:277); 65:10 (ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:719).
  • [59] See Fitzmyer, 2:978; Luz, 1:339 n. 10.
  • [60] See Flusser, “‘Have You Ever Seen a Lion?’” (Flusser, JSTP2, 332 n. 2).
  • [61] Cf. the imprecation ἐς κόρακας, which LSJ (980) renders “go and be hanged,” in Aristophanes, Clouds, 133; Wasps, 852, 982; Peace, 1221. We agree with Luz (1:343 n. 42), who denied that the uncleanness of ravens influenced the author of Matthew’s decision. The author of Matthew was not concerned with Jewish dietary laws (cf. Matt. 15:11), and in any case the status of ravens did not prevent them from becoming a symbol of God’s provision for his creatures in ancient Jewish sources.
  • [62] In the book of Jubilees we find a similar pairing of “ravens” and “birds” (Jub. 11:11, 12, 23-24). Unfortunately, this portion of Jubilees was not preserved in Hebrew or Greek.
  • [63] The opposite, however, occurs in L51: “the Gentiles” (Matt.)→“the Gentiles of the world” (Luke).
  • [64] See David R. Catchpole, “The Ravens, the Lilies and the Q Hypothesis: A Form-Critical Perspective on the Source-Critical Problem,” Studien zum Neuen Testament und seiner Umwelt 6/7 (1981-1982): 77-87, esp. 85.
  • [65] See Dos Santos, 161.
  • [66] The personal name עוֹרֵב is transliterated Ωρηβ in Judg. 7:25 (3xx); 8:3; Ps. 82[83]:12.
  • [67] See H. B. Tristram, The Natural History of the Bible (9th ed.; London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1898), 199.
  • [68] See Lightfoot, 2:157; Gill, 7:64.
  • [69] See Flusser, “‘Have You Ever Seen a Lion?’” (Flusser, JSTP2, 338). Quotation from Stern, 2:252 (Gk.), 282 (Eng.).
  • [70] Cited in Boring-Berger-Colpe, 215-216.
  • [71] See Dos Santos, 56.
  • [72] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1282.
  • [73] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:648.
  • [74] See Catchpole, “The Ravens, the Lilies and the Q Hypothesis,” 84.
  • [75] Two other candidates for HR, אָסָם (’āsām, “storehouse”), a BH term (cf. Deut. 28:8; Prov. 3:10), and אַפּוֹתִּיקִי (’apōtiqi, “storehouse”), a Semitic form of ἀποθήκη, should also be mentioned. With respect to the former, while אָסָם is attested in DSS (4Q418 103 II, 3), there are no instances of אָסָם in tannaic sources (excluding Scripture quotations), and Jastrow includes no entry for אָסָם in his dictionary. (In LXX אָסָם is translated ταμιεῖον [tamieion, “storeroom”]). With respect to the latter, there is no evidence that אַפּוֹתִּיקִי was used for “storehouse” in Hebrew, all the instances of אַפּוֹתִּיקִי being found in Aramaic contexts.
  • [76] See Jastrow, 649-650.
  • [77] See Catchpole, “The Ravens, the Lilies and the Q Hypothesis,” 85.
  • [78] On the Grecized formula ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος, see Comment to L53.
  • [79] On Jesus’ avoidance of using the divine name, see David N. Bivin, “Jesus and the Oral Torah: The Unutterable Name of God.”
  • [80] See Davies-Allison, 1:650.
  • [81] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:314.
  • [82] On the use of חָמוּר see David N. Bivin, “Matthew 5:19: The Importance of ‘Light’ Commandments”; idem, “The ‘How Much More’ Rabbinic Principle of Interpretation in the Teaching of Jesus.”
  • [83] See Bultmann, 81; Bundy, 117; Davies-Allison, 1:651-652; Bovon, 2:211.
  • [84] See T. W. Manson, 113; Fitzmyer, 2:979; Davies-Allison, 652.
  • [85] The phrase τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν introduces the Tower Builder simile (L1), the Friend in Need simile (L2) and the Fathers Give Good Gifts simile (L1). Cf. τίς ἄνθρωπος ἐξ ὑμῶν (“What person among you?”), which introduces the Lost Sheep simile (L12).
  • [86] See Richard J. Dillon, “Ravens, Lilies, and the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:25-33/Luke 12:22-31),” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 53.4 (1991): 605-627, esp. 610-612; Bovon, 2:216 n. 50.
  • [87] See Hagner, 1:164.
  • [88] See Betz, 475.
  • [89] Note, too, the similarly-constructed questions τίς βασιλεὺς πορευόμενος (“What king going…?; Luke 14:31) and τίς γυνὴ δραχμὰς ἔχουσα δέκα (“What woman having ten drachmas…?; Luke 15:8), in which the participle cannot be construed in an instrumental sense.
  • [90] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:1221-1222.
  • [91] See Dos Santos, 82.
  • [92] In LXX προστιθέναι ἐπί is the translation of הוֹסִיף עַל in Lev. 5:16, 24; 6:5; Num. 5:7; Deut. 13:1; 3 Kgdms. 12:11, 14; 4 Kgdms. 20:6; 2 Chr. 10:11, 14; 28:13; 2 Esd. 10:10; Ps. 70[71]:14; Job 34:37.
  • [93] In the Mishnah examples of הוֹסִיף עַל are found in m. Shev. 3:2, 3; m. Maas. Shen. 4:3; 5:5; m. Eruv. 7:7; m. Yom. 7:5; m. Suk. 5:5; m. Taan. 2:2; m. Meg. 4:1, 2; m. Ket. 3:4; m. Kid. 4:4; m. Bab. Metz. 6:5; 8:9; m. Sanh. 1:5, 6; 11:3; m. Shevu. 2:2; m. Men. 13:6; m. Arach. 2:3; m. Mid. 3:1; m. Yad. 1:1.
  • [94] See Johannes Schneider, “ἡλικία,” TDNT, 2:941-943.
  • [95] See Luz, 1:344 n. 53; cf. Nolland, Matt., 311.
  • [96] Ancient sources suggest that a tall stature was considered to be a desirable attribute. This is indicated by the negative portrayal of the shortness of stature of individuals such as Zacchaeus (Luke 19:3), and the frequent use of the nickname הַקָּטָן (haqāṭān, “the short [one]”) to differentiate between individuals of the same name. On the use of perceived physical defects for nicknames, see Rachel Hachlili, “Hebrew Names, Personal Names, Family Names and Nicknames of Jews in the Second Temple Period,” in Families and Family Relations as Represented in Early Judaisms and Early Christianities: Texts and Fictions (ed. Jan Willem van Henten and Athalya Brenner; Leiden: Deo, 2000), 83-115, esp. 103-104. The desirability of having a tall stature is expressed in sources such as 1 Sam. 9:2; b. Shab. 92a; Aggadat Bereshit 40:2 (ed. Buber, 82). In the aforementioned rabbinic texts having a tall stature is expressed as ‎‏בעל קומה‎ (ba‘al qōmāh, “owner of stature,” i.e., “tall person”). Given the desirability of having a tall stature, adding to one’s height, if such a thing were possible, presumably would also have been desirable.
  • [97] See Harnack, 6.
  • [98] See Davies-Allison, 1:653.
  • [99] See LSJ, 1402.
  • [100] See Allen, 64.
  • [101] See Luz, 1:344.
  • [102] The example from Mimnermus reads as follows:

    ἡμεῖς δ᾽, οἷά τε φύλλα φύει πολυάνθεμος ὥρη ἔαρος, ὅτ᾽ αἶψ᾽ αὐγῇς αὔξεται ἠελίου, τοῖς ἴκελοι πήχυιον ἐπὶ χρόνον ἄνθεσιν ἥβης τερπόμεθα, πρὸς θεῶν εἰδότες οὔτε κακὸν οὔτ᾽ ἀγαθόν

    We are like leaves which the flowery season of spring brings forth, when they quickly grow beneath the rays of the sun; like them we delight in the flowers of youth for an arm’s length of time [πήχυιον ἐπὶ χρόνον], knowing neither the bad nor the good that comes from the gods. (Mimnermus, Frag. 2; quoted in Stobaeus, Anthology 4.34.12)

    Text and translation according to Douglas E. Gerber, ed. and trans., Greek Elegiac Poetry (Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999), 82-83.

    According to Allen, “Since it does not refer to physical measurement, Mimnermus’ use of the adjective (‘for an arm’s length of time’) is quite remarkable.” See Archibald Allen, The Fragments of Mimnermus: Text and Commentary (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1993), 43. Are we really to suppose that the Greek translator(s) of Jesus’ teachings were influenced by this obscure example in the poetry of a classical Greek author?

  • [103] Fitzmyer (2:978; cf. Nolland, Luke, 2:692) believed he had found an example of a temporal use of πῆχυς in Diogenes Laertius’ account of Plato, but he was in error on two scores:

    1. The passage Fitzmyer cited has the adjective πηχυαῖος (pēchūaios, “a cubit long”), rather than the noun πῆχυς.
    2. The adjective πηχυαῖος in that passage has a clearly spatial (i.e., non-temporal) sense:

    …if one chooses to add to a cubit-measure [μέτρον παχυαῖον] another length, or cut off some of what was there already, would the original measure still exist? Of course not. Now consider mankind in this same way. One man grows, and another again shrinks: and they are all undergoing change the whole time. (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 3:11; Loeb)

  • [104] Scholars typically point out that adding a cubit to one’s stature is hardly a small feat, whereas the context demands a small unit of measurement. See Marshall, 528; Fitzmyer, 2:979; Davies-Allison, 1:652; Luz, 1:344 n. 52; Bovon, 2:217. On the other hand, if the contrast is between what worriers can accomplish versus what God is able to do, then adding one cubit to a human being’s stature is small in comparison with the three and a half cubits (on average) that God adds to a person’s stature from the time of one’s conception to full maturity.

    On the average height of adult males in the first century, see Jonathan P. Roth, The Logistics of the Roman Army at War (264 B.C.-A.D. 235) (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 9. Roth gave a range of 162 cm (5′4″) to 171 cm (5′7″) as an average stature, which equals 3.5 to 3.7 cubits (assuming 1 cubit = 46.2 cm; cf. Fitzmyer, 2:978). Corroborating this estimate are the skeletal remains of ten adult males aged 18 years or older discovered in four tombs in Giv‘at ha-Mivtar, Jerusalem, whose heights are shown in the following table:

    Tomb/Ossuary Individual Stature (cm) Stature (cubits)
    1 I/1A 170-171 cm 3.68-3.70 cubits
    2 I/2A 165-170 cm 3.57-3.68 cubits
    3 I/4A 167 cm 3.61 cubits
    4 I/5A 157 cm 3.40 cubits
    5 I/6A 167 cm 3.61 cubits
    6 I/6B 159-161 cm 3.44-3.48 cubits
    7 III/2A 168 cm 3.64 cubits
    8 IV/2A 162 cm 3.51 cubits
    9 VI/3B 181 cm 3.92 cubits
    10 IV/5A 167 cm 3.61 cubits

    For the data contained in the table above, see N. Haas, “Anthropological Observations on the Skeletal Remains from Giv‘at ha-Mivtar,” Israel Exploration Journal 20.1-2 (1970): 38-59.

    Three and a half cubits is the same as three cubits and a span (see Danby, 798). According to LXX (1 Kgdms. 17:4), 4QSama 12 I, 3 (= 1 Sam. 17:4) and Josephus (Ant. 6:171), Goliath was four cubits and a span tall, in other words, one cubit taller than the average adult male in the time of Jesus. Thus, adding a single cubit to one’s height would make one equal in stature to the famed warrior of the Philistines who was slain by King David. MT has a variant reading, according to which Goliath was six cubits and a span tall. On the conflicting testimony regarding Goliath’s stature, see J. Daniel Hays, “Reconsidering the Height of Goliath,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 48.4 (2005): 701-714. On the other hand, Josephus mentions a Jewish man of the first century C.E. by the name of Eleazar who was seven cubits tall, which earned him the nickname “the giant” (Ant. 18:103). If true, this story might lend credence to MT’s report that Goliath was six and a half cubits tall.

