Timing Blindness

Healing of the Man Born Blind
Healing of the Man Born Blind (illumination, Codex Egberti, fol. 50; 980–993; Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The account of the man who had been born blind (John 9:110:21) shares some significant features with the story of the woman at the well (John 4:4–42). In both cases, the individuals’ births place them at or outside societal margins (John 4:9, 27; 9:2). Yet, in the end, it is such marginal individuals whom the narrative situates as most in step with Jesus’ mission and, therefore, most in step with Yahweh’s purposes for his people (John 4:23–24, 39–42; 9:35–38), when a different situation would typically have been expected (John 4:20, 22; 9:13–34, 40–41; 10:19–21).

Still, in the later narrative, the reversal is even stronger because of the lengthy opposition that the staunchest part of the “in group” develops to Jesus’ timing in healing the man who had been born blind (i.e., on the Sabbath; John 9:14, 16). In Jesus’ initial response to his disciples’ question about how the man came to have been born blind, Jesus affirms that the end was “that the works of God might be manifest in him” (John 9:3; ἵνα φανερωθῇ τὰ ἔργα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ). Without specifically mentioning the Sabbath, Jesus immediately continues with three temporal assertions: “it is necessary for us to work the works of the one who has sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one is able to work. When I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4–5; ἡμᾶς δεῖ ἐργάζεσθαι τὰ ἔργα τοῦ πέμψαντός με ἕως ἡμέρα ἐστίν· ἔρχεται νὺξ ὅτε οὐδεὶς δύναται ἐργάζεσθαι. ὅταν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ὦ, φῶς εἰμι τοῦ κόσμου). These statements likely have referents beyond the scope of the immediate pericope (e.g., John 13:30), but they set up an important link with Jesus’ forthcoming criticism of the Pharisees for their “blindness” (John 9:39–41).1

At issue here are competing versions of Yahweh’s agenda for his people. The Pharisee’s admission of blindness would have been tantamount to repentance.2 Having been sent by the Father, Jesus claims for himself the right to pronounce and act according to the Father’s agenda (John 9:4, 39).3 To their own detriment, however, the Pharisees remain skeptical of this claim (John 9:16, 28–29, 39; cf. John 7:27).4 Instead, they prefer discipleship to Moses while not recognizing even Moses’ support for Jesus (John 5:39; 9:28–29; cf. John 10:1–21).5 Therefore, because they have stood their ground in asserting insight that they did not actually possess, what remains in the light of their encounter with Jesus is only a blindness for which such opponents are fully culpable (John 9:39–41).6

1. Chrysostom, Hom. Jo., 56.3 (NPNF1, 14:200–1); F. F. Bruce, The Gospel and Epistles of John (combined ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 1:209, 220–21; Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2003), 795.

2. Cf. Origen, Cels., 7.39 (ANF, 4:627–28).

3. Cf. Origen, Comm. Jo., 1.24 (ANF, 9:311).

4. Bruce, The Gospel and Epistles of John, 1:220; cf. Augustine, Grat., 44 (NPNF1, 5:464).

5. Augustine, Tract. Ev. Jo., 33.1 (NPNF1, 7:197).

6. Cf. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 81.7, 97.4, 135.12 (NPNF1, 8:392, 475, 626); Augustine, Faust., 21.2 (NPNF1, 4:265); Chrysostom, The Power of Demons, 2.4 (NPNF1, 9:189); Irenaeus, Haer., 3.24.2 (ANF, 1:458–59). See also Augustine, Serm., 86 (NPNF1, 6:514–17); Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (ed. and trans. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall; 2nd ed.; New York: Continuum, 2006), 354.

Finding Faith in Samaria

Christ and the Samaritan woman at the well
Angelika Kauffmann, “Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well” (1796; Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John 4:4–42 records Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. Although the woman had come to the well for water (John 4:7, 15), after her conversation with Jesus, she leaves her water jar, returns to the town, and tells the people there to “come see a person who told me all the things that I have done. This one is not the Messiah, is he?” (John 4:29; δεῦτε ἴδετε ἄνθρωπον ὃς εἶπέν μοι πάντα ὅσα ἐποίησα, μήτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ χριστός;).1 Others from the town then come, presumably following the woman, to see Jesus (John 4:30, 39–40). Even before the group reaches Jesus, however, many in it have believed in him based on the woman’s report (John 4:39–40a). At the group’s request, Jesus stays with them two additional days, and upon hearing his own teaching, the group believes all the more (John 4:41–42a).2

Earlier, the woman had expressed the expectation that, when he arrived, the Messiah would teach the Samaritans (John 4:25).3 Although the woman expresses uncertainty about how far Jesus’ messiahship will seem viable to the other townsfolk, her perception of his behavior at least seems to make this claim not unreasonable for her (John 4:26, 28–29).4 Still more striking is the townsfolk’s reaction when Jesus teaches them directly: “we ourselves have heard, and we believe that this one is truly the Savior of the world” (John 4:42b; αὐτοὶ . . . ἀκηκόαμεν καὶ οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ἀληθῶς ὁ σωτὴρ τοῦ κόσμου).5 In so doing, these Samaritans recognize the particular shape in which the salvation that originates with the Jews has come,6 even when notable figures among the Jewish leadership themselves have difficulty with Jesus in this respect (cf. John 3:1–21; 4:21–24; 9:110:19).7

1. Cf. Chrysostom, Hom. Jo., 34.1 (NPNF1, 14:117).

2. See also Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2003), 627.

3. Cf. John 4:17b–18, 29a; Augustine, Serm., 51.2 (NPNF1, 6:422–23); Chrysostom, Hom. Jo., 33.2 (NPNF1, 14:115); Origen, Comm. Jo., 1.6 (ANF, 9:300).

