Did Jesus Call God “Abba”?

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

(Joachim Jeremias; emphasis original)[1]

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

The Evidence for Jesus’ Use of “Abba”

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

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

“Abba” in Gentile Churches

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

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

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

But What About Gethsemane?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did Jesus Ever Call God “Abba”?

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

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

“Avi” אָבִי

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

“Abba” אַבָּא

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

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

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

Jesus, “Abba,” and Second Temple Judaism

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

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

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

אָמַ′ לוֹ אֲבָּא פַּקֵּד עָלַיִ לַחֲבֵירֶךָ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Language Debate

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Some Examples of “Avi” in the Dead Sea Scrolls

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

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

    [ויאמר] לו אל תירא אבי

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

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

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

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

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

    Some Examples of “Avi” in Rabbinic Literature

    מכות אלו גרמו לי ליאהב לאבי שבשמים

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town

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

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

Revised: 21-November-2017

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

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

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










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

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Story Placement

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



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


Conjectured Stages of Transmission

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

Crucial Issues

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


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

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

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

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

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

רְ′ יְהוּדָה או′ לְאֵי זֶה רוּחַ שֶׁיִּרְצֶה יֵלֵךְ

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

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

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

אָמַ′ לַלִּיבְלָר כְּתוֹב אֵי זוֹ שֶׁאֶרְצֶה אֲגָרֵשׁ פָּסוּל מִלְּגָרֵשׁ בּוֹ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

וַאֲמַרְתֶּם כֹֹּה לֶחָי וְאַתָּה שָׁלוֹם וּבֵיתְךָ שָׁלוֹם וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר לְךָ שָׁלוֹם

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

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

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

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

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

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

‏[ש]לח שלוח את שלום ביתך

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

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

ר′ חנניה סגן הכהנים אומר וישם לך שלום בביתך

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

וְזֹאת הַתְּרוּמָה אֲשֶׁר תִּקְחוּ מֵאִתָּם

καὶ αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ ἀπαρχή, ἣν λήμψεσθε παρ᾿ αὐτῶν

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

קַח מֵאִתָּם וְהָיוּ לַעֲבֹד אֶת עֲבֹדַת אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד

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

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

אֹכֶל תִּשְׁבְּרוּ מֵאִתָּם בַּכֶּסֶף וַאֲכַלְתֶּם וְגַם מַיִם תִּכְרוּ מֵאִתָּם בַּכֶּסֶף וּשְׁתִיתֶם

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

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

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

ואיש ברבים ילך רכיל לשלח הואה מאתם ולוא ישוב עוד

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

לכה המלחמה ומאתכה הגבורה ולוא לנו

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

ומאתך דרך כול חי

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

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

מוּרְחֲק אֲנִי מִמָּךְ שֶׁאֵנִי אוֹכֵל לָךְ

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

הָאוֹמֵר קוֹרְבַּן עוֹלָה וּמִנְחָה חַטָּאת תּוֹדָה וּשְׁלָמִים שֶׁאֵנִי אוֹכַל לָךְ אָסוּר

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

וְאֵילּוּ מוּתָּרִין חוּלִּין שֶׁאוֹכַל לָךְ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

נבוכדנצר אמ′ אין באי העולם כדי לדור ביניהם

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

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

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

אפילו איני כדיי אתם עיקמו עלי את הדרך

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

עַל קַן צִיפּוֹר יַגִּיעוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

וַעֲפַר רַגְלַיִךְ יְלַחֵכוּ

καὶ τὸν χοῦν τῶν ποδῶν σου λείξουσιν

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

וֶהֱוֵוי מִתְאַבֵּק בַּעֲפַר רַגְלֵיהֶם

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

עשה זאת בני והנצל לך והדבק בעפר רגליו וקבל מלכותו ואדנותו

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

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

וְעָנָן אֲבַק רַגְלָיו

καὶ νεφέλαι κονιορτὸς ποδῶν αὐτοῦ

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

לֹא יִכָּנֵס לְהַר הַבָּיִת…וּבַאֲבַק שֶׁעַל רגְלוֹ

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

לֹא יִטְבּוֹל בַּאֲבַק שֶׁעַל רַגְלָיו

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

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

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

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

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

לך התרפס באבק רגליהם של שרים וגדולים ממך

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Redaction Analysis

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

Luke’s Versions

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

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

Mark’s Version

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

Matthew’s Version

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

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

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

Results of this Research

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

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

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

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


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

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



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  • [1] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [2] This translation is a dynamic rendition of our reconstruction of the conjectured Hebrew source that stands behind the Greek of the Synoptic Gospels. It is not a translation of the Greek text of a canonical source.
  • [3] A version of the Conduct in Town pericope also appears in the Gospel of Thomas, where we read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    הֲרֵי זֶה רָאוּיִ לִהְיוֹת כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל

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

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

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

    הַמִּזְבֵּחַ מְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת הָרָאוּיִ לוֹ

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

    כָּל שֶׁאֵינוּ רָאוּיִ לַעֲבוֹדָה אֵינוּ חוֹלֵק בַּבָּשָׂר

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    עונות שאדם דש בעקביו בעולם הזה מסובין לו ליום הדין

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

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

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

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

“Shake the Dust from Your Feet”: What Did the Apostles’ Action Signify?

For Dr. Roger Green, in gratitude for his many years of Bible instruction at Gordon College.

Shaking the dust from one’s feet is a powerfully visceral and evocative demonstration of disapproval.[1] As a seminary student I once performed a dust-shaking rite, based on my understanding at that time of Jesus’ command in the Gospels, when concluding a visit to the Flossenbürg extermination camp where Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis on April 9, 1945. My visit to Flossenbürg was part of a week-long study tour in which we visited sites in Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic that were of significance in Bonhoeffer’s life.[2] Flossenbürg was the last concentration camp we visited on the tour and shaking the dust from my feet was a way for me to express my rejection not only of horrible atrocities carried out by the Nazi regime, but also my repudiation of the anti-Judaism which has contaminated Christianity for so long and which helped make the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis possible.

There was one other occasion when I seriously considered shaking the dust from my feet, but in the end declined to do so. That occasion was when I was dismissed from the congregation I had served as pastor for nearly five years. My dismissal not only ended my ministry in that particular congregation, it also marked the end of my relationship with the denomination in which I was ordained, and the termination of my pastoral career. The reason I did not shake off the dust from my feet on that occasion was that although I was deeply hurt by my dismissal, I still loved the people I had served—even the ones who were happiest to see my departure—and all these years later I love them still.

Shaking the Dust

The deep personal connection I have to the rite of dust shaking made my recent investigation in cooperation with David Bivin into Jesus’ instructions to his apostles (Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town) all the more poignant. Jesus’ command to shake off the dust of the feet appears in Matt. 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5; and Luke 10:11. Luke also reports an occasion on which Paul and Barnabas shook the dust from their feet (Acts 13:51). According to one version of Jesus’ instructions we read:

And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them. (Luke 9:5; RSV)

One of the questions David and I raised in the course of our work was “What did shaking off the dust from the apostles’ feet signify in a first-century Jewish context?”

A standard interpretation of shaking off the dust of the apostle’s feet is based on the ancient Jewish concept of the impurity of Gentile land.[3] The notion that the land of the Gentiles is impure is attested already in the Hebrew Bible (cf., e.g., Josh. 22:19; Amos 7:17), but it was not until the Second Temple period that the impurity of Gentile land took on halakhic significance (t. Par. 3:5). According to rabbinic halakhah, the soil of Gentile lands was ritually defiling, imparting a seven-day impurity to anyone who came into contact with it. For this reason, pilgrims who came to Jerusalem from the Diaspora had to undergo a prolonged process of purification prior to participating in Temple rituals.[4] The purification of pilgrims from the impurity of Gentile lands is even alluded to in the New Testament (John 11:55; Acts 21:26-27).

Woozle Tracks

The standard interpretation of the apostles’ dust-shaking action proposes that Jesus turned the concept of the impurity of Gentile lands against the Jewish inhabitants of cities within the (ritually pure) land of Israel.[5] This interpretation maintains that shaking the dust from their feet dramatically symbolized that Jesus’ apostles would henceforth regard the Jewish inhabitants of a city that had rejected their message as though they were cut off from Israel. The apostles were to treat fellow Jews who rejected their message as if they were Gentiles, and the very soil the town was built on was to be treated as the ritually impure soil of Gentile lands. Shaking off the dust of the city from their feet is accordingly understood as a means by which Jesus’ apostles purified themselves from the impurity of the city that had rejected them.[6]

Juan Manuel Blanes (1830 - 1901) Pie de la Cautiva. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Juan Manuel Blanes’ (1830-1901) Pie de la Cautiva. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This standard interpretation of shaking the dust from one’s feet is quite old. The earliest attestation of this interpretation that we have discovered dates back to the 1600s,[7] but it may be much older. As this interpretation gained acceptance, scholars began to conjecture the existence of an ancient Jewish rite of dust shaking that was supposedly performed when Jewish pilgrims entered the Holy Land. This supposed rite of dust shaking would then be parallel to Jesus’ instructions about the apostles shaking the dust from their feet when leaving a city that had failed to welcome them. However, no such dust-shaking rite is attested anywhere in ancient Jewish sources. The supposed dust-shaking ceremony on the borders of the Holy Land is nothing more than a scholarly fiction, a myth that has been perpetuated by Bible commentators, pastors, and theologians because it “preaches” well.

The standard interpretation is untenable not only because it is propped up by a scholarly fiction, but also because its underlying assumptions are extremely difficult to maintain.[8] The standard interpretation of shaking the dust from one’s feet assumes that Jesus felt himself at liberty to reinterpret the demands of ritual purity when it suited him, and to turn the system of ritual purity enjoined in the Torah against the Torah’s recipients as he saw fit.[9] According to the Gospels, however, Jesus respected and participated in the system of ritual purity as it was practiced in Judaism of the Second Temple period.[10] It is true that various groups within first-century Jewish society disputed how ritual purity was to be observed, and it is also true that Jesus participated in these debates, but these are not grounds for assuming that Jesus radically reinterpreted ritual purity in such a way as to deny fellow Jews a place within Judaism. Far from denying a place within Judaism to fellow Jews, Jesus regarded it as his mission to reintegrate Jews who had been marginalized from mainstream Jewish society, including tax collectors, prostitutes, and others who were labeled “sinners.” Jesus described his activity as a renewal movement whereby the lost sheep of Israel were restored to the fold. Thus, the standard interpretation of shaking off the dust of one’s feet is also at odds with Jesus’ self-understanding of his public activity, as well as being based on a false understanding of Jewish rituals of purification.

A Matter of Hospitality

How, then, ought we to understand the command to shake the dust from one’s feet? First, it is essential to notice that in every version of the command, shaking off the dust from one’s feet is a response to inhospitality. The apostles were to shake the dust off their feet when leaving a town that failed to receive them. Since receiving the apostles meant offering them hospitality, and did not necessarily imply acceptance of their message, failure to receive the apostles had less to do with the town’s response to their message and more to do with the town’s failure to follow the accepted norms of hospitality toward strangers.

Abraham entertains angelic strangers in this painting by Félix Henri Giacomotti (1854). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Abraham entertains angelic strangers in this painting by Félix Henri Giacomotti (1854). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In addition to providing traveling strangers with food and lodging, providing water with which travelers could wash their feet was among the basic duties of hospitality.[11] In fact, providing guests with the means to wash their feet was expected to come before supplying a guest with a meal. Providing water for washing their feet, if not actually washing their feet for them, was the first obligation a host ought to perform in order to make his guests comfortable. The Gospel of Luke mentions one occasion when Jesus took his host to task because the host had neglected this most basic duty of hospitality (Luke 7:44).

The continuing importance of foot washing in the first century and beyond is attested not only in the Gospels (Luke 7:44; John 13:1-14) and in the New Testament Epistles (1 Tim. 5:10), but also in rabbinic literature. An aggadic retelling of the story of Lot and the angels (Gen. 19) mentions how Lot intentionally avoided washing the angels’ feet due to his fear of the inhabitants of Sodom. According to the aggadic legend, Lot reasoned that if the townspeople saw the dust on the angels’ feet when they departed after spending the night in Lot’s home, the townspeople would assume that the angels had only just arrived from the dusty road, and would therefore not make inquiries about where they had lodged the previous evening (Gen. Rab. 50:4; cf. Derech Eretz Rabbah 4:2 [56b]). This aggadah is based on the assumption that foot washing is one of the most basic duties of hospitality.

The aggadic legend about Lot is also based on the widely-attested tradition that Sodom was notorious for its inhospitality toward strangers (Ezek. 16:49; Wis. 19:14;[12] Jos., Ant. 1:194; b. Sanh. 109a; Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer, chpt. 25). Even the comment in m. Avot 5:10, which says that a person who says “What’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine” typifies the people of Sodom, is based on Sodom’s reputation as stingy toward outsiders.

Given these cultural assumptions about hospitality toward strangers and foot washing in first-century Jewish culture, a new and more satisfying interpretation of Jesus’ instruction that the apostles should shake off the dust from their feet when leaving an inhospitable town presents itself. If the apostles still had dust on their feet from their travels on the road when leaving the town, this was because no one had bothered to give them water for foot washing when the apostles had entered the town. Shaking the dust off their feet upon their departure was simply a way of demonstrating to the townspeople just how inhospitable they had been. If the townspeople had fulfilled the basic obligations of hospitality, there would have been no dust on their feet for the apostles to shake off.

Thematic Unity

Understanding the command to shake dust from the apostles’ feet as a sign of a town’s inhospitality clarifies why Jesus, in the Matthean and Luke 10 versions of the Mission Charge, went on to say:

Amen! I say to you, it will be more bearable for Sodom on that day than for that town. (Matt. 10:15; Luke 10:12)[13]

Jesus compared the fate of a town that denied the apostles hospitality to the judgment of Sodom, the biblical archetype of an inhospitable city. When understood as a sign of the town’s inhospitality toward the apostles, the symbolism of shaking the dust from their feet fits the verses that surround it. The standard interpretation of the apostles’ dust-shaking action as an inverted ritual of self-purification, on the other hand, is so convoluted that it is difficult to believe that anyone in the first century could have grasped its significance. Especially since there is no evidence that a pilgrim’s dust-shaking rite ever existed, the contention that by shaking the dust from their feet the apostles could have conveyed to a Jewish town that it was no longer part of Israel is hard to swallow. It is time for this mistaken interpretation to finally be put to rest. Taken as a sign of the town’s inhospitality, shaking the dust off their feet unites the passage about how the apostles were to respond to a town that refused to welcome them with Jesus’ comment about the fate of an inhospitable town being even worse than the fate of Sodom.[14]

  • [1] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [2] Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor in Germany who opposed Hitler and who eventually joined the resistance against the Nazi regime.
  • [3] For a discussion of the rabbinic concept of the ritual impurity of Gentile land, see Shmuel Safrai, “The Land of Israel in Tannaitic Halacha,” in Das Land Israel in biblischer Zeit (ed. Georg Strecker; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983), 201-215, esp. 206-207.
  • [4] See Safrai, “Land of Israel,” 206; idem, “The Temple,” in The Jewish People in the First Century (2 vols.; CRINT I.2; ed. Shmuel Safrai and Menahem Stern; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976), 2:903.
  • [5] Representatives of what I refer to as the “standard interpretation” include J. Green, 360; Edwards, 262-263. For a fuller bibliography of scholars who adopt various permutations of the “standard interpretation,” see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L110.
  • [6] In reference to Paul’s shaking the dust from his feet (Acts 13:51), Cadbury noted, “It would be strange indeed if Paul should use against the Jews who objected to his Gentile success a gesture that was to be understood principally as the strict Jew’s act of purification against Gentile defilement.” See Henry J. Cadbury, “Note XXIV: Dust and Garments” (Foakes Jackson-Lake, 5:269-277, esp. 271).
  • [7] Commenting on Matt. 10:14 in his Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae (1658), Lightfoot wrote:

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

  • [8] In as much as it is understood as a means of self-purification, the chimerical rite of dust shaking betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of ritual purity. Simply shaking off the dust of Gentile lands could not have made a person ritually pure. Only ritual immersion and a seven-day period of waiting could remove the impurity of Gentile lands. For an introduction to the biblical concept of ritual purity, see Joshua N. Tilton, “A Goy’s Guide to Ritual Purity.”
  • [9] Thus, according to Joel Green, “Jesus’ instructions, albeit in a subtle way, circumvent ordinary rules of purity by turning them on their head. Jesus performed no such act of self-purification upon his return from the land of the Gentiles and the domain of the unclean in [Luke] 8:40, for he had found responsive faith even in the midst of impurity and rejection ([Luke] 8:26-39). No longer working narrowly within an ethnic definition of Israel as the people of God, he now declares that those who refuse the salvific visitation of God…are to be regarded as though they were outside the people of God” (J. Green, 360). Joel Green’s appeal to the dust-shaking rite is flawed on two scores. First, his contention that Jesus did not perform the dust-shaking rite when crossing from impure Gentile lands into the land of Israel is an argument from silence. Second, Jesus’ omission of the dust-shaking rite proves nothing since no such dust-shaking rite ever existed.
  • [10] Examples of Jesus’ participation in the system of ritual purity include his baptism in the Jordan river (Matt. 3:13; Mark 1:9; Luke 3:21), his command to the man healed of scale disease to present himself in the Temple (Matt. 8:4; Mark 1:44; Luke 5:14; cf. Luke 17:14), and the command to the blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam (John 9:7), considered in rabbinic sources to be the most potent of all sources of purification (cf. t. Taan. 1:8).
  • [11] Foot washing as a basic requirement of hospitable treatment of guests is mentioned in Gen. 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; 43:24; Judg. 19:21; 1 Sam. 25:41; 2 Sam. 11:8.
  • [12] On the “others” in Wis. 19:14 as referring to the inhabitants of Sodom, see David Winston, The Wisdom of Solomon: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 43; Garden City, N.Y.; Doubleday, 1979), 329.
  • [13] This quotation is based on our reconstruction of Jesus’ saying in Hebrew and therefore does not exactly conform to either Matt. 10:15 or Luke 10:12.
  • [14] Subsequent to the initial release of this article, it was brought to the author’s attention that a similar interpretation of the apostles’ dust shaking action was proposed by Aaron Eby. See Aaron Eby, “Difficult Sayings of Yeshua,” Messiah Magazine 2.5 (2014): 14; idem, “Themes of Destruction: Nineveh, Sodom, and the Flood,” Messiah Journal 117 (2014): 36-45.

Sending the Twelve: “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves”

Matt. 9:37-38; 10:16a; Luke 10:2-3

(Huck 58, 139; Aland 98-99, 177; Crook 102, 197-198)[1]

Revised: 27-October-2017

וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם הַקָּצִיר מְרֻבֶּה וְהַפֹּעֲלִים מְמֻעָטִים לְפִיכָךְ בַּקְּשׁוּ מִבַּעַל הַקָּצִיר שֶׁיּוֹצִיא פֹּעֲלִים לִקְצִירוֹ לְכוּ הֲרֵינִי שׁוֹלֵחַ אֶתְכֶם כַּצֹּאן לְתוֹךְ זְאֵבִים

Yeshua told his twelve emissaries: “There’s a huge harvest, but a shortage of harvesters. So send word to the owner of the field to hire more workers to help them finish the job.