  • [105] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1131-1132; Dos Santos, 12.
  • [106] We find אַמָּה אַחַת in Ezek. 40:12 (2xx), 42 (3xx); 42:4; 43:14; m. Eruv. 4:11 (2xx); m. Mid. 3:1 (2xx).
  • [107] See Harnack, 6; Catchpole, “The Ravens, the Lilies and the Q Hypothesis,” 84.
  • [108] In Genesis alone, περί is the translation of עַל in Gen. 12:17, 20; 20:3; 21:12 (2xx); 24:9; 26:7, 21, 22; 27:41; 41:15, 32; 42:21. On עַל in the sense of “with respect to” or “concerning,” see Segal, 175 §363 (iv).
  • [109] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:788.
  • [110] See Plummer, Luke, 327; Luz, 1:343. Cf. Betz, 477. For a pictorial presentation of various wildflowers that grow in the land of Israel, see Gloria E. M. Suess, “Lilies of the Field.”
  • [111] See Gen. 1:26, 28, 30; 2:19, 20; 6:7; 7:3, 23; Deut. 28:26; 1 Kgdms. 17:44, 46; 2 Kgdms. 21:10; 3 Kgdms. 16:4; 20[21]:24; Ps. 78[79]:2; 103[104]:12; Job 12:7; 28:21; 35:11; Hos. 2:20; 4:3; 7:12; Zeph. 1:3; Jer. 4:25; 7:33; 9:9; 15:3; 16:4; 19:7; 41[34]:20; Ezek. 29:5; 31:6, 13; 32:4; 38:20. The one exception to this rule is found in Eccl. 10:20, where עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם is translated with the singular πετεινὸν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ.
  • [112] Singular verbs are used with עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם in Ps. 104:12; Job 12:7; Eccl. 10:20. Plural verbs are used with עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם in 1 Kgs. 14:11; 16:4; 21:24; Jer. 4:25; Ezek. 31:6, 13; Ps. 104:12. Note especially how in one verse (Ps. 104:12) both a singular and a plural verb are used with עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם.
  • [113] For another likely example of gezerah shavah in the teachings of Jesus, see Joseph Frankovic, “Remember Shiloh!” On Jesus’ use of gezerah shavah, see also 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), 46-59, esp. 52-53; R. Steven Notley and Jeffrey P. García, “Hebrew-Only Exegesis: A Philological Approach to Jesus’ Use of the Hebrew Bible” (JS2, 349-374).
  • [114] See T. C. Skeat, “The Lilies of the Field,” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 37.1 (1938): 211-214; Metzger, 18.
  • [115] See Skeat, “The Lilies of the Field,” 213; Bovon, 2:217 n. 61.
  • [116] Cf. Nolland, Luke, 2:692; Betz, 477 n. 419.
  • [117] See Jastrow, 343; Segal, 134 §294.
  • [118] Additional examples of non-interrogative uses of הֵיאַךְ are found in m. Bab. Metz. 2:7; m. Sanh. 3:6; t. Ket. 6:2.
  • [119] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:178-179.
  • [120] See Jastrow, 1287.
  • [121] Since we regard צִיץ as a collective noun, we have used plural verbs in HR. See Joüon-Muraoka, §150e.
  • [122] See Betz, 477 n. 419.
  • [123] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:778.
  • [124] See Jastrow, 563.
  • [125] See Ps. 126[127]:1; Eccl. 2:18 (Vaticanus).
  • [126] See Jastrow, 1088-1089.
  • [127] On spinning as women’s work, see Tal Ilan, Jewish Women in Greco-Roman Palestine, 186.
  • [128] See Jeremias, Parables, 215; Dillon, “Ravens, Lilies, and the Kingdom of God,” 619; Luz, 1:343; Lee A. Johnson and Robert C. Tannehill, “Lilies Do Not Spin: A Challenge to Female Social Norms,” New Testament Studies 56.4 (2010): 475-490.
  • [129] For examples of λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι elsewhere in GR, see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, L102; Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, L34, L53; Persistent Widow, L25; Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, L116; Blessedness of the Twelve, L10.
  • [130] The name Σολομών occurs in Matt. 1:6, 7; 6:29; 12:42 (2xx); Luke 11:31 (2xx); 12:27; John 10:23; Acts 3:11; 5:12; 7:47.
  • [131] The name Σολομών occurs over 125xx in the works of Josephus.
  • [132] See Hatch-Redpath, 3:134.
  • [133] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:341-343.
  • [134] See Dos Santos, 89.
  • [135] The proverbial statement appears in a midrash dealing with the fiery end to which individuals who boast in themselves eventually come:

    אמר הקב″ה כל מי שהוא מעלה את עצמו סופו לילך באש…ואף סנחריב שעילה את עצמו…מה היה לו, ויצא מלאך ה′ ויך במחנה אשור וגו′…. ומה עשה לו, ותחת כבודו יקד יקוד כיקוד אש, מהו תחת כבודו, ששרף אותו מבפנים, והניח בגדיו מבחוץ, שכבודו של אדם כסותו, למה הניח הקב″ה בגדיהם, לפי שהיו בניו של שם, שנאמר בני שם עילם ואשור וגו′, אמר הקב″ה חייב אני לשם אביהם, שנטל הכסות וכיסה ערות אביו, שנאמר ויקח שם ויפת את השמלה וגו′ , לכך הניח הקב″ה בגדיהם ושרף גופם

    The Holy one, blessed be he, said, “Everyone who exults himself will come to a fiery end”…. And also Sennacherib, who exulted himself…what happened to him? And a messenger of the LORD went out and struck the camp of Ashur [i.e., Assyria—DNB and JNT] [2 Kgs. 19:35]…. And what did he [i.e., the angel] do to him [i.e., Sennacherib]? And under his glory a burning was ignited, like the burning of a fire [Isa. 10:16]. And what is the meaning of “under his glory”? It means that he burned him from within, but his garments were left on the outside, because a person’s glory is his clothing [שכבודו של אדם כסותו]. Why did the Holy one, blessed be he, leave their garments? Because they were sons of Shem, as it is said, The sons of Shem were Elam and Ashur etc. [Gen. 10:22]. The Holy one, blessed be he, said, “I am indebted to Shem, their father, for he took his clothing and covered his father’s nakedness,” as it is said, And Shem and Yefet took the robe etc. [Gen. 9:23], therefore the Holy one, blessed be he, left their clothing and burned their bodies. (Midrash Tanhuma, Tzav chpt. 3 [ed. Buber, 2:13-14])

    The explanation that a person’s glory is his clothing not only has a proverbial ring, but the vocabulary also sets the statement apart from the rest of the discussion. The proverbial statement uses the term כְּסוּת (kesūt, “clothing,” “covering”) for clothing, whereas the surrounding context uses the synonym בֶּגֶד (beged, “garment”).
    A variant form of the proverb under discussion reads as follows:

    הדר בני אדם כסותן

    The splendor of human beings is their clothing. (Tosefta Derek Erez 1:7 [ed. Higger, 247])

  • [136] See Betz, 477 n. 427.
  • [137] The Ben Sira fragment mentioning “robes of glory” states:

    בגדי כבוד תלבשנה ועטרת תפארת תעטרנה

    You will wear her [i.e., Wisdom—DNB and JNT] as robes of glory [בגדי כבוד], and you will don her as a crown of splendor. (2Q18 2 I, 12)

    στολὴν δόξης ἐνδύσῃ αὐτὴν καὶ στέφανον ἀγαλλιάματος περιθήσεις σεαυτῷ

    You will wear her as a robe of glory, and you will don her as a crown of gladness. (Sir. 6:31)

    “Robes of glory” are also mentioned in passages of Ben Sira not preserved in the Qumran fragment:

    ἐὰν διώκῃς τὸ δίκαιον, καταλήμψῃ καὶ ἐνδύσῃ αὐτὸ ὡς ποδήρη δόξης

    If you pursue the right, you will overtake it and wear it as a flowing robe of glory. (Sir. 27:8)

    καὶ περιέζωσεν αὐτὸν περιστολὴν δόξης

    …and he [i.e., Moses—DNB and JNT] wrapped him [i.e., Aaron] in a robe of glory. (Sir. 45:7)

    ἐν τῷ ἀναλαμβάνειν αὐτὸν στολὴν δόξης καὶ ἐνδιδύσκεσθαι αὐτὸν συντέλειαν καυχήματος

    When he [i.e., Simon the high priest—DNB and JNT] put on a robe of glory [MS B: בגדי כבוד] and when he put on himself with the perfection of a boast…. (Sir. 50:11; NETS)

  • [138] Peter J. Tomson, Paul and the Jewish Law: Halakhah in the Letters of the Apostle to the Gentiles (CRINT III.1; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), 128 n. 172.
  • [139] On Solomon’s wealth, see 1 Kgs. 10 (// 2 Chr. 9); Ginzberg, 2:949 n. 16.
  • [140] See Vermes, 97.
  • [141] In LXX περιβάλλειν translates the root כ-ס-ה in Gen. 24:65; 38:14; Deut. 22:12; Judg. 4:18, 19 (Alexandrinus); 3 Kgdms. 1:1; 11:29; 4 Kgdms. 19:1, 2; 1 Chr. 21:16; Ps. 146[147]:8; Mic. 7:10; Jonah 3:6, 8; Isa. 37:1, 2; 58:7; 59:6; Ezek. 16:10, 18; 18:7, 16.
  • [142] In LXX περιβάλλειν translates the root ל-ב-שׁ in Gen. 28:20; 1 Kgdms. 28:8; 2 Chr. 28:15; Esth. 5:1; 6:8; Ps. 44[45]:14; Hag. 1:6; Zech. 3:5; Isa. 4:1; Jer. 4:30; Ezek. 34:3; Dan. 12:6, 7.
  • [143] Examples of כְּאַחַד + ‎מִן in MT are found in Gen. 3:22 (כְּאַחַד מִמֶּנּוּ = ὡς εἷς ἐξ ἡμῶν); Judg. 17:11 (כְּאַחַד מִבָּנָיו = ὡς εἷς τῶν υἱῶν αὐτοῦ); 1 Sam. 17:36 (כְּאַחַד מֵהֶם = ὡς ἓν τούτων); 2 Sam. 9:11 (כְּאַחַד מִבְּנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ = καθὼς εἷς τῶν υἱῶν τοῦ βασιλέως); Obad. 11 (כְּאַחַד מֵהֶם = ὡς εἷς ἐξ αὐτῶν); 2 Chr. 18:12 (כְּאַחַד מֵהֶם = ὡς ἑνὸς αὐτῶν).
  • [144] See Betz, 477 n. 427. Bauckham pointed out, however, that it was more usual to assume that, in contrast to human beings, plants and animals had no need of clothes than to argue that plants or animals were clothed better than human beings. See Richard Bauckham, “Reading the Sermon on the Mount in an Age of Ecological Catastrophe,” Studies in Christian Ethics 22.1 (2009): 76-88, esp. 83.
  • [145] Plummer (Luke, 327) noted that ἐν ἀγρῷ (“in a field”) describes the location of God’s activity (clothing the grass), not the location where the grass exists.
  • [146] Abbott suggested that Luke’s changes were “to shew Greek readers that χόρτος, in this passage, does not have its ordinary meaning ‘hay.’” See Edwin A. Abbott, The Fourfold Gospel (5 vols.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1913-1917), 4:303 n. 5.
  • [147] Cf. our reconstruction of οὕτως with כָּךְ in Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, L35, L54.
  • [148] See Jastrow, 495.
  • [149] There is one example of חָצִיר meaning “leek” in MT (Num. 11:5), but the other 21 instances of חָצִיר in MT refer to “grass,” so we may consider “grass” to be the dominant BH meaning of חָצִיר.
  • [150] The imperative לא תקראו could mean either “Do not recite the Shema” or “Do not read the Torah.”
  • [151] See Betz, 479 n. 435.
  • [152] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:179.
  • [153] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:771.
  • [154] The only example of הִשְׁלִיךְ לְתוֹךְ הַתַּנּוּר (hishlich letōch hatanūr, “throw into the oven”) we have located is the following:

    היו הצפרדעים משליכות עצמן לתוך התנור

    …the frogs were throwing themselves into the oven…. (Midrash Tehillim 28:2 §9 [ed. Buber, 229])

    We have also found a few instances of הִשְׁלִיךְ לְאוּר (hishlich le’ūr, “throw into a fire”), for example:

    אם יש כשיעור הזה נותנה לכהן ואם לאו משליכה לאור ושורפה

    If there is [terumah amounting to] a halachically significant quantity, he gives it to a priest. But if not, he throws it into a fire and burns it. (t. Ter. 10:6; Vienna MS)

    מה סופו של ארז באים עליו סתתין ומסתתין אותו ומסככין ממנו בתים והשאר משליכין אותו לאור

    What is the end of cedar? Wood carvers come upon it and carve it and they cover houses with it and what is left they throw into a fire. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 41:1 [ed. Schechter, 66])

  • [155] Examples of using נָתַן (nātan, “give”) for “place in an oven” include the following:

    אֵין נוֹתְנִין אֶת הַפַּת לַתַּנּוּר

    They do not put the loaf in the oven. (m. Shab. 1:10)

    תַּנּוּר שֶׁנָּתַן {שנתן} בּוֹ עָפָר

    An oven into which he put dust…. (m. Kel. 5:6)

    קְדֵירָה שֶׁהִיא נתוּנָה בַּתַּנּוּר

    A pot that was put into the oven… (m. Kel. 8:4)

    וְנָתוּן לְתוֹך הַתַּנּוּר

    …and it was put inside the oven…. (m. Kel. 8:6)

    לא תמלא אשה קדרה ותרמוסין ועססיות ותתן לתוך התנור בערב שבת

    A woman may not fill a pot with peas and pulse and put it inside the oven on the eve of Shabbat. (t. Shab. 3:1)

    לא ימלא נחתום חבית מים ויתן לתוך התנור בערב שבת

    A baker may not fill a jug with water and put it inside the oven on the eve of Shabbat. (t. Shab. 3:2)

    Note the passive forms of נָתַן in m. Kel. 8:4, 6. We have likewise used the passive participle נָתוּן to reconstruct the middle/passive participle βαλλόμενον.

