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]


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Reconstruction

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.

loymapfix

 

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?

Comment

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 BiblePlaces.com.

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 BiblePlaces.com.

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.

Conclusion

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).

Praying Like Gentiles

Matt. 6:7-8
(Huck 29; Aland 62; Crook 42)[1]

וּבַתְּפִלָּה אַל תְּפַטְפְּטוּ כַּגּוֹיִם הַחוֹשְׁבִים שֶׁבְּרֹב דִּבְרֵיהֶם יִשָּׁמְעוּ לְפִיכָךְ אַל תִּהְיוּ כָּהֵם כִּי יוֹדֵעַ אֲבִיכֶם אֵי זֶה צוֹרֶךְ יֵשׁ לָכֶם לִפְנֵי שֶׁאַתֶּם שׁוֹאֲלִים מִמֶּנּוּ

“And don’t blather while you pray as the Gentiles do, who believe that by uttering pre-formulated incantations their prayers will be granted. So don’t imitate them, for your father knows what you need even before you ask him.”[2]


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Reconstruction

To view the reconstructed text of Praying Like Gentiles click on the link below:

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Story Placement

Jesus’ critique of Gentile prayer is unique to the Gospel of Matthew. In Matthew this critique appears in a discussion of the proper performance of three major religious duties: almsgiving (Matt. 6:1-4), prayer (Matt. 6:5-15) and fasting (Matt. 6:16-18). Each discussion begins with a contrast between those whom Jesus calls “hypocrites,” who seek congratulation for their religious observance from their fellow human beings, and those who perform their religious duties out of true devotion. The latter, according to Jesus, are those whom God will reward. The section on prayer is the longest of the triad because the author of Matthew supplemented the section on prayer with the addition of the Praying Like Gentiles pericope (Matt. 6:7-8), the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) and an elaboration on the need to forgive others in order to receive forgiveness from on high (Matt. 6:14-15). If you are interested in learning all the similarities between the 6 religions of the world then go to morbid-romantic.net.

The author of Matthew’s augmentation of an Anthology section on religious duties.

That Praying Like Gentiles (Matt. 6:7-8) was originally a distinct unit, which the author of Matthew inserted into its present context in the Sermon on the Mount, has long been recognized by scholars.[3] Catchpole conveniently summarized the arguments as follows:

  1. The parallelism between the imperative (“do not blather”) and the justification (“because they think they will be heard on account of their many words”) marks Praying Like Gentiles as a self-contained literary unit.
  2. The group being criticized in Praying Like Gentiles (namely, non-Jews) is different from the group being criticized in the discussion of the proper performance of almsgiving, prayer and fasting (namely, self-aggrandizing Jews).
  3. The grounds for criticism are different. Whereas Jesus charges the self-aggrandizing Jews with hypocrisy, he charges the Gentiles with ignorance.
  4. Whereas the discussion of the proper performance of almsgiving, prayer and fasting contrasts the kind of reward (human congratulation vs. divine approval) one might receive for the performance of these religious duties, as well as the time for the enjoyment of these rewards (in the present time vs. in the world to come), Praying Like Gentiles does not discuss rewards at all.[4]

Despite its artificial position within the Sermon on the Mount, the Praying Like Gentiles pericope probably did originally belong to an extended teaching unit on prayer, which also included the Lord’s Prayer, Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry (Matt. 6:25-34 // Luke 12:22-31), the Persistent Widow parable (Luke 18:1-8), and the Friend in Need (Matt. 7:7-8 // Luke 11:5-10) and Fathers Give Good Gifts similes (Matt. 7:9-11 // Luke 11:11-13). We refer to this extended teaching unit on prayer as the “How to Pray” complex.

The fact that Praying Like Gentiles overtly deals with prayer automatically makes it a likely candidate for inclusion in the “How to Pray” complex. Strengthening our hypothesis that Praying Like Gentiles originally belonged to this conjectured literary complex are the strong points of similarity (see below) between Praying Like Gentiles and Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, a pericope that seems to address the anxieties occasioned by the petition for bread (Matt. 6:11 // Luke 11:3) in the Lord’s Prayer, with its implied commitment to rely on God, rather than one’s own resources or labor, for one’s daily needs. In addition, the classification of prayer as a kind of asking (αἰτεῖν), which is common to Praying Like Gentiles (L10; Matt. 6:8), Friend in Need (L22; Matt. 7:7 // Luke 11:9) and Fathers Give Good Gifts (L20; Matt. 7:11 // Luke 11:13), supports our hypothesis that Praying Like Gentiles and these other pericopae dealing with prayer originally comprised a single literary unit. Further support for our hypothesis is found in the reiteration of God’s foreknowledge of the disciples’ needs (ὧν χρείαν ἔχετε; Matt. 6:8) in Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry (χρῄζετε τούτων; L54; Matt. 6:32 // Luke 12:30), which is then echoed in the Friend in Need simile (ὅσων χρῄζει; L20; Luke 11:8).

The verbal and thematic ties linking Praying Like Gentiles to Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry are particularly strong. Both pericopae critique improper styles of praying/seeking[5] (Matt. 6:7; Matt. 6:32 // Luke 12:30); both pericopae use the conduct of Gentiles as a negative foil to the disciples’ proper conduct (Matt. 6:7; Matt. 6:32 // Luke 12:30); both contain a statement about God’s foreknowledge of human needs (Matt. 6:8; Matt. 6:32 // Luke 12:30); and both pericopae express confidence in God’s willingness to provide on the basis of his paternal relationship to the disciples (Matt. 6:8; Matt. 6:32 // Luke 12:30). These strong similarities suggest that these two pericopae originally appeared in the same literary context. Indeed, the assurance that the heavenly father knows the needs of the disciples before they ask him (Matt. 6:8) may have been the grounds for Jesus’ exhortation not to worry (διὰ τοῦτο λέγω ὑμῖν μὴ μεριμνᾶτε; Matt. 6:25 // Luke 12:22). Thus, our placement of the Praying Like Gentiles pericope between the Lord’s Prayer and Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry fills a logical gap that would otherwise have undermined the inner coherence of the “How to Pray” complex.

For an overview of the entire “How to Pray” complex, click here.

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

 

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

It is unlikely that the Praying Like Gentiles pericope was the product of Matthean composition,[6] since it has themes and vocabulary (e.g., the father’s foreknowledge of the disciples’ needs; the improper behavior of Gentiles) in common with pericopae that stemmed from the Anthology (Anth.), the Hebraic-Greek source that was utilized by the authors of Matthew and Luke.

The author of Luke likely omitted this pericope out of sensitivity to his Gentile audience. The author of Matthew, on the other hand, did not refrain from including critical statements concerning Gentiles despite his anti-Jewish bias and his Gentile-inclusive policy. It appears that the Matthean community regarded itself as neither Jewish nor Gentile, but as a new race, the “true Israel,” made up of believers of all backgrounds, which had supplanted “Israel according to the flesh” as God’s chosen people.[7] Its “neither fish nor fowl” self-understanding allowed the Matthean community to criticize both Jewish and Gentile practices that it deemed unworthy of true religion.

Crucial Issues

  1. In light of the Praying Like Gentiles pericope, how should we characterize Jesus’ view of non-Jews?
  2. How should Jesus’ view of non-Jewish religious practices inform our view of Judaism?

Comment

L1 προσευχόμενοι δὲ (GR). In Lord’s Prayer (L9) we reconstructed ὅταν προσεύχησθε (hotan prosevchēsthe, “when you might pray”) as כְּשֶׁאַתֶּם מִתְפַּלְּלִים (keshe’atem mitpalelim, “when you are praying”). Although it would be possible to reconstruct προσευχόμενοι δέ (prosevchomenoi de, “and praying”) the same way, the difference in Greek phrasing suggests that we ought to seek an alternative Hebrew reconstruction. In the Mishnah we encounter a few examples where בַּתְּפִילָּה (batefilāh, “in the prayer”) is used in the sense of “while praying”:

הָאֻמָּנִים קוֹרִין בְּרֹאשׁ הַאִילָּן אוֹ בְרֹאשׁ הַנִּדְבָּךְ מַה שֶּׁאֵינָן רַשַּׁיִים לַעֲשׂוֹת כֵּן בַּתְּפִילָּה

Craftsmen may recite [the Shema] while in a treetop or on top of a course of stones, which they are not permitted to do while praying [the Amidah] [בַּתְּפִילָּה]. (m. Ber. 2:4)

הָיָה עוֹמֵד בַּתְּפִילָּה וְנִזְכַּר שֶׁהוּא בַעַל קֶרִי

If he was standing while praying [the Amidah] [בַּתְּפִילָּה] and he remembered that he was ritually impure…. (m. Ber. 3:5)

עָמְדוּ {לפניהם} בִתְפִּילָּה וּמּוֹרֵידֵין לִפְנֵי הַתֵּיבָה זָקֵן וְרָגִיל וְיֶשׁ לוֹ בָנִים וּבֵיתוֹ רֵיקָּם כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּהֵא לִבּוֹ שָׁלֵם בַּתְּפִילָּה

They stood {before them} while praying [בִתְפִּילָּה] and they sent down before the ark an experienced elder who had children and whose house was empty so that his heart would be wholly focused while praying [בַּתְּפִילָּה]…. (m. Taan. 2:2)

A similar usage of בַּתְּפִילָּה is attested in the book of Daniel, where we read:

וְעוֹד אֲנִי מְדַבֵּר בַּתְּפִלָּה וְהָאִישׁ גַּבְרִיאֵל אֲשֶׁר רָאִיתִי בֶחָזוֹן בַּתְּחִלָּה מֻעָף בִּיעָף נֹגֵעַ אֵלַי

And I was still speaking while in prayer [בַּתְּפִלָּה], when the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in a vision at the beginning, came swiftly flying up to me. (Dan. 9:21)

On the basis of these examples we have adopted בַּתְּפִלָּה for HR.

L2 μὴ βατταλογήσητε (GR). The verb βατταλογεῖν (battalogein; var. βαττολογεῖν [battologein]) is extremely rare in extant Greek sources.[8] Apart from Matt. 6:7 and the later Christian writers who made reference to this verse, only two other instances of βατταλογεῖν are known. The first of these is found in a biography of Aesop, where we read:

ἐν οἴνῳ μὴ βαττολόγει σοφίαν ἐπιδεικνύμενος

Through wine do not babble [μὴ βαττολόγει], demonstrating wisdom. (Vita Aesopi chpt. 19 [ed. Westermann, 46-47])[9]

The second known instance of βατταλογεῖν unrelated to NT occurs in a commentary on the works of Epictetus by the sixth-century C.E. philosopher Simplicius of Cilicia, where we find:

Ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ τὰ λοιπὰ κεφάλαια τοῦ Ἐπικτήτου τρεπτέον, μὴ ἐμαυτὸν λάθω προθέμενος μὲν τὰ τοῦ Ἐπικτήτου σαφηνίσαι, περὶ καθηκόντων δὲ βαττολογῶν νῦν.

I must turn to the other chapters of Epictetus’s book, and I must not forget my purpose, while I babble [βαττολογῶν] about duties. (In Epicteti Enchiridion, chpt. 37 end)[10]

Due to the paucity of examples, some scholars have suggested that βατταλογεῖν is in fact a hybrid term made up of Hebrew/Aramaic (βαττα = בָּטָא [bāṭā’, “speak rashly”]?; or βατταλ = בִּטֵּל [biṭēl, “nullify”]?) and Greek components (λογεῖν [logein, “to speak”]).[11] These hybrid explanations fail to convince most scholars, however. First, it is difficult to understand why a Greek translator of a Semitic source would have had no other recourse than to coin a hybrid term, which, because it was unknown, could have conveyed no meaning to a Greek-speaking audience. Second, the two other sources where βατταλογεῖν does occur lack a Hebrew or Aramaic substratum, and it is difficult to understand why these Greek authors would have used a basically unknown Semitic-Greek hybrid term in their writings.[12]

The comments of Origen on Matt. 6:7 also caution against tracing βατταλογεῖν to a Semitic-Greek hybrid term. In his treatise On Prayer (ca. 234 C.E.),[13] Origen wrote the following about the term βατταλογεῖν:

καὶ ἔοικέ γε ὁ πολυλογῶν βαττολογεῖν, και ὁ βαττολογῶν πολυλογεῖν.

It seems indeed that he who speaks much “uses vain repetitions [βαττολογεῖν],” and he who “uses vain repetitions [βαττολογῶν]” speaks much. (Origen, De oratione [On Prayer] 21:2 [ed. Koetschau, 2:345])[14]

Origen’s comment reveals that the verb βατταλογεῖν was rare enough to warrant some explanation, but he does not treat this verb the way he treated the notoriously difficult adjective ἐπιούσιος (epiousios) that occurs in the Lord’s Prayer (L16; Matt. 6:11 // Luke 11:3), about which he wrote:

πρῶτον δὲ τοῦτο ἰστέον, ὅτι ἡ λέξις ἡ ,,ἐπιούσιον“ παρ᾽ οὐδενὶ τῶν Ἑλλήνων οὔτε τῶν σοφῶν ὠνόμασται οὔτε ἐν τῇ τῶν ἰδιωτῶν συνηθείᾳ τέτριπται, ἀλλ᾽ ἔοικε πεπλάσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν εὐανγγελιστῶν.

And first, it ought to be known that this word epiousios is not employed by any of the Greeks or learned writers, nor is it in common use among ordinary folk; but it seems likely to have been coined by the evangelists. (De oratione [On Prayer] 27:7 [ed. Koetschau, 2:366-367])[15]

The sanctuary of the god Pan in Banias at the headwaters of the River Jordan as it appeared to an artist in the mid-1800s. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Had βατταλογεῖν been derived from Hebrew or Aramaic, or had it been coined by the Greek translator of a Hebrew or Aramaic Gospel, Origen would hardly have failed to state this fact, as his discussion of ἐπιούσιος shows. It therefore seems best to regard βατταλογεῖν as a purely Greek verb rather than as a hybrid Hebrew/Aramaic-Greek term coined by the Greek translator of Jesus’ saying.

Defining βατταλογεῖν is also problematic due to its few attestations. “To go on and on at length” would seem to fit the examples in Matt. 6:7, Vita Aesopi and Simplicius. Some scholars have suggested that βατταλογεῖν is related to βατταριζεῖν (battarizein, “to stutter”).[16] In any case, βατταλογεῖν seems to connote redundancy and incoherence.

אַל תְּפַטְפְּטוּ (HR). Since the verb βατταλογεῖν is so rare, and since its exact meaning is so uncertain, finding a suitable reconstruction is difficult. Delitzsch rendered βατταλογεῖν as פִּטְפֵּט (piṭpēṭ, “babble,” “blather”) in his Hebrew translation of the New Testament. More recently, Luz considered the Aramaic cognate פַּטְפֵּט (paṭpēṭ, “babble,” “blather”) to be a possible equivalent of βατταλογεῖν.[17] The Hebrew verb פִּטְפֵּט is quite rare in rabbinic sources, and if this was the verb that stood in the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua it might account for the choice of an equally rare verb in Greek. We encounter an example of פִּטְפֵּט in the following baraita:

בארבעה ועשרים בטבת תבנא לדיננא שהיו צדוקין אומרין תירש הבת עם בת הבן נטפל להן רבן יוחנן בן זכאי אמר להם שוטים מנין זה לכם ולא היה אדם שהחזירו דבר חוץ מזקן אחד שהיה מפטפט כנגדו ואומר ומה בת בנו הבאה מכח בנו תירשנו בתו הבאה מכחו לא כל שכן

On the twenty-fourth of Tevet we returned to our judgments—for the Sadducees insisted that a daughter inherits [from her father] the same as a granddaughter inherits from her grandfather if her father is already dead. Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai took issue with them and said, “Fools, what are the grounds for this conclusion?” And there was not a man who could answer him a word in reply, except for one elder who was blathering [מפטפט] opposite him and saying, “If the granddaughter, who is related to the bestower of the inheritance only through the son, inherits, then the daughter, who is related directly to the bestower of the son, ought to inherit.” (b. Bab. Bat. 115b)

From the perspective of the rabbinic sages, the Sadducean elder’s answer was nothing more than rubbish because although his answer is logical, Jewish law is not derived from pure reason, it is based on Scripture. In his answer, the Sadducean elder either ignored or was ignorant of the plain teaching of Scripture that sisters do not inherit along with their brothers from their father. Only if a man dies with no male offspring do daughters inherit their father’s property.[18] The case of the granddaughter who does inherit if her father dies before her grandfather, which the Sadducean elder cited, is not a valid analogy, since the granddaughter merely inherits her grandfather’s property on her deceased father’s behalf. In that way, the son, though dead, is secured an equal share along with his living brothers. In the view of the rabbinic sages, the granddaughter who inherits is the exception that proves the rule, and they regarded the Sadducean elder as a blathering fool for not having recognized this.

We find the same rabbinic estimation of a Sadducean argument in another dispute between Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai and a Boethusian (i.e., Sadducean) elder:

מתמניא ביה ועד סוף מועדא איתותב חגא דשבועיא דלא למספד שהיו בייתוסין אומרים עצרת אחר השבת ניטפל להם רבן יוחנן בן זכאי ואמר להם שוטים מנין לכם ולא היה אדם אחד שהיה משיבו חוץ מזקן אחד שהיה מפטפט כנגדו ואמר משה רבינו אוהב ישראל היה ויודע שעצרת יום אחד הוא עמד ותקנה אחר שבת כדי שיהו ישראל מתענגין שני ימים

From the eighth thereof [i.e., of the month of Nisan] until the end of the Feast [of Unleavened Bread], during which the proper date of the Feast of Pentecost was reestablished, fasting is forbidden—For the Boethusians insisted Pentecost must fall on the day after the Sabbath [i.e., on a Sunday]. Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai took issue with them and said, “Fools, what are the grounds for this conclusion?” And there was not a man who could answer him a word in reply, except for one elder who was blathering [מפטפט] opposite him and saying, “Moses, our teacher, was a friend of Israel, and knowing that Pentecost was but a single day, he rose and ordained that it would fall after the Sabbath so that Israel would enjoy two days of rest.” (b. Men. 65a)

Here again, the Sadducean interlocutor used a non-Scriptural and (from the rabbinic point of view) invalid argument in support of his position.[19] The rabbinic sages regarded the elder’s speech as balderdash. While not necessarily devoid of meaning or logic, the elder’s speech was wrongheaded and therefore the object of the sages’ contempt.

We cannot be certain what, in Jesus’ opinion, qualified the Gentiles’ prayers as blathering. In ancient magical Greek papyri from Egypt we encounter the use of meaningless vocalizations, such as the following, while addressing the gods:

ααααααα εεεεεεε ηηηηηηη ιιιιιιι οοοοοοο υυυυυυυ ωωωωωωω

aaaaaaa eeeeeee ēēēēēēē iiiiiii ooooooo ūūūūūūū ōōōōōōō (PGM II. 97)[20]

The magical papyri also contain lengthy repetitions of magical words, wherein the first letter of the word is dropped with each repetition until the speaker is reduced to silence, for example:

[ακρακαναρβα] κρακαναρβα ρακαναρβα ακαναρβα καναρβα αναρβα [ν]αρβα αρβα ρβα [βα] α

[akrakanarba] krakanarba rakanarba akanarba kanarba anarba [n]arba arba rba [ba] a (PGM II. 66-68; cf. PGM XXXIII. 1-20; PGM XXXIX. 1-20)

Another magical formula for addressing the gods was the use of palindromes, nonsense words that mirrored themselves, for instance:

αεμιναεβαρωθερρεθωραβεανιμεα

aeminaebarōtherrethōrabeanimea (PGM IV. 196-197; cf. PGM I. 295)

Fourth-century C.E. magical papyrus with incantation (PGM V. 85). From Karl Preisendanz, ed., Papyri Graecae Magicae (2 vols.; Leipzig: Teubner, 1928-1931), vol. 1 plate 3.

Any or all of these practices could be the target of Jesus’ critique of Gentile prayer, but since it is doubtful whether Jesus or his disciples had anything more than a vague impression of what non-Jews said or did when they prayed, it is unwise to be too specific.[21] Jesus may have regarded all Gentile prayer as blathering nonsense on the grounds that their prayers were not addressed to the God of Israel, whom he regarded as the only true God. At any rate, the more effort Gentiles put into their prayers, the more tragically futile their effort must have seemed to Jesus and his followers.

L3 ὥσπερ οἱ ὑποκριταί (Matt. 6:7; Vaticanus). As we noted under the “Story Placement” subheading, one of the clues that Praying Like Gentiles did not originally belong to Jesus’ critique of almsgiving, prayer and fasting as practiced by Jewish “hypocrites” (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16) is that in Praying Like Gentiles Jesus criticized the practice of non-Jews. The scribe who produced Codex Vaticanus attempted to integrate the Praying Like Gentiles pericope more fully into its Matthean context in the Sermon on the Mount by changing οἱ ἐθνικοί (“the Gentiles”) to οἱ ὑποκριταί (“the hypocrites”).[22] There can be little doubt that this reading in Codex Vaticanus is secondary, since it is inconceivable that a statement originally directed against Jews would have been turned into a criticism of Gentiles in the majority of NT manuscripts.[23]

Byzantine mosaic depicting Tyche, goddess of good fortune, crowned with the city walls of Scythopolis (Bet Shean), and holding a cornucopia. Photographed by Joshua Tilton at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Changing “Gentiles” to “hypocrites” was more than an attempt to assimilate Praying Like Gentiles to its surrounding context, however. The change was also an attempt to avoid offending the Gentile-Christian readers for whom Codex Vaticanus was created.[24] But in making this change, the scribe who produced Codex Vaticanus turned the meaning of Jesus’ saying in Matt. 6:7 on its head. Instead of affirming Jewish forms of prayer, as Jesus had originally intended, the scribe who produced Codex Vaticanus transformed Matt. 6:7 into yet one more piece of ammunition in the Church’s anti-Jewish arsenal.[25] As such, the scribal change from “Gentiles” to “hypocrites” in Matt. 6:7 is a chilling premonition of the radical efforts to de-Judaize the New Testament that were to take place under the auspices of the Institut zur Erforschung und Beseitigung des jüdischen Einflusses auf das deutsche kirchliche Leben (Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life) in Nazi Germany.[26] The edition of the New Testament that this institute produced contained the notorious substitution of Jesus’ affirmation that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22) with the anti-Semitic slogan “the Jews are our misfortune.”[27] In Vaticanus’ version of Matt. 6:7 we witness the perverse trajectory of anti-Jewish tampering with the text of the New Testament, which reached its apex in the work of the Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life, at a point much closer to its inauspicious beginning.

ὥσπερ οἱ ἐθνικοί (GR). For GR we have adopted ὥσπερ οἱ ἐθνικοί (hōsper hoi ethnikoi, “like the Gentiles”), the reading of the critical editions. The adjective ἐθνικός (ethnikos, “ethnic”), which is used in Matt. 6:7 as a substantive, does not occur in LXX, where, however, the noun ἔθνος (ethnos, “people group,”) occurs over 990xx. The adjective ἐθνικός is also rare in the writings of Philo (Mos. 1:69, 188) and Josephus (Ant. 12:36) and, indeed, in NT (Matt. 5:47; 6:7; 18:17; 3 John 7). The Matthean instances of ἐθνικός, at least in Matt. 5:47 and Matt. 6:7, probably derive from Anth.

In Classical Greek sources τὰ ἔθνη (ta ethnē, “the people groups”) was sometimes used in opposition to οἱ Ἕλληνες (hoi Hellēnes, “the Greeks”), with the clear implication that τὰ ἔθνη refers to outsider people groups (i.e., foreigners).[28] Similarly, the adjective ἐθνικός can mean “foreign.”[29] In LXX and in NT ἔθνος often conveys the sense of “foreigner,” but since the perspective in these sources is Jewish, the foreigners denoted by ἔθνος, and likewise ἐθνικός, are non-Jews (i.e., Gentiles).[30]

Statue of the goddess Artemis from the second century C.E., discovered in Caesarea. Photographed by Gary Asperschlager at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

In our discussion and translations we have preferred to use the term “Gentile” as opposed to “pagan” (e.g., NIV, GNT) or “heathen” (e.g., NEB, NKJV), which are used in some modern translations. “Heathen” we have avoided because in English usage this term tends to connote “primitive” and “uncivilized,” whereas τὰ ἔθνη/הַגּוֹיִם often refers to Greeks and Romans, the bearers of high culture in the ancient Mediterranean world. Our reason for avoiding “pagan” is that it is generally regarded as equivalent to “polytheist,” and therefore has the potential to give the misleading impression that Jesus might have exempted from his criticism enlightened non-Jews who adhered to a philosophical monotheism. It is questionable whether Jesus acknowledged the existence of such a category of persons, or whether they would have escaped his criticism if he had. “Gentile” is preferable, since according to Jesus’ worldview humanity was divided between Israel and the rest of the peoples of the world.[31] In Praying Like Gentiles Jesus indiscriminately critiqued all non-Jewish forms of prayer.

כַּגּוֹיִם (HR). In a survey of all the instances of ὥσπερ (hōsper, “as,” “like”) in the first five books of Moses, most were the translation of the preposition -כְּ (ke, “like”).[32] As we noted above, ἐθνικός does not occur in LXX, but the related ἔθνος translates גּוֹי (gōy, “people group”) more than any other Hebrew noun,[33] and גּוֹי was rendered with ἔθνος far more frequently than with any other Greek term.[34]

In LXX כַּגּוֹיִם (kagōyim, “like the Gentiles”) is translated as καθὰ καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ἔθνη (katha kai ta loipa ethnē, “as also the remaining people groups”) in Deut. 8:20, καθὼς τὰ ἔθνη (kathōs ta ethnē, “just as the people groups”) in 4 Kgdms. 17:11, and as ὡς τὰ ἔθνη (hōs ta ethnē, “as the people groups”) in Ezek. 20:32. If ὥσπερ οἱ ἐθνικοί in Matt. 6:7 does indeed reflect כַּגּוֹיִם in a Hebrew Ur-text, then it is a non-Septuagintal rendition of this phrase.

L4 הַחוֹשְׁבִים (HR). The verb δοκεῖν (dokein, “to think,” “to seem”) does not have a clear Hebrew equivalent in LXX. Often δοκεῖν appears where there is no Hebrew equivalent;[35] other times δοκεῖν renders אִם טוֹב (’im tōv, “if it is good”; Esth. 1:19; 3:9; 5:4; 8:5) or אָמַר (’āmar, “say”; Prov. 28:24). On the two occasions when δοκεῖν translates a Hebrew verb for “think,” that verb is either חָשַׁב (ḥāshav) or the nif ‘al form of the same root, נֶחְשַׁב (neḥshav):

וַיִּרְאֶהָ יְהוּדָה וַיַּחְשְׁבֶהָ לְזוֹנָה

And Judah saw her and thought she was a prostitute…. (Gen. 38:15)

καὶ ἰδὼν αὐτὴν Ιουδας ἔδοξεν αὐτὴν πόρνην εἶναι

And seeing her, Judas thought she was a prostitute…. (Gen. 38:15)

מְבָרֵךְ רֵעֵהוּ בְּקוֹל גָּדוֹל בַּבֹּקֶר הַשְׁכֵּים קְלָלָה תֵּחָשֶׁב לוֹ

Of the one who blesses his friend in a loud voice when rising early in the morning, it will be thought of as a curse. (Prov. 27:14)

ὃς ἂν εὐλογῇ φίλον τὸ πρωὶ μεγάλῃ τῇ φωνῇ, καταρωμένου οὐδὲν διαφέρειν δόξεἰ

Whoever blesses a friend early in the morning with a loud voice will seem not to be different from one who is cursing. (Prov. 27:14; NETS)

Although חָשַׁב was rendered by a variety of Greek verbs in LXX,[36] we have adopted חָשַׁב for HR since other options such as הָאֹמְרִים בִּלְבָבָם (hā’omrim bilvāvām, “who say in their heart”; Delitzsch) or שֶׁנִדְמֶה לָהֶם (shenidmeh lāhem, “because it appears to them”), expressed in the passive voice, are dissimilar to the Greek text.

Compare our reconstruction of δοκοῦσιν γὰρ as הַחוֹשְׁבִים with the following examples:

עַד מָתַי הֲיֵשׁ בְּלֵב הַנְּבִאִים נִבְּאֵי הַשָּׁקֶר וּנְבִיאֵי תַּרְמִת לִבָּם הַחֹשְׁבִים לְהַשְׁכִּיחַ אֶת עַמִּי שְׁמִי בַּחֲלוֹמֹתָם אֲשֶׁר יְסַפְּרוּ אִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ

How long will there be in the heart of the prophets lying prophets and deceitful prophets who are thinking [הַחֹשְׁבִים] how they can cause my people to forget my name by means of their dreams that they report each to his neighbor…? (Jer. 23:26-27)

אֵלֶּה הָאֲנָשִׁים הַחֹשְׁבִים אָוֶן וְהַיֹּעֲצִים עֲצַת רָע בָּעִיר הַזֹּאת

These are the men who are thinking [הַחֹשְׁבִים] iniquity and who are counseling evil counsel in this city. (Ezek. 11:2)

הַחוֹשֵׁב לִשְׁלוֹחַ יָד בַּפִּיקָּדוֹן בֵּית שַׁמַּיִ מְחַיְּיבִין וּבֵית הֶלֵּל אוֹמְ′ אֵיּנוּ חַיָּיב אֶלָּא עַד שָׁעָה שֶׁשִּׁילַּח יָד

The one who is thinking [הַחוֹשֵׁב] of putting forth his hand [to take for himself—DNB and JNT] what was entrusted to him—the House of Shammai make him liable, but the House of Hillel say, “He is not liable until the moment he has actually put forth his hand.” (m. Bab. Metz. 3:12)

הַחוֹשֵׁב עַל מֵי חַטָּאת {ו}לְשׁתּוֹתָן ר′ אֱלִיעֶזֶר אוֹ′ פָּסַל [[וּ]]ר′ יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אוֹ′ כְּשֶׁיִּטֶּה

The one who is thinking [הַחוֹשֵׁב] of drinking the waters of the sin offering—Rabbi Eliezer says, “He disqualified it,” [[but]] Rabbi Yehoshua says, “[He disqualified it only—DNB and JNT] when he has gone so far as to tip [the container to his lips—DNB and JNT].” (m. Par. 9:4)

L5 שֶׁבְּרֹב דִּבְרֵיהֶם (HR). On reconstructing ὅτι (hoti, “that,” “because”) with -שֶׁ (she-, “that,” “because”), see Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, Comment to L31.

The noun πολυλογία (polūlogia, “loquaciousness,” “verbosity”) occurs once in LXX, where it is the translation of רֹב דְּבָרִים (rov devārim, “abundance of words”):

בְּרֹב דְּבָרִים לֹא יֶחְדַּל פָּשַׁע וְחֹשֵׂךְ שְׂפָתָיו מַשְׂכִּיל

In abundance of words sin will not cease, but the one who restrains his lips is wise. (Prov. 10:19)

ἐκ πολυλογίας οὐκ ἐκφεύξῃ ἁμαρτίαν, φειδόμενος δὲ χειλέων νοήμων ἔσῃ.

From many words you will not escape sin, but if you restrain your lips, you will be intelligent. (Prov. 10:19; NETS)

Elsewhere in LXX the phrase רֹב דְּבָרִים is translated as πολλὰ λέγων (polla legōn, “speaking much”; Job 11:2) or πλήθει λόγων (plēthei logōn, “copious speaking”; Eccl 5:2). Excluding biblical quotations, we have not found examples of רֹב דְּבָרִים in rabbinic sources. However, there is one example of this phrase in the Apocryphon of Joshua, discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls:

על [ע]וזבי אל וברב ד[ב]רי[ך — ]

…upon those who [for]sake God and by [your] many w[o]rds…. (4Q379 18 I, 2)

The text is too fragmentary to shed much light on the usage of רֹב דְּבָרִים in this example other than to demonstrate that this phrase could still be used by Hebrew authors in the Second Temple period.

L6 εἰσακουσθήσονται (GR). Although the presence of compound verbs is sometimes due to the editorial activity of the authors of Matthew, Mark, Luke or FR, some compound verbs probably derive from Anth. Since εἰσακούειν (eisakouein, “to listen to”) occurs over 200xx in LXX, usually as the translation of שָׁמַע (shāma‘, “hear,” “listen”),[37] this compound verb was probably familiar to the Greek translator of the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua. Moreover, εἰσακούειν as the translation of שָׁמַע is particularly common in conjunction with prayer, as we see in the following examples:

לִשְׁמֹעַ אֶל הַתְּפִלָּה אֲשֶׁר יִתְפַּלֵּל עַבְדְּךָ אֶל הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה

…to listen to the prayer that your servant will pray toward this place. (1 Kgs. 8:29)

τοῦ εἰσακούειν τῆς προσευχῆς ἧς προσεύχεται ὁ δοῦλός σου εἰς τὸν τόπον τοῦτον

…to listen to the prayer that your servant prays toward this place…. (3 Kgdms. 8:29)

חָנֵּנִי וּשְׁמַע תְּפִלָּתִי

Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. (Ps. 4:2)

οἰκτίρησόν με καὶ εἰσάκουσον τῆς προσευχῆς μου

Have compassion on me and listen to my prayer. (Ps. 4:2)

שִׁמְעָה תְפִלָּתִי יי וְשַׁוְעָתִי הַאֲזִינָה

Hear my prayer, O LORD, and listen to my cry for help. (Ps. 39:13)

εἰσάκουσον τῆς προσευχῆς μου, κύριε, καὶ τῆς δεήσεώς μου ἐνώτισαι

Listen to my prayer, O Lord, and to my petition give ear. (Ps. 38:13; NETS)

אֱלֹהִים שְׁמַע תְּפִלָּתִי הַאֲזִינָה לְאִמְרֵי פִי

O God, hear my prayer; listen to the words of my mouth. (Ps. 54:4)

ὁ θεός, εἰσάκουσον τῆς προσευχῆς μου, ἐνώτισαι τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ στόματός μου

O God, listen to my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth. (Ps. 53:4; NETS)

שֹׁמֵעַ תְּפִלָּה עָדֶיךָ כָּל בָּשָׂר יָבֹאוּ

Hearer of prayer: unto you all flesh will come. (Ps. 65:3)

εἰσάκουσον προσευχῆς μου· πρὸς σὲ πᾶσα σὰρξ ἥξεἰ

Listen to my prayer! To you all flesh shall come. (Ps. 64:3; NETS)

יי אֱלֹהִים צְבָאוֹת שִׁמְעָה תְפִלָּתִי הַאֲזִינָה אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב

O LORD God of Hosts, hear my prayer; listen, O God of Jacob. (Ps. 84:9)

κύριε ὁ θεὸς τῶν δυνάμεων, εἰσάκουσον τῆς προσευχῆς μου ἐνώτισαι, ὁ θεὸς Ιακωβ

O Lord God of hosts, listen to my prayer; give ear, O God of Iakob! (Ps. 83:9; NETS)

יי שִׁמְעָה תְפִלָּתִי וְשַׁוְעָתִי אֵלֶיךָ תָבוֹא

Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry for help come to you. (Ps. 102:2)

Εἰσάκουσον, κύριε, τῆς προσευχῆς μου, καὶ ἡ κραυγή μου πρὸς σὲ ἐλθάτὠ

O Lord, listen to my prayer, and let my cry come to you. (Ps. 101:2; NETS)

יי שְׁמַע תְּפִלָּתִי הַאֲזִינָה אֶל תַּחֲנוּנַי

O LORD, hear my prayer; listen to my petitions…. (Ps. 143:1)

Κύριε, εἰσάκουσον τῆς προσευχῆς μου, ἐνώτισαι τὴν δέησίν μου

O Lord, listen to my prayer; give ear to my petition…. (Ps. 142:1; NETS)

Jesus’ critique of Gentiles who vainly expect their prayers to be heard is comparable to that which is found in the Jewish prayer called Aleinu, which states:

עָלֵינוּ לְשַׁבֵּחַ לַאֲדוֹן הַכֹּל לָתֵת גְּדֻלָּה לְיוֹצֵר בְּרֵאשִׁית שֶׁלֹּא עָשָׂנוּ כְּגוֹיֵי הָאֲרָצוֹת וְלֹא שָׂמָנוּ כְּמִשְׁפְּחוֹת הָאֲדָמָה שֶׁלֹּא שָׂם חֶלְקֵנוּ כָּהֶם וְגוֹרָלֵנוּ כְּכָל הֲמוֹנָם שֶׁהֵם מִשְׁתַּחֲוִים לְהֶבֶל וָרִיק וּמִתְפַּלְּלִים אֶל אֵל לֹא יוֹשִׁיעַ וַאֲנַחְנוּ כֹּרעִים וּמִשְׁתַּחֲוִים וּמוֹדִים לִפְנֵי מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא

It is incumbent upon us to praise the Lord of all things, to ascribe greatness to the craftsman of creation, for he did not make us like the Gentiles of the lands and he did not establish us like the families of the earth, for he did not establish our portion [to be] like them, nor our lot [to be] like all their multitude. For they prostrate themselves to vanity and nothingness, and they pray to a deity that does not save.[38] But we bow down and prostrate ourselves and give thanks before the king of kings, the Holy one, blessed be he.

A first-century B.C.E. relief of an ear from Thessalonica dedicated to the gods Serapis and Isis by a worshipper in order that his prayers might be heard. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

While it is difficult to date liturgical texts such as the Aleinu prayer, some scholars believe it originated in the Second Temple period.[39] Whether or not Jesus was familiar with an early form of this prayer, he was certainly familiar with the biblical verses to which Aleinu alludes. The reference to “vanity and nothingness” (הֶבֶל וָרִיק) alludes to Isa. 30:7, where the prophet warns the kingdom of Judah that relying on Egypt for political deliverance will end in disappointment. The prayers of Gentiles to a deity that cannot save alludes to Isa. 45:20:

הִקָּבְצוּ וָבֹאוּ הִתְנַגְּשׁוּ יַחְדָּו פְּלִיטֵי הַגּוֹיִם לֹא יָדְעוּ הַנֹּשְׂאִים אֶת עֵץ פִּסְלָם וּמִתְפַּלְלִים אֶל אֵל לֹא יוֹשִׁיעַ

Gather and come! Draw close together, O survivors of the Gentiles. They who carry about wooden images do not know, neither do they who pray to a deity that cannot save. (Isa. 45:20)

Comparison of Matt. 6:7-8 with scriptural verses and later Jewish prayer demonstrates that Jesus belonged to a tradition that looked askance at non-Jewish forms of worship. The hope was that when the God of Israel redeemed his people the Gentiles would witness his saving power and recognize him as the only true God.[40] Thus the redemption of Israel would result in the salvation of all humankind.

L7 μὴ οὖν ὁμοιωθῆτε αὐτοῖς (Matt. 6:8). The verb ὁμοιοῦν (homoioun) means “to make like” and is typically used when making a comparison (cf., e.g., Matt. 11:16 // Luke 7:31). This is the usual meaning of ὁμοιοῦν in LXX as well, but in the story of Jacob’s daughter Dinah the verb ὁμοιοῦν is used to describe the adoption of foreign practices. In that story, Jacob’s sons consent to their sister Dinah’s marriage to a particular Canaanite on condition that all the male Canaanites of his hometown, Shechem, agree to be circumcised. Attempting to persuade his fellow Shechemites to agree to this condition, the Canaanite urges:

μόνον ἐν τούτῳ ὁμοιωθήσονται ἡμῖν οἱ ἄνθρωποι τοῦ κατοικεῖν μεθ᾿ ἡμῶν ὥστε εἶναι λαὸν ἕνα, ἐν τῷ περιτέμνεσθαι ἡμῶν πᾶν ἀρσενικόν, καθὰ καὶ αὐτοὶ περιτέτμηνται. καὶ τὰ κτήνη αὐτῶν καὶ τὰ ὑπάρχοντα αὐτῶν καὶ τὰ τετράποδα οὐχ ἡμῶν ἔσται; μόνον ἐν τούτῳ ὁμοιωθῶμεν αὐτοῖς, καὶ οἰκήσουσιν μεθ᾿ ἡμῶν.

Only in this will the people become like [ὁμοιωθήσονται] us to live with us so as to be one people, when every male of ours is circumcised, as they also have been circumcised. And will not their livestock and their possessions and their quadrupeds be ours? Only in this let us become like [ὁμοιωθῶμεν] them, and they will live with us. (Gen. 34:22-23; NETS)

In the above passage the Canaanite urges his countrymen to become like the Israelites by adopting the foreign practice of circumcision in order that the Israelites may, in turn, be absorbed by the Shechemite community. Such a proposal was, of course, a direct threat to the unique relationship between God and the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To emphasize this threat the LXX translators used the verb ὁμοιοῦν (“to make like”; pass., “to become like”) to render the Hebrew root א-ו-ת (nif ‘al, “agree,” “be pleased”), which has a far less sinister connotation. In Praying Like Gentiles we encounter a similar concern to preserve the uniqueness of Israel’s relationship to God by avoiding the imitation of pagan rites and rituals.

לְפִיכָךְ אַל תִּהְיוּ כָּהֵם (HR). On reconstructing οὖν (oun, “therefore”) with לְפִיכָךְ (lefichāch, “therefore”), see “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves”, Comment to L44; and cf. Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, Comment to L44, L60.