“Go! But beware, I’m sending you out like a defenseless flock into a pack of ravenous wolves.[2]










To view the reconstructed text of Sending the Twelve: “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” click on the link below:

Download (PDF, 95KB)

Story Placement

“The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings are unique to Luke and Matthew. Both Matthew and Luke agreed to include these sayings within the context of the mission of the Twelve (Matthew) or the Seventy-Two (Luke). Nevertheless, Matthew and Luke placed “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings at different points in their Sending discourses. In Luke, the two sayings appear consecutively and serve as the introduction to Jesus’ instructions to the apostles. Matthew, on the other hand, presents these sayings separately, placing “The Harvest Is Plentiful” prior to the apostles’ commissioning, and making “A Flock Among Wolves” introduce predictions of persecution—material that Luke does not include in his Sending discourse.

In Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, we found that the author of Matthew extensively edited his sources, rearranging material and incorporating pericopae from contexts other than the apostles’ mission, in order to make the Sending the Twelve the second major discourse of his Gospel.[3] Such intense editorial activity on the part of the author of Matthew in the Sending discourse calls into question his placement of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings in Matt. 9 and 10, whereas the placement of these sayings in Luke 10 makes good sense.[4] Having been commissioned to drive out impure spirits, heal diseases, and proclaim the restoration of Israel through the inbreaking of God’s reign, the apostles must have been impressed with the enormity of the task. Could a mere handful of emissaries accomplish such an ambitious goal? Jesus acknowledged these concerns with “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying. “The workers are, indeed, few, but don’t let that discourage you. Ask God for more helpers, and in the meantime get on with the task he’s given you.”[5]

Some scholars, however, prefer Matthew’s placement of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying, which makes the apostles’ mission a response to the prayer for more harvesters.[6] These scholars have been influenced by the literary skill the author of Matthew demonstrated in his rearrangement of materials, but they overlook the fact that the details of “The Harvest is Plentiful” saying are not well suited to Matthew’s placement, since until the apostles were commissioned the workers were not few, they were non-existent. In Luke’s arrangement, the details of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying match the apostles’ situation: like harvesters who need extra help to bring in the crop, the apostles could not complete their task on their own. It is precisely because they confronted the impossibility of their assignment that they were compelled to ask for help.

We also regard Matthew’s placement of “A Flock Among Wolves” as secondary.[7] In Matthew, “A Flock Among Wolves” is spliced together with the warning to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16b), but aside from the zoological imagery, the connection between these two sayings is unclear. Since Luke omits the “Serpents and Doves” saying, it is unlikely that the two sayings appeared together in a pre-synoptic source.[8] For Matthew, “A Flock Among Wolves” sets the tone for the persecution predictions he imported into the Sending discourse from other contexts, but precisely how the apostles will be like sheep among wolves is not spelled out. In Luke, on the other hand, there is a clear point of comparison between the situation of the sheep and that of the apostles: just as sheep have no natural defenses from predators, so the apostles were to go on their mission without provision or protection of their own. For their sustenance the apostles were to rely on the hospitality of those who received them (Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town), and the apostles were to rely on God for their protection from dangerous animals, bandits, and perhaps from unfriendly local authorities (Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L66).

For our reconstruction of the “Mission of the Twelve” complex, we have adopted Luke’s placement of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings at the opening of Jesus’ instructions to the apostles. To see an overview of the entire “Mission of the Twelve” complex, click here.



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


Conjectured Stages of Transmission

Anth-Luke-MattObserving that there are two types of Double Tradition pericopae—those in which there is a high degree of verbal agreement between Matthew and Luke, and those that are characterized by verbal disparity between them—Robert Lindsey hypothesized that Matthew and Luke copied the DT pericopae with high verbal identity from the same source, which he referred to as the Anthology (Anth.). To account for the DT pericopae characterized by high verbal disparity, Lindsey theorized that Luke used a second pre-synoptic source not used by or known to Matthew, which Lindsey described as a paraphrased epitome of Anth.[9] This source, which Lindsey referred to as the First Reconstruction (FR), often polished the Greek style of the Anthology’s highly Hebraic text. Since “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings are nearly identical in Luke and Matthew, it is likely that both Matthew and Luke copied them directly from Anth. The few differences that do appear are more likely due to the editorial activity of the authors of Matthew and Luke themselves rather than their use of different sources.

A version of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying is found in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas (logion 73).[10] It is also possible that the extended harvest metaphor in John 4:35-38 is based on, or was influenced by, “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying.[11]

Crucial Issues

  1. What is the harvest to which Jesus refers?
  2. Who is the lord of the harvest?
  3. In what way were the apostles comparable to sheep?
  4. Who was being compared to wolves? And why?


L40-41 The introductions to “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying in Matthew and Luke were probably penned by the authors of their respective Gospels. The τότε (tote, “then”) in Matt. 9:37 is characteristic of Matthew’s style,[12] the historical present (λέγει; legei, “he says”) is un-Hebraic,[13] and addressing the saying to the disciples rather than to the apostles is a typically Matthean move.[14] Likewise, ἔλεγεν δέ (elegen de, “and he was saying”) in Luke 10:2 is un-Hebraic[15] and characteristic of Luke’s style.[16]

καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς (GR). The two likeliest Greek reconstructions for L40-41 are εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς and καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς. The former option assumes a minimal amount of editing by Luke; the latter represents a wooden translation-Greek style. Although the combination εἶπεν δέ + πρός is well attested in LXX[17] as the translation of וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל, or less often of -וַיֹּאמֶר לְ (Esth. 4:10; 9:12), examples in LXX of καὶ εἶπεν + πρός as the translation of -וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל/לְ are much more numerous.[18] Since we believe Anth. generally preserved a highly literal translation-style Greek, we have adopted the latter option for GR.[19] The exact phrase καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς occurs in LXX as the translation of וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם/אֲלֵהֶם over 40xx,[20] however, we have favored וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם for HR, since this is closer to late biblical and MH style.[21]

“The Harvest Is Plentiful”

L42-47 A saying with strikingly similar content and vocabulary to Matt. 9:37-38 and Luke 10:2 is found in the Mishnah:[22]

ר′ טַרְפוֹן אוֹ′ הַיּוֹם קָצָר וְהַמְּלָאכָה מְּרוּבָּה וְהַפּוֹעֲלִים עֲצֵלִים וְהַשָּׂכָר הַרְבֵּה וּבַעַל הַבַּיִת דּוֹחֵק

Rabbi Tarfon[23] says, “The day is short and the work is plentiful and the workers are lazy but the pay is great and the landlord is urgent.” (m. Avot 2:15)

The similarity between the sayings of Jesus and Rabbi Tarfon suggests that both sages drew on a common stock of proverbial images. Flusser believed that both Jesus and Rabbi Tarfon were influenced by Hippocrates’ famous aphorism:

Ὁ βίος βραχύς, ἡ δὲ τέχνη μακρή, ὁ δὲ καιρὸς ὀξύς, ἡ δε πεῖρα σφαλερή, ἡ δὲ κρίσις χαλεπή.

Life is short, the Art long, opportunity fleeting, experiment treacherous, judgment difficult. (Hippocrates, Aphorisms 1:1; Loeb)[24]

If Flusser is correct, then an important point of contact between the sayings of Jesus and Rabbi Tarfon is the harvest imagery, which is absent in Hippocrates’ aphorism.

Sheaves of wheat gathered from the harvest. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Sheaves of wheat gathered from the harvest. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Hellenistic and rabbinic parallels caution against interpreting Jesus’ saying in exclusively eschatological terms, since neither Hippocrates’ aphorism nor Rabbi Tarfon’s saying are eschatologically oriented. Hippocrates’ aphorism concerns the day-to-day responsibilities of the physician, while Rabbi Tarfon’s saying probably pertains to the professional duties of the Jewish sage, in other words, to Torah study.[25] Likewise, the primary reference in Jesus’ saying is to the apostles’ responsibility to proclaim Jesus’ message to the Jewish inhabitants of the Galilean and Judean towns Jesus intended to visit.[26] Although there may be an eschatological aspect to Jesus’ saying,[27] comparison with Hippocrates’ aphorism and Rabbi Tarfon’s saying shows that the temporal aspect is much less prominent in Jesus’ saying. Whereas shortage of time is explicitly stated as a cause for urgency in the Hellenistic and rabbinic parallels, in Jesus’ saying the cause for urgency is a shortage of workers.[28] Unlike the Hellenistic and rabbinic parallels, shortage of time is only implicit in Jesus’ saying. If Jesus was aware of Hellenistic or Jewish parallels, then he consciously downplayed the temporal aspect in his version of the saying. Thus, not only the similarities between Jesus’ saying and Hellenistic and rabbinic parallels, but also the differences indicate that the eschatological aspect of Jesus’ saying should not be exaggerated.

Comparison with Rabbi Tarfon’s saying clarifies the interpretation of Jesus’ saying in another important way. Some scholars, usually basing their interpretation of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying on a faulty interpretation of the verb ἐκβάλλειν (see below, Comment to L46), detect in Jesus’ saying a reluctance on the part of the workers to bring in the harvest.[29] While unwilling workers who have to be urged on by the landlord are a problem in Rabbi Tarfon’s version, in Jesus’ saying it is the workers who take the initiative and petition a distracted or oblivious landlord.[30] The problem in Jesus’ saying is not the workers, who are overwhelmed by the increased workload at harvest time, but the landlord who neglected to hire extra help to bring in the crop. Jesus’ saying exemplifies the audacious style of prayer he advocated elsewhere (cf. Friend in Need simile [Luke 11:5-8]; Persistent Widow parable [Luke 18:1-8]), which also characterized the charismatic Hasidim (cf. m. Taan. 3:8; b. Ber. 34b).[31]

L42 הַקָּצִיר מְרֻבֶּה (HR). In Rabbi Tarfon’s saying it is the day that is short (קָצָר; qātzār) and the work that is in large supply (מְּרוּבָּה; merūbāh). Jesus’ saying conflates the two ideas: it is the harvest (קָצִיר; qātzir) that is abundant (מְרֻבֶּה; merubeh).

In LXX θερισμός (therismos, “harvest”) is almost always the translation of קָצִיר‎.[32] Moreover, קָצִיר‎ was translated more often with θερισμός than any other Greek synonym.[33] Our choice of מְרֻבֶּה as the equivalent of πολύς (polūs, “much”) was guided by the rabbinic parallel in m. Avot 2:15. The adjective מְרֻבֶּה does not occur in BH, Hebrew manuscripts of Ben Sira, or DSS, but it is common in the Mishnah and later rabbinic literature. HR reflects our preference to reconstruct direct discourse in MH style.[34]

We have omitted an equivalent for μέν (men, “indeed”) from HR despite its presence in both the Lukan and Matthean versions of Jesus’ saying. Of the 218 instances of μέν in LXX, only 56 occur in books included in MT. Even with respect to those 56 instances, it is usually impossible to identify a word in the Hebrew text that corresponds to μέν.[35] Rather than reflecting a word in the Hebrew text, the LXX translators supplied μέν in places where it was felt to be necessary in Greek. In a similar fashion, μέν was probably supplied by the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, retained by the Anthologizer (the creator of Anth.), and subsequently copied by the authors of Luke and Matthew, hence our inclusion of μέν in GR.

L43 וְהַפֹּעֲלִים מְמֻעָטִים (HR). The noun ἐργάτης (ergatēs, “worker”) refers to a wage laborer who works in construction (cf. Jos., Ant. 8:58; 15:390), agriculture (cf. James 5:4; Philo, Sacr. 51; Det. 108; Agr. 5, 22; Jos., Ant. 12:194), or some other trade (cf. Jos., J.W. 4:480, 557).[36] In LXX ἐργάτης is quite rare, occurring 4xx in books not included in MT (1 Macc. 3:6; Wis. 17:16; Sir. 19:1; 40:18). In the sole instance where ἐργάτης translates a Hebrew word in the underlying text, that word is פּוֹעֵל (pō‘ēl, “hired worker”; Sir. 19:1), the word we have used in HR. The word פּוֹעֵל does not occur in the sense of hired worker in MT,[37] but it is well attested in the Mishnah and in later rabbinic literature.[38]

In LXX ὀλίγος (oligos, “small,” “few”) is frequently the translation of מְעַט (me‘aṭ, “a little,” “a few”).[39] Our reconstruction of ὀλίγος with מְמֻעָט (memu‘āṭ, “few”) is based on our observations that מְעַט is quite rare in the Mishnah,[40] and that in the Mishnah מְמוּעָט is frequently paired with מְרוּבֶּה, as we see in the following examples:

מִי שֶׁיֶּשׁ לוֹ אֳוכָלִים מְרוּבִּים וּנְכָסִים מְמוּעָטִים מֵבִיא שְׁלָמִים [מִרוּבִין] וְעוֹלוֹת מְמוּעָט<וֹת> אֳוכְלִים מְמוּעָטִים וּנְכָסִים מְרוּבִּים מֵבִיא עוֹלוֹת מְרוּבּוֹת וּשְׁלָמִים מְמוּעָטִים

The one who has many [people] who will eat [with him] but [who owns] few possessions brings many peace offerings and few whole burnt offerings.[41] [The one who has] few [people] who will eat [with him] but many possessions brings many whole burnt offerings and few peace offerings.[42] (m. Hag. 1:5)

הִלְכוֹת שַׁבָּת וַחֲגִיגוֹת וּמְעִילוֹת כַּהֲרָרִים תְּלוּיִם בִּסְעָרָה מִקְרָא מְמוּעָט וַהֲלָכוֹת [מְרוּבּוֹת]‏

The rulings concerning Sabbath, holiday offerings, and sacrilege are like mountains that hang in the air by a hair: the Scriptures say little but the rulings are many. (m. Hag. 1:8)

מִי שֶׁמֵּת [[וְ]]הִנִּיַח בָּנִים וּבָנוֹת בִּזְמָן שֶׁהַנְּכָסִין מְרוּבִּין הַבָּנִים יִרָשׁוּ וְהַבָּנוֹת יִזּוֹנוּ בִּזְמַן שֶׁהַנְּכָסִין מְמוּעָטִין הַבָּנוֹת יִזּוֹנוּ וְהַבָּנִים יִשְׁאֲלוּ עַל הַפְּתָחִים

The one who dies and leaves behind sons and daughters: when his possessions are many the sons inherit and the daughters receive maintenance. When his possessions are few the daughters receive maintenance and the sons beg at the gates. (m. Bab. Bat. 9:1)

וְכָל שֶׁמַּעֲשָׂיו מְרוּבִּין מֵחָ{ו}כְמָתוֹ לְמָה הוּא דוֹמֶה לְאִילָן שֶׁנּוֹפוֹ מְמוּעָט וְשָׁרָשָׁיו מְרוּבִּים אֲפִלּוּ כָל הָרוּחוֹת בָּאוֹת עָלָיו אֵין מְזִיזוֹ<ת> אוֹתוֹ מִמְּקוֹמוֹ

And everyone whose deeds are more plentiful than his wisdom, to what may he be compared? To a tree whose branches are few and whose roots are many: even when all the winds come against it they cannot move it from its place. (m. Avot 3:17[18])

יֵשׁ גֶּפֶן שֶׁיֵּינָהּ מְרוּבֶּה יֵשׁ גֶּפֶן שֶׁיֵּינָהּ מְמוּעַט

There are vines that produce much wine and vines that produce little. (m. Nid. 9:11)[43]

An important exegetical principle laid down by Rabbi Akiva also exemplifies the pairing of מְמוּעָט with מְרוּבֶּה:

א″ר עקיבה כל ששמועו מרובה ושמועו ממועט תפשתה המרובה לא תפשת תפשת את הממועט תפשת

Rabbi Akiva said, “In every instance where the meaning [of a scriptural text—DNB and JNT] could either refer to a large or a small quantity, if you grasp at the larger amount you have grasped nothing, but if you grasp at the smaller amount [i.e., the minimum amount the meaning of the text allows—DNB and JNT] then you have something to hold on to. (y. Yom. 2:4 [13a])[44]

L44 לְפִיכָךְ בַּקְּשׁוּ (HR). In MH לְפִיכָךְ (lefichāch, “therefore”) replaced BH לָכֵן (lāchēn, “therefore”). Whether οὖν (oun, “therefore”) should be retained in GR is not in doubt, since it appears in both the Lukan and the Matthean versions of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying. However, we are not certain whether οὖν represented a word such as לְפִיכָךְ in the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text, or whether οὖν was supplied by the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, retained by the Anthologizer, and subsequently copied by the authors of Luke and Matthew. We have decided to include לְפִיכָךְ in HR mainly because we believe the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua generally employed a literal method of translation.

The verb δεῖσθαι (deisthai, “to ask,” “to pray”) is Lukan.[45] In this instance, however, δεῖσθαι undoubtedly comes from a pre-synoptic source since it occurs in both the Lukan and the Matthean versions of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying. In LXX δεῖσθαι is the standard translation of הִתְחַנֵּן (hitḥanēn, “plead,” “request”).[46] In MH the verb הִתְחַנֵּן in the sense of “plead” is rare, but it is attested, as in the following examples:

והיו מתחננין לאספקלטור זה אמר [לו] אני כהן בן כהן גדול הרגני תחלה ואל אראה במיתת חבירי

And they were pleading with the executioner, and he [Rabbi Ishmael—DNB and JNT] said to him, “I am a priest, the son of a high priest. Kill me first that I may not see the death of my friend.” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 38:3 [ed. Schechter, 114])

וישלך אל המים אחרים אומרים היו ישראל מתחננין ומתגדרים לפני אביהן שבשמים כבן שהוא מתחנן לפני אביו וכתלמיד שהוא מתגדר לפני רבו ואומרים לפניו רבונו של עולם חטאנו לפניך שנתרעמנו על הים

And he cast it into the water [Exod. 15:25]. Others say, Israel was pleading and beseeching before their father in heaven like a son who pleads before his father and like a disciple who humbles himself before his teacher, and they were saying before him, “Master of the universe, we have sinned before you in that we complained about the water.” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa chpt. 1 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:227])

Reconstructing with הִתְחַנֵּן is attractive not only because it was usually translated with δεῖσθαι in LXX, but the forcefulness of הִתְחַנֵּן, meaning “plead” or “beseech,” suits the urgency of the situation in “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying. Grammatical considerations, however, prevent us from adopting הִתְחַנֵּן in HR. Typically הִתְחַנֵּן is used in a descriptive sense without a purpose clause, for example:

וָאֶתְחַנַּן אֶל יי בָּעֵת הַהִוא לֵאמֹר

And I pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying…. (Deut. 3:23)

וְשָׁבוּ וְהִתְחַנְּנוּ אֵלֶיךָ בְּאֶרֶץ שֹׁבֵיהֶם לֵאמֹר

…and they repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying…. (1 Kgs. 8:47; cf. 2 Chr. 6:37)

וַיָּבֹא שַׂר הַחֲמִשִּׁים הַשְּׁלִישִׁי וַיִּכְרַע עַל בִּרְכָּיו לְנֶגֶד אֵלִיָּהוּ וַיִּתְחַנֵּן אֵלָיו וַיְדַבֵּר אֵלָיו אִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים תִּיקַר נָא נַפְשִׁי…בְּעֵינֶיךָ

And the third commander of fifty men came and knelt opposite Elijah and he pleaded with him and said to him, “O man of God, let my life be valuable…in your eyes….” (2 Kgs. 1:13)

We have found only one example where הִתְחַנֵּן is used with a purpose clause, and there it is expressed with an infinitive:

וַתִּתְחַנֶּן לוֹ לְהַעֲבִיר אֶת רָעַת הָמָן הָאֲגָגִי וְאֵת מַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר חָשַׁב עַל הַיְּהוּדִים

…and she pleaded with him to avert the evil of Haman the Agagite and his intentions that he devised against the Jews. (Esth. 8:3)

As we will explain below (see Comment to L46), we believe ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ should be reconstructed as שֶׁיּוֹצִיא rather than with an infinitive. Reconstructing δεῖσθαι with הִתְחַנֵּן is, therefore, unlikely. We have instead opted for בִּקֵּשׁ (biqēsh, “seek,” “request”) for HR.[47] As we will demonstrate below (Comment to L46), there are grammatical parallels to our reconstruction with בִּקֵּשׁ in rabbinic literature. We also note that בִּקֵּשׁ can mean “ask” or it can be used in the more forceful sense of “demand.”