  • [156] An excerpt from Lindsey’s unpublished essay is quoted in Sending the Twelve: “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves,” Comment to L46. Cf. Moulton-Milligan, 102.
  • [157] Cf. Davies-Allison, 1:656.
  • [158] Fitzmyer, 2:979.
  • [159] Lightfoot (2:157), writing in 1658, suggested קְטַנֵי אֱמוּנָה (qeṭanē ’emūnāh, “small of faith”) as the equivalent of ὀλιγόπιστος. Lightfoot cited b. Ber. 24b and b. Arach. 15a in support of his thesis, but in both places the phrase קְטַנֵי אֲמָנָה (qeṭanē ’amānāh) is what appears. We have not succeeded in locating any examples of קְטַנֵי אֱמוּנָה in rabbinic sources. In any case, neither קְטַנֵי אֲמָנָה nor קְטַנֵי אֱמוּנָה occur in any rabbinic source earlier than the Babylonian Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud replaced מְחוּסְּרֵי אֲמָנָה with קְטַנֵי אֲמָנָה in its version of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus’ saying about those having bread today who ask what they will eat on the morrow (b. Sot. 48b).
  • [160] Additional examples of מְחוּסַּר אֲמָנָה include:

    תקע משה קרן עד שחזרו לפני פי החירות כיון שתקעה התחילו מחוסרי אמנה שבישראל מתלשין שערן ומקרעין כסותן

    Moses blew the horn until they returned before Pi Hahirot. As soon as he blew it, those in Israel who lack faith [מחוסרי אמנה] began plucking their hair and tearing their clothing…. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BeShallaḥ chpt. 2 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:128])

    ויאמר אליהם משה איש אל יותר ממנו עד בקר ולא שמעו אל משה אלו מחוסרי אמנה שבישראל

    And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it [i.e., the manna—DNB and JNT] over until morning,” but they did not listen to Moses [Exod. 16:19-20]. These are the ones in Israel who lacked faith [מחוסרי אמנה]. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa‘ chpt. 5 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:242])

    ויהי ביום השביעי יצאו מן העם ללקוט וגו′ אלו מחוסרי אמנה שבישראל

    And it happened on the seventh day that they went out from the people to gather [Exod. 16:27] etc. These are the ones in Israel who lacked faith [מחוסרי אמנה]. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa‘ chpt. 5 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:245])

    כי אשא אל שמים ידי, כשברא הקדוש ברוך הוא את העולם לא בראו אלא במאמר ולא בראו אלא בשבועה ומי גרם לו לישבע מחוסרי אמנה הם גרמו לו לישבע שנאמר וישא ידו להם להפיל אותם במדבר אני נשאתי ידי אל הגוים וגו′‏

    For I will lift my hand to heaven [Deut. 32:40]. When the Holy one, blessed be he, created the world, he did not create it except by speech and he did not create it except by an oath. Who, then, caused him to take an oath? Those lacking faith [מחוסרי אמנה], they caused him to take an oath, as it is said, And he lifted his hand to them [in an oath—DNB and JNT] that he would cause them to fall in the desert [Ps. 106:26] and I have lifted my hand to the nations [Ezek. 36:7] etc. (Sifre Deut. §330 [ed. Finkelstein, 380])

  • [161] Cf. Bovon, 2:211.
  • [162] The most frequent LXX translation of אוֹ in the Pentateuch is : Gen. 24:49; 31:43; 44:8, 19; Exod. 5:3; 19:13; 21:4, 18, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33 (2xx), 37 (2xx); 22:4, 5 (2xx), 6, 9 (4xx), 13; 23:4; 28:43; 30:20; Lev. 1:14; 3:6; 5:1 (2xx), 2 (4xx), 3, 4 (2xx), 6, 7, 11, 21 (3xx), 22, 23 (3xx); 7:16, 21 (2xx); 11:32 (3xx); 12:6 (2xx), 7, 8; 13:2, 19, 24, 29, 30, 38, 42 (2xx), 43, 47, 48 (4xx), 49 (5xx), 51 (3xx), 52 (4xx), 53 (3xx), 56 (3xx), 57 (3xx), 58 (3xx), 59 (5xx); 14:22, 30, 37; 15:14, 23, 29; 17:3 (2xx), 8, 13; 18:9 (2xx), 10; 19:20; 20:17, 27 (2xx); 21:18 (3xx), 19 (2xx), 20 (6xx); 22:4 (2xx), 5 (2xx), 21 (2xx), 22 (5xx), 27 (2xx), 28; 25:47, 49 (2xx); Num. 5:6, 14, 30; 6:2, 10; 9:10 (2xx); 14:2; 15:3 (4xx), 5, 8 (2xx), 11 (3xx), 14; 19:16 (3xx), 18 (3xx); 22:18; 24:13; 30:3, 11; 35:21, 22, 23; Deut. 4:16; 13:2 (2xx), 4, 6, 7 (4xx), 8; 14:21; 15:12, 21; 17:2, 3 (2xx), 5, 6, 12; 22:1, 4, 6 (3xx); 24:3, 14; 27:22; 29:17 (3xx). The second most common LXX translation of אוֹ in the Pentateuch is καί: Exod. 4:11 (3xx); Lev. 4:23, 28; 13:24, 29; 17:3; 25:14; Num. 11:8; 15:6; 18:17 (2xx); 30:15; 35:20; Deut. 19:15.
  • [163] Cf. the examples of -הִתְכַּסֶּה בְּ in m. Ket. 5:8 (cited above, Comment to L37) and m. Nid. 8:1.
  • [164] Cf. Isa. 37:1.
  • [165] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:917.
  • [166] See LSJ, 1120; Bovon, 2:219-220.
  • [167] The suggestion that the addition of τοῦ κόσμου somehow softens the criticism of Gentiles is advanced by Nolland (Luke, 2:693).
  • [168] See Marshall, 529; Davies-Allison, 1:658. The author of Luke used ἔθνος 10xx in his Gospel to refer to the Gentiles without the modifier τοῦ κόσμου (Luke 2:32; 18:32; 21:10 [2xx], 24 [3xx], 25 [?]; 22:25; 24:47), and 30xx in Acts (excluding Scripture quotations) without the modifier τοῦ κόσμου (Acts 4:27; 7:45; 9:15; 10:35, 45; 11:1, 18; 13:46, 48; 14:2, 5, 16, 27; 15:3, 7, 12, 14, 19, 23; 17:26; 18:6; 21:11, 19, 21, 25; 22:21; 26:17, 20, 23; 28:28).
  • [169] See Strack-Billerbeck, 2:191. According to Flusser (“‘Have You Ever Seen a Lion?’” [Flusser, JSTP2, 332 n. 4]), the Gospel of Luke may be the earliest evidence for the use of this Hebrew idiom.
  • [170] See Dos Santos, 152.
  • [171] See Jastrow, 1052.
  • [172] Text and translation according to Moses Hadas, Aristeas to Philocrates (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1951; repr. Eugene, Oreg.: Wipf and Stock, 2007), 157.
  • [173] See Bundy, 117.
  • [174] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:502.
  • [175] See Lindsey, GCSG, 3:46. The single example in which Matthew’s use of “heavenly Father” is supported by a synoptic parallel is Matt. 6:14 // Mark 11:25. In this verse the author of Matthew paraphrased Mark 11:25, which has the more Hebraic ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. On Matt. 6:14 // Mark 11:25, see Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L32-33.
  • [176] The examples of “heavenly Father” in unique Matthean verses are in Matt. 15:13 (ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ οὐράνιος); 18:35 (ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ οὐράνιος); 23:9 (ὁ πατὴρ ὁ οὐράνιος).
  • [177] Cf. David R. Catchpole, “Q and ‘The Friend at Midnight’ (Luke XI.5-8/9),” Journal of Theological Studies 34.2 (1983): 407-424, esp. 423.
  • [178] Examples of “your Father” (without the addition of “heavenly” or “in heaven”) that are likely to be original are found in Matt. 6:4, 6 (2xx), 8, 18 (2xx); 10:20, 29; Luke 6:36.
  • [179] See Dos Santos, 91.
  • [180] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:118-119.
  • [181] See Allen, 65.
  • [182] Pace Luz, 1:344.
  • [183] See Moshe Weinfeld, Social Justice in Ancient Israel and in the Ancient Near East (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1995), 34.
  • [184] See Gerd Theissen, Social Reality and the Early Christians: Theology, Ethics, and the World of the New Testament (trans. Margaret Kohl; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 48.
  • [185] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:179; Dos Santos, 109.
  • [186] On the reflexive use of עֶצֶם + pronominal suffix, see Segal, 207-208 §429-431.
  • [187] Examples of דַּי + pronominal suffix are found in Exod. 36:7; Jer. 49:9; Obad. 5; Prov. 25:16.
  • [188] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:708.
  • [189] See Dos Santos, 194.
  • [190] Luz (1:339) points to this change as exemplifying the conservatism that usually characterizes Matthean redaction.
  • [191] See Montefiore, TSG, 2:110; Jeremias, Prayers, 214-215 (cf. Theology, 236); Luz, 1:345; Theissen, Social Reality and the Early Christians, 40.
  • [192] Rabbi Nehorai’s opinion is juxtaposed to the saying about the lion working as a porter (cited above, Comment to L14-18), which argues that human beings must work because through sin we have forfeited our right to heavenly maintenance.
  • [193] On Matt. 9:37 // Luke 10:2, see Sending the Twelve: “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves.”
  • [194] On Matt. 10:10 // Luke 10:7, see Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L97.
  • [195] In Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry the command “Seek his Kingdom” likely alludes to the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer (“Thy Kingdom come”; Matt. 6:10).

On “Blood” in the Apostolic Decree (Acts 15:19-20)

Revised: 28-Oct-2013

In the excellent article written by Professors Flusser and Safrai and translated by Halvor Ronning entitled, “The Apostolic Decree and the Noahide Commandments,”[1] the subject of the Apostolic Decree is discussed within the context of ancient Jewish traditions and writings. Flusser and Safrai conclude that the prohibition of blood is not a prohibition against consuming blood, but rather the rabbinic prohibition of murder. In their own words:

As we have attempted to demonstrate, it is precisely the ritual food laws of the secondary form of the Apostolic Decree that go back to two extra-canonical Jewish restrictions. The original form of the Apostolic Decree was purely ethical [text in bold is author’s emphasis throughout this article] and was identical with the three Mosaic obligations for non-Jews, i.e., with the original (three) Noahide commandments.

Flusser and Safrai’s premise is that “blood” in this passage does not refer to the consumption of blood but rather to murder. They conclude that the apostolic decision prohibiting eating meat sacrificed to idols, fornication, and blood is equal to the rabbinic decree that under penalty of death a Jew may violate any of the commandments of the Torah with the exception of idolatry, adultery and murder.[2]

There is a strong similarity between the rabbinic decree and the apostolic decree, and in the historical context of the times these similarities cannot be ignored. However, there is an element to both of these decrees that I believe has been overlooked. The original rabbinic decree would have been given in the Semitic tongue of Hebrew (or possibly, Aramaic), and in its historical setting, most probably the Apostolic decree as well. Hebrew is a very inclusive language and often a word has a depth of meaning that cannot be easily expressed by a single word in another language.[3] Therefore, a single word may express multiple meanings at one and the same time. It is in this light that I believe something significant has been overlooked.

In the study of the literature of the sages of Israel it is readily apparent that there is a multiplicity of opinions on every topic. It is in this spirit of diversity and in the search for greater understanding that I present my perspective on this subject, all the while realizing that I am challenging the scholarship of my teachers who are far more learned than I.

It is my position that the references to blood, in both the rabbinic and apostolic decrees, refer to not only murder but the consumption of blood as well. It has been said that the prohibition against consuming blood was only for  Jews and did not include Gentiles.[4]

This position is not found in the literature of the Sages, but the contrary position is stated.[5] However the definitive answer, I believe, is found in the Torah itself. In Genesis chapter 9, after the flood, mankind is told that they may now eat meat and not just seed yielding herbs and fruits as in the beginning.[6] In Genesis 9:3-4 it is said, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you, I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat the flesh with the life, that is its blood.” This first reference to the consumption of blood is for all mankind before the establishment of the Jewish people. The second reference is to the offerings eaten by the Jewish people in Leviticus 7:26-27, “Moreover you shall not eat any blood in any of your dwellings whither of bird or beast. Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.” This reference was for Jews only. However, the next reference is the most significant. In Leviticus 17:11-14, the Torah states:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.” Whatever man of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who hunts and catches any animal or bird that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with dust, for it is the life of all flesh. Its blood sustains its life. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, “You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is in its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.”

The people of Israel were not only forbidden to eat blood, the strangers (i.e., non-Jews) who lived among them were also forbidden to eat blood on penalty of being cut off from the community and God.

In the 15th chapter of Acts, as well as Acts chapter 21, the dispute is over the inclusion of Gentiles with Jews in full fellowship. If Jews and Gentiles are to fellowship together there has to be a minimal standard of behavior that can be accepted and, as the Torah clearly states that Gentiles in the company of Jews are not permitted to eat blood, to do less than this minimum would violate the Torah and cause an irreconcilable difficulty for Jews as would eating meat sacrificed to idols or the sexual practices that the Torah forbids to Jews and Gentiles who lived among them. As in Leviticus 18, after listing many sexual practices that are forbidden, it says:

Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled, therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants. You shall therefore keep my statues and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled) lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you. For whoever commits any of these abominations, the person who commits them shall be cut off from among their people. (Lev. 18:24-29)

Blodplättar, blood pancakes from Sweden.
Blodplättar, blood pancakes from Sweden.

In these texts we see that not only Jews but also Gentiles who lived among them were forbidden to eat blood, practice abominable sexual practices and, of course, to worship idols. The emphasis is on practices and behaviors that were unacceptable to God whether the individual was of the children of Israel or of the Gentiles. The emphasis of Acts chapters 15 and 21 deals with the relationship of Jews and Gentiles who have come to faith in Messiah and how they both can come together in fellowship. The dispute was largely led by members of the sect of the Pharisees; however, the community of believers was composed of individuals from many sects of Judaism that existed at this time. While most halachic rulings were in accord with the Pharisees, at times both Jesus and later his disciples were at odds with rabbinic decisions. Both for Jesus and his disciples the Torah and its proper interpretation was the final authority.

The inclusion of Gentiles among the community of faith did not happen immediately after the resurrection of Jesus, but perhaps as much as ten years later. In Acts chapter 10 the story is told of a Roman centurion named Cornelius. He was a God-Fearer, or in other words, a Gentile who believed in and worshiped the God of Israel. Peter received a vision in a time of prayer that he was to kill and eat what was unclean, but he protested saying, “Not so Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”[7] He was then instructed by God, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” Peter was instructed to go to the house of Cornelius where he commented that it was not lawful for a Jew to enter the house of a Gentile.[8] This is not a prohibition of the Torah, but a rabbinic prohibition, as the homes of Gentiles were assumed to be unclean.[9] Notice in all of this that Peter is acting and responding as a Torah observant Jew and not as someone who sees the Torah as something that no longer has significance. Notice also that he is acting not solely on Torah but on the rabbinic interpretation of the Torah, as well. Peter later recalls this experience in Acts chapter 15 at the council in Jerusalem where the issue of fellowship with Gentiles occurs. Both he and James hold the position that Gentiles are not required to keep all of the provisions of the Torah that are incumbent on Jews, but they do maintain that certain minimums must be observed. These minimums are the exact ones we have been discussing. These are, on the one hand, moral and ethical provisions, but on the other hand, minimal observances that pertain not only to ethics but to physical acts as well, and especially in the matter of what one was absolutely prohibited to eat. After all, the very first sin was an act of disobedience that was carried out by what man ate.

The prohibition to not eat blood was first given to all mankind before the establishment of Israel. Many today say that we as Christian believers have no dietary laws. However, if I am correct we do indeed have minimal dietary restrictions and many of us may be involved in actions that are not acceptable to God. Many of the people of our world eat blood sausage and other foods made with blood. In my understanding of Scripture, this is forbidden.