In LXX ὁμοιοῦν (homoioun, “to make like”; pass., “to become like”) is usually the translation of דָּמָה (dāmāh, “be like”);[41] however, we do not find examples of commands against being like someone or something expressed with דָּמָה. Instead we find the formula -אַל תְּהִי כְּ (’al tehi ke-, “do not be like”), as in the following examples:

אַל תִּהְיוּ כַאֲבֹתֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר קָרְאוּ אֲלֵיהֶם הַנְּבִיאִים הָרִאשֹׁנִים לֵאמֹר

Do not be like your fathers [LXX: μὴ γίνεσθε καθὼς οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν], to whom the former prophets cried, saying…. (Zech. 1:4)

אַל תְּהִי מֶרִי כְּבֵית הַמֶּרִי

Do not be rebellious like the house of rebellion [LXX: μὴ γίνου παραπικραίνων καθὼς ὁ οἶκος ὁ παραπικραίνων]. (Ezek. 2:8)

אַל תִּהְיוּ כְּסוּס כְּפֶרֶד אֵין הָבִין

Do not be like a horse or like a mule [LXX: μὴ γίνεσθε ὡς ἵππος καὶ ἡμίονος], not understanding…. (Ps. 32:9)

וְאַל תִּהְיוּ כַּאֲבוֹתֵיכֶם וְכַאֲחֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר מָעֲלוּ בַּיי אֱלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵיהֶם

And do not be like your fathers or like your brothers [LXX: καὶ μὴ γίνεσθε καθὼς οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ ὑμῶν], who broke faith with the LORD, the God of your fathers…. (2 Chr. 30:7)

If our reconstruction of μὴ ὁμοιωθῆτε αὐτοῖς (mē homoiōthēte avtois, “do not be like them”) with אַל תִּהְיוּ כָּהֵם (’al tihyū kāhēm, “do not be like them”) is correct, then the Greek translator of the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text did not follow the model for rendering -אַל תְּהִי כְּ laid down by the LXX.

Examples of -אַל תְּהִי כְּ are also found in rabbinic sources, for instance:

אַנְטִיגְנַס אִישׁ סוֹכוֹ…הָיָה אוֹמֵ′ אַל תִּהְיוּ כַעֲבָדִים הַמְשַׁמְּשִׁים אֶת הָרָב עַל מְנַת לְקַבֵּל פְּרַס

Antigonos of Socho…would say, “Do not be like slaves [אַל תִּהְיוּ כַעֲבָדִים] who serve their master for the sake of receiving a reward….” (m. Avot 1:3)

לא תרצח כנגד ויאמר אלהים ישרצו המים אמר הקב″ה אל תהיו כדגים הללו שהגדולים בולעים את הקטנים שנאמר ותעשה אדם כדגי הים וגו′

Do not murder [Exod. 20:13] corresponds to And God said, “Let the waters team…” [Gen. 1:20]. The Holy one, blessed be he, said, “Do not be like these fish [אל תהיו כדגים הללו], for the big ones swallow the little ones, as it is said, And you made man like a fish of the sea [Hab. 1:14]. (Pesikta Rabbati 21:19 [ed. Friedmann, 108a])[42]

Statue of the goddess Kore (Persephone) from the second to fourth century C.E. discovered in Samaria. In her right hand Kore holds a torch, in her left she holds a pomegranate and ears of grain. Photo by Todd Bolen courtesy of BiblePlaces.com.

כָּהֵם (HR). In MH, when the third person plural pronominal suffix was attached to the preposition -כְּ (ke-, “like”), this was expressed as כְּמוֹתָם (kemōtām, “like them”), whereas in BH -כְּ + third person plural pronominal suffix took the form כָּהֵם (kāhēm, “like them”).[43] Although we prefer to reconstruct direct speech in a Mishnaic style of Hebrew, we have preferred the older form כָּהֵם in this case, first because the form כְּמוֹתָם did not become common until post-tannaic sources,[44] and second because it appears that the older form כָּהֵם continued to be used even after the use of כְּמוֹתָם was accepted.

The following is an example of כָּהֵם in a rabbinic source:

יש גר כאברהם אבינו כאי זה צד הלך ופישפש בכל האומות כיון שראה שמספרין בטובתן של ישראל אמר מתי אתגייר [ואהיה כהם] ואכנס תחת כנפי השכינה

There is a proselyte like Abraham our father. How so? He went and made inquiries among all the Gentiles. As soon as he saw that they reported the goodness of Israel, he said, “When will I convert [so that I can be like them (ואהיה כהם)] and so that I can enter beneath the wings of the Shechinah?” (Seder Eliyahu Rabbah, chpt. [29] 27 [ed. Friedmann, 146])

We also encounter the form כָּהֶם in a line from Aleinu (cited above, Comment to L6):

שֶׁלֹּא שָׂם חֶלְקֵנוּ כָּהֶם וְגוֹרָלֵנוּ כְּכָל הֲמוֹנָם

…for he did not establish our portion [to be] like them [כָּהֶם] [i.e., the Gentiles—DNB and JNT], nor our lot [to be] like all their multitude.

In the last two examples “being like others” refers specifically to Jewish-Gentile relations. In the first instance a model proselyte desires to become like Israel by converting to Judaism. In the second example Israelites give thanks that they are not like Gentiles who practice empty religions. These examples hark back to our discussion of the use of ὁμοιοῦν (homoioun, “to make like”) in the story of Jacob’s daughter Dinah (Gen. 34), which in turn confirms our impression that in Matt. 6:7-8 Jesus warned his disciples against the dangers of assimilation. According to the author of 2 Kings, assimilation was the reason the northern tribes were sent into exile:

וַיִּמְאֲסוּ אֶת חֻקָּיו וְאֶת בְּרִיתוֹ אֲשֶׁר כָּרַת אֶת אֲבוֹתָם וְאֵת עֵדְוֹתָיו אֲשֶׁר הֵעִיד בָּם וַיֵּלְכוּ אַחֲרֵי הַהֶבֶל וַיֶּהְבָּלוּ וְאַחֲרֵי הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבֹתָם אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יי אֹתָם לְבִלְתִּי עֲשׂוֹת כָּהֶם

And they rejected his statutes and his covenant, which he made with their fathers, and his testimonies, which testified against them, and they walked after false vanities and after the Gentiles who were around them, whom the LORD commanded them not to behave like them [כָּהֶם]. (2 Kgs. 17:15)

The prophet Ezekiel, on the other hand, worried that exile would increase the likelihood that Israel would disappear into the cultures of the peoples among whom they lived. Accordingly, he warned:

וְהָעֹלָה עַל רוּחֲכֶם הָיוֹ לֹא תִהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם אֹמְרִים נִהְיֶה כַגּוֹיִם כְּמִשְׁפְּחוֹת הָאֲרָצוֹת לְשָׁרֵת עֵץ וָאָבֶן

The idea that has surfaced in your mind will certainly never be—what you are saying: “We will be like the Gentiles and like the families of the earth by worshipping wood and stone.” (Ezek. 20:32)

This Ezekiel passage can be compared to the following warning in the Temple Scroll:

ולוא תעשו כאשר הגויים עושים

And you must not do as the Gentiles are doing…. (11QTa [11Q19] XLVIII, 11)

Partial or complete assimilation of Jews to the dominant Greco-Roman culture was a reality in the first century C.E.[45] Perhaps the most famous example of Jewish assimilation in the ancient world is that of Tiberias Julius Alexander, the nephew of the first-century Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria. Tiberias Alexander not only renounced his ancestral religion (Jos., Ant. 20:100), but as a general in the Roman army he directed the siege of Jerusalem under Titus that ended with the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. (Jos., J.W. 5:45-46; 6:237).[46]

L8 οἶδεν γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν (GR). Codex Vaticanus and a few other ancient witnesses add ὁ θεός (hō theos, “the God”) before ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν (ho patēr hūmōn, “the father of you”).[47] That ὁ θεός should be omitted is supported from the textual evidence and also from the parallel in Matt. 6:32 // Luke 12:30.[48]

כִּי יוֹדֵעַ אֲבִיכֶם (HR). In LXX εἰδεῖν (eidein, “to know”) is usually the translation of יָדַע (yāda‘, “know”).[49] Likewise, we find that εἰδεῖν + γάρ is almost always the translation of יָדַע + כִּי.‎[50] Although other reconstructions are possible (e.g., הֲרֵי יוֹדֵעַ אֲבִיכֶם [“Behold, your father knows”]), we have allowed the LXX examples to guide our reconstruction.

Detail of the third-century C.E. mosaic from the Dionysus house in Tzippori (Sepphoris). Photographed by Joshua N. Tilton.

Notice that instead of criticizing the gods of the Gentiles as impotent or unreal, or characterizing them as demons, Jesus directs the disciples’ attention to the character of Israel’s God. The God of Israel is a father to his people, and as such he intimately knows both them and their needs. There was a tendency, especially in Diaspora Judaism, to avoid direct criticism of the Gentiles’ gods.[51] Whereas pagan practices were polemicized against, it was considered too incendiary to impugn the gods themselves. Perhaps Jesus’ redirection of the disciples’ attention to the character of their heavenly father was an expression of this sensitivity.

L9 אֵי זֶה צוֹרֶךְ יֵשׁ לָכֶם (HR). On the use of אֵי זֶה (’ē zeh, “which”) as a demonstrative, see Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L80. As Segal noted, “In the older texts…the…components [אֵי and זֶה—DNB and JNT] are still kept separate.”[52]

Compare our reconstruction of χρείαν ἔχετε (chreian echete, “need you have”) as צוֹרֶךְ יֵשׁ לָכֶם (tzōrech yēsh lāchem, “need there is to you”) to our reconstruction of the statement οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες ἰατροῦ (“not a need the healthy have of a doctor”) as אֵין צוֹרֶךְ לַבְּרִיאִים בְּרוֹפֵא (“there is no need to the healthy for a doctor”) in Call of Levi, L59-60.

L10 לִפְנֵי שֶׁאַתֶּם שׁוֹאֲלִים מִמֶּנּוּ (HR). In LXX πρὸ τοῦ + infinitive usually translates the construction טֶרֶם + finite verb (often with the preposition -בְּ prefixed to טֶרֶם).[53] However, the adverb טֶרֶם (ṭerem, “before,” “not yet”) disappeared in MH and was replaced with constructions such as -לִפְנֵי שֶׁ (lifnē she-, “before that”) or -קוֹדֶם שֶׁ (qōdem she-, “before that”).[54] Since we prefer to use a Mishnaic style of Hebrew to reconstruct direct speech, we have adopted the -לִפְנֵי שֶׁ construction for HR.

A first-century C.E. fresco from Pompeii depicting a Gentile sacrifice. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On reconstructing αἰτεῖν (aitein, “to ask”) as שָׁאַל (shā’al, “ask”), see Friend in Need, Comment to L22. In HR we have supplied the preposition מִמֶּנּוּ (mimenū, “from him”), even though Matt. 6:8 lacks a preposition such as παρά (para, “from”) before the personal pronoun, because שָׁאַל אֵת typically means “inquire,” whereas שָׁאַל מִן means “request.”[55] In rare instances LXX omits a preposition where MT has שָׁאַל מִן,‎[56] and we suspect this may have happened when Praying Like Gentiles was translated from Hebrew to Greek. Compare our reconstruction of αἰτεῖν + personal pronoun with שָׁאַל מִן in Fathers Give Good Gifts, L20.

The notion that God knows a person’s prayer before it is spoken is also found in rabbinic sources, for instance:

אמר רבי אלעזר בן פדת בשר ודם אם שומע דברי אדם עושה דינו, אם לא שמע אינו יכול לכוין דינו, אבל הקב″ה אינו כן עד שלא ידבר אדם הוא יודע מה בלבו…עד שלא יצרה מחשבה שבלבו של אדם הוא מבין

Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat said, “If a creature of flesh and blood hears a person’s speech he does as the speaker intended, but if he did not hear he is not able to understand his intention, but with the Holy one, blessed be he, it is not so. Before a person speaks he knows what is in his heart…before a thought is formed in a person’s heart he understands.” (Exod. Rab. 21:3)

Redaction Analysis

The author of Matthew faithfully copied the Praying Like Gentiles pericope from Anth. without making any discernible changes to its wording.[57] While the Anthologizer (the creator of Anth.) was probably responsible for divorcing Praying Like Gentiles from its original context,[58] it was the author of Matthew who inserted this pericope into its current position in the Sermon on the Mount.[59]

Results of This Research

1. In light of the Praying Like Gentiles pericope, how should we characterize Jesus’ view of non-Jews? From Praying Like Gentiles we learn that Jesus did not have a high opinion of non-Jewish religious practices. As far as he was concerned, their worship was misdirected because they were unenlightened by God’s revelation in the Torah. Consequently, Gentiles did not know to whom they prayed or how their prayers ought to be formulated. Had they been enlightened by the Torah, the Gentiles would have understood that their ancestral deities are not true gods, and that the one true God is the LORD God of Israel, who is the father of all humankind. Knowing him as father, the Gentiles would have understood that prayers do not need to cajole or persuade or coerce God. Because God relates to human beings as a father to his children, Jesus’ followers could (and can) pray with assurance that God hears and knows how to provide for their needs.

Despite his dim view of non-Jewish religious practices, it is clear from his limited interactions with non-Jews that Jesus did not regard Gentiles as irredeemable.[60] If Gentiles renounced their idols and false gods and turned in hope to the God of Israel, then they too could be saved from the power of Satan and participate in the blessings of the renewal of creation through the Kingdom of Heaven.

2. How should Jesus’ view of non-Jewish religious practices inform our view of Judaism? This is a question that is rarely asked of the Praying Like Gentiles pericope. As we have seen, there has been a tendency among Christian interpreters to turn Jesus’ critique of Gentile religious practices into an attack against Jewish prayer in particular and against Judaism in general. A sensitive reading of Matt. 6:7-8 reveals that Jesus affirmed Jewish modes of prayer by urging his disciples not to adopt Gentile prayer habits. The clear implication was that Jesus wanted his disciples to remain true to their Jewish heritage and to pray on the basis of the covenant relationship God had established with Israel through the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Conclusion

In Praying Like Gentiles Jesus emphasized God’s unique relationship to Israel in order to reassure his disciples that God knew their needs and would faithfully provide for them. These themes are picked up and elaborated upon in the pericopae that follow in the conjectured “How to Pray” complex.

 


 

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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 Allen, 57; Bundy, 111; Knox, 2:25-26; Beare, 61; Nolland, Matt., 283.
  • [4] Catchpole presented one of the clearest arguments that Matt. 6:7-8 is an independent unit in David R. Catchpole, “Q and ‘The Friend at Midnight’ (Luke XI.5-8/9),” Journal of Theological Studies 34.2 (1983): 407-424, esp. 422.
  • [5] Note that “seeking” is a metaphor for prayer in the Friend in Need simile (L24, L27; Matt. 7:7-8 // Luke 11:9-10).
  • [6] Cf. Catchpole, “Q and ‘The Friend at Midnight’ (Luke XI.5-8/9),” 422-423; Luz, 1:305.
  • [7] On the mainly non-Jewish constituency of the Matthean community, which nevertheless regarded itself as the “true Israel” and the only faithful adherents to the Torah (as interpreted by the Matthean community), see David Flusser, “Matthew’s ‘Verus Israel’” (Flusser, JOC, 561-574). Matthew’s vision of the Church is contrary to Paul’s, according to which Jewish and Gentile believers should co-exist within the same community while maintaining their differences and respecting one another’s differing ways of life. On Paul’s vision for the Church, see Peter J. Tomson, “Paul’s Jewish Background in View of His Law Teaching in 1Cor 7,” in Paul and the Mosaic Law (ed. James D. G. Dunn; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 251-270; Paula Fredriksen, “Judaizing the Nations: The Ritual Demands of Paul’s Gospel,” New Testament Studies 56 (2010): 232-252; idem, “Why Should a ‘Law-Free’ Mission Mean a ‘Law-Free’ Apostle?Journal of Biblical Literature 134.3 (2015): 637-650.

    Matthew’s anti-Pauline vision has been recognized by David C. Sim, “Matthew’s anti-Paulinism: A neglected feature of Matthean studies,” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 58.2 (2002): 767-783; idem, “Matthew 7.21-23: Further Evidence of its Anti-Pauline Perspective,” New Testament Studies 53.3 (2007): 325-343; idem, “Matthew, Paul and the origin and nature of the gentile mission: The great commission in Matthew 28:16-20 as an anti-Pauline tradition,” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 64.1 (2008): 377-392.

    The Didache, a source that likely emerged from the greater Matthean community, also encouraged Gentile believers to strive toward perfect observance of the Torah (Did. 6:2-3). See David Flusser, “Paul’s Jewish Christian Opponents in the Didache,” in Gilgul: Essays on Transformation, Revolution and Permanence in the History of Religions (ed. Shaul Shaked, David Schulman, and Guy G. Stroumsa; Leiden: Brill, 1987), 71-90. On the close connections between the Didache and the Gospel of Matthew, see Huub van de Sandt, “The Didache and its Relevance for Understanding the Gospel of Matthew.”

  • [8] See Davies-Allison, 1:587.
  • [9] Text according to Antonius Westermann, ed., Vita Aesopi (London: Williams and Norgate, 1845). Translation according to Betz, 364 n. 269.
  • [10] Translation according to Montefiore, TSG, 2:99.
  • [11] See Allen, 57; McNeile, 76; Montefiore, TSG, 2:99; Frederick Bussby, “A Note on ῥακά (Matthew V.22) and βατταλογέω (Matthew VI.7) in the Light of Qumran,” Expository Times 76.1 (1964): 26; Davies-Allison, 1:587.
  • [12] See Betz, 364-365; Nolland, Matt., 284 n. 306.
  • [13] See John Ernest Leonard Oulton and Henry Chadwick, eds. and trans., Alexandrian Christianity: Selected Translations of Clement and Origen (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1954), 181.
  • [14] Text according to Paul Koetschau et al., eds., Origenes Werke (12 vols.; Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1899-1941). Translation according to Oulton and Chadwick, Alexandrian Christianity, 279. On the possible influence of rabbinic thought and practice on Origen’s treatise on prayer, see Marc Hirshman, “A Protocol for Prayer: Origen, the Rabbis and their Greco-Roman Milieu,” in Essays on Hebrew Literature in Honor of Avraham Holtz (ed. Z. Ben-Yosef Ginor; New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 2003), 3-14.
  • [15] Translation according to Oulton and Chadwick, Alexandrian Christianity, 298.
  • [16] See Gerhard Delling, “βατταλογέω,” TDNT, 1:597.
  • [17] Luz, 1:305 n. 3.
  • [18] On the laws of inheritance pertaining to women in ancient Judaism, see Tal Ilan, Jewish Women in Greco-Roman Palestine (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1996), 167-170.
  • [19] On the dispute between the Pharisees and the Sadducees over the correct dating of Pentecost (Shavuot), see Shmuel Safrai, “Counting the Omer: On What Day of the Week Did Jesus Celebrate Shavuot (Pentecost)?
  • [20] Karl Preisendanz et al., eds., Papyri Graecae Magicae. Die Griechischen Zauberpapyri (2 vols.; Stuttgart: Teubner, 1973-1974).
  • [21] Since it is improbable that Jesus attended rites at Gentile temples or studied with Gentile priests or philosophers, it is likely that his knowledge of Gentile prayers and Gentile religion generally was at best secondhand. Jesus did not have an insider’s view, nor even a sympathetic outsider’s view, of non-Jewish religious practices, and therefore his characterization of Gentile prayers must be taken with a grain of salt. On Gentile religious practices as they were observed in the land of Israel during the time of Jesus, see David Flusser, “Paganism in Palestine” (Safrai-Stern, 2:1065-1100).

    Pliny the Elder (first cent. C.E.) offered the following description of Roman prayer:

    …[O]ur chief magistrates have adopted fixed formulas for their prayers; that to prevent a word’s being omitted or out of place a reader dictates beforehand the prayer from a script; that another attendant is appointed as a guard to keep watch, and yet another is put in charge to maintain a strict silence; that a piper plays so that nothing but the prayer is heard. (Nat. Hist. 28:3 §11; Loeb)

    Fixed formulas for the Amidah, the central prayer in Jewish daily life, were established under the leadership of Rabban Gamliel II in the late first century C.E. See Shmuel Safrai, “Gathering in the Synagogues on Festivals, Sabbaths and Weekdays,” British Archaeological Reports (International Series) 449 (1989): 7-15, esp. 11; Peter J. Tomson, “The Halakhic Evidence of Didache 8 and Matthew 6 and the Didache Community’s Relationship to Judaism,” in Matthew and the Didache: Two Documents from the Same Jewish-Christian Milieu? (ed. Huub van de Sandt; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 131-141, esp. 137-139; idem, “The Lord’s Prayer (Didache 8) at the Faultline of Judaism and Christianity,” in The Didache: A Missing Piece of the Puzzle in Early Christianity (ed. Jonathan Draper; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2015), 165-187, esp. 175-183.

    On non-Jewish writers who exhorted their fellow Gentiles to maintain decorum in their prayers, see Betz, 365-367. For introductions to Greek and Roman prayer, see H. S. Versnel, “Religious Mentality in Ancient Prayer,” in Faith Hope and Worship: Aspects of Religious Mentality in the Ancient World (ed. H. S. Versnel; Leiden: Brill, 1981), 1-64; Larry J. Alderink and Luther H. Martin, “Prayer in Greco-Roman Religions,” in Prayer From Alexander to Constantine: A Critical Anthology (ed. Mark Kiley et al.; London: Routledge, 1997), 123-127. This volume contains a useful collection of translated Jewish, Greek, Roman and Christian prayers from the ancient world.

  • [22] See Catchpole, “Q and ‘The Friend at Midnight’ (Luke XI.5-8/9),” 422; Nolland, Matt., 279; Tomson, “The Halakhic Evidence of Didache 8 and Matthew 6 and the Didache Community’s Relationship to Judaism,” 137.
  • [23] Pace Black (133-134), who objected that there was “scarcely need for Jews to be exhorted not to pray as Gentiles,” and therefore concluded that ἐθνικοί (“Gentiles”) in Matt. 6:7 is a Jewish-Christian emendation of the original text. We do not find Black’s arguments to be convincing. In the first place, holding up Gentile behavior as a negative model for Jews to avoid is hardly unusual in ancient Jewish sources (cf., e.g., Lev. 18:24-27; Deut. 18:9; Jub. 22:16-18; Matt. 6:32 // Luke 12:30). In the second place, if Jews did not need to be exhorted not to pray like Gentiles, then it would seem equally unnecessary for Jewish-Christians to exhort their coreligionists not to pray like Gentiles. For further objections to Black’s opinion, see Davies-Allison, 1:589 n. 23.
  • [24] See Davies-Allison, 1:589; Hagner, 1:144; France, Matt., 240.
  • [25] On the use of Matt. 6:7-8 by Christians in anti-Jewish polemics, see Abrahams, 2:102; Montefiore, RLGT, 119; Luz, 1:306. Even after the Holocaust, some scholars have not been able to resist bringing up Jewish modes of prayer in their discussions of Matt. 6:7-8. Cf. Jeremias (Theology, 192), who wrote: “Jesus censures the scribes οἱ…προφάσει μακρὰ προσευχόμενοι ([“who…make long pretentious prayers”—DNB and JNT] Mark 12.40): he reprimands them [sic] for βατταλογεῖν (Matt. 6.7).”
  • [26] On the Institut zur Erforschung und Beseitigung des jüdischen Einflusses auf das deutsche kirchliche Leben, see Susannah Heschel, “Nazifying Christian Theology: Walter Grundmann and the Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life,” Church History 63.4 (1994): 587-605.
  • [27] See Heschel, “Nazifying Christian Theology,” 595.
  • [28] See LSJ, 480; Karl Ludwig Schmidt, “ἔθνος in the NT,” TDNT, 2:369-371, esp. 370.
  • [29] See LSJ, 480; Schmidt, “ἐθνικός,” TDNT, 2:372.
  • [30] Runia notes that “The term ‘Gentile’ came into the English language via the Latin word gentes, commonly used in the Vulgate [i.e., the Latin translation of the Bible—DNB and JNT], and was greatly popularized in the King James Version, where in the New Testament it is even used to translate ‘Greeks’ (e.g., Rom. 3.9). It [i.e., ‘Gentile’—DNB and JNT] is primarily used to render the term goyim in the Hebrew Bible, which is translated τὰ ἔθνη in the Septuagint.” See David T. Runia, “Philo and the Gentiles,” in Attitudes to Gentiles in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (ed. David C. Sim and James S. McLauren; London: Bloomsbury, 2013), 28-45, esp. 30.
  • [31] For a discussion of the different nuances of the terms “gentile” and “pagan,” see Fredriksen, “Judaizing the Nations: The Ritual Demands of Paul’s Gospel,” 242 n. 23; idem, “Why Should a ‘Law-Free’ Mission Mean a ‘Law-Free’ Apostle?” 639.
  • [32] In LXX (Gen.-Deut.) ὥσπερ is the translation of -כְּ in Gen. 38:11; Exod. 12:48; 21:7; 24:10; Lev. 4:26; 6:10 (2xx); 7:7; 14:35; 27:21; Num. 17:5; Deut. 2:10, 11, 21; 3:20; 5:14; 6:24; 7:26; 10:1; 11:10; 18:7, 18; 20:8; 29:22; 33:26. Tied in second place for the most common term translated by ὥσπερ in LXX (Gen.-Deut.) are כַּאֲשֶׁר (ka’asher, “just as,” “while”; Deut. 2:22; 3:2, 6) and הִנֵּה (hinēh, “look,” “behold”; Gen. 37:9; 41:18, 22).
  • [33] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:368-373. On the equivalence of ἔθνος with גּוֹי in LXX, see Georg Bertram, “ἔθνος, ἐθνικός,” TDNT, 2:364-369. N.B.: Georg Bertram was director of the Institut zur Erforschung und Beseitigung des jüdischen Einflusses auf das deutsche kirchliche Leben from 1943 until its dissolution in May 1945. As early as December 1933 Bertram had joined the Nationalsozialistische Lehrerbund (National Socialist Teachers League). See Heschel, “Nazifying Christian Theology,” 595 n. 39. Bertram’s writings should be used with caution, since his interpretation of the facts may be colored by his anti-Semitic worldview.
  • [34] See Dos Santos, 35.
  • [35] There is no Hebrew term behind δοκεῖν in Job 1:21; 15:21; 20:7, 22; Prov. 2:10; 14:12; 16:25; 17:28; 26:12.
  • [36] See Dos Santos, 71.
  • [37] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:408-410.
  • [38] The sentence marked in red was banned from Jewish prayer books by Christian censors in Europe. On the history of censorship of this prayer, see Ruth Langer, “The Censorship of Aleinu in Ashkenaz and its Aftermath,” in The Experience of Jewish Liturgy: Studies Dedicated to Menahem Schmelzer (ed. Debra Reed Blank; Leiden: Brill, 2011), 147-166.
  • [39] The Aleinu prayer is not cited or alluded to in tannaic or amoraic sources, and the earliest documents containing the text of Aleinu date to the tenth century C.E. See Jeffrey Hoffman, “The Image of The Other in Jewish Interpretations of Alenu,” Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations 10.1 (2015): 1-41, esp. 4. Nevertheless, since liturgy is a peripheral topic in rabbinic sources, it is possible that Aleinu originated at a much earlier date than that of its earliest witnesses. Moreover, according to Langer (“The Censorship of Aleinu in Ashkenaz and its Aftermath,” 148), “In literary style, it [i.e., the Aleinu prayer—DNB and JNT] is consistent with the earliest forms of rabbinic-era liturgical poetry from the land of Israel.” According to Weinfeld, “Most scholars today consider it [i.e., the Aleinu prayer—DNB and JNT] an ancient prayer, from the second temple period.” See Moshe Weinfeld, “The Day of the LORD: Aspirations for the Kingdom of God in the Bible and Jewish Liturgy,” in his Normative and Sectarian Judaism of the Second Temple Period (London: T&T Clark, 2005), 68-89, esp. 75.
  • [40] On the Jewish eschatological hope that the Gentiles would turn to the God of Israel when the LORD redeemed his people, see Paula Fredriksen, “Judaism, the Circumcision of Gentiles, and Apocalyptic Hope: Another Look at Galatians 1 and 2,” Journal of Theological Studies 42.2 (1991): 532-564.
  • [41] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:993.
  • [42] The midrash from which this passage is taken demonstrates a correspondence between the Ten Commandments and the ten pronouncements by which the world was created according to the account in Genesis.
  • [43] Examples of the form כָּהֵם are found in 2 Sam. 24:3 (2xx); 2 Kgs. 17:15; Eccl. 9:12; 1 Chr. 21:3; 2 Chr. 9:11.
  • [44] We have found only three places in tannaic sources where the form כְּמוֹתָם occurs:

    משל למה הדבר דומה למלך בשר ודם שנכנס למדינה ועליו צפירה מקיפתו וגבוריו מימינו ומשמאלו וחיילות מלפניו ומלאחריו והיו הכל שואלין איזה הוא המלך מפני שהוא בשר ודם כמותם אבל כשנגלה הקב″ה על הים לא נצרך אחד מהם לשאול איזהו המלך אלא כיון שראוהו הכירוהו ופתחו כלן ואמרו זה אלי ואנוהו

    A parable: to what may the matter be compared? To a king of flesh and blood who enters a province and a circle of guards surround him, and his mighty men are to his right and his left, and soldiers are ahead of him and behind him, and everyone asks, “Which one is the king?” because he is flesh and blood like them [כמותם]. But when the Holy one, blessed be he, revealed himself at the Red Sea not one of them needed to ask, “Which one is the king?” Rather, as soon as they saw him they recognized him and everyone opened [their mouths] and said, This is my God and I will glorify him [Exod. 15:2]. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 3 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:184-185])

    מה ענבים בנזיר עשה מה שיוצא מהם כמותם אף בהמה נעשה את שיוצא מהם כמותם

    Now grapes are forbidden to a Nazirite, and Scripture regards what comes out of them [i.e., the juice—DNB and JNT] to be like them [כמותם] [i.e., also forbidden to a Nazirite—DNB and JNT]. So also, in the case of an animal forbidden for consumption, should not what comes out of them [i.e., milk—DNB and JNT] be regarded like them [כמותם] [i.e., also forbidden—DNB and JNT]? (Sifra, Shmini chpt. 4 [ed. Weiss, 48d])

    או כמעשה ארץ מצרים וכמעשה ארץ כנען לא תעשו יכול לא יבנו בניינות ולא יטעו נטיעות כמותם תלמוד לומר ובחוקותיהם לא תלכו

    Or according to the deeds of the land of Egypt…and according to the deeds of the land of Canaan…you must not act [Lev. 18:3]. It is possible that this could be understood as “Do not build buildings or plant vegetation like them [כמותם],” therefore Scripture says, and in their statutes do not walk [Lev. 18:3]. (Sifra, Aḥare Mot parasha 9 [ed. Weiss, 85d])

  • [45] The apostle Paul (1 Cor. 7:18) mentioned the practice of Jews removing the marks of their circumcision in order to assimilate 1 Cor. 7:18. See Tomson, 180-181. On assimilation and other Jewish responses to imperialism, see Joshua N. Tilton, “A Mile on the Road of Peace,” on WholeStones.org.
  • [46] On Tiberias Julius Alexander, see Daniel R. Schwartz, “Philo, His Family, and his Times,” in The Cambridge Companion to Philo (ed. Adam Kamesar; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 9-31.
  • [47] See Metzger, 15.
  • [48] See Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, Comment to L53.
  • [49] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:374-375.
  • [50] See Gen. 3:5 (ᾔδει γὰρ ὁ θεὸς = כִּי יֹדֵעַ אֱלֹהִים); 18:19 (ᾔδειν γὰρ = כִּי יְדַעְתִּיו); Exod. 3:7 (οἶδα γὰρ τὴν ὀδύνην αὐτῶν = כִּי יָדַעְתִּי אֶת מַכְאֹבָיו); Deut. 31:29 (οἶδα γὰρ = כִּי יָדַעְתִּי); Ruth 3:11 (οἶδεν γὰρ πᾶσα φυλὴ λαοῦ μου = כִּי יוֹדֵעַ כָּל־שַׁעַר עַמִּי); Job 23:10 (οἶδεν γὰρ = כִּי יָדַע); 30:23 (οἶδα γὰρ = כִּי יָדַעְתִּי).
  • [51] In LXX the command “You must not curse God” (Exod. 22:27) was translated as “You must not disrespect the gods [of the Gentiles].” Such an interpretation had the dual function of tamping down the zealous impulses of the more volatile members of the Jewish community and demonstrating to non-Jews that Judaism was not an intolerant religion (cf. Philo, QE 2:5). See Pieter W. van der Horst, “‘Thou Shalt not Revile the Gods’: The LXX Translation of Ex. 22:28 (27), Its Background and Influence,” Studia Philonica Annual 5 (1993): 1-8.
  • [52] Segal, 44 §80.
  • [53] In LXX πρὸ τοῦ + infinitive translates the construction טֶרֶם + finite verb in Gen. 2:5 (2xx); 19:4; 24:15, 45; 37:18; 41:50; 45:28; Exod. 12:34; Deut. 31:21; Josh. 3:1; Ruth 3:14; Ps. 57[58]:10; Prov. 30:7; Zeph. 2:2 (2xx); Isa. 42:9; Jer. 13:16; Ezek. 16:57.
  • [54] See Segal, 134 §294.
  • [55] In LXX שָׁאַל מִן (shā’al min, “ask of,” “request”) is usually translated αἰτεῖν παρά. Cf., e.g., Exod. 3:22; 11:2; 12:35; 22:13; Deut. 10:12; 18:16; Judg. 1:14; 8:24; 1 Kgdms. 1:17, 27; 8:10; 2 Kgdms. 3:13; 3 Kgdms. 2:16, 20; 2 Esd. 8:22; 23:6; Ps. 2:8; 26[27]:4; Prov. 30:7; Zech. 10:1. In eight of these examples the compound form מֵאֵת is used instead of just מִן (Exod. 11:2; Judg. 1:14; 1 Kgdms. 8:10; 2 Kgdms. 3:13; 3 Kgdms. 2:16, 20; Ps. 27:4; Prov. 30:7). In five of these examples the compound form מֵעִם is used (Exod. 22:13; Deut. 10:12; 18:16; 1 Kgdms. 1:17, 27).
  • [56] Two examples where LXX omits a preposition where MT has שָׁאַל מִן are:

    וַיְהִי בְּבוֹאָהּ וַתְּסִיתֵהוּ לִשְׁאוֹל מֵאֵת אָבִיהָ שָׂדֶה

    And at her coming, she pressed him to ask for a field from her father. (Josh. 15:18)

    καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἰσπορεύεσθαι αὐτὴν καὶ συνεβουλεύσατο αὐτῷ λέγουσα Αἰτήσομαι τὸν πατέρα μου ἀγρόν

    And it happened, when she came in, that she advised him, saying, “I will ask my father for a field.” (Josh. 15:18; NETS)

    חַיִּים שָׁאַל מִמְּךָ נָתַתָּה לּוֹ

    Life he asked of you, and you gave it to him. (Ps. 21:5)

    ζωὴν ᾐτήσατό σε, καὶ ἔδωκας αὐτῷ

    Life he asked of you, and you gave it to him. (Ps. 20:5; NETS)

  • [57] Note that Martin classified Praying Like Gentiles as a pericope which trends toward the “translation Greek” type. See Raymond A. Martin, Syntax Criticism of the Synoptic Gospels (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1987), 114. Unfortunately, Martin lumped the On Prayer pericope (Matt. 6:5-6) together with Praying Like Gentiles (Matt. 6:7-8), which may have skewed his results.
  • [58] On the role the Anthologizer played in breaking up the extended teaching discourse on prayer, see the introduction to the “How to Pray” complex.
  • [59] See above, “Story Placement.”
  • [60] See R. Steven Notley, “Can Gentiles Be Saved?

Lost Sheep and Lost Coin Similes

by David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton

Matt. 18:10-14; Luke 15:3-10
(Huck 133, 172; Aland 169, 219, 220; Crook 188, 265, 266)[1]

Revised: 17-January-2018

וַיִּמְשׁוֹל לָהֶם אֶת הַמָּשָׁל הַזֶּה לֵאמֹר מִי אָדָם בָּכֶם שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ מֵאָה צֹאן וְנִדַּחַת אַחַת מֵהֶן הֲלֹא יַנִּיחַ אֶת הַתִּשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה עַל הֶהָרִים וְיֵלֵךְ וִיבַקֵּשׁ אֶת הָאֹבֶדֶת עַד שֶׁיִּמְצָא אֹתָה וּכְשֶׁהוּא מוֹצֵא אֹתָה שָׂם עַל כְּתֵפוֹ בְּשִׂמְחָה וּבָא לְבֵיתוֹ וְקֹרֵא לְאוֹהֲבָיו וְלִקְרוֹבָיו לוֹמַר לָהֶם שִׂמְחוּ עִמִּי שֶׁמָּצָאתִי אֶת הַשֶּׂה שֶׁלִּי הָאֹבֶדֶת אָמֵן אֲנִי אֹמֵר לָכֶם כָּךְ יֵשׁ שִׂמְחָה בַּשָּׁמַיִם עַל רָשָׁע אֶחָד שֶׁעֹשֶׂה תְּשׁוּבָה מֵעַל תִּשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה צַדִּיקִים שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם צוֹרֶךְ בִּתְשׁוּבָה

וּמִי אִישָׁה שֶׁיֵּשׁ לָה עֲשָׂרָה דִּינָרִים וְהִיא מְאַבֶּדֶת דִּינָר אֶחָד הֲלֹא תַּדְלִיק נֵר וּתְכַבֵּד אֶת הַבַּיִת וּתְבַקֵּשׁ עַד שֶׁתִּמְצָא אֹתוֹ וּכְשֶׁהִיא מֹצֵאת אֹתוֹ קֹרֵאת לְאוֹהֲבוֹתֶיהָ וְלִקְרוֹבוֹתֶיהָ לוֹמַר לָהֶן שְׂמַחְנָה עִמִּי שֶׁמָּצָאתִי אֶת הַדִּינָר שֶׁאִבַּדְתִּי אָמֵן אֲנִי אֹמֵר לָכֶם כָּךְ יֵשׁ שִׂמְחָה לִפְנֵי מַלְאֲכֵי שָׁמַיִם עַל רָשָׁע אֶחָד שֶׁעֹשֶׂה תְּשׁוּבָה

Then Yeshua told them this parable: “Imagine you have a hundred sheep and one of them strays from the flock. Won’t you leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go search for the one that got lost until you’ve found it? And when you’ve finally found it, won’t you carry it home on your shoulders and invite all your nearest and dearest and tell them: ‘Come celebrate with me! I’ve found my missing sheep!’?

“Yes! And I’ll tell you what: God rejoices over one sinner who repents even more than he does over ninety-nine righteous people who don’t need to repent.

“Or can you imagine a woman who has ten coins each worth a day’s wage, but she’s lost one of them? Won’t she light a lamp, sweep the house, and search until she’s found it? And when she’s finally found it, won’t she invite all her nearest and dearest and tell them: ‘Come celebrate with me! I’ve found the coin I lost!’?

“Yes! And I’ll tell you what: God has this kind of joyful celebration in the presence of the angels over every single sinner who repents.”[2]


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Reconstruction

To view the reconstructed text of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes click on the link below:

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Story Placement

In Luke’s Gospel the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes (Luke 15:3-10) are given in response to questions regarding the propriety of Jesus’ conduct in associating with sinners.[3] The wording of the introduction to the similes is so closely paralleled in the Call of Levi story that it appears Luke 15:1-3 is, in fact, the First Reconstruction’s (FR) summary of the Call of Levi story, which the First Reconstructor copied from the Anthology (Anth.) (see below, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission”). Evidently, the First Reconstructor was more interested in the Pharisaic criticism of Jesus’ association with “toll collectors and sinners” and the parables that Jesus gave in response than he was in the personality of Levi the toll collector. He therefore omitted the specifics of Levi’s call and the banquet Levi held in Jesus’ honor, but retained the Pharisaic criticism of Jesus’ free association with sinners and the twin similes Jesus gave in response. Nevertheless, the First Reconstructor preserved, in a highly condensed form, the original context of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes by correctly explaining that the twin similes were a defense of Jesus’ social contact with tax collectors (Luke 15:1-3).[4] Since it was the First Reconstructor’s method to epitomize Anth. and polish its Greek style, it is likely that neither simile has reached us in as pristine a form as we might have had if the author of Luke had copied them directly from Anth. To the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes the author of Luke appended the Prodigal Son parable (Luke 15:11-32).