L45 מִבַּעַל הַקָּצִיר (HR). The verb בִּקֵּשׁ usually takes the preposition מִן (min, “from”). What is unusual is the construct phrase בַּעַל הַקָּצִיר (ba‘al haqātzir, “the owner of the harvest”), for which we can find no parallel in MT, Ben Sira, DSS or rabbinic literature. The closest approximations are בַּעַל הַשָּׂדֶה (ba‘al hasādeh, “the owner of the field”), which occurs in two passages in the Mishnah (m. Peah 3:5 [2xx]; m. Bab. Kam. 6:3 [2xx]), and the more common בַּעַל הַבַּיִת (ba‘al habayit, “the owner of the house”), which is the term usually used for the landowner who hires workers (m. Peah 5:7; m. Avot 2:15; cf. the pairing of οἰκοδεσπότης with ἐργάτης in Matt. 20:1). Since Luke and Matthew both have τοῦ κυρίου τοῦ θερισμοῦ (“the lord of the harvest”), this must have been the phrase that appeared in their pre-synoptic source, and since we believe the Greek translator of the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text translated in a literal style, we have reconstructed with בַּעַל הַקָּצִיר, despite its lack of precedent in Hebrew sources.

L46 ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ ἐργάτας (GR). We have preferred Matthew’s more Hebraic word order, ἐκβάλῃ ἐργάτας, over Luke’s ἐργάτας ἐκβάλῃ for GR.[48] The author of Luke was himself responsible for the improved Greek word order, since both the Lukan and Matthean versions of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying were copied directly from Anth. The change might not even have been a conscious decision on the part of Luke.

שֶׁיּוֹצִיא פֹּעֲלִים (HR). In an unpublished essay Lindsey explained:

Because both βάλλειν (ballein) and ἐκβάλλειν (ekballein) in Classical Greek and LXX usage have the intensive sense of “throw” and “cast out,” it has been common to suppose that [in the Gospels] each of these verbs retains the older, more vigorous, suggestion of violence…. In the non-literary papyri, however, it is clear that βάλλειν no longer carries in our period the intensive sense it once had, at least not always.[49] Very often in the Gospels βάλλειν means not “to cast” or “to throw” but simply “to put,” or “to place.” An even greater weakening of meaning can be seen in ἐκβάλλειν in the NT. This verb is used only four times in the NT outside the Gospels and Acts. One of these speaks of the harlot Rahab’s leading out of the spies (James 2:25) and another shows the meaning “omit,” “leave out” (Rev. 11:2). …[In the Gospels] we find the good Samaritan “taking two dinars” out of his pocket (ἐκβαλὼν ἔδωκεν δύο δηνάρια; Luke 10:35), or the disciples commanded to “take out” the beam in their eye (ἔκβαλε…ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ σοῦ τὴν δοκόν; Matt. 7:5) or the command to pray that God will “send out laborers into his harvest” (ἐκβάλῃ ἐργάτας εἰς τὸν θερισμόν; Matt. 9:38; cf. Luke 10:2). [This use of] ἐκβάλλειν exactly corresponds to the Hebrew verb הוֹצִיא.

For over a century scholars have been aware of the weakened sense of ἐκβάλλειν in Koine Greek that Lindsey refers to in this excerpt.[50] Moulton and Milligan supply an excellent example from a first-century papyrus:

ἐκβάλετε εἰς τὰ χώματα [τοῦ Πατεμίτου] Ἄνωι ὑδροφύλακας

Send out irrigation-guards on to the banks of the Upper Patemite district. (Moulton-Milligan, 191)

In the above example ἐκβάλλειν is used for “to send out” in precisely the same way as in “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying. Nevertheless, some commentators persist in detecting an element of compulsion or coercion on the part of the lord of the harvest in Jesus’ saying.[51] The evidence from Greek sources ought to be enough to convince commentators to abandon this discredited interpretation. The hypothesis that Jesus delivered “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying in Hebrew further undermines the erroneous interpretation of ἐκβάλλειν as proof of compulsion. If ἐκβάλλειν is the translation of הוֹצִיא, as Lindsey suggested, it is clear that Jesus simply used the normal expression for sending out laborers into the fields, as a rabbinic parallel cited by Davies-Allison (2:149) shows:

הַמּוֹצִיא פוֹעֲלָיו לַשָּׂדֶה בִּזְמַן שֶׁ<יֵּשׁ> לָהֶם עָלָיו מְזוֹנוֹת אוֹכְלִים פְּטוּרִין

The one who sends out his workers to the field on condition that he must provide them with food: they eat [from the harvest] and are exempt [from tithes]…. (m. Maas. 3:2)

A similar example is found in the Tosefta:

המוציא את פועליו לשדהו אין רשאי להאכילן אלא אם כן עישר

The one who sends out his workers to the field is not entitled to feed them [from the harvest] unless he tithes [the produce]…. (t. Maas. 2:11[10])

Likewise, in a baraita we find:

תנא בן בית שאמרו לא שנכנס ויוצא ברגליו אלא מכניס לו פועלין ומוציא לו פועלין

It was taught [in a baraita]: The “son of the household” that they spoke of is not one who enters and exits on his feet, but one who brings in workers for him and send workers out for him…. (b. Shevu. 48b)

Although in LXX ἐκβάλλειν usually translates the root ג-ר-ש, there are four instances in LXX where ἐκβάλλειν is the translation of הוֹצִיא‎ (2 Chr. 23:14; 29:5, 16; 2 Esd. 10:3).[52] In support of our reconstruction of ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ as שֶׁיּוֹצִיא, we note that ὅπως (hopōs, “so that”) is the translation of אֲשֶׁר (asher, “that,” “which”) 13xx in LXX.[53] In three instances ὅπως + subjunctive (the same pattern as ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ) is the translation of אֲשֶׁר + imperfect:

וְאַשְׁמִעֵם אֶת דְּבָרָי אֲשֶׁר יִלְמְדוּן לְיִרְאָה אֹתִי

καὶ ἀκουσάτωσαν τὰ ῥήματά μου, ὅπως μάθωσιν φοβεῖσθαί με

…and I will cause them to hear my words so that they will learn and fear me…. (Deut. 4:10)

וְשָׁמַרְתָּ לַעֲשׂוֹת אֲשֶׁר יִיטַב לְךָ

καὶ φύλαξαι ποιεῖν, ὅπως εὖ σοι ᾖ

…and be careful to do them so that it will be well for you…. (Deut. 6:3)

וַתִּשְׁאַל לְךָ חָכְמָה וּמַדָּע אֲשֶׁר תַּשְׁפּוֹט אֶת עַמִּי

καὶ ᾔτησας σεαυτῷ σοφίαν καὶ σύνεσιν, ὅπως κρίνῃς τὸν λαόν μου

…but you have asked for yourself wisdom and knowledge so that you may judge my people…. (2 Chr. 1:11)

Finally, in support of our reconstruction, we cite examples from rabbinic literature in which בִּקֵּשׁ is found in combination with -שֶׁ (the MH equivalent of אֲשֶׁר)‎[54] plus an imperfect verb in the sense of “request of X that he/she do Y”:

יְבָמָה שֶׁאָמְרָה בְתוֹךְ שְׁלוֹשִׁים יוֹם לֹא נִבְעַלְתִּי כּוֹפִין אוֹתוֹ שֶׁיַּחֲלוֹץ לָהּ אַחַר שְׁלוֹשִׁים יוֹם מְבַקְּשִׁים מִמֶּנּוּ שֶׁיַּחֲלוֹץ לָּהּ

If during thirty days a widow of one’s brother who died childless said, “[My brother-in-law] has not married me [according to the law of levirate marriage],” they compel him to perform the rite of halitzah for her. If it is after thirty days, they request of him that he will perform the rite of halitzah for her. (m. Yev. 13:12)

הַנּוֹדֶרֶת הֲנָיָיה מִיבָמָהּ בְּחַיֵּי בַעָלָהּ כּוֹפִין אוֹתוֹ שֶׁיַּחֲלוֹץ לָהּ אַחַר מִיתַת בַּעְלָהּ מְבַקְּשִׁים מִמֶּנּוּ שֶׁיַּחֲלוֹץ לָהּ אִם נִיתְכַּוְּנָה לְכֵן אֲפִילּוּ בְחַיֵּי בַעְלָהּ מְבַקְּשִׁים מִמֶּנּוּ שֶׁיַּחֲלוֹץ לָהּ

[In the case of] a woman who vows during her husband’s lifetime not to derive benefit from her brother-in-law, they compel [the brother-in-law] to perform the rite of halitzah for her. But if she made the vow after her husband’s death, they request of him that he perform the rite of halitzah for her. If this was the intention of her vow, then even if it was made during her husband’s lifetime, they can only request of him that he perform the rite of halitzah for her. (m. Yev. 13:13)

אָמַ′ ר′ יְהוֹשֻׁעַ יְבַקֵּשׁ מֵאֶחָד מִן הַשּׁוּק שֶׁיִּדּוֹר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ

Rabbi Yehoshua said, “Let him request of someone from the street that he make a vow in his place….” (m. Naz. 8:1)

A shepherd, his sheep and a wolf as depicted in The Fables of Æsop the Celebrated Ancient Philosopher (Caldwell and Son, 1889), 5.
A shepherd, his sheep and a wolf as depicted in The Fables of Æsop the Celebrated Ancient Philosopher (Paisley: Caldwell and Son, 1839), 5.

“A Flock Among Wolves”

L48-50 The enmity between sheep and wolves, with the sheep as the inevitable victims, is a stock image in Jewish literature, as indeed in ancient literature generally. One of Aesop’s fables included in the collection of Babrius (late first to second cent. C.E.) tells of a wolf who tried to lure a sheep from its fold. The wolf argues that, as it happened to be a sacred holiday on which sheep were being sacrificed, the sheep had better not be caught in its pen. In the fable the sheep wisely retorts that it would rather become an offering to a god than a meal for a hungry wolf.[55] The fable is a poignant reminder that sheep were not only the victims of wolves, but also of the sacrificial cult, which was true not only in the broader Greco-Roman culture, but also within Second Temple Judaism. Their acceptability as offerings in the Temple made sheep a particularly apt image for the Jewish people, who considered themselves to be consecrated to God.[56] Below are a number of examples of sheep-wolf imagery from across different genres of ancient Jewish literature.

מה יחובר זאב אל כבש כך רשע לצדיק

τί κοινωνήσει λύκος ἀμνῷ; οὕτως ἁμαρτωλὸς πρὸς εὐσεβῆ.

What fellowship can a wolf have with a lamb? So it is with the wicked toward the righteous. (Sir. 13:17)

Writing in the relatively tranquil period before the persecutions under Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Ben Sira used wolf-lamb imagery to illustrate the incompatibility of sinners associating with the upright. The wolves, of course, represent the wicked.

‏[…ואם] יעשוׄ [הזאבי]ם֯ שלםׄ ע֯ם֯ הטלים ל֯[בלתי אוכלם והצק להם ואם ]י֯היהיׄ לבם [עליהם] לׄ[היטיב] [עליה]ם֯ אז יהיה בלביׄ[ עליכה שלום…]‏

[And if the wolve]s make peace with the lambs, [not] to [eat and oppress them, and if] their heart is [intent to do good towards th]em, then there will be in my heart [peace towards you]. (4QpapJubh [4Q223-224] 2 IV, 8-10 = Jub. 37:21; DSS Study Edition, adapted)

The book of Jubilees was probably composed prior to the Hasmonean revolt.[57] The above quotation is placed in the mouth of Esau, who makes war on Jacob after the death of their father Isaac. Jubilees 37:9-10 depicts Esau as the leader of Israel’s traditional enemies (Moab, Ammon, Philistia, Edom), as well as more contemporary enemies, the Kittim, who are probably to be identified with the Greeks (cf. 1 Macc. 1:1). For the author of Jubilees, the enmity between Esau and Jacob, likened to the enmity between wolves and lambs, stands for the natural enmity between the Gentiles and Israel.

Now on the second night, Phaltiel, a chief of the people, came to me [i.e., Ezra—DNB and JNT] and said, “Where have you been? And why is your face sad? Or do you not know that Israel has been entrusted to you in the land of their exile? Rise therefore and eat some bread, so that you may not forsake us, like a shepherd who leaves his flock in the power of cruel wolves.” (4 Ezra 5:16-18)

4 Ezra is a pseudepigraphical book written in response to the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. In the above quotation, the condition of exile is compared to that of a flock at the mercy of wolves. The wolves stand for the Gentiles who prey upon defenseless Israel.

אנדריאנוס קיסר אמר לו לר′ יהושע גדולה היא הכבשה שעומדת בין שבעים זאבים, אמר לו גדול הוא הרועה שמצילה ושוברן לפניהם

The emperor Hadrian said to Rabbi Yehoshua [ben Hananiah], “Great is the lamb that abides among seventy wolves.” Rabbi Yehoshua replied, “Great is the shepherd who delivers it and scatters them before them.” (Esth. Rab. 10:11; cf. Tanhuma, Toledot 5)

The purported exchange between the Roman emperor and the Jewish sage is set in the period prior to the Bar Kochva revolt.[58] In the rabbinic dialogue the lamb stands for Israel and the seventy wolves refer to the seventy nations of the Gentiles.

A wolf leaps on an unsuspecting sheep in this first-century C.E. fresco from the temple of Isis in Pompeii. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A wolf leaps on an unsuspecting sheep in this first-century C.E. fresco from the temple of Isis in Pompeii. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The nearly unanimous identification of the wolves with Gentiles in ancient Jewish sources that use wolf-sheep imagery challenges the assumption, common in New Testament studies, that Jesus applied the wolf imagery to fellow Jews who stood outside, or who perhaps opposed, his movement. The author of Matthew, who made “A Flock Among Wolves” the introduction to the prediction that “they will deliver you up to the councils, and flog you in their synagogues” (Matt. 10:17), certainly intended to create this impression. But the juxtaposition of “A Flock Among Wolves” and the prediction of persecution is artificial,[59] the product of Matthew’s editorial activity, and symptomatic of Matthew’s anti-Jewish bias.[60] In Luke, “A Flock Among Wolves” does not introduce a prediction of Jewish persecution, but heads a set of instructions regarding how the apostles were to conduct themselves on their mission, including a list of items the apostles were forbidden to bring with them. There is no suggestion in Luke 10 that the seventy-two were expected to be victims of persecution. Neither, according to Luke, did the seventy-two report having experienced persecution upon their return. In Luke the point of comparison between the apostles and lambs is their defenselessness: just as sheep have no natural defenses against wolves, the apostles were forbidden to bring protection or provision for their mission.[61] If we had only Luke’s version of “A Flock Among Wolves,” there would be little reason to suppose that Jesus compared his fellow Jews to wolves.

L48 ὑπάγετε (Luke 10:3). The imperative of ὑπάγειν (hūpagein, “to go”) is found 17xx in Matthew,[62] 12xx in Mark,[63] 2xx in Luke,[64] but never in Acts. In LXX the verb ὑπάγειν occurs 7xx,[65] but never in the imperative. Only one instance of ὑπάγειν in LXX has an underlying Hebrew verb, which is הוֹלִיךְ‎ (Exod. 14:21).

We have retained ὑπάγετε in GR first because it is difficult to explain why Luke would have added this command to his source when he uses this imperative so rarely, and second because such a command makes sense where Luke placed it at the beginning of the Sending discourse. In Luke ὑπάγετε is the first in a series of imperatives that appear in the context of Jesus’ instructions to the seventy-two. Matthew, who moved “A Flock Among Wolves” to a much later position in the Sending discourse, would have dropped the command to go because it does not make sense in its new position.

L49 ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω ὑμᾶς (Matt. 10:16). Matthew and Luke are identical in L49 with the exception of Luke’s omission of the first person pronoun ἐγώ (egō, “I”). Harnack commented that “ἐγώ is often struck out by St. Luke.”[66] Our research somewhat bears out Harnack’s comment. We identified nine instances where Luke does not have ἐγώ where Matthew’s parallel does. In five of those instances, however, the parallel sentences are formulated so differently in Matthew and Luke (e.g., what Matthew reports in direct discourse, Luke relates in the third person) that we cannot simply say Luke dropped ἐγώ from his source.[67] That leaves four examples where Matthew and Luke have nearly identical wording except for the absence of ἐγώ in Luke’s version. All four examples occur in DT pericopae: Matt. 5:44 opposite Luke 6:27; Matt. 10:16 opposite Luke 10:3; Matt. 11:10 opposite Luke 7:27; and Matt. 23:34 opposite Luke 11:49. We have retained ἐγώ in GR because its omission in Luke appears to be a stylistic improvement over Matthew’s more Hebraic inclusion of ἐγώ.[68]

הֲרֵי אֲנִי שׁוֹלֵחַ אֶתְכֶם (HR). In LXX ἰδού (idou, “behold”) usually translates הִנֵּה (hinēh, “behold”). In MH, however, הֲרֵי (ha, “behold”) replaced הִנֵּה.‎[69] In the Mishnah הֲרֵי + pronominal suffix occurs 48xx.[70] However, הֲרֵי אֲנִי (harē ’ani, “behold I”) also occurs frequently in the Mishnah, often followed by a participle as in our reconstruction.[71] Since the Greek text of Matt. 10:16 // Luke 10:3 places emphasis on the first person pronoun ἐγώ, we have preferred for HR.

In LXX the verb ἀποστέλλειν (apostellein, “to send”) occurs over 500xx in books also included in MT. In the vast majority of instances, ἀποστέλλειν translates the root ‎‎שׁ-ל-ח.‎[72]

L50 ὡς ἄρνας (Luke 10:3). According to Matthew, Jesus described the apostles as “sheep among wolves,” whereas Luke wrote “like lambs among wolves.” It is difficult to decide which version is more original. In most of the examples of the sheep-wolf imagery from Jewish sources cited above (see Comment to L48-50), we find a synonym for lamb (כֶּבֶשׂ, טָלֶה). We also find examples of wolf and lamb in MT.[73] An early non-canonical version of “A Flock Among Wolves” (ca. 150 C.E.) uses a different word for “lamb” (ἀρνίον) than does Luke (ἀρήν):

λέγει γὰρ ὁ κύριος· Ἔσεσθε ὡς ἀρνία ἐν μέσῳ λύκων.