Lastly, as the question may arise that since all meat has blood in it what does it mean that we must not eat the flesh with the blood in it? This is one of the places where the Torah is not totally specific in what this means so we must rely on ancient understandings of the text. In the Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 65a, it states:

As it is taught in a baraita: One who consumes blood squeezed from an animal after the initial spurt concluded violates a warning, i.e., a Torah prohibition for which flogging is the punishment for its violation. This is not as severe as consuming regular life blood, the blood that spurts out of an animal as it is being slaughtered, for which one is liable to receive karet [excision; being cut off from the Jewish people].[10]

In the notes to this edition of the Talmud by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, it is stated:

The prohibition of blood: The primary prohibition against consuming blood is referring to the blood that spurts and flows immediately upon slaughtering an animal. One is liable to receive karet for consuming this blood. Other types of blood, including the blood that drains from the animal’s throat after the slaughtering and blood that is absorbed in the flesh and does not flow out of the animal at all, are governed by different rules. Consumption of some of these types of blood is prohibited by a less severe Torah prohibition, such as a negative commandment that does not carry the punishment of karet. Consumption of others is prohibited by rabbinic law, and consumption of still others is not prohibited at all.[11]

Therefore it is the blood that flows from an animal at slaughtering that is prohibited. There were other restrictions for consuming the blood that was squeezed from an animal after its slaughter, but not for the blood that was absorbed into the flesh, which is what we encounter in the meat we normally eat.

In conclusion, just as there were minimal restrictions on what man could eat in the beginning, it is the instruction of Scripture that we still have minimal restrictions on what we may eat and what we may do. At a minimum we must not engage in acts of idolatry, sexual licentiousness and perversions, nor engage in immoral acts such as murder, nor consume blood. To this, later, there was added the provision to not eat the meat of a strangled animal.  This was to clarify that one was forbidden to eat blood, as a strangled animal would not have its blood drained.  Flusser and Safrai noted this in their article when they mentioned Origen’s and Chrysostom’s comments on the subject:

As to the meaning of “things strangled” in the canonical formulation of the Apostolic Decree, one needs to consult the old church fathers because they still observed this regulation. Origen names as strangled any meat from which the blood had not been extracted. John Chrysostom defines it as “meat with the blood of the soul.” He points to Gen 9:4: “the flesh in its soul, its blood, you shall not eat.

And in this vein Flusser and Safrai also commented:

But does that mean that non-Jews should live with no ritual obligations whatsoever? This is why a moral-ritualistic obligation appears amid the Noahide commandments, that is, the prohibition against eating the limb of a living animal. There were other practical suggestions in this direction, and two of these prohibitions were adopted in the canonical text of the Apostolic Decree.

The argument against the prohibition of the consumption of blood for the non-Jew is based upon the rabbinic usage cited throughout Flusser and Safrai’s article where blood is equated with murder. It may be significant however that in rabbinic usage the Hebrew word “dam” (blood) is usually used in the plural (damim) when talking about murder but, in the Apostolic decree the Greek word for blood (haimatos) is written in the singular. Just as the Hebrew word for blood is written in the plural in Gen. 4:10 where the context is the murder of Abel but in Lev. 17:11-14 the word blood is written in the singular when forbidding the consumption of blood. It has also been said that there is not a single occurrence in Rabbinic literature from the time of Jesus forbidding Gentiles from consuming blood. However, the reverse is even more true as the consensus of rabbinic literature prohibits the consumption of blood by Gentiles as well as  Jews. There are several rabbinic comments throughout history that do specify that Gentiles are also prohibited from consuming blood. Flusser and Safrai noted a tannaitic example in their article:

If one [a non-Jew] strangles and eats a bird that is smaller than an olive, he is allowed to do it. R. Hananiah ben Gamaliel said: “The non-Jew also is prohibited from eating the blood of a living animal.” (t. Abodah Zarah 8:4-8 [p. 473f.])”

Also, as is noted in the Koren Talmud Bavli, The Noe Edition, Pesahim Part I, p.113:

Just as a limb from a living animal is prohibited, so too, blood of a living being is prohibited. And to which blood is this referring? This is referring to blood spilled in the process of blood-letting, through which the soul departs. That is considered to be blood from a living being, and even the descendants of Noah are prohibited from eating it. (Rabbeinu Hananel).

And, as written in the article on blood in the Encyclopedia Judaica:

In the Bible there is an absolute prohibition on the consumption of blood. The blood of an animal must be drained before the flesh may be eaten (Lev. 3:17; 7;26; 17:10-14; Deut.12:15-16, 20-26) This prohibition is not found anywhere else in the ancient Near East. Moreover, within Israelite legislation it is the only prohibition (coupled with murder) enjoined not on Israel alone but on all men (Gen. 9:4). It is thus a more universal law than the Decalogue.

Therefore, it is abundantly clear that throughout history the consensus of Jewish understanding states that blood is forbidden to Gentiles as well as Jews. Those who hold that the consumption of blood is not forbidden to all mankind but only to Jews risk being in conflict, not only, with the majority of Jewish learning but with the Scriptures as well. I am greatly indebted to Professors Flusser and Safrai whose scholarship is without parallel. In this instance their conclusion seems to be based on their great knowledge of rabbinic literature and usage, but it seems they overlooked the Biblical commands and their interpretation throughout the centuries.

  • [1] David Flusser and Shmuel Safrai, “The Apostolic Decree and the Noahide Commandments” (April 20, 2012).
  • [2] Resch’s studies of the non-canonical form of the Apostolic Decree helped three Jewish researchers independently to get on the right track. All three noted the relationship between the western form of the Apostolic Decree and the decision of the rabbinic synod of Lydda. This synod met in the year 120 C.E. and handed down the following decision: “Of all the trespasses forbidden in the Torah it holds true that if you are told, ‘trespass or be killed,’ you may trespass them all, except for idolatry, fornication and bloodshed [murder].”
  • [3] As my friend and mentor, Dwight Pryor, taught me, you need two hands to think Hebraically: For on the one hand statement A is true, but on the other hand, statement B is also true.
  • [4] Private communication with R. Steven Notley.
  • [5] “If one [a non-Jew] strangles and eats a bird that is smaller than an olive, he is allowed to do it. R. Hananiah ben Gamaliel said: ‘The non-Jew also is prohibited from eating the blood of a living animal’” (Tosephta, Avodah Zarah 8:4-8).
  • [6] Genesis 1:29.
  • [7] Acts 10:8-15.
  • [8] Acts 10:28.
  • [9] See Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 9a. The residences of Gentiles are ritually impure. See also the halachic note on page 44 of the Noe Edition of the Koren Talmud: “Any house where a gentile has lived for forty days has the presumptive status of ritual impurity. A Jew who enters that house is impure by rabbinic law, due to the concern that the gentile may have buried a stillborn child there.”
  • [10] Koren Talmud Bavli, The Noe Edition, Pesahim, Part One, p. 339.
  • [11] Ibid.

And Where Did You Go for the Seder?

Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the LORD brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast…. For seven days eat bread made without yeast and on the seventh day hold a festival to the LORD. Eat unleavened bread during those seven days; nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders. On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ …For the LORD brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand. You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year.” (Exod. 13:3-10; NIV)

Originally Published: 20-Apr-2003

We are now in the middle of Passover week and one frequently hears the question, “And where did you go for the Seder [the special home service on the first night of Passover]?” Answers are varied: “To my family’s home.” “To friends.” “To a hotel in Eilat.”

Wednesday evening, David and I ate the Passover meal with our son, Natan, our daughter-in-law, Liat, and sixteen family members and friends at Liat’s parent’s home in Moshav Yad Hashmonah, a ten-minute drive from our home.

Like other Passover Seder tables, ours was beautifully set and readied with the traditional platters of food symbolic of the Israelites’ bondage in and exodus from Egypt.

After reading the first part of the Haggadah, the story of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, we ate with great gusto the delicious dinner. Olga had made chicken soup with matzah balls. A tasty fish dish had been prepared by a guest who was born in Libya. Others had brought chicken and various salads and vegetables.

The Haggadah concluded with the singing of psalms of deliverance and praise. They were not sung in the quiet, worshipful way we sing in church, but with rapturous loud voices, hands slapping on the table to the beat of the songs. After all, if we had seen the hand of God helping us escape from a country ruled by an oppressor and our enemies totally annihilated, wouldn’t we sing for joy?

The next day, all over Israel, the celebration of Passover continued with extended families and friends sitting outside on their porches and patios. Children played while the aroma of grilled meat wafted on the air.

During the weeks preceding Passover, nearly every Jewish home is thoroughly cleaned. By Passover eve all items containing leaven have been removed from cupboards and closets. As in past years, once again we were the recipients of sacks filled with food containing leaven cleaned out of our wonderful neighbors’ kitchens.

In place of bread, matzah, a cracker bread made from unleavened flour, is eaten during the entire week. There are probably more than a hundred ways to eat matzah, including frying it after soaking it in beaten eggs. Cakes and various pastries also are made with matzah flour. Personally, I enjoy eating matzah spread with peanut butter and jam, or with butter and honey!

Just before Passover week begins, supermarkets cover with sheets of white paper the shelves containing items with leaven, but the supermarkets remain open during the week—and continue to do a thriving business.

When we read the Haggadah, David and I never cease to be amazed at the story of God’s deliverance of his people from Egypt. As believers in Yeshua (Jesus), this deliverance is even more poignant.

Mark 7:19: Did Jesus Make “Unclean” Food “Clean”?

Revised: 04-Jun-2013
Now when the Pharisees gathered together to him, with some of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands defiled, that is, unwashed…. And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with hands defiled?”…. And he called the people to him again, and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him…. Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) (Mark 7:1-5, 14-19; RSV)

The last four words of Mark 7:19, καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα (katharidzon panta ta bromata, cleansing all the foods”), have caused many Christians to suppose that Jesus did away with the biblical food prohibitions and declared “clean” (טָהוֹר, tahor) what the Torah declares “unclean” (טָמֵא, tame). The way English versions of the Bible have translated this verse has strengthened the misunderstanding: “Thus he declared all foods clean” (RSV, NRSV and NAB); “In saying this, Jesus declared all foods ‘clean’” (NIV); “By saying this, he showed that every kind of food is acceptable” (NLT); “Thus he pronounced all foods clean” (NJB); “Thus He was making and declaring all foods [ceremonially] clean [that is, abolishing the ceremonial distinctions of the Levitical Law]” (AMP).

In the Torah “clean” and “unclean” are also used of permitted and forbidden food, and therefore, because of this passage, Christians usually have believed that the biblical food laws were abrogated by Jesus. However, one should not be too quick to throw out large portions of the Torah, in this case, portions of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, because of a four-word parenthetical comment[1] by Mark at the end of a long halachic discussion. Such a serious reversal of God’s commands and contradiction of God’s word would need explanation and discussion.

The Torah prohibits Jews from eating certain animals (Lev. 11; cf. Deut. 14; Negative Commandments #172-179). We can assume that Jesus would not have violated these commandments. (Otherwise, he would have been condemned by the words of Torah, and would have been a sinner.) Nor would he have taught others to violate the commandments since he himself taught, “Anyone who breaks them [the commandments of Torah] or teaches others to break them will be called ‘light’ [קַל, kal, that is, of no esteem]” (Matt 5:19). In other words, such a disciple could not become or remain part of the “Kingdom of Heaven,” a term that Jesus sometimes used to refer to his band of full-time disciples.[2]

Since it seems unlikely that Jesus would have abolished biblical prohibitions pertaining to the eating of certain foods, we must clarify what Jesus instructed his first-century Jewish audience.

The context for the halachic discussion in Mark 7:1-23 was the Pharisees and scribes’ criticism of Jesus’ disciples for eating without washing their hands. The controversy was: “Does handling clean food with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands cause the food to become unclean?” In this context Jesus and his contemporaries are not discussing categories of permanent prohibitions (which by biblical definition are impure or unclean), for instance, forbidden food such as camel meat, rabbit meat or pig meat (Deut. 14:7-8), but rather items such as cups and hands that are not essentially unclean but have, according to rabbinic halachah, the capability of contacting uncleanness, that is, of going in and out of a state of purity. If this was the discussion, then Jesus was not declaring “clean” what the Bible declares “unclean.” His answer to the question “Does touching food with unwashed hands ritually contaminate it?” was an acceptable Jewish response in the first century. Jesus, a Jewish sage, ruled, “No, it does not” (Mark 7:15 = Matt 15:11). Bread that is touched by an unwashed hand does not lose its state of ritual purity and become a carrier of impurity. It does not introduce impurity into one’s body.

Most scholars, not understanding Jesus’ defense of his disciples, assume that Mark added his own words to the story, or combined material from different contexts or different sources.[3] Jesus clears his disciples of the charge against them by arguing that nothing that goes into the mouth can defile. Within the passage, the discussion shifts from washing of hands to food entering the mouth. The thrust seems to become not Jesus’ ruling that unwashed hands cannot defile food, but that no food that is eaten can defile.[4]

No, says Yair Furstenberg. There is no shift in the discussion. The entire passage is a coherent whole.[5] Furstenberg has given, perhaps for the first time, a comprehensive explanation of this pericope (Mark 7:1-23 = Matt 15:1-20). He explains that prior to the time of Jesus many schools of Pharisees, including the Schools of Hillel and Shammai, had ruled that “hands can be impure to the second degree (m. Yadayim 2.1; m. Tehorot 1.7). Whenever liquids come into contact with a second-degree impurity, the liquids enter a state of first-degree impurity. In turn, anything that comes into contact with the liquids becomes ritually impure to the second degree (m. Parah 8.7). In other words, when hands come into contact with a mix of solid food and liquids, the food becomes ritually impure to the same degree as the hands. Consequently, a person who eats food that has been defiled by ritually impure hands becomes impure to the same level.”[6] Without the washing of hands before handling food, impurity could continue endlessly. Thus, there is a connection between hand washing and food that enters the mouth.

Jesus opposed this specific purity system,[7] unknown in the Bible.[8] He ruled that “there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him,” that is, “a person cannot be defiled by eating ritually contaminated food, but only by the sinful thoughts that come out of the heart.”