The author of Matthew incorporated the Lost Sheep simile (Matt. 18:10-14) into the fourth major discourse of his Gospel (Matt. 18:1-19:1). This discourse is based on Mark 9:33-50,[5] but the author of Matthew added additional materials from his non-Markan source (i.e., Anth.) and perhaps some items of his own composition, in accordance with his usual procedure when compiling the major discourses.[6] The theme of Matthew’s fourth discourse is pastoral care for the Christian community.[7] As such, the position of the “little ones” within the church (cf. Matt. 18:6, 10, 14) and the restoration of straying members are of primary concern. Beginning with the importance of children (Matt. 18:1-5), the discourse moves on to those who have been enticed to sin. Those who lead them astray are harshly condemned (Matt. 18:6-9), but the little ones themselves are not to be despised (Matt. 18:10-14). Instead, they are to be gently rebuked (Matt. 18:15-20) and forgiven repeatedly from the heart (Matt. 18:21-35). In order to fit the Lost Sheep simile into the context he created for it, the author of Matthew extensively revised the wording of his source and subtly changed the application of the simile from a justification of Jesus’ conduct to a model for pastoral care.[8]

It was during one of Professor David Flusser’s Synoptic Gospel seminars at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in February of 1978 that Robert Lindsey realized that the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes were likely the continuation of the Call of Levi story at a pre-synoptic stage.[9] This realization dawned on Lindsey when he noticed the distinctive vocabulary that appears in the Call of Levi story and the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes. This distinctive vocabulary includes the phrase οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν (“no need they have”; Luke 5:31; 15:7), δίκαιοι (“righteous persons”; Luke 5:32; 15:7), ἁμαρτωλός (“sinner”; Luke 5:30, 32; 15:1, 2, 7, 10) and μετάνοια (“repentance”; Luke 5:32; 15:7, 10). Lindsey’s insight that the Call of Levi story and the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes fit together perfectly is confirmed by our finding that Luke 15:1-10 represents FR’s truncated version of Anth.’s account of Yeshua and Levi the Toll Collector. Accordingly, in the Map of the Conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua we have placed the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes immediately following the Call of Levi story in the section entitled “Calling and Training Disciples.” To see an overview of the entire “Yeshua and Levi the Toll Collector” complex, click here.

loymapfix

 

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

 

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

As we noted above, the Lost Sheep simile is attested in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.[10] The Lukan and Matthean versions display wide verbal disparity, which classifies the Lost Sheep simile as a Type 2 Double Tradition (DT) pericope.[11] Lindsey attributed the wide verbal disparity between Matthean and Lukan versions of Type 2 DT pericopae to Matthew’s dependence on the Anthology (Anth.) versus Luke’s dependence on the First Reconstruction (FR), an improved Greek epitome of Anth. In the present case, some of the verbal disparity between the Lukan and Matthean versions of the Lost Sheep simile probably is due to their use of different sources, but it also appears that the author of Matthew subjected the Lost Sheep simile to heavy redaction in order to make its message conform to the new context in which he placed it in his Gospel. We have found that the author of Matthew generally copied Anth. with a high degree of fidelity to its wording, but he did not always follow this procedure, especially when he wanted to express a theological opinion not found in his source.[12] In the present case, the author of Matthew omitted the Lost Coin simile altogether[13] and substantially abbreviated the Lost Sheep simile.[14] In addition, since he was adapting the simile to illustrate the value of the “little ones” and to encourage church leaders to provide them with pastoral care, the author of Matthew entirely eliminated the theme of God’s pleasure in repentance, which was the original point of comparison between God and the actors in the two similes. As a result of this editorial activity, much of Anth.’s wording was lost from Matthew’s version of the Lost Sheep simile.

The conclusion that the author of Luke copied the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes from FR is supported by the following considerations:[15]

  • First, as we have just noted, Lindsey ascribed the verbal disparity of Type 2 DT pericopae to Matthew’s use of Anth. where Luke depended on FR.
  • Second, Luke 15:1-3 is a doublet of Luke 5:29-31. Lindsey explained the phenomenon of Lukan Doublets as being the result of Luke’s having copied parallel versions of the same pericope from each of his two sources, Anth. and FR.[16] Since Lindsey described FR as a condensed version of Anth. with a more refined Greek style, and since the Greek of Luke 15:1-3 is more polished than that of its doublet in Luke 5:29-31, we are naturally led to the conclusion that the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes were copied from FR.
  • Third, as we shall see in the Comment section below, the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes in Luke have proven to be more difficult to reconstruct in Hebrew than we have come to expect from pericopae copied from Anth. Although it is possible that the author of Luke was himself responsible for all the editorial activity we find in these similes, usually the author of Luke did not subject the sources he copied to the level of redaction evident in the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes. Presuming that Luke treated these similes with the same measure of fidelity to his sources as was his usual custom, it is more likely that the degree of Greek redaction we have detected in Luke’s version of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes was mainly due to the First Reconstructor.
  • Fourth, we think it is unlikely that the author of Luke would have detached the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes from their original context as the continuation of the Call of Levi story on his own initiative. It is more likely that the author of Luke knew two versions of the Call of Levi story. The first version, from Anth., told the “complete story,” including Levi’s call, the banquet Levi held in Jesus’ honor (Luke 5:27-29 and parallels), the skeptical inquiry of the Pharisees (Luke 5:30 and parallels), Jesus’ witty response (“It is not the healthy who need a doctor…”; Luke 5:31-32 and parallels), and the twin Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes. The second version, from FR, presented a highly condensed version that included only the most minimal narrative introduction (Jesus consorted with toll collectors and sinners), the thrust of the Pharisees’ criticism, and the twin similes that conveyed in the most pointed manner the essence of Jesus’ response. Confronted with these two versions, which were different enough so that he was not certain that they described the same episode, the author of Luke chose to copy both accounts, giving Anth.’s longer version in Luke 5:27-32, and FR’s distillation of the incident in Luke 15:1-10. However, since Luke did not want to repeat the similes twice in his Gospel, and since there would be nothing left of the FR version if he omitted the similes there, he omitted the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes from the version he copied from Anth.[17]

The combination of all these factors leaves little room for doubt that the author of Luke copied the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes from FR.

Fortunately, due to Lindsey’s realization that stories about Jesus often became fragmented in the process of transmission, and his observation that Lukan Doublets are in fact two versions of the same story copied from parallel sources, we are able to restore the “complete” story of “Yeshua and Levi the Toll Collector” as it likely appeared in the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

Crucial Issues

  1. Is it true that the Pharisees despised all shepherds?

Comment

L1-6 Matthew 18:10 was probably composed by the author of Matthew in order to integrate the Lost Sheep simile into its new context within his discourse on pastoral care. This verse creates a bookend for the Lost Sheep simile, which mirrors the application in Matt. 18:14. Both Matt. 18:10 and Matt. 18:14 mention “one of these little ones,” both mention the “Father in heaven,” and the warning not to despise the little ones in Matt. 18:10 is balanced by the declaration that it is not the will of the Father that any of the little ones be destroyed. It is possible that the author of Matthew found some inspiration for the composition of Matt. 18:10 in the application of the Lost Coin simile, since Matthew’s mention of the angels of the little ones who see the Father’s face is somewhat reminiscent of the angels of God who rejoice over the one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10).

L1 ὁρᾶτε μὴ καταφρονήσητε (Matt. 18:10). In phrasing the warning “See that you do not despise,” the author of Matthew utilized his preferred vocabulary. Imperatival forms of ὁρᾶν (horan, “to see”) are typical of Matthew’s editorial style.[18]

L2 ἑνὸς τῶν μεικρῶν τούτων (Matt. 18:10). The designation μικρῶν τούτων (mikrōn toutōn, “these little ones”) was a favorite Matthean term for members of his community. The author of Matthew did not coin the phrase μικρῶν τούτων, which occurs in Jesus’ warning against causing “these little ones” to stumble (Luke 17:2; Mark 9:42; Matt. 18:6). However, the author of Matthew expanded the use of this phrase, adding it to Matt. 10:42; 18:10; and 18:14. The verses where the author of Matthew added the phrase “these little ones” were either composed by the author of Matthew himself or subjected to his redaction.[19]

L3 λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι (Matt. 18:10). Although he discarded much of the original wording of the Lost Sheep simile, and despite having omitted the Lost Coin simile in its entirety, the author of Matthew did salvage some of the original vocabulary from the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes. In Luke 15:7 and Luke 15:10 “I say to you” occurs in applications of the twin similes, which the author of Matthew omitted. As we noted above (Comment to L1-6), Matt. 18:10 seems to have been formulated with the original applications of both similes in mind.

L4-6 The concept of angels who watch over individuals is not alien to ancient Judaism (cf., e.g., Gen. 24:7; 48:15-16; Ps. 91:11; Tob. 5:22; 1QS III, 20; t. Shab. 17:2).[20] In Matt. 18:10, however, the angels function as representatives of “these little ones” in the heavenly courts. We believe the author of Matthew adapted this idea from the original application of the Lost Coin simile, which describes the joy the angels experience over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10).

L7 Some NT MSS insert the statement ἦλθεν γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου (ζητῆσαι καὶ) σῶσαι τὸ ἀπολωλός (“For the Son of Man came [to seek and] to save the lost”) between Matt. 18:10 and Matt. 18:12. It is all but certain, however, that later copyists interpolated this statement from Luke 19:10, since it is inconceivable that a scribe would have dropped this verse had it appeared in the original text.[21]

L8-9 וַיִּמְשׁוֹל לָהֶם אֶת הַמָּשָׁל הַזֶּה לֵאמֹר (HR). In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew we encounter the phrases λέγειν ἐν παραβολαῖς (“to say in parables”; e.g., Mark 3:23; Matt. 22:1) and λαλεῖν ἐν παραβολαῖς (“to speak in parables”; e.g., Mark 12:1; Matt. 13:3, 10, 13, 34),[22] and Mark also has the phrase διδάσκειν ἐν παραβολαῖς (“to teach in parables”; Mark 4:2) to introduce parables. Matthew is alone in using the phrase παρατιθέναι + παραβολή (“to set before [it] a parable”; e.g., Matt. 13:24, 31). The Gospel of Luke, in which all the aforementioned phrases are lacking, is unique among the Synoptics in introducing parables and similes with the construction λέγειν + παραβολή (“to tell [lit., say] a parable”).[23] Unlike the phrases found in Mark and Matthew, Luke’s construction is paralleled in LXX and easily reverts to Hebrew. On four occasions in Ezekiel the construction λέγειν + παραβολή is used to translate מָשַׁל מָשָׁל (“tell a parable”).[24] In addition, we find that parables in rabbinic sources are introduced with statements such as מָשְׁלוּ מָשָׁל (“they told a parable”)[25] or אֶמְשׁוֹל לְךָ מָשָׁל (“I will tell you a parable”).[26] It therefore appears, with regard to the construction λέγειν + παραβολή, that the author of Luke preserved a Hebraic manner of introducing parables and similes.[27] Undoubtedly the author of Luke picked up this Hebraic usage from his sources.

The Lost Sheep

The following rabbinic parable bears a strong resemblance to the Lost Sheep simile:

ואף משה לא בחנו הקב″ה אלא בצאן, אמרו רבותינו כשהיה מרע″ה רועה צאנו של יתרו במדבר ברח ממנו גדי ורץ אחריו עד שהגיע לחסית כיון שהגיע לחסית נזדמנה לו בריכה של מים ועמד הגדי לשתות, כיון שהגיע משה אצלו אמר אני לא הייתי יודע שרץ היית מפני צמא עיף אתה הרכיבו על כתיפו והיה מהלך, אמר הקב″ה יש לך רחמים לנהוג צאנו של בשר ודם כך חייך אתה תרעה צאני ישראל, הוי ומשה היה רועה

Also Moses was tested by God through sheep. Our Rabbis said that when Moses our teacher, peace be upon him, was tending the flock of Jethro in the wilderness, a little kid escaped from him. He ran after it until it reached a shady place. When it reached the shady place, there appeared to view a pool of water and the kid stopped to drink. When Moses approached it, he said: ‘I did not know that you ran away because of thirst; you must be weary.’ So he placed the kid on his shoulder and walked away. Thereupon God said: ‘Because thou hast mercy in leading the flock of a mortal, thou wilt assuredly tend my flock Israel.’ Hence now Moses was keeping the flock. (Exod. Rab. 2:2; Soncino)

L10 τί ὑμῖν δοκεῖ (Matt. 18:12). Matthean redaction is evident not only in the framing of the Lost Sheep simile, but also in the wording of the simile proper. In NT the question τί ὑμῖν δοκεῖ (ti hūmin dokei, “What do you think?”) is limited almost entirely to the Gospel of Matthew.[28] Although we do sometimes encounter the question מָה אַתֶּם סְבוּרִים (māh ’atem sevūrim, “What are you thinking?”) in rabbinic sources,[29] in light of the typical use of τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν to introduce similes (see below, Comment to L12), and in view of Matthew’s editorial activity throughout this pericope, we conclude that Matthew’s τί ὑμῖν δοκεῖ in L10 is redactional.[30]

L11 ἐὰν γένηταί (Matt. 18:12). Matthew’s hypothetical “If it might happen…” occurs twice in Matthew’s version of the Lost Sheep simile (Matt. 18:12, 13), but nowhere else in the Gospels, which leads us to suspect that this phrase, too, is redactional.[31] It is possible, however, that Matthew’s use of γίνεσθαι (ginesthai, “to be”) is recycled from the wording of Anth., since this verb appears in Luke’s application of the Lost Coin similes (Luke 15:10; L56) and may have appeared in the original application of the Lost Sheep simile as well (GR L35).

L12 τίς ἄνθρωπος ἐξ ὑμῶν (GR). We have accepted Luke’s “What person among you…?” for GR. Elsewhere we have traced the interrogative phrase τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν (tis ex hūmōn) in Luke to Anth.[32] The origin of τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν in Anth. is confirmed by the agreement of Luke and Matthew to use this phrase in Matt. 6:27 // Luke 12:25, and the near agreement in Matt. 7:9 // Luke 11:11, both of which occur in DT pericopae.

The addition of ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos, “person”)—less precise than ἀνήρ (anēr, “man”)—to the interrogative phrase τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν may be intended to highlight the contrast with the protagonist in the second simile, a woman (Luke 15:8; L39). Using characters from contrasting walks of life is a feature of many of Jesus’ twin illustrations.[33] We have encountered similarly contrasting figures in the Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl parables, where the protagonists were a poor laborer and a wealthy merchant, and in Tower Builder and King Going to War, where the contrast was between commoner and royalty.

מִי אָדָם בָּכֶם (HR). On the reconstruction of τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν as מִי בָּכֶם, see Tower Builder and King Going to War, Comment to L1.

We have chosen to reconstruct ἄνθρωπος as אָדָם (’ādām, “person”) instead of אִישׁ (’ish, “man”) for two reasons. First, in MH אָדָם became more common than אִישׁ.‎[34] Second, אָדָם is a more precise equivalent of ἄνθρωπος than אִישׁ, although in LXX ἄνθρωπος was used to render both terms.[35] In rabbinic sources we sometimes find אָדָם paired with אִשָּׁה (’ishāh, “woman”) in places where we might have expected אִישׁ, for instance:

נושא אדם אשה על מנת שלא לזון, על מנת שלא לפרנס, ולא עוד אלא שפוסק עמה שתהא זנתו ומפרנסתו ומלמדתו תורה

A person [אדם] can marry a woman [אשה] even though he will not support her and even though he will not provide for her, and not only that, but he can agree with her that she will be his support and his provider and that she will teach him Torah. (t. Ket. 4:7; Vienna MS)

לא ילך אדם אחר האשה בשוק ואפילו אחר אשתו ואין צ″ל אשה אחרת מפני טענת הבריות

A person [אדם] should not walk behind a woman [האשה] in the market, not even behind his wife, and needless to say some other woman, because of public opinion. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 2:2 [ed. Schechter, 9])

לא ישא אדם אשה עד שתגדל בת אחותו, או עד שימצא את ההגון לו

A person [אדם] should not marry a woman [אשה] until the daughter of his sister is grown or until he finds someone suitable for him. (t. Kid. 1:4; Vienna MS)

אלולי יצר הרע לא בנה אדם בית ולא נשא אשה

If not for the evil inclination a person [אדם] would not build a house or marry a woman [אשה]. (Gen. Rab. 9:7 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:72])

A modern-day shepherd leads his flock past Absalom’s Pillar in Jerusalem’s Kidron Valley. Photograph courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

Some scholars have objected that the Lost Sheep simile would have shocked and offended the Pharisees, who despised the shepherding profession.[36] Moreover, the question “What person among you…?” would have been inapplicable to the Pharisees, since none of them were shepherds. The validity of this objection, however, can be challenged on three fronts. First, while it is true that some rabbinic sources reflect a negative view of shepherds,[37] this opinion is by no means universal.[38] There were, indeed, some sages who raised sheep and/or goats.[39] Second, it is only in the Gospel of Thomas that the owner of the sheep is explicitly identified as a shepherd. It may be that the audience was intended to identify the main actor in the Lost Sheep simile not as a shepherd per se, but as a farmer who owned a medium-sized flock of sheep. Such a farmer could have afforded to hire a shepherd to tend his flock for him.[40] Third, even if there were no sheep owners among the Pharisees to whom the Lost Sheep simile was addressed, they were certainly capable of imagining what they would do if they had lost a sheep and how they would feel upon its recovery. Thus we do not find the objection that the Lost Sheep simile could not originally have been addressed to Pharisees to be compelling.

L13 שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ מֵאָה צֹאן (HR). Both Matthew and Luke agree on the phrase ἑκατὸν πρόβατα (ekaton probata, “one hundred sheep”). In LXX we encounter the phrase ἑκατὸν πρόβατα in 3 Kgdms. 5:3 as the translation of מֵאָה צֹאן (mē’āh tzo’n, “one hundred sheep”). The phrase מֵאָה צֹאן is also a normal way of referring to a hundred sheep in rabbinic sources.[41]

A hundred sheep made for a medium-sized flock in the ancient Roman world.[42] The Tosefta mentions a flock of three hundred sheep as unusually large (t. Bab. Kam. 6:20).[43] The owner of the sheep described in this simile should therefore probably be imagined as being reasonably well-to-do, but not extremely wealthy.

L14-20 It is in this brief section of the Lost Sheep simile that the author of Matthew appears to have adhered more closely to his source than in any other portion of the Lost Sheep simile. In these lines the author of Matthew was not adapting the simile to its new context or reworking the wording of the simile to make it fit his new application. In other words, in L14-20 we encounter the kernel of the Lost Sheep simile that Matthew copied from his source. As a result, there are points in this section at which Matthew’s version seems preferable to Luke’s. This is not surprising, since the Anthology, Matthew’s source for the Lost Sheep simile, is one step closer to the Greek translation of the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua than Luke’s source for the Lost Sheep simile, the First Reconstruction.

L14 καὶ πλανηθῇ (GR). According to Matthew’s version, the sheep strayed of its own accord, whereas in Luke’s version the man loses the sheep (καὶ ἀπολέσας; Luke 15:4). Not only is Matthew’s depiction more true to life—a person does not misplace a sheep, but a sheep can wander from the flock—but we find several instances in LXX where the verb πλανᾶν (planan, “to wander,” “to stray”) is used to describe the actions of sheep (or of people who are compared to sheep). Examples of πλανᾶν used to describe sheep going astray include the following:

Μὴ ἰδὼν τὸν μόσχον τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου ἢ τὸ πρόβατον αὐτοῦ πλανώμενα ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ὑπερίδῃς αὐτά ἀποστροφῇ ἀποστρέψεις αὐτὰ τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου καὶ ἀποδώσεις αὐτῷ.

When you see your brother’s bull calf or his sheep straying away [πλανώμενα] on the road, do not overlook them; by restoring, you shall restore them to your brother. (Deut. 22:1; NETS)

ἐπλανήθην ὡς πρόβατον ἀπολωλός

I went astray [ἐπλανήθην] like a lost sheep. (Ps. 118:176; NETS)[44]

ὡς πρόβατον πλανώμενον, καὶ οὐκ ἔσται ὁ συνάγων

…like a wandering [πλανώμενον] sheep, and there will be no one to gather them…. (Isa. 13:14; NETS)[45]

Our decision to accept καὶ πλανηθῇ for GR was also influenced by our conviction that the Lost Sheep simile draws on the imagery of Ezekiel 34, a chapter in which God chastises the shepherds of Israel for not retrieving the sheep that wandered (τὸ πλανώμενον/הַנִּדַּחַת) and not seeking the sheep that were lost (τὸ ἀπολωλός/הָאֹבֶדֶת) (Ezek. 34:4, 16).[46] It appears that neither the author of Matthew nor the First Reconstructor recognized Ezekiel 34 as the source for the imagery in the Lost Sheep simile, and therefore both writers homogenized the vocabulary, with the First Reconstructor consistently using ἀπολλύειν (apollūein, “to lose”; L14, L21, L32, L41, L51) and the author of Matthew mainly using πλανᾶν (L14, L21, L38).[47]

We note, moreover, that accepting καὶ πλανηθῇ for GR helps us to understand why the owner of the sheep, when summoning his friends and neighbors, does not take responsibility for the loss of the sheep (“I have found my lost sheep”; Luke 15:6) the way the woman in the Lost Coin simile, when summoning her friends and neighbors, takes responsibility for losing her coin (“I have found the coin that I lost”; Luke 15:9).[48]

וְנִדַּחַת (HR). We have reconstructed καὶ πλανηθῇ (kai planēthē, “and might stray”) as וְנִדַּחַת (venidaḥat, “and strays”). In MT the verb נִדַּח (nidaḥ, “be driven away,” “stray”) describes the straying of sheep in Deut. 22:1; Ezek. 34:4, 16. In LXX πλανᾶν translates the verb נִדַּח in Deut. 4:19; 22:1; 30:17; Ezek. 34:4, 16.

L15 ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν (GR). We have accepted Matthew’s word order ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν (hen ex avtōn, “one from them”) for GR because it is more Hebraic than Luke’s ἐξ αὐτῶν ἓν (ex avtōn hen, “from them one”). Luke’s order is probably a Greek improvement introduced by the First Reconstructor, whereas the author of Matthew probably copied ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν directly from Anth.

A rabbinic source offers a parallel to one sheep out of a hundred, albeit in an entirely different context:

איזה הוא אתנן זונה האומר לזונה הילך טלה זה בשכרך אפילו מאה כולם אסורים

What is the hire of a prostitute [Deut. 23:19]? The one who says to a prostitute, “Let this lamb be your wage.” Even if there are a hundred [lambs], they are all forbidden. (Sifre Deut. §261 [ed. Finkelstein, 283])

L16 οὐχὶ καταλείπει (GR). Not only did the author of Matthew write οὐχί (ouchi, “not”) in this section where he is reflecting Anth. more faithfully than in other parts of the Lost Sheep simile, but in the grammatically parallel sections of the Lost Coin (L42), Tower Builder (L3) and King Going to War (L13) similes we likewise find οὐχί, which leads us to conclude that Luke’s οὐ (ou, “not”) is an improvement from FR.[49]

Deciding between Matthew’s ἀφήσει (afēsei, “he will leave”) and Luke’s καταλείπει (kataleipei, “he leaves”) is more difficult. As we have just noted, the author of Matthew adhered more closely to Anth. in this section than in the rest of the Lost Sheep simile. In addition, ἀφιέναι (afienai, “to leave”) is more common in the Gospels than καταλείπειν (kataleipein, “to leave”).[50] On the other hand, the author of Matthew may have changed καταλείπει to ἀφήσει precisely because ἀφιέναι was more familiar.

Our decision to accept Luke’s καταλείπει for GR rests on two points. First, καταλείπειν is not characteristically Lukan terminology, so there is no reason to suspect that the author of Luke altered his source to reflect his personal preference. Second, καταλείπειν also occurs in the Call of Levi story (L18; Luke 5:28). The presence of distinctive vocabulary in Call of Levi and the twin similes supports Lindsey’s suggestion that at a pre-synoptic stage the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes were the continuation of the Call of Levi story.

הֲלֹא יַנִּיחַ (HR). On reconstructing οὐχί as הֲלֹא, see Tower Builder and King Going to War, Comment to L3. On reconstructing καταλείπειν with הִנִּיחַ (hiniaḥ, “leave”), see Call of Levi, Comment to L18. Luke’s καταλείπει (“he leaves”) is in the present tense, but we have reconstructed with a Hebrew imperfect. We also reconstructed a present tense verb with an imperfect in Tower Builder and King Going to War at L3.

Our reconstruction understands the simile as asking two questions: “What person among you has a hundred sheep…?” and “Will he not leave the ninety-nine…?”

L17 τὰ ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα (GR). In Codex Vaticanus, which we use as our base text for our reconstruction, Matt. 18:12 reads τὰ ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα πρόβατα (“the ninety-nine sheep”) at L17.[51] Critical editions of NT, however, regard πρόβατα (probata, “sheep”) as spurious, probably added by the copyist who produced Vaticanus. Given the absence of πρόβατα in Luke and the probability that πρόβατα does not properly belong to the text of Matthew, we have omitted πρόβατα from GR.

אֶת הַתִּשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה (HR). Contrasting “one” with “ninety-nine” is a stock image in rabbinic sources,[52] as the following examples illustrate:

אֲפִילּוּ תִשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה אוֹמְ′ לְחַלֵּק וְאֶחָד אוֹמֵ′ לָבוֹז לָזֶה שׁוֹמְעִין שֶׁאָמַר כַּהֲלָכָה

Even if ninety-nine say, “Apportion it [for peah, i.e., a portion of the harvest set aside for the poor—DNB and JNT],” but one says, “Use it [for ourselves],” they listen to this one, for he spoke according to the halachah. (m. Peah 4:1)

אֲפִילּוּ תִשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה אוֹ′ לָבוֹז וְאֶחָד אוֹמֵ′ לְחַלֵּק לָזֶה שׁוֹמְעִין שֶׁאָמַר כַּהֲלָכָה

Even if ninety-nine say, “Use it [for ourselves],” but one says, “Apportion it [for peah],” they listen to this one, for he spoke according to the halachah. (m. Peah 4:2)

לוג מים שנפל לתוך תשעי′ ותשעה יין

A log [i.e., a unit of liquid measure—DNB and JNT] of water that fell into ninety-nine [logs of] wine…. (t. Ter. 6:7; Vienna MS)

Some scholars have suggested that we ought to understand from the number ninety-nine that the owner of the sheep had just counted his flock as he was putting them into the fold at night.[53] This ingenious suggestion attempts to resolve the problematic implication that the ninety-nine sheep were put in danger by being left without anyone to defend them while the man went looking for the one lost sheep. The problem this imaginative proposal attempts to resolve, however, is more apparent than real, since there is no reality behind or beyond the sparse Lost Sheep narrative of which we can ask questions. Jesus’ parables and similes do not describe real events that actually took place, and therefore the question “What happened to the ninety-nine sheep?” is meaningless. Any details that are omitted from the narrative have nothing to do with the comparison that Jesus intended to make.[54]

L18 ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη (GR). Deciding between Matthew’s ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη (epi ta orē, “on the hills”) and Luke’s ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ (en tē erēmō, “in the wilderness”) is extremely difficult.[55] Both options can easily be reconstructed in Hebrew, the first option as עַל הֶהָרִים (‘al hehārim, “on the mountains”)[56] and the second option as בַּמִּדְבָּר (bamidbār, “in the wilderness”).[57] Three considerations tip the balance in favor of accepting Matthew’s “on the mountains” for GR. First, as we have noted, in L14-20 the author of Matthew adhered more closely to the wording of Anth. than in any other part of the Lost Sheep simile, so there is a good chance that Matthew’s ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη reflects the reading of Anth. Second, Matthew’s “on the mountains” can be explained as drawing on the imagery of Ezekiel 34, where mountains and hills are mentioned repeatedly (cf. Ezek. 34:6, 13, 14 [2xx], 26).[58] Third, Luke’s reading, “in the wilderness,” the normal grazing ground for sheep (cf. m. Bab. Kam. 7:7), can be explained as the First Reconstructor’s attempt to prevent readers from drawing the problematic inference that the owner of the sheep risked the lives of the ninety-nine sheep by abandoning them in the mountains.[59] Thus, we have identified a motive that can account for why the author of Luke or the First Reconstructor might have changed ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη to ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, but there is no obvious reason why the author of Matthew would have changed “in the desert” to the possibly theologically problematic “on the mountains” if he had found ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ in his source.

L19-21 καὶ πορευθεὶς ζητεῖ τὸ ἀπολωλὸς (GR). We have preferred Matthew’s καὶ πορευθεὶς ζητεῖ (kai porevtheis zētei, “and going he seeks”) to Luke’s καὶ πορεύεται ἐπὶ (kai porevetai epi, “and he goes after”) for GR. Scholars have noted that the construction πορεύεσθαι + ἐπί + accusative is characteristically Lukan,[60] and, as Harnack noted, Luke’s wording looks like a Greek improvement of Matthew’s more Hebraic phrasing.[61] “Seeking,” moreover, is an important theme that unites the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes (cf. L44; Luke 15:8), which carries echoes of Ezekiel 34.[62]

On the other hand, we have preferred Luke’s τὸ ἀπολωλός (to apolōlos, “the lost one”) over Matthew’s τὸ πλανώμενον (to planōmenon, “the wandering one”). For pastoral reasons the author of Matthew wanted to stress the theme of bringing strays back into the fold,[63] whereas in its original form the Lost Sheep simile was probably intended to allude to Ezekiel 34, where we twice find ζητεῖν in combination with τὸ ἀπολωλός (Ezek. 34:4, 16).[64] As we noted earlier (Comment to L14), in his statement “It is not the will of my Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost” (Matt. 18:14), the author of Matthew betrays his knowledge that in its original form the simile referred to a sheep that was lost.

A sheep on Givat haMivtar in Jerusalem rests its head on a stone. Photograph courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

L19-20 וְיֵלֵךְ וִיבַקֵּשׁ (HR). Elsewhere we have found that καί + participle + aorist is often used in LXX to translate two vav-consecutives.[65] Here we have a somewhat analogous situation with καί + participle + present, which we have reconstructed with two imperfects each prefixed with vav. Segal noted that in MH using successive imperfects to describe a series of future acts replaced the BH use of perfect vav-consecutives, citing the following examples:[66]

הִיזָּהֲרוּ בְדִיבְרֵיכֶם שֶׁמֵּא תָחוֹבוּ חוֹבַת גָּלוּת וְתִיגְלוּ לִמְקוֹם הַמַּיִם הָרָעִים וְיִשְׁתּוּ הַתַּלְמִידִים הַבָּאִים אַחֲרֵיכֶם וְיַמוּתוּ

Be careful of your words, lest you incur the guilt of exile, and you be exiled to a place of evil waters, and your disciples who come after you drink them and they die…. (m. Avot 1:11)

אלך לביתי ואוכל קימעא ואשתה קימעא ואישן קימעא, ואחר כך אקרא קריאת שמע ואתפלל

I will go to my house and I will eat a little and I will drink a little and I will sleep a little, and afterward I will recite the Shema and I will pray. (b. Ber. 4b; cf. b. Taan. 11a)

On reconstructing πορεύεσθαι (porevesthai, “to go”) with הָלַךְ (hālach, “walk”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L2. On reconstructing ζητεῖν (zētein, “to seek”) with בִּקֵּשׁ (biqēsh, “seek”), see Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl, Comment to L12.

L21 אֶת הָאֹבֶדֶת (HR). In the LXX translation of Ezekiel 34 the lost sheep is twice described as τὸ ἀπολωλός (Ezek. 34:4, 16), and in both instances the Hebrew text has אֶת הָאֹבֶדֶת (’et hā’ovedet, “the lost one”).

L22 ἕως οὗ εὕρῃ αὐτό (GR). According to Luke, the search for the lost sheep continues until its owner has found it. In Matthew’s version, whether or not the sheep will be found is left uncertain. We regard Luke’s version as more authentic, being paralleled in the Lost Coin simile (L45; Luke 15:8).[67] From this point onward the author of Matthew begins once more to depart from the wording of Anth.

In the Lost Sheep simile Luke has ἕως εὕρῃ (heōs hevrē, “until he might find”; Luke 15:4), but in the parallel phrase in the Lost Coin simile Luke has ἕως οὗ εὕρῃ (heōs hou hevrē, “until that she might find”; Luke 15:8). We have added the relative pronoun οὗ (hou, “who,” “what,” “that”) to GR in L22 on the supposition that οὗ originally occurred in both parallel phrases and functioned as the translation of the relative pronoun -שֶׁ.

עַד שֶׁיִּמְצָא אֹתָה (HR). In LXX ἕως (heōs, “until”) occurs frequently as the translation of עַד (‘ad, “until”).[68] The LXX translators rendered the phrase עַד אֲשֶׁר (‘ad ’asher, “until that”) in a variety of ways, such as ἕως τοῦ + infinitive[69] or ἕως ἂν + subjunctive.[70] The translation of עַד אֲשֶׁר as ἕως οὗ + subjunctive, similar to our reconstruction with -עַד שֶׁ, was fairly common.[71] Our reconstruction of ἕως οὗ εὕρῃ αὐτό as עַד שֶׁיִּמְצָא אֹתָה reflects MH rather than BH style.

An example of עַד שֶׁיִּמְצָא plus the direct object marker אֶת is found in the following rabbinic text:

לא ישא אדם אשה עד שתגדל בת אחותו, או עד שימצא את ההגון לו

A person should not marry a woman until the daughter of his sister is grown or until he finds someone [עד שימצא את] suitable for him. (t. Kid. 1:4; Vienna MS)

L23-32 Did the author of Luke (or his source) add the details about the owner finding the sheep, putting it on his shoulders, and calling upon his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him, or did the author of Matthew eliminate them? We believe it to be the latter. As we shall see, the wording of Luke 15:5-6 can be reconstructed in Hebrew with relative ease, so it is unlikely that the author of Luke penned these verses himself. It is more likely that Luke was copying a source. Luke’s source for the Lost Sheep simile was FR, a source that typically pared down what was written in Anth.[72] Given this tendency, it is unlikely that the First Reconstructor would have added details to the simile not found in Anth.

L23 καὶ εὑρὼν αὐτὸ (GR). We have added the personal pronoun αὐτό (avto, “it”) to GR. The First Reconstructor may have omitted αὐτό, finding it redundant. Matthew’s parallel phrase, καὶ ἐὰν γένηται εὑρεῖν αὐτό (kai ean genētai hevrein avto, “and if he finds it”), does have the personal pronoun, and maybe the personal pronoun was also included in Anth.

Third-century C.E. fresco in the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome depicting a shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L24 שָׂם עַל כְּתֵפוֹ (HR). Although in Greek we find the plural ἐπὶ τοὺς ὤμους αὐτοῦ (epi tous ōmous avtou, “on his shoulders”), Hebrew seems to have preferred to keep “shoulder” in the singular in such cases. In LXX we frequently find that “shoulders” (plural) is written in Greek where the Hebrew text has “shoulder” (singular).[73] Compare our reconstruction of ἐπιτίθησιν ἐπὶ τοὺς ὤμους αὐτοῦ (“he sets on his shoulders”) as שָׂם עַל כְּתֵפוֹ (“he sets on his shoulder”) to the following example:

וַיָּשֶׂם עַל שִׁכְמוֹ

…and he put [it] on his shoulder. (Judg. 9:48)

καὶ ἐπέθηκεν ἐπὶ τοὺς ὤμους αὐτοῦ

…and he put [it] on his shoulders. (Judg. 9:48)

In rabbinic sources, which preserve a style of Hebrew closer to what we believe was found in the non-narrative sections of the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua than BH, we have found several examples of עַל כָּתֵף (‘al kātēf, “on [the] shoulder”),[74] but no examples of עַל שְׁכֶם (‘al shechem, “on [the] shoulder”) that are not part of biblical quotations. Examples include the following:

אמ′ ר′ אלעזר בר′ צדוק תינוק הייתי והייתי רוכב על כתפו של אבא וראיתי בת כהן וגו′‏

Rabbi Eleazar said in the name of Rabbi Zadok, “When I was a toddler I was riding on my father’s shoulder [על כתפו] and I saw the daughter of a priest, etc.” (t. Sanh. 9:1 [ed. Zuckermandel, 429])

רבי יוחנן בן זכאי אומר חס המקום על כבודן של בריות שור לפי שהולך ברגליו ישלם חמשה שה לפי שהוא טוענו על כתפו ישלם ארבעה

Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai says, “The Omnipresent one has consideration for the dignity of his creatures [i.e., human beings—DNB and JNT]. An ox, because it walks on its own feet, [a thief who stole it—DNB and JNT] must pay five times its value. A lamb, because he carries it on his shoulder [על כתפו], [a thief who stole it—DNB and JNT] need only pay four times its value.” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Nezikin chpt. 12 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:425])

L25 μετὰ χαρᾶς (GR). In Return of the Twelve we read that the apostles returned to Jesus rejoicing (Luke 10:17), where the Greek phrase is μετὰ χαρᾶς (meta charas, “with joy”). In that instance we believe Luke was copying Anth.[75] We suspect that χαίρων (chairōn, “rejoicing”) here in Luke 15:5 is FR’s replacement for Anth.’s more Hebraic μετὰ χαρᾶς. On reconstructing μετὰ χαρᾶς as בְּשִׂמְחָה (besimḥāh, “with joy”), see Return of the Twelve, Comment to L4.

L26 וּבָא לְבֵיתוֹ (HR). On reconstructing ἔρχεσθαι (erchesthai, “to come”) with בָּא (bā’, “come”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L4. On reconstructing οἶκος (oikos, “house”) with בַּיִת (bayit, “house”), see Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, Comment to L33.

Although the Greek text lacks a possessive pronoun, we have reconstructed εἰς τὸν οἶκον (eis ton oikon, “to the house”) as לְבֵיתוֹ (levētō, “to his house”) with the pronominal suffix. We have found that Greek translators often dropped possessive pronouns where the underlying Hebrew text has a noun with a pronominal suffix.[76]

L27-28 וְקֹרֵא לְאוֹהֲבָיו וְלִקְרוֹבָיו (HR). Although we doubted whether συγκαλεῖν (sūnkalein, “to call together”) stemmed from Anth. when we encountered it in Luke 9:1 (see Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L14), here we have accepted συγκαλεῖν for GR and reconstructed it with -קָרָא לְ (qārā’ le, “call to,” “summon”).[77]

The Lost Sheep simile illustrated in stained glass. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The combination of φίλος (filos, “friend”) and γείτων (geitōn, “neighbor”), which occurs in both the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin similes, is not familiar from LXX, nor is it found elsewhere in NT. We do, however, find the phrase φίλων ὄντων καὶ γειτνιώντων (“being friends and neighbors”) in Josephus’ retelling of the story of Abraham’s rescue of his nephew Lot (Ant. 1:176).

Although we considered reconstructing φίλος and γείτων with חָבֵר (ḥāvēr, “companion,” “friend”) and שָׁכֵן (shāchēn, “neighbor”) respectively, the pairing of חָבֵר with שָׁכֵן is not common in ancient Jewish sources.[78] Nor do we find any examples in LXX where φίλος is the translation of חָבֵר. We have therefore decided to reconstruct φίλος as אוֹהֵב (’ōhēv, “friend”)[79] and γείτων with קָרוֹב (qārōv, “relative”) based on the collocation of these two terms in rabbinic sources.[80] In LXX γείτων is usually the translation of שָׁכֵן,‎[81] but the LXX evidence is not decisive, since קָרוֹב in the sense of “relative” is not encountered in the Hebrew Bible. Given its basic sense of “nearness,” it is not difficult to imagine that the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua might have rendered קָרוֹב as γείτων.

The description of the owner of the sheep summoning his friends and neighbors (or relatives) highlights the communal aspect of the simile. Herein is the point of comparison between the simile and the situation it was given to illustrate (namely, Jesus’ eating with toll collectors and sundry sinners): Just as the owner of the flock called his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him over the recovery of his lost sheep, so God calls the righteous (i.e., Jesus, the disciples, and also the scribes and Pharisees) to join him in rejoicing over sinners who repent. In other words, it is not enough that the owner of the sheep was happy, he wanted others to share in the celebration. So, too, it is not enough that God is happy about repentant sinners, he wants the righteous to celebrate over them—and with them—too.

L29 לוֹמַר לָהֶם (HR). Since we are in dialogue we prefer to reconstruct λέγων (legōn, “saying”) as לוֹמַר (lōmar, “to say”) in accordance with MH style. Compare our reconstruction of λέγοντες (legontes, “saying”) with לוֹמַר in Tower Builder and King Going to War, L8.

L30 συγχάρητέ μοι (GR). Since the verb συγχαίρειν (sūnchairein, “to rejoice with”) occurs only once in LXX (Gen. 21:6), where συγχαρεῖταί μοι (sūnchareitai moi, “he will rejoice with me”) serves as the translation of יִצְחַק לִי (yitzḥaq li, “he will laugh with me”), we considered whether in GR we ought to have the simple imperative χαίρετε (chairete, “Rejoice!”). However, in MH sources we encounter the phrase שָׂמַח עִם (sāmaḥ ‘im, “rejoice with”).[82] Since συγχάρητέ μοι (sūncharēte moi, “Rejoice with me!”) is a literal translation of שִׂמְחוּ עִמִּי (simḥū ‘imi, “Rejoice with me!”), which could have been the reading in the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text, there is no reason to amend συγχάρητέ μοι to χαίρετε in GR.

L31 שֶׁמָּצָאתִי (HR). In MH the relative pronoun -שֶׁ (she-, “who,” “that”) can also mean “because.”[83] In LXX ὅτι (hoti, “that,” “because”) is usually the translation of כִּי (ki, “because”),[84] but it was sometimes also used to translate אֲשֶׁר (asher, “that,” “which,” “because”), the BH equivalent of -שֶׁ.‎[85] A similar usage of שֶׁמָּצָאתִי (shemātzā’ti, “because I have found”) appears in a rabbinic source:

באותה שעה שלח יוסף אצל פרעה ואמר לו שלח לי ע′ גבורים מאצלך שמצאתי ליסטים ואני מבקש ליתן עליהם כבלים

In that very hour Joseph sent to Pharaoh and said to him, “Send me seventy men from you, because I have found [שמצאתי] robbers and I am seeking to put them in chains.” (Gen. Rab. 91:6; printed eds.)