4. Cf. BDF, §427.2; cf. NASB95 and NET, sub. loc.; Chrysostom, Hom. Jo., 33.2, 34.1 (NPNF1, 14:116, 118).

5. Cf. Ephraim Syrus, Hymns on the Nativity, 3 (NPNF2, 13:230).

6. Keener, John, 627.

7. The phrase “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23–24; ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ) may include a hendiadys (Keener, John, 615–18). Or, the two objects of the preposition “in” (ἐν) may be “separate . . . but epexegetically related” (Andreas J. Köstenberger, John [Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004], 156n50). In either case, because of the close connection that John 4:23–24 proposes between “spirit” and “truth,” “truly” (John 4:42; ἀληθῶς) in the mouths of the Samaritans may well situate them as or among the “true worshipers” (John 4:23; ἀληθινοὶ προσκυνηταί) of the Father in that “hour [that] is coming and now is” (John 4:23; ἔρχεται ὥρα καὶ νῦν ἐστιν).

Origin, Identity, and Mission

Jesus and Nicodemus, Crijn Hendricksz, 1616–1645.
Crijn Hendricksz, “Jesus and Nicodemus” (1616–1645; Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John 1:13 describes a group of individuals “who were not born from blood nor from a fleshly will nor from a husband’s will but from God” (οἳ οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρὸς ἀλλʼ ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν). For John, being born “from blood” (ἐξ αἱμάτων), “from a fleshly will” (ἐκ θελήματος σαρκός), and “from a husband’s will” (ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρός) would all have been perfectly reasonable ways of describing ordinary, human generation.1 Yet, the individuals John describes as not having been born in these ways but as having been born “from God” (ἐκ θεοῦ) are still very much human beings (John 1:9–12). John’s point, then, is not to negate the reality of the ordinary, human, physical generation of the individuals he describes but to negate the significance of this origin for determining the identity of the “children of God” (John 1:12; τέκνα θεοῦ).

Not surprisingly, then, fairly soon, the Gospel’s narrative finds Jesus discussing with Nicodemus how those who have been born by ordinary, human generation must be born ἄνωθεν (e.g., John 3:3, 7). That it would make no sense for Jesus to affirm that someone, especially an older person, would need “to go into his mother’s womb and be born a second time” (John 3:4; εἰς τὴν κοιλίαν τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ δεύτερον εἰσελθεῖν καὶ γεννηθῆναι) Nicodemus already well knows.2 What Nicodemus fails to grasp is that, for Jesus, birth ἄνωθεν is not so much about a difference of time as it is difference of location (i.e., not so much about birth “again” as birth “from above”; cf. John 3:31), along with the precise definition Jesus gives to the latter.3 Thus, to be born “from above” (ἄνωθεν) is to have a share in the same parentage as “the one who has descended from heaven” (John 3:13; ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβάς; cf. John 3:31). Such parentage is that of the Father who sends the Son to do his will (John 6:38) so that the Son also gives this same commission to his disciples and his siblings (John 18:36; 20:17, 21).4

1. William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Gospel according to John (New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1953), 1:82; Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2003), 404–5; Andreas J. Köstenberger, John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 39–40.

2. Nicodemus seems not quite sure what to make of Jesus’ initial response or his further clarification (John 3:3–10; cf. Chrysostom, Hom. Jo., 24.2–3 [NPNF1, 14:85–86]; Keener, John, 544–45; Andreas J. Köstenberger, A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters: The Word, the Christ, the Son of God [Biblical Theology of the New Testament; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009], 474–76). Yet, the syntax of Nicodemus’s question in John 3:4b indicates that he expects Jesus to reject the possibility he there raises for interpreting what Jesus has said about birth ἄνωθεν (BDF, §427.2; cf. NASB95 and NET, sub. loc.).

3. Keener, John, 537; Köstenberger, Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters, 474–76. Of course, assuming that it would temporally follow birth according to ordinary, human generation, a birth “from above” would also be a kind of “second” birth (cf. Augustine, Faust., 24.1 [NPNF1, 4:317]; Chrysostom, Hom. Rom., 10.17 [NPNF1, 11:403]). Yet, for Jesus in John 3, this temporal sequence seems not to be nearly so significant as is the spatial distance between heaven and earth and the ideological significance that distance bears.