In summary, Jesus’ words must be read in context. When his words are read in the light of ancient Jewish culture and rabbinic literature, one finds that he did not contradict God-given commandments. He did not make kosher biblically prohibited categories of food. He did, however, challenge the dominant purity system of his day arguing that unwashed hands do not transfer ritual uncleanness to the body through food that is eaten. In addition, he drove home a moral point: the state of a person’s heart is more important than the state of his or her hands, and the heart is unaffected by the ritual purity of the hands.

  • [1] “It needs to be borne in mind that ‘declaring all foods clean’ is Mark’s interpretation of Jesus’ statement in 7:15, not Jesus’, and that Matthew seems to have a much less radical interpretation of the dominical saying” (Joel Marcus, Mark 1-8 [AB 27; Garden City: Doubleday, 2000], 458). In fact, Mark’s editorial comment, “cleansing all the foods,” is missing entirely from Matthew’s parallel (Matt 15:17). “The syntax clearly marks out καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα as a parenthetical editorial comment, since there is no masculine singular subject within the reported speech to which it can relate (hence the emendations found in some MSS, representing attempts to ‘correct’ the syntax by those who failed to recognize the nature of the clause…The subject therefore is Jesus (the subject of λέγει, v. 18a), whom Mark thus interprets as ‘cleansing all food’ in the sense of declaring that it is no longer to be regarded as ritually ‘unclean’” (R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text [NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002], 291; cf. 276). Mark’s interpretation may have been intentionally ambiguous. It faithfully describes the halachah for those who are concerned with halachic purity, and it even has a secondary application to Gentiles who are not responsible for the Torah food laws.
  • [2] Paul’s instructions about eating meat sold in the market or meat set before you by an unbeliever at a dinner to which you have been invited (1 Cor. 10:25-29) was directed at former Gentiles (now followers of Jesus) who lived in heathen environs and near pagan temples. Paul championed the status of believing Gentiles within the Edah (community), but he would not have instructed Jews to enter pagan homes or eat food offered to them by pagans. Former Gentiles who were members of the Edah were, by apostolic halachah, not obligated to keep all the commandments nor to circumcise their male children (Acts 15); however Jewish followers of Jesus were so obligated (Acts 21:18-24), and this obligation included the keeping of the community’s Oral Torah, its interpretation of the Written Torah.
  • [3] “This is a revealing editorial insertion…When Mark wrote his Gospel, questions related to kosher foods and dietary regulations were prominent in the minds of converts to Christianity, particularly from paganism (e.g., 1 Cor. 8). Less that a decade earlier, in all likelihood, Paul had also addressed the question of clean and unclean foods at Rome (Rom. 14-15), the probable location of Mark’s Gospel. Mark’s parenthetical declaration that ‘all foods [are] “clean”’ (v. 19) thus reveals his understanding of Jesus’ position on the matter of clean versus unclean foods. This declaration takes precedence over the dietary regulations of both the oral and written laws (e.g., Lev. 11; Deut. 14). Again in Mark, the teaching of Jesus is supremely authoritative, superseding the Torah itself” (James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark [The Pillar New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002], 212-13). See also Robert H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 365-71. These commentators have not understood the discussion, or Jesus’ answer, about temporary uncleanness.
  • [4] “The explanation subtly moves from ‘how’ one eats to ‘what’ one eats…It is only a short step then to the parenthetical comment that follows about ‘all foods’” (Robert A. Guelich, Mark (Volume 34a) 1-8:26 [WBC 34A; Dallas: Word Books, 1989], 377-78).
  • [5] Yair Furstenberg, “Defilement Penetrating the Body: A New Understanding of Contamination in Mark 7.15,” NTS 54 (2008): 176-200.
  • [6] Furstenberg, 184-85.
  • [7] “Nothing in Jesus’ words points to the possibility that he opposed the ‘expansion of purity’, per se. Jesus only confronted a law which focused on one specific conception of impurity: the kind that is concerned with ‘that which enters the body’. The hand-washing custom, together with the view that foods have the capacity continuously to transfer contamination to other objects and even to people, are the laws under attack in Jesus’ statement” (Furstenberg, 200).
  • [8] “In the biblical purity system, the possibility that hands might defile independently of the whole body is unknown. Defiled hands are not one of the sources of impurity in the biblical system, except as part of an impure person, such as a zab [a male in a state of ritual impurity due to an abnormal seminal discharge]. Furthermore, biblical law does not know of a purification process for hands alone, contrary to what is found in rabbinic law and mentioned in our pericope” (Furstenberg, 190-91).

Jesus’ Sabbath Dispute with Pharisees in a Cornfield

The debate between Jesus and the Pharisees about plucking and eating corn did not concern labour on the Sabbath but concerned eating food which was allowed only to priests.


When Jesus is asked to justify allowing his disciples to pluck and eat corn on a Sabbath, he appears to reply with an irrelevant story. If we assume that the Pharisees are complaining about the disciples performing labour on a Sabbath, it is irrelevant to answer them with the story about David feeding his men on the Bread of the Presence, because this story does not relate to performing any labour. Another problem lies in the fact that there are no rabbinic traditions which forbid performing the labour of preparing a handful of food on a Sabbath, and there are specific rulings which permit this amount of labour (though no more). These difficulties are eased in Matthew and Mark who append other comments by Jesus which appear to be more relevant, but this still leaves the problem that Jesus’ first reply appears to ignore the issue at hand.

A comparison of some old traditions within rabbinic legal collections indicates that the real issue was not Sabbath labour, but eating untithed food. Tithing could not be performed on a Sabbath, so freshly harvested food still contained the Heave Offering which only priests were allowed to eat. If this is the case, the story of David allowing his men to eat food only permitted to priests, would be an appropriate and irrefutable reply.

Rabbinic Laws in the Early First Century

It is extremely difficult to isolate the rabbinic traditions which date back to the early first century. Although rabbinic literature contains many traditions which are stated in the names of rabbis from this time period, scholars have been understandably wary of simply accepting that these are accurate. Later rabbis may have tried to give traditions a false antiquity by ascribing them to famous people in the past, and genuine traditions may have been passed down in an unreliable and inaccurate way.

Such concerns are still insurmountable problems for much of early Jewish literature, especially the Targums (i.e. Aramaic paraphrases of the Old Testament) and aggadic literature (i.e. commentaries and collections used for sermon material). But the situation is more hopeful for halakhic literature (i.e. collections summarising courthouse rulings and debates) thanks to the voluminous and detailed work of several scholars, notably Jacob Neusner. They have analysed the legal traditions in relation to each other, and thereby built up a chronological picture of the development of each branch of case law. By this means we can now see which laws depend on the previous existence of which other laws. This indicates which traditions are earlier or later relative to each other. When these results are compared with the dates of specific individuals to whom rulings have been attributed, we find a good correlation. This suggests that the attributions, which scholars had been rightly sceptical about, are likely to be largely accurate—though this conclusion can only be applied to the legal traditions in halakhic material. I am currently in the process of applying this kind of analysis to the huge corpus of surviving rabbinic halakhic traditions, in order to produce a corpus of rabbinic traditions which originated before 70 C.E., published as Traditions of the Rabbis in the Era of the New Testament (TRENT) (Eerdmans 2004).[1]

The traditions which we need to consult in order to understand this debate between Jesus and the Pharisees are halakhic, so there is a better chance that they are datable. The detailed discussions justifying dating of each individual tradition presented in this paper will appear in the relevant sections of TRENT volumes 2A & 2B, though they are outlined here. Most of the traditions referred to in this article are anonymous or originate in a ‘School’ debate. The anonymous traditions can sometimes be dated by comparison with other debates which are dependant on them and are therefore later, or by internal developments within the traditions themselves. The ‘School’ debates between Hillelites and Shammaites can mostly be dated before 70 C.E. because the Shammaites virtually disappeared after 70 C.E. However, these traditions continued to be developed, so it is always important to pare back the tradition to its original core. This is made possible by the fact that they were preserved in a restricted set of forms which is usually preserved intact within the traditions.

Laws About Food Preparation on the Sabbath

During the early first century there was a huge development of halakhah in subjects concerning the Sabbath. In Torah ‘labour’ was prohibited on the Sabbath (Exod. 20:10f; Deut. 5:14), but there was no definition of ‘labour’ except by examples: gathering and cooking food (Exod. 16:23-29; Num. 15:32), lighting fires (Exod. 35:3), and “going out of your place” (Exod. 16:29). Nehemiah later reinforced the Sabbath laws by prohibiting buying and selling (Neh. 10:31).

These examples were extended in rabbinic traditions to a list of 39 categories of labour (m. Shab. 7.2). This list is probably very old because it does not include some categories of prohibited Sabbath labour which became very important during the early first century, such as carrying, lifting, tying, lighting the Sabbath lamp, cultic acts, healing and tithing. The number 39 was probably perceived to be significant because it was the number of times someone was flogged (m. Makk. 3.10; already established in NT times, cf. 2 Cor. 11:24). Flogging was the default punishment for breaking the law when Scripture was silent on the form of punishment, and perhaps also as a replacement for the punishment of extirpation. Therefore it was probably used for punishing any Sabbath breaking for which a sin-offering was not suitable—i.e. deliberate Sabbath breaking (m. Makk. 3.15). This made the number 39 an ideal basis for a memorable list of ways in which the Sabbath law could be broken. This connection might explain why the list did not grow beyond a total of 39 categories even when new categories of labour had been identified.

The list of 39 starts with activities involved with making bread. They are organised as a chronological list starting with growing the seed and ending with making the bread: “sowing, ploughing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, cleansing, grinding, sifting, kneading, baking.” When the disciples helped themselves to corn, it was clear that they were carrying out some of these activities. All three Gospels say that the disciples “plucked” the corn (τίλλω, Matt. 12:1 // Mark 2:23 // Luke 6:1) which would have been regarded as contravening the third category of labour in the 39, i.e. “reaping.” Matthew and Mark state merely that they then ate the corn, though Luke adds the obvious implication that they also “rubbed them in their hands” (Luke 6:1), which contravened the fifth and sixth categories of labour—“threshing” and “cleansing” (i.e. the separation of non-edible portions—cf. m. Betz. 1.8).

The disciples were therefore clearly performing activities which were classified as ‘labour’, but were they performing enough ‘labour’ to contravene the Sabbath law? The early rabbis defined the amount of food which contravened the Sabbath labour law as the amount in a beggar’s bowl (m. Shab. 1.1), or a mouthful (m. Shab. 7.4–8.7, 9.5-7) or the volume of a dried fig in a basket (m. Shab. 9.7). However, none of the rulings which define these amounts can be dated to before 70 C.E., except possibly the first, and they all relate to how much could be carried rather than how much could be prepared for eating.

With regard to the labour involved in preparing food we have some very clear guidelines which almost certainly date back to the first century, because they originate in disputes between Schools of Hillelites and Shammaites. The demise of the Shammaites during the destruction of the Temple means that we can be relatively sure that any disputes between these Schools originated before that disaster. However, the rabbinic community continued to debate these disputes, so we have to be careful to trace the internal history of the traditions which have survived.

The clearest set of rulings does not actually refer to these Schools, but appears to be based on a School dispute:

He who rubs ears [of corn] on the Eve of a Sabbath [coinciding with a High Festival Day]:
He may blow [on them] from hand to hand, and eat [it immediately],
though not [put them] in a basket or bowl.
He who rubs ears [of corn] on the Eve of a High Festival Day:
He may blow [on them and put them] in a basket or bowl,
though not on a board or a with sifter or a with sieve,
like the [normal] way one does on an ordinary [day].
He who rubs [ears of corn] after nightfall [i.e. the beginning] of Sabbath:
He may blow them from hand to hand and eat [it immediately],
though not [put them] in a basket or bowl.
(Tosephta Betzah 1.20 [1.13b in some eds])

The last of these rulings indicates that one may prepare a handful of corn without breaking the Sabbath law prohibiting labour. This means that the disciples would have been permitted to prepare and eat corn as described in the Gospels. So why did the Pharisees complain about this? The solution might be found in the fact that different groups of Pharisees before 70 C.E. had different opinions on this matter, so we need to look at the differences between the Hillelites and the Shammaites and possibly other Schools.

Among the surviving disputes between Hillelites and Shammaites are a pair concerning the preparation of a handful of food on a Sabbath. The record of these disputes includes language and subject matter that is very similar to this anonymous tradition at t. Betzah 1.20.[2] It is therefore possible that t. Betzah 1.20 was developed from these two earlier disputes, perhaps together with a related dispute which is now lost. The first of these related School disputes concerns whether a store of harvested pulses can be cleansed (i.e. by removing pods and other inedible portions from it), on a High Festival day (a Yom Tov—called miqreé qodesh ‘holy convocations’ in Torah). On High Festival Days all labour is forbidden, as it is on a Sabbath, with the exception of labour needed to prepare food for the day (Exod. 12:16; cf. m. Betz.5.2).

He who cleanses pulses on a High Festival Day:

The School of Shammai say: He may cleanse the food and eat [it immediately].
And the School of Hillel say: He may cleanse [it] in the [normal] way
in his lap in a basket or bowl, though not on a board or a with sifter or a with sieve.
(Mishnah Betzah 1.8)

This ruling indicates that the Shammaites were willing to allow this work to be done, but only if it was for eating immediately and not for cooking or storing—i.e. a snack rather than a meal.[3] The Hillelites allowed the work to be done on enough produce for the whole household to eat as a meal that day, but they did not allow you to use tools which could process a large quantity, because this implied preparation for eating on subsequent days also. The Hillelites were therefore following the normal rule that you could do any labour needed for preparing meals which would be eaten on that High Festival Day. The Shammaites on the other hand said that you should only do work on a High Festival Day which could not be done in advance—and cleansing pods could clearly be done in advance unless it was for an unexpected meal like a snack.

The second related School dispute concerns sorting Arum roots which had already been harvested and had been stored in a hole in the ground (as was customary—cf. m. Shebi. 5.2):

A hole [in the ground for storing] Arum [roots],
[from which] he selects the largest and leaves the smallest:
[If he keeps them] within his hand, he is exempt [from tithing].
[If he puts them] on the ground or in a receptacle, he is obligated [to tithe].
R. Simeon b. Eleazar said:
The School of Shammai and the School of Hillel were not divided
concerning the selection [of Arum] on the ground,
that he who [did this was] exempt [from tithing],
or concerning selection [of Arum] in a receptacle,
that he who [did this was] liable [for tithing].
Concerning what were they divided?
Concerning the selection in the hand,
for which the School of Shammai obligate [tithing]
and the School of Hillel exempt [tithing].
(Tosephta Maaserot 3.10 [3.11 in some eds.])