L32 אֶת הַשֶּׂה שֶׁלִּי הָאֹבֶדֶת (HR). Hebrew has a variety of words for a sheep, including כֶּבֶשׂ (keves, “sheep”), כַּר (kar, “young ram”), טָלֶה (ṭāleh, “lambkin”) and אַיִל (’ayil, “ram”). The noun צֹאן (tzo’n) can mean either “sheep” or “flock,” but with a pronominal suffix it seems always to have the latter sense.[86] We have settled on שֶׂה (seh), a common word for a sheep in biblical and post-biblical sources. Usually שֶׂה is treated as a masculine noun, but in Ezekiel 34, where שֶׂה is used to designate single members of the flock (צֹאן), שֶׂה is treated as feminine (Ezek. 34:20).[87] Since we believe Jesus intended the Lost Sheep simile to echo the words of Ezekiel, שֶׂה is the obvious choice for HR.[88]

L33-38 In Matt. 18:13 the author of Matthew departed significantly from his source, but this did not prevent him from recycling words and phrases he found in Anth. It appears that the author of Matthew turned the original application of the Lost Sheep simile—“Amen! I say to you there is greater joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who have no need of repentance”—into the conclusion of the simile itself—“Truly I say to you, he [i.e., the owner of the sheep] rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine non-straying ones”—having dropped the details about the owner setting the sheep upon his shoulders and inviting his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him (see above, Comment to L23-32). By reworking the conclusion of the Lost Sheep simile in this way, the author of Matthew was able to reiterate the theme of straying (L38), which assisted him in his reapplication of the simile as a pastoral exhortation for the leaders of the Matthean community to care for those who were drifting away from the church (see above, “Story Placement”). His editorial changes also allowed the author of Matthew to rework the application of the Lost Coin simile into a new application for the Lost Sheep simile (Matt. 18:14).

A man and a woman tend to their flock near the traditional site of the shepherds’ fields outside Bethlehem. Photograph courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

L33-34 ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι (GR). In Matt. 18:13 the phrase ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν (amēn legō hūmin) occurs in a very un-Hebraic manner, appearing in the middle of a sentence with the meaning “truly I say to you.” In Hebrew אָמֵן (’āmēn) is an affirmative response to a prior statement.[89] This does not mean, however, that Matt. 18:13 is not reflecting Anth. in some way. The author of Matthew cut away much of the original simile, and rewrote its ending and application, but this did not prevent him from recycling some of the words and phrases he found in his source. Luke 15:7 also has the phrase λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι, and while Luke seems to preserve the original position of this phrase as the introduction to the application, Matthew probably preserved the original formulation, which included ἀμήν.[90] The author of Luke, or more probably the First Reconstructor, likely dropped ἀμήν because it was a foreign word that may not have been familiar to a non-Jewish, Greek-speaking audience. In GR ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι occurs in a Hebraic position as an affirmation of what preceded (ἀμήν) and a spelling out of further implications (λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι). We have not included an equivalent to ὅτι (hoti, “that”) in HR. While ὅτι is often used to introduce direct speech in Greek, a Hebrew equivalent is superfluous.[91]

L35 οὕτως γείνεται χαρὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς (GR). We suspect that in Luke 15:7 a redactor, probably the First Reconstructor, attempted to polish the Greek style and in doing so eliminated a Hebraism and changed the tense of the verb for “to be” to the future. The First Reconstructor probably eliminated a Hebraism by changing ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς (“in the heavens [plur.]”) in Anth. to ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ (“in the heaven [sing.]”). In Hebrew “heaven” is always plural, and this is probably reflected in phrases such as Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς (“Our Father, the one in the heavens”; Matt. 6:9), which opens Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer.[92] The present tense, indicated by γείνεται (geinetai, “there is”) in GR, not only occurs in the Lost Coin simile’s parallel statement (L56; Luke 15:10), but the present tense also makes better sense. Both similes defend Jesus’ action in the present (eating with toll collectors and sinners) because God rejoices over repentant sinners in the present, too. The editorial change to the future tense is probably not laden with theological meaning. It may simply reflect the First Reconstructor’s preference for variation of wording in the parallel applications of the two similes. Evidently, he considered verbatim repetition to be tedious for his Greek readers.

כָּךְ יֵשׁ שִׂמְחָה בַּשָּׁמַיִם (HR). We have decided to reconstruct the phrase οὕτως γείνεται (houtōs geinetai, “in this manner there is”) as כָּךְ יֵשׁ (kāch yēsh, “so there is”), examples of which are found in rabbinic sources:

כשם שיש לי בה חלק כך יש לאחרים בה חלק

Just as there is to me a claim upon her, so there is [כך יש] to others a claim on her. (t. Ned. 6:5; Vienna MS)

ר′ פינחס בשם ר′ יהושעיה כחלל שבין הארץ לרקיע כך יש בין רקיע למים העליונים

Rabbi Pinhas said in the name of Rabbi Yehosheah, “Like the chasm that is between the earth and the firmament, so there is [כך יש] [a chasm—DNB and JNT] between the firmament and the waters on high.” (Gen. Rab. 4:3 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:26])

תני בשם רבי מאיר כשם שיש דיעות במאכל ובמשתה כך יש דיעות באנשים

It was taught [in a baraita] in the name of Rabbi Meir: Just as there are opinions about food and drink, so there are [כך יש] opinions about people. (y. Sot. 1:7 [6b])

Some scholars have supposed that “there will be rejoicing in heaven” in Jesus’ statement refers to the eschatological judgment,[93] but this is not necessarily the force of Luke’s future tense,[94] and seems to be refuted by the present tense in the parallel Lost Coin simile. In ancient Jewish sources God’s response to repentance is immediate, and not delayed until the eschaton, as we see in the following example:

ר′ ישמעאל ארבעה חלוקי כפרה הן עבר על מצות עשה ועשה תשובה אין זז ממקומו עד שמוחלין לו שנ′ שובו בנים שובבים ארפא משובתם

Rabbi Ishmael [says], “There are four kinds of atonement: one who committed a transgression of the positive commandments and who did repentance—he does not even move from his place before it is forgiven him, as it is said, Return, O faithless children, I will heal your faithlessness [Jer. 3:22]….” (t. Yom. 4:6; Vienna MS; cf. Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Baḥodesh chpt. 7 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:326]; Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 29:5 [ed. Schechter, 88])

On reconstructing χαρά (chara, “joy”) with שִׂמְחָה (simḥāh, “joy”), see above, Comment to L25.

L36 עַל רָשָׁע אֶחָד שֶׁעֹשֶׂה תְּשׁוּבָה (HR). Examples of שָׂמַח עַל (sāmaḥ ‘al, “rejoice over”), such as we have in our reconstruction (L35-36), occur in the Hebrew Bible,[95] DSS,[96] and in rabbinic sources.[97]

On the reconstruction of ἁμαρτωλός (hamartōlos, “sinner”) as רָשָׁע (rāshā‘, “wicked”), see Call of Levi, Comment to L29.

Our reconstruction of μετανοοῦντι (metanoounti, “repenting”) as שֶׁעֹשֶׂה תְּשׁוּבָה (she‘oseh teshūvāh, “who does repentance”) requires some explanation. Hebrew lacks a specific verb for “repent.” The verb שָׁב (shāv) can mean “turn,” “return” or “repent.” In Modern Hebrew “repent” can be expressed as חזר בתשובה (ḥāzar bitshūvāh, lit., “return in repentance”), but we have not found examples of this phrase in early rabbinic sources. In MH “repent” is expressed as עָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה (‘āsāh teshūvāh, lit., “do repentance”), as we see in the following examples:

כָל הַמַּחֲטִיא אֶת הָרַבִּים אֵין מַסְפִּיקִין בְּיָדוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה

All who cause the public to sin—they are not given the opportunity to do repentance [לַעֲשׂוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה]. (m. Avot 5:18)

היה אדם רשע כל ימיו ועשה תשובה באחרונה, המקום מקבלו שנ′ ורשעת הרשע לא יכשל בה ביום שובו מרשעו וגו′‏

If a person was wicked all his days, but he did repentance [ועשה תשובה] at the last, the Omnipresent one receives him, as it is said, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he will not fall because of it on the day of his turning from his wickedness [Ezek. 33:12]. (t. Kid. 1:16; Vienna MS)

כיון ששמע יעקב כן נזדעזע אמר אוי לי שמא אירע פסולת בבניי עד שנתבשר מפי הקדש שעשה ראובן תשובה שנאמר ויהיו בני יעקב שנים עשר, והלא בידוע ששנים עשר הם אלא שנתבשר מפי הקדש ברוך הוא שעשה ראובן תשובה

As soon as Jacob heard this [i.e., that his son Reuben had committed a sexual transgression—DNB and JNT], he was shaken and said, “Woe to me! Perhaps one who is unworthy has arisen among my sons,” until he was informed from the mouth of the Holy one that Reuben did repentance [עשה ראובן תשובה], as it is said, And the sons of Jacob were twelve [Gen. 35:22]. And was it not well known that they were twelve? But it was to inform him from the mouth of the Holy one, blessed be he, that Reuben did repentance [עשה ראובן תשובה]. (Sifre Deut. §31 [ed. Finkelstein, 52])[98]

On תְּשׁוּבָה (teshūvāh, “repentance”), see Call of Levi, Comment to L68. “Repentance” is a key term that links the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes to the Call of Levi story.

L37 ἢ ἐπὶ τοῖς ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα (Matt. 18:13). Matthew’s recycling of Anth.’s wording is particularly evident in L37, where every single word except for τοῖς (tois, “the”) is paralleled in Luke 15:7. Whereas the comparison between the one and the ninety-nine originally concerned God’s pleasure over one repentant sinner versus ninety-nine righteous persons, as it does in Luke, the author of Matthew has reworked the comparison, making it refer to the owner’s joy over the one sheep that had strayed.

מֵעַל תִּשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה צַדִּיקִים (HR). On reconstructing ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα (enenēkonta ennea, “ninety-nine”) as תִּשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה (tish‘im vetish‘āh), see above, Comment to L17. On reconstructing δίκαιος (dikaios, “righteous”) as צַדִּיק (tzadiq, “righteous”), see Call of Levi, Comment to L66.

L38 οἵτινες οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν μετανοίας (Luke 15:7). The phrase οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν (ou chreian echousin, “no need they have”) is an important verbal link that unites the Call of Levi story with the Lost Sheep simile (Matt. 9:12 // Mark 2:17 // Luke 5:31; 15:7). See Call of Levi, Comment to L59.

שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם צוֹרֶךְ בִּתְשׁוּבָה (HR). On reconstructing οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν (ou chreian echousin, “no need they have”) as אֵין לָהֶם צוֹרֶךְ (’ēn lāhem tzōrech, “there is not to them a need”), see Call of Levi, Comment to L59. A striking parallel to our reconstruction of the phrase “have need of repentance” is found in a rabbinic parable:

דבר אחר שובה ישראל עד ה′ אלהיך מצינו שמא לא היה אחריו שירחק אמר הריני שב. לבן מלכים שהיה חולה. אמר הרופא אם יאכל מן החפץ הוא מתרפא. היה הבן מתיירא לאוכלו, אומר לו אביו תדע שאינו מזיקך הריני אוכל ממנו. כך אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא לישראל מתביישים אתם [לעשות] תשובה הריני שב ראשון שנאמר כה אמר ה′ הנני שב. ומה מי שאין לו חטא ולא סרחון חס ושלום אמר הנני שב. בני אדם על אחת כמה וכמה צריכים לעשות תשובה ולבא אצל הקדוש ברוך הוא שובה ישראל עד ה′ אלהיך

Another interpretation of Return, O Israel, unto the LORD your God [Hos. 14:2]. We have found that when [Israel] was not [following] after him [i.e., God—DNB and JNT] that he made himself distant. Nevertheless, he said, “Behold, I am returning.” [It may be compared] to a son of kings [i.e., a prince—DNB and JNT] who was sick. The doctor said, “If he will eat from the foods I want him to, he will be healed.” But the son was afraid to eat it, so his father says to him, “So that you will know that it is not harmful to you, look, I am eating from it.” In the same way, the Holy one, blessed be he, said to Israel, “You are embarrassed to do repentance, but look, I repent first, as it says, Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I repent’ [Jer. 30:18].” Now then, if one who has no sin and has never been a sinner said, “Behold, I repent,” how much more do human beings need to do repentance [צריכים לעשות תשובה] and to come to the Holy one, blessed be he? [Thus it is written,] Return, O Israel, unto the LORD your God. (Pesikta Rabati §44 [ed. Friedmann, 184a])

This rabbinic parallel is of interest not only because of the linguistic parallel to “have need of repentance,” but also because of its comparison of a sinner to a sick person who needs a doctor, a comparison that also occurs in the Call of Levi story (Matt. 9:12 // Mark 2:17 // Luke 5:31).

Jesus’ statement that there is greater rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance ought to be compared and contrasted with rabbinic statements that draw conclusions about God’s attitude toward the righteous based on the plight of the wicked, such as:

אָמַר ר′ מֵאִיר בִּזְמָן שֶׁאָדָם מִצְטָעֵר מָה הַלָּשׁוֹן אוֹמֶרֶת קַלְעינִי מֵרֹאשִׁי קַלְעינִי מִזְּרוֹעִי אִם כָּךְ אָמַר הַכָּתוּב מִצְטָעֵר אֲנִי עַל דָּמָן שֶׁלָּרְשָׁעִין קַל וָחוֹמֶר עַל דַּם צַדִּיקִים שֶׁנִּישְׁפַּךְ

Rabbi Meir said, “When a man suffers, what words does the Tongue [i.e., God—DNB and JNT][99] say? ‘My head hurts! My arm hurts!’ If the [one who spoke] Scripture thus said, ‘I am suffering,’ on account of the blood of the wicked, how much more over the blood of the righteous which is shed?” (m. Sanh. 6:5)

Rabbi Meir’s bold assertion that God feels the pain of the wicked pertains to a person who is executed by the courts, and expresses his humane attitude toward those who are condemned. Although the rhetorical thrust of Rabbi Meir’s statement is to say that God feels the unjust suffering of the righteous even more, it nevertheless underscores the value of all human life, whether that of the wicked or the righteous. Rabbi Meir made a similar kind of argument in a discussion about houses that exhibit scale disease-like symptoms (cf. Lev. 14:33-57), regarding the command to remove all items from the house prior to its inspection by the priest so that they not be declared impure (Lev. 14:36):

אָמַ′ ר′ מֵאִיר וְכִי מָה מִיטַּמֵּא לוֹ אִם תֹּאמֵר כְּלֵי עֵצָוֹ וּבְגָדָיו וּמַתַּכְתּוֹ מַטְבִּילָ{י}ן וְהֵן טְהוֹרִין וְעַל מָה חָסָה הַתּוֹרָה עַל כְּלֵי חַרְשׂוֹ וְעַל פַּכוֹ וְעַל תַּ{י}פְיוֹ …אִם כַּךְ עַל שֶׁלָּרָשָׁע קַל וָחוֹמֶר עַל שֶׁלַּצַּדִּיק

Rabbi Meir said, “But what would be made impure? If you say his vessels of wood, or his clothes, or his [vessels of] metal, they immerse these and they are pure. Upon what does the Torah have pity? On his earthenware vessels, his flask and his pitcher. …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)

Rabbi Meir’s statement presupposes the notion that a house exhibiting scale disease-like symptoms is a divine punishment for sin. Nevertheless, he underscores that the Torah’s provisions demonstrate God’s concern and compassion for the wicked person he punishes. Once again, the rhetorical thrust of Rabbi Meir’s statement is to highlight how much greater is God’s concern for the righteous than for the wicked, but he achieves this goal by stressing that God cares even for the wicked.

A third example of drawing conclusions about the righteous from the plight of the wicked is found in a discussion about how in 2 Chr. 20:21 the Israelites toned down their celebration of their certain victory over their enemies out of respect for God’s feelings:

אם על מיתתן של רשעים לא היתה שמחה במרום קל וחומר על הצדיקים

If over the deaths of the wicked there was no joy on high, how much more [is there no joy on high] over [the deaths of] the righteous? (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 1 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:172])

In comparison with the above examples, Jesus’ declaration that there is greater rejoicing over one wicked person who repents than over ninety-nine righteous individuals runs counter to expectations. Unlike the rabbinic examples, Jesus does not make a kal vahomer argument about God’s attitude toward the righteous based on his concern for the wicked. Nevertheless, Jesus’ declaration and the rabbinic arguments do agree that God does care for the wicked. While Jesus’ assertion in the Lost Sheep simile may have been shocking to his listeners, it was founded on a premise with which his critics would probably have agreed.

Scholars and theologians routinely question whether Jesus could have been serious when he referred to righteous persons who have no need of repentance.[100] Are we really to suppose that such persons actually existed? Have not all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23)? A rabbinic tradition that describes the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in the Temple toward the end of the Second Temple period (cf. m. Suk. 5:4) suggests that Jesus might well have been serious when he referred to righteous individuals who did not need to repent:

חסידים ואנשי מעשה היו מרקדין לפניהן באבוקות ואומרי′ לפניהם דברי תושבחות, מה היו אומרין, אשרי מי שלא חטא וכל מי שחטא ימחל. ויש מהן או′ אשרי ילדותי שלא בייש את זקניתי, אילו אנשי מעשה. ויש מהן שהיו אומ′ אשריך זקנתי שתכפרי אל ילדותי, אילו בעלי תשובה.‏

The Hasidim and men of deeds[101] would dance before them with flaming torches and would recite before them words of praise. What did they say? “Blessed is the one who has not sinned, but all who have sinned he will cancel their debt [i.e., forgive their sin—DNB and JNT].”[102] And there were some of them who would say, “Blessed is my youth, which has not put my old age to shame”—these were the men of deeds. And there were some of them who would say, “Blessed are you, my old age, for you atone for my youth”—these were the practitioners of repentance. (t. Suk. 4:2; Vienna MS)

According to this source, the Hasidim recognized two classes of people among their ranks: those who had been pious their entire lives, and those who had repented at some point in their adulthood and had begun leading a pious existence thereafter.

We possess very little information about how the Hasidim attracted sinners to their way of life, but the Tosefta passage cited above suggests that it may have had to do with their emphasis on God’s mercy (“but all who have sinned he will cancel their debt”). Shmuel Safrai, who greatly advanced the scholarly study of the Hasidim, suggested that they were known as “men of deeds” because of their active involvement in society.[103] In other words, the Hasidim did not practice their piety in cloistered seclusion. They did so by interacting with people from all walks of life. Safrai also demonstrated that the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings bear a strong resemblance to the conduct rabbinic literature ascribes to the Hasidim.[104] Perhaps the Call of Levi story and the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes offer us an additional glimpse at how the Hasidim attracted sinners to their way of life.

The Lost Coin

The following rabbinic parable is remarkably similar to the Lost Coin simile:

ר′ פנחס בן יאיר פתח אם תבקשנה ככסף וכמטמונים תחפשנה. אם אתה מחפש אחד ד″ת כמטמונים הללו אין הקב″ה מקפח שכרך, משל לאדם אם מאבד סלע או בולרין בתוך ביתו הוא מדליק כמה נרות כמה פתילות עד שיעמוד עליהם, והרי דברים קל וחומר ומה אלו שהם חיי שעה של עולם הזה אדם מדליק כמה נרות וכמה פתילות עד שיעמוד עליהם וימצאם, דברי תורה שהם חיי העולם הזה וחיי העה″ב אין אתה צריך לחפש אחריהם כמטמונים הללו, הוי אם תבקשנה ככסף.‏

Rabbi Pinhas ben Yair opened [his discourse with] If you will seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasures [Prov. 2:4]: If you search for even one of the words of the Torah as you would for hidden treasures, be assured that the Holy One, blessed be he, will not hold back your reward. A parable: [It may be compared] to a person if he loses a sela or a bolrin [i.e., various types of coin—DNB and JNT] within his house, he lights a few lamps and a few lanterns until he discovers them. And behold, it is a matter of kal vahomer. If even for things that last only an hour in this world a person lights a few lamps and a few lanterns until he discovers them and finds them, how much more the words of Torah, which last in this world and in the world to come? Do you not need to search after them as you would for hidden treasures? Hence, If you seek for it like silver [Prov. 2:4]. (Song Rab. 1.1.9 [ed. Etelsohn, 18])

L39 ἤ τίς γυνὴ (GR). We encountered an identical use of (ē, “or”) at the juncture of twin similes in Tower Builder and King Going to War, L11 (Luke 14:31). Also similar to the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes, we do not encounter the phrase ἐξ ὑμῶν (ex hūmōn, “from you”) in the opening line of Lost Coin as we did in the Lost Sheep simile, just as ἐξ ὑμῶν is lacking in the opening line of the King Going to War simile, though it was present in the opening line of the Tower Builder simile. The reason for the omission of ἐξ ὑμῶν in the second of both sets of twin similes is probably the same in both cases. While it is conceivable that there were farmers among Jesus’ audience who might consider building a tower or who might own a herd of sheep, there were no kings and probably no women among the individuals to whom the similes were addressed.[105]

L40 ἔχουσα δέκα δηνάρια (GR). We suspect that Luke 15:8 has been subjected to a fair amount of redactional activity, probably at the hand of the First Reconstructor. The word order δραχμὰς ἔχουσα δέκα (“drachmas having ten”) is un-Hebraic, as is the noun δραχμή (drachmē, “drachma”) itself.[106] While the loanword דַּרְכְּמוֹן (darkemōn) does occur 4xx in MT,[107] its relationship to the Greek term δραχμή is disputed,[108] and there is no evidence for its use in Hebrew beyond the Persian period.[109]

In NT the noun δραχμή is found exclusively in the Lost Coin simile, although in Matt. 17:24 we encounter the related term δίδραχμον (didrachmon, “two-drachma coin”) in a pericope either entirely composed in Greek or thoroughly rewritten by a Greek redactor.[110] The preference for the term δηνάριον (dēnarion, “denarius”) in the Gospels is somewhat surprising given that in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire the denarius was usually referred to as δραχμή in Greek.[111] In the writings of Philo and Josephus, for instance, we never encounter the term δηνάριον, whereas δραχμή occurs 11xx in Philo’s works[112] and 26xx in Josephus’ writings.[113] Given the preference for “drachma” over “denarius” among Greek writers, we suspect that the First Reconstructor changed “denarius” to “drachma” as a stylistic improvement to his source (Anth.). Our reconstruction in GR reflects this suspicion, and in addition restores a more Hebraic word order such as we find in L13 of the Lost Sheep simile.

שֶׁיֵּשׁ לָה עֲשָׂרָה דִּינָרִים (HR). Mishnaic Hebrew often adopted the Latin names of Roman coins.[114] The term דִּינָר (dinār, “dinar”), attested numerous times in the Mishnah, comes from the Latin denarius. A parallel to our reconstruction of “ten dinars” is found in the following example:

הרי עלי לבונה לא יפחות מן הקומץ ר′ יהודה או′ משקל עשרה דינרין

[The one who says,] “Behold I will make an offering of incense,” should not bring less than a handful. Rabbi Yehudah says, “He weighs out ten dinars’ [עשרה דינרין] worth.” (t. Men. 12:15; Vienna MS)[115]

In this example the plural form of דִּינָר is spelled with a final nun. Examples of plural forms of דִּינָר spelled with the final mem, as in our reconstruction, are found in m. Maas. Shen. 2:9.

Jeremias popularized the view that the ten coins belonging to the woman in the simile were part of a headdress, but there is nothing in the simile to support this surmise.[116]

L41 καὶ ἀπολέσῃ δηνάριον ἓν (GR). In the parallel to this question in the Lost Sheep simile (L14) we encountered καί (kai, “and”) instead of ἐάν. Given this parallel, and the fact that καί is easier to reconstruct in Hebrew than ἐάν in this sentence, we suspect that ἐάν (ean, “if”) in Luke 15:8 is a Greek improvement from the hand of the First Reconstructor. On our preference for δηνάριον in GR, see above, Comment to L40.

וְהִיא מְאַבֶּדֶת דִּינָר אֶחָד (HR). In BH we usually read “it was lost to him” rather than “he lost it,” as in the story of Saul’s search for his father’s lost donkeys:

וַתֹּאבַדְנָה הָאֲתֹנוֹת לְקִישׁ אֲבִי שָׁאוּל

And the donkeys were lost to Kish, the father of Saul. (1 Sam. 9:3)

In MH this type of formulation is possible, but it also became common to say “he lost it” using the verb אִבֵּד (’ibēd, “lose”). The following are examples of losing coins or money using אִבֵּד:

מִי שֶׁהָלַךְ לוֹ לִמְדִינַת הַיָּם וְעָמַד אַחֵר וּפִירְנֵס אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ חָנָן אוֹ′ אִיבֵּד אֶת מָעוֹתָיו

The one who took himself to a province across the sea and another stood [in his place] and supported his wife—Hanan says, “He [i.e., the one who supported the other man’s wife—DNB and JNT] has lost his money.” (m. Ket. 13:2)

הַשּׁוֹלֵחַ אֶת בְּנוֹ אֵצֶל הַחַנְוָונִי וּמָדַד לוֹ בְאִסָּר שֶׁמֶן וְנָתַן לוֹ אֶת הָאִסָּר שָׁבַר אֶת הַצְּלוֹחִית וְאִיבֵּד אֶת הָאִסָּר הַחַנְוָונִי חַיָּיב

The one who sends his son to a shopkeeper, and he [i.e., the shopkeeper—DNB and JNT] measured for him an issar’s worth of oil or he gave him the issar coin, and he [i.e., the son—DNB and JNT] broke the flask or he lost the issar, the shopkeeper is liable. (m. Bab. Bat. 5:9)

אפילו כתובתה מאה מנה איבדה את הכל

Even if her ketubah [i.e., marriage contract—DNB and JNT] is for a hundred minas, she has lost the entirety. (t. Ket. 7:7; Vienna MS)

The phrase דִּינָר אֶחָד (dinār ’eḥād, “one dinar”) occurs in the following example:

אם יאמר לך אדם קח לך שדה שוה אלף דינרים בדינר אחד אל תקח

If a person says to you, “Buy for yourself this field worth a thousand dinars for one dinar,” do not take it. (b. Avod. Zar. 9b)

One drachma/denarius was the average day’s pay of a hired laborer during the Second Temple period,[117] which is a significant amount for anyone to lose, and especially so for the woman in the simile for whom the loss represented one tenth of her savings, a much more significant financial loss than one sheep from a flock of one hundred head. Thus Fitzmyer’s suggestion that the woman described in the Lost Coin simile was miserly is unfounded.[118]

First or early second-century C.E. lamp found at Tel Shosh near Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek. Photographed at the Israel Museum by Joshua N. Tilton.

L42 הֲלֹא תַּדְלִיק נֵר (HR). On reconstructing οὐχί as הֲלֹא, see above, Comment to L16.

In LXX ἅπτειν (haptein, “to kindle”) is never used to translate הִדְלִיק (hidliq, “kindle,” “ignite”).[119] However, the compound verb ἐξάπτειν (exaptein, “to kindle”) is twice used in LXX to refer to lighting a lamp (Exod. 30:8; Num. 8:3) where ἐξάπτειν λύχνος (exaptein lūchnos, “to light a lamp”) is the translation of הֶעֱלָה נֵר (he‘elāh nēr, “set up a lamp”).[120]

Our reconstruction of ἅπτει λύχνον as תַּדְלִיק נֵר is based on MH models, since we prefer to reconstruct dialogue in a MH style of Hebrew. In rabbinic sources the phrase הִדְלִיק נֵר (“light a lamp”) is common.[121]

In LXX, wherever λύχνος (lūchnos, “lamp”) has a Hebrew equivalent, it is always the translation of נֵר (nēr, “lamp”).[122]

As scholars frequently observe,[123] the use of a lamp to conduct the search was necessitated by the poor lighting in most ancient homes, where windows were few and usually small.[124]

L43 וּתְכַבֵּד אֶת הַבַּיִת (HR). The BH verb for “sweep” was טֵאטֵא (ṭē’ṭē’), but even in MT this verb occurs only once (Isa. 14:23), and it appears not to have survived into MH. According to the Talmud, the sages in the time of Yehudah ha-Nasi (ca. 200 C.E.) did not know how to interpret טֵאטֵא in Isaiah until they overheard a maid using a cognate verb in Aramaic (b. Meg. 18b).[125] From this it appears that טֵאטֵא fell out of spoken Hebrew at a very early stage. We have therefore chosen to reconstruct σαροῦν (saroun, “to sweep”) as כִּבֵּד (kibēd), which in MH was used for “sweep,”[126] as we see in the following examples:

בֵּית שַׁמַיִ אוֹמְ′ מְכַבְּדִין אֶת הַבַּיִת וְאַחַר כָּךְ נוֹטְלִים לַיָּדַיִם וּבֵית הֶלֵּל אוֹמְ′ נוֹטְלִים לַיָּדַיִם וְאַחַר כָּךְ מְכַבְּדִין אֶת הַבַּיִת

Bet Shammai says, “They sweep [מְכַבְּדִין] the house and after that they wash their hands.” Bet Hillel says, “They wash their hands and after that they sweep [מְכַבְּדִין] the house.” (m. Ber. 8:4; cf. t. Ber. 5:28)

מְכַבְּדִין בֵּין הַמִּיטּוֹת וּמַנִּיחִים אֶת הַמִּגְמָר בְּיוֹם טוֹב

They sweep [מְכַבְּדִין] between the beds and put the spices on the fire on a minor holiday. (m. Betz. 2:7)[127]

מעשה בריבה אחת בהיתלו שהיתה מכבדת את הבית

An anecdote about a certain young woman in Hitlu, who was sweeping the house [מְכַבֶּדֶת אֶת הַבַּיִת]…. (b. Yev. 59b)[128]

An early example of this useage of כִּבֵּד is found in the Temple Scroll, which was discovered in Qumran:

וביום אשר יוציאו ממנו את המת יכבדו את הבית מכול תגאולת שמן ויין ולחת מים

And on the day when they take out the dead from it, they must cleanse [יְכַבְּדוּ] the house from all pollution of oil and wine and moisture of water. (11QTa [11Q19] XLIX, 11-12)

On reconstructing οἰκία (oikia, “house”) as בַּיִת (bayit, “house”), see Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law, Comment to L7-8.

L44 καὶ ζητεῖ (GR). We suspect that ἐπιμελῶς (epimelōs, “carefully,” “thoroughly”) in Luke 15:8 is a Greek addition introduced by the First Reconstructor. Not only is a parallel to ἐπιμελῶς lacking in the Lost Sheep simile, but of the three instances of ἐπιμελῶς in LXX, two have no equivalent in the underlying Hebrew text,[129] and in the one verse where there is a Hebrew equivalent the underlying word is שִׁחֵר (shiḥēr, “seek”), which is superfluous in the present context. A possible Hebrew equivalent for ἐπιμελῶς is הֵיטֵב (hēṭēv, “well,” “thoroughly”), but in LXX adverbial uses of הֵיטֵב are translated either as σφόδρα (sfodra, “exceedingly”),[130] ἀκριβῶς (akribōs, “diligently”)[131] or ἀγαθῶς (agathōs, “well”).[132]

On reconstructing ζητεῖν (zētein, “to seek”) with בִּקֵּשׁ (biqēsh, “seek”), see above, Comment to L19-20.

L45 ἕως οὗ εὕρῃ αὐτό (GR). To GR we have added the pronoun αὐτό (avto, “it”) on the basis of the parallel to this sentence in the Lost Sheep simile (L22; Luke 15:4), and because including the pronoun is more Hebraic.

עַד שֶׁתִּמְצָא אֹתוֹ (HR). Compare our reconstruction in L22, which is identical apart from the gender of the verb and the object.

L46 καὶ εὑροῦσα αὐτὸ (GR). To GR we have added the pronoun αὐτό, just as we did in L23 and L45.

וּכְשֶׁהִיא מֹצֵאת אֹתוֹ (HR). Apart from changes of gender, our reconstruction is identical to that in L23.[133]

L47-50 Apart from changing the gender of the participle, the imperative, nouns and pronominal suffixes to the feminine, our Hebrew reconstruction is identical to that in L27-30.

L51 ὅτι εὗρον τὸ δηνάριον ὃ ἀπώλεσα (GR). On the substitution of δραχμή in Luke 15:9 for δηνάριον in GR, see above, Comment to L40.

שֶׁמָּצָאתִי אֶת הַדִּינָר שֶׁאִבַּדְתִּי (HR). On שֶׁמָּצָאתִי (shemātzā’ti, “because I found”), see above, Comment to L31. On אִבֵּד (’ibēd, “lose”), see above, Comment to L41. Contrast the woman’s statement (“because I found the dinar that I lost”) with that of the owner of the sheep (“because I found the lost sheep”). Whereas the woman takes responsibility for losing an inanimate object, the owner of the flock rejoiced over finding a sheep that had strayed of its own volition.[134] This difference, however, has no bearing on the point of the simile.

Lost Coin simile illustrated in stained glass. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L52-56 The opening of Luke 15:10 has an un-Hebraic word order, which is probably the result of the First Reconstructor’s redactional activity. Instead of Luke’s οὕτως λέγω ὑμῖν γείνεται χαρὰ (“In this way—I say to you—there is joy…”), we suspect that Anth. read ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὕτως γείνεται χαρὰ (“Amen! I tell you, in this way there is joy…”). The omission of ἀμήν (amēn) is typical of FR’s redaction (see above, Comment to L33-34), and the omission of ὅτι recitative is unsurprising, but the shifting of word order is somewhat puzzling. Perhaps it is simply a stylistic variation.

L52 ἀμὴν (GR). We have added ἀμήν on the basis of the parallel with L33.[135] Luke frequently omitted ἀμήν from λέγω ὑμῖν (“I say to you”) statements, often under the influence of FR.

L53 λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι (GR). Our reconstruction is parallel to that of L34.

L54 οὕτως (Matt. 18:14). Matthew’s use of οὕτως in L54 is another example of his recycling of Anth.’s terminology in his rewritten application of the Lost Sheep simile.

כָּךְ (HR). Our reconstruction of οὕτως with כָּךְ is the same as that which is found above in L35.

L55 λέγω ὑμῖν (Luke 15:10). It appears that the First Reconstructor shifted the position of λέγω ὑμῖν (“I say to you”) from before οὕτως in Anth. to its current position after οὕτως in Luke 15:10. This change weakens the parallelism between the applications of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes. Perhaps the change was made simply because the First Reconstructor found verbatim repetition to be tedious.

L56 יֵשׁ שִׂמְחָה (HR). Our reconstruction of γείνεται χαρὰ is identical to that in L35.

L58 ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων (GR). For GR we have added the definite article before ἀγγέλων in agreement with the critical editions of NT, since it is likely that the definite article was simply overlooked by the scribe who produced Codex Vaticanus.

Whether to prefer Luke’s ἐνώπιον (enōpion, “before”) or Matthew’s ἔμπροσθεν (emprosthen, “before”) for GR proved a difficult problem to solve. As we have noted, Matt. 18:13-14 is mainly the author of Matthew’s own composition, but he did recycle some original words and phrases from the applications of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes in these verses. Could Matthew’s ἔμπροσθεν be a reflection of Anth., and Luke’s ἐνώπιον be a Greek improvement introduced by the First Reconstructor? Both prepositions occur in LXX as the translation of לִפְנֵי (lifnē, “before”),[136] so ease of Hebrew retroversion cannot be a deciding factor in this case.

One clue that might lead to the solution of this problem is the fact that whereas ἐνώπιον occurs 22xx in Luke, ἐνώπιον never occurs in Matthew’s Gospel. But how are we to interpret this datum? Does it mean that the author of Luke had a preference for ἐνώπιον, or does it indicate that the author of Matthew had an aversion to this preposition?

Digging deeper, we find that the author of Luke was comfortable using either ἐνώπιον or ἔμπροσθεν, and that he did not mind copying ἔμπροσθεν when it occurred in his sources.[137] The author of Matthew, on the other hand, may well have avoided ἐνώπιον in his sources: in at least one DT pericope where Luke has ἐνώπιον, Matthew’s version of the saying seems less Hebraic than Luke’s (Matt. 10:29 // Luke 12:6).[138] It seems likely, therefore, that the complete absence of ἐνώπιον in the Gospel of Matthew is an editorial decision of its author, and we have therefore accepted Luke’s use of ἐνώπιον for GR.

לִפְנֵי מַלְאֲכֵי (HR). In LXX ἄγγελος (angelos, “messenger,” “angel”) usually represents מַלְאָךְ (mal’āch, “messenger,” “angel”) in the underlying Hebrew text.[139] Occasionally מַלְאָךְ was translated by a word other than ἄγγελος, but these instances are in the minority.[140] There can be no real cause for doubt regarding the reconstruction of ἄγγελος with מַלְאָךְ here in L58.

L59 τοῦ θεοῦ (Luke 15:10). The phrase “angels of God” is unique to Luke among the Synoptic Gospels, where it occurs 3xx (Luke 12:8, 9; 15:10).[141] Strangely, in each instance where Luke has “angels of God” the Matthean parallels have “my/your Father in heaven.”[142] Perhaps what lies behind both the Lukan “angels of God” and the Matthean “your Father in Heaven” in these instances is an original οἱ ἄγγελοι τῶν οὐρανῶν (hoi angeloi tōn ouranōn, “the angels of Heaven”), where “Heaven” is a substitute for the divine name (i.e., the Tetragrammaton). Elsewhere we have concluded that whenever the First Reconstructor encountered the phrase ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν (“the Kingdom of Heaven”) in Anth., he changed it to ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ (“the Kingdom of God”) for the sake of his non-Jewish readers.[143] The author of Luke, following the First Reconstructor’s lead, continued this practice. Perhaps the same operation was at work in the phrase “the angels of heaven”: whenever the First Reconstructor encountered οἱ ἄγγελοι τῶν οὐρανῶν in Anth., he automatically changed it to οἱ ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ for the sake of clarity among his non-Jewish readers. If this hypothesis is correct, then we must suppose that the author of Matthew employed a different strategy. Whenever he encountered the phrase “the angels of Heaven,” he changed it to “my/your Father in heaven,” since he regarded “the angels of Heaven” as an oblique way of referring to God. The few instances where Matthew retains the phrase “the angels of/in heaven” (Matt. 18:10; 22:30; 24:36) are cases where replacing “angels” with “my/your Father” is a nonsensical option.[144] Thus, both Matthew and Luke adapted the phrase “the angels of Heaven,” but their different methods of adaptation preserved different parts of the original phrase. By putting the evidence of Matthew and Luke together we are able to restore a Hebraic phrase that can explain their divergent readings.

שָׁמַיִם (HR). We have been unable to find any examples of the phrase מַלְאֲכֵי שָׁמַיִם (mal’achē shāmayim, “angels of Heaven”) in rabbinic sources. That מַלְאֲכֵי שָׁמַיִם was current in the Second Temple period, however, is proved by an instance of this phrase in DSS (1QHa XXIV, 11). Jesus’ statement that “there is joy before the angels of Heaven” is an indirect way of saying “God rejoices,”[145] but it is possible that Jesus also alluded to traditions according to which the angels voiced their opposition to God’s acceptance of repentance,[146] an example of which is found in the following aggadic treatment of the story of King Manasseh’s repentance:

והיו מלאכי השרת מסתמין את החלונות שלא תעלה תפילתו של מנשה לפני הקב″ה והיו מלאכי השרת אומרים לפני הקב″ה רבונו של עולם אדם שעבד ע″ז והעמיד צלם בהיכל אתה מקבלו בתשובה אמר להן אם איני מקבלו בתשובה הרי אני נועל את הדלת בפני כל בעלי תשובה

And the ministering angels were closing the windows [of heaven] so that the prayer of Manasseh would not ascend before the Holy one, blessed be he. And the ministering angels were saying before the Holy one, blessed be he, “Master of the universe! A person who served idols and who erected images in the Temple—you receive him in repentance?” He said to them, “If I do not receive him in repentance, behold, I close the door in the face of all those who repent.” (y. Sanh. 10:2 [51b])

Alternatively, Jesus may have been suggesting that God calls the angels to celebrate with him over repentant sinners in a manner that is analogous to the way the woman in the simile called her friends and neighbors to celebrate with her.

L60 עַל רָשָׁע אֶחָד שֶׁעֹשֶׂה תְּשׁוּבָה (HR). Our reconstruction is identical to that in L36.

L61 ἵνα ἀπόληται (Matt. 18:14). In his final statement, “It is not the will of my Father in heaven that one of these little ones might be lost,” the author of Matthew betrays his knowledge that “lost” was originally a key word that occurred in both the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin similes (L21, L32, L41, L51). As we have noted, despite extensive rewriting in Matt. 18:13-14, the author of Matthew reused some original wording from Anth.

L62 ἓν τῶν μεικρῶν τούτων (Matt. 18:14). With his closing phrase, “one of these little ones,” the author of Matthew artfully returns to the subject with which he introduced the Lost Sheep simile—concern lest the little ones be despised (Matt. 18:10). In this way, the author of Matthew reinforced his pastoral concern for the vulnerable members of his community.