For the Lord says, “You will be as lambs in the midst of wolves.” (2 Clem. 5:2)

Nevertheless, we have adopted Matthew’s reading, ὡς πρόβατα (hōs probata, “like sheep”), for GR. In DT pericopae we often find that the author of Matthew, though he may rearrange his material or omit one rib of a parallelism, copied the actual wording of his source more accurately than Luke. In our Comment to L49 above, we noted that ἐγώ in Matt. 10:16a is probably closer to Anth. than Luke’s omission of ἐγώ. Despite having moved the saying to a later position in the Sending discourse and despite splicing the “A Flock Among Wolves” saying together with the “Serpents and Doves” saying, the author of Matthew adhered more strictly to Anthology’s wording than Luke, who introduced minor stylistic improvements to the wording of his source.[74] Further support for Matthew’s ὡς πρόβατα will be discussed below.

εἰς μέσον (GR). Although in critical editions of the Greek text of NT both Matthew and Luke agree to write ἐν μέσῳ (en mesō, “in the middle,” “among”), in the text of Vaticanus, which serves as the basis for our reconstruction, Matt. 10:16a reads εἰς μέσον.[75] We have accepted εἰς μέσον for GR because it is closer to the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text than ἐν μέσῳ (see below, under לְתוֹךְ).

כַּצֹּאן (HR). Luke’s phrase, ὡς ἄρνας (hōs arnas, “like lambs”), occurs only once in LXX (Jer. 28:40), where it is the translation of כְּכָרִים (kechārim, “like young rams”; Jer. 51:40),[76] whereas Matthew’s phrase, ὡς πρόβατα (hōs probata, “like sheep” [plur.]), and ὡς πρόβατον (hōs probaton, “like a sheep” [sing.]) are found 19xx in LXX, all of which occur in books also included in MT, except for one instance in Judith 11:19, a book many scholars believe was originally composed in Hebrew.[77] In fifteen of the remaining instances ὡς πρόβατα/πρόβατον translates כַּצֹּאן (katzo’n, lit. “like the flock,” but always indefinite in meaning despite the definite form) or כְּצֹאן (ketzo’n, “like a flock”).[78] In Zech. 10:2 ὡς πρόβατα translates כְמוֹ צֹאן (chemō tzo’n, “like a flock”), which leaves only two instances where ὡς πρόβατον (sing.) translates כַּשֶּׂה (kaseh, “like the sheep”; Isa. 53:7) or כְּשֶׂה (keseh, “like a sheep”; Ps. 118[119]:176).[79] Thus, ὡς πρόβατα is the usual and expected translation of כַּצֹּאן.

צֹאן is a collective noun meaning “a flock of small cattle.”[80] “Sheep” can be a misleading translation of צֹאן, since both sheep and goats were tended together in a single flock.[81] It is difficult to decide whether to use כַּצֹּאן or כְּצֹאן for HR since, despite the difference in form, there is no discernible difference in meaning. In Greek, ὡς πρόβατα (Matt.) and ὡς ἄρνας (Luke) are indefinite, which might seem to favor reconstructing with כְּצֹאן, but as we saw above in LXX ὡς πρόβατα is the translation of both כְּצֹאן and כַּצֹּאן.‎[82] Tipping the balance ever so slightly in favor of כַּצֹּאן are two points: 1) In LXX ὡς πρόβατα translates כַּצֹּאן slightly more often (8xx) than כְּצֹאן‎ (6xx); and 2) the single instance where “like a flock” is used with the verb שָׁלַח we find the definite form כַצֹּאן (Job 21:11).

Other reconstructions with nouns such as כְּבָשִׂים‎ (kevāsim, “lambs”), טְלָאִים (elā’im, “lambkins”) or כָּרִים (kārim, “young rams”) are also possible. These alternative reconstructions reflect Luke’s version of Jesus’ saying. We do find כְּכֶבֶשׂ (kecheves, “like a lamb”) twice in MT, but both times it is in the singular (Jer. 11:19; Hos. 4:16). There are no examples of טָלֶה‎ + -כְּ, and although there is one instance of כְּכָרִים (kechārim, “like young rams”; Jer. 51:40), it appears that the noun כַּר became quite rare in MH.[83] On balance, therefore, כַּצֹּאן seems to be the best option for HR.

לְתוֹךְ (HR). In LXX ἐν μέσῳ (en mesō, “in the middle”), the reading found in Luke 10:3 and in most MSS of Matt. 10:16a, is very common and usually represents בְּתוֹךְ (betōch, “in the middle,” “among”) in the underlying Hebrew text,[84] while εἰς μέσον, which appears in Vaticanus’ version of Matt. 10:16a, occurs only 20xx in books corresponding to MT and translates בְּתוֹךְ‎ 7xx[85] and אֶל תּוֹךְ (’el tōch, “into the middle”) 8xx.[86]

Of the 22 instances of אֶל תּוֹךְ in MT, all but two are accompanied by verbs that imply movement into a space, such as “enter,” “bring,” “run,” “fall,” “gather,” or “fling.”[87] Likewise, in the Mishnah לְתוֹךְ—the MH equivalent of אֶל תּוֹךְ‎[88] —usually involves movement into a space: “pour into” (b. Ber. 3:5; m. Maas. Sh. 3:12), “enter into” (m. Kil. 3:3), “fall into” (m. Ter. 4:12), “go down into” (m. Bik. 3:1), etc. While בְּתוֹךְ can be used with verbs implying movement, it is frequently employed in descriptions of static situations: “let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters” (Gen. 1:6); “the tree that is in the garden” (Gen. 3:3); “he dwelt among the sons of Het” (Gen. 23:10); “those who are in my house” (m. Ber. 9:3); “a tree that is in his field” (m. Peah 3:5); “ant hills among the standing grain” (m. Peah 4:11). Both לְתוֹךְ and בְּתוֹךְ are good options for HR.[89] We have preferred לְתוֹךְ because “I am sending you” implies movement into a space, a particularly dangerous space, as it happens, occupied by wolves.

זְאֵבִים (HR). In the ancient world wolves were perceived as dangerous and threatening animals,[90] and were therefore feared and hated.[91] Fear of wolves was not altogether unjustified, not only because of the damage they could inflict upon valuable livestock,[92] but also because attacks on humans did occasionally take place. The Mishnah, for instance, reports that on one occasion a fast was held because two children had been eaten by wolves (m. Taan. 3:6). Such attacks on human beings were probably rare, but real enough in the minds of the Jewish sages to be mentioned not only in parables,[93] but also in halachic discussions.[94]

Photograph taken of a wolf in southern Israel scavenging at night. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photograph taken of a wolf in southern Israel scavenging at night. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Human antagonism toward wolves, combined with loss of habitat, probably account for the wolf’s population decline in Israel. In 1884 Tristram reported that “The Wolf is still common in Palestine…. It is found in every part of the country,”[95] but fifty years later Bodenheimer reported that “Its number is greatly diminished, since Tristram’s time.”[96] In recent decades, however, wolf populations have begun to recover.[97]

As we noted above, in ancient Jewish sources wolves often represent people with negative traits, including sinners, and especially Gentiles. Usually in Jewish sources wolf imagery was applied to those who threatened the community from the outside. In Christian sources, on the other hand, we frequently find wolf imagery applied to community members who posed a threat from within (cf., e.g., Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29; Did. 16:3; Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 1:1).[98]

Our reconstruction of λύκος (lūkos, “wolf”) with זְאֵב (ze’ēv, “wolf”) is reasonably secure. Every instance of זְאֵב in MT that is not the name of an individual is translated in LXX as λύκος.[99]

Redaction Analysis

The Matthean and Lukan versions of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings are nearly identical, so similar that it is reasonable to assume that the authors of Matthew and Luke copied these sayings from a shared written source (Anthology). Aside from the introductions to these sayings (L40-41), which were composed by the authors of Matthew and Luke, the differences are minor: the omission of single words (L48, L49), the transposition of two words (L46), or the use of synonyms (L50). In most instances where Matthew and Luke disagree we found that Matthew preserves the more Hebraic version. The only exception to this rule is in L48 where Matthew omitted the imperative ὑπάγετε. The author of Matthew probably omitted this command because he placed “A Flock Among Wolves” later in the Sending discourse. Luke appears to have preserved the original position of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings. The changes Luke made to his source are probably best accounted for as stylistic improvements for the sake of Greek readers.

The differences we observe in the Lukan and Matthean versions of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings are characteristic of the editorial habits of their respective authors. The author of Luke was more careful to preserve the original context and intention of the sayings, but he had no qualms about giving the Greek style a light polish. The author of Matthew, on the other hand, preserved the wording of his source, but by changing the context of the sayings he also introduced subtle changes to their meanings. Through Matthew’s literary skill, the apostles’ mission became the answer to the disciples’ prayer to the lord of the harvest, and the wolves became the very people—the Jews—to whom the mission was directed.

Results of This Research

1. What is the harvest to which Jesus refers? As in Hippocrates’ aphorism and Rabbi Tarfon’s saying, where the abundant work symbolizes the professional responsibilities of the physician or the rabbinic sage, the plentiful harvest in Jesus’ saying is a symbol or metaphor for the apostles’ mission to heal diseases, exorcise spirits, and proclaim Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of Heaven to the people of Israel. Each of these actions on the part of the apostles demonstrated that the messianic redemption of Israel had begun to take place. The mission itself, carried out as it was by twelve emissaries, symbolized the restoration of Israel’s twelve tribes. Healing of diseases represented the lifting of the curse of exile, while exorcism of impure spirits was a sign of deliverance from the spiritual powers that resisted God’s reign. The proclamation that the Kingdom of Heaven had arrived was an unmistakable declaration that in and through Jesus and his band of full-time disciples God was unleashing his saving power that would redeem Israel, humankind, and the whole of creation.

2. Who is the lord of the harvest? In homilies and theological writings, Jesus himself is sometimes portrayed as the lord of the harvest, but this is not the original intention of “The Harvest is Plentiful” saying. As in Rabbi Tarfon’s saying, where God is depicted as an urgent landowner, in Jesus’ saying the lord of the harvest represents God. Just as field hands would petition their employer to hire more workers if the work was too much for them, so Jesus urged the apostles to pray for more people who could bear to God’s people the good news of Israel’s redemption.

3. In what way were the apostles comparable to sheep? In Matthew, “A Flock Among Wolves” introduces predictions of persecution. Not so in Luke, where there is not even a hint that Jesus expected the apostles to experience persecution in the course of their mission. In Luke 10:3, “A Flock Among Wolves” is introduced by the command “Go!” and it is followed by instructions about how they are to go, including prohibitions against bringing the usual gear travelers carried with them on the road. The original point of comparison between the apostles and sheep appears to be their lack of natural defenses. Just as sheep had to depend on a shepherd for provision and protection, so the disciples would have to depend on God.

4. Who was being compared to wolves? And why? It is not certain that the wolves in Jesus’ saying stand for anyone in particular. Perhaps, as Vermes believed, the saying involved a certain degree of hyperbole.[100] It is also possible that, as in most ancient Jewish sources, the wolves in Jesus’ saying represent Gentiles who would be hostile to the message of Israel’s redemption. It is unlikely that the Gentile inhabitants in the land of Israel would welcome news of Israel’s redemption, and the local Roman authorities would certainly be alarmed to hear that God was in the process of restoring the twelve tribes and fulfilling his promises to the patriarchs, which included the restoration of the Davidic throne and the judgment of Israel’s enemies.[101] Even though Jesus was himself peaceful, his message that God’s reign was breaking into the world and bringing about the redemption of Israel would have sounded to Roman officials too much like the nationalist ideology that had sparked so many Jewish uprisings against the empire and which Rome, therefore, mercilessly suppressed.

Whether or not Jesus had a specific target for his wolf imagery, it is most unlikely that Jesus aimed it at fellow Jews, the very people whom he desired to reach with the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven.


“The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings probably formed the first part of Jesus’ Sending discourse, as they do in Luke 10. Jesus impressed upon the apostles the enormity of their task and alluded to the conditions under which they would carry out their healing and teaching mission to Israel. The urgency of the situation left no opportunity for the apostles to worry about their adequacy for the task. The harvest was huge and needed to be brought in, but without a surplus of workers, the apostles had to rely on such strength and heart and wits as they had been given.[102] Whether faced with an overwhelming task or a threatening environment, Jesus taught the apostles to trust God to meet their needs.

Harvest is Plentiful
Illustration by Marjorie Cooper.



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  • [1] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [2] This translation is a dynamic rendition of our reconstruction of the conjectured Hebrew source that stands behind the Greek of the Synoptic Gospels. It is not a translation of the Greek text of a canonical source.
  • [3] On the compilation of Matthew’s Sending the Twelve discourse, see Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, under the subheading, “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [4] See Knox, 2:51.
  • [5] Cf. m. Avot 2:16: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you authorized to desist.”
  • [6] So Marshall, 416; Nolland, Luke, 550.
  • [7] Cf. Kilpatrick, 98; Knox, 2:51.
  • [8] See Nolland, Luke, 551; Luz, 2:84-85; Vermes, 110.
  • [9] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Double Tradition”; idem, “Measuring the Disparity Between Matthew, Mark and Luke,” under the subheading “Collecting Further Evidence.”
  • [10] The version of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying in the Gospel of Thomas is as follows:

    Jesus said: The harvest is indeed great, but the labourers are few; but beg the Lord to send labourers into the harvest. (Gos. Thom. §73 [ed. Guillaumont, 41])