Here the actual School dispute has been lost, but Simeon b. Eleazar (late 2nd cent.) referred to it in a way that enables us to infer its original wording. The original School dispute was presumably something like:

He who selects the largest Aram roots from [storage in] a hole:
The School of Shammai say: He may select in his hand and not eat [it]
The School of Hillel say: He may select in his hand and eat [it immediately].
[He may select it] in the [normal] way on the ground, but not [select it] in a utensil.

Whereas in the previous tradition about pulses, the Hillelites allowed a whole bowl of pulses to be processed, in the tradition about Arum they only allowed a handful (i.e. a snack) to be processed. And whereas the Shammaites allowed a snack of pulses to be eaten, they did not allow any Arum to be eaten. These differences are not explained, but the reason for them presumably lies in one of the differences between the two situations. The differences are that the pulses were fully harvested and were being cleansed on a High Festival Day, while the Arum was partially harvested and were being sorted on a Sabbath. There are therefore three differences: fully harvested or partially harvested; cleansed or sorted; and on a High Festival day or on a Sabbath.

We might expect that the most significant of these differences is the last one, because regulations were generally more strict on a Sabbath. This principle is the basis of m. Betz. 5.2: “All these [acts which are liable] on a High Festival Day, it is needless to say [they are also liable] on the Sabbath.”[4] Based on this, we might conclude that whereas Hillelites would allow Jesus’ disciples to process and eat a handful of corn on a Sabbath, the Shammaites would allow them to process it, but not to eat any. This implies that the Pharisees were complaining not about the plucking, but about the eating of the plucked corn. If so, this would explain why Matthew felt the need to add the rather obvious phrase “and to eat” (Matt. 12:1). It also helps to explain why Jesus responded with a story about David allowing his men to eat what was forbidden. However, the fact that things are stricter on a Sabbath does not explain why the Shammaites allowed the preparation of food but did not allow it to be eaten.

There is a possible link between the Sabbath and the Showbread, because there was a Jewish tradition that this was eaten by the priests on the Sabbath.[5] However, there is nothing in the story of David to indicate that his men arrived just as the new Bread of the Presence became available, or anything else to indicate that this occurred on a Sabbath. The emphasis of the story was that they ate something which only the priests were allowed to eat. It is therefore strange that Jesus would try to convince the Pharisees to allow snacks of corn on a Sabbath by referring to this story.

In order to understand the reasoning behind the Shammaite ruling, and the reason for Jesus’ reply, we need to understand the rabbinic laws on tithing, and on food which was permitted for only priests to eat.

Laws About Food Tithing on the Sabbath

The tithing laws of the Torah are multifarious and complex, and rabbinic regulations are even more detailed because they deal with many situations not specified in Torah. The main tithes in Torah and rabbinic Judaism were:

  1. The Heave Offering (terumah, literally ‘elevation’)—a nominal amount (usually assumed to be 1/50th) that belonged to the priests.
  2. The First Tithe (maaser rishon)—a tenth that belonged to the Levites, though in rabbinic Judaism this was given to the priests.
  3. The Second Title (maaser sheni)—a second tenth that had to be spent on festivals in Jerusalem or given to the poor every third year

During Temple times, the Heave Offering was removed as soon as food was harvested and put in a container (m. Pea. 1.6) but the First and Second tithes were frequently not removed till just before food was cooked or eaten. There were a few conscientious vendors who could be trusted to tithe the food before they sold it (m. Dem. 2.2), but pious Jews treated all food they bought as ‘doubtfully tithed food’ (demai). Their doubts concerned only whether or not the First and Second tithe had been removed, because even the strictest rabbis never expressed any doubt that the Heave Offering had been removed.

It could be confidently assumed that every Israelite performed this Heave Offering tithing, and even Samaritans were trusted to do this (cf. m. Ter. 3.9). The Heave Offering tithe was universally observed because everyone realised how serious this was. The penalty for eating food which contained First or Second Tithe was to pay back the tithe plus one fifth, but the penalty for eating food which contained Heave Offering was death, which was assumed to be enacted by God (m. Bik. 2.1; m. Hal. 3.1).[6]

The only time when tithing was not considered essential was when eating a ‘snack’ (aray), which was normally defined as a handful of food. Although all pious Jews removed the First and Second tithe before eating food that they had grown themselves, and many of them also tithed food that they had bought (just in case it had not been tithed), even assiduous tithers were relaxed about eating a snack even from food which was known to be untithed.[7] This was probably based on the law that an ox may eat from the grain which it treads out (Deut. 25:4), which implied that other workers could also eat a snack from food before it was due for tithing (cf. m. Maas. 2.7; 3.2).

The concept of snacks was only important on Sabbaths and High Festival Days because on any other day you could easily tithe food for yourself just before you ate it, but discarding some of the food and saying a prayer of tithing (m. Dem. 5.1-2; 7.1). Although Heave Offerings and First Tithes should be given to a priest, small quantities could simply be thrown aside or destroyed to make sure no-one accidentally ate it (cf. m. Hal. 4.8). But on a Sabbath or a High Festival Day this was impossible because tithing was considered to be labour, and therefore prohibited (m. Betz. 5.2).

There is a difference between the Hillelites and Shammaites rules on snacks which is not spelled out, but which is implicit in their various rulings. The Hillelites applied the concept of snacks to food from which Heave Offering had not yet been removed, but the Shammaites considered that even snacks were not exempt from the Heave Offering tithe.[8] Therefore the Shammaites allowed snacking from newly harvested food which was already in a container (such as the pulses) because the Heave Offering would have been removed as soon as it was put into the container, but they did not allow snacking from newly harvested food which had not yet been put into a container (such as the Arum roots or plucked corn). The Hillelites, on the other hand, allowed snacks from any of these foods but on a Sabbath or High Festival Day they would not allow anyone to put these foods into container for the first time, because this would mean they would have to tithe its Heave Offering.

This explains why the Shammaites did not allow any snacks in the tradition about Arum roots on a Sabbath (t. Maas. 3.10, above). These roots were partially harvested—they had been dug up then buried together in the ground to keep them fresh—so no Heave Offering had been offered because this did not fall due till they were collected and measured. The Shammaites did not allow even the smallest amount of the Arum roots to be eaten on the Sabbath—not because they disallowed the work of sorting a snack, but because they disallowed the eating of food which contained some Heave Offering which was due. The Hillelites allowed a snack from the Arum roots, though only so long as the roots were not collected into a container, because as soon as this happened they became liable for tithing.

The Dispute with Jesus

We can now see more clearly what was behind the Pharisees’ dispute with Jesus concerning plucking corn on a Sabbath. The Pharisees who complained were presumably Shammaites, because Hillelites allowed the plucking, preparation and eating of a handful of corn. The Shammaites allowed a handful of corn to be plucked and prepared but this could not be eaten because the food contained a tiny amount of Heave Offering, and no tithing was allowed on a Sabbath. If the disciples ate the corn, they would also eat some Heave Offering which was only allowed to be eaten by priests.

Jesus replied by adducing the example of David when he allowed his men to eat the Bread of the Presence which was also only allowed to priests. The fact that this bread was traditionally eaten on the Sabbath made this story poignant, but the most important fact was that the Bread of the Presence was forbidden to non-priests (Lev. 24:9), just like Heave Offerings. This is the fact which Jesus emphasised in his reply (“which it was not lawful for any but the priests to eat,” Matt. 12:4 // Mark 2:26 // Luke 6:4).

All three gospels point out that the disciples were “plucking” the corn. This was important because it showed that this was newly harvested food, and not food which they had plucked and placed in a container on a previous day. If this had been the case, they would have tithed the Heave Offering at the time, so it would have been permitted as a snack on the Sabbath, even by the Shammaites.

Luke adds that the disciples also rubbed the grain which was equivalent to threshing it, and they presumably blew on it, which was equivalent to winnowing. All Jews at the time, so far as we know, permitted the labour of preparing a handful of food for immediate consumption (i.e. a snack), even on a Sabbath. They specifically allowed rubbing and blowing on a handful of corn on a Sabbath (t. Betz. 1.20). However, Luke and Matthew specifically add that the disciples then ate the corn, which was not permitted by Shammaite Pharisees.

Luke and Matthew add other details which are not found in Mark. Luke is careful to point out that only “some” (τινές) of the Pharisees complained that this was not lawful (Luke 6:2). Matthew also appears to be aware that non-Shammaite Pharisees were not concerned about eating a snack, so he adds details which addressed other Pharisees. He addresses the general topic of doing work on the Sabbath by pointing out that priests work in the Temple (Matt. 12:5), so that some things are more important than the Sabbath prohibition of labour.

All three gospels contain Jesus’ emphasis that David broke the law of the Bread of the Presence, and Matthew points out that he did it for a reason—they were hungry (Matt. 12:1). It was a well-known principle that even Sabbath laws could be broken if a life was in danger (it is assumed in early traditions in t. Shab. 15.16; m. Shab. 16.7; 18.3–19.1). One of the Scriptures later used to justify this was Lev. 18:5, “he shall live by them” (i.e. the commandments), which was interpreted to mean that saving life was more important than keeping commandments.[9] In m. Yom. 8.6 one is allowed to break the Sabbath law in the case of life-threatening hunger, but no-one would regard normal hunger as sufficient reason to override the Law. And yet, as Jesus pointed out, this is precisely what David did.

This example of David’s behaviour therefore allows Jesus to come to his startling conclusion: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).[10] This implies presuppositions which are opposite to those behind rabbinic reasoning. They reasoned that Sabbath laws could be broken if life was in danger, on the assumption that the Law is more important than anything except the preservation of life itself. Jesus points out that David assumed that the Law was given to help humans, and if it was more helpful to ignore it, then it was correct to do so. Therefore, instead of the purpose of man being to fulfil the commandments (the philosophy of the Pharisees), Jesus says that the purpose of the commandments are to help man. This conclusion is perfectly embodied in the phrase: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

In later generations, some rabbis would partially agree with this teaching. A similar saying is attributed to Simeon b. Menasia (end of 2nd cent.): “The Sabbath is handed over to you, and you are not handed over to the Sabbath” (Mekh. 81, Shab. 1), though he might have meant that: “the Sabbath is a precious gift, so we should not begrudge the difficulties in keeping it.” In Matthew the justification for work in general on a Sabbath is proved from the verse: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matt. 12:7 citing Hos. 6:6), which was later used by Johanan b. Zakkai for a related purpose. When the ruined Temple was pointed out to him by a disparing rabbi, Johanan said: “My son, be not grieved; we have another atonement as effective as this. And what is it? It is acts of loving-kindness, as it is said, For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice (Hos. 6:6)” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, version A, chap. 4). But the overwhelming philosophy of the rabbis was that man was created to fulfil the law, and that this was his chief delight. During the first half of the first century, the Sabbath laws in particular were greatly expanded and carefully defined. A detailed ‘fence’ of extra rulings were added to ensure that no-one would accidentally break an actual law of the Sabbath, nor even appear to be doing so.[11]


The debate between Jesus and the Pharisees about plucking and eating corn did not concern labour on the Sabbath but concerned eating food which was allowed only to priests. The specific matter at dispute was a difference between Hillelite and Shammaite teaching which forms the background of a handful of first century debates. Hillelites allowed the consumption of newly plucked food as a snack but Shammaites did not, because it contained a tiny portion of Heave Offering which could not be tithed on a Sabbath.

It is not surprising that they would want to know where Jesus stood on this matter. The Pharisees who criticised Jesus’ disciples were presumably Shammaites, though Jesus’ response would have offended all Pharisees, including the Hillelites who at first might have thought Jesus agreed with their opinion. The internal Pharisee disputes which have been recorded are all concerned with how humans can fulfil the Law. But Jesus said that instead of creating humans to obey the Law, God created the Law to aid humans.

The response of Jesus was therefore exactly in line with the reasoning of the Pharisees when they criticised his disciples’ actions. Jesus answered not only their specific objection but also their underlying presuppositions, leaving them little room for reply.

  • [1] See details at
  • [2] A third School tradition which might appear to be relevant is m. Maas. 4.2, but the context indicates that this concerns tithing for snacks performed after the Sabbath on food intended for the Sabbath.
  • [3] The concept of allowing incidental snacks without tithing was already regarded as an established ruling by the schools before 70 CE (m. Maas. 4.2 // t. Maas. 3.2) and by Johanan b. Zakkai and Eliezer b. Hyrcanus just after 70 CE (Yohanan b. Zakkai in t. Maas. 2.1 and Eliezer b. Hyrcanus in m. Maas. 2.4 // t. Maas. 2.2; m. Maas. 4.3).
  • [4] The tradition at m. Betz. 5.2 is difficult to date, but this principle is presupposed through the whole tractate, including the School disputes, so it must date back at least to the early first century.
  • [5] In Lev. 24:8 & 1 Chr. 9:32 the Bread of the Presence was to be changed every Sabbath, which is taken by Mishnah to imply that the previous week’s bread was divided and presumably eaten on a Sabbath—see m. Men. 11.7 cf. m. Suk. 5.7f.
  • [6] The actual penalty was extirpation, which originally meant that you were “cut off from Israel,” which by rabbinic times was understood to mean that God would visit you with an early death—cf. y. Bik. 2.1; b. MK. 28a. W. Horbury finds this concept in various early sources (Sib. Or. 3.259-61; Heb. 2:2 with Heb. 3:16f, 12:25; Heb. 10:28; Philo Spec. 2.253=46)—see “Extirpation and Excommunication,” Vetus Testamentum 35 (1985): 13-38, esp. p. 32.
  • [7] See m. Maas. 1.5; 2.4; and some later traditions at m. Ter. 9.7; m. Maas. 1.7; m. Hal. 3.1.
  • [8] This Shammaite opinion is related to the opinion of Eliezer b. Hyrcanus (m. Maas. 2.4), which may explain why the Jerusalem Talmud of this tractate considered Eliezer to be a Shammaite—cf. y. Betz. 1.4.
  • [9] See b. Sanh. 74a; y. Sanh. 3.6, 21b; y. Shebi. 4.2, 35a; t. Shab. 15.17. There were three traditional exceptions: idolatry, incest and murder, and according to b. AZ. 27b this was the text relied on by R. Ishmael when he said it was better that someone should die than to be healed in the name of Jesus (an example of idolatry).
  • [10] This saying is found only in Mark, but it is more likely that later it was removed by Matthew and Luke than that it was added by Mark. Luke and Matthew had a good reason to remove it because it implied that the following saying (“the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath”) is non-dominical—i.e. ‘son of man’ in that saying parallels “man” in the preceding saying, so that it means ‘an ordinary man’ as it does normally in Biblical Hebrew and in first century Aramaic. A good summary of this usage is presented by Maurice Casey in Aramaic Sources of Mark’s Gospel, Society for New Testament studies monograph series; 102 (Cambridge: CUP, 1998), 111-121. The ‘dominical’ use (i.e. “Son of Man” as a title for Jesus) became the normal understanding of this phrase in the church, including in this saying.
  • [11] See for example m. Shab. 6.1-4. The traditions from before 70 C.E. are listed and analysed in my Traditions of the Rabbis vol. 2A (forthcoming).