Redaction Analysis

Luke’s Version

Luke’s version of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes appears to have undergone a significant degree of Greek redaction, all of which was intended to polish the Greek style of the similes rather than to change their meaning or application. Such editorial improvements involve changes of word order (L15, L40, L53-55), changes of verb tense (L35), the use of synonyms (L14, L18, L25, L40, L59), and the omission of pronouns and the definite article where these are superfluous in Greek (L23, L45, L46, L48, L49). Some of the changes, such as the omission of “Amen” (L33, L52) and the use of “God” rather than “heaven” (L59), may have been motivated by a desire for clarity for non-Jewish readers. Other changes may have been introduced in order to avoid verbatim repetition, which Greek readers might have found tiresome. Most, perhaps all, of these editorial changes should be attributed to the First Reconstructor.

Matthew’s Version

Although Matthew’s version of the Lost Sheep simile is based on Anth., Luke’s FR version is on the whole more reliable because the author of Matthew thoroughly revised the Lost Sheep simile in order to assimilate it to a new context—Matthew’s discourse on pastoral care for “these little ones”—and to adapt its application to the conditions of the Matthean community. Despite his thoroughgoing revisions, Matthew’s version preserves several authentic readings from Anth., including “stray” in L14 (as opposed to Luke’s “lose”), “on the mountains” in L18 (as opposed to Luke’s “in the desert”), “seek” in L20 (omitted in Luke’s version), and “Amen” in L33 (omitted in Luke’s version). At other points, Matthew’s version indirectly supports our reconstruction where on other grounds we detected redactional activity in Luke, as in L58-59, where Matthew’s “my Father in heaven” indirectly supports our reconstructed “the angels of heaven.”

Results of This Research

Is it true that the Pharisees despised all shepherds? It is difficult to believe that all Pharisees despised all shepherds. Without shepherds there would have been no wool for clothing, no milk for consumption, and no lambs to sacrifice in the Temple. But more than that, heroes of the Bible such as Moses and King David had been shepherds, and the LORD himself was portrayed in Holy Scripture as the shepherd of Israel. It is true that shepherds were often regarded as careless of other people’s property for allowing their flocks to graze on land that was not their own, and it also is true that members of the upper classes (to which some Pharisees belonged) sometimes looked down upon shepherds as uncouth. But these stereotypes notwithstanding, scholars who claim that Jesus could not have addressed the Lost Sheep simile to the Pharisees because the Pharisees despised shepherds stretch the facts too far. This is especially the case since it is not even clear that the fictitious man in the Lost Sheep simile was intended to be a shepherd. He could just as easily be imagined to have been the owner of a flock who employed shepherds to care for his sheep and goats.

Conclusion

The Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes offer down-to-earth illustrations of God’s response to repentance: God feels about repentant sinners the way a man feels who has just found a sheep that strayed from the flock, or the way a woman feels who has just found a coin that had gone missing. Jesus’ purpose in telling these similes was to explain why he didn’t mind eating and drinking in the home of Levi with toll collectors and other sinners. Like the owner of the lost sheep and the woman who found her missing coin, God wants those who are closest to him to come and rejoice with him that a sinner has repented. It would be nothing short of rude to refuse God’s invitation. Jesus had joined in the celebration over the recovery of lost sinners. By telling the twin similes he invited his critics to do the same.[147]

Catacomb depiction of a shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

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  • [1] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [2] This translation is a dynamic rendition of our reconstruction of the conjectured Hebrew source that stands behind the Greek of the Synoptic Gospels. It is not a translation of the Greek text of a canonical source.
  • [3] In “The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction” we distinguish between parables (illustrations given in narrative form) and similes (illustrations given in the form of a question). See Tower Builder and King Going to War Similes, Comment to L1.
  • [4] Among the scholars who agree that the original purpose of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes was to explain Jesus’ association with toll collectors and sinners are Jeremias, Parables, 40; Beare, 178.
  • [5] See Jeremias, Parables, 40.
  • [6] On the author of Matthew’s compilation of the Sending the Twelve discourse, see Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [7] See Jeremias, Parables, 38-40; Bernard Brandon Scott, Hear Then the Parable: A Commentary on the Parables of Jesus (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989), 406; Jacobus Liebenberg, The Language of the Kingdom and Jesus: Parable, Aphorism, and Metaphor in the Sayings Material Common to the Synoptic Tradition and the Gospel of Thomas (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2001), 420. Adapting his sources in order to apply Jesus’ teachings to contemporary circumstances within his community was one of Matthew’s editorial strategies. We observed this strategy in the way the author of Matthew “updated” the Sending the Twelve discourse in order to curtail abuses on the part of itinerant teachers, which the Matthean churches had evidently experienced. See Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comments to L52-62, L62, L68, L70 and Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comments to L82-83, L97.
  • [8] See Bundy, 324; Beare, 150; Hagner, 2:526.
  • [9] For the date of Lindsey’s discovery, see LHNS, 135. An account of this discovery is found in Robert L. Lindsey, “From Luke to Mark to Matthew: A Discussion of the Sources of Markan ‘Pick-ups’ and the Use of a Basic Non-canonical Source by All the Synoptists,” under the subheading “Restoration of Narrative-Sayings Complexes.” See also, idem, “Jesus’ Twin Parables,” under the subheading “The Full ‘Call of Levi’ Story.”
  • [10] A version of the Lost Sheep simile is found in the Gospel of Thomas:

    Jesus said: The Kingdom is like a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. One of them went astray, which was the largest. He left behind ninety-nine, he sought for the one until he found it. Having tired himself out, he said to the sheep: I love thee more than ninety-nine. (Gos. Thom. §107 [ed. Guillaumont, 53])

    Distinctive features of the version in the Gospel of Thomas include the following: 1) the comparison to “the Kingdom”; 2) the description of the man whose sheep went missing as a shepherd (in Luke and Matthew he is the owner of the sheep, not necessarily a shepherd); 3) the description of the lost sheep as the largest; 4) the shepherd’s fatigue; and 5) the shepherd’s declaration to the rescued sheep that he loves it more than the ninety-nine.

    Petersen argued that the version of the Lost Sheep simile in the Gospel of Thomas is more original than either of the canonical versions, and proposed that the original message was about God’s love for Israel in contrast to the Gentiles. See William L. Petersen, “The Parable of the Lost Sheep in the Gospel of Thomas and the Synoptics,” Novum Testamentum 23.2 (1981): 128-147. Nevertheless, Liebenberg points out that since the lesson of the Gospel of Thomas version of the Lost Sheep simile—that God’s love is not unconditional but reserved only for those who deserve it—is diametrically opposed to the lesson given by the synoptic versions, it is more likely that the version in the Gospel of Thomas was written in response to the earlier canonical and/or pre-synoptic versions of the Lost Sheep simile. See Liebenberg, The Language of the Kingdom and Jesus, 430.

  • [11] For a catalog of the Type 1 and Type 2 Double Tradition pericopae, see Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Double Tradition.”
  • [12] See, for instance, the author of Matthew’s redactional activity in Blessedness of the Twelve, summarized under the subheading “Redaction Analysis: Matthew’s Version.”
  • [13] See Bundy, 377; Luz, 2:438.
  • [14] See Marshall, 601-602.
  • [15] T. W. Manson (283), Davies-Allison (2:769) and Luz (2:438) are among the scholars who suppose that the author of Luke found the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes already joined in his source.
  • [16] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Unlocking the Synoptic Problem: Four Keys for Better Understanding Jesus,” under the subheading “Lukan Doublets”; idem, “From Luke to Mark to Matthew,” under the subheading “Lukan Doublets.”
  • [17] Lindsey believed that it was the Anthologizer who was mainly responsible for separating parables and sayings from their narrative contexts. On the whole, Lindsey was probably correct in this regard, but in the present case we are forced to conclude that the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes were still joined to the Call of Levi narrative in Anth., for otherwise we cannot explain how the First Reconstructor knew that Jesus told the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes in defense of his free association with toll collectors and sinners.
  • [18] See Davies-Allison, 2:769. The command ὁρᾶτε/ὅρα occurs once in Luke (Luke 12:15), 2xx in Mark (Mark 1:44; 8:15) and 5xx in Matthew (Matt. 8:4 [= Mark 1:44]; 9:30; 16:6 [= Mark 8:15]; 18:10; 24:6).
  • [19] On Matt. 10:42 see Sending the Twelve: Apostle and Sender, Comment to L151-156.
  • [20] See Davies-Allison, 2:770-771; Luz, 2:441.
  • [21] See Metzger, 44-45.
  • [22] On the phrase ἐν παραβολαῖς (en parabolais), see Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L19.
  • [23] The construction λέγειν + παραβολή is used to introduce a parable in Luke 4:23 (ἐρεῖτέ μοι τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην); 5:36 (ἔλεγεν δὲ καὶ παραβολὴν πρὸς αὐτοὺς); 6:39 (εἶπεν δὲ καὶ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς); 8:4 (εἶπεν διὰ παραβολῆς); 12:16 (εἶπεν δὲ παραβολὴν πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγων); 15:3 (εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτοὺς τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην λέγων); 18:1 (ἔλεγεν δὲ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς); 18:9 (εἶπεν δὲ…τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην); 19:11 (εἶπεν παραβολὴν); 20:9 (ἤρξατο δὲ πρὸς τὸν λαὸν λέγειν τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην); 21:29 (καὶ εἶπεν παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς). Cf. Luke 12:41 (πρὸς ἡμᾶς τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην λέγεις) and Luke 20:19 (ἔγνωσαν γὰρ ὅτι πρὸς αὐτοὺς εἶπεν τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην; cf. Mark 12:12).
  • [24] The LXX examples where λέγειν + παραβολή translates מָשַׁל מָשָׁל are:

    וּמְשֹׁל מָשָׁל אֶל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל

    …and tell a parable to the house of Israel…. (Ezek. 17:2)

    καὶ εἰπὸν παραβολὴν πρὸς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ Ισραηλ

    …and tell a parable to the house of Israel…. (Ezek. 17:2)

    אִם יִהְיֶה לָכֶם עוֹד מְשֹׁל הַמָּשָׁל הַזֶּה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל

    …if there will still be for you the telling of this parable in Israel. (Ezek. 18:3)

    ἐὰν γένηται ἔτι λεγομένη ἡ παραβολὴ αὕτη ἐν τῷ Ισραηλ

    …if there might still be this parable spoken in Israel. (Ezek. 18:3)

    הֲלֹא מְמַשֵּׁל מְשָׁלִים הוּא

    Is he not a teller of parables? (Ezek. 21:5)

    οὐχὶ παραβολή ἐστιν λεγομένη αὕτη

    Is not this parable told? (Ezek. 21:5)

    וּמְשֹׁל אֶל בֵּית הַמֶּרִי מָשָׁל

    …and tell the rebellious house a parable…. (Ezek. 24:3)

    καὶ εἰπὸν ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον τὸν παραπικραίνοντα παραβολὴν

    …and tell the rebellious house a parable…. (Ezek. 24:3)

  • [25] Examples of מָשְׁלוּ מָשָׁל are found, inter alia, in t. Hag. 2:5; t. Sot. 11:4; 15:7; t. Bab. Kam. 7:3, 4.
  • [26] Examples of אֶמְשׁוֹל לְךָ מָשָׁל are found, inter alia, in Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Baḥodesh chpt. 6 (ed. Lauterbach, 2:325); Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 6:2 (ed. Schechter, 29); 9:2 (ed. Schechter, 41); 16:3 (ed. Schechter, 64); b. Yom. 76a.
  • [27] Jeremias (Parables, 93 n. 13) likewise opined that Luke’s λέγειν + παραβολή construction came from his source(s).
  • [28] See Hawkins, 33. In NT the question τί ὑμῖν/σοι δοκεῖ is found in Matt. 17:25; 18:12; 21:28; 22:17, 42; 26:66. Cf. τίς…δοκεῖ σοι in Luke 10:36.
  • [29] An example of the question מָה אַתֶּם סְבוּרִים occurs in Sifre Deut. §12 (ed. Finkelstein, 20). Examples of מָה אַתָּה סָבוּר occur, inter alia, in Gen. Rab. 19:5 (ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:174); 20:8 (ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:191); 46:9 (ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:466).
  • [30] See Scott, Hear Then the Parable, 406; Luz, 2:438; Bovon, 2:407.
  • [31] See Davies-Allison, 2:773.
  • [32] See Tower Builder and King Going to War, L1, where τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν reached Luke from Anth. via FR. The interrogative phrase τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν occurs in Matt. 6:27; 7:9; Luke 11:5; 12:25; 14:28; 15:4; 17:7; cf. τίνα…ἐξ ὑμῶν in Luke 11:11. See Hawkins, 46.
  • [33] See David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Criteria for Identifying Separated Twin Parables and Similes in the Synoptic Gospels.”
  • [34] See Bendavid, 337.
  • [35] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:96-102.
  • [36] See, for example, Marshall, 598; Bailey, 1:147; John R. Donahue, The Gospel in Parable (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1988), 148.
  • [37] Negative opinions of shepherds are expressed, e.g., in m. Kid. 4:14 (printed editions); t. Bab. Kam. 8:15 (a shepherd who repents of his profession as a shepherd); b. Sanh. 25b (shepherds disqualified as judges and witnesses); b. Sanh. 57a (shepherds compared to Samaritans); Midrash Tehillim to Ps. 23, §2 (shepherds have the most despised profession in the world). It should be noted that the claim in the midrash on Psalm 23 that shepherding is more despised than any other trade is for rhetorical effect.
  • [38] Shepherds are portrayed positively in a story about the high priest Shimon haZadik, who commended a shepherd who became a Nazirite (t. Naz. 4:7; b. Ned. 9b; b. Naz. 4b), and in a story about how Rabbi Yehudah haNasi accepted the testimony of an elderly shepherd when setting the Sabbath limits in a certain town (t. Eruv. 4:16).
  • [39] Rabbi Eleazar ben Dalgai (m. Tam. 3:8) and Rabbi Yehudah ben Baba (t. Bab. Kam. 8:13) are two examples of sages who raised sheep and/or goats. Hanina ben Dosa is also said to have raised goats (b. Taan. 25a).
  • [40] Cf. Plummer, 368. According to Safrai, it was common for well-to-do farmers to hire shepherds to care for their sheep (cf. m. Betz. 5:3; m. Bab. Kam. 6:2). See Ze’ev Safrai, “Agriculture and Farming” (OHJDL, 246-263, esp. 257).
  • [41] Examples of the phrase מֵאָה צֹאן in rabbinic texts include the following:

    קבל ממנו מאה צאן במאה של זהב

    If he accepted from him a hundred sheep for a hundred gold pieces…. (t. Bab. Metz. 5:1; Vienna MS)

    היה לפניו מאה צאן ואמ′ לו

    If there was before him a hundred sheep and he said to him…. (t. Bab. Metz. 6:6; Vienna MS)

  • [42] See Shimon Applebaum, “Animal Husbandry,” in The Roman World (ed. John Wacher; 2 vols.; London: Routledge, 1987), 504-526, esp. 510.
  • [43] See Jeremias, Parables, 133.
  • [44] This example from Ps. 118:176 is particularly instructive for GR, for in it the verb πλανᾶν describes the sheep’s action, while the participle ἀπολωλός describes the condition the sheep is in on account of its having strayed, just as we have it in our reconstruction.
  • [45] Additional examples of πλανᾶν used to describe sheep going astray include the following:

    πάντες ὡς πρόβατα ἐπλανήθημεν

    All we like sheep have gone astray [ἐπλανήθημεν]…. (Isa. 53:6; NETS)

    Πρόβατον πλανώμενον Ισραηλ, λέοντες ἐξῶσαν αὐτόν

    Israel is a wandering [πλανώμενον] sheep; lions drove him away. (Jer. 27:17; NETS)

    καὶ τὰ πρόβατά μου οὐ βόσκετε τὸ ἠσθενηκὸς οὐκ ἐνισχύσατε καὶ τὸ κακῶς ἔχον οὐκ ἐσωματοποιήσατε καὶ τὸ συντετριμμένον οὐ κατεδήσατε καὶ τὸ πλανώμενον οὐκ ἐπεστρέψατε καὶ τὸ ἀπολωλὸς οὐκ ἐζητήσατε

    …but you do not feed my sheep. You did not strengthen the weakened and did not build up the unwell and did not bind up the crushed and did not turn about the one that strayed [τὸ πλανώμενον] and did not seek the lost…. (Ezek. 34:3-4; NETS; cf. Ezek. 34:16)

  • [46] Davies-Allison (2:769), Young (Parables, 191-192), Nolland (Matt., 742), Luz (2:439) and Snodgrass (105) are among the scholars who detect the influence of Ezekiel 34 on the Lost Sheep simile. Ezekiel 34:4 not only mentions retrieving strayed sheep and seeking lost ones, but also healing sheep that were injured. Perhaps the shepherds’ duty to heal the injured of their flock originally helped tie the twin similes to the previous saying about the sick who need a doctor (Luke 5:31).
  • [47] Nevertheless, the author of Matthew betrayed his knowledge that his source also used ἀπολλύειν. See Comment to L61.
    Since both the Matthean and the Lukan versions of the Lost Sheep simile each lost some of the original imagery derived from Ezekiel 34, we cannot accept the opinion of Davies-Allison (2:769) that the allusions to Ezekiel 34 are secondary.
  • [48] Marshall (601) also regarded Matthew’s use of πλανᾶν as original.
  • [49] Cf. LHNS, 109, 135.
  • [50] The verb καταλείπειν occurs in Matthew 4xx (Matt. 4:13; 16:4; 19:5; 21:17), in Mark 4xx (Mark 10:7; 12:19, 21; 14:52), and in Luke 4xx (Luke 5:28; 10:40; 15:4; 20:31). The verb ἀφιέναι, on the other hand, occurs over 40xx in Matthew, over 30xx in Mark, and over 30xx in Luke.
  • [51] On our rationale for basing the reconstruction documents on Codex Vaticanus, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction,’” under the subheading “Codex Vaticanus or an Eclectic Text?”
  • [52] This was already noted by Lightfoot (2:253). See also T. W. Manson, 208; Bundy, 324; Fitzmyer, 2:1076; Nolland, Luke, 771.
  • [53] See E. F. F. Bishop, “The Parable of the Lost or Wandering Sheep,” Anglican Theological Review 44.1 (1962): 44-57, esp. 45; Jeremias, Parables, 133; Marshall, 601.
  • [54] Snodgrass (104-105) argues this point admirably.
  • [55] Some scholars have attempted to explain “in the wilderness” and “on the hills” as translation variants in Matthew and Luke of a single Aramaic term. See F. Bussby, “Did a Shepherd Leave Sheep upon the Mountains or in the Desert?” Anglican Theological Review 45.1 (1963): 93-94; Jeremias, Parables, 133; Snodgrass, 104. This explanation, however, founders on strong evidence that the authors of Luke and Matthew worked with Greek sources, not Hebrew or Aramaic texts. A better explanation of the variation may be that ὄρος and ἔρημος were considered synonymous in Greek. See Henry J. Cadbury, “Lexical Notes on Luke-Acts. I.,” Journal of Biblical Literature 44.3 (1925): 214-227, esp. 221-223.
  • [56] In LXX ἐπὶ τὸ ὄρος is the translation of עַל (הָ)הָר in Gen. 8:4; Exod. 19:11, 20; 24:16; Deut. 12:2; Judg. 11:37, 38; 1 Chr. 12:9; Ps. 103[104]:6; 132[133]:3; Song 2:8; Amos 3:9; Joel 2:2; Obad. 16; Nah. 2:1; 3:18; Hag. 1:11; Zech. 14:4; Isa. 29:8; 31:4; 52:7; 65:7; Jer. 9:9; Lam. 4:19; Ezek. 11:23; 18:15; 32:5; 39:2, 4, 17.
  • [57] In LXX of the Pentateuch alone ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ is the translation of בַּמִּדְבָּר in Gen. 16:7; 21:20, 21; 36:24; 37:22; Exod. 5:1; 7:16; 8:24; 14:11, 12; 15:22; 16:32; Lev. 7:38; Num. 1:1, 19; 3:4, 14; 9:1, 5; 10:12, 31; 12:16; 14:2, 16, 22, 29, 32, 33 (2xx), 35; 15:32; 16:13; 21:5, 11, 13; 26:64, 65; 27:3, 14; 32:13, 15; 33:15, 36; Deut. 1:1, 31; 4:43; 8:2, 16; 9:7, 28; 11:5; 29:4.
  • [58] Cf. Hagner, 2:527.
  • [59] That ancient readers found Matthew’s version troubling is demonstrated by the variant reading in many witnesses, οὐχὶ ἀφεὶς τὰ ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα, ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη πορευθεὶς, ζητεῖ τὸ πλανώμενον (“Will he not, leaving the ninety-nine, going on the hills, seek the strayed one?”), a reading that is still reflected in older translations such as the KJV. See Bishop, “The Parable of the Lost or Wandering Sheep,” 46.
  • [60] See Davies-Allison, 2:774. Examples of πορεύεσθαι + ἐπί + accusative in the writings of Luke include Luke 15:4; Acts 8:26; 9:11; 17:14; 25:12.
  • [61] Harnack, 92.
  • [62] The verb ζητεῖν (zētein, “to seek”), or a compound thereof, is found in Ezek. 34:4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 16. If we are correct that the First Reconstructor omitted the verb ζητεῖν, this is probably an indication that he did not recognize the allusions to Ezekiel 34 in the Lost Sheep simile.
  • [63] See above, under the subheading “Story Placement.”
  • [64] If we are correct that the author of Matthew replaced ἀπολωλός with πλανώμενον, this is probably an indication that he did not recognize the allusions to Ezekiel 34 in the Lost Sheep simile.
  • [65] See Return of the Twelve, Comment to L1.
  • [66] See Segal, 154 §316.
  • [67] Cf. Davies-Allison, 2:774.
  • [68] If Genesis may be used as a representative example, we find that ἕως is usually the translation of עַד (Gen. 3:19; 6:7 [2xx]; 7:23; 8:5, 7; 10:19; 11:31; 12:6; 13:3 [2xx], 15; 14:6, 14, 15, 23; 15:16, 18; 19:11, 22, 37, 38; 22:5; 24:19, 33; 25:18; 26:13, 33; 27:44; 28:15; 29:8; 32:5, 25, 33; 33:3, 14; 34:5; 35:20; 38:1, 11, 17; 39:16; 41:49; 43:25; 46:34; 47:21, 26; 48:15; 49:10). The second most common Hebrew antecedent of ἕως is בֹּאֲכָה (bo’achāh, lit., “your coming [to/towards]”; Gen. 10:19 [2xx], 30; 13:10; 25:18), but in these instances LXX translates the Hebrew with ἕως ἐλθεῖν (εἰς/πρός).
  • [69] Examples where עַד אֲשֶׁר was translated as ἕως τοῦ + infinitive are found in Gen. 27:44; 28:15; 29:8; 33:14; Ruth 3:18; 1 Chr. 19:5; Mic. 7:9.
  • [70] Examples where עַד אֲשֶׁר was translated as ἕως ἂν + subjunctive are found in Exod. 23:30; Lev. 22:4; Num. 11:20; 20:17; 32:17; Deut. 3:20; Josh. 1:15; Isa. 6:11.
  • [71] Examples where עַד אֲשֶׁר was translated as ἕως οὗ + subjunctive are found in Ruth 1:13; Ps. 111[112]:8; Eccl. 2:3; 12:2; Hos. 5:15; Jonah 4:5. In addition, we find examples of עַד אֲשֶׁר translated as ἕως ὅτου + subjunctive in 1 Kgdms. 22:3; 2 Esd. 14:5; Eccl. 12:1, 6.
  • [72] We saw an example of this tendency in FR in Luke 15:1-2, FR’s parallel to Anth.’s Call of Levi story, where only the barest details of the story are preserved (see above, “Conjectured Stages of Transmission”).
  • [73] Examples where LXX has “shoulders” (plural) when MT has “shoulder” (singular) include Gen. 24:15, 45; Exod. 12:34; Num. 7:9; Josh. 4:5; Judg. 9:48; 2 Chr. 35:3; Job 31:36; Isa. 14:25; 46:7; 49:22; Ezek. 12:6, 7, 12; 34:21. Note that “shoulder” is yet another lexical item found in both Ezekiel 34 and the Lost Sheep simile.
  • [74] In the Mishnah alone we find עַל כָּתֵף in m. Kil. 9:4; m. Shev. 3:9; m. Bik. 3:4, 6; m. Shab. 10:3; m. Pes. 5:9 (4xx); m. Betz. 4:1; m. Hag. 1:1; m. Bab. Metz. 7:3; m. Ohol. 16:1, 2; m. Neg. 13:9; m. Par. 7:9.
  • [75] See Return of the Twelve, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [76] See Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L10.
  • [77] In LXX συγκαλεῖν is the translation of -קָרָא אֶל/לְ in Exod. 7:11; Josh. 9:22; 10:24; 22:1; 23:2; 24:1; Zech. 3:10; Jer. 1:15.
  • [78] An example of חָבֵר in close proximity to שָׁכֵן, though not a pair, is found in the following passage:

    אָמַ′ לָהֶם צְאוּ וּרְאוּ אֵי זוֹ הִיא דֶרֶךְ טוֹבָה שֶׁיִּדְבַּק בָּהּ הָאָדָם ר′ אֱלִיעֶזֶר אוֹ′ עַיִן טוֹבָה ר′ יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אוֹ′ חָבֵר טוֹב ר′ יוֹסֵה אוֹ′ שָׁכֵן טוֹב

    He said to them, “Go out and see what is the good path that a person should stick to.” Rabbi Eliezer says, “A good eye.” Rabbi Yehoshua says, “A good companion [חָבֵר].” Rabbi Yose says, “A good neighbor [שָׁכֵן].” (m. Avot 2:9)

  • [79] In LXX φίλος is the translation of אוֹהֵב in Esth. 5:10, 14; 6:13; Ps. 37[38]:12; 87[88]:19; Prov. 14:20; 27:6; Jer. 20:4, 6. In addition, φίλος serves as the equivalent of אוֹהֵב in James 2:23, which alludes to Isa. 41:8 (אֹהֲבִי).
  • [80] The pairing of אוֹהֵב with קָרוֹב may be observed in the following examples:

    מִי שֶׁזָּכָה בָקְטֹרֶת הָיָה נוֹטֵל אֶת הַבָּזֶךְ מִתּוֹךְ הַכַּף וְנוֹתְנוֹ לְאוֹהֲבוֹ אוֹ לִקְרוֹבוֹ

    The one who was awarded the incense would take the dish from his hand and give it to his friend [לְאוֹהֲבוֹ] or his relative [לִקְרוֹבוֹ]. (m. Tam. 6:3)

    משל למלך שהיה מבקש ליתן מתנה לאחד מבניו והיה המלך מתירא מפני אחיו ומפני אוהביו ומפי קרוביו

    A parable: [It may be compared] to a king who was seeking to give a gift to one of his sons, but the king was afraid of his [i.e., the son’s] brothers, and of his friends [אוהביו], and of his relatives [קרוביו]. (Sifre Deut. §343 [ed. Finkelstein, 397])

    אין אומר ממי במקדש אלא הממונה היה מגביה מצנפתו של אחד מהן והן יודעין שממנו היה הפייס מתחיל וחש לומר שמא לאוהבו או לקרובו

    In the Temple one does not say, “From whom [does the counting start]?” Rather, the one who was appointed would lift one of their turbans, and they all would know that the count would start with him. And one should not say that he selected his friend [אוהבו] or his relative [קרובו]. (y. Yom. 2:1 [10b])

  • [81] In LXX γείτων is the translation of שָׁכֵן in Exod. 3:22; 12:4; Ruth 4:17; 4 Kgdms. 4:3; Ps. 30[31]:12; 43[44]:14; 78[79]:4, 12; 79[80]:7; 88[89]:42; Jer. 6:21; 12:14; 30:4 [49:10].
  • [82] Examples of שָׂמַח עִם include the following:

    וכל המתאבלים עליה בעולם הזה שמחים עמה לעולם הבא

    And all who mourn over her [i.e., Jerusalem—DNB and JNT] in this world rejoice with her [שמחים עמה] in the world to come. (t. Sot. 15:15; Vienna MS; cf. t. Taan. 3:14; t. Bab. Bat. 2:17)

    מפני מה אמרו אלמנה ליום החמישי שאם נושא אותה באחד מכל ימות השבת מניחה והולך למלאכתו התקינו שיהא נושא אותה בחמישי שיהא בטיל שלשה ימים חמישי וערב שבת ושבת שלשה ימי בטילה נמצא שמח עמה שלשה ימים

    Why did they say, “A widow [is to be married] on the fifth day of the week [i.e., Thursday—DNB and JNT]?” Because if someone married her on any other day of the week he might leave her and go to his work. They ordained that he should marry her on the fifth day so that he would suspend [work] for three days: the fifth day of the week, the day before the Sabbath, and the Sabbath—three days of suspension [from work]. We find that he rejoices with her [שמח עמה] three days. (t. Ket. 1:1; Vienna MS)

  • [83] On causal clauses introduced with -שֶׁ, see Segal, 227 §482, and cf. the examples we cited in Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L20.
  • [84] See Yeshua’s Thanksgiving Hymn, Comment to L6.
  • [85] In LXX (Gen.-Deut.) ὅτι is the translation of אֲשֶׁר in Gen. 34:13; 38:10; 42:21; Exod. 5:21; 18:9, 10; Lev. 26:40 (2xx); Num. 20:13; Deut. 9:19; 17:15; 23:5.
  • [86] Examples of צֹאן + pronominal suffix in MT are plentiful. Examples in rabbinic sources include m. Hul. 11:2 and m. Arach. 8:4.
  • [87] Cf. וְשֶׂה אַחַת מִן הַצֹּאן (“and one sheep from the flock”; Ezek. 45:15).
  • [88] Note that in LXX both צֹאן and שֶׂה are translated as πρόβατον.
  • [89] See Robert L. Lindsey, “‘Verily’ or ‘Amen’—What Did Jesus Say?
  • [90] Cf. LHNS, 135.
  • [91] For an identical reconstruction of λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι, see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, L102; Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, L116; and Blessedness of the Twelve, L10.
  • [92] See Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L11.
  • [93] So Jeremias (Parables, 39, 135-136) and Fitzmyer (2:1077).
  • [94] Nolland (Luke, 773) suggests that the future tense in Luke should be understood as “a logical future and not a distinctly eschatological future.”
  • [95] Examples of שָׂמַח עַל in MT include Jonah 4:6; Isa. 9:16; 39:2; Lam. 2:17; 1 Chr. 29:9; 2 Chr. 15:15; 29:36. Cf. Neh. 12:44.
  • [96] An example of שָׂמַח עַל occurs in 4QCatenaa [4Q177] III, 15.
  • [97] An example of שָׂמַח עַל in a rabbinic text is found in Lev. Rab. 26:7 (ed. Margulies, 2:606). Cf. …לא היתה שמחה…על (“there was no joy…over…”) in Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 1 (ed. Lauterbach, 1:172).
  • [98] Further examples of עָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה are found, inter alia, in m. Yom. 8:9; m. Ned. 9:3; m. Avot 5:18; t. Shev. 8:11; t. Yom. 4:6 (quoted in Comment to L35); Sifre Deut. §43 (ed. Finkelstein, 102); Pesikta Rabati §44 (ed. Friedmann, 184a; cited in Comment to L38).
  • [99] Rabbi Meir’s statement occurs in several variant forms that aim to temper the anthropomorphic description of God in this saying. Cf. y. Sanh. 6:8 [29b]; b. Hag. 15b; b. Sanh. 46a.
  • [100] See Plummer, 369; Nolland, Luke, 773; Luz, 2:35; Bovon, 2:410; James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Luke (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015), 436.
  • [101] According to Shmuel Safrai, no distinction is to be made between the Hasidim and men of deeds. “Men of deeds” was simply an additional epithet by which the Hasidim were known. See Shmuel Safrai, “Teaching of Pietists in Mishnaic Literature,” Journal of Jewish Studies 16 (1965): 15-33, esp. 16 n. 11.
  • [102] On the mixing of metaphors of sin forgiveness and debt cancellation, see Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L19.
  • [103] Safrai, “Teaching of Pietists in Mishnaic Literature,” 16, 32.
  • [104] See Shmuel Safrai, “Jesus and the Hasidim.”
  • [105] See Plummer, 370; Nolland, Luke, 775.
  • [106] In LXX δραχμή occurs 7xx, but never as the translation of דַּרְכְּמוֹן: Gen. 24:22 (= בֶּקַע); Exod. 39:3 (= בֶּקַע); Tob. 5:15; 2 Macc. 4:19; 10:20; 12:43; 3 Macc. 3:28.
  • [107] The four instances of דַּרְכְּמוֹן in MT are found in Ezra 2:69; Neh. 7:69, 70, 71.
  • [108] See BDB, 204.
  • [109] Klausner suggested that אדרכמון is the Hebrew equivalent of δραχμή, but Jastrow does not have an entry for אדרכמון in his Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature, nor have we been able to locate any instances of אדרכמון in DSS or rabbinic texts. See Joseph Klausner, “The Economy of Judea in the Period of the Second Temple,” in The World History of the Jewish People: The Herodian Period (ed. Michael Avi-Yonah; New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1975), 179-205, esp. 191.
  • [110] On the pure Greek style of Matt. 17:24-27, see Moule, 173; idem, The Birth of the New Testament (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), 217. Martin classified this unique Matthean pericope as indeterminate according to his criteria for testing whether a source is a translation from a Semitic language or whether it is a purely Greek composition. See Raymond A. Martin, Syntax Criticism of the Synoptic Gospels (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1987), 115.
  • [111] See A. H. M. Jones, The Roman Economy: Studies in Ancient Economic and Administrative History (ed. P. A. Brunt; Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1974), 75.
  • [112] The instances of δραχμή in Philo’s works occur in Her. §145, 186, 187, 189; Congr. §113 (2xx); Ios. §258; Spec. 2:33 (4xx).
  • [113] The instances of δραχμή in Josephus’ works occur in J.W. 1:308, 658; 7:218; Ant. 3:195, 320; 8:189; 9:233; 11:16, 297; 12:25, 28, 33, 146, 168, 198; 13:55; 14:26, 28, 417; 17:172; 18:67; 19:247; Life §75 (2xx), 224 (2xx).
  • [114] See Klausner, “The Economy of Judea in the Period of the Second Temple,” 198.
  • [115] Another example of עֲשָׂרָה דִּינָרִין is found in m. Ket. 6:4.
  • [116] See Jeremias, Parables, 134. Plummer (370) rejected the headdress interpretation long before it was popularized by Jeremias. Cf. Young, Parables, 194 n. 15; Bovon, 2:412.
  • [117] See Tob. 5:15; Matt. 20:2. According to Klausner (“The Economy of Judea in the Period of the Second Temple,” 191), “There was little change in wage rates from the time of the Persians to the reign of Nero.” Applebaum, citing b. Yom. 35b, according to which Hillel worked for half a denarius a day, suggested that a denarius per day wage reflects post-70 C.E. rates. Nevertheless, it is questionable how much weight should be given to this late evidence when evaluating the average pay for workers in the first century, especially since the story in b. Yom. 35b is meant to emphasize the exceptional poverty of Hillel the Elder when he was a student of Shemiah and Avtalion. In another story about Hillel, day laborers in Jerusalem claim to earn from one to two denarii for a day’s work (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 26 [ed. Schechter, 54]). On daily wages and living expenses in the Roman period, see also F. M. Heichelheim, “Roman Syria,” in An Economic Survey of Ancient Rome (6 vols.; ed. Tenney Frank et al.; Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1933-1940), 4:121-257, esp. 178-188.
  • [118] See Fitzmyer, 2:1080.
  • [119] Hif‘il forms of ד-ל-ק, however, are rare in MT, occurring only in Isa. 5:11 and Ezek 24:10.
  • [120] See also Tob. 8:13 (Sinaiticus); 1 Macc. 4:50; 2 Macc. 1:8, where ἅπτειν/ἐξάπτειν are used to refer to lighting a lamp (λύχνος).
  • [121] Examples of הִדְלִיק נֵר in rabbinic sources include m. Shab. 2:7; 16:8; m. Pes. 4:4; t. Ter. 10:9; Gen. Rab. 3:1 (ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:18-19).
  • [122] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:891.
  • [123] See Plummer, 370; Jeremias, Parables, 135; Marshall, 603; Fitzmyer, 2:1081; Bovon, 2:413.
  • [124] See Shmuel Safrai, “Home and Family” (Safrai-Stern, 2:734).
  • [125] For a discussion on the b. Meg. 18b passage, see Randall Buth, “A More Complete Semitic Background for בר־אנשא, ‘Son of Man,’” in The Function of Scripture in Early Jewish and Christian Tradition (ed. Craig A. Evans and James A. Sanders; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 176-189, esp. 184-186.
  • [126] See Segal, 48 §88.
  • [127] Another example of כִּבֵּד in the sense of “sweep” occurs in m. Mik. 8:4, where, however, the verb is employed euphemistically.
  • [128] A similar anecdote to the one reported in b. Yev. 59b occurs in the external tractate Arayot (Kaufmann §10) Tosefta Derek Erez 3:7 (ed. Higger, 269, ET: 97).
  • [129] In LXX ἐπιμελῶς occurs in Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Prov. 13:24.
  • [130] In LXX σφόδρα is the translation of הֵיטֵב in Deut. 9:21; 13:15; 17:4; 27:8.
  • [131] In LXX ἀκριβῶς is the translation of הֵיטֵב in Deut. 19:18.
  • [132] In LXX ἀγαθῶς is the translation of הֵיטֵב in 4 Kgdms. 11:18.
  • [133] An example of the feminine participle מֹצֵאת (motzē’t, “finding”) is located in 2 Sam. 18:22.
  • [134] See above, Comment to L14. Cf. Plummer, 369.
  • [135] Marshall (603-604) wondered whether ἀμήν might originally have opened the application of the Lost Coin simile.
  • [136] On ἔμπροσθεν as the translation of לִפְנֵי, see Yeshua’s Thanksgiving Hymn, Comment to L10-11. On ἐνώπιον as the translation of לִפְנֵי, see Henry St. John Thackeray, A Grammar of the Old Testament in Greek According to the Septuagint (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1909), 1:42. Examples of ἐνώπιον as the translation of לִפְנֵי include, inter alia, Gen. 24:51; 30:33; Exod. 21:1; Lev. 4:4, 18, 24; 24:3; Num. 17:25; 19:3; 32:4; Deut. 1:8, 42; 4:8, 44; 11:26, 32; Josh. 8:32; Judg. 4:15, 23; 6:18; 8:28; 11:9, 11; 13:15; 20:23, 28, 32, 42; 21:2.
  • [137] An example where Luke and Matthew agree to write ἔμπροσθεν is found in Matt. 11:26 // Luke 10:21 (see Yeshua’s Thanksgiving Hymn, L11). Other examples include Matt. 11:10 // Luke 7:27 and 2xx in Matt. 10:32 // Luke 12:8.
  • [138] Compare Luke’s “not one of them is forgotten before God” (Luke 12:6) to the rabbinic statements אין שכחה לפני המקום (“there is no forgetfulness before the Omnipresent one”; t. Yom. 2:7; y. Yom. 3:9 [20a]) and אין שכחה לפני כסא כבודך (“there is no forgetfulness before the throne of your glory”; b. Ber. 32b).
  • [139] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:7-9.
  • [140] See Dos Santos, 112.
  • [141] In LXX the phrase οἱ ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ (hoi angeloi tou theou, “the angels of God”) is the translation of מַלְאֲכֵי אֱלֹהִים (mal’achē ’elohim, “the angels of God”) in Gen. 28:12; 32:2.
  • [142] See Matt. 10:32 // Luke 12:8; Matt. 10:33 // Luke 12:9; Matt. 18:14 // Luke 15:10.
  • [143] See David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: The Kingdom of Heaven in the Life of Yeshua,” under the subheading “Which is correct: ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ or ‘Kingdom of God’?”
  • [144] In Comment to L1-6, we noted that the author of Matthew likely composed Matt. 18:10 using vocabulary from Anth.’s conclusion of the Lost Coin simile. If this theory is correct, then “their angels in heaven” in L4 might have been inspired by “the angels of heaven” mentioned in L58-59.
  • [145] See A. F. Walls, “‘In the Presence of the Angels’ (Luke XV 10),” Novum Testamentum 3.4 (1959): 314-316.
  • [146] On the angelic opposition to repentance, see Solomon Schechter, Aspects of Rabbinic Theology: Major Concepts of the Talmud (New York: Schocken, 1961), 321.
  • [147] See Otto Michel, “τελώνης,” TDNT, 8:88-105, esp. 105 n. 157.