4. Köstenberger, Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters, 259.

Why Seek the Living among the Dead?

The Road to Emmaus appearance, based on Luke 2...
Joseph von Führich, “The Road to Emmaus appearance” (1837; Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Luke 24:1, αἱ γυναῖκες, αἵτινες ἦσαν συνεληλυθυῖαι ἐκ τῆς Γαλιλαίας αὐτῷ (Luke 23:55; the women who had come with him from Galilee; cf. Matt 28:1–8; Mark 16:1–8; Luke 8:2–3; 23:49; 24:10; John 20:1–13) go to Jesus’ tomb φέρουσαι ἃ ἡτοίμασαν ἀρώματα (Luke 24:1; carrying spices that they had prepared). Instead of finding Jesus, however, the women are met with an empty tomb and two shining figures (Luke 24:2–5a). To these women, the resplendent individuals then address the question τί ζητεῖτε τὸν ζῶντα μετὰ τῶν νεκρῶν; (Luke 24:5b; Why do you seek the living one among the dead?).

From the women’s perspective, of course, seeking someone who was alive among the dead was precisely not what they were doing. They had, after all, come φέρουσαι ἃ ἡτοίμασαν ἀρώματα (Luke 24:1; carrying spices that they had prepared), which they had not had with them previously when they were at the tomb (Luke 23:55–56). Among those who were dead, they were seeking one who was dead. The figures’ point is, then, not that the women were confused about where dead or living people might normally be found but that the individual the women were seeking had a different status than they had supposed. The object of their search was alive rather than dead—and those who sought him should have known better than to think otherwise (Luke 24:6–7).1

Although Peter at least goes to see the tomb for himself and comes away θαυμάζων τὸ γεγονός (Luke 24:12; marveling at what had happened), the apostles generally fare still worse. Even on hearing the women’s report, they think it nonsense (Luke 24:10–11).2 Cleopas and his fellow traveler also know the women’s report, but neither do they have any firm convictions about its veracity (Luke 24:13, 18–24).3 Meeting Jesus, whom they do not recognize, Cleopas and his original traveling companion are also told they should have known better (Luke 24:25–26).4 They should have known to have expected Jesus’ resurrection, but they didn’t. Apparently, the unrecognized Jesus spends the rest of the trip teaching the two other travelers. Yet, seemingly nowhere along the balance of this journey are Cleopas and his companion stopped in their tracks by the realization that, of course, Jesus must have risen from the dead (Luke 24:13–15, 25–28). Normal experience was quite to the contrary, hence the two travelers’ inability to fit their experiences into another mold besides that of unrealized hopes for Israel’s redemption (Luke 24:20–24).5 Then again, their own experience of Jesus was, self-confessedly, far from “normal” (Luke 24:19).

When confronted with the fact that they ought to have known better, the women at the tomb had at least ἐμνήσθησαν τῶν ῥημάτων αὐτοῦ (Luke 24:8; remembered his words; cf. Luke 24:6). Yet, even after having new words added to those they had already heard, Cleopas and his companion come only to “burning hearts” until ἐγνώσθη αὐτοῖς ἐν τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου (Luke 24:35; he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread; see Luke 24:28–34). To be sure, the group of disciples hears the reports of Jesus’ appearance to Simon and the two travelers, but they are still joyfully incredulous when Jesus appears among them (Luke 24:33–43).6

Respecting “normal” experience, there was nothing “natural” about Jesus’ resurrection. “Normally,” dead people stay dead. “Normally,” unless the grave is disturbed, a dead body will be in the same place a few days after that body is laid to rest, and spices can be brought back for the body at a later time if such needs to happen. On the other hand, respecting the creator God’s faithfulness to his promises to his people, nothing is more supremely “natural” than that the crucified messiah should be found alive three days after he had died (Luke 24:5–7; 25–27; 44–49; cf. Rom 4:17).7 In the end—not least, in the climax of all things—neither the grave, nor indeed death itself, is a very good container for such a person, in whom all the fullness of the creator’s mighty power and purposes for his people were seen to have been at work (cf. Luke 24:19, 21; Acts 2:24; Heb 7:15–16).

Hand place a bullet into a plain paper bag, and the bag will hold the bullet well enough. Shoot the bullet into the bag with a gun, and the bag hasn’t got a chance.

1. N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God; Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2003), 657.

2. Tertullian, Marc., 4.43 (ANF 3:422).

3. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 657.

4. Ibid., 650–51, 657.

5. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 64.15 (NPNF1 8:266); Augustine, Tract. ep. Jo., 2.1 (NPNF1 7:469–70); Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 651.

6. Augustine, Faust., 4.2 (NPNF1 4:161); Augustine, Serm., 66.3 (NPNF1 6:456); Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 657.

7. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 64.15 (NPNF1 8:266); C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 25–37; Tertullian, Marc., 4.43 (ANF 3:422); Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 649, 651–52.