The Teaching of Balaam

Revised: 11-Apr-2007

Each May I lead a student tour to Greece and Turkey. During two weeks of travel and study, we explore the growth of the Early Church as it expanded from its Jewish setting in the Land of Israel and met the challenges of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles in the Hellenistic world. One of the profound realizations we have made is how much of its Jewish character the Hellenistic Church retained. In fact, the term “Hellenistic Church” should better be understood as a geographical description rather than one describing cultural identity.

On a recent trip, I was struck anew by the integration of Jewish methods of interpretation of the Old Testament in the letter to the church at Pergamum (Rev. 2:12-16). On the one hand, the profoundly Jewish flavor of the Book of Revelation is surprising. It was likely one of the last New Testament books written. By that point in time, most scholars assume that Christianity was well on its way in departing from its Jewish context. On the other hand, scholarship has recognized the significant Hebraic influences on the Greek language of the Book of Revelation. These linguistic undercurrents may reflect the distinctly Jewish milieu of the apocalyptic work, telling us something about both the author and his readers.

And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: “The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword: ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; you hold fast my name and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice immorality. So you also have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.’” (Rev. 2:12-16)

Already at the turn of the century, W. R. Ramsay suggested that “the throne of Satan” was related to the fact that Pergamum was the first city in Asia to be awarded the cherished neokoros status, and granted the privilege to be the site of the first temple in Asia dedicated to a Roman emperor—Caesar Augustus. The pressure to demonstrate fidelity to the empire made the practice of emperor worship a necessity, and a challenge for Jews and for the Early Church. The Jewish king, Herod the Great, a century before the Book of Revelation, had built three temples to Augustus in Israel—at Caesarea, Sebaste (biblical Samaria) and Paneas (which was later renamed Caesarea Philippi). He did this to demonstrate his loyalty to his imperial benefactor. Yet, it seems that participation in the imperial cult was the focal point in the rebuke to the church at Pergamum.

For our limited study, I am particularly interested in the thrust of the author’s rebuke and the enigmatic reference to “the teaching of Balaam,” which seems to be derived from the author’s understanding of the Moabite prophet’s instruction to Balak. What is interesting is that no indication is given in the story of Balaam (Num. 22-24) to any advice by the prophet to Balak. Even less is it recorded that he encouraged the Israelites to participate with the Moabites in idolatry and sexual immorality.

Instead, this is one of those occasions when it is necessary for the Christian reader to be familiar with first-century Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament account. The letter to the church of Pergamum draws upon contemporary understanding of the Biblical event which had “filled in” Balaam’s role in Israel’s downfall. The genesis for this interpretative evolution is the obscure reference to the event in Moses’ words to Israel.

Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? Behold, these caused the people of Israel, in the matter [or, by the word] of Balaam, to act treacherously against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD.” (Num. 31:6)

Greek translators of the Hebrew Scriptures already understood the Hebrew term דָּבָר (dabar)—which can be understood as “matter, thing, word, event”—to mean “the counsel or advice [of Balaam] to turn astray.”

Moses said to them: “Have you let all the women live? For they were to the Israelites in keeping with the word of Balaam to turn astray, to show contempt for the word of the Lord with regard to Peor, and a plague came upon the congregation of the Lord.” (Septuagint, Num. 31:16)

So also in an early Aramaic translation of Numbers 31:6, the translators understood Balaam to have taken an active role in the sin of the Israelites:

They were a stumbling block to the Israelites at the advice of Balaam, to falsify in the name of the Lord in the matter of the idol of Peor. (Targum Neophyti on Num. 31:6)

The first-century Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, also expanded the Biblical account to provide the precise advice Balaam gave to Balak.

“You have in your countrymen, king,” he said, “women of outstanding beauty, and there is nothing to which a man more easily falls captive than a woman’s beauty….

“But you must instruct them not to allow their wooers to enjoy their charms at once…. One of those (women) should say, with saucy air: ‘You must not be permitted to enjoy my favors until you have left the ways of your fathers and become a convert…if you are willing to take part in the libations and sacrifices which we offer to idols of stone and wood and other images.’” (Philo, Moses 1:294-298)

We witness the tendency of first-century Jewish interpreters to take advantage of ambiguities in the Biblical narrative to use the stories as vehicles to preach to their contemporaries. The expansions were not simply additions to the Biblical story, but an opportunity to caution their fellow Jews not to be enticed by the pagan idolatry which surrounded them or the loose sexual mores of the Greco-Roman world.

For their teaching purposes Balaam became a prime example of greed, idolatry and the evils which challenged the community of faith. This is in spite of the fact that according to the literal record of Scripture, Balaam did nothing wrong. He could certainly be faulted for being willing to speak against Israel. Yet, at the same time, he was one who had “knowledge of the Most High” (Num. 24:16), and he had only prophesied what God instructed him. Thus, three times he blessed the children of Israel rather than following Balak’s request to curse them. However, through a creative transformation, this complex figure came to symbolize the challenges and pitfalls of the people of God in the first century. The “teaching of Balaam” in the Book of Revelation, which resulted in “idolatry and immorality” by the Christians in Pergamum, parallels the post-Biblical presentation of Balaam’s role in Israel’s downfall given in an early Jewish midrash.

“They called to the people and offered sacrifices to their Gods” [Num. 25:2] for they followed Balaam’s advice…and set up tents and put prostitutes in them with all their finery…. Whenever a Jew would pass by in the market place…a girl would come out in her adornments and her perfume and seduce him by saying, “Why is it that we love you and you hate us—here, take this piece of merchandise for free—after all, we are both descended from a single ancestor, Terah, the father of Abraham. Wouldn’t you like to eat from our sacrificial offerings?” (Midrash Tanhuma, Balak 18)

Our study has brought to light the meaning of the “teaching of Balaam” in the letter to the church at Pergamum. We have seen that the notion is couched in contemporary Jewish interpretation of the story of Balaam with the purpose to address the spiritual challenges of the Jewish community living in a pagan world. Two points are particularly important for New Testament readers.

Relief of Balaam on the bronze doors of the basilica of St. Zeno in Verona. (Photo courtesy of Mattana.)
Relief of Balaam on the bronze doors of the basilica of St. Zeno in Verona. (Photo courtesy of Mattana.)

First, one should note how Jewish the letter to the Christians at Pergamum was—even at such a late date! Without an understanding of first-century Jewish interpretation of the story of Balaam, little sense could be made of “the teaching of Balaam” in the author’s warning. This fact argues against the common Christian opinion that from the day of Pentecost the Church was determined to depart from its Jewish context. The writer of the letter of Revelation and the congregation in Pergamum at the close of the first century A.D. still expressed themselves in profoundly Jewish ways.

Second, once again we see how important it is to engage first-century Jewish thought and faith to appreciate fully the message of the New Testament. Exploring the “Jewish roots of Christianity” does not mean simply a familiarity with the Old Testament, but instead, how that book was read and lived out by Jews contemporary to Jesus and his first followers. It underscores the immutable truth that Jesus came “in the fullness of time.” We as Christians living at the beginning of the third millennium must keep in mind God’s sovereign act in revealing Himself at a very specific point in history. As we look forward to the challenges before us, we must remember that our faith is founded upon one sent (not by accident!) at a particular point in time and in the midst of a particular people. It is these historical facts which must shape our reading of the ancient story to reveal God’s truth and determine how we might best serve Him in the present era.

Seder with Family

A visitor to Israel last night (Saturday, April 7, 2001) might have been puzzled by seeing the streets heavy with traffic, especially since it was already one o’clock in the morning. The reason was that last night was the first night of the annual week-long Passover festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt thousands of years ago, and people were returning home after taking part in a Passover Seder (the ceremonial meal on the first night of Passover).

David and I were a part of the heavy traffic, having spent the evening celebrating at the home of the parents of our son Natan’s fiancée, Liat. Liat’s family included her parents, grandmother, two younger sisters (one of whom is married and was present with her husband and 3-month-old daughter, Liat’s parents’ first grandchild), and 10-year-old brother. Also around the table was the brother of Liat’s married sister’s husband, and the brother’s wife, as well as a guest.

Liat’s abba (father) conducted the Seder with much zest, at times shouting his enthusiasm for the story and causing his children to remind him that “Abba, we’re not deaf!” and “Abba, we’re here!” Abba continued proclaiming the ancient story undaunted by the commotion at the far end of the table caused by the cute antics of his new granddaughter, or by grandmother, who, impatient at the long ceremony, snacked on charoset (a mixture of chopped apples and nuts flavored with cinnamon and wine, which represents the mortar that the Israelites used to make bricks in Egypt) and small bits of matzah (unleavened crackers).

For young children, the highlight of any Seder is the search for the afikoman, a portion of the middle matzah of three matzot that are wrapped in a napkin and placed on the Seder table. This portion is usually hidden somewhere in the room by abba or imma (mother) near the beginning of the Seder. The search takes place near the end of the Seder—a custom instituted to keep small children awake throughout the long evening—and whoever finds the afikoman may ask abba for a prize (usually money). At our Seder, the afikoman was hidden by Liat’s imma, who hid it so well that eventually even abba and David joined in the search, opening drawers and cupboards and creating chaos, and drawing laughter from the other Seder participants.

In the end it was Liat’s little brother who found the afikoman and claimed the prize. With that, the Seder quickly concluded with more communal singing and the final course of the meal. Strawberries, a large Passover cake and unleavened cookies brought calm to the dinner table.

As we joined the post-midnight traffic for the 10-minute drive to our house, I closed my eyes and realized that in our 32 years of married life in Israel, this was the first time David and I had ever celebrated Passover with relatives.

Don’t Throw Away That Piece of Bread!

Revised: 13-Dec-2012

When Richard and Lucinda (Jerusalem Perspective volunteers) first came to Israel, they noticed plastic sacks containing pieces of bread hanging from the sides of the trash containers along the street where we live. When they asked me about this, I couldn’t give an answer, but later remembered that people here do not throw away their leftover bread. I had heard that Jews consider it a sin to throw bread away, but never knew why.

I went to David’s library, pulled out the Encyclopaedia Judaica volume with the entry “Bread” and read that since biblical times,

…providing bread for the poor was regarded as a great religious duty (Isa. 58:7; Prov. 22:9); the withholding of it from the hungry, a sin (Job 22:7). Even Micah the idolater (Judg. 17) was not deprived of his share in the world to come because he provided bread for the poor ([Babylonian Talmud, Tractate] Sanh[edrin] 103b). Whenever R[abbi] Huna broke bread for a meal, he first opened his door and said, “Let anyone in need come and eat” ([Babylonian Talmud,] Ta’an[it] 20b)…. (Encyclopaedia Judaica 4:1333-1335)

The importance of sharing one’s bread with the poor has remained in the Jewish consciousness until today. Many people do not want to throw away bread. Instead of dumping their bread along with the rest of their garbage into the garbage carts parked along the streets, they save the bread in plastic sacks and hang it from the metal projections on the sides of the carts (used to hoist the carts into the garbage trucks). That way, the bread is potentially available to the poor. Not all Jews in Israel follow this custom, but lots do, especially here in our neighborhood of Maoz Zion.

It is not unusual to see hunks of bread or part of a roll lying on a curb, or on top of a wall. One day while sitting in the car in front of the post office waiting for David, I noticed a young, poorly dressed man walking along the sidewalk. Suddenly, he turned around and proceeded to walk in the opposite direction. After a short time, he again made a complete turn and continued in the direction he originally was going. This time, he walked close to the wall of the post office building, and without slowing his walk or turning his head, he raised his right arm and grabbed a piece of bread that had been lying on the ledge of the wall. This was the first time I had ever seen this happen and I realized that this poor man was truly hungry.

Challah, bread for Shabbat. Photograph by Todd Bolen. Photo ©

One Sunday morning, while walking our dog, I noticed a plastic bag hanging from the side of a garbage cart. In it was a whole loaf of delicious Sabbath bread, plus half a loaf of sliced regular bread. I thought to myself, “Hey, this is good stuff!” and brought the bag home. The bread came in handy for sandwiches, French toast, and so forth. A neighbor uses such bread for her cats and chickens. Eventually, if no one takes the bread, the garbage collectors remove it.

Bread has a special, almost sacred, connotation in Jewish life. Whenever bread is eaten, even a piece the size of an olive, a blessing must be said. Jesus referred to “bread” many times in his teachings, and he taught his disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

“As bread cast upon the waters will return after many days” (Eccles. 11:1), so, “He that has a generous [lit., good] eye will be blessed; for he gives his bread to the poor” (Prov. 22:9; cf. Matt. 6:22-23). Let us think twice before we toss our leftover bread into the trash.

Reading the Landscape: Neot Kedumim, the Biblical Landscape Reserve in Israel

A lively group of children are grinding wheat kernels between two stones, in preparation for baking their own pita-bread. In a nearby grainfield, visitors are searching for tares among the wheat. Another group are tasting ripe sycamore figs and learning why it was a sycamore tree that Zacchaeus climbed in Jericho. Under a grape arbor in “Isaiah’s Vineyard,” yet another group of visitors are munching ripe, sun-warmed fruit as their guide explains the vine-to-wine process and the symbolism of the grape.