Call of Levi

Matt. 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32; 15:1-2
(Huck 53; Aland 44, 93; Crook 67, 97)[1]

Revised: 9-January-2018

וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן יָצָא וַיַּרְא מוֹכֵס וּשְׁמוֹ לֵוִי יוֹשֵׁב אֵצֶל בֵּית הַמֶּכֶס וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ לֵךְ אַחֲרַי וַיַּנַּח אֶת הַכֹּל וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלֶךְ אַחֲרָיו וַיַּעַשׂ לֵוִי מִשְׁתֶּה גָדוֹל לוֹ וַיְהִי הוּא מֵסֵב בְּבֵיתוֹ וְהִנֵּה אֻכְלוּס גָּדוֹל שֶׁלְּמוֹכְסִים וּרְשָׁעִים שֶׁהָיוּ בָּאִים לִשְׁמוֹעַ לוֹ וַיִּלּוֹנוּ הַפְּרוּשִׁים וְסוֹפְרֵיהֶם עַל תַּלְמִידָיו לֵאמֹר לָמָּה עִם הַמּוֹכְסִים וְהָרְשָׁעִים הוּא אוֹכֵל וְשׁוֹתֵה וַיַּעַן יֵשׁוּעַ וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם אֵין צוֹרֶךְ לַבְּרִיאִים בְּרוֹפֵא אֶלָּא לַחֹלִים [לְכוּ וְלִמְדוּ מָה הוּא חֶסֶד חָפַצְתִּי וְלֹא זָבַח] לֹא בָּאתִּי לִקְרֹוא לַצַּדִּיקִים אֶלָּא לָרְשָׁעִים לִתְשׁוּבָה

Some time later, Yeshua went out and noticed a toll collector named Levi sitting at a toll house, and he said to Levi, “Follow me as my disciple!” So leaving everything behind, Levi got up and followed Yeshua.

Levi prepared a sumptuous banquet in honor of Yeshua. As Yeshua was eating in Levi’s home, a whole crowd of toll collectors and other sinners came to listen to him.

But the Pharisees and their leaders complained against his disciples by asking, “Why is he celebrating with toll collectors and other sinners?”

“Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do,” Yeshua replied. “[Instead of criticizing me, go find out what God meant when he said: Mercy is more desirable to me than sacrifice.] God sent me to invite sinners to repent, not righteous people.”[2]


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Reconstruction

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Story Placement

The Call of Levi story is a Triple Tradition (TT) pericope, which all three synoptic evangelists place at an early stage of Jesus’ career. All three evangelists also agree to place the Healing a Paralyzed Man narrative (Matt. 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26) immediately before the Call of Levi story, and to place Why Yeshua’s Disciples Do Not Fast (Matt. 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39) immediately afterward. This agreed-upon arrangement of pericopae is due to Mark’s acceptance of Luke’s story order and Matthew’s subsequent acceptance of the story order in Mark. This arrangement of pericopae probably originated with Luke; it probably does not go back to either of Luke’s pre-synoptic sources: the Anthology (Anth.) or the First Reconstruction (FR).

There are, however, indications that at a pre-synoptic stage the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes were the continuation of the Call of Levi story. Luke 15:1-2, which introduces the twin Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes, appears to be FR’s abridged version of the Call of Levi story.[3] It appears that the First Reconstructor (the creator of FR) was less interested in the details of Levi’s biography and the story of the banquet that was celebrated in his home than he was in Jesus’ defense of his association with sinners, which is so memorably driven home by the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes. Accordingly, the First Reconstructor pared down the Call of Levi story to the minimum required to introduce the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes.

If this description of FR’s editorial activity is correct, then we must conclude that the First Reconstructor knew that the twin similes were the continuation of the Call of Levi story in Anth. The author of Luke would have known this, too, since he also had access to Anth., but since he failed to recognize that the introduction to the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes (Luke 15:1-2) was simply an abbreviated version of the Call of Levi story, he retained the version from Anth. (Luke 5:27-32) as well as the version from FR (Luke 15:1-10), omitting the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes from Anth.’s version because these he did recognize as parallel to those in FR. The author of Matthew would likewise have known that the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes were the continuation of the Call of Levi story in Anth., but seeing that they did not continue the Call of Levi story in Mark, the author of Matthew found it convenient to include the Lost Sheep simile in his discourse on pastoral care and to omit the Lost Coin simile altogether.[4]

We have dubbed the “complete” story of Jesus’ interaction with Levi the toll collector, including the twin similes with which Jesus underscored his argument, as the “Yeshua and Levi the Toll Collector” complex, which can be viewed by clicking here. We have placed the entire complex within the section of the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua entitled “Calling and Training Disciples.”

loymapfix

 

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

 

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

As we stated in the foregoing discussion, we believe the author of Luke copied Call of Levi from the Anthology (Anth.). Robert Lindsey characterized Anth. as a highly Hebraic-Greek text, which the author of Luke sometimes altered slightly in order to present a more polished Greek story to his non-Jewish Greek-speaking readers. A few instances of such polishing on the part of the author of Luke will be mentioned in the Comment section below. The author of Mark based his version of Call of Levi on Luke’s, but he reworked it in his characteristically expansive and periphrastic style.[5] The author of Matthew copied his version of Call of Levi from Mark, but the Lukan-Matthean minor agreements against Mark and the points of contact between the Matthean and FR versions of Call of Levi indicate that at certain points the author of Matthew corrected Mark’s version on the basis of Anth.

Witnesses to Jesus’ statement, “I have not come to call the righteous, etc.,” are also found in early Christian sources including 2 Clement (first half of the second cent. C.E.), the Epistle of Barnabas (ca. 130 C.E.)[6] and Justin Martyr’s First Apology (ca. 147-161 C.E.).[7] A version of Jesus’ statement about the healthy who have no need of a doctor is found in the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1224, a document copied in the fourth cent. C.E.,[8] but perhaps representing a composition written somewhat earlier.[9]

A papyrus fragment (Oxyrhynchus 1224) containing a parallel to the Call of Levi story. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Crucial Issues

  1. Where did the Call of Levi story take place?
  2. Why is the toll collector named “Levi” in Luke and Mark, but “Matthew” in Matthew?
  3. What were toll collectors, and why were they considered to be inappropriate company in Jewish society?
  4. Who were the Pharisees?
  5. Who were the “scribes,” and what was their relationship to the Pharisees?
  6. What were the Pharisees doing at the party if they didn’t approve of eating and drinking with sinners?

Comment

L1 καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα (GR). The use of μετὰ ταῦτα (meta tavta, “after these things”) is often cited as characteristically Lukan,[10] since this phrase occurs 6xx in Luke,[11] but only 1x in Mark and 0xx in Matthew.[12] However, we suspect that μετὰ ταῦτα in Luke is a reflection of Luke’s pre-synoptic sources.

וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן (HR). In LXX μετὰ ταῦτα is most frequently the translation of אַחֲרֵי כֵן (’aḥarē chēn, “after this”),[13] and וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן followed by a verb in the perfect, which is often used to open a new sentence in the Hebrew Bible, is generally translated in LXX as μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα or καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα + aorist, the same formula we find in Luke 5:27.[14] Since we believe narrative portions of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua are best reconstructed in a BH style, we have adopted וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן for HR.

L2 יָצָא (HR). On reconstructing ἐξέρχεσθαι (exerchesthai, “to go out”) with יָצָא (yātzā’, “go out”), see Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L98.

L3-6 Apart from καὶ ἐξῆλθεν, which the author of Mark copied from Luke, Mark 2:13 is entirely the product of the author of Mark’s pen, which he composed in order to create a bridge between the Healing a Paralyzed Man narrative and the Call of Levi story.[15]

L3 πάλιν παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν (Mark 2:13). It is only Mark’s redactional phrase “again beside the sea,”[16] which is absent in Matthew and Luke, that has given scholars the impression that Levi’s toll station was located in or near Capernaum.[17] Nevertheless, Mark 2:13 does not specify the name of a town or village where Levi collected his tolls. Did the author of Mark have personal knowledge concerning where Call of Levi took place, or is his mention of the Sea of Galilee simply a reflection of Mark’s tendency to mention the sea at the transition to a new story?[18] Neither Luke nor Matthew indicate where Call of Levi took place, and we cannot be sure whether in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua the story was set in the Galilee or in Judea, although a Galilean setting seems more probable, since it was in the Galilee that Jesus began recruiting and training disciples. It is possible that Mark’s reference to the sea is due to his conforming of the Call of Levi story to his version of Yeshua Calls His First Disciples (Mark 1:16-20), on which, see below, Comment to L7.

L4 In Mark’s redactional bridge we find a reference to the “crowd” (ὄχλος; ochlos). Perhaps the author of Mark picked up the word ὄχλος from Luke’s description of the crowd of toll collectors who dined with Jesus in the home of Levi (Luke 5:29). Mark’s parallel to Luke 5:29 omits ὄχλος (Mark 2:15; L28). Lindsey noted that when the author of Mark picked up a term from Luke he would frequently refuse to use that term at the same point where Luke had used it in his Gospel.[19]

L7 παράγων (Mark 2:14). The verb παράγειν (paragein, “to pass by”) does not occur in the Gospel of Luke. In LXX παράγειν is usually the translation of הֶעֱבִיר (he‘evir, “lead past,” “cause to pass by”).[20] In Mark παράγειν occurs 3xx (Mark 1:16; 2:14; 15:21). The first two instances in Mark occur in similarly worded descriptions of the calling of disciples:

Mark 1:16-18 Mark 2:13-14
L1 καὶ ἐξῆλθεν πάλιν παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν·καὶ πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος ἤρχετο πρὸς αὐτόν, καὶ ἐδίδασκεν αὐτούς.
L2 καὶ παράγων παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ παράγων
L3 εἶδεν Σίμωνα καὶ Ἀνδρέαν τὸν ἀδελφὸν Σίμωνος εἶδεν Λευὶν τὸν τοῦ Ἁλφαίου
L4 ἀμφιβάλλοντας ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ· καθήμενον ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον,
L5 ἦσαν γὰρ ἁλιεῖς
L6 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ·
L7 δεῦτε ὀπίσω μου, ἀκολούθει μοι.
L8 καὶ ποιήσω ὑμᾶς γενέσθαι ἁλιεῖς ἀνθρώπων.
L9 καὶ εὐθὺς ἀφέντες τὰ δίκτυα ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ. καὶ ἀναστὰς ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῷ.

Both of Mark’s calling narratives take place “beside the sea”; both begin with “and passing by” (L2); both mention Jesus seeing the prospective recruits (L3) at their places of work (L4); in both accounts Jesus issues the prospective recruits a command (L6-7); and both accounts end with the statement “they/he followed him.”

These stylized accounts of Jesus’ calling of disciples are due to Mark’s editorial activity, and we regard καὶ παράγων in L7 as redactional. The author of Matthew copied this phrase from Mark.

L8 ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐκεῖθεν (Matt. 9:9). The author of Matthew probably added Jesus’ name for the sake of clarity. The adverb ἐκεῖθεν (ekeithen, “from there”) was probably also added by the author of Matthew, for although ἐκεῖθεν is not in itself un-Hebraic,[21] most of the time when Matthew has ἐκεῖθεν this adverb is lacking in the Markan and Lukan parallels, which suggests that the author of Matthew habitually added ἐκεῖθεν when revising his sources.[22]

L9 καὶ ἐθεάσατο (GR). Since Luke’s verb θεάσασθαι (theasasthai, “to see”) occurs only 8xx in LXX and is the translation of רָאָה (rā’āh, “see”) only once,[23] Mark and Matthew’s verb, ἰδεῖν (idein, “to see”), which is common in LXX as the translation of רָאָה,‎[24] might seem the more likely verb to have been derived from Anth. Nevertheless, we have accepted Luke’s καὶ ἐθεάσατο (kai etheasato, “and he saw”) for three reasons: 1) The parallel usage of θεάσασθαι in Matt. 11:7 and Luke 7:24 demonstrates that the verb θεάσασθαι occurred in Anth. at least occasionally; 2) Luke’s καί + aorist looks like the literal translation of a vav-consecutive; and 3) Mark’s εἶδεν (followed by Matthew) is part of Mark’s stylized disciple-calling narratives (see above, Comment to L7).

L10 τελώνην (Luke 5:27). It is only in Luke’s version of Call of Levi that it is explicitly stated that Levi was a toll collector (τελώνης; telōnēs), although his occupation can easily be inferred from Mark’s statement that Levi was sitting at the toll station (Mark 2:14; cf. Matt. 9:9; L14).[25] In order to understand why we have rendered τελώνης as “toll collector,” instead of the traditional “tax collector,” it is necessary to acquaint oneself with the systems of taxation in the Roman Empire.

During the Roman period the people in the provinces and client kingdoms were subject to both direct and indirect taxation,[26] which was payable either to the Roman Senate, to the emperor himself in the case of imperial provinces (e.g., Judea), or to the ruler of a client kingdom (e.g., the tetrarch Herod Antipas in the Galilee).[27] Local cities also imposed their own taxes on their inhabitants.[28] Direct taxes were of two kinds. The first was a poll tax (Lat., tributum capitis), which was paid by adults between the ages of twelve or fourteen and sixty-five.[29] The poll tax was a highly regressive form of taxation since the same amount was paid by rich and poor alike.[30] The second form of direct taxation was a property tax (Lat., tributum soli) on cultivated land, amounting to 12.5 percent of the annual harvest in Judea,[31] and agricultural equipment including slaves and domestic animals.[32] The property tax was also burdensome, especially for subsistence farmers, because the property tax was assessed at a fixed rate that did not reflect the year-to-year productivity of the land.[33] As a consequence, in years that saw a poor harvest, farmers often had difficulty paying taxes on their property, and this became one factor in the increasing levels of indebtedness among Jews living in the land of Israel at the end of the Second Temple period.[34] The collection of direct taxes was the responsibility of the local ruling magistrates, and was not farmed out to private individuals,[35] thus Levi would not have been a collector of direct taxes.

First-century C.E. Roman fresco from Pompeii depicting many of the tools of the toll collector’s trade: coins, moneybag, account book and writing utensils. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

There were also various types of indirect taxes, especially tolls (Lat., portoria) paid on the movement of goods within the empire.[36] Ordinarily, these indirect taxes were not collected by Roman officials. Rather, the right to collect tolls on imported and exported merchandise was auctioned off to private individuals (Lat., publicani; Gk., τελῶναι).[37] As a means of increasing capital and minimizing liability, toll collectors often formed toll-collecting corporations (Lat., societas).[38] Levi the toll collector, who had other toll collector friends (Luke 5:29), was likely a member of such a corporation.

Toll collectors had to work within certain parameters. For instance, it was the Roman authorities, not the toll collectors, who set toll rates,[39] and merchants were aware, to a greater or lesser degree, of how much the toll collectors were legally permitted to collect on their wares. If a merchant felt that a toll collector had extracted more than his due it was possible to appeal to the Roman authorities for relief, although resorting to such measures would have been practical only in extreme cases.[40] Toll collectors were also limited by the need to keep commerce flowing through their districts. Extracting too much would stifle trade and dry up their sources of revenue. While these factors set upper limits on the amounts toll collectors were able to siphon off trade, the need to outbid their competitors and their need to make a profit were incentives for collecting as much as the markets could bear.

This system of indirect taxation on the movement of goods worked greatly to the advantage of the Roman government or the rulers of client kingdoms under Roman influence because it guaranteed a predictable income for the governing authorities.[41] The system also benefited those toll collectors who had good business sense, for as long as they had calculated correctly they could recoup the cost of their bid and collect substantially more for their personal enjoyment. But this system was detrimental to merchants and ordinary consumers whose interests were not represented within the system. Privatizing the right to collect tolls on trade only made the cost of doing business and the price of goods that much more expensive, and unsurprisingly toll collectors were resented as parasites who made no positive contribution to society, but who leeched off the livings of producers and consumers alike.

Such negative attitudes are reflected in classical and rabbinic sources. For instance, Cicero, writing in the first century B.C.E. and reflecting elitist attitudes, advised:

Primum improbantur ii quaestus, qui in odia hominum incurrunt, ut portitorum, ut faeneratorum.

First, those means of livelihood are rejected as undesirable which incur people’s ill will, as those of tax-gatherers [portitorum] and usurers. (Cicero, Off. 1:42 §150; Loeb)

Likewise, Lucian, in the second century C.E., included toll collectors in a list of unsavory characters:

ἐλέγοντο δὲ εἶναι μοιχοὶ καὶ πορνοβοσκοὶ καὶ τελῶναι καὶ κόλακες καὶ συκοφάνται καὶ τοιοῦτος ὅμιλος τῶν πάντα κυκώντων ἐν τῷ βίῳ.

…they were said to be adulterers, procurers, toll collectors [τελῶναι], toadies, informers, and all that crowd of people who create such confusion in life. (Lucian, Men. §11; Loeb, adapted)

Rabbinic sources similarly class toll collectors with other disreputable persons,[42] for instance:

נוֹדְרִים לֶהָרָגִים וְלֶחָרָמִים וְלַמּוֹכְסִים שֶׁהִיא תְרוּמָה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינָה תְרוּמָה שֶׁהֵן שֶׁלְּבֵית הַמֶּלֶךְ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינָה שֶׁלָּהֶן

Those who make a vow to murderers or to oppressors or to toll collectors [מוֹכְסִים] that it [i.e., their merchandise—DNB and JNT] is terumah [i.e., owed to the priests—DNB and JNT], even if it is not terumah, or that it belongs to the royal estate,[43] even if it does not belong to the royal estate…. (m. Ned. 3:4)

In the above quotation the sages not only grouped toll collectors with other transgressors, but they considered it legitimate to evade payment of tolls by taking false oaths, since they regarded toll collectors as no better than robbers. Their estimation of a toll collector’s income as stolen goods is also reflected in other rulings of the sages, for example:

אֵין פּוֹרְטין לֹא מִיתֵּבָת הַמּוּכְסִים וְלֹא מִכִּיס שֶׁלַּ גַּבַּיִים וְאֵין נוֹטְלִין מֵהֶן צְדָקָה

They do not make change from the cash box of toll collectors [מוּכְסִים, Kaufmann’s defective pointing of מוֹכְסִים] or from the purse of poll tax collectors [גַּבַּיִים], and they do not take alms from them. (m. Bab. Kam. 10:1)

נָטְלו מוֹכְסִים חֲמוֹרוֹ וְנָתְנוּ לוֹ חָמוֹר אַחֵר הַלֶּיסְטִים כְּסוּתוֹ וְנָתְנוּ לוֹ כְסוּת אַחֶרֶת הֲרֵי אֵילּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהַבְּעָלִים מִיתְיַיאֲשִׁים מֵהֶן

If toll collectors [מוֹכְסִים] took his donkey and gave him a different donkey, or if robbers took his set of clothes and gave to him a different set of clothes, behold they are his [to keep] because their [former] owners give up hope of recovering them. (m. Bab. Kam. 10:2)

Here the association of toll collecting with robbery is explicit (cf. Luke 3:12-13).

A dim view of the tolls collected by the toll collectors is expressed in such statements as:

רבי גמליאל אומר בד′ דברים מלכות אוכלת במכסאות במרחצאות ותרטייאות וארנוניות שלהן

Rabbi Gamliel says, “By four things does the empire subsist: by tolls [מכסאות], by public baths, by theaters, and by their agricultural tax.” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 28:4 [ed. Schechter, 85])

נענה רבי שמעון בן יוחאי ואמר כל מה שתקנו לא תקנו אלא לצורך עצמן תקנו שווקין להושיב בהן זונות מרחצאות לעדן בהן עצמן גשרים ליטול מהן מכס

Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai answered and said, “All that they [i.e., the Romans—DNB and JNT] established was only for their own needs. They established markets to make prostitutes dwell therein, they made public baths to refresh themselves therein, bridges to take a toll [מכס] from them.” (b. Shab. 33b)

The ruins of the Tariff Court at Palmyra, where the Palmyrian Tariff was discovered. Engraving by Louis-François Cassas (ca. 1799). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

מוֹכֵס (HR). In the rabbinic sources cited above we find that the sages differentiated between the גַּבַּיי (gabai), collector of the poll tax, and the מוֹכֵס (mōchēs), collector of tolls on the movement of goods.[44] Levi probably belonged to the latter class of individuals,[45] since he carried out his duties at a toll station rather than going into the homes of individuals to collect the poll tax or the property tax.[46] His likely membership in a toll-collecting corporation points to the same conclusion.[47]

A second-century C.E. Greek and Aramaic inscription known as the Palmyrian Tariff stipulates the tolls charged on various goods that passed through that ancient city.[48] It is noteworthy for the purposes of Hebrew reconstruction that in the Palmyrian Tariff the Greek term τελώνης (telōnēs, “toll collector”) and the Aramaic term מָכְסָא (mochsā’, “toll collector”), a cognate of the Hebrew מוֹכֵס (mōchēs, “toll collector”), are treated as equivalent terms.[49]

Column 1 of the Greek-Aramaic Palmyrian Tariff as reproduced in the Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum (CIS III 3913). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L11 καὶ ὄνομα αὐτῷ (GR). Our reconstruction supposes that the author of Luke slightly amended Anth.’s wording for stylistic purposes. The formula used to introduce Levi’s name in Luke 5:27, ὀνόματι + proper name, is rare in Mark and Matthew, but a common occurrence in Luke-Acts.[50] The ὀνόματι + proper name formula is also extremely rare in LXX, and never occurs in books that are included in MT.[51] In Hebrew, names are often introduced with the formula וְשֵׁם + pronominal suffix + proper name, for instance וּשְׁמוֹ אֶבְיָתָר (ūshemō ’Evyātār, “and his name [was] Abiathar”; 1 Sam. 22:20). In LXX this formula is usually translated καὶ ὄνομα αὐτῷ/αὐτῇ + proper name, as, indeed, we find in 1 Kgdms. 22:20: καὶ ὄνομα αὐτῷ Αβιαθαρ (kai onoma avtō Abiathar, “and [the] name to him [was] Abiathar”).[52] Less often the וְשֵׁם + pronominal suffix + proper name formula is translated as ᾧ/ᾗ ὄνομα + proper name; for example, in Gen. 16:1 וּשְׁמָהּ הָגָר (ūshemāh Hāgār, “and her name [was] Hagar”) is rendered in LXX as ᾗ ὄνομα Αγαρ (hē onoma Agar, “whose name [was] Hagar”).[53] Thus, ᾧ ὄνομα Λευεὶς is another possibility for GR.

A bilingual inscription on a first-century ossuary discovered in Jerusalem with the name “Levi” in Greek and Hebrew. Published by Hans H. Spoer, “Some Hebrew and Phoenician Inscriptions,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 28 (1907): 354-359.

L12 Λευεὶς (GR). The Hebrew name לֵוִי (Lēvi, “Levi”) was put into Greek in a variety of ways. In LXX לֵוִי is generally transliterated as Λευι (Levi),[54] while the declinable form Λευίς (Levis) occurs in books that were originally composed in Greek (1 Esd. 9:14; 4 Macc. 2:19).[55] Josephus sometimes used other forms such as Ληουείς (Lēoueis; J.W. 2:642; Life §43, 131, 171, 189) or Λευῖτις (Levitis; Ant. 4:64; 5:144).

Inscriptions on ossuaries and ostraca, as well as literary sources, attest to individuals who bore the name Levi in the first century C.E.[56] The nominative form Λευείς in GR is required by the preceding phrase, καὶ ὄνομα αὐτῷ. Compare the spelling of Levi’s name in Luke 5:29 (L24).

לֵוִי (HR). The name Levi probably denotes that the toll collector called by this name in the Call of Levi story belonged to the tribe of Levi.[57] In the Temple the Levites played a supporting role to the priests,[58] serving as singers,[59] musicians,[60] gatekeepers,[61] bailiffs (שֹׁטְרִים; shoṭrim)[62] and secretaries (סוֹפְרִים; sōferim).[63] Most Levites, as indeed most priests, were not employed full-time in the Temple. As a result, the Levites had to find secular occupations in order to earn their livelihoods. The Levite named Levi in this story earned his livelihood by becoming a toll collector.

L13 τὸν τοῦ Ἁλφαίου (Mark 2:14). Only Mark includes the detail that Levi was the son of Alphaeus, or חַלְפִי (Ḥalfi) in Hebrew.[64] Adding additional biographical detail is one of the characteristics of Mark’s editorial style,[65] but our conclusion that this detail is secondary does not imply that it was factually incorrect.[66] The author of Mark may have been personally acquainted with Levi the toll collector, or, alternatively, he could have gleaned this information secondhand from someone acquainted with Levi.

L14 καθήμενον ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον (GR). The description of the toll collector sitting at his toll station is the first point of agreement between all three synoptic writers in the Call of Levi story.

יוֹשֵׁב אֵצֶל בֵּית הַמֶּכֶס (HR). In LXX καθῆσθαι (kathēsthai, “to sit”) is almost always the translation of יָשַׁב (yāshav, “sit”).[67] In Greek ἐπί + accusative means “at” or “beside.”[68] For HR we have chosen to reconstruct this as אֵצֶל (’ētzel, “at,” “beside”), although in LXX אֵצֶל is never translated with ἐπί + accusative. Examples of יָשַׁב אֵצֶל are found in the following rabbinic texts:

מעשה בארבעה זקנים שהיו יושבין אצל ר′ אליעזר בן עזריה

An anecdote concerning four elders who were sitting by [יושבין אצל] Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah…. (t. Kel. Bab. Bat. 2:2 [ed. Zuckermandel, 591])

מעשה ברבי יוחנן בן נורי ורבי אלעזר בן חסמא שהושיבם רבן גמליאל בישיבה ולא הרגישו בהם התלמידים לעתותי ערב הלכו וישבו להם אצל התלמידים

An anecdote concerning Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri and Rabbi Eleazar ben Hisma, whom Rabban Gamliel appointed over the academy, but the disciples were not aware of this. When evening came, they went and sat themselves by [וישבו להם אצל] the disciples. (Sifre Deut. §16 [ed. Finkelstein, 26])

וכן שני בני אדם שעשו מריבה זה עם זה הלך אהרן וישב לו אצל אחד מהם ואמר לו בני ראה חברך מהו אומר מטרף את לבו וקורע את בגדיו אומר אוי לי היאך אשא את עיני ואראה את חברי בושתי הימנו שאני הוא שסרחתי עליו הוא יושב אצלו עד שמסיר קנאה מלבו. והולך אהרן ויושב לו אצל האחר וא″ל בני ראה חברך מהו אומר מטרף את לבו וקורע את בגדיו ואומר אוי לי היאך אשא את עיני ואראה את חברי בושתי הימנו שאני הוא שסרחתי עליו הוא יושב אצלו עד שמסיר קנאה מלבו. וכשנפגשו זה בזה גפפו ונשקו זה לזה לכך נאמר ויבכו את אהרן שלשים יום כל בית ישראל

And so when two people would quarrel with one another, Aaron went and sat himself by [וישב לו אצל] one of them and said to him, “My son, see what your fellow says: he is rending his heart and tearing his clothes and saying, ‘Woe to me! How can I raise my eyes and look at my fellow? I am ashamed because it is I who did him wrong!’” He would sit by him [יושב אצלו] until the jealousy was removed from his heart. Then Aaron would go and sit himself by [ויושב לו אצל] the other and say to him, “My son, see what your fellow says: he is rending his heart and tearing his clothes and saying, ‘Woe to me! How can I raise my eyes and look at my fellow? I am ashamed because it is I who did him wrong!’” He would sit by him [יושב אצלו] until the jealousy was removed from his heart. And when they met one another they hugged and kissed one another. Because of this it is said, And the whole house of Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days [Num. 20:29]. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 12:3 [ed. Schechter, 48-49])

The translation of τελώνιον (telōnion) as “tax collector’s booth”[69] may give the misleading impression of a tiny and impermanent structure. “Customs house” or “toll station” is nearer the mark. In rabbinic sources the term for toll station is בֵּית הַמֶּכֶס (bēt hameches, “the house of the toll”).[70] Examples of this term include:

היה עובר על בית המכס ואמר בני הוא וחזר ואמר עבדי הוא נאמן אמר עבדי הוא וחזר ואמר בני הוא אינו נאמן

If someone was passing by a toll house [בית המכס] and he said, “He is my son,” and later he said, “He is [really] my slave,” he is believed. If he said, “He is my slave,” and later he said, “He is [really] my son,” he is not believed. (b. Bab. Bat. 127b)

The above ruling provides yet another example of rabbinic leniency toward toll evasion. Someone might falsely claim that his slave was his son when passing a toll station in order to avoid paying a toll on his slave, and the sages did not regard such a person as untrustworthy. A second example of בֵּית הַמֶּכֶס strikes a different chord:

ואמר רבי יוחנן משום רבי שמעון בן יוחי: מאי דכתיב כי ה′ אהב משפט שנא גזל בעולה משל למלך בשר ודם שהיה עובר על בית המכס אמר לעבדיו תנו מכס למוכסים אמרו לו והלא כל המכס כולו שלך הוא אמר להם ממני ילמדו כל עוברי דרכים ולא יבריחו עצמן מן המכס אף הקדוש ברוך הוא אמר אני ה′ שנא גזל בעולה ממני ילמדו בני ויבריחו עצמן מן הגזל

And Rabbi Yohanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai, “What is the meaning of that which is written, For I the LORD love justice, hating robbery in iniquity [Isa. 61:8]? A parable: [It may be compared] to a king of flesh and blood who was passing by a toll house [בית המכס]. He said to his slaves, ‘Give the toll [מכס] to the toll collectors [מוכסים].’ They said to him, ‘But is not the entire toll your very own?’ He said to them, ‘Let all travelers learn from me, that they must not evade the toll.’ Even so the Holy One, blessed be he, says, ‘I the LORD hate robbery in iniquity. Let my sons learn from me that they may avoid robbery.’” (b. Suk. 30a)

This story, seemingly so supportive of paying tolls, is surprising coming from Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai, who made his anti-Roman sentiments unmistakable in other sayings (cf., e.g., b. Shab. 33b), especially since the main criticism of toll collectors in rabbinic literature is that they were guilty of robbery. Perhaps this parable should be read as a tongue-in-cheek criticism of the Roman system of indirect taxation, since a scenario in which Caesar would pay tolls was unimaginable. In other words, Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai might be highlighting a contrast between God and Caesar: whereas God hates robbery, Caesar uses robbery to enrich himself at the expense of his subjects.

L15 Μαθθαῖον λεγόμενον (Matt. 9:9). In Luke and Mark the toll collector is named Levi, but in Matthew he is identified as “a person called Matthew.” A harmonizing approach has been to suppose that the toll collector described in this story was called by two names, “Levi” and “Matthew.” However, as Bauckham has shown, an individual bearing two common Hebrew names is virtually unprecedented in the cumulative onomasticon of first-century Jewish names in the land of Israel.[71] It therefore seems more likely that the author of Matthew intentionally transferred the Call of Levi story to the apostle Matthew. Why would the author of Matthew have done this? Scholars have proposed two plausible scenarios. Meier, noting that the author of Matthew limited the number of Jesus’ disciples to twelve, supposed that the author of Matthew eliminated the name Levi so that the story of the calling of a disciple who was not numbered among the twelve apostles would not appear in his Gospel.[72] Bauckham, on the other hand, supposed that the Gospel of Matthew was composed for a community for whom the apostle Matthew was an important figure. The author of Matthew therefore transferred the Call of Levi story, which he copied from the Gospel of Mark, to the apostle Matthew so that his Gospel would include the story of the calling of the apostle his community so highly esteemed.[73] Perhaps these two suggestions are not mutually exclusive. In either case, the change of Levi’s name to Matthew in Matt. 9:9 and the notice in Matthew’s version of the apostolic list that the apostle Matthew was a toll collector (Matt. 10:3) are clearly related and are due to the author of Matthew’s editorial activity.[74]

Our supposition that the name change from “Levi” to “Matthew” is editorial finds confirmation in the fact that introducing a name or title with the participle λεγόμενος is far more frequent in the Gospel of Matthew than in Mark or Luke.[75] Using λεγόμενος to introduce a name is also un-Hebraic. In LXX λεγόμενος is used to introduce personal names only in books originally composed in Greek, or in verses that do not adhere to the underlying Hebrew text.[76]

L16 καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ (Mark 2:14). Mark has an historical present (“and he says to him”), which is also picked up in Matthew. Historical presents are un-Hebraic and characteristic of Mark’s editorial activity.[77] The author of Matthew often, though not always, copied historical presents from Mark. Historical presents are infrequent in Luke (13xx) compared to the number of instances in Matthew (99xx) and Mark (156xx). We have accepted Luke’s much more Hebraic καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ (“and he said to him”) for GR.

L17 ἀκολούθει μοι (GR). All three synoptic writers agree on the wording of Jesus’ command to Levi: “Follow me.”

לֵךְ אַחֲרַי (HR). For the identical reconstruction of ἀκολούθει μοι as לֵךְ אַחֲרַי, see Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, L25; Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, L50.

L18 καὶ καταλιπὼν πάντα (Luke 5:28). The statement that Levi “left everything” is unique to Luke, and on that score many scholars have regarded this notice as a secondary Lukan addition to the Call of Levi story.[78] Nevertheless, we retained this detail in GR, since leaving one’s possessions, family and livelihood was required of all of Jesus’ full-time disciples,[79] which gives this detail in Call of Levi a ring of authenticity. In addition, the verb καταλείπειν (kataleipein, “to leave”) occurs 4xx in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 5:28; 10:40; 15:4; 20:31), and one of these (Luke 15:4) is found in the Lost Sheep simile. Thus, καταλείπειν creates a verbal link between the two pericopae, which, on other grounds, we believe were part of a single literary unit at a pre-synoptic stage.[80]

וַיַּנַּח אֶת הַכֹּל (HR). In LXX καταλείπειν is the translation of הִנִּיחַ (hiniaḥ, “leave”) on several occasions.[81] Compare our reconstruction here to that in Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, L97.

L19 וַיָּקָם (HR). On reconstructing ἀναστῆναι (anastēnai, “to stand up,” “to rise”) with קָם (qām, “stand up,” “rise”), see Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law, Comment to L2.

L20 ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῷ (GR). Whereas Luke has an imperfect form of ἀκολουθεῖν, Mark and Matthew have an aorist. In LXX there are examples where καί + participle + participle + aorist is used to translate a succession of three vav-consecutives,[82] but we have found no instances of καί + participle + participle + imperfect as the translation of three successive vav-consecutives. Lindsey noted that occasionally the author of Mark would preserve a more Hebraic reading than the Lukan parallel.[83] We suspect that this is one such example. Luke’s imperfect is likely a slight change to the wording of Anth., probably made by the author of Luke for the sake of a more polished Greek style.

וַיֵּלֶךְ אַחֲרָיו (HR). Compare our reconstruction here to that in Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, L98.

L21-24 It is only in Luke’s version of Call of Levi that we find a description of Levi preparing a banquet for Jesus. The author of Mark probably omitted this sentence in order to hasten the pace of the narrative. He may have felt that the description of Levi’s preparations contained no essential information, but by omitting this sentence the author of Mark created some ambiguity as to whom the house in which the banquet was held belonged.[84] Without Luke’s description of Levi as preparer of the banquet, Mark’s statement that Jesus was reclining “in his house” (Mark 2:15; L27) could be interpreted as referring either to Jesus’ house or to Levi’s, but if Levi was the one who prepared the banquet, it is hardly likely that he would have done so in someone else’s house. In addition, as most scholars rightly point out, the likelihood of Jesus owning a house during the itinerant stage of his public career is remote (cf. Matt. 8:20 // Luke 9:58).[85] However, such little aporias as Mark’s (and Matthew’s) ambiguity regarding the ownership of the house where the banquet took place are inevitable whenever an author attempts to rework a received text.[86]

L22 Λευεὶς (GR). It appears that the author of Luke slightly altered the word order of his source. A more Hebraic word order would be for Levi’s name to appear after the verb ποιεῖν (poiein, “to do,” “to make”) and before the accusative δοχήν (dochēn, “banquet”).[87] We suspect that this was the word order in Anth. and that the author of Luke made a change to the word order of his source.

לֵוִי (HR). On reconstructing the name Λευείς as לֵוִי, see above, Comment to L12.

L23 מִשְׁתֶּה גָדוֹל (HR). In LXX δοχή (dochē, “banquet”) is always the translation of מִשְׁתֶּה (mishteh, “banquet”) wherever there is an equivalent in the underlying Hebrew text.[88] Likewise, ποιεῖν δοχήν (poiein dochēn, “to prepare a banquet”) is often used to translate עָשָׂה מִשְׁתֶּה (‘āsāh mishteh, “prepare a banquet”), for example:

καὶ ἐποίησεν Αβρααμ δοχὴν μεγάλην

וַיַּעַשׂ אַבְרָהָם מִשְׁתֶּה גָדוֹל

And Abraham made a large banquet…. (Gen. 21:8)[89]

A glass of wine as depicted in a first-century C.E. fresco from Herculaneum. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As the term mishteh, from the root ש-ת-ה (“to drink”), implies, Levi’s banquet would have included the drinking of wine, a fact alluded to in Luke’s version of the question Jesus’ critics posed to his disciples: “Why do you eat and drink with toll collectors and sinners?” (Luke 5:30).[90] The drinking of wine marked banquets as festive occasions,[91] and it was Jesus’ attendance at a banquet with toll collectors and sinners for the purpose of celebration that was the target of the scribes’ and Pharisees’ criticism.[92] The theme of celebration also ties the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes to the Call of Levi story, while the criticism directed against Jesus’ celebration with toll collectors and sinners explains why celebration is such a prominent theme in these twin similes.[93]

L24 לוֹ (HR). On the basis of the following parallels we considered whether we ought to reconstruct this sentence as וַיַּעַשׂ לֵוִי לְיֵשׁוּעַ מִשְׁתֶּה גָדוֹל (lit., “And made Levi for Jesus a banquet big”):

וַיַּעַשׂ יי אֱלֹהִים לְאָדָם וּלְאִשְׁתּוֹ כָּתְנוֹת עוֹר

And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins…. (Gen. 3:21)

וַיַּעַשׂ דָּוִד לְאַבְנֵר וְלַאֲנָשִׁים אֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ מִשְׁתֶּה

And David made for Avner and for the men who were with him a banquet. (2 Sam. 3:20)

In the above examples we find the order וַיַּעַשׂ + name of the maker + -לְ + name of the recipient + thing that was made.[94]

However, such a reconstruction would require us to presume a higher level of redactional activity on the part of the author of Luke than is necessary, given Hebrew parallels that are closer to the word order of Luke 5:29 such as:

וַיַּעַשׂ מִשְׁתֶּה לְכָל עֲבָדָיו

And he [i.e., Pharaoh—DNB and JNT] made a banquet for all his servants. (Gen. 40:20)

וַיַּעַשׂ מִשְׁתֶּה לְכָל עֲבָדָיו

And he [i.e., Solomon—DNB and JNT] made a banquet for all his servants. (1 Kgs. 3:15)

בִּשְׁנַת שָׁלוֹשׁ לְמָלְכוֹ עָשָׂה מִשְׁתֶּה לְכָל שָׂרָיו וַעֲבָדָיו

In the third year of his reign he [i.e., Ahasuerus—DNB and JNT] made a banquet for all his princes and servants. (Esth. 1:3)

וַיַּעַשׂ הַמֶּלֶךְ מִשְׁתֶּה גָדוֹל לְכָל שֶׂרָיו וַעֲבָדָיו

And the king made a big banquet for all his princes and servants. (Esth. 2:18)

כשעשה רבן גמליאל סעודה לחכמים היו כל חכמי ישראל מסובים אצלו עמד רבן גמליאל ושמשן

When Rabban Gamliel made a banquet for the sages, all the sages of Israel were reclining with him, but Rabban Gamliel stood and served them. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Amalek chpt. 3 [ed. Lauterbach, 3:280])

L25-37 The first part of Matt. 9:10 contains some wording that is highly Hebraic in style (e.g., καὶ ἐγένετο in L25, and καὶ ἰδοὺ in L28), which suggests that in this section the author of Matthew relied heavily—though not exclusively—on the wording of Anth.[95] Matthew’s Hebraisms in L25-37 and a fascinating point of agreement at L31 between Matthew’s wording and a detail preserved in FR’s truncated version of Call of Levi in Luke 15:1 suggest that in Anth.’s version of Call of Levi the motive for the arrival of the other toll collectors at the banquet was not merely for a good meal and a good time, but also to listen to Jesus’ teachings. The author of Luke, in his parallel to Matt. 9:10, seems to have departed from Anth.’s wording in order to portray the toll collectors as reclining with Jesus. Perhaps the author of Luke introduced this change in order to prepare his readers for the question posed by the Pharisees and scribes: “Why do you eat and drink with toll collectors and sinners?” Whatever his reasons, Luke’s editorial decision influenced Mark’s story and, via Mark, Matthew’s, such that Luke 5:29, Mark 2:15 and Matt. 9:10 describe the toll collectors reclining with Jesus, whereas the original story may not have included this detail at all.