On Neighborliness

Domenico Fetti - Parable of the Good Samaritan...
Domenico Fetti, "Parable of the Good Samaritan" (c. 1610–1623; photo credit: Wikipedia)

The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–35) is unique to Luke and contributes to the third Gospel’s general emphasis on socially marginalized characters and groups.1 Introducing the parable proper is an exchange between Jesus and a νομικός (lawyer), which the lawyer begins by inquiring τί ποιήσας ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω; (Luke 10:25b; what shall I do to inherit eternal life?). Both this question and the exchange that follows resemble some later rabbinic texts, not least in the lawyer’s concern to define proper Torah obedience.2

Following on their mutual agreement that loving יהוה with all one’s being and one’s neighbor as oneself (Luke 10:27–28) is key to gaining eternal life,3 the lawyer’s next inquiry is τίς ἐστίν μου πλησίον; (Luke 10:29; who is my neighbor?). Although asked to vindicate the lawyer’s own thoughts about the matter (Luke 10:29a), this question follows naturally enough on the preceding discussion: it seeks Jesus’ opinion on the definition of the category of other people toward whom the key command(s) demands love to be exercised.4

Jesus’ answer to this inquiry is to tell a parable in which the main characters include two Jews, one Samaritan, and one ἄνθρωπός τις [ὃς] κατέβαινεν ἀπὸ Ἰερουσαλὴμ εἰς Ἰεριχὼ καὶ λῃσταῖς περιέπεσεν (Luke 10:30; certain person [who] was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among bandits). Provocatively, Jesus proceeds to make out the Samaritan to be the hero of the story and inquires: τίς τούτων τῶν τριῶν πλησίον δοκεῖ σοι γεγονέναι τοῦ ἐμπεσόντος εἰς τοὺς λῃστάς; (Luke 10:36; who of these three [passers by] seems to you to have become the neighbor of the one who had fallen among the bandits?; cf. John 4:9b).5 Within Jesus’ narrative, the answer is clear: ὁ ποιήσας τὸ ἔλεος μετʼ αὐτοῦ (Luke 10:37; the one who acted compassionately with him)—that is, the Samaritan.6

There is, then, likely a bit of a double sense to Jesus’ πορεύου καὶ σὺ ποίει ὁμοίως (Luke 10:37; go and do likewise).7 In the first place, the lawyer should imitate the Samaritan in Jesus’ story and act compassionately.8 To say only this much, however, leaves the discussion quite at the place where the lawyer originally inquired τίς ἐστίν μου πλησίον; (Luke 10:29; who is my neighbor?). So, in the second place, the lawyer should consider as neighbors even those who stand beyond traditional boundary lines of neighborliness (Luke 10:36), even to the extent of removing such boundary lines altogether.9

1. R. T. France, “Matthew, Mark, and Luke,” in A Theology of the New Testament (ed. Donald A. Hagner; rev. ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 237, 242–43.

2. Joachim Jeremias, Rediscovering the Parables (New York: Scribner and Sons, 1966), 159; E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1977), 76–81, 112–14, 129; N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God 2; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 306.

3. On the joining of these two commandments, see Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 305n234.

4. Ibid., 306.

5. Craig Blomberg, Interpreting the Parables (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1990), 231; Jeremias, Rediscovering the Parables, 160.

6. Cf. Jeremias, Rediscovering the Parables, 160–61.

7. Blomberg, Parables, 231–32; Chrysostom, Hom. Heb., 10.8 (NPNF1, 14:417); cf. Augustine, Doctr. chr. , 1.30.31 (NPNF1, 2:530–31); Augustine, Tract. Ev. Jo., 43.2 (NPNF1, 7:240); Jeremias, Rediscovering the Parables, 161.

8. Kenneth E. Bailey, Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes: A Literary-Cultural Approach to the Parables in Luke (Combined ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 2:55; cf. Ambrose, Paen., 1.11.52 (NPNF2, 10:338).

9. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 306–7.

Thousands and Ten Thousands

David quittant son troupeau. David et Saül. Da...
15th-c. Illumination (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First Samuel 18:6 describes David’s return after killing Goliath (1 Sam 17:41–58). Precisely how this event sits chronologically in relationship to the surrounding narrative is difficult to establish.1 One good way of reading the narrative, however, involves treating 1 Sam 18:1–5 as an extended parenthesis, which includes some foreshadowing, and understanding 1 Sam 18:6 to be bringing the reader back to the main plot line that had temporarily paused with 1 Sam 17:58.2 In this context, it begins to be said הכה שׁאול֙ באלפו ודוד ברבבתיו ‎(1 Sam 18:7; Saul has slain by his thousands and David by his ten thousands; see also 1 Sam 21:11; 29:5).3 Yet, thus far, David has specifically been reported to have killed only one person (Goliath) and some animals (1 Sam 17:34–37)—not רבבת (ten thousands).4 Rather, the women’s song quantitatively represents the qualitative value of David’s victory over Goliath as it relates to Saul’s previous exploits.5 On hearing this song, then, Saul becomes enraged and starts looking and acting to do David harm (1 Sam 18:8–9).