This is Neot Kedumim, 625 acres of reconstructed biblical landscapes in Israel’s Modi’in region (2,000 years ago home to the Maccabees, today ten minutes from Ben-Gurion Airport).[1]

Hyssop (growing out of the rock, cf. 1 Kgs. 4:33) and a cedar of Lebanon in the "Garden of Wisdom Literature" at Neot Kedumim.
Hyssop (growing out of the rock, cf. 1 Kgs. 4:33) and a cedar of Lebanon in the “Garden of Wisdom Literature” at Neot Kedumim.

Neot Kedumim was built, quite literally, with a spade in one hand and the Bible in the other. Stone by stone and tree by tree, the staff has transformed once-barren hills and valleys into a network of pastoral landscapes representing regions of ancient Israel or themes of the Bible. Centuries-old transplanted olive trees thrive on the “Hill of the Menorah,” almond trees bloom in the “Garden of Choice Products,” and cedars native to Lebanon are being persuaded to grow in the “Garden of Wisdom Literature.”

The world’s only biblical landscape reserve, Neot Kedumim brings together the worlds of nature and the Bible. The text is placed in its original context—the land—in order to show how the biblical tradition has incorporated Israel’s nature and agriculture and used them to convey important ideas.

Take, for instance, as simple and common a landscape feature as the various thorns and thistles that grow everywhere during Israel’s long, hot, dry summer. A nuisance for farmers everywhere, these prickly plants are particularly troublesome for those who work the land in Israel’s arid climate, where thorns and thistles are the prevalent wild weed. Now, as in biblical times, farmers in Israel wage a constant battle against the many varieties of thorns that threaten to take over their fields—as every gardener knows, if left alone, the weeds always win. Useful only as fencing (certain varieties served as “biblical barbed wire”) or as fuel, these dry thorns and thistles can also cause a single careless spark to catch fire and sweep through acre after acre of cultivated fields. If destroyed or abandoned, inhabited areas will typically be covered with various thorny plants.

Small wonder, then, that thorns and thistles, briers and brambles, figure throughout the Scriptures as signs of curse, punishment and destruction. When Adam is expelled from the Garden of Eden, the soil is cursed: “It will produce thorn and thistles for you” (Gen. 3:18). Prophesying destruction, Isaiah declares that “every place where there were a thousand grapevines, worth a thousand shekels of silver, will become briers and thorns” (Isa. 7:23).

In the parable of the sower, the thorns, often growing at the edge of a grain field, are destructive: “Some seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it,” as “the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word” (Matt 13:7, 22).

The crown of thorns is a special case. One of the leading candidates for the crown of thorns is a spiny shade tree bearing small, crabapple-like fruit, called jujube in English, אָטָד (atad) in Hebrew, and Zizyphus spina-christi in Latin. This is also the tree that features in the parable of Jotham (Jdg. 9).

Jotham, the youngest half-brother of the unscrupulous Abimelech, arrives on the scene as Abimelech’s unruly followers are about to crown him king. Rather than risk a head-on confrontation with the Abimelech faction, Jotham tells the crowd a parable about trees: Once the trees were looking for a king. The olive, fig and grapevine—highly valued plants in biblical times—each refused. Only the atad agreed, saying: “If you really mean to anoint me as your king, then come and take shelter in my shade” (Jdg. 9:15).

Jotham’s audience, people of the land, were familiar with the atad: its initially appealing shade and fruit, but also its aggressive thorniness, the secondary importance of its fruit compared to the olive, fig and grape—and most of all, the fate of anyone who “takes shelter in its shade.” For the atad’s wide-spreading roots, extending as far as the shade of its branches, are notorious for leaching all nourishment from the soil. As the people well knew, anything planted under the shade of the atad had a dismal future. The subtext regarding the impending kingship of Abimelech was clear—and Judges 9 goes on to describe a bloody civil war between Abimelech and his former supporters that broke out only three years after he became king.

When the crown of thorns appears in Matthew 27 as an instrument of mockery and ridicule, it is against the background of dozens of uncongenial biblical thorns, from the early chapters of Genesis onward. The identification of the atad, the Zizyphus spina-christi, as both the tree representing the false and destructive king in Jotham’s parable and the crown of thorns adds a note of particularly cruel irony.

  • [1] Neot Kedumim is dedicated to exploring and demonstrating the ties between the biblical tradition and the nature and agriculture of the land of Israel, as expressed in Jewish and Christian prayers, holidays and symbols. The reserve’s reconstructed biblical landscapes are open to guided and self-guided tours by groups and individuals.

    Along with hundreds of varieties of plants are ancient and reconstructed olive and wine presses, threshing floors, cisterns and ritual baths. A camel, sheep, goats, and cows of the native, lean variety graze in the fields. “Sukkah” shelters protect visitors from the rain or sun, according to season. “Woodland stages” surrounded by wooden benches seating up to 1,500 offer a pastoral setting for special events.

    What becomes clear at Neot Kedumim is that while the universal messages of the Bible echo around the world, the text, in all its hundreds of translations, always speaks in a particular idiom—that of Israel’s nature and agriculture.

    Walking through the reconstructed olive groves, vineyards and grainfields at Neot Kedumim, sitting in the shade of its transplanted date palms, enjoying the fragrance of the myrtle and hyssop that now flourish in its rolling hills, this “ancient Esperanto”—the language of Israel’s ecology—lives for us as it did for our agrarian forebears, the people of the Bible.

“Ears of Corn”?

Revised: 14-May-13

The King James Version of Luke 6:1 speaks of the disciples plucking ears of corn,[1] which to an American suggests yellow sweet corn rather than the grain the King James translators had in mind. In fact, corn is a generic term used to refer to the most important cereal crop of a region, be it maize, wheat or oats. In the Land of Israel, the main field crops in ancient times were חִטִּים (khitim, wheat) and שְׂעוֹרָה (se’orah, barley). Barley is mentioned thirty-four times in the Hebrew Scriptures, thirteen times together with wheat.

The Torah commands that at harvest time a sheaf of the first grain harvested is to be brought to the priest to be waved before the LORD as an offering. This was done on the second day of the Passover festival (Lev. 23:10-11). The Torah does not specify which grain is meant, but the commandment has always been understood to refer to barley, which ripens in Israel at the time of Passover.

Barley flour was less expensive than wheat flour, being coarser and less tasty, and was used commonly in the bread baked by the poor. Because barley can be grown on steeply sloping land or in regions where rainfall is insufficient for wheat production, its distribution was quite widespread in ancient times.

Barley is so inferior to wheat that in ancient sources it is often mentioned as animal feed (1 Kings 4:28; Mishnah, Sotah 2:1). Even so, because it ripens a month or more before wheat, it was what was brought to the Temple on Passover as a thanks offering.

Ruth with a sheaf of barley. From a mosaic in the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.
Ruth with a sheaf of barley. From a mosaic in the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

Fish, Storms and a Boat

Adam gave names only to animals and birds, apparently avoiding fish entirely (Gen. 2:19-20). The names of about fifty fish are mentioned in rabbinic literature, but the Torah merely makes a general distinction between clean fish, which Jews are permitted to eat (vertebrate), and unclean (without bones) (Lev. 11:9-12; Deut. 14:9-10). Clean fish are generally recognized by the presence of fins and scales.

The reason for this lack of detailed information about fish in the Hebrew Scriptures is simple: the early Jewish experience was born in the desert, and fish were far less known than other creatures. Nor were the writers of the Gospels much more familiar with the names of the fish of the Sea of Galilee. Thus, in Matthew 13:48, the “bad” fish were the catfish, which because they had no scales, could not be eaten according to the Mosaic dietary laws, and the “good” were all the others in the catch.

Small Fish

The Gospels mention another difference between fish—that of size: the “large fish,” musht (St. Peter’s Fish) and biny (barbels), and the “small fish,” sardines. “Small fish” are mentioned clearly in the miracle of the feeding of the 4,000. According to Matthew 15:34 and Mark 8:5-7, “seven loaves and a few small fish” are what the followers of Jesus had brought to eat.

The story of the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 appears in all four Gospels. Matthew 14:17, Mark 6:38 and Luke 9:13 mention “five loaves and two fish.” John’s version (Jn. 6:9) is slightly different in that he specifies that the bread is loaves of barley and a different Greek word for fish is used, ὀψάρια (opsaria, small fish) instead of ἰχθύες (ichthyes, fish). We may assume that the small fish were not young individuals of large species, but rather sardines, which are by nature small. These, with bread, made up the staple diet of the local population.

Strabo, a first-century Roman geographer and historian, wrote that “at the place called Taricheai the lake supplies excellent fish for pickling” (Geographica XVI, 2:45). The center of the sardine pickling industry was the town of Magdala, called in Greek Ταριχέαι (Taricheai) meaning the place where fish are salted. It was the sardines that were most suited for pickling, since they appeared in large quantities during a short season from November to February and needed to be preserved. The large fish were sold fresh, and there was always a good market for them among the local population.

Sixth Century Mosaic Floor at Tabgha

Two small fish are pictured in a sixth-century A.D. mosaic floor at Tabgha in the Church of the Multiplication, which was built to commemorate the miracle performed by Jesus. We see a basket containing four loaves with a fish on either side. However, these fish do not appear to be from our lake. All fish caught in the Sea of Galilee have only a single dorsal fin, while those shown in the mosaic have two dorsal fins. The artist who designed the Tabgha mosaic probably came from abroad to do the job and worked from an established pattern. He clearly did not make it his business to inspect the fish of the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus, however, had a personal acquaintance with the life of Galilean fishermen, as can be seen from Matthew 7:9-10: “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?”

This reference to stone and snake is taken from the fisherman’s daily experience, and it symbolizes the frustration of a disappointing catch. It often happens that instead of fish the net brings in mostly stones, and it may even occur that together with the fish the net may haul up water snakes, which are common in the lake. One can imagine Jesus’ followers, carrying their bundles of bread and pickled sardines, appreciating these homely references to a reality they knew well.

Weather Forecasts

Gazing at the sky to forecast the weather is an age-old custom the world over, and the ancient fishermen of the Sea of Galilee watched the sky carefully. Knowing the moods of the lake was essential for their activities. We find an echo of this in Jesus’ saying: “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening’” (Matt. 16:2-3).

Natural phenomena have not changed in this region: a red evening sky means fair weather around the lake the following day, but a red morning sky signals stormy weather. The weather forecast in Matthew is accurate, and confirmed by generations of residents around the Sea of Galilee, including this writer.

Storms on the Lake

Storms on the Sea of Galilee are mentioned twice in the Gospels. In one place, Jesus’ disciples had gone ahead of him by boat to the other side of the lake but ran into a storm along the way. According to Matthew 14:24 (cf. Mark 6:48), their boat was being “buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.” Jesus came to their aid walking on the water and when he got into the boat with them, the storm winds ceased. Matthew added to this story another maritime event—Peter’s attempt to walk on the water (Matt. 14:28-31).

Mark and Matthew state that after this stormy voyage the disciples finally safely reached their destination: Gennesaret on the western shore (Matt. 14:34; Mark 6:53). According to John 6:17, the boat arrived at Capernaum, but in any case, both accounts indicate that the boat was heading into a winter storm, either southerly or westerly.

The other stormy event occurred when Jesus, again on a winter evening, sailed with his disciples from Capernaum to Gergesa (Matt. 8:28; Mark 5:1; Luke 8:26). During the voyage “a storm of wind came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in danger.” Jesus rebuked the wind and waves, “and they ceased, and there was a calm” (Luke 8:22-25; parallel accounts of this story are found in Matt. 8:23-27 and Mark 4:35-41).

This is an accurate description of an easterly storm on the Sea of Galilee, closely matching the experience of modern fishermen who have set out during the winter to fish for sardines along the northeastern edge of the lake and have been caught by the well-known easterly storm. Even today this storm, which usually starts in the early evening, is good cause for apprehension among fishermen.

Boat from Magdala

In February 1986, when a drought had drastically lowered the water level of the Sea of Galilee, an ancient wooden boat was excavated from the exposed lake bed near the coast at Migdal, ancient Magdala. Amid much publicity, it was painstakingly transported in its entirety to a building especially constructed to house the boat at Kibbutz Ginossar, not far from where the boat was found. In all probability, this boat sailed the Sea of Galilee for many years toward the end of the Second Temple period, and was used for both fishing and transportation.

How did this boat, made of wooden planks from the cedars of Lebanon, and oak ribs, survive for nearly 2,000 years? When it was no longer seaworthy, it was apparently left at the dockyard where parts from its interior were removed and used to repair other boats. In the course of this dismantling, the boat was covered with silt carried down by the sudden flooding of a nearby stream. It was this packaging of mud that preserved the boat until the day, nearly 2,000 years later, when it was discovered by two brothers, fishermen from Kibbutz Ginossar.

The boat is 8.8 meters long, 2.5 meters wide, and 1.25 meters deep (29 x 8 x 4 feet). These are almost exactly the measurements of boats that were used by seine-net fishermen on the Sea of Galilee until the middle of the twentieth century when such fishing was discontinued.

It has been called the Kinneret Boat, the Magdala Boat, the Galilee Boat, and the Jesus Boat, and it is the first detailed message we have received from the maritime and fishing history of the Kinneret. Pottery sherds found within and near the boat, as well as carbon-14 dating of the wood, indicate that the boat plied the Sea of Galilee during the first century C.E.—a time that was crucial in the history of the Jews, and for the entire world.

In the early years of that century, Jesus and his disciples sailed the Sea of Galilee in boats like this one, while in 67 C.E., during the great revolt of the Jews against the Romans, the Sea of Galilee was the scene of a naval battle between the Jewish nationalists in similar boats and a fleet of Roman vessels (Josephus, The Jewish War 3:522-531). Beyond any doubt, this boat sailed the Sea of Galilee and docked countless times at ports that ringed the lake during that era.

Reconstruction of recently discovered "Jesus Boat."
Reconstruction of recently discovered “Jesus Boat.”