  • [11] On the possible relationship of the Gospel of John to the synoptic tradition, see David Flusser, “The Gospel of John’s Jewish-Christian Source.”
  • [12] See Randall Buth, “Edayin/Tote—Anatomy of a Semitism in Jewish Greek,” Maarav 5-6 (1990): 33-48; idem, “Matthew’s Aramaic Glue.”
  • [13] On the use of the historical present in the Synoptic Gospels, see the charts in David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style.”
  • [14] The author of Matthew gives the inaccurate impression that Jesus had only twelve disciples, all of whom he made apostles. See Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L7; Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L16.
  • [15] In LXX the phrase ἔλεγεν/ἔλεγον δέ is rare. The four instances are in books composed in Greek (2 Macc. 15:22; 4 Macc. 17:1; 18:6, 12).
  • [16] In NT ἔλεγεν/ἔλεγον δέ occurs 13xx: 1x in Matthew (Matt. 26:5); 1x in Mark (Mark 7:20); 9xx in Luke (Luke 5:36; 9:23; 10:2; 12:54; 13:6; 14:7, 12; 16:1; 18:1); and 2xx in John (John 6:71; 10:20).
  • [17] The combination εἶπεν/εἶπαν δέ + πρός occurs in Gen. 14:21, 22; 15:7; 16:2, 5, 6; 17:18; 18:9; 19:7, 12, 18, 31; 22:7; 24:5, 6; 26:16; 27:11, 38, 46; 29:21; 31:3; 34:4, 11; 35:1; 37:19, 26; 43:8; 45:3, 4, 17; 46:31; Exod. 2:9; 3:7; 4:10, 11, 19, 21, 27; 6:10, 13; 7:14, 19, 26; 8:1, 5, 12, 16; 9:1, 8, 13, 22; 10:1, 12, 21; 11:1, 9; 12:1, 43; 13:1, 3; 14:13, 15, 26; 16:4, 9, 15, 19, 23, 28; 17:14; 19:9, 10; 20:22; Ruth 3:5; 2 Kgdms. 18:12; Esth. 4:10; 6:7; 9:12; Job 2:3; Bel 9.
  • [18] Examples of καὶ εἶπεν/εἶπαν + πρός as the translation of -וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל/לְ in LXX are found in Gen. 4:8, 9, 13; 6:13; 17:9; 18:13; 19:34; 22:1; 37:13; 42:21; 46:30; 47:5; 48:11; Exod. 3:11, 13, 14; 4:4; 6:1, 2; 7:1, 8; 10:10; 12:21; 14:11; 16:3, 33; 17:5; 19:21, 23; 24:12; 30:34; 32:22, 33; 33:12, 17; 34:1, 27; 35:1, 4; Lev. 8:31; 9:2; 10:3, 6; 16:2; 21:1; Num. 3:40; 7:4, 11; 9:8; 10:30; 11:11, 16, 23; 12:4, 11, 14; 13:17; 14:11, 13; 15:37; 16:8, 15, 16; 17:11, 25; 18:1; 20:10, 12, 18, 23; 21:8, 34; 22:8, 10, 12, 37, 38; 23:3, 4, 11, 13, 15, 25, 27, 29; 24:10, 12; 27:12; 32:20, 29; Deut. 1:42; 2:2, 9, 31; 3:2, 26; 5:1, 28; 9:12, 13; 10:11; 18:17; 29:1; 31:2, 14, 16; 32:46; 34:4; Josh. 2:9; 3:7; 6:2; 7:10; 8:1, 18; 9:8; 10:8, 25; 11:6; 13:1; 14:6; 23:2; 24:2, 19, 21, 22, 24, 27; etc.
  • [19] See Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L51.
  • [20] In LXX καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς translates וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם/אֲלֵהֶם in Exod. 10:10; 12:21; 35:1; Num. 9:8; 13:17; 22:8; 32:20, 29; Deut. 5:1; 29:1; 31:2; 32:46; Josh. 9:8; 10:25; 23:2; Judg. 3:28; 7:17; 8:2, 23, 24; 12:2; 18:4, 18; 19:23; 1 Kgdms. 11:2; 2 Kgdms. 2:5; 18:4; 21:2; 3 Kgdms. 12:5; 4 Kgdms. 1:2, 5; 6:11, 19; 10:18; 11:15; 12:8; 18:19, 27; 2 Esd. 10:10; Jonah 1:9; Jer. 21:3; Ezek. 9:7.
  • [21] In Num. 20:10 and 2 Esd. 4:3, καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς translates וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם, exactly as in HR. The combination καὶ εἶπεν πρός as the translation of -וַיֹּאמֶר לְ is mostly found in the later books of the Jewish Scriptures. See Num. 20:10; 23:3; 1 Chr. 21:27; 2 Chr. 1:2, 8, 11; 2 Esd. 4:3; Esth. 5:14; 8:7.
  • [22] See David N. Bivin, “Jesus’ ‘Harvest’ Saying.”
  • [23] Rabbi Tarfon was born prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. Cf. y. Yom. 3:7; Eccl. Rab. 3:11 §3.
  • [24] H. S. Jones, trans., Hippocrates IV (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1959), 99. See דוד פלוסר, ”משלי ישו והמשלים בספרות חזל,“ יהדות ומקורות הנצרות; מחקרים ומַסוֹת (תל אביב: ספרית פועלים, תשל″ט‎),‎ 195-193.
  • [25] See Young, JHJP, 36.
  • [26] Chana Safrai examines the parallel roles that the concepts of Torah study and the Kingdom of Heaven play in the Gospels and in rabbinic literature in “The Kingdom of Heaven and the Study of Torah” (JS1, 169-189).
  • [27] Since the mission was a mission of twelve apostles who heralded the restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel, and since Isaiah used harvest imagery to describe the ingathering of the exiles (Isa. 27:12-13), it is possible that Jesus intended “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying to allude to the miraculous redemption of the lost tribes.
  • [28] In David Flusser, “‘Have You Ever Seen a Lion Toiling as a Porter?’” (Flusser, JSTP2, 331-342), Flusser observed another rabbinic parallel to a different saying of Jesus that showed more Hellenistic influence than the saying recorded in the Gospels.
  • [29] So Nolland, Luke, 551; Edwards, Luke, 305.
  • [30] See Notley-Safrai, 325.
  • [31] In “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying, the landlord represents God. It is audacious to blame God for the lack of laborers, but that is what Jesus asks of his apostles! On the affinity between Jesus and the first-century pietists known as the Hasidim, see Shmuel Safrai, “Jesus and the Hasidim.”
  • [32] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:649.
  • [33] See Dos Santos, 185. LXX translated קָצִיר with θερισμός in Gen. 8:22; 30:14; Exod. 23:16; 34:22; Lev. 19:9 (2xx); 23:10 (2xx), 22 (2xx); Josh. 3:15; Judg. 15:1; Ruth 1:22; 2:23 (2xx); 1 Kgdms. 6:13; 12:17; 2 Kgdms. 21:9 (2xx), 10; Job 14:9; 18:16; 29:19; Isa. 18:5; Jer. 5:17, 24; 27[50]:16.
  • [34] See David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction,’” under the subheading “Guiding Principles.”
  • [35] Hatch and Redpath, for instance, do not list any Hebrew equivalents for μέν. See Hatch-Redpath, 2:910.
  • [36] See “ἐργάτης,” LSJ, 682.
  • [37] In MT פֹּעֵל occurs in the generic sense of “doer,” often in the construct phrase פֹּעֲלֵי אָוֶן (po‘alē ’āven, “doers of iniquity”). Cf. Isa. 31:2; Hos. 6:8; Ps. 6:9; 14:4; 28:3; 36:13; 53:5; etc.
  • [38] For examples of פּוֹעֵל in the sense of “hired worker,” cf. m. Peah 5:7; m. Shev. 8:4; m. Maas. 2:7; 3:3; 5:5; m. Shab. 23:3; m. Bab. Metz. 2:9; 5:4; 7:1, 7; m. Avod. Zar. 5:1; m. Avot 2:15; m. Bech. 4:6.
  • [39] In LXX ὀλίγος translates מְעַט in Lev. 25:52; Num. 13:18; 26:56; Deut. 28:38; Josh. 7:3; 1 Kgdms. 14:6; 3 Kgdms. 17:10, 12; 4 Kgdms. 10:18; 2 Chr. 29:34; 2 Esd. 12:12; 17:4; Ps. 36[37]:10, 16; 108[109]:8; Prov. 5:14; 6:10 (3xx); 24:33 (3xx); Eccl. 5:1, 11; 9:14; 10:1; Job 10:20; 15:11; Sir. 6:19; 32:8; 40:6; 42:4; 43:32; 51:16; Hag. 1:6, 9; Zech. 1:15; Isa. 10:7; Jer. 49[42]:2; Ezek. 5:3.
  • [40] There are three instances of מְעַט in the Mishnah: m. Avot 1:15; 4:10; m. Mik. 2:7.
  • [41] The reason for this ruling is that peace offerings were eaten by the ones bringing the offering, whereas whole burnt offerings were completely consumed on the altar. By bringing more peace offerings than whole burnt offerings the person of limited means will have more to share with his companions.
  • [42] The person of greater means can afford to bring a larger proportion of offerings that are completely consumed on the altar. He has no need for a large number of peace offerings, because there are only a few people who are eating with him.
  • [43] Further examples of מְמוּעָט paired with מְרוּבֶּה appear in m. Dem. 5:5; m. Bab. Bat. 9:2, 5; m. Arach. 6:4; m. Kin. 1:2.
  • [44] For a discussion of this exegetical principle in rabbinic literature, see Guggenheimer, 6 n. 5.
  • [45] Of the 22 instances of δεῖσθαι in NT, 8 occur in Luke and 7 occur in Acts, compared to a single instance in Matthew and zero instances of δεῖσθαι in Mark.
  • [46] In LXX δεῖσθαι translates הִתְחַנֵּן in Deut. 3:23; 3 Kgdms. 8:33, 47, 59; 9:3; 4 Kgdms. 1:13; 2 Chr. 6:24, 37; Esth. 8:3 (Sinaiticus); Ps. 29[30]:9; 141[142]:2; Job 8:5; 9:15; 19:16; Hos. 12:5.
  • [47] An example of the imperative of בִּקֵּשׁ is found in m. Pes. 9:9.
  • [48] Cf. Marshall, 416.
  • [49] See Moulton-Milligan, 102.
  • [50] See Allen, 99.
  • [51] According to Nolland (Luke, 551), “The present low number of workers and the verb here for ‘send out’ (ἐκβάλῃ), which normally carries overtones of force, may suggest a reluctance on the part of the potential harvesters.” Likewise, Edwards (Luke, 305) writes, “ekballein is stronger than ‘send’…and is slightly unusual, implying that workers will not volunteer for this mission but must be dispatched for it.”
  • [52] See the discussion in Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L21.
  • [53] In LXX ὅπως is the translation of אֲשֶׁר in Deut. 4:10; 6:3; 3 Kgdms. 22:16; 2 Chr. 1:11; 2 Esd. 18:14, 15; Eccl. 3:11; 7:21, 22; 8:12; Mic. 5:6; Ezek. 12:12; Dan. 1:8.
  • [54] See Segal, 42-43.
  • [55] Babrius, Aesopic Fables of Babrius in Iambic Verse, fable 132.
  • [56] The fact that sheep were offered as sacrifices made them especially suited as symbols of those who died for their faithfulness to Torah. The New Testament, which is rife with the imagery of martyr as sacrificial lamb, not only with reference to Jesus (John 1:29; Acts 8:32-35; 1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Peter 1:19; Rev. 5:12), but also to early believers (Rom. 8:36), reflects this Jewish tradition.
  • [57] On the date of Jubilees’ composition, see George W. E. Nickelsburg, “The Bible Rewritten and Expanded,” in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period: Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Qumran Sectarian Writings, Philo, Josephus (CRINT II.2; ed. Michael E. Stone; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 89-156, esp. 101-103.
  • [58] On exchanges between the Jewish sages and Roman emperors in rabbinic literature, see Moshe David Herr, “The Historical Significance of the Dialogues Between Jewish Sages and Roman Dignitaries,” Scripta Hierosolymitana 22 (1971): 123-150.
  • [59] Cf. Bundy, 159.
  • [60] On the anti-Jewish tendency of Matthew’s Gospel, see David Flusser, “Two Anti-Jewish Montages in Matthew” (Flusser, JOC, 552-560); idem, “Matthew’s ‘Verus Israel’” (Flusser, JOC, 561-574); idem, “Anti-Jewish Sentiment in the Gospel of Matthew” (Flusser, JSTP2, 351-353); R. Steven Notley, “Anti-Jewish Tendencies in the Synoptic Gospels”; Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, under the subheading “Redaction Analysis: Matthew’s Version.”
  • [61] See Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L66.
  • [62] The imperative of ὑπάγειν appears in Matt. 4:10; 5:24, 41; 8:4, 13, 32; 9:6; 16:23; 18:15; 19:21; 20:4, 7, 14; 21:28; 26:18; 27:65; 28:10.
  • [63] Mark 1:44; 2:11; 5:19, 34; 6:38; 7:29; 8:33; 10:21, 52; 11:2; 14:13; 16:7.
  • [64] Luke 10:3; 19:30.
  • [65] The verb ὑπάγειν is found in Exod. 14:21; Tob. 8:21 (Sinaiticus); 10:11 (Sinaiticus), 12 (Sinaiticus); 12:5 (Sinaiticus); 4 Macc. 4:13; Jer. 43[36]:19 (var.).
  • [66] See Harnack, 13.
  • [67] The five examples of this kind are Matt. 8:7 opposite Luke 7:3; Matt. 22:32 (= Mark 12:26) opposite Luke 20:37; Matt. 26:22 (= Mark 14:19) opposite Luke 22:23; Matt. 26:33 (= Mark 14:29) opposite Luke 22:33; and Matt. 26:39 (= Mark 14:36) opposite Luke 22:42.
  • [68] We regard the personal pronoun ἐγώ in L49 to be Hebraic because it is superfluous in Greek, the person being indicated by the form of the present tense verb ἀποστέλλω (“I send”). In Hebrew, on the other hand, participles require a personal pronoun (or a pronominal suffix) + הֲרֵי to indicate person (i.e., הֲרֵי אֲנִי שׁוֹלֵחַ or הֲרֵינִי שׁוֹלֵחַ).
  • [69] See Bendavid, 343; Preparations for Eating Passover Lamb, Comment to L22.
  • [70] In the Mishnah הֲרֵי + pronominal suffix occurs in: m. Bik. 4:4, 5; m. Naz. 1:1 (3xx), 3 (3xx), 5, 6, 7; 2:1, 2, 3 (2xx), 4, 5, 7, 8 (2xx), 9 (2xx), 10; 3:1 (2xx), 3 (2xx), 4; 4:1 (4xx), 2 (2xx), 7; 5:5 (3xx), 6 (2xx), 7 (7xx); m. Men. 13:10.
  • [71] Examples of הֲרֵי אֲנִי + participle are found in m. Peah 6:11 (הֲרֵי אֲנִי קוֹצֵר; “Behold, I am harvesting”); m. Ter. 8:11 (הֲרֵי אֲנִי מְטַמֵּא; “Behold, I am making ritually impure”); m. Pes. 8:3 (הֲרֵי אֲנִי שׁוֹחֵט; “Behold, I am slaughtering”); m. Bab. Metz. 8:3 (הֲרֵי אֲנִי מְשַׁלְּחָהּ; “Behold, I am sending her”); m. Bab. Metz. 9:7 (הֲרֵי אֲנִי לוֹקֵיַח; “Behold, I am purchasing”); m. Bab. Bat. 9:3 (הֲרֵי אֲנִי עוֹשָׂה וְאוֹכֶלֶת; “Behold, I am making and eating”); m. Arach. 7:1 (הֲרֵי אֲנִי נוֹתֵן; “Behold, I am giving”).
  • [72] We have reconstructed ἀποστέλλειν with שָׁלַח in Tower Builder and King Going to War, L17; Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, L29; Sending the Twelve: “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves”, L49; Preparations for Eating Passover Lamb, L10.
  • [73] In MT we find “lamb” paired with “wolf” in Isa. 11:6 (זְאֵב עִם כֶּבֶשׂ = λύκος μετὰ ἀρνός) and in Isa. 65:25 (זְאֵב וְטָלֶה = λύκοι καὶ ἄρνες).
  • [74] Cf. Harnack (13): “the original word was πρόβατα (ἄρνας is more refined).”
  • [75] On the rationale for basing our commentary on 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?”
  • [76] In Mic. 5:6 ὡς ἄρνες ἐπὶ ἄγρωστιν (“like lambs upon the grass”) is the translation of כִּרְבִיבִים עֲלֵי עֵשֶׂב (“like rains upon the grass”).
  • [77] See Nickelsburg, “Stories of Biblical and Early Post-Biblical Times,” in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period, 33-87, esp. 52; Randall Buth, “Distinguishing Hebrew from Aramaic in Semitized Greek Texts, with an Application for the Gospels and Pseudepigrapha” (JS2, 247-319, esp. 295).
  • [78] In LXX ὡς πρόβατα/πρόβατον is the translation of כַּצֹּאן/כְּצֹאן in 2 Chr. 18:16; Ps. 43[44]:12, 23; 48[49]:15; 76[77]:21; 77[78]:52; 106[107]:41; Job 21:11; Mic. 2:12; Zech. 9:16; Isa. 13:14; 53:6; Ezek. 36:37, 38 (2xx).
  • [79] LXX also translates כַּצֹּאן as ὡσεὶ πρόβατα (Num. 27:17; Ps. 79[80]:2) and as ὡς ποίμνιον (hōs poimnion, “like a flock”; 3 Kgdms. 22:17).
  • [80] See BDB, 838; Jastrow, 1257; Joüon-Muraoka, 2:497. According to Broshi, the ratio of sheep to goats in an average flock was about 7:3. See Magen Broshi, “The Diet of Palestine in the Roman Period—Introductory Notes,” Israel Museum Journal 5 (1986): 41-56, esp. 48. Perhaps it was because sheep so outnumbered goats that צֹאן was so frequently translated in LXX as πρόβατα (“sheep” [plur.]).
  • [81] The story of Jacob’s agreement with Laban supplies an excellent example of how צֹאן can refer to a flock made up of both sheep and goats:

    אֶעֱבֹר בְּכָל צֹאנְךָ הַיּוֹם הָסֵר מִשָּׁם כָּל שֶׂה נָקֹד וְטָלוּא וְכָל שֶׂה חוּם בַּכְּשָׂבִים וְטָלוּא וְנָקֹד בָּעִזִּים וְהָיָה שְׂכָרִי

    Today I will pass through your flock to remove from there every speckled and spotted individual, that is, every brown individual among the sheep, and every spotted and speckled individual among the goats, and they will be my wage. (Gen. 30:32)

  • [82] In MT the indefinite form כְּצֹאן is found in Isa. 13:14; Jer. 12:3; Ezek. 36:38 (2xx); Mic. 2:12; Zech. 9:16; Ps. 44:12, 23. The definite form כַּצֹּאן is found in Num. 27:17; 1 Kgs. 22:17; Isa. 53:6; Ezek. 36:37; Ps. 49:15; 77:21; 78:52; 80:2; 107:41; Job 21:11; 2 Chr. 18:16.
  • [83] In rabbinic literature כַּר appears mainly in biblical quotations, though there are a few examples where כַּר appears in non-biblical contexts (cf., e.g., t. Kel. Bab. Metz. 7:1[2]; b. Meg. 12b).
  • [84] The phrase ἐν μέσῳ occurs in LXX 287xx (254xx in books also in MT), where it translates בְּתוֹךְ in Gen. 1:6; 2:9; 3:3, 8; 23:10; 37:7; 40:20; Exod. 14:29; 15:19; Lev. 16:16; 22:32; 25:33; Num. 1:49; 5:21; 9:7; 18:20, 23, 24; 26:62 (2xx); 27:3, 4, 7; 35:34; Deut. 11:3; 19:2; Josh. 3:17; 13:9; 15:3; 17:4, 6; 19:9; 21:41; Judg. 7:16; 9:51; 12:4 (2xx); 18:1; 20:42; 1 Kgdms. 10:10, 23; 25:29; 2 Kgdms. 1:25; 7:2; 20:12; 23:12, 20; 24:5; 3 Kgdms. 3:8; 6:19, 27; 11:20 (2xx); 4 Kgdms. 4:13; 6:20; 23:9; 1 Chr. 11:14; 16:1; 21:6; 2 Chr. 6:13; 2 Esd. 14:16; 19:11; Ps. 21[22]:15, 23; 39[40]:9; 67[68]:26; 108[109]:30; 115[116]:10[19]; 134[135]:9; 136[137]:2; Prov. 5:14; 27:22 (?); Job 2:1; 20:13; Amos 3:9; Mic. 2:12; 7:14; Zeph. 2:14; Hag. 2:5; Zech. 2:8, 9, 14, 15; 5:4, 7; 8:3, 8; Isa. 5:2; 6:5; 24:13; 41:18; Jer. 12:16; 27[50]:37; 36[29]:32; 44[37]:12; 46[39]:14; 47[40]:1, 5, 6; 48[41]:8; 52:25; Ezek. 1:1; 2:5; 3:15, 24; 5:2, 5, 8, 10, 12; 6:7, 13; 7:6[9], 8[4]; 8:11; 9:2, 4; 10:10; 11:1, 7, 11; 12:2, 10, 12, 24; 14:14, 16, 18, 20; 16:53; 17:16; 18:18; 19:2, 6; 20:8, 9; 21:37; 22:3, 9, 13, 18, 21, 22 (2xx), 25 (2xx), 26; 23:39; 24:5, 7, 11; 26:5, 15; 27:27, 34; 28:14; 29:3, 12 (2xx), 21; 30:7 (2xx); 31:14, 17, 18; 32:20, 25, 28, 32; 33:33; 34:12, 24; 36:23; 37:1, 26, 28; 39:7; 43:7, 9; 44:9; 46:10; 47:22 (3xx); 48:8, 10, 15, 21, 22.
  • [85] In LXX εἰς μέσον is the translation of בְּתוֹךְ in Exod. 11:4; 14:16, 22; 1 Kgdms. 9:14, 18; 2 Kgdms. 6:17; Ezek. 26:12.
  • [86] In LXX εἰς μέσον is the translation of אֶל תּוֹךְ in Exod. 14:23; Num. 19:6; Josh. 4:5; 2 Esd. 4:5; Jer. 28[51]:63; Ezek. 5:4; 22:19, 20. The remaining instances of εἰς μέσον in LXX that correspond to MT are found in Ps. 77[78]:28 (= בְּקֶרֶב); Ezek. 10:7 (= מִבֵּינוֹת); Ezek. 31:3 (= בֵּין); Ezek. 31:10, 14 (= אֶל בֵּין).
  • [87] The two exceptional cases of אֶל תּוֹךְ are in 1 Kgs. 6:27 (used with נֹגְעֹת) and Jer. 41:7b (used with וַיִּשְׁחָטֵם). The other instances of אֶל תּוֹךְ are found in Exod. 14:23; Lev. 11:33; Num. 17:12; 19:6; Deut. 13:17; 21:12; 22:2; 23:11, 12; Josh. 4:5; 2 Sam. 3:27; Jer. 21:4; 41:7a; 51:63; Ezek. 5:4; 22:19, 20; Zech. 5:8; Neh. 4:5; 6:10.
  • [88] In the Mishnah אֶל תּוֹךְ occurs only in biblical quotations (m. Sot. 5:2; m. Sanh. 10:6), whereas לְתוֹךְ occurs over 300xx.
  • [89] In Ezek. 19:2 we find בְּתוֹךְ כְּפִרִים רִבְּתָה גוּרֶיהָ (“among young lions she raised her cubs”), and in Ezek. 19:6 we read וַיִּתְהַלֵּךְ בְּתוֹךְ אֲרָיוֹת (“and he prowled among lions”), which might be similar to “among wolves.” But in neither of these cases is there movement from outside into the lions’ space.
  • [90] The Mishnah states:

    הַזְּאֵב וְהָאֲרִי וְהַדּוֹב וְהַנָּמֵר וְהַפַּרְדְּלֵס וְהַנָּחָשׁ הֲרֵי אֵילּוּ מוּעָדִים

    The wolf and the lion and the bear and the leopard and the panther and the snake: behold, these are attested dangers. (m. Bab. Kam. 1:4)

    Did the Mishnah name wolves first among these dangerous animals because they were the most feared, or the most common, or for some other reason? In Avot de-Rabbi Natan, wolves, lions, bears, leopards, panthers and snakes are classed together with brigands and robbers as the kind of life-threatening danger that can both see and be seen (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 40:7 [ed. Schechter, 128]). And cf. Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 29:2 (ed. Schechter, 87). Likewise, in printed texts of the Mishnah, the same list of animals appears in m. Sanh. 1:4, as creatures that are likely to kill a human being, but in the Kaufmann and Parma MSS זְאֵב (“wolf”) is omitted.