Not dissimilarly did a later Saul also act against a later David (cf. Jer 30:9; Ezek 34:23–24; 37:24–25).6 Although the former Saul perhaps did so from envy and the later from zeal (cf. Rom 10:1–2; Gal 1:13–14; Phil 3:4b–6), they both found themselves standing against the one on whose side יהוה stood (1 Sam 16:14; 17:37; 18:12, 28; Acts 26:14).7 Although they were, in some ways, outstanding among their fellows (e.g., 1 Sam 9:2; 11:1–15; Gal 1:13–14; Phil 3:4b–6), the persecution in which they engaged was without any just cause (1 Sam 23:24b24:22; 26:1–25; Acts 9:4–5; 22:7–8; 26:14–15).8 Yet, despite some more positive moments of lesser tension in the relationship between the former Saul and the former David (e.g., 1 Sam 24:16–22; 26:21–25), this Saul dies by his own hand (1 Sam 31:4).9 Only in the case of the later Saul does the persecutor ultimately capitulate to the goodness of the one with whom יהוה stands and die by Torah in order to live in faithfulness and join with those who announce goodness of the Davidic Messiah, who has himself delivered his people from the one who had held them in terror (Gal 1:11–24; 2:19–20; Heb 2:14–15; cf. 1 Sam 17:11, 24).10

1. E.g., K&D, Samuel, 490–91n1; cf. Walter Brueggemann, “Narrative Coherence and Theological Intentionality in 1 Samuel 18,” CBQ 55, no. 2 (1993): 243; Antony F. Campbell, “The Reported Story: Midway between Oral Performance and Literary Art,” Semeia 46 (1989): 77–85; Simon J. De Vries, “David’s Victory over the Philistine as Saga and as Legend,” JBL 92, no. 1 (1973): 23–24, 35–36.

2. Burke O. Long, “Framing Repetitions in Biblical Historiography,” JBL 106, no. 3 (1987): 396; cf. Jerome, Ep., 46.2 (NPNF2, 6:61).

3. Brueggemann, “1 Samuel 18,” 238. The term רבבת does not itself designate an exact quantity, but it and its context do ascribe to David a significantly greater quantity of slaughter than to Saul (1 Sam 18:7–8; Brueggemann, “1 Samuel 18,” 228–29, 239; R. P. Gordon, I & II Samuel: A Commentary [LBI; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986], 160; HALOT, “רבבה”; Katherine Stott, “Herodotus and the Old Testament: A Comparative Reading of the Ascendancy Stories of King Cyrus and David,” SJOT 16, no. 1 [2002]: 63).

4. Based on David’s description in 1 Sam 17:14–15, 28, 33, 38–39, 42, 55–56, 58, 1 Sam 16:18 likely concerns David’s confrontation with the beasts that he mentions later (1 Sam 17:34–37; K&D, Samuel, 478–79). Or, the narrative of 1 Sam 16:14–23 may be a flash-forward to the parallel material in 1 Sam 18:10a (cf. Brueggemann, “1 Samuel 18,” 238; Chrysostom, Hom. 2 Cor., 24.4 [NPNF1, 12:393]). Moreover, according to 1 Sam 17:52, אנשׁי ישׂראל ויהודה (the people of Israel and Judah), or probably more simply, בני ישׂראל ‎(1 Sam 17:53; the children of Israel), are said to have routed the remainder of the Philistine army. To be sure, the narrative represents David’s defeat of Goliath was the catalyst for this larger victory. Yet, at this point, (1) אנשׁי ישׂראל ויהודה (the people of Israel and Judah) were certainly not under David’s command (1 Sam 17:12–20, 28, 33, 42) and (2) the text does not necessarily imply that David accompanied the rest of the people in their pursuit after the remainder of the Philistine army (1 Sam 17:51a, 54, 57). Indeed, even in such a pursuit, unless David had carried with him some weapon from the battlefield itself (e.g., Goliath’s sword; 1 Sam 17:50–51), after killing Goliath, David hardly seems to have been armed with more than a staff and four stones for his sling (cf. 1 Sam 17:40, 50).

5. Even the numbers of enemies later reported to have been killed in particular engagements by David’s שׁלֹשׁת הגברים (three mighty men) and their close associates pale in comparison (e.g., 2 Sam 23:8–23; 1 Chron 11:1012:22).

6. Cf. Irenaeus, Haer., 4.27.1 (ANF, 1:498).

7. Chrysostom, Hom. 2 Cor., 24.4 (NPNF1, 12:393); Irenaeus, Haer., 4.27.1 (ANF, 1:498); Tertullian, Praescr., 3 (ANF, 3:244).

8. Augustine, The Correction of the Donatists, 2.9 (NPNF1, 4:636); Irenaeus, Haer., 4.27.1 (ANF, 1:498); Tertullian, Praescr., 3 (ANF, 3:244).