L25-26 καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτοῦ ἀνακειμένου (GR). The καὶ ἐγένετο + gen. pronoun + participle construction with which the author of Matthew opens Matt. 9:10 looks like the Hebrew narrative structure וַיְהִי + pronoun + participle, which is translated in LXX in precisely this manner in the following examples:

וַיְהִי הֵם יֹשְׁבִים אֶל הַשֻּׁלְחָן וַיְהִי דְּבַר יי אֶל הַנָּבִיא

And it happened they are sitting at the table, and the word of the LORD came to the prophet…. (1 Kgs. 13:20)

καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτῶν καθημένων ἐπὶ τῆς τραπέζης καὶ ἐγένετο λόγος κυρίου πρὸς τὸν προφήτην

And it was of them sitting at the table, and the word of the Lord came to the prophet…. (3 Kgdms. 13:20)

וַיְהִי הוּא מְסַפֵּר לַמֶּלֶךְ אֵת אֲשֶׁר הֶחֱיָה אֶת הַמֵּת וְהִנֵּה הָאִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר הֶחֱיָה אֶת בְּנָהּ צֹעֶקֶת אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ

And it happened he [i.e., Gehazi—DNB and JNT] is telling the king how he [i.e., Elisha—DNB and JNT] made the dead alive, and behold, the woman whose son he had made alive is crying out to the king…. (2 Kgs. 8:5)

καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτοῦ ἐξηγουμένου τῷ βασιλεῖ ὡς ἐζωπύρησεν υἱὸν τεθνηκότα, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἡ γυνή, ἧς ἐζωπύρησεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς Ελισαιε, βοῶσα πρὸς τὸν βασιλέα

And it was of him explaining to the king how he brought back to life the dead son, and behold the woman, whose son Elisha brought back to life, is crying to the king…. (4 Kgdms. 8:5)

וַיְהִי הוּא קָם לַיְלָה וַיַּכֶּה אֶת אֱדוֹם

And it happened he is rising at night, and he struck Edom…. (2 Kgs. 8:21)

καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτοῦ ἀναστάντος καὶ ἐπάταξεν τὸν Εδωμ

And it was of him rising and he struck Edom…. (4 Kgdms. 8:21)

וַיְהִי הֵם קֹבְרִים אִישׁ וְהִנֵּה רָאוּ אֶת הַגְּדוּד וַיַּשְׁלִיכוּ אֶת הָאִישׁ בְּקֶבֶר אֱלִישָׁע

And it happened they are burying a man, and behold, they saw the troop and they tossed the man into the grave of Elisha. (2 Kgs. 13:21)

καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτῶν θαπτόντων τὸν ἄνδρα καὶ ἰδοὺ εἶδον τὸν μονόζωνον καὶ ἔρριψαν τὸν ἄνδρα ἐν τῷ τάφῳ Ελισαιε

And it was of them burying the man, and behold, they saw the troop and they tossed the man in the grave of Elisha. (4 Kgdms. 13:21)

וַיְהִי הוּא מִשׁתַּחֲוֶה בֵּית נִסְרֹךְ אֱלֹהָיו

And it happened he is worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god…. (2 Kgs. 19:37)

καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτοῦ προσκυνοῦντος ἐν οἴκῳ Νεσεραχ θεοῦ αὐτοῦ

And it was of him worshipping in the house of Neserach his god…. (4 Kgdms. 19:37)

As in some of the verses with the καὶ ἐγένετο + gen. pronoun + participle construction cited above (4 Kgdms. 8:5; 13:21), Matt. 9:10 also includes a καὶ ἰδού clause. The strong resemblance between Matthew’s wording and these Hebraic structures argues in favor of our supposition that Matthew copied them from his Hebraic-Greek source, Anth.

καὶ γείνεται κατακεῖσθαι αὐτὸν (Mark 2:15). The καὶ γείνεται + infinitive construction in Mark 2:15 (L25-26) is un-Hebraic,[96] but it probably represents the author of Mark’s paraphrase of Anth.’s Hebraic καὶ ἐγένετο structure, which is more accurately preserved in Matthew. It is possible that Mark’s use of γείνεται, an historical present, was inspired by the two instances of γείνεται in the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes (L36, L57), which we have reason to believe were an integral part of the Call of Levi story in Anth.

Mosaic from Zippori (Sepphoris) depicting diners reclining at table in a banqueting hall. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

וַיְהִי הוּא מֵסֵב (HR). In the various versions of the Call of Levi story we encounter three different, though related, verbs for “reclining.” In Matt. 9:10 we find ἀνάκεισθαι (anakeisthai, “to recline”) at L26, where the author of Matthew appears to be copying Anth., and συνανάκεισθαι (sūnanakeisthai, “to recline with”) in L32, where he appears to be following Mark. In Mark 2:15 we find κατάκεισθαι (katakeisthai, “to recline”) in L26, where the author of Mark appears to be paraphrasing Anth., and, as we noted, συνανάκεισθαι (sūnanakeisthai, “to recline with”) in L32, where he appears to be paraphrasing Luke’s statement, ἦσαν μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ κατακείμενοι (“they were with him reclining”). Luke 5:29 has only one verb for “recline,” κατάκεισθαι (katakeisthai), but it appears that the author of Luke delayed the reference to reclining in order to state that the toll collectors were reclining at the banquet with Jesus, whereas his source likely stated that while Jesus reclined at a banquet in the house of Levi a group of toll collectors came to listen to Jesus. The author of Mark, reading in Anth. that Jesus reclined in Levi’s home, and noticing that in Luke the toll collectors reclined with Jesus, decided to record both references to reclining and passed on this double reference to reclining to Matthew. Since Mark probably picked up his use of κατάκεισθαι in L26 from Luke’s use of the same verb in L32, and since in L26 the author of Matthew appears to be relying on Anth., we have accepted his use of ἀνάκεισθαι for GR.

None of the three verbs for “reclining” in the various versions of Call of Levi are common in LXX. The verb κατάκεισθαι occurs 4xx (Jdt. 13:15; Prov. 6:9; 23:34; Wis. 17:7), ἀνάκεισθαι occurs 2xx (1 Esd. 4:11; Tob. 9:6 [Sinaiticus]), and συνανάκεισθαι occurs 1x (3 Macc. 5:39). The usual verb in Hebrew for “recline at a meal” was הֵסֵב (hēsēv, “recline”), which we encounter in the following examples:

הָיוּ יוֹשְׁבִים כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מְבָרֶךְ לְעַצְמוֹ הֵסַבּוּ אֶחָד מְבָרֵךְ לְכֻלָּם

If they were sitting each by themselves, he says a blessing on his own. If they were reclining [הֵסַבּוּ, Kaufmann’s defective pointing of הֵסֵבוּ] [together—DNB and JNT], one says a blessing on everyone’s behalf. (m. Ber. 6:6)

מֵיסֵב עִימּוֹ עַל הַמִּיטָּה וְאוֹכֵל עִימּוֹ עַל הַשּׁוּלְחָן

The one reclining [מֵיסֵב] with him on the couch and eating with him on the table…. (m. Ned. 4:4)

בעל הבית שהיה מסב ואוכל

A landlord who was reclining [מסב] and eating…. (t. Ber. 4:20; Vienna MS)

As the first example cited above demonstrates, reclining at a meal was not universal. Sitting was the more common position for eating, especially among the poorer classes (cf., e.g., t. Dem. 5:7).[97] Reclining at a meal was normal only among the well-to-do. Otherwise, reclining at table was reserved for special occasions,[98] such as the celebration of the Passover, when:

אֲפִלֻּ עָנִי שֶׁבְּיִשְׂרָאֵ′ לֹא יֹאכַל עַד שֶׁיֵּסֵב

Even the poorest in Israel does not eat until he reclines [יֵסֵב]. (m. Pes. 10:1)

As noted above with respect to the drinking of wine, so also the description of Jesus reclining at table in the home of Levi marks the banquet as a festive occasion. Levi had good cause to celebrate: he had left his former life of wickedness behind, and by inviting him to become a full-time disciple Jesus had welcomed Levi into the Kingdom of Heaven.[99]

L27 ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ (GR). Matthew, Mark and Luke each have the phrase ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ (en tē oikia, “in the house”), with Mark and Luke agreeing to add the possessive pronoun αὐτοῦ (avtou, “of him”). But whereas Mark and Matthew portray Jesus reclining “in his/the house,” Luke has Levi preparing the banquet “in his house.” In this instance we believe that Mark and Matthew preserve the original placement of the phrase ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ [αὐτοῦ], and that it was Luke’s editorial activity that transferred ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ to the end of the preceding sentence. In the first place, to say that Levi prepared the banquet in his own home hardly needs stating, for it is unlikely that he would have prepared a banquet in someone else’s house. In second place, following the statement “And as he was reclining” is an appropriate place to add a note about the location where the reclining took place so that readers would know that this new sentence was a continuation of the same story. The placement of ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ as we have it in GR resembles a verse we cited above in Comment to L25-26:

וַיְהִי הֵם יֹשְׁבִים אֶל הַשֻּׁלְחָן

And it happened they are sitting at the table…. (1 Kgs. 13:20)

καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτῶν καθημένων ἐπὶ τῆς τραπέζης

And it was of them sitting at the table…. (3 Kgdms. 13:20)

The above verse has a καὶ ἐγένετο + gen. pronoun + participle construction followed by a description of the location where the action took place, which is exactly the pattern we have in our reconstruction of L25-27.

בְּבֵיתוֹ (HR). On reconstructing οἰκία (oikia, “house”) with בַּיִת (bayit, “house”), see Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law, Comment to L7.

L28 καὶ ἰδοὺ ὄχλος πολὺς (GR). We suspect that the author of Matthew blended his two sources in L28, copying καὶ ἰδού (“and behold”) from Anth. and πολλοί (“many”) from Mark. Whereas Luke, and probably also Anth., described “a big crowd [ὄχλος πολύς] of tax collectors,” Mark simply mentioned “many [πολλοί] tax collectors.”

וְהִנֵּה אֻכְלוּס גָּדוֹל (HR). Here we have reconstructed ἰδού (idou, “Behold!”) with הִנֵּה (hinēh, “Behold!”) rather than with הֲרֵי (ha, “Behold!”) as we did in Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven (L96), “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” (L49), Return of the Twelve (L18) and Preparations for Eating Passover Lamb (L22) because those instances occurred in direct speech, which we reconstruct in a MH style, whereas here we are in narrative, which we reconstruct in a blended BH and MH style such as we find in the Copper Scroll from Qumran and in the baraita preserved in b. Kid. 66a. We likewise reconstructed a narrative ἰδού with הִנֵּה in Widow’s Son in Nain (L6).

On the reconstruction of ὄχλος πολύς (ochlos polūs, “large crowd”) with אֻכְלוּס גָּדוֹל (’uchlūs gādōl, “big crowd”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L4. אֻכְלוּס is a loanword from Greek (ὄχλος), attested in MH sources.

L29 τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν (GR). Deciding between “toll collectors and others” (Luke 5:29) and “toll collectors and sinners” (Matt. 9:10; Mark 2:15) is difficult, since both can be reconstructed in Hebrew easily: Luke as מוֹכְסִים וַאֲחֵרִים (mōchsim va’aḥērim, “toll collectors and others”), and Mark and Matthew as מוֹכְסִים וּרְשָׁעִים (mōchsim ūreshā‘im, “toll collectors and wicked persons”). We considered the possibility that Luke’s “others” was copied from Anth., and that the author of Mark changed “others” to “sinners” in order to adopt the more familiar pairing of toll collectors and sinners, which occurs later in the Call of Levi pericope and elsewhere in the Gospels, but ultimately we concluded that it is more likely that Luke changed “toll collectors and sinners” to “toll collectors and others” in order to adopt a more neutral description of the visitors who came to Levi’s home. Adopting a more neutral description of the visitors in Luke 5:29 makes the tone of the Pharisees’ question in Luke 5:30 sound all the more harsh and accusatory. Thus, “others” in L29 serves a literary function in Luke’s version of the Call of Levi story that looks like a secondary attempt to heighten the dramatic effect of the narrative.

A more important factor in our decision to adopt “sinners” for GR, however, is the mention of “sinners” in Luke 15:1 (L34), which was copied from FR. While “sinners” in Matt. 9:10 could be attributed to either Mark or Anth., “sinners” in Luke 15:1 cannot be explained in this way. The best explanation for “sinners” in Luke 15:1 is that the First Reconstructor copied it from Anth. Thus, as we have seen on occasion elsewhere,[100] “others” vs. “sinners” in Luke 5:29 vs. Luke 15:1 appears to be an example where an FR version of a Lukan Doublet preserves the wording of Anth. better than the version of the doublet the author of Luke copied from Anth. and then modified.

שֶׁלְּמוֹכְסִים וּרְשָׁעִים (HR). In HR we have reconstructed ὄχλος πολὺς τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν (“a big crowd of toll collectors and sinners”; L28-29) as אֻכְלוּס גָּדוֹל שֶׁלְּמוֹכְסִים וּרְשָׁעִים. Other examples of אֻכְלוּס שֶׁלְּ (“a crowd of…”) in Hebrew sources include: אוכלוסין של יון (“crowds of Greece”; Exod. Rab. 15:6), אוכלוסין של פרעה (“crowds of Pharaoh”; Pesikta de-Rav Kahanah, Supplement 2:2 [ed. Mandelbaum, 2:453]), אוכלוסין של בני אדם (“crowds of human beings”; Num. Rab. 21:2) and אוכלוסים של אומות (“crowds of Gentiles”; Pesikta Rabbati 10:3 [ed. Friedmann, 36b]). In the first two of these instances, the formulation אֻכְלוּס‎ + ‎שֶׁלְּ + X describes who owns or rules the crowds, while the last two examples describe of whom the crowds consist, which is similar to our reconstruction, “a big crowd of toll collectors.” The main difference between these examples and our reconstruction is that, whereas the rabbinic examples are phrased in the plural (“crowds of…”), our reconstruction is phrased in the singular (“a big crowd of toll collectors etc.”). Also, we have attached the -שֶׁלְּ (equivalent to the שֶׁל in the rabbinic examples) to the following word (מוֹכְסִים), which was the common practice in late BH (cf. Song 3:7) and early rabbinic sources.[101]

Our choice of reconstructing ἁμαρτωλός (hamartōlos, “sinful”; substantive: “sinner”) with רָשָׁע (rāshā‘, “wicked”; substantive: “wicked person,” “sinner”) is based on two main considerations:

  1. In LXX ἁμαρτωλός is the translation of רָשָׁע more often than of חַטָּא (ḥaṭā’, “sinful”; substantive: “sinner”),[102] and the equivalence between ἁμαρτωλός and רָשָׁע is amplified when ἁμαρτωλός is paired with δίκαιος (dikaios, “righteous”; substantive: “righteous person”).[103] This correspondence between ἁμαρτωλός and רָשָׁע in LXX supports our reconstruction, since in Call of Levi ἁμαρτωλός is paired with δίκαιος (L66-67).
  2. The adjective חַטָּא (ḥaṭā’, “sinful”) rarely occurs in MT in the singular form, and never in the singular form as a substantive (i.e., “sinner”).[104] The adjective רָשָׁע (rāshā‘, “wicked”), on the other hand, occurs in both singular and plural forms and is frequently used as a substantive (i.e., “wicked person,” “sinner”).[105] This implies that when reconstructing a substantival use of ἁμαρτωλός in the singular (i.e., “sinner”) רָשָׁע is the better option. Now, in Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, which we believe formed the continuation of the Call of Levi story, we encounter precisely such a use of ἁμαρτωλός as a substantive in the singular (i.e., “sinner”).[106] Since we would expect to reconstruct ἁμαρτωλός with the same Hebrew noun in both pericopae, the probability that ἁμαρτωλός should be reconstructed with רָשָׁע in Lost Sheep and Lost Coin increases the probability that ἁμαρτωλός in Call of Levi should be reconstructed in the same manner, namely, with ‎רָשָׁע.‎[107]

Who were the individuals labeled “sinners” in the Call of Levi story? Some scholars have identified these sinners as ame haaretz, a term used in rabbinic literature to refer to those who did not observe the stringent purity and tithing practices of the haverim (t. Avod. Zar. 3:10).[108] However, the identification of the sinners in the Call of Levi story as ame haartez is mistaken, since Jesus himself was not a haver and therefore he, too, would have been considered an am haaretz,[109] and no one would have challenged Jesus for eating with his own kind.[110]

The “sinners” must therefore be identified as those whose way of life was deemed to be inconsistent with the Torah’s commandments. Nevertheless, describing the sinners in Call of Levi as those “who had abandoned the law,” as some scholars do, strikes us as an overstatement.[111] Surely not every Jewish sinner was an apostate.

Sources of the Lukan Doublets According to Lindsey’s Hypothesis.

L30-53 As we noted above, there is a parallel to the Call of Levi story in Luke 15:1-2.[112] This Lukan Doublet is due to Luke’s reliance on two parallel sources, Anth. and FR. FR was an epitome of Anth. which presented condensed versions of Anth.’s stories in a more polished Greek style. In the present instance, FR’s version is so condensed that it entirely omits the description of Levi’s encounter with Jesus at the toll station and simply narrates that toll collectors and sinners came to listen to Jesus.

However, as we noted above in Comment to L29, despite their condensed and polished style, the FR versions of a Lukan Doublet sometimes preserve the wording of Anth. better than the versions Luke copied directly from Anth. This happened when the author of Luke revised the wording of Anth. on his own initiative.[113] Under such circumstances, the FR version is sometimes less edited than the Anth. version the author of Luke edited, or the FR version can at least preserve traces of Anth.’s wording that did not survive in Luke’s edited version of an Anth. pericope. Often it is difficult to evaluate whether the Anth. or FR version of a Lukan Doublet preserves Anth.’s wording more faithfully, but there are two tests that can help us make a determination. One test is whether there is agreement between Matthew’s version and one or both versions of a Lukan Doublet. Those points of agreement can be traced back to Anth. The other test is Hebrew reconstruction. If one version, or words of one version, can be reconstructed in Hebrew with relative ease, but the parallel version presents difficulty, this is a good indication that the easier-to-reconstruct version preserves the wording of Anth.

L30 οἳ ἦσαν (GR). In L30 we encounter a convergence between the Anth. and FR versions of the Call of Levi story in Luke: both have the verb ἦσαν (ēsan, “they were”) describing the action of the toll collectors and their companions. Although the agreement is a small one, the use of the same verb at the same point in the two versions is not insignificant. The agreement in the two versions to write ἦσαν is a strong indication that this verb was indeed part of the original wording of the story as it occurred in Anth.

L31 ἐλθόντες (GR). In L31 we find a point of agreement between the Matthean and FR versions of the Call of Levi story. According to Matt. 9:10, the toll collectors and sinners were “coming,” whereas, according to Luke 15:1, the toll collectors and sinners were “approaching.” Although the verbs are not identical, both are participles and both convey the same basic meaning. This convergence of detail in the Matthean and FR versions of the Call of Levi story strongly suggests that the depiction of the toll collectors’ arrival derives from Anth., the source behind both versions. We have accepted Matthew’s ἐλθόντες (elthontes, “coming”) for GR; ἐγγίζοντες (engizontes, “approaching”) may be FR’s paraphrase of Anth.’s simpler verb.

בָּאִים (HR). On reconstructing ἔρχεσθαι with בָּא (bā’, “come”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L4.

L32 μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ κατακείμενοι (Luke 5:29). As we discussed above in Comment to L25-26, we believe the author of Luke delayed the mention of Jesus’ reclining in the home of Levi in order to say that the toll collectors and sinners reclined with Jesus. By comparing Luke and Anth., the author of Mark noticed that his two sources mentioned reclining at two different points in the narrative and decided to copy both. Opposite Luke’s μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ κατακείμενοι (“with him reclining”), however, Mark wrote συνανέκειντο (sūnanekeinto, “they were reclining together”), paraphrasing Luke’s words rather than copying them verbatim. The author of Matthew subsequently copied συνανέκειντο from Mark.

L33-34 οἱ τελῶναι καὶ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ (Luke 15:1). As we noted in Comment to L29 above, the mention of “sinners” in the FR version of Call of Levi supports our conclusion that “sinners,” not “others,” was the original reading in Anth.

L35-36 ἀκούειν αὐτοῦ (GR). We suspect that FR preserved the original purpose for which the toll collectors and sinners gathered in Levi’s home: “they were coming to listen to him [i.e., Jesus]” (Luke 15:1).

לִשְׁמוֹעַ לוֹ (HR). On reconstructing ἀκούειν (akouein, “to hear”) with שָׁמַע (shāma‘, “hear”), see Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L24-25. In MT לִשְׁמֹעַ אֶל (lishmoa‘ ’el) is more common than -לִשְׁמֹעַ לְ (lishmoa‘ le), but -לִשְׁמֹעַ לְ does occur as the underlying text for ὑπακούειν μου (hūpakouein mou, “to listen to me”) in Lev. 26:21 and ἀκοῦσαι αὐτοῦ (akousai avtou, “to listen to him”) in Judg. 19:25. Neither of these translations of -לִשְׁמֹעַ לְ is identical to ἀκούειν αὐτοῦ in GR, but they are close. The following is an example of -לִשְׁמֹעַ לְ in MH:

כל מה שאמר לך אביך חייב אתה לשמוע לו

Whatever your father says to you, you are obligated to listen to him [לשמוע לו]. (Pesikta Rabbati 27:5 [ed. Friedmann, 132b])

L37 καὶ τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ (Mark 2:15). Building on Luke’s secondary description of the toll collectors and sinners reclining with Jesus, Mark included the disciples among those who reclined. Matthew copied this detail word for word from Mark.

L38-39 ἦσαν γὰρ πολλοὶ καὶ ἠκολούθουν αὐτῷ (Mark 2:15). Continuing to build on Luke’s secondary description of the toll collectors and sinners reclining with Jesus, Mark further added the explanation “for they were many and they were following him.” Matthew omitted this expansion, perhaps because he found it redundant. Mark’s πολλοί (polloi, “many”) is a repetition from L28, while ἦσαν (ēsan, “they were”) may be a reflection of Luke’s use of ἦσαν in L30, and ἠκολούθουν αὐτῷ (ēkolouthoun avtō, “they were following him”) is a reiteration of Mark’s ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῷ (ēkolouthēsen avtō, “he followed him”) in L20. The Lukan-Matthean agreement to omit this description confirms our suspicion that it did not appear in Anth.

L40 καὶ ἰδόντες (Matt. 9:11). The author of Matthew once again demonstrates his method of weaving together the wording of his two sources: Mark and Anth. From Mark 2:16 (L42) the author of Matthew picked up the participle ἰδόντες (idontes, “seeing”), but from Anth. the author of Matthew copied the word order καί + verb + οἱ Φαρεισαῖοι.

καὶ ἐγόγγυζον (GR). We have in Luke’s parallel versions at L40 a good example of how the First Reconstructor polished the Greek style of Anth. In this case he used the compound verb διαγογγύζειν (diagongūzein, “to grumble”) in place of Anth.’s simpler γογγύζειν (gongūzein, “to grumble”).[114] For GR we have adopted the spelling ἐγόγγυζον in agreement with the corrector of Vaticanus and the critical editions.

וַיִּלּוֹנוּ (HR). Both γογγύζειν and διαγογγύζειν, often in the imperfect as in GR, are used in LXX as the translation of the Hebrew root ל-ו-נ,‎[115] which in the nif‘al and hif‘il stems (נִלּוֹן and הִלִּין respectively) means “complain” or “grumble.” The verbs נִלּוֹן and הִלִּין are rare in MH and usually occur only when relating to a biblical text in which these verbs appear, but the continued use of these verbs in the Second Temple period is confirmed in DSS, where the root ל-ו-נ occurs in the Community Rule and in the Thanksgiving Hymns:

והאיש אשר ילון על יסוד היחד ישלחהו ולוא ישוב ואם על רעהו ילון אשר לא במשפט ונענש ששה חודשים

And the man who grumbles [ילון] against the foundation of the Community will be expelled and will not be permitted to return, but if he grumbles [ילון] against his fellow when it is done unjustly, then he will be punished for six months. (1QS VII, 17-18)

ואנשי [עד]תי סוררים ומלינים סביב

…and the men of my [congrega]tion are stubborn and are complaining [מלינים] all around. (1QHa XIII, 24-25)

Given the information presented above, וַיִּלּוֹנוּ (vayilōnū, “and they grumbled”) is a good candidate for HR, especially since L40 is narrative, which we suppose was composed in a biblicizing style of Hebrew.

L41 οἱ γραμματεῖς τῶν Φαρεισαίων (Mark 2:16). Unlike Luke 5:30, where Jesus’ critics are designated “the Pharisees and their scribes,” or Luke 15:2, which has “the Pharisees and the scribes,” or Matt. 9:11, which simply names “the Pharisees,” in Mark Jesus’ critics are said to be “the scribes of the Pharisees.” This unusual designation is found nowhere else in NT, although a similar description, τινὲς τῶν γραμματέων τοῦ μέρους τῶν Φαρισαίων (“some of the scribes of the party of the Pharisees”), is found in Acts 23:9. We suspect that Mark’s “scribes of the Pharisees” is simply a paraphrase of Luke’s “Pharisees and their scribes,” reflecting Mark’s love of inverting the word order of his sources.[116]

οἱ Φαρεισαῖοι (Matt. 9:11). The author of Matthew does not mention scribes among Jesus’ critics in the Call of Levi story. His wording, οἱ Φαρεισαῖοι (hoi Fareisaioi, “the Pharisees”), does, however, provide a Lukan-Matthean minor agreement against Mark and also agrees with the wording in Luke 15:2, strongly suggesting that οἱ Φαρεισαῖοι is the way the Pharisees were referred to in Anth.

οἵ τε Φαρεισαῖοι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς (Luke 15:2). The description of Jesus’ critics in the FR version of Call of Levi is very close to that in Luke 5:30, however the addition of the conjunction τε (te, “both”) and the omission of the possessive pronoun αὐτῶν (avtōn, “their”) are small improvements intended to narrate the story in a more refined Greek style.[117]

οἱ Φαρεισαῖοι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς αὐτῶν (GR). The FR doublet in Luke 15:2 and the Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark in L41 confirm that “the Pharisees and their scribes” was the wording of Anth.

הַפְּרוּשִׁים (HR). There can be little doubt that Φαρισαῖος (Farisaios, “Pharisee”) and פָּרוּשׁ (pārūsh) are equivalent terms, since the Greek and Hebrew sources that describe the struggle between the Pharisees and Sadducees for power and influence in the last decades of the Second Temple Period use the terms Φαρισαῖοι/פְּרוּשִׁים. Nevertheless, challenges arise with regard to how the term פְּרוּשִׁים (perūshim) ought to be understood in the context of the Call of Levi story when we consider that “Pharisee” had different connotations in Greek than it did in Hebrew.

In first-century Greek Φαρισαῖος was a term that identified anyone who bore this epithet as a member of the Pharisaic movement.[118] In Greek sources individuals could proudly identify themselves as Pharisees (e.g., Paul [Acts 23:6; Phil. 3:5] and Josephus [Life §12]), and certain individuals who are recognized in rabbinic sources as belonging to the class of Jewish sages are identified in Greek sources as Pharisees (e.g., Rabban Gamliel [Acts 5:34] and his son Shimon ben Gamliel [Jos., Life §191]). Thus, in Greek Φαρισαῖος was an unambiguous term for a particular Jewish sect that lacked inherently positive or negative connotations.[119]

In Hebrew, by contrast, פָּרוּשׁ was a loaded term. Derived from the root פ-ר-ש (“to separate”), the primary meaning of פָּרוּשׁ was “separatist” or even “schismatic.” Moreover, פָּרוּשׁ was non-specific;[120] it could refer to a Pharisee, but it could equally be used to refer to someone who, by rejecting the halachah of the sages, kept themselves aloof from the mainstream of Judaism.[121] The generally negative connotations of the term פָּרוּשׁ‎[122] explain why none of the Jewish sages—not even those who lived while the Temple still stood, nor even those who are identified as Φαρισαῖοι in Greek sources—are ever referred to in rabbinic sources as “Pharisees.”[123] “Pharisee” was the name used to refer to the sages by their opponents.[124] The only context in which the sages used the term “Pharisee” quasi-self-referentially was in critical remarks in which the sages identified typical attitudes and behaviors that characterized some of their fellows. Yet by virtue of the criticisms they voiced in these contexts, the sages disassociated themselves from the name “Pharisee,” claiming, “Those Pharisees are not really one of us.”[125]

Properly understanding the term “Pharisee” in the Call of Levi story and elsewhere in the Gospels requires a nuanced approach given the different connotations the term “Pharisee” carries in Greek and Hebrew. The complexity increases—and consequently the greater need for care—when the unique character of the Synoptic Gospels is taken into consideration, for while the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke were composed in Greek, we are convinced that they are based on documents ultimately derived from a Hebrew source. Thus, the Hebraic connotations of the term “Pharisee” may be present in the canonical Greek texts. When attempting to reconstruct the Hebrew source behind the Gospels it is incumbent upon us to ask how the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua used the term פְּרוּשִׁים. Did he use פְּרוּשִׁים the way the Sadducees and other opponents of the Pharisees used it, as a pejorative term meaning “schismatics,” intended as a blanket condemnation of the sages’ interpretation of Judaism? Did the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua use פְּרוּשִׁים the way the sages themselves used it, as an insider’s critique of individuals who adhered to the halachah of the sages but whose personal shortcomings did not represent the Pharisaic party as a whole? Or is there a middle option that allowed the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua to refer to the sages as פְּרוּשִׁים without necessarily denigrating them, but without identifying with them either?[126]

A few test cases should clarify the issue. If the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua used the term “Pharisee” as a means of rejecting the sages out of hand, then “schismatic” will be an acceptable gloss in our test cases. On the other hand, if the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua used “Pharisee” as an internal critique, then “humbug” or “imposter” will be an acceptable gloss in our test cases. If neither gloss is acceptable, then we must conclude that the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua was able to refer to the sages as פְּרוּשִׁים in a neutral manner.[127]

Test Case A: Woe Against the Pharisees

Woe to you schismatics, for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, but neglect justice and the love of God. These you should have done, without neglecting those. (Luke 11:42; cf. Matt. 23:23)

Woe to you humbugs, for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, but neglect justice and the love of God. These you should have done, without neglecting those. (Luke 11:42; cf. Matt. 23:23)

For Test Case A we have selected one of the woes that occurs in slightly different forms in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. At first glance, either gloss—“schismatic” or “humbug”—would seem to be acceptable. “Woe to you Pharisees” is similar to the repeated refrain “We cry out against you, Pharisees” in the recorded disputes between the Pharisees and Sadducees in rabbinic literature. Closer examination, however, reveals that Jesus’ critique of the Pharisees is unlike that of the Sadducees in one crucial detail: whereas the Sadducees reject the Pharisaic halachah out of hand, Jesus accepts the Pharisaic halachah as valid, and merely criticizes the Pharisees for failing to correctly order their priorities. Jesus’ acceptance of the Pharisaic halachah rules out “schismatic” as a valid option in this test case. “Humbug,” on the other hand, cannot be ruled out quite so easily, especially given the parallels between Jesus’ woes against the Pharisees and the lists of seven kinds of Pharisees that are found in rabbinic sources. We can only speculate whether Jesus reworked a critique of the Pharisees that was already current among the sages, or whether the sages adapted an external critique of the Pharisees for internal consumption. In either case, Jesus’ use of “Pharisee” in Test Case A falls somewhere between the use of “Pharisee” to signal outright rejection of the sages, which characterized the Sadducees, and the sages’ self-critical use of “Pharisee.”

 

Test Case B: Pharisee and Toll Collector

Two people went up to the Temple to pray, the one a schismatic and the other a toll collector. (Luke 18:10)

Two people went up to the Temple to pray, the one a humbug and the other a toll collector. (Luke 18:10)

For Test Case B we have selected the beginning of the Pharisee and Toll Collector parable. The parable describes how two individuals went to the Temple for prayer, how the Pharisee’s prayer was self-aggrandizing whereas the toll collector’s prayer was self-deprecating, and how the toll collector received a favorable judgment from God but the Pharisee did not. The mechanism that drives home the point of the parable is irony. A contrast is set up between the ostensibly upright Pharisee and the notoriously sinful toll collector. Contrary to expectations, the ostensibly upright Pharisee receives a harsh judgment, while the notoriously sinful toll collector receives mercy. In this context, equating “Pharisee” with “schismatic” does violence to the parable, since a schismatic is worse than an ordinary sinner. Accordingly, no one would be surprised to learn that the schismatic was condemned. “Humbug,” on the other hand, is closer to the mark. A humbug passes himself off as something that he is not, just as in the parable the Pharisee boasts of a righteousness he had not actually attained. If Jesus’ use of “Pharisee” in this parable is not an internal critique, it at least expresses the expectation that the Pharisees ought to be righteous, which accounts for the surprise and disappointment that is felt upon discovery that they (or some of them) are not.

 

Test Case C: Dining with a Pharisee

One of the schismatics asked Jesus to eat with him, and going to the house of the schismatic he reclined. (Luke 7:36)

One of the humbugs asked Jesus to eat with him, and going to the house of the humbug he reclined. (Luke 7:36)

If in Test Cases A and B we found that Jesus’ use of “Pharisee” was similar to the way the sages used “Pharisee” as an internal critique, here in Test Case C, which unlike the previous cases occurs in narrative rather than direct speech, neither “schismatic” nor “humbug” will do. A neutral term is required, one that identifies the individual’s affiliation without passing judgment on his character. If “Pharisee” in this story reflects פָּרוּשׁ in an underlying Hebrew text, then we must conclude that the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua used this term as an outsider, but without the polemical overtones of a sectarian dispute.

 

Test Case D: Pharisees Warn Jesus

At that very hour some schismatics came, saying to him [i.e., Jesus], “Go out and continue on from here, since Herod wants to kill you.” (Luke 13:31)

At that very hour some humbugs came, saying to him [i.e., Jesus], “Go out and continue on from here, since Herod wants to kill you.” (Luke 13:31)

Our final test case also requires a neutral meaning for “Pharisee.” Either “schismatic” or “humbug” as a gloss in this context would be churlish. There is no hint of rejection, nor even of criticism in this context. If “Pharisee” reflects פָּרוּשׁ in this story, then the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua must have used פָּרוּשׁ in a neutral manner.

In the Call of Levi story, too, “Pharisee” should be understood in a neutral sense. The Pharisees are disconcerted by Jesus’ free association with toll collectors and sinners, but they are not Jesus’ enemies and Jesus does not reject their legitimacy out of hand. On the contrary, the twin similes of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin are an invitation to the Pharisees to join in the celebration over Levi’s repentance. We conclude, therefore, that in the Call of Levi story the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua used the term פְּרוּשִׁים as a non-hostile outsider.[128] We are left to ponder whether Jesus’ often more critical use of the term פְּרוּשִׁים is an indication that he saw himself as more a part of the world of the sages than did the author of his Hebrew biography.

וְסוֹפְרֵיהֶם (HR). The relationship between the NT scribes and Pharisees is debated among scholars. Rivkin argued that the scribes and Pharisees are identical, going so far as to suggest that “Pharisees” is a secondary gloss intended to explain for non-Jewish readers who the scribes were.[129] Schwartz, by contrast, has suggested that the scribes and Pharisees represent competing currents within first-century Judaism, the scribes (whom he identifies as Levites) representing priestly Judaism, and the Pharisees representing non-priestly Judaism.[130]

At least with respect to the Call of Levi story, it is improbable that the scribes and the Pharisees are competitors. The scribes and the Pharisees act in concert, voicing the same concerns regarding Jesus’ free association with toll collectors and sinners. Nevertheless, conflating the scribes with the Pharisees ignores the distinction that is drawn between these two entities in Luke and Mark. In some unspecified manner the scribes are a subset of the Pharisees according to Luke 5:30 and Mark 2:16.

An additional difficulty with which we are faced is how γραμματεύς (grammatevs, “secretary,” “scribe”) ought to be reconstructed. In LXX γραμματεύς is used to represent two very different Hebrew terms: שׁוֹטֵר (shōṭēr, “bailiff,” “official”) and סוֹפֵר (sōfēr, “secretary,” “scribe”).[131]

In the context of the Call of Levi story, הַפְּרוּשִׁים וְשׁוֹטְרֵיהֶם (“the Pharisees and their bailiffs”) is a defensible reconstruction, especially since the γραμματεῖς do not have a secretarial function—they are not described as making records or keeping accounts—but they might be understood as having an enforcement role, pressuring Jesus’ disciples to conform to Pharisaic halachah. Such a reconstruction would imply a subordinate role for the γραμματεῖς, as they would be acting at the Pharisees’ behest.

Two considerations have led us to prefer the other option, הַפְּרוּשִׁים וְסוֹפְרֵיהֶם (“the Pharisees and their scribes”), for HR. First, the γραμματεῖς do not usually have a subordinate role to the Pharisees in the Gospels.[132] The equal, or perhaps even superior, status of the γραμματεῖς as compared to the Φαρισαῖοι in most Gospel passages cautions against regarding the γραμματεῖς as subordinate to the Pharisees in the Call of Levi story, thus weighing against reconstructing with שׁוֹטֵר in HR.

Ossuary inscription reading יועזר בר יהודה הסופר (Yō‘ezer bar Yehūdāh hasōfēr, “Yoezer, son of Yehudah, the scribe”). Image courtesy of BiblePlaces.com.

Second, we are not aware of any examples in Hebrew sources where the Pharisees or the sages are said to be accompanied by or to have been equivalent to שׁוֹטְרִים (shōṭerim, “bailiffs”). On the other hand, דִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים (divrē sōferim, “words of [the] scribes”) in rabbinic sources refers to certain teachings of the sages not founded upon Scripture.[133] Some of these “words of the scribes” date to the days of the Second Temple. The practice of wearing tefillin (phylacteries), for example, which certainly dates to the Second Temple period,[134] is attributed to the “words of the scribes” in m. Sanh. 11:3. Likewise, as Rivkin observed, in the sectarian dispute recorded in m. Yad. 4:6, the Sadducees impute the concept of the ritual impurity of the hands in distinction from the rest of the body to the Pharisees, a halachic innovation attributed to the “words of the scribes” in m. Yad. 3:2.[135] This association of sages/Pharisees with scribes provides some precedent for our pairing סוֹפְרִים with פְּרוּשִׁים in HR.[136]

Reconstructing γραμματεῖς as סוֹפְרִים casts the scribes in a different role in relation to the Pharisees than שׁוֹטְרִים (“bailiffs”). While שׁוֹטְרִים implies a subordinate role as bailiffs who carry out the Pharisees’ wishes, סוֹפְרִים casts the scribes as the intellectual leaders of the Pharisaic movement. There must have been many followers of Pharisaic teachings who were incapable of making halachic decisions on their own. Such individuals could properly be called Pharisees, but not scribes. The scribes were the Pharisaic scholars who were qualified to formulate halachic rulings. This distinction between partisans and party leaders, which must have existed among the Pharisees, as within any movement, is the most likely explanation of why scribes and Pharisees are mentioned together so frequently in the Gospels.

One final note on γραμματεύς in the Gospels. It is likely that there are two distinct classes of γραμματεῖς who are mentioned in the Gospels, those whom we have discussed who are associated with the Pharisees, and those who are associated with the chief priests and the Temple. It may be that this second class of γραμματεῖς, who are clearly subordinate to the chief priests and who seem to fulfill an enforcement role, are Levites, as Schwartz suggested. Regarding this second class of γραμματεῖς, שׁוֹטְרִים (“bailiffs”) might be the preferable reconstruction. The שׁוֹטְרִים are identified as Levites in some ancient Jewish sources (1QM VII, 14; Sifre Deut. §15 [ed. Finkelstein, 25]).

L42-44 By describing what the scribes witnessed (“that he eats with sinners and toll collectors”), the author of Mark replicated the wording of the question the scribes pose to the disciples (“Why with toll collectors and sinners does he eat?”; L48-53). Such repetition is characteristic of Mark’s editorial activity, as is the use of the historical present (ἐσθίει [esthiei, “he eats”]), and the transposition of words (“sinners and toll collectors” vs. “toll collectors and sinners” in the rest of the pericope). These editorial features, so characteristic of Mark’s redactional style, and the Lukan-Matthean agreement to omit these words strongly support our conclusion that they did not appear in Anth.

L45 ἔλεγον (Mark 2:16). The use of the imperfect ἔλεγον (elegon, “they were saying”) is also characteristic of the author of Mark’s editorial work.[137] In this particular case, the author of Mark may have been inspired to use the imperfect tense by Luke’s ἐγόγγυζαν (egongūzan, “they were complaining”; L40), which is also in the imperfect tense. The author of Matthew copied ἔλεγον from Mark.

L46 πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ (GR). We have preferred Luke’s “they were complaining to his disciples” (L40, L46) for GR. We consider “they were saying to his disciples” (L45-46) to be the author of Mark’s paraphrase of Luke’s wording.

עַל תַּלְמִידָיו (HR). Nif‘al and hif‘il verbs from the root ל-ו-נ (“to complain,” “to grumble”) take the preposition עַל (‘al) in order to indicate the person(s) against whom the complaint is addressed. While עַל + ל-ו-נ is more commonly translated in LXX as γογγύζειν + ἐπί, we do find one example of γογγύζειν + πρός as the translation of עַל + הִלִּין:

וַיָּלֶן הָעָם עַל מֹשֶׁה

And the people complained against Moses…. (Exod. 17:3)

καὶ ἐγόγγυζεν ἐκεῖ ὁ λαὸς πρὸς Μωυσῆν

And the people were complaining there to Moses…. (Exod. 17:3)

Thus Luke’s ἐγόγγυζαν…πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ poses no obstacle to our reconstruction with וַיִּלּוֹנוּ…עַל תַּלְמִידָיו.

On reconstructing μαθητής (mathētēs, “student,” “disciple”) as תַּלְמִיד (talmid, “student,” “disciple”) see Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L4.