  • [91] For Jewish and non-Jewish references in ancient literature to wolves as dangerous creatures, especially for flocks, see Günther Bornkamm, “λύκος,” TDNT 4:308-311.
  • [92] Wolf attacks on flocks are discussed in m. Bab. Metz. 7:9.
  • [93] Cf., e.g., t. Ber. 1:13[11] (Notley-Safrai, 77).
  • [94] In the Tosefta, for instance, the question is asked:

    מהו להציל את הרועה מפי הזאב

    What is the halachah pertaining to rescuing a shepherd from the mouth of a wolf? (t. Yev. 3:3[1]; Zuckermandel)

  • [95] H. B. Tristram, The Survey of Western Palestine: The Fauna and Flora of Palestine (London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, 1884), 20-21.
  • [96] F. S. Bodenheimer, Animal Life In Palestine: An Introduction to the Problems of Animal Ecology and Zoogeography (Jerusalem: Mayer, 1935), 110.
  • [97] See Alon Reichmann and David Saltz, “The Golan Wolves: The Dynamics, Behavioral Ecology, and Management of an Endangered Pest,” Israel Journal of Zoology 51.2 (2005): 87-133. Reichmann and Saltz projected that by 2015 the wolf population in the Golan Heights would reach around 80 to 100 individuals. As the title of their article attests, wolves are still regarded by some people in a negative light.
  • [98] See Bornkamm, “λύκος,” TDNT 4:311.
  • [99] In MT זְאֵב occurs 13xx: 6xx as a personal name (Judg. 7:25 [4xx]; 8:3; Ps. 83:12)—always transliterated as Ζηβ (Zēb)—and 7xx as the word for “wolf” (Gen. 49:27; Isa. 11:6; 65:25; Jer. 5:6; Ezek. 22:27; Hab. 1:8; Zeph. 3:3). In Prov. 28:15 λύκος appears in LXX where MT has דֹּב (dov, “bear”), but the entire verse is a very loose translation.
  • [100] See Vermes, 106, 321.
  • [101] See T. W. Manson, 75.
  • [102] The allusion here is to Gandalf’s words to Frodo in “The Shadow of the Past.” See J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (2d ed.; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965), 70.

Unintentional Anti-Semitism in the Church

I heard an all too familiar theme surface in an otherwise good sermon with regard to the recognition and acceptance of Jesus as Messiah: “The Jews just missed it!” Sadly, this affront by categorization also shows a total lack of recognition of the role of Jews in the early church and in their making the message of salvation through Yeshua (Jesus) available to non-Jews. It is as if Yeshua appears on the scene, is rejected by the Jews, but is welcomed with open arms by the non-Jews. This subtle, and I would hope, usually unintentional form of anti-Semitism is detrimental from several perspectives:

  1. It deprives us of our rich heritage and biblical understanding that lie in the Jewish roots of our faith;
  2. It can be hurtful to those members of the congregation of Jewish origin; and
  3. It serves to foster feelings of anti-Semitism that lead to more blatant forms of expression.

How is it that otherwise good, morally upstanding men and women can fall into the trap of unintentional anti-Semitism? I think that there are several reasons for this phenomenon:

  1. Our tendency to categorize a particular racial or cultural group as if it were absolutely homogeneous;
  2. The almost total void within the church in our knowledge of the Jewish roots of the Christian faith and the inherent contribution of Jews in the nurturing and spreading of the message of Yeshua; and
  3. The failure to recognize that New Testament epistles while embodying universal truth are directed to congregations in a particular cultural and historical setting, usually either primarily of Jewish or of non-Jewish origin—considerations imperative for meaningful present-day application.

No, we really can’t say that the Jews “missed it” anymore than we can say that the Americans have “missed it” or that the Canadians have “missed it,” etc. The fact is that some Americans have accepted Yeshua and some haven’t; some Canadians have accepted him and some haven’t. By the same token, some Jews of Yeshua’s day accepted him and some didn’t. In fact, so many Jews in the land of Israel had accepted Yeshua as Messiah (and were still practicing Jews) that the ruling Jewish religious body feared they might become a predominant sect of Judaism and therefore thought it necessary, at the Council of Yavneh in 90 C.E., to amend the daily prayer to include an extra “blessing.” This blessing was actually a curse on the sects of Judaism considered apostate by the surviving Pharisaic Judaism of the Council and some think that it was primarily directed toward the Jewish followers of Yeshua.

Indeed, we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Jews for the message of Yeshua we hold so dear. Yeshua himself was Jewish, received a Jewish education, regularly attended synagogue services and at the customary age of 30 he began his public ministry. As was customary, he gathered a group of students who accompanied him from place to place learning from observing their master as much as by the words he spoke. With notable exception, his earthly ministry was entirely to Jewish people; by his own words, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).

All of Yeshua’s disciples were Jewish; the people to whom Peter preached on the day of Pentecost were Jews from the land of Israel, as well as a number of countries from the Diaspora, who had come to Jerusalem for the Jewish feast of “Weeks” or “Pentecost.” Of these, 3,000 accepted Yeshua as Messiah and were baptized that day; thus, headquartered in Jerusalem until the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., the first church was Jewish. In fact, they weren’t even sure that non-Jews could accept Yeshua as savior. Peter went to great lengths to have witnesses accompany him to the house of Cornelius and to give testimony that non-Jews were indeed able to accept Jesus as Messiah as evidenced by their also receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit just the same as had the Jewish believers.

The first people to carry the good news of Yeshua to the non-Jewish world (as well as to Jews in the Diaspora) were Jewish. It was perhaps inevitable that as the distance from the land of Israel increased, the new followers of Yeshua were increasingly cut off from the Jewish roots of their faith. Scripture was viewed from other than a Hebraic perspective. There was the clamor of many voices: Gnostics with their message of salvation through mysterious knowledge for the initiated only; the various syncretists, attempting to incorporate Yeshua into existing religious systems; and the Judaizers, limiting salvation through Yeshua to those who first converted to Judaism. The demands of the Judaizers were addressed relatively early when Paul and Barnabas led a delegation to Jerusalem and the Jerusalem Council (composed of Jewish Apostles) saw fit to place no further burden of Law upon the non-Jew than was already incumbent upon the righteous non-Jew under the universal “Laws of Noah.” What is usually overlooked here is that neither does the council decree that the Jew must cut himself off from his culture and religion in order to accept Yeshua as Savior and Lord. Just as the non-Jew has the freedom in Yeshua not to embrace Jewish culture and religious practices, so the Jew has the freedom in Yeshua to remain a Jew. It was only later, as church government came into the hands of the non-Jewish majority that the church decreed that being Jewish was not compatible with being a follower of Yeshua. As far as the feeling of the Jews on the matter, it was not uncommon for each sect of Judaism to feel that only its own members were “fulfilling (i.e., keeping) the Law; the other sects were “destroying” it, much as one present-day denomination, unfortunately, might feel about another Christian denomination. Before the destruction of the Temple, more than 20 Jewish sects thrived. After its destruction, the leadership of mainstream Judaism was composed primarily of Pharisees who set the tone for what has evolved into present-day Judaism.

The term “Jew,” when used biblically, demands careful attention. When the New Testament speaks of Jews, what is meant? It is very important to note that often when the “Jews” are disputing with Jesus about some point of the Law, it would appear that Jesus sets himself apart from all Jewish Law. In reality, there was a wide spectrum of opinion regarding the correct interpretation of various points of Law, not only among the various sects of Judaism, but also between the residents of various geographical areas. Often “Jews” refers to Judeans, residents of Judah. A practice relating to a particular point of Law attacked by the Judeans, was often permitted by the Galileans. Therefore, one must be careful to view the Jewish people of the first century, not simplistically as a purely homogeneous entity, but rather as a dynamic, heterogeneous mixture as one would expect to find within any given population.

What, then, can one do to avoid unintentional anti-Semitism? I suggest that acquainting oneself with the Jewish roots of Christianity and approaching Bible study from a Hebraic perspective will help achieve this goal with the following benefits:

  1. We have found that viewing Yeshua within the context of the language and culture of his time on earth enables us to know him better, and that is a life-enriching experience.
  2. We become more sensitive to the feelings of members of the congregation of Jewish origin and of Jews in general.

We can avoid derogatory blanket statements with regard to racial stock. We recognize that any group, whether large or small, is composed of individuals and that there are differences within the group. We recognize the progression from “the Jews rejected Jesus” to “the Jews killed Jesus” to “the Jews can’t be trusted so they must be trying to hurt me financially or physically or in some other way, therefore I must hurt them first.” We tend to fear and suspect that which we do not understand. If Christianity had not been cut off from its Jewish roots and Christians had understood the ritual of the Feast of Passover, for example, there would have been no basis for the “blood libel” that swept Europe resulting in the death of millions of Jews down through the centuries. Christians would know of the Jewish abhorrence for drinking blood and the elaborate precautions to which they go to prevent the ingestion of any blood in anything they eat. Thus, the accusation that Jews steal Christian children and drink their blood at Passover is absurd.

In conclusion, I suggest that unintentional anti-Semitism continues to flourish today primarily because it has not been called to our attention. Most of those making such statements would, no doubt, be shocked to learn they had made anti-Semitic statements. By addressing the issue of unintentional anti-Semitism and creating an awareness of the problem, we believe it is possible to reduce the likelihood of anti-Semitism in its more blatant forms of expression.

Are There Absolutes for the Christian?

With the emphasis on relativism and situational ethics in popular culture, one might wonder if there truly are any absolutes to guide us as Christians. Perhaps we can excuse any or all behavior or lifestyle on the basis of “that’s just the way God made me—besides, Jesus paid the price for my sin so everything’s cool!”

To the contrary, if we closely examine Jesus’ teaching and demands for discipleship, we will find that Jesus did teach that there are indeed absolutes and that a genuine encounter with Jesus demanded and produced a change in one’s behavior. As an observant Jew, the Ten Commandments formed the core of Jesus’ belief system which he summarized succinctly as “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might—and you shall loved your neighbor as yourself.” If one truly followed those two commands, then the entire Ten Commandments and all the teaching of scripture would automatically be fulfilled.

The following examples illustrate Jesus’ response to the sinner and the sinner’s response to Jesus and his teaching. Jesus’ response to the woman taken in adultery was, “Neither do I condemn you—go and sin no more.” Yes, Jesus forgave her sin, but he demanded a change in lifestyle.

In case of the Zacchaeus the tax collector, we are not told specifically what Jesus said to him and those gathered in Zacchaeus’ house for the meal, but whatever it was it impacted Zacchaeus’ life dramatically. He decided on the spot to give away half of his goods to the poor and repay four times over anyone he had overcharged.

It is important to note that Jesus is more that just love and compassion—he requires more than just observance of the Ten Commandments.  For example, he not only demands that we avoid sexual impurity—he demands that we avoid lustful attitudes that lead to sexual impurity. He not only demands that we avoid committing murder—he demands that we avoid getting angry which can lead to rage which can lead to murder.

Much of what is being touted in current spirituality is really nothing new but is essentially a recycling of Gnostic teaching. Some core teachings of Gnosticism:

  1. Dualism in which the God of the Hebrew Bible is not the same as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but is rather a lesser demiurge that rebelled and created the physical universe.
  2. Physical is evil—spiritual is good.
  3. Our destination after death is not determined by anything we do or do not do in the physical realm, but rather is determined by the secret knowledge (gnosis) that we possess. The more we possess, the higher we can advance spiritually.
  4. Complex sexual practices which we shall not go into at this time.

In summary, it behooves us to endeavor to avoid the trap of rationalization in an effort to excuse behavior in ourselves or others that is not consistent with the life and teaching of Jesus as a whole. Too often, isolated scriptures or examples are employed to provide a basis for supporting a belief system that fits our own personal inclination.  Many Christians would like to blame God for evil and thereby excuse behavior in themselves or others with “Well, this is just the way God made me so I’m not really responsible—God understands. God made everything so he made evil too.” To this I respond that God did not create evil. Rather, when God created the universe, he began bringing order out of chaos—an activity that he continues to this day. Sin and evil are the result of individuals choosing to rebel in favor of chaos rather than choosing to live in loving relationship with God in cooperation with God’s ordering of the universe. Without the freedom of choice that God granted humankind, our allegiance would have no more meaning than the recorded voice of a child’s doll that says, “I love you Mommie, I love you Mommie, I love you Mommie.” Maybe that is meaningful to a four year old, but certainly would not be satisfying in a meaningful adult relationship. Therefore, although God granted us freedom of choice, he certainly did not create the evil that results from our wrong choices, nor does he compel us to make wrong choices. To suggest otherwise is a most misguided attempt to avoid personal responsibility.

I happily stand corrected!

Richard Rawe of Soap Lake, Washington, U.S.A. suggested an important correction to my article, “‘Jehovah’: A Christian Misunderstanding.”

I had written:

In accordance with the custom observed since the third century B.C. when reading or reciting Scripture, they [the Masoretes] superimposed the vowel signs of the word אֲדֹנָי (adonai) upon the four consonants of God’s name. This was to remind the reader that he should not attempt to pronounce the unutterable name. Thus יְהוָֹה would be read as adonai.

When Christian scholars in Europe first began to study Hebrew, they misunderstood this warning device. Sometimes lacking even the most elementary knowledge of Jewish culture and custom, their blunder was inevitable. In 1518 A.D. in his De arcanis catholicae veritatis, a monumental work of Christian mysticism, the Italian theologian and Franciscan friar Galatinus, not realizing that the Masoretes had placed the vowel signs of another word with the consonants yhwh, fused the vowels of adonai with the consonants of the divine name and thus gave the Church “Jehovah,” a word that has no meaning in Hebrew.

Rawe, providing several impressive references, pointed out that the Christian reading “Jehovah” can be traced to Raymond Martin’s Pugeo Fidei (1270 A.D.), and may have originated much earlier, even as early as the ninth century!

I have now updated my article accordingly.

The Numbers Game: Bible Codes (Numerology and Gematria)

Double question received from Ted Hesser (Copper Center, Alaska, U.S.A.) that was published in the “Readers’ Perspective” column of Jerusalem Perspective 55 (Apr.-Jun. 1999): 8.

I have two questions, the first of which concerns the genealogy in Matthew. Dr. Lindsey said that Matthew’s genealogy is quite Hebraic, and that much of the Gospels was taken from material translated from the Hebrew. I am convinced, but wonder how Matthew 1:1–11 was written in Greek with such perfect mathematical symmetry. In these eleven verses, there are seven substantive nouns, 35 (7 x 5) names, seven other words, and a total of 49 (7 x 7) words in the vocabulary. In the 35 names there are 196 (14 x 14) letters, and in the three women’s names there is a total of fourteen letters. And of course, I will add that the evangelist built into his genealogy a pattern based on fourteen generations. Could that have resulted from a translation from the Hebrew? Or was it divinely or humanly altered to create such a pattern, and if so, for what reason?

The second question relates to The New Testament in the Original Greek by Westcott and Hort (1881). Gail A. Riplinger in her book New Age Bible Versions gives information concerning Westcott and Hort which casts doubt on the authenticity of their work. The omissions, based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament and the United Bible Societies’ text (3rd ed.), found in the margin of my NKJV do seem to show a pattern that could reflect a theological bias. Moreover, these omissions seem to conflict with the abundance of mathematical patterns in the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament. Note particularly the numerical patterns in Genesis 1:1—seven words, 28 letters, and the addition of the gematria of various words yielding 777, 888 and 999. The patterns in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are also remarkable.

Randall Buth responds:

Biblical writers infrequently consciously used numerical patterns or codes in their compositions. As you mention, Matthew himself structured his genealogy around a repeating pattern of 14 generations. Gematria—playing with the numerical value of words in Hebrew or Greek—is, however, distracting at best. The prophets communicated their message in a manner which they expected their audiences to understand. Men of old penned the books of the Bible so that their contents would be understood.

In the past, many have tried to use gematria as proof of the Bible’s perfection. In our day, newcomers repeat the efforts of others despite the fact that such an exercise runs up against serious objections. First of all, number patterns like the ones identified in your letter are selected with a certain subjectivity. For example, assigning a numerical value to each letter of each word in Genesis 1:1 and, then, totaling the numerical value of each word yields the following series: 913, 203, 86, 401, 395, 407 and 296. I do not see a divine message in these numbers. Ah, but the content! “In the beginning God created heaven and earth.”

The Matthean example also serves well for showing how selective subjectivity is at work to “produce” a pattern. Why were the verbs not counted in your selection? There are 27 (3 x 9). Why was verse 11’s “Babylon” chosen as a break? A more natural break in Matthew’s list is verse 1:6b: “…fathered David the king.” For comparison, the statistics for verses 1–6 are: 90 words (that is 2 x 3 x 3 x 5, and the factors add up to 13!), 6 substantive nouns, 34 names (2 x 17), 21 different names, excluding repeated names (3 x 7), 15 conjunctions (3 x 5), 19 articles, 3 prepositions, and so on. Within any section of text, one may define and find a multitude of things. By necessity, assigning numerical values will produce numbers, and by necessity, numbers will frequently be multiples of 3, 7, etc. A person only needs to keep counting different subsets until a pattern of sevens, or another auspicious number, emerges. Once it does, the “decoder” then moves on to another text and repeats the procedure.

Wescott & HortRegarding Westcott and Hort, a gentle warning to be careful of ad hominem arguments is in order. What is an ad hominem argument? For example, theory A is associated with person B. Person B is alleged to be a bad person by person C. Therefore, theory A is suspect, or worse. A better question would be: Is theory A sound? If so, fine.

Today’s published New Testament Greek texts are based on a sifting of manuscript evidence. They happen to line up closely with Westcott and Hort’s text produced in the last century. This may be taken as a compliment to Westcott and Hort’s critical acumen. They had to make textual decisions based on less evidence than is available today, yet they were able to reach many of the same conclusions that twentieth-century textual critics have reached.

For more on Bible codes, see Jack Poirier, “ Does God Play Scrabble?“—JP

The Textus Receptus, or “Majority Text,” Theory

Question submitted by Mike Gascoigne (Camberley, Surrey, U.K.) that was published in the “Readers’ Perspective” column of Jerusalem Perspective 55 (April-June 1999): 8-9.

Have you read a book called New Age Bible Versions by Gail Riplinger? She denounces a large number of Bible translations (RSV, NIV, NASB, etc.) as being rather too accommodating towards New Age philosophies. She also criticises the Greek texts on which these translations are based, including Nestle, Westcott and Hort, UBS 3 and 4, and Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.

She claims that the only reliable translation of the Bible is the King James Version, which is based on the Textus Receptus. She considers this to be the most reliable Greek text because it was compiled from a large number of documents, mostly of Byzantine origin, that were substantially in agreement with each other and are therefore faithful copies made from a common source. The idea is that there is safety in a large number of manuscript witnesses that agree with each other.

Regarding Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, the story of their history is something like this: The Roman emperor Constantine was concerned that his empire was divided into two distinct groups, Christians and pagans. They could not agree with each other about anything. So, he commissioned Eusebius to produce a Greek New Testament that would suit both groups, to try and bring them together. Fifty copies of this text were made, and some of these copies were sent to Alexandria where they were further corrupted by Origen, a Gnostic philosopher. The only two surviving copies of this corrupt text are the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus manuscripts [dating from the 4th century A.D.].

Have you heard of this story, and do you think it could possibly be true?

Randall Buth responds:

Your query is both easy and difficult to answer. It is easy because the “majority text” theory that Riplinger would support is basically a “falsified” theory. The Textus Receptus theory argues that the text of the church throughout the ages was the “majority text.” Unfortunately, the early church fathers did not know of such a text.

While most individual readings associated with the “majority text” can be found in an old source somewhere, they were never assembled together in one textual tradition until after Eusebius’ time. So the early church fathers effectively falsify the theory. The “majority text” did not exist in the time of the ante-Nicene fathers and, therefore, cannot be as old as Riplinger would like it to be.