9. Chrysostom, Hom. 2 Cor., 24.4 (NPNF1, 12:393).

10. Cf. Ibid.

Prayer Prayers

Luke 11:1–4 recounts Jesus’ teaching his disciples how to pray. The substance of the prayer much resembles the parallel account in Matt 6:9–13. Yet, Luke’s version is considerably shorter than Matthew’s at a couple points. Also, rather than coming in the context of a longer discourse, Jesus’ teaching in Luke 11:2–4 responds to a specific request from one of the disciples that he teach them to pray, just as John had done with his own disciples (Luke 11:1).1

To some extent, the prayer’s final three petitions may evoke Prov 30:7–8,2 but whether in this connection or when compared with Matthew’s fuller version of the prayer itself, Luke’s retention of καὶ γὰρ αὐτοὶ ἀφίομεν παντὶ ὀφείλοντι ἡμῖν (Luke 11:4b; for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us) is a striking explanatory expansion within his otherwise terse report.3 The verb ἀφίομεν could be performative (we forgive as we pray), but given the larger context of Luke’s Gospel, a broader, customary sense is still more probable (we regularly forgive; e.g., Luke 6:37; 11:5–13; 17:3–4).4 Even when they are not praying per se, Jesus summons his disciples to forgive others in such a way that does not immediately give the lie to their own requests for forgiveness when they ask it of their Father (cf. Luke 4:16–21; 10:21–37; 11:5–13; 18:9–14; see also Matt 6:14–15; 18:21–35).5 Although Jesus frames his instruction with ὅταν προσεύχησθε λέγετε (Luke 11:2a; when you pray, say), the content of the prayer itself makes demands on Jesus’ disciples that extend far beyond their speech in prayer to their Father.6

1. Darrell L. Bock, Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 141.

2. Cf. Acts Thom. (ANF, 8:547); Augustine, Ep., 188.2.6 (NPNF1, 1:550); John Cassian, Conferences, 9.21 (NPNF2, 11:394–95); Tertullian, Jejun., 15 (ANF, 4:112).

3. Cf. N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God 2; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 169.

4. Clement of Alexandria, Strom., 7.13 (ANF, 2:546). Nearly quoting Matthew’s version of this prayer verbatim, Didache 8:3 prescribes that it be prayed three times a day. In such a context, even if the community’s confession of its own forgiveness toward its debtors within the prayer itself is purely performative, it certainly also happens with a frequency and regularity that would, in itself, put the community in a fairly consistent state of forgiveness toward such people.

5. Augustine, Tract. Ev. Jo., 7.11 (NPNF1, 7:51–52). Cf. Augustine, Pecc. merit., 2.21 (NPNF1, 5:53); Tertullian, Marc., 4.26 (ANF, 3:391–93); Tertullian, Pud., 2 (ANF, 4:76–77). See also Kenneth E. Bailey, Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes: A Literary-Cultural Approach to the Parables in Luke (Combined ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 1:119–41; Craig Blomberg, Interpreting the Parables (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1990), 276; Bock, Jesus according to Scripture, 141–42; James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Christianity in the Making 1; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 411, 589–92; Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 292–95.

6. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 168–70. Cf. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (ed. Irmgard Booth; trans. R. H. Fuller; rev. ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1963), 183–87.

Messiah, Our Passover

Scenes of the Passion of Christ (Image via Wikipedia)

As יהוה was delivering Israel from Egypt, he commanded his people spread lamb’s blood on their doorposts and lintels (Exod 12:7). In view of this blood, יהוה passed over his people and judged only the Egyptians’ firstborn and their gods (Exod 12:12–13), for יהוה had provided that the Israelites should redeem their firstborn with lamb’s blood (Exod 13:15; cf. Exod 34:18–20). He delivered them mightily, he brought them through the sea, he made a covenant with them, and he settled them in Canaan (Exod 12:29Judges 1:26). Nevertheless, even those who entered the land did not fully enter יהוה’s rest (Heb 4:8–11), and year by year, they offered sacrifices for sins (Lev 16:1–34; 23:26–32; Num 29:7–11; Heb 9:6–10; 10:1–4).

Correspondingly, Jesus was a faithful son in all things ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ (Heb 5:7; in the days of his flesh; cf. Heb 3:6).1 Yet, especially in his death, ἔπρεπεν . . . αὐτῷ, διʼ ὃν τὰ πάντα καὶ διʼ οὗ τὰ πάντα, πολλοὺς υἱοὺς εἰς δόξαν ἀγαγόντα τὸν ἀρχηγὸν τῆς σωτηρίας αὐτῶν διὰ παθημάτων τελειῶσαι (Heb 2:10; it was fitting for him, because of whom are all things and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to perfect through afflictions the originator of their salvation; cf. John 19:30; 1 Cor 5:7).2 Having thus died and risen again, therefore, this Jesus has secured an eternal redemption and brings those who side with his faithfulness οὐ . . . ψηλαφωμένῳ (not to what may be touched) with dire consequences (Exod 19; Heb 12:18–21) but to a resplendent πόλις . . . ἡ μέλλουσα (Heb 13:14; city that is to come; cf. Rom 3:21–26; Eph 2:19–22; Phil 3:20–21; Heb 6:11–12; 9:11–12; 10:19–31; 12:18–29).3