L47 לֵאמֹר (HR). In MT, when עַל + ל-ו-נ is followed by the words of the complaint, we sometimes find the pattern ל-ו-נ + subject + עַל + person(s) against whom the complaint is made + the infinitive construct לֵאמֹר. For example:

וַיִּלֹּנוּ הָעָם עַל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר מַה נִּשְׁתֶּה

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

וַיִּלֹּנוּ כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמָּחֳרָת עַל מֹשֶׁה וְעַל אַהֲרֹן לֵאמֹר אַתֶּם הֲמִתֶּם אֶת עַם יי

And the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained the next day against Moses and Aaron saying [לֵאמֹר], “You have killed the people of the LORD!” (Num. 17:6)

In these examples לֵאמֹר is rendered in LXX as λέγοντες, which is what we find in Luke 5:30. In other cases we find וַיֹּאמֶר instead of לֵאמֹר:

וַיָּלֶן הָעָם עַל מֹשֶׁה וַיֹּאמֶר לָמָּה זֶּה הֶעֱלִיתָנוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם

And the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt?” (Exod. 17:3)

וַיִּלֹּנוּ עַל מֹשֶׁה וְעַל אַהֲרֹן כֹּל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵהֶם כָּל הָעֵדָה לוּ מַתְנוּ בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם

And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt!” (Num. 14:2)

In the first of these two examples LXX translated וַיֹּאמֶר as λέγοντες, while in the second example וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵהֶם is translated as καὶ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτούς. These examples prove that λέγοντες in Luke 5:30 could be reconstructed as וַיֹּאמְרוּ or לֵאמֹר with equal justification. We have adopted לֵאמֹר for HR as the simpler and more obvious choice.

L48 ὅτι (Mark 2:16). The Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark to write διὰ τί (dia ti, “on account of what?” “why?”) confirms that this was the wording of Anth. But why did the author of Mark use the unusual ὅτι interrogative (ὅτι in the sense of “why?” instead of its more common meaning “that”) when paraphrasing the scribes’ question?[138] It is possible that Mark picked this up from Luke 15:2, which also has ὅτι interrogative,[139] but perhaps a more likely explanation is that using ὅτι enabled him to replicate the words in L42-44 all the more closely. Scholars have noted that interrogative ὅτι occurs elsewhere in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 9:11, 28), so perhaps this rare usage was simply part of Mark’s editorial repertoire.[140]

לָמָּה (HR). The two main contenders for reconstructing διὰ τί in Biblical Hebrew are מַדּוּעַ (madūa‘, “why?”) and לָמָּה (lāmāh, “why?” “for what?”). Although in LXX διὰ τί is more often the translation of מַדּוּעַ than לָמָּה,‎[141] we have preferred the latter for HR since in MH לָמָּה displaced מַדּוּעַ in the spoken language. Another option for HR is מִפְּנֵי מָה (mipnē māh, “because of what?” “why?”), which occurs in rabbinic sources.[142]

L49 οὗτος (Luke 15:2). Above in Comment to L47 we cited an example in which the people complain to Moses, asking, לָמָּה זֶּה הֶעֱלִיתָנוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם (“Why have you brought us up from Egypt?”; Exod. 17:3). In LXX the interrogative phrase לָמָּה זֶּה (lāmāh zeh, lit., “why this?”) is often translated as ἵνα τί τοῦτο (hina ti touto, lit., “in order for what this?”).[143] This raises the question whether οὗτος (houtos, “this”) might be a reflection of לָמָּה זֶּה in the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text. To us, this possibility seems unlikely, since neither לָמָּה זֶּה nor לָמָּה זוֹ is found in MH, the style of Hebrew in which we believe direct speech was composed. The οὗτος in Luke 15:2 is more likely an editorial addition stemming from FR.

L50 μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν (GR). Luke 5:30, Mark 2:16 and Matt. 9:11 agree to write μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν (“with the toll collectors”). Luke 15:2 has συνεσθίει αὐτοῖς (“he eats with them”) in L53, rendering the preposition μετά (meta, “with”) in L50 superfluous. Since the compound verb in L53 is more elegant Greek, we believe that this was an editorial change introduced by the First Reconstructor. The First Reconstructor also omitted τῶν τελωνῶν in L50, probably because toll collectors had already been mentioned in L33 and because toll collectors could easily be subsumed under the heading “sinners,” whom FR does mention in L51.

עִם הַמּוֹכְסִים (HR). We have reconstructed μετά with עִם (‘im, “with”) in accordance with MH style. The use of אֵת (’ēt) in the sense of “with” disappeared in Mishnaic Hebrew,[144] which we use as our model for reconstructing direct speech. On reconstructing τελώνης as מוֹכֵס, see above, Comment to L10.

L51 καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν (GR). Noting that καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν (“and sinners”) is missing from Luke 5:30 in Codices Ephraemi Syri (C) and Bezae (D), Flusser supposed that “and sinners” in the question posed by the scribes and Pharisees “crept into Luke 5:30 (and in the two parallels) from Jesus’ answer in Luke 5:32 (and parr.).”[145] According to Flusser, “From the halachic standpoint the expression, ‘the sinners’ is nonsensical,”[146] evidently because “eating ‘with sinners’ is, according to classical Judaism, an overly abstract accusation.”[147] We wish that Flusser had elaborated this argument more fully.

While it is always hazardous to disagree with Flusser, we cannot concur with Flusser either on text critical or halachic grounds. Except for the two text witnesses cited above, “sinners” are mentioned in all four versions of the Call of Levi story. The mention of sinners in the FR version preserved in Luke 15:2 is of particular importance, since we believe the First Reconstructor relied on Anth. The presence of καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν in Anth. is the best explanation for the agreement of all four versions to include “sinners” in the question posed by the Pharisees and their scribes. Moreover, as we discussed above in Comment to L29, we believe the author of Luke avoided writing “sinners” earlier in the Call of Levi narrative precisely in order to underscore its use by Jesus’ critics in L51. Placing the first occurrence of the word “sinners” in the Call of Levi story in the mouths of Jesus’ critics is an effective literary device that sharpens the criticism leveled against Jesus and underscores Jesus’ defense of sinners.

Likewise, we do not understand why some Pharisees and their intellectual leaders could not have raised objections to Jesus’ free association with sinners. An Aramaic story told about Rabbi Zera, a third generation amora, bears a certain resemblance to the Call of Levi story:

הנהו בריוני דהוה בשיבבותיה דרבי זירא דהוה מקרב להו כי היכי דניהדרו להו בתיובתא והוו קפדי רבנן כי נח נפשיה דרבי זירא אמרי עד האידנא הוה חריכא קטין שקיה דהוה בעי עלן רחמי השתא מאן בעי עלן רחמי הרהרו בלבייהו ועבדו תשובה

In the neighbourhood of R. Zera there lived some lawless men. He nevertheless showed them friendship in order to lead them to repent; but the Rabbis were annoyed [at his action]. When R. Zera’s soul went to rest, they said: Until now we had the burnt man with the dwarfed legs[148] to implore Divine mercy for us; who will do so now? Thereupon they felt remorse in their hearts and repented. (b. Sanh. 37a; trans. Soncino)

Although this story dates from a much later period (mid-fourth cent. C.E.), it illustrates that at least some representatives of classical Judaism might well have been irritated with someone for showing a friendly and open attitude toward sinners, even when this friendly attitude was for the sake of leading sinners to repentance. In the story about Rabbi Zera, the other sages could not prevent him from associating with sinners, although they did exert peer pressure in an attempt to make him conform to their wishes. Eventually, the sages came to realize that Rabbi Zera had been in the right all along. In the same way, the Pharisees may not have approved of Jesus’ behavior, but they had no halachic grounds upon which to prevent him from eating with sinners. And, as with Rabbi Zera and his contemporaries, we should be open to the possibility that the Pharisees who objected to Jesus’ behavior were possessed of teachable hearts and may well have been convinced by Jesus’ compelling response to their inquiry.

L52 προσδέχεται (Luke 15:2). In the Gospels the verb προσδέχεσθαι (prosdechesthai) is rare; apart from Luke 15:2, it is found only in Mark 15:43; Luke 2:25, 38; 12:36; 23:51, and in all these other instances προσδέχεσθαι is used in the sense of “wait for” or “expect.” Only in Luke 15:2 does προσδέχεσθαι mean “receive” or “welcome.” This unique usage of προσδέχεσθαι in the Gospels supports our suspicion that it was added to the Call of Levi story by the First Reconstructor.

L53 ἐσθίει (GR). Our initial instinct was to suppose that the phrasing of the question in the second person (i.e., “Why do you eat?”) in Luke 5:30 was original and that the author of Mark was responsible for changing the question to the third person (i.e., “Why does he eat?”). But the phrasing of the question in the third person in Luke 15:2 required us to reevaluate this assumption. Although the First Reconstructor used the compound verb συνεσθίειν (sūnesthiein, “to eat together”) instead of the simple ἐσθίειν (esthiein, “to eat”), his formulation of the question in the third person is significant. It is difficult to believe that the First Reconstructor and the author of Mark independently changed the question from second person to third person, and since there is little indication that the author of Mark made reference to Luke 15:1-2 when paraphrasing the Call of Levi story, the likeliest scenario is that the author of Luke was responsible for making the Pharisees include the disciples in their question in Luke 5:30.

הוּא אוֹכֵל (HR). In LXX ἐσθίειν is most often used as the translation of אָכַל (’āchal, “eat”).[149] We likewise find that although אָכַל is rendered by a great variety of Greek verbs in LXX, ἐσθίειν is by far its most common translation.[150]

L54 καὶ πίνει (GR). In Luke 5:30 Jesus’ critics include drinking as well as eating in their question. Although we believe the author of Luke changed the form of the verb from third to second person, the inclusion of drinking may be an authentic detail derived from Anth. “Eating and drinking” are often mentioned together in Hebrew,[151] and what is more, “drinking,” a mark of celebration, gets to the heart of why the Pharisees and scribes were bothered by Jesus’ conduct in the company of toll collectors and sinners.

Some scholars have suggested that the reason the Pharisees were opposed to Jesus’ eating with toll collectors and sinners had to do with ritual purity.[152] Others have supposed that the issue of concern was that the toll collectors and sinners may have served Jesus untithed produce[153] or even non-kosher food.[154] These explanations, however, are not convincing.

The suggestion that what Jesus was eating was the focus of concern can be rejected out of hand. Had the critics believed that Jesus was eating food forbidden by the Torah, they would have said, “Why is he a sinner and law-breaker?” not “Why does he eat and drink with toll collectors and sinners?” The question Jesus’ critics did ask proves that their concern was with the company Jesus kept, not the food he ingested. The underlying presupposition of the critics’ question—that Jesus was not himself a sinner—rules out the suggestion that Jesus broke the Torah’s commandments by consuming forbidden foods.

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

As to being concerned about ritual purity, while the Pharisees may have undertaken to maintain a higher degree of purity than the Torah demands,[155] they were well aware that such an undertaking was entirely voluntary.[156] Contracting ritual impurity was not in itself a violation of the Torah’s commandments, and the remedy for contracting impurity from someone else who was impure was easy: all one had to do was to immerse in a mikveh. Thus, even if the toll collectors and sinners were suspected of being impure,[157] there would have been no grounds for criticizing Jesus for associating with them on that score. Moreover, as with the explanation that the problem concerned what Jesus ate, the explanation that Jesus’ critics were concerned about ritual purity fails to take seriously the Pharisees’ stated objection, that it was the company he kept, not his ritual status, that was problematic.[158]

What, then, did the Pharisees find objectionable about Jesus’ eating and drinking with toll collectors and sinners? As Jeremias correctly explained, the issue “was exclusively moral.”[159] The Pharisees who criticized Jesus’ behavior in the Call of Levi story objected to his keeping of bad company. Not only did Jesus freely associate with moral reprobates, he even celebrated with them.

Jesus’ openness toward sinners is an expression of what Flusser referred to as the “new sensitivity” that developed within Second Temple Judaism.[160] This sensitivity consisted of a growing recognition on the part of religious thinkers that human beings are neither wholly sinful nor wholly righteous, which led to a more humble assessment of one’s own character and a more compassionate attitude toward one’s fellows. This new sensitivity coexisted, and sometimes clashed, with the more traditional view that tended to “otherize” sinners.

As Flusser demonstrated, the new sensitivity created a rift within the Pharisaic movement. It is therefore not surprising to find conflicting attitudes toward sinners in rabbinic sources. An otherizing attitude is expressed, for example, in a statement of a first-century B.C.E. Galilean sage:

מַתַּיִי הָאַרְבֵּלִי אוֹמֵ′ הַרְחֵק מִשָּׁכֵן רָע וְאַל תִּתְחַבַּר לָרֵשָׁע וְאַל {ואל} תִּתְיוֹאַשׁ מִ(י)ן הַפּוּרְעָנוּת

Mattai the Arbelite says, “Distance yourself from a bad neighbor and do not befriend the wicked and do not despair of [their—DNB and JNT] punishment.” (m. Avot 1:7)

Later sages elaborated on this saying, commenting:

ואל תתחבר לרשע שכל מי שהוא מתחבר לרשע סופו לשאת ממנו דבר מועט שנאמר ואלי דבר יגונב ותקח אזני שמץ מנהו

“And do not befriend the wicked” because everyone who befriends the wicked in the end takes away a little bit [of wickedness with him], as it is said, A word was sneaked to me and my ear took a whisper from it [Job 4:12]. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 16 [ed. Schechter, 36])

This fearful attitude toward sinners is also expressed in the answers of Rabbi Yehoshua (“an evil companion”) and Rabbi Yosef (“an evil neighbor”) to Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai’s instruction to “Go out and see what is the evil path that a person should avoid” (m. Avot 2:9). This instruction echoes the Two Ways doctrine that juxtaposed the Way of Life and the Way of Death, and that admonished everyone to “flee from evil and everything that resembles it” (cf. Did. 3:1).[161] Some sages were so afraid of the morally degrading influence of sinners that they taught that one should not befriend a wicked person even in order to draw him near to the Torah (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Amalek chpt. 3 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:273]; cf. Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 9:4 [ed. Schechter, 42]). This suspicious and otherizing attitude, however, was countered by other sages, who advocated a more humane approach, for instance:

הֶלֵּל אוֹ′ הֱוֵויִ תַלְמִידו שֶׁלְּ אַהֲרֹן אֹהֵב שָׁלוֹם וְרוֹדֵף שְׁלוֹם אֹהֵב אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת וּמְקָרְבָן לַתּוֹרָה

Hillel says, “Be disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving one’s fellow [human] creatures and bringing them near to the Torah.” (m. Avot 1:12)

Hillel’s open attitude toward those who were far from the Torah challenged the traditional wisdom that warned the righteous to keep themselves far from sinners. This humane approach was advocated by another first-century C.E. sage whose words were used to elucidate Hillel’s instruction to love one’s fellow human creatures:

רבי חנינא סגן הכהנים אומר דבר שכל העולם כולו תלוי בו נאמר עליו (שמועה) [שבועה] מהר סיני אם שונה חבירך שמעשיו רעים כמעשיך אני ה′ דיין להפרע מאותו האיש ואם אוהב את הבירך שמעשיו כשרים כמעשיך אני ה′ נאמן ומרחם עליך

Rabbi Hanina, prefect of the priests, says: “A word upon which the entire world depends was sworn from Mount Sinai—If you hate your fellow whose deeds are evil like your own, I the LORD am judge to punish that very man [who hates—DNB and JNT]. But if you love your fellow whose deeds are acceptable like your own, I the LORD am faithful and merciful toward you.” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 26 [ed. Schechter, 53])

The prefect of the priests based his humane attitude on Lev. 19:18, the command to love one’s neighbor, interpreting this verse to mean “love your neighbor who, like yourself, is subject to human frailty.”

Hillel and Hanina the prefect of the priests, as sages from the pre-70 C.E. era, were almost certainly Pharisees.[162] Recognizing this fact cautions us against simplistic equations of Pharisees with narrow-mindedness, legalism or hypocrisy.[163] While Jesus’ humble and compassionate approach toward sinners may have scandalized some individual Pharisees, the examples of Hillel and Hanina prove that Jesus’ behavior would not have been unanimously condemned by the Pharisaic movement as a whole.

L55 ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν (Matt. 9:11). Only Matthew has the Pharisees refer to Jesus as “your teacher” in the Call of Levi story. While ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν could be reconstructed as רַבְכֶם (ravchem, “your master”), the only other time Jesus is called “your teacher” in the Gospels is in a unique Matthean pericope that exhibits a high degree of editorial activity (Matt. 17:24). We suspect that ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν was added by the author of Matthew for the sake of clarification and that it is not a reflection of Anth.

L56 καὶ ἀκούσας (Mark 2:17). Luke’s καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν (“And answering, Jesus said…”; Luke 5:31) looks like the combination of וַיַּעַן with וַיֹּאמֶר, which is standard in biblical narratives.[164] We suspect that Mark’s “And having heard, Jesus says…” is a paraphrase of Luke’s wording. The author of Matthew copied ἀκούσας from Mark.

L57 יֵשׁוּעַ (HR). On reconstructing the name Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous, “Jesus”) as יֵשׁוּעַ (Yēshūa‘), see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L12.

L58 εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς (GR). The use of the historical present (λέγει; “he says”) in Mark 2:17 is indicative of Markan editorial activity, while the Lukan-Matthean agreement to write εἶπεν is also confirmed by the FR version in Luke 15:3. The double attestation of πρὸς αὐτούς (pros avtous, “to them”; Luke 5:31; 15:3) opposite Mark’s αὐτοῖς (avtois, “to them”) also suggests that Luke preserves the wording of Anth.

וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם (HR). In Luke 5:31 (L56-58) we find the pattern καὶ ἀποκριθείς + speaker + εἶπεν. This same pattern is used in LXX to translate וַיַּעַן + speaker + וַיֹּאמֶר in the following examples:

וַיַּעַן אַבְרָהָם וַיֹּאמַר

And Abraham answered and said…. (Gen. 18:27)

καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς Αβρααμ εἶπεν

And answering, Abraham said…. (Gen. 18:27)

וַיַּעַן יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן נוּן מְשָׁרֵת מֹשֶׁה מִבְּחֻרָיו וַיֹּאמַר

And Joshua son of Nun, attendant of Moses from his youth, answered and said…. (Num. 11:28)

καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς Ἰησοῦς ὁ τοῦ Ναυη ὁ παρεστηκὼς Μωυσῇ ὁ ἐκλεκτὸς εἶπεν

And answering, Joshua son of Nave, the chosen attendant of Moses, said…. (Num. 11:28)

וַיַּעַן בִּלְעָם וַיֹּאמֶר

And Balaam answered and said…. (Num. 23:26)

καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς Βαλααμ εἶπεν

And answering, Balaam said…. (Num. 23:26)

וַיַּעַן הָעָם וַיֹּאמֶר

And the people answered and said…. (Josh. 24:16)

Καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ λαὸς εἶπεν

And answering, the people said…. (Josh. 24:16)

וַיַּעַן הַשָּׂטָן אֶת יי וַיֹּאמַר

And the accuser answered the LORD and said…. (Job 1:7)

καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ διάβολος τῷ κυρίῳ εἶπεν

And answering, the devil said to the Lord…. (Job 1:7)

The above examples demonstrate that the wording of Luke 5:31 in L56-58 is exactly what we would expect of a Greek translation of a Hebrew source.

L59 οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν (GR). All three versions of Jesus’ response agree on the phrase “no need they have.” Although it is possible that the author of Luke made a change to his source, and that this was passed along to Mark, and from Mark to Matthew, the ease with which this phrase is reconstructed in Hebrew supports our conclusion that οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν does, indeed, go back to Anth.

אֵין צוֹרֶךְ (HR). To express in Hebrew that “X has no need of Y” we find in various combinations לְ- + אֵין צוֹרֶךְ + X + -בְּ + Y. For example, in a discussion concerning whether pallbearers are required to recite the Shema on the day of a funeral, we read that those who are actually required to carry the bier are exempt, while alternates who prove to be unnecessary are not:

וְאֵת שֶׁאֵין לַמִּיטָּה…צוֹרֶךְ בָּהֶן חַיָּיבִין

…but those that the bier has no need of are obligated [to recite the Shema]. (m. Ber. 3:1)

A similar example is found in a question about the prophets who are mentioned in Scripture but whose words are not recorded therein:

ומפני מה לא נתפרסמה נבואתם שלא היה בה צורך לדורות

And why was their prophecy not published? Because there was not a need for it for the generations to come [לא היה בה צורך לדורות]. (Ruth Rab. Proem §2)

In the above example we find לֹא הָיָה (lo’ hāyāh, “it was not”) instead of אֵין (’ēn, “there is not”) because the answer is given in the past tense.

Examples in which the need is negated are rare, but questions that ask, “What need does X have for Y?” also provide a useful model for our reconstruction. This type of question is sometimes asked with respect to seemingly irrelevant information in Scripture, for example:

כיוצא בו אתה אומר ודנה וקרית סנה היא דביר, ובמקום אחר הוא אומר ושם דביר לפנים קרית ספר, נמצאת קרויה שלשה שמות, וכי מה צורך לבאי עולם בכך אלא שהיו שלש מלכיות מתכתשות עליה זו אומרת תקרא על שמי וזו אומרת תקרא על שמי

It turns out that one verse says, And Danah and Kiryat Sanah, which is Devir [Josh. 15:49], but in another place it says, And the name of Devir formerly was Kiryat Sefer [Josh. 15:15]. So we find that it was called by three names. And what need do those who come into the world have of this [וכי מה צורך לבאי עולם בכך]? It is only to teach that there were three kingdoms who fought over it, this one saying, “Let it be called after my name!” and the other saying, “Let it be called after my name!” (Sifre Deut. §37 [ed. Finkelstein, 72])

כיוצא בו אתה אומר עלה אל הר העברים הזה הר נבו, ובמקום אחר הוא אומר עלה ראש הפסגה, נמצא קרוי שלשה שמות, וכי מה צורך לבאי העולם בכך אלא שהיו שלש מלכיות מתכתשות עליו זו אומרת יקרא על שמי וזו אומרת יקרא על שמי

It turns out that one verse says, Go up on the mount of Avarim, which is Mount Nebo [Deut. 32:49], but in another place it says, Go up to the summit of Pisgah [Deut. 3:27]. So we find that it was called by three names. And what need do those who come into the world have of this [וכי מה צורך לבאי העולם בכך]? It is only to teach that there were three kingdoms who fought over it, this one saying, “Let it be called after my name!” and the other saying, “Let it be called after my name!” (Sifre Deut. §37 [ed. Finkelstein, 72])

The question “What need has X of Y?” is also asked of a rabbinic tradition that seems to impart useless information:

עשרה דורות מנח ועד אברהם וכי מה צורך לבאי עולם בכך אלא ללמד שכל אותן הדורות היו מכעיסין לפניו ולא היה אחד מהם שיהלך בדרכי הקב″ה עד שבא אברהם אבינו והלך בדרכי הקב″ה

There were ten generations from Noah to Abraham. And what need do those who come into the world have of this [וכי מה צורך לבאי עולם בכך]? It is only to teach that all those generations caused him to be angry and there was not one from them who walked in the ways of the Holy one, blessed be he, until Abraham our father came and walked in the ways of the Holy one, blessed be he. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 33:1 [ed. Schechter, 93-94])

The above cited examples demonstrate that our reconstruction, אֵין צוֹרֶךְ לַבְּרִיאִים בְּרוֹפֵא (lit., “there is no need to the healthy for a doctor”), is idiomatic Hebrew, while the exact correspondence of word order to the canonical Greek text supports Lindsey’s theory that a Hebrew source ultimately stands behind the Synoptic Gospels.

Note, too, that in Ben Sira where the Greek text has χρείαν ἔσχηκέν (chreian eschēken, “he had a need”), Hebrew MS A reads צֹרֶיך לו (tzorech lo, “[there is] a need to him”; Sir. 13:6).

L60 οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες ἰατροῦ (GR). In L60 we are faced with a difficult decision in choosing between Luke’s οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες (“the ones being healthy”) and οἱ ἰσχύοντες (“the ones being strong”) in Mark and Matthew. The verb ὑγιαίνειν (hūgiainein, “to be well”) is found only 3xx in the Synoptic Gospels, each time in Luke (Luke 5:31; 7:10; 15:27). This exclusive use by the author of Luke might prejudice us against accepting οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες for GR. On the other hand, ὑγιαίνειν never occurs in Acts, so we cannot say that this verb is definitely Lukan. As for the verb ἰσχύειν (ischūein), it is always used in the Gospels with the meaning “to be able,” with the exception of Mark 2:17 and its parallel in Matt. 9:12. This unique usage of ἰσχύειν in the Call of Levi story could be explained as the author of Mark’s attempt to paraphrase Luke’s wording.

There are parallels to Jesus’ saying, “The healthy have no need of a doctor, but the sick,” in Greek sources, indicating that Jesus made use of a popular proverb to answer the charge that he fraternized with sinners. One of these Greek parallels is found in the writings of Plutarch (late first century C.E.), who recounted the story of Pausanias, king of Sparta from 408-394 B.C.E., who went into exile with his people. According to Plutarch, when Pausanias was asked why he had not remained in Sparta rather than going into exile, his response was:

ὅτι οὐδ᾽ οἱ ἰατροί…παρὰ τοῖς ὑγιαίνουσιν, ὅπου δὲ οἱ νοσοῦντες, διατρίβειν εἰώθασιν.

Because physicians, too, are wont to spend their time, not among the healthy [τοῖς ὑγιαίνουσιν], but where the sick are. (Plutarch, Moralia 230F; Loeb)[165]

In his version of the king’s proverbial response, Plutarch used the same verb—ὑγιαίνειν—that the author of Luke used to describe “the ones being healthy.”

There is no way to prove whether Luke or Mark and Matthew preserve Anth.’s terminology for “the healthy,” but given Mark’s tendency to substitute synonyms for Luke’s wording and Matthew’s tendency to accept changes from Mark, we have chosen to adopt Luke’s οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες for GR. Fortunately, whichever term for “the healthy” is used in GR, בָּרִיא (bāri’, “healthy”) remains the best option for HR.

לַבְּרִיאִים בְּרוֹפֵא (HR). In LXX the noun ἰατρός (iatros, “doctor”) is the translation of רוֹפֵא (rōfē’, “healer,” “doctor”) in 2 Chr. 16:12 and Jer. 8:22. The LXX translation of Ben Sira also has ἰατρός where medieval Hebrew MSS read רוֹפֵא in Sir. 10:10; 38:1, 3, 12, 15.

An example of using בָּרִיא and חוֹלֶה (ḥōleh, “sick”) as a pair of opposites, as we have done in HR L60-61, is found in the following rabbinic statement:

ר′ יוֹסֵה אוֹמ′ בָּחוֹלֶה וּבַזָּקֵן טָמֵּא בַּיֶּלֶּד וּבַבָּרִיא טָהוֹר

Rabbi Yose says, “In the case of the sick [חוֹלֶה] and the aged, they are impure. In the case of the young and the healthy [בָּרִיא], they are pure.” (m. Mik. 8:4)

L61 ἀλλὰ οἱ κακῶς ἔχοντες (GR). The Call of Levi story is the only place where all three synoptic writers agree to use the phrase κακῶς ἔχειν (kakōs echein, lit., “badly to have”) to refer to those who are ill. Luke used this phrase on one other occasion, in the Healing a Centurion’s Slave narrative (Luke 7:2). In Mark’s Gospel, in addition to Mark 2:17, the phrase κακῶς ἔχειν occurs twice in the Sick Healed at Evening pericope (Mark 1:32, 34), which was thoroughly reworked by the author of Mark, and once in Healings at Gennesaret (Mark 6:55), a Markan-Matthean pericope. The author of Matthew took κακῶς ἔχειν from Mark in Matt. 8:16 (= Mark 1:34) and Matt. 14:35 (= Mark 6:55), and also used this phrase in one other redactional passage that summarized Jesus’ healing activity (Matt. 4:24). It is possible that the author of Mark picked up the phrase κακῶς ἔχειν from the Call of Levi story as he saw it in Luke and Anth. and proliferated its use by inserting it into redactional passages that were subsequently copied by the author of Matthew.

אֶלָּא לַחֹלִים (HR). We cannot appeal to LXX in support of reconstructing ἀλλά (alla, “but”) with אֶלָּא (’elā’, “but,” “rather”), since אֶלָּא is a MH word. Nevertheless, the correspondence between ἀλλά and אֶלָּא is close, and since we prefer to reconstruct direct speech in MH style, there is no better alternative.

Reconstructing οἱ κακῶς ἔχοντες presents us with a challenge, since there is no word-for-word equivalent in Hebrew. We considered whether יֵשׁ בָּהֶם מַחֲלָה (“there is in them a sickness”) might work, on the analogy of אֵין בָּהֶם מַחֲלָה (“there is not in them a sickness”), found in the following rabbinic statement:

רבי יצחק אומר הא אם אין בהם מחלה מפני מה הם צריכין רפואה

Rabbi Yitzhak says, “Now if they have no sickness in them, why do they need healing?” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa‘ chpt. 1 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:229])

In context, however, יֵשׁ בָּהֶם מַחֲלָה is a poor fit, since the grammatical structure demands that -לְ be prefixed to “the sick” (see above, Comment to L59), and we have found no instances where -לְ is prefixed to יֵשׁ.

In LXX there is one instance of κακῶς ἔχειν for “sick,” and we have allowed this example to guide our reconstruction. This example is found in Ezekiel’s prophecy concerning the shepherds of Israel:

καὶ τὰ πρόβατά μου οὐ βόσκετε· τὸ ἠσθενηκὸς οὐκ ἐνισχύσατε καὶ τὸ κακῶς ἔχον οὐκ ἐσωματοποιήσατε καὶ τὸ συντετριμμένον οὐ κατεδήσατε καὶ τὸ πλανώμενον οὐκ ἐπεστρέψατε καὶ τὸ ἀπολωλὸς οὐκ ἐζητήσατε

…but my sheep you do not feed. The one being weak you did not strengthen, and the one being sick [τὸ κακῶς ἔχον] you did not tend its body, and the one being crushed you did not bind up, and the straying one you did not restore, and the lost one you did not seek…. (Ezek. 34:3-4)

In this verse, which criticizes the guardians of Israel for failing to care for the weakest and most vulnerable members of society, τὸ κακῶς ἔχον (to kakōs echon, lit., “the one [neut.] badly having”) is a translation of הַחוֹלָה (haḥōlāh, “the sick [fem.]”). It is likely that Jesus alluded to this passage from Ezekiel with the Lost Sheep simile, and it is possible that his reference to the sick needing a doctor also hints at the Ezekiel 34 imagery. The parallelism in Ezek. 34:4 between healing the sick and restoring (or “causing to repent”)[166] those that strayed matches two parts of Jesus’ response to his critics: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” and “I have not come to call the righteous, but the wicked to repentance.”

The imagery of healing as God’s response to repentance is found in the prophets (cf., e.g., Isa. 6:10; Hos. 14:1-4) and was carried over into rabbinic literature. An example is found in a rabbinic homily on the verse “‘Peace, peace to the one far off and to the one nearby,’ says the LORD, ‘and I will heal him’” (Isa. 57:19):

מה רפואה [הוא] צריך, [אלא] זה רשע שהיה [רחוק] ועשה תשובה ונתקרב אצל הקדוש ברוך הוא

What healing does he [i.e., the one who is near—DNB and JNT] need? None, but this refers to a wicked person who was formerly far off but who did repentance and thus brought himself near to the Holy one, blessed be he. (Pesikta Rabbati 44:8 [ed. Friedmann, 184b])

These examples show that even if Jesus did draw upon a widely-circulating proverb in the Greco-Roman world about doctors being in the company of the sick, he did not do so at random. Jesus integrated this Hellenistic proverb into a thoroughly Jewish and biblical worldview.

L62-64 The command “But go and learn what Mercy I desire, and not sacrifice is” (Matt. 9:13), in which Jesus quotes the prophet Hosea (Hos. 6:6), is unique to Matthew. Matthew’s Gospel is also unique in recording one other instance of Jesus’ quoting this verse from Hosea (Matt. 12:7), where the quotation is lacking in the Lukan and Markan parallels. These facts arouse suspicion that it was the author of Matthew who placed the quotation of Hos. 6:6 in Jesus’ mouth.[167] On the other hand, Matthew’s Greek in L62-64 reverts easily into Hebrew. In addition, on another occasion Jesus is again reported to have criticized the Pharisees for giving insufficient weight to the virtue of mercy (Matt. 23:23; cf. Luke 11:42), this time by alluding to the prophet Micah (Mic. 6:8).[168] Thus, the citation of Hos. 6:6 in Matt. 9:13 does not appear to be out of character for Jesus, while the ease with which L62-64 reverts into Hebrew could be evidence that the author of Matthew copied these words from Anth. Since strong arguments for and against the unique Matthean material in L62-64 can be made, we have included these lines in GR and HR, but placed them within brackets in order to indicate our uncertainty as to whether this material truly comes from a pre-synoptic source.

L62 πορευθέντες δὲ μάθετε (Matt. 9:13). Matthew’s πορευθέντες δὲ μάθετε (porevthentes de mathete, “But going, learn”) can easily be reconstructed as לְכוּ וְלִמְדוּ (lechū velimdū, “Go and learn”). Not only is a participle + imperative commonly used in LXX to render two successive imperatives in MT,[169] but we also find that הָלַךְ (hālach, “walk,” “go”) and לָמַד (lāmad, “learn,” “study”) are sometimes used as complimentary verbs in rabbinic sources.[170] An alternative Hebrew reconstruction is צְאוּ וְלִמְדוּ (tze’ū velimdū, “Go out and learn”), a phrase that is also encountered in rabbinic sources.[171]

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

L63 τί ἐστιν (Matt. 9:13). Matthew’s τί ἐστιν (ti estin, “what is?”) could easily represent מָה הוּא (māh hū’, “what is it?”) or the contracted form מָהוּ (māhū, “what is it?”), which is attested in rabbinic sources. In MT the phrase מָה הוּא is rare, occurring only 3xx (Exod. 16:15; Num. 16:11; Esth. 8:1), but LXX renders the first two of these examples as τίς + εἶναι. Moreover, מָה הוּא and its contraction מָהוּ is often used in exegetical contexts for “what is the meaning of…?” with the intention of elucidating a difficult term or getting to the deeper meaning of a particular verse, in a manner exactly parallel to Jesus’ question, τί ἐστιν, in Matt. 9:13.[172]

L64 ἔλεος θέλω καὶ οὐ θυσίαν (Matt. 9:13). Whether the Hosea quotation conforms to the LXX version of Hos. 6:6 is a vexed question, since there is a variant reading in the textual tradition of this verse, with Vaticanus reading ἔλεος θέλω ἢ θυσίαν (“Mercy I desire rather than sacrifice”), and Alexandrinus reading ἔλεος θέλω καὶ οὐ θυσίαν (“Mercy I desire and not sacrifice”) in agreement with Matthew’s quotation. Gundry argued that the reading preserved in Vaticanus is original and that the variant is due to scribal correction of Hos. 6:6 on the basis of Matt. 9:13.[173] The variant readings and the small sample size make it impossible to make any definite pronouncement.[174] If the Hosea quotation in Matthew is an independent rendering of the Hebrew not based on LXX, this could point to the quotation’s derivation from Anth. and ultimately from the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua. But even if the Hosea quotation is taken from LXX this would not prove that the author of Matthew added the quotation to the Call of Levi story, since the author of Matthew could have changed the wording of the quotation in order to make it agree with the LXX text with which he was familiar.

Although we cannot be certain whether the Matthean material in L62-64 was penned by the author of Matthew, some other explanation is required to account for the Jewishness of this material and the ease with which it can be reconstructed in Hebrew. If this material was taken from Anth., then perhaps we should understand Jesus’ response in the following manner: Jesus first quoted a well-known proverb—“The healthy have no need of a doctor, but the sick”—and applied this proverb to his critics and then to himself. In Jesus’ estimate, his critics did not measure up to the proverb’s lesson; they wanted the doctor (Jesus) to stay aloof from the sick (the toll collectors and their friends). Therefore, they should go and learn the meaning of the verse, “I desire mercy more than sacrifice” (Hos. 6:6). In applying the lesson of the proverb to himself, Jesus concluded that he had applied its lesson correctly: “I have come to invite the people who need repentance to repent.”

L65 οὐκ ἦλθον καλέσαι (GR). In Luke 5:32 we encounter the only example in the Synoptic Gospels of the perfect form ἐλήλυθα (elēlūtha, “I have come”) from the verb ἔρχεσθαι (erchesthai, “to come”). We suspect that this is one of the rare instances in which Mark and Matthew preserve the wording of Anth., whereas the author of Luke has made an editorial improvement to his source in order to achieve a more polished Greek style.[175] The γάρ (gar, “for”) in Matt. 9:13 is probably a stylistic improvement to Anth.’s wording as well.[176]

לֹא בָּאתִּי לִקְרֹוא (HR). On reconstructing ἔρχεσθαι with בָּא (bā’, “come”), see above, Comment to L31. In LXX καλεῖν (kalein, “to call”) is usually the translation of קָרָא (qārā’, “call”).[177] Likewise, although קָרָא is translated in LXX by a variety of Greek verbs, καλεῖν is by far its most common translation.[178]

Jesus’ pronouncement, “I have come…,” expresses an acute awareness that he had been entrusted with a divine commission.[179] Jesus expressed this high self-awareness elsewhere in terms of being God’s emissary or apostle (Heb., shāliaḥ),[180] a concept that is parallel to Jesus’ self-identification as a prophet. In his answer to his critics Jesus expressed confidence that in celebrating with Levi and his friends he was fulfilling the will of God who had sent him to summon the lost sheep of the house of Israel to repent.

An aggadic tradition assigns the task of bringing Israel to repentance to the Messiah, which will usher in the final redemption:

ד″א חדרך, זה מלך המשיח שעתיד להדריך כל באי העולם בתשובה לפני הקב″ה

Another interpretation of ḥadrāch [Zech. 9:1]: This is the anointed king [i.e., the Messiah—DNB and JNT] who in the future will lead [lehadrich] all who enter the world in repentance before the Holy one, blessed be he. (Song Rab. 7:5 §3)

L66 לַצַּדִּיקִים (HR). Although δικαίους is indefinite in Matthew, Mark and Luke, for HR we have preferred a definite form. Hebrew often makes generic nouns definite, and these are frequently made indefinite when translated to Greek.[181] In LXX δίκαιος (dikaios, “righteous”) is commonly used to translate צַדִּיק (tzadiq, “righteous”).[182] In Hebrew sources צַדִּיק (“righteous person”) and רָשָׁע (“wicked person”) are frequently paired as opposites.[183] A few examples will suffice to demonstrate the pairing of these terms:

כי אתה בראתה צדיק ורשע

For you created the righteous and the wicked…. (1QHa XII, 38)

כי לא יבין משפטם להצדיק צדיק ולהרשיע ר[שע]

For he does not understand their judgment to vindicate the righteous or to condemn the wicked. (4Q424 3 I, 1-2)

בֵּן סוֹרֵר וּמוֹרֶה יִידּוֹן לְשֵׁם סוֹפוֹ יָמוּת זַכַּיִי וְאַל יָמוּת חַיָּיב שֶׁמִיתָתָן שֶׁלָּרְשָׁעִין הֲנָיָיה לָהֶן וַהֲנָיָיה לָעוֹלָם וְלַצִּדִּיקִים רַע לָהֶן וְרַע לָעוֹלָם יַיִן וְשֵׁינָה לָרְשָׁעִין הֲנָיָיה לָהֶן וַהֲנָיָיה לַעוֹלָם וְלַצַּדִּיקִים רַע לָהֶן וְרַע לָעוֹלָם פִּיזּוּר לָרְשָׁעִין הֲנָיָיה לָהֶן וַהֲנָיָיה לָעוֹלָם וְלַצַּדִּיקִים רַע לָהֶן וְרַע לָעוֹלָם כִּינּוּס לָרְשָׁעִים רַע לָהֶן וְרַע לָעוֹלָם וְלַצַּדִּיקִים הֲנָיָה לָהֶן וַהֲנָיָה לָעוֹלָם שֶׁקֶט לָרְשָׁעִין רַע לָהֶן וְרַע לָעוֹלָם וְלַצַּדִּיקִים הֲנָיָה לָהֶן וַהֲנָיָה לָעוֹלָם

A stubborn and rebellious son is judged for the sake of his end. Let him die innocent but let him not die guilty, because the death of the wicked is a benefit to themselves and a benefit to the world, but [the death of] the righteous is an evil for themselves and an evil for the world. Wine and sleep for the wicked is a benefit to themselves and a benefit to the world, but [wine and sleep] for the righteous is an evil to themselves and an evil to the world. Scattering for the wicked is a benefit to themselves and a benefit to the world, but [scattering] for the righteous is an evil to themselves and an evil to the world. Gathering for the wicked is an evil for themselves and an evil for the world, but [gathering] for the righteous is a benefit to themselves and a benefit to the world. Quiet for the wicked is an evil to themselves and an evil to the world, but [quiet] for the righteous is a benefit to themselves and a benefit to the world. (m. Sanh. 8:5)

The last cited passage from the Mishnah is a good example of how generic uses of “righteous” and “wicked” are given in definite forms.

L67 אֶלָּא לָרְשָׁעִים (HR). On reconstructing ἀλλά (alla, “but”) with אֶלָּא (’elā’, “but,” “rather”), see above, Comment to L61. On reconstructing ἁμαρτωλός (hamartōlos, “sinner”) with רָשָׁע (rāshā‘, “wicked person”), see above, Comment to L29.

L68 εἰς μετάνοια