On the positive side, it should be pointed out that there exist early examples of a text like Codex Vaticanus, the best single extant text of the New Testament. A gospel papyrus, designated P75, shows that a Vaticanus-type text already existed in 200 A.D.

Now for the difficult part: allusions to a “conspiracy theory” of the New Testament text. From a chronological point of view, the story about Origen lacks all credibility, since he lived in the century before Eusebius. The story about Eusebius is a weaving together of history and fantasy. Jerusalem Perspective magazine is not the right forum to unravel this. Sadly, a non-specialist reading Riplinger’s New Age Bible Versions runs the risk of concluding that a “conspiracy theory” sounds plausible. For the non-specialist, her book cannot be recommended. A specialist might read the book out of curiosity, though at the risk of wasting precious time.

The “Hypocrisy” of the Pharisees

Many Christians assume the Pharisees were Jesus’ opponents. A viewer of a Jerusalem Perspective video clip on YouTube commented:

How can you be so positive in your assessment of the Pharisees? Remember that Jesus was pleased with the kneeling prayer of the tax collector and rebuked the prideful prayer of the Pharisee (Luke 18:10-14). He also told us not to address anyone as “Rabbi”; we have only one teacher. And finally, Jesus consistently called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” (Matt. 12:34; 23:23) and said that “they have already received their reward” (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16).

Without reading the Scriptures carefully, and without a familiarity with Second Temple-period extra-biblical sources, a simple reader of the New Testament might assume that a majority of the Pharisees were hypocrites and that the Pharisees as a movement were indeed a “brood of vipers.” As a result of this common Christian assumption, the word “Pharisee” has become a synonym for “hypocrite” in the English language.

However, this widespread Christian misreading of the New Testament is a terrible mistake, which, in the course of the last two millennia, often has resulted in appalling consequences for the Jewish community.

Who did Jesus say were sitting on Moses’ seat (Matt. 23:2)? Answer: the Pharisees and their scribes. Jesus said: “The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and keep everything they say to you (in Hebrew, כל מה שיאמרו לכם, meaning, “[Observe] their rulings, commandments”). The verb λέγειν (say) in this verse may be a Hebraism for “to rule,” or “to command.” The Greek verbs ποιεῖν (to do) and τηρεῖν (to keep) are a parallelism and both refer to observing the biblical commandments as interpreted by the Pharisees (the Oral Torah).

Jesus himself observed the Oral Torah of the Pharisees. For example, not only was it his custom to say a blessing after eating, as commanded in the Torah (Deut. 8:10), but he also said a blessing before eating, an innovation of the Pharisees. (See David Bivin, “Jesus and the Oral Torah: Blessing.”)

Shmuel Safrai commented:

In other areas of daily life the rulings of the Pharisees also were practiced, and although there were bitter controversies, eventually the Pharisaic halachah prevailed even in the major areas of Temple worship. Josephus states that “all prayers and sacred rites of divine worship are performed according to their [the Pharisees’] exposition” (Antiquities 18:15), and that the Sadducees “submit to the formulas of the Pharisees, since otherwise the masses would not tolerate them” (Antiquities 18:17). (from Safrai, “Counting the Omer: On What Day of the Week Did Jesus Celebrate Shavuot (Pentecost)?.”)

Who was it that warned Jesus about Herod’s intention to kill him? Answer: the Pharisees (Luke 13:31).

Who was it that saved the lives of Jesus’ disciples by urging tolerance in the Sanhedrin when Peter and the other apostles were brought before it (Acts 5:33-39)? Answer: a Pharisee name Gamaliel, none other than Rabban Gamaliel the Elder.

Who was it that sided with Paul against the Sadducees in the Sanhedrin, saying, “We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” (Acts 23:6-9)? Answer: the Sanhedrin’s Pharisees. (Read Shmuel Safrai’s “Insulting God’s High Priest.”)

Josephus reports that, after James was lynched by the conniving Sadducean high priest Hanan (Annas), the Pharisees protested to the Roman governor. David Flusser writes:

A similar clash between the Pharisees and Annas the Younger, probably the brother-in-law of Caiaphas, took place in the year 62 C.E. Annas the Younger “convened the Sanhedrin of judges and brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, and certain others [probably Christians]. He accused them of having transgressed the Torah and delivered them to be stoned” (Antiq. 20:200-203). The Pharisees, who Josephus describes as the “inhabitants of the city who were considered the most tolerant and were strict in the observance of the commandments,” managed to have the high priest Annas the Younger deposed from his position as a result of the illegal execution of James. (David Flusser, “…To Bury Caiaphas, Not to Praise Him”)

Flusser also writes:

In contrast to what we know about Caiaphas and his faction, especially from John 11:47-53, the Pharisees of his time did not launch persecutions of Jewish prophetic movements. This is attested by Jesus himself (Matt. 23:29-31), according to whom the Pharisees of his day used to say, “If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” Indeed, when one reads the gospels critically, one becomes aware that the Pharisees did not play a decisive role in Jesus’ arrest, interrogation and crucifixion. The Pharisees are not even mentioned by name in the context of Jesus’ trial as recounted in the first three gospels, with the exception of the story about the guard at Jesus’ tomb (Matt. 27:62). (Flusser, “…To Bury Caiaphas, Not to Praise Him”)

The Pharisees were acutely aware of the dangers of hypocrisy. Their self-criticism was even more biting than that of Jesus. They even caricatured themselves saying that there were seven classes of Pharisees (j. Ber. 14b, chap. 9, halachah 7; j. Sot. 20c, chap. 5, halachah 7):

The “shoulder Pharisee”, who packs his good works on his shoulder (to be seen of men); the “wait-a-bit” Pharisee, who (when someone has business with him) says, Wait a little; I must do a good work; the “reckoning” Pharisee, who when he commits a fault and does a good work crosses off one with the other; the “economising” Pharisee, who asks, What economy can I practise to spare a little to do a good work? the “show me my fault” Pharisee, who says, show me what sin I have committed, and I will do an equivalent good work (implying that he had no fault); the Pharisee of fear, like Job; the Pharisee of love, like Abraham. The last is the only kind that is dear (to God). (English translation by George Foot Moore, Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era: The Age of the Tannaim [2 vols.; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1927], 2:193)

Only one of the seven classes of Pharisees is righteous and acceptable to God: the Pharisee who serves God from love. Compare the saying of Antigonus of Socho, a sage who lived at the beginning of the second century B.C.: “Do not be like slaves who serve their master [i.e., God] in order to receive a reward; rather be like slaves who do not serve their master in order to receive a reward” (Mishnah, Avot 1:3). To the saying of Antigonus, compare the phrase found in Derech Eretz Rabbah 2:13 (ed. Higger, 284): עושין מאהבה (osin me-ahavah, those who do [i.e., perform good deeds] out of love).

“They preach, but they do not practice” (Matt. 23:3). The Pharisees were the conservatives of their day, the Bible teachers and preachers of Jesus’ society. The Pharisees knew that their greatest danger was the sin of hypocrisy, just as today’s conservative Christians understand that hypocrisy is their greatest danger. We sincere and devout followers of Jesus are the hypocrites of our day. There cannot be hypocrites where there are no beliefs and standards to which one is accountable to God.

Notice that Jesus did not criticize the Pharisees for tithing of their garden herbs (Matt. 23:23), a commandment of the Oral Torah, but for neglecting weightier matters. Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees appears to be “in-house” criticism, constructive criticism driven by love and respect. The Pharisees, in contrast to the Sadducees, held beliefs that were similar to Jesus’.

The expression “brood of vipers” appears four times in the New Testament, three times in Matthew’s Gospel and one time in Luke’s. (There are no parallels to any of these four sayings in Mark’s account.) According to Luke’s Gospel (Luke 3:7), the expression is found in the address of John the Baptist to the “crowds” who came to him at the Jordan River. However, according to Matthew, John the Baptist’s stinging rebuke was addressed to “Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matt. 3:7). Apparently, this detail was added for color by the author of Matthew, who then put it in the mouth of Jesus twice more. Luke’s Gospel along with Mark’s provide evidence that this strong expression was used by the fiery John the Baptist, and not by Jesus.

Jesus’ words, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν (“they are getting their reward/pay”) is a refrain that is repeated three times (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16). The implication is that such hypocrites will not receive a reward in the World to Come—perhaps will not even be in the World to Come! Rather than being a condemnation of the Pharisees, this threesome proves that Jesus’ theology was similar, or identical, to that of the Pharisees.

The three most important commandments in the eyes of the Pharisees were almsgiving, prayer and fasting, in that order, the most important being צְדָקָה (tsedakah; almsgiving). Jesus gives this trio in his Sermon on the Mount. Although Jesus’ point is that one should not be ostentatious when giving to the poor, when praying, and when fasting, in passing, we learn something about Jesus’ theology: Jesus stressed the same three commandments that were so important to the Pharisees. Notice that the centurion, Cornelius, was a God-fearer (Acts 10:2, 22). He gave alms and prayed much (Acts 10:2, 4) and fasted (Acts 10:30).

Regarding Jesus’ command to his disciples not to be called “rabbi” (my teacher), see the FAQ, “What did Jesus mean by ‘Call no man your father on earth’ (Matt. 23:9)?”

For further reading, see Shmuel Safrai, “Jesus and the Hasidim”; Shmuel Safrai, “Sabbath Breakers”; David Flusser, “…To Bury Caiaphas, Not to Praise Him”; and David Bivin, “Rabbinic Literature: A Spiritual Treasure.”

The Surprise of Finding Anti-Semitism in the Heart of the Early Church Fathers

The other disease which my tongue is called to cure is the most difficult… And what is the disease? The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews which are soon approaching.

— Saint John Chrysostom (349-407)

The worldwide Church, individually and corporately, needs to consider apologizing to the Jewish people as a result of anti-Semitic remarks by the Early Church Fathers as evidenced in the fourth century works of Saint John Chrysostom called Λόγοι Κατὰ Ἰουδαίων (Discourse Against the Jews).[1] This article discusses the life of John Chrysostom and the style and themes of Λόγοι Κατὰ Ἰουδαίων, which identifies Chrysostom’s teachings as anti-Semitic. They are supported with examples of anti-Semitic remarks from all eight of Chrysostom’s discourses, or sermons. In conclusion, reasons are given as to why the Church needs to apologise for all anti-Semitic remarks, especially those of the Early Church Fathers, based on John Chrysostom’s example.

Detail from the tablet-icon "Three saints" depicting John Chrysostom (Russia, 16th century).
Detail from the tablet-icon “Three saints” depicting John Chrysostom (Russia, 16th century).

The early Church father, Saint John Chrysostom (349-407)[2] was known as “the most prominent doctor of the Greek Church and the greatest preacher ever heard in a Christian pulpit.”[3] He was born in Antioch to a Roman father and Christian Greek mother.[4] He studied under Libanius, the distinguished man of letters and professor in the chair of rhetoric at Antioch (314-393).[5] After leaving Libanius, Chrysostom fell under the influence of Meletios, the orthodox bishop of Antioch, and was baptised. In Sozomen’s history of Antioch,[6] he describes Chrysostom as a man “of noble birth and of exemplary life.” He notes that Chrysostom’s wonderful powers of eloquence and persuasion caused his teacher, Libanius the Syrian, to say that Chrysostom, “surpassed all the orators of the age” and that on his deathbed Libanius declared that John would have been his successor had he not converted to Christianity.[7]

After baptism, Chrysostom spent three years serving Meletios then went to the desert hills around Antioch as a monk for six years.[8] After returning, he was made deacon by Meletios, and then priest by Bishop Flavian early in 386.[9] Chrysostom’s influence is still recognised in the Church today. From a literary point of view, John Chrysostom was known as the “most prominent personality” among those from Antioch because of the effectiveness and the power of his oratory.[10] As a preacher and from a purely exegetical point of view, he used his rhetorical expertise to draw out from a text that which would educate, warn, or edify his listeners.[11] He was consecrated as Bishop of Constantinople in February 398.[12] This was the highest office in the Eastern Church, Constantinople having succeeded Rome as the capital of Christianity twelve years previously.[13] Chrysostom’s influence is still recognised in the Church today: modern scholars, such as Wilken, note that Chrysostom is considered the “greatest of the Christian Sophists,” termed the “Golden Mouth.”[14]

During 386, whilst Chrysostom was still a priest in Antioch, he delivered eight discourses against the Jews just before the time of the Jewish fasts and festivals in which Christians customarily took part.[15] Chrysostom was in the middle of a series of sermons against the Anomoeans and in his first discourse against the Jews, he explained that he was going to have to interrupt the sermon against the Anomoeans in order that he could concentrate on a more urgent disease, that of the Jews and their celebrations of the forthcoming fasts and festivals.[16]

Throughout the eight discourses, John Chrysostom styles his writing by using three metaphorical images to emphasise his points of view that he was the doctor and that Christians mixing with the Jews and attending their festivals were his patients; that he was the hunter and the Jews were hunted; that the Jews were the diseased and the Christians were the pure. All of these images are discussed to show how John Chrysostom used these metaphorical tools to attack the Jews and influence the minds of the Christians against them.

Throughout all the discourses, but particularly in the first and eighth discourses, John Chrysostom portrayed himself as a physician and the Christians who attended Jewish festivals and fasts were his patients:

The other disease which my tongue is called to cure is the most difficult, the disease which has been planted in the body of the assembly… And what is the disease? The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews which are soon approaching….[17]

But now the Jewish festivals are close by and at the very door, if I should fail to cure those who are sick with the Judaism disease, I am afraid that, because of their ill-suited association and deep ignorance, some Christians may partake in the Jews’ transgressions; once they have done so I fear my discourses on these transgressions will be in vain.[18]

For those who have not heard me today will fast with them [the Jews] and after accomplishing this sin, there is no purpose remaining to apply the remedy. I have hastened to anticipate this very thing. The physicians do this also. They first bring to a standstill those diseases that are most urgent and acute.[19]

John Chrysostom, as noted by Harkins, relies heavily on Isaiah Chapter 58 verses 3-5 for the basis of this anti-Semitism.[20] However, Chrysostom has failed to discern that the relevancy of his discourses should have been in accordance with the gospels of Jesus Christ. The Greek word for sickness or disease used by Chrysostom here[21] is used ten times in the Christian Gospels regarding Jesus’ ministry, none of which refer to the fasting undertaken by the Jews. The word refers to the healing of people’s ailments. Moreover, the majority to whom Jesus directed his ministry throughout the Gospels were all Jews, most of whom would have regularly fasted.[22] Jesus did not at any stage use the word with the same connotation or in the same textual context as John Chrysostom. Further, Jesus did not use the metaphor of disease in the same way that Wilken purports pagans and Christian rhetoricians did from Plato onwards, in that they used it to attack their opponents. For example, Christians used the metaphor of disease to advance their argument that one’s opponent was infected with error. Pagans like Julian, the Emperor, used it against the Christians.[23]

The next metaphor that Chrysostom used described himself as the hunter and the Jews as the hunted:

Wild animals are more tame and gentle so long as they live in the forest and are unpractised for an experience of battle against men. And whenever the hunters capture and lead the wild animals into the city, they shut them up in cages and stir them up to battle against beast-fighting gladiators. Then leaping upon their assault, the beasts are given a taste of flesh and a drink of blood, and after that they would not find it easy to keep far from the feast, but after a time they would run to the table with much longing.[24]

This has been my experience, too. Once I took up my fight against the Jews and rushed to meet their shameless assaults, “I destroyed their reasoning and every lofty thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and I brought their minds into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”[25] And after that I somehow acquired a stronger yearning to do battle against them.[26]

This style of argument is called the rhetoric of abuse.[27] Dressler points out that even though this statement is a truism, in that a captured beast does become more blood thirsty after tasting human flesh and blood, it is a very odd statement to make compared to “modern standards.”[28] If one takes this statement of Dressler’s further, one could see that “modern standards” could equate with “anti-Semitism,” and that in developing the metaphor, Chrysostom is being anti-Semitic in his arguments against the Jews.

In the same discourse, Chrysostom claimed that he had lost his voice and was weary:

And I think I am suffering now, such as if a soldier cut some of his adversaries up into pieces, and with much courage throws himself into the line of battle against his enemies, hews down many bodies to the ground and then having broken his sword, returns to his own ranks again with faintheartedness. But my suffering is worse. It is possible for a soldier, after breaking his sword, to snatch another from one of the bystanders and prove his courage, and eagerness for many victims; but one cannot take a voice from someone else.[29]

Further, the metaphor of the diseased and the pure involved not only a comparison of the inns of the day with the synagogues, but also of the Jews themselves and the Christian assemblies:

The inns are no more dishonoured than all of the business of a synagogue is. Simply, the synagogues are not only a lodging place of robbers and cheats, but also of demons, even the souls of the Jews themselves.[30]

Moreover, at the end of discourse seven, Chrysostom urged his congregation to act against the Jews, “Let the Jews learn how we feel.”[31] He then turned his invective against the Christians, “Let it also become known to those who side with the Jews, even though they pretend to be ranked with us.”[32] This was all purposed to stop any interaction between the Jews and the Christians so that “there will be no one hereafter who will dare to flee to them, and the body of the Church will be unsullied and pure.”[33]

The manner in which John Chrysostom penned all three metaphors reveals that anti-Semitism was clearly evident right throughout his style of thinking and writing.

Anti-Semitism is also evident in the four major themes of John Chrysostom’s discourses. Chrysostom used his influence over his audiences in order to encourage them not to mix with Jewish people or attend their fasts and festivals. The subject matter of these discourses was theological, but they also addressed such issues as Jewish lifestyles, Jewish practises and Jewish worship spaces. These four themes will now be discussed.