1. Cf. Augustine, Faust., 19.10 (NPNF1, 4:243).

2. Athanasius, Ep., 2.7, 6.2, 7.3, 10.10, 19.1 (NPNF2, 4:512, 520, 524, 531, 544–45); Augustine, Faust., 19.10 (NPNF1, 4:243); Augustine, Tract. Ev. Jo., 55.2, 117.2, 121.3 (NPNF1, 7:299–300, 428, 436); Hippolytus, Fragments, 5 (ANF, 5:238); Tertullian, Adv. Jud., 10 (ANF, 3:167); (Pseudo-)Tertullian, Marc., 2.83–112 (ANF, 4:147); cf. Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Cor., 15.6–7 (NPNF1, 12:85–86); Origen, Comm. John, 10.11, 10.13 (ANF, 9:388–90).

3. Athanasius, Ep., 6.2, 13.7, 43 (NPNF2, 12:520, 541, 552–53); Augustine, Doctr. chr., 2.41 (NPNF1, 2:555); Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.13 (NPNF1, 8:124); Augustine, Ep., 55.3.5 (NPNF1, 1:304–5); Augustine, Faust., 19.10 (NPNF1, 4:243); Chrysostom, Hom. Eph., 23 (NPNF1, 13:165–66); Hippolytus, Haer., 8.11 (ANF, 5:123); Peter of Alexandria, Fragments, 5.7 (ANF, 6:282); cf. Clement of Alexandria, Strom., 4.10 (ANF, 2:460); Leo the Great, Serm., 59.5 (NPNF2, 12:1:172); Origen, Comm. John, 10.11 (ANF, 9:388); Tertullian, Marc., 5.7 (ANF, 3:443).

Frightful Fishing and Forgiven Catching

Raphael, "The Miraculous Draught of Fishes" (Image via Wikipedia)

Although the calling of Simon Peter appears in all three synoptic Gospels (Matt 4:18–20; Mark 1:16–18; Luke 5:1–11; cf. John 1:35–51; 21:1–11), Luke’s narrative develops the pericope in much greater detail than Matthew’s or Mark’s. Luke 5:3 indicates that Jesus did some teaching from Simon’s boat. After concluding, Jesus instructs Simon to take the boat into the λίμνη (lake), and set out the nets for a catch (Luke 5:4). Although incredulous, Simon acquiesces (Luke 5:5–6a, 8–10a).1 Then, to his surprise, not only do they catch fish, but their catch is of such quantity that it nearly nearly tears the nets and sinks both their boat and another called to help (Luke 5:6b–7). Observing this situation, Simon προσέπεσεν τοῖς γόνασιν Ἰησοῦ λέγων· ἔξελθε ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι ἀνὴρ ἁμαρτωλός εἰμι, κύριε. θάμβος γὰρ περιέσχεν αὐτὸν καὶ πάντας τοὺς σὺν αὐτῷ ἐπὶ τῇ ἄγρᾳ τῶν ἰχθύων ὧν συνέλαβον (Luke 5:8–9; fell at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, because I am a sinful man, Lord.” For, astonishment at the catch of fish that they had enclosed had come upon him and all those who were with him).2

To Simon, Jesus then addresses the words μὴ φοβοῦ· ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν ἀνθρώπους ἔσῃ ζωγρῶν (Luke 5:10b; Do not fear; from now on, you will be catching people). For, the huge catch of fish has sufficiently demonstrated to Simon that Jesus is one to whom he should have listened from the first (Luke 5:5, 8).3 The others’ θάμβος (Luke 5:9; astonishment) may have been more simply “not knowing what to say,” but Simon’s is apparently mixed with fear so that he has ready on his tongue a judgment that he is ἀνὴρ ἁμαρτωλός (a sinful man) and a petition that Jesus leave (Luke 5:8, 10). Simon has found himself to have grumbled against someone who can apparently even command fish and who, therefore, bears authority from Israel’s God.4 Having been at such odds with this person, Simon might well have cause for fear (cf. Jer 16:16–18). Consequently, Jesus’ admonition that Simon not fear and his assertion about Simon’s new vocation of ἀνθρώπους . . . ζωγρῶν (Luke 5:10; catching people) are tantamount to forgiveness and a welcoming of Simon into Jesus’ closest body of followers.5 Under the ban of ἀνὴρ ἁμαρτωλός (a sinful man), Simon had wished Jesus to depart (cf. Luke 4:35), but Jesus extends to Simon forgiveness and welcome as an agent in welcoming others into his community.6

1. Jon L. Berquist, “Luke 5:1–11,” Int 58, no. 1 (2004): 62; Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (New International Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 232.

2. Or, if Ἰησοῦ is a dative, προσέπεσεν τοῖς γόνασιν Ἰησοῦ may be “he fell on [his own] knees before Jesus” (I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke [New International Greek Testament Commentary; Exeter: Paternoster, 1995], 204).