The primary theological purpose of John Chrysostom’s writings was to retrieve Christians whom he perceived as falling into the ways of Judaism. In discourse one, he opens the theological debate by saying:

Do not wonder if I called the Jews pitiful. For they are pitiful and wretched in this manner. When good things from heaven came into their hands, they [the good things] were rejected and pushed aside with much earnestness.[34]

Throughout the discourses, Chrysostom used this theme to emphasise his argument that one cannot intermingle with the Jewish people, whom he sees as the murderers of Christ, and then on Sundays, return to the Church, and partake of the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood represented in the bread and wine received at a Christian altar. For example, in discourse three, he quoted, “And that they ate meats offered to idols. You are not able to partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons.”[35] This quotation is a piece of scripture that has been taken out of context and would have caused unnecessary hostility and prejudice against the Jews. Chrysostom is quoting 1 Corinthians 10:21,[36] an exhortation by the Apostle Paul to the early Christians in Corinth regarding pagan worship and eating meat that had been sacrificed to demons and not to God. It is unrelated to the Jews. Further, Wilken contests that for Chrysostom, the central theological theme was the connection between Jerusalem being the only place where the Jews were instructed by God that they could have their Passover feasts and festivals based on Deuteronomy 16, verses 5-6:

You may not keep the Passover in any of your towns, which the Lord your God is giving you but at the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name, only there shall you offer the Passover sacrifice…[37]

Therefore, Chrysostom’s contention was that the festivals and feasts in Antioch were against God’s will because they were not occurring in Jerusalem.[38]

The discourses’ second theme revealed Chrysostom’s prejudice against Jewish religious practices. For example, in discourse four he stated:

This word is enough against those who are saying they are on our side, and are following the practises of the Jews and since I want to draw up my battle line against them,… the Jews fasting now holds the law in no honour and they are tramping down the commandments of God, because they are always doing the opposite to that which they know they should be doing.[39]

Relying on Jeremiah chapter 2 verse 5 in which passage the Israelites turn to idols,[40] Chrysostom furthers his argument that God had a dislike for and took no pleasure in the Jews’ sacrifices.[41] Kelly speaks out against Chrysostom’s battery of claims against the Jews that mainly focus on Old Testament texts in which God rebuked Israel and criticized its sacrificial system. Kelly points out that Chrysostom isolated these texts from their original, specific circumstances and referred to them as though they were a “general reference” for all occasions.[42]

Further, in discourse seven, Chrysostom actually asked his audience, whether they had ‘had enough of the battle against the Jews?’[43] It was necessary to keep going, he thought, because some feasts were still not over:

Their trumpets were more of an outrage than those in the theatres and the fasts of all drunkenness and revelry were more shameful; and now the tents are pitched among them, no better disposed than inns having harlots and flute players.[44]

Chrysostom, in discourse eight, asserted that, “the fasts of the Jews have gone, which were more shameful than all drunkenness.”[45] Wilken contends that in the fourth century, the illusion to drunkenness in a homily was a stock description in the orator’s handbooks.[46] Libanius, Chrysostom’s teacher, used “drunkenness” in his polemics against soldiers, Christians, and Christian Monks.[47] Chrysostom not only charged the Jews with “drunkenness,” but also others who had lapsed in morality.[48] Wilken suggests that Chrysostom’s listeners must have become tired of hearing this comparison but that Chrysostom must have considered it still to be useful as a vivid and dramatic way that his listeners could easily grasp and digest the content of his discourse.[49]

Jewish lifestyles were the third major theme through which John Chrysostom furthered his anti-Semitic remarks. In discourse one, discussing the dreams of Christians, he spoke against the Jews by stating that they were living:

for their bellies, gaping for things present, their condition no better than that of wild swine and goats, because of their violent conduct and their gluttonous excess… they know one thing, to be stuffed full and to be drunk with wine, to be destroyed and wounded by dancers and charioteers.[50]

In addition, Chrysostom spoke out against the men in his congregation for allowing their wives to attend the synagogue when they did not show the same diligence in attendance at church:

When the time calls for gathering at the assembly, you do not rouse your neglectful wives to come; but when the devil is calling them to the feast of trumpets, they readily hear and you do not restrain them but you allow them to look at those of ungodliness, be taken in by them and be dragged off into licentiousness. For both harlots and the feeble and all of the warrior chorus are accustomed to assembling there.[51]

Finally, an attack against Jewish worship spaces is also a major theme in John Chrysostom’s works. In discourse one, Chrysostom compared the synagogue to the temple of Apollo:

Tell me, where do demons dwell, is it not a place of ungodliness, even if no carved images stand there? And moreover, also they [the Jews] themselves are demons, is not the harm from that source the greater?[52]

In discussing their altars, he had this to say:

So the ungodliness for them [the Jews] and the Greeks are equal, but the deeds of deceit done by them [the Jews] are more grievous. For among them, stands an unseen altar of deceit, onto which neither sheep nor calves, but the souls of men are sacrificed.[53]

In addition, Chrysostom combined his argument against the men in his congregation, as previously mentioned, in his attack against the Jewish worship spaces:

And why do I speak of the immorality that happens there [in the synagogue]? Do you not fear that your wife may not come back from there after a demon has taken her? Did you not hear in my previous discourse the argument that clearly showed that demons dwell in the souls of the Jews themselves and in the places in which they gather.[54]

The major themes of John Chrysostom’s work, which were used to influence the minds and actions of his Christian Community, are anti-Semitic. Firstly, his rhetorical style of preaching, twisting and incorrectly interpreting biblical texts, and taking such texts out of their original context, supported his arguments against the Jews. Secondly, his preaching coerced his followers to think that Jewish customs are divorced from God’s teaching. Thirdly, his rhetoric of abuse coerced the minds of his followers against the Jews.

Therefore, the works of John Chrysostom were anti-Semitic both in the metaphorical style in which they were written as well as thematically. The worldwide Church, individual Christians and the Church corporate, needs to consider an apology to the Jewish people for such anti-Semitic remarks by the Early Church fathers for three reasons: firstly, the effect that the anti-Semitic remarks would have had on Chrysostom’s listeners and the wider church at the time; secondly, the effect which Chrysostom’s teachings against the Jews may still have on the Church today in regard to the teaching of preaching for clergy and laity; and thirdly, the effect of Chrysostom’s comments on the Jewish communities and individuals.

When considering how Chrysostom’s comments would have affected his audience, Le Bon, cited in Freud, noted that the most influential peculiarity of a group is the way that its members follows its leader.[55] This is particularly important in John Chrysostom’s case because the consequence of using metaphors such as “the hunter cutting his enemies into pieces” are an impetus for carrying out abuse, verbal and physical, against an enemy. This consequence is due, Freud asserts, to the natural development of a human being. A person who is being externally [of themselves] coerced to act or think in a particular way gradually internalises the coercion to a point where it becomes the internal reality of the person hearing the coercion.[56] Le Bon states that it does not matter who the individuals are in a group, or what their background, employment, morals, customs, and intelligence are; the fact that they have been transformed into a group gives them a collective mind which makes them feel, think and behave in a manner quite differently to that if they were acting as an individual.[57] Therefore, in the metaphors used by Chrysostom, as the group’s leader, he is coercing and prejudicing his followers to think about the Jews in particular anti-Semitic ways that they might not have done, had they heard these comments individually.

For this to be understood fully, one must also take into account the atmosphere in the churches at the time and John Chrysostom’s speciality as a rhetorician. Wilken notes that “Christians expected a performance in church equal to what they enjoyed in the theatre.”[58] If they were dissatisfied with Chrysostom’s homilies they booed and hissed; if they were delighted, they clapped their hands and shouted.[59] Chrysostom was known at one stage to say that most people “listen to a preacher for pleasure, not for profit, like critics at a play or concert.”[60] When Chrysostom got into the pulpit each week, Wilken explains, the people of Antioch always expected a stellar performance.[61] This atmosphere is extremely important to take into account when considering Le Bon’s contention about “the leader” and the “follower” within a group mentality. Given that the atmosphere was that of a theatre and not a Church, the Christians’ emotions and minds were being coerced in way that led to anti-Semitism.

The Church must also consider an apology to the Jews for the anti-Semitic remarks of the early Church fathers to raise the awareness of the effect that Chrysostom’s teachings could have in seminaries and theological schools all over the world today. Chrysostom, the “Golden Mouth,” and his rhetorical style texts are still used as examples when laity and clergy are being trained how to preach.[62] In 2008, many branches of the Church celebrated Chrysostom’s 1600th year of passing away and a lot of attention was paid to him.[63] The anti-Semitic remarks in Chrysostom’s preaching, therefore, need to be addressed in order that people are preparing sermons today that are not anti-Semitic and audiences listening to sermons today are not incited to follow the blind bigotry as was experienced in the time of John Chrysostom.

Thirdly, the Church needs to apologise to the Jews because of the effect that the anti-Semitic remarks would have had on the Jewish people then and may still be having on Jewish communities today. John Chrysostom devised themes and metaphors throughout his discourses that denigrated the whole existence of the Jews as individuals and as groups: their theology, social interaction, marital relations, and physical (worship) spaces. This is not a Christian’s manifesto and St. Matthew, in his gospel, instructs the Church what it needs to do to mend broken relationships.[64] No apology regarding anti-Semitism has ever been given to the Jews. The Church must reconcile its relationship with the Jewish people by apologising for anti-Semitism beginning with the early Church fathers. A precedent has been set to do this by two apologies already given in the 21st century, one for sexual abuse by clergy and another to the Indigenous people of Australia.[65] The Jewish People have asked for the same. It is time for the worldwide Church, individual Christians and corporately, to give the Jewish people the apology they have so long awaited. Anything else would be anti-Semitic.

  • [1] Joannis Chrysostomi, ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ, ΤΟΥ ΧΡΥΣΟΣΤΟΜΟΥ, ΤΑ ΕΥΡΙΣΚΟΜΕΝΑ ΠΑΝΤΑ (ed. J.-P. Migne; 18 vols; S.P.N.), 1:843-942.
  • [2] There are many discrepancies regarding his birth. J. N. D. Kelly says that there are various dates between 344-354 which have been as possible birth dates, but the most suitable to fit all the facts is 349 (J. N. D. Kelly, Golden Mouth. The Story of John Chrysostom, Ascetic, Preacher, Bishop [New York: Cornell University Press, 1995], 4).
  • [3] Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent: St. John Chrysostom, Kevin Knight, 2007, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08452b.htm (accessed April 22, 2008).
  • [4] J. N. D. Kelly, 4-5.
  • [5] J. N. D. Kelly, 6.
  • [6] Commenced to be written in 442 and covers 117 years from 323-439. The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen, comprising a History of the Church, from A.D. 324 to A.D. 440 (trans. M. A. Walford Edward; London: Henry G. Bohn, MDCCCLV).
  • [7] M. A. Walford Edward, 362-3.
  • [8] J. N. D. Kelly, 297.
  • [9] J. N. D. Kelly, 74.
  • [10] Manlio Simonetti, Bibical Interpretation in the Early Church (ed. Anders Bergquist and Markus Bockmuehl; trans. John A. Hughes; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1994), 74.
  • [11] Manlio Simonetti, 74.
  • [12] Manlio Simonetti, 55.
  • [13] Donald Attwater, St. John Chrysostom: Pastor and Preacher (London: Harvill Press, 1959), 11.
  • [14] Constantinople was known as the new Rome. Robert L. Wilken, John Chrysostom and the Jews: Rhetoric and Reality in the Late 4th Century (University of California Press, 1983), 104.
  • [15] For the purpose of this essay, the author translated the original Greek text contained in the tome of J.-P. Migne. The Monitum (advice) to the text notes that Chrysostom delivered his first discourse in August 386, the second in September, approximately ten days later and approximately five days before the Jewish Jejunium (fast), and the remaining six followed in short succession of which the final five were held within twenty days, and the sixth was held on the very day of the Jejunium.
  • [16] Saint John Chrysostom, The Fathers of the Church, A New Translation: Saint John Chrysostom, Discourses against Judaizing Christians (eds. Hermigild Dressler O.F.M., Robert P. Russell OSA, William R. Tongue, Thomas P. Halton and Brennan I.H.M. Sister M. Josephine; trans. Paul W. Harkins, Vol. 68; Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1979), 1-3.
  • [17] S.P.N. Joannis Chrysostomi, ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ, 1:844 (Discourse 1). All of the translations are my own unless otherwise stated.
  • [18] Saint John Chrysostom, The Fathers of the Church, A New Translation: Saint John Chrysostom, 4.
  • [19] S.P.N. Joannis Chrysostomi, ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ, 1:845 (Discourse 1).
  • [20] Saint John Chrysostom, The Fathers of the Church, 4. Isaiah 58:3-5: “‘Why do we fast, but you do not see?’ Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?’ Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today’ will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?” Michael D. Coogan, ed., The New Oxford Annotated Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 1059 (Hebrew Bible).
  • [21] νόσεω, νόσος, or νόσημα. S.P.N. Joannis Chrysostomi, ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ, 1:844 and passim.
  • [22] Michael D. Coogan, ed., The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 9-182 (New Testament and passim).
  • [23] Robert L. Wilken, John Chrysostom and the Jews117.
  • [24] S.P.N. Joannis Chrysostomi, ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ, 1:993 (Discourse 6).
  • [25] Dressler, in his translation, notes that this is a reference to 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 where Paul sees faith as the Christian weapon. Faith, he says, is above reason and everything opposing faith is wrong and must be set aside or destroyed. Saint John Chrysostom, The Fathers of the Church, 147.
  • [26] Saint John Chrysostom, The Fathers of the Church, 147-148.
  • [27] Robert L. Wilken, John Chrysostom and the Jews, 95-107.
  • [28] Saint John Chrysostom, The Fathers of the Church, 147.
  • [29] S.P.N. Joannis Chrysostomi, ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ, 1:994 (Discourse 6).
  • [30] S.P.N. Joannis Chrysostomi, ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ, 1:848 (Discourse 1).
  • [31] Saint John Chrysostom, The Fathers of the Church, 204.
  • [32] Saint John Chrysostom, The Fathers of the Church, 204.
  • [33] Saint John Chrysostom, The Fathers of the Church, 204.
  • [34] S.P.N. Joannis Chrysostomi, ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ, 1:845 (Discourse 1).
  • [35] S.P.N. Joannis Chrysostomi, ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ, 1:863 (Discourse 3).
  • [36] Michael D. Coogan, ed., The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 282 (New Testament).
  • [37] Michael D. Coogan, ed., The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 270 (Hebrew Bible).
  • [38] Robert L. Wilken, John Chrysostom and the Jews, 149.
  • [39] Robert L. Wilken, John Chrysostom and the Jews, 876.
  • [40] The Jewish Publication Society, JPS Hebrew-English Tanak (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1999), 1,005.
  • [41] Saint John Chrysostom, The Fathers of the Church, 81, n. 33.
  • [42] J. N. D. Kelly, 64.
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An Interview with Dwight A. Pryor

January 2009 marked the 25th anniversary of The Center for Judaic-Christian Studies. In the following interview, the Center’s founder, Dwight Pryor, surveys his life’s journey, and reflects on the dangers inherent in the “Jewish Roots” movement. Dwight’s words are a clarion call to those who are part of this renewal, and a sobering warning to those who would abuse the fledgling movement.

[question]How did you first get involved with the Jewish Roots of Christianity?[/question]

[answer]My journey actually began with a small ad in the back of a Christian magazine in 1981, which led me to a discovery of the Jewish background to the life and teachings of Jesus.

A few years earlier, in 1977, the Lord had sovereignly brought me out of the New Age Movement into the Kingdom of God. For seven years I had served as the president of a nationally known New Age organization when, with many of my colleagues and friends, I encountered the extraordinary reality of Jesus as Messiah and Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit to radically transform lives and bring people into an intimate relationship with the true and living God.

As a result of that experience, I developed a keen interest in the Bible and its wisdom. I was influenced in my early studies by the writings of Derek Prince and developed a growing respect for the importance of Israel. Indeed I found myself drawn to the Hebrew Bible and surprisingly attracted to the Hebrew language.

In the spring of 1981 I noticed a small add in the classifieds of Logos magazine that posed a provocative question:“Can the sayings of Jesus be properly understood without a knowledge of Hebrew?” Readers were invited to request free information from Israel about exciting developments there in gospel research. Which I did…and the rest of the story, as they say, is history![/answer]

[question]Who placed the ad? And what information did you receive?[/question]

[answer]I received a packet of information from David Bivin telling about the unprecedented collaboration of Jewish and Christian scholars in Jerusalem studying the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and their growing conviction that Jesus of Nazareth likely spoke Hebrew in his religious discourses. More importantly, in their “excavation” of the gospels, Dr. Robert Lindsey and Professor David Flusser discovered mounting evidence that Jesus’ original words, idioms and Hebrew syntax are remarkably well preserved behind the earliest Greek manuscripts of the gospels.

Later, through a generous gift of a dear friend, I was able to travel to Israel on a study tour and meet David and many of the scholars of what became known as the “Jerusalem School.” I was captivated by the brilliant insights their research shed on the life and times of Messiah Jesus, and felt strongly that the Body of Messiah worldwide should share in the fruit of this pioneering work, and not just a coterie of a few gifted men and women in Jerusalem.

That journey up to Jerusalem forever changed my life and chartered the course for what would become my ministry. I went to Israel as a Spirit-filled believer, and I returned with a burning desire to become an authentic disciple of the historical Jesus of Nazareth. I went back to graduate school at the University of Texas, where I had attended more than a decade before as a Philosophy student, and took courses in Modern Hebrew and Jewish studies. With the help of several friends, I started the Center for Judaic-Christian Studies in order to raise funds to further gospel research in Israel and to share those results with others. Since its inception in 1984, I have served as the Center’s president.[/answer]

[question]You must have seen many changes in the last 25 years in public awareness regarding the Jewishness of Jesus and the Jewish roots of the Christian faith?[/question]

[answer]In the 80’s I could say to a church congregation that “Jesus wasn’t a Christian, he was a Jew!” and there would be gasps in the audience. Today everyone acknowledges that our Lord was not an Englishman but a devout Jew. Back then few people had ever heard the terminology “Jewish roots of Christianity.” Today you can do a Google search on the term and be directed to over 200,000 websites.

So yes, there has been a noticeable awakening in the Church, even worldwide, to its historic and spiritual origins in the Judaism of Jesus and the Second Temple era in Jewish history. But I am not really surprised by this. From the beginning I had the sense that we were witnessing more than some idiosyncratic curiosity of a few Hebrew-philes, but a move of God’s Spirit that would eventually spread throughout the Body of Messiah.

In the mid-80’s, when I was trying to convince Eerdmans to publish the book Dr. Marvin Wilson had written for us, Our Father Abraham, I told them this work would not be just another typical academic volume, with a short lifespan, but would circulate for years and become a classic in the Church’s awakening to its Hebrew heritage in Messiah. Though they were reluctant—they did not think there was a market for the book—they finally agreed to publish it (after we agreed to purchase 1,000 copies in advance!). Today Our Father Abraham is in its thirteenth printing and is one of the five all-time bestselling academic books for the second largest Christian publishing house in America![/answer]

[question]Are you pleased with the way this movement has developed over the years? And what do you see to be its future?[/question]

[answer]Many positive and edifying things are occurring for believers returning to the foundations of their faith in a Jewish Messiah and his Hebrew scriptures. Minds are being renewed in the service of God, hearts are being mended, and families are finding blessing and shalom in celebrating the biblical holidays, including the Sabbath. I especially am thrilled with the fact that we now are witnessing the third generation of young scholars fully acquainted with and academically prepared to advance the Church’s knowledge of the thorough-going Jewishness of Jesus and to promote the value of a Hebraic worldview to the Christian vision.

On the other hand, at times I have mixed feelings about the directions some in the so-called Jewish Roots Movement are taking. It is not surprising I suppose that with any move of God’s Spirit in the Church there will be excesses and even extremism that can lead to spiritual pride, soulishness, and sectarianism. Too many who are leaders, it seems, have little scholarly background or accountability, and sometimes their “new revelations” are nothing more than retooled ancient heresies garbed in Hebrew clothing. That does not contribute to the renewing of the Christian mind nor to the sanctifying of God’s name.

My strong conviction is that the Lord is restoring the Hebraic foundations of the Church so that together we all can move forward in greater faithfulness and maturity in the service of the Messiah and the Kingdom of God. Toward that end we should be Father-focused, Christ-centered and Spirit-saturated. We should stand with and pray for Israel. Our teaching should strive to be biblically balanced and theologically sound.

Of all the followers of Jesus, we who are being reconnected to the olive-tree roots of our faith, who study Torah and treasure Jewish wisdom—surely we should be the most humble and wise, with a servant heart and a good eye, like Abraham, our father in the faith. Love should abound in all that we do. More than just knowledge, if the fruit of the Spirit is not characterizing our lives and our communities, then we are in the wrong movement.

At the end of the day, we can never improve upon Jesus and his example. His passion was for one movement alone, the Kingdom of God, and his priority was for the raising up of disciples through sound instruction and godly example. To authentically emulate that and to carry on that mission should be the raison d’être of the Hebraic renewal community.[/answer]