3. H. J. Flower, “The Calling of Peter and the Restoration of Peter,” ATR 5, no. 3 (1922): 239.

4. Berquist, “Luke 5:1–11,” 62; Fred B. Craddock, Luke (Interpretation; Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 2009), 70; Flower, “The Calling of Peter and the Restoration of Peter,” 238–39; Green, Luke, 232; Marshall, Luke, 204–5; N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God 2; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 193–95, 297–301. Although other understandings of this part of the narrative have been proposed, this reading seems at least very reasonable in view of (1) the narrative’s specific focus on Peter (Luke 5:5, 8, 10) and (2) Peter’s reaction to the catch by describing himself as ἀνὴρ ἁμαρτωλός (a sinful man) rather than, perhaps, simply as someone who was unworthy of Jesus’ presence (cf. Luke 1:8–80; 7:6–8; 9:28–36; 15:18–19).

5. Cf. Berquist, “Luke 5:1–11,” 64; Green, Luke, 231, 234.

6. Berquist, “Luke 5:1–11,” 62, 64; Green, Luke, 234–35. Instead of Luke’s ἀνθρώπους . . . ζωγρῶν (catching people) addressed particularly to Simon Peter, Matt 4:18–19; Mark 1:16–17 have ἁλιεῖς ἀνθρώπων (fishers for people) addressed to Simon Peter and Andrew. Between Luke’s greater focus on Peter in this pericope and his selection of the more general ζωγρεῖν (to catch), therefore, one wonders whether Luke might perhaps here have a view toward at least some of Peter’s later activity (cf. Acts 10:9–16; LSJ, s.v. “ζωγρέω”; Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 68.23 [NPNF1 8:294]; see also Chrysostom, Hom. Matt., 3.8 [NPNF1 10:19]).

Faithful Rahab

Foster Bible Pictures 0084-1 Rahab Helping the...
Rahab Helping the Two Israelite Spies (Image via Wikipedia)

After assuming leadership over Israel (Josh 1:10–18), Joshua commissions two men to survey Jericho and the surrounding area (Josh 2:1a). Rather tersely, then, the menוילכו ויבאו בית־אשׁה זונה ושׁמה רחב וישׁכבו־שׁמה (Josh 2:1b; went and entered the house of a prostitute, whose name was Rahab, and they lodged there). For onlookers, such an action might not have been unusual in itself,1 but by some means or other, the king became aware of these Israelite’s intent to survey Jericho ahead of some forthcoming military action (Josh 2:3).

Even before the king’s messengers had arrived, however, Rahab had apparently become aware that they were coming and hid the Israelite spies (Josh 2:4a, 6). While the spies are hiding (Josh 2:8),2 Rahab engages them in a brief exchange that solidifies both her promise of protection to them and their promise of the same to her and her family on certain conditions (Josh 2:9–14). When Rahab describes the background for her actions, she twice acknowledges Jericho’s broad recognition of יהוה’s greatness (Josh 2:9, 11a) because of what he had recently done for Israel in helping them against other peoples they had encountered before arriving at Jericho (Josh 2:10, 11b).3 Yet, only in Rahab’s case is this fear of יהוה said to translate into חסד (Josh 2:12; kindly) acts,4 to which the spies respond חסד ואמת (Josh 2:14; kindly and faithfully; cf. Josh 2:17–20; 6:22–23, 25).

Rahab thus constitutes an example of one who both hears the report about יהוה’s mighty deeds and rightly credits that report, δεξαμένη τοὺς κατασκόπους μετʼ εἰρήνης (Heb 11:31b; receiving the spies with peace; cf. Heb 4:2). Yet, alongside Abraham (Jas 2:21–23), James sets forth Rahab as an example of one who is ἐξ ἔργων δικαιοῦται . . . καὶ οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως μόνον (Jas 2:24; justified from works and not from faith only; cf. Jas 2:25–26). It is difficult to assess whether James sees Rahab’s deception of the king’s men (Josh 2:3–5) as an endemic component of her kindness toward the spies (cf. Josh 2:14) or as deception that יהוה presumably forgave within the context of her faith in him (cf. Gen 20:1–13; 26:6–11).5 What is clear, however, is that, in Jas 2:14–20, δικαιοῦσθαι ἐκ πίστεως μόνον refers to something like “being justified for fine words while sitting on one’s hands.” Fine words acknowledging יהוה’s greatness Rahab certainly does have (Josh 2:9–13), but James holds her forth as an example because her fine words, as faithful words, are a genuine testimony of one piece with her ὑποδεξαμένη τοὺς ἀγγέλους καὶ ἑτέρᾳ ὁδῷ ἐκβαλοῦσα (Jas 2:24; having received the messengers and sent them out by another way).6 Indeed, in so doing (cf. Josh 6:25), Rahab the sinner received the Israelite men and kept them from harm,7 and thus, Rahab came to stand in the line of the Israelite man who receives sinners and keeps them from harm (cf. Matt 1:5; Luke 15; John 9:110:18).8

1. Bird, “The Harlot as Heroine,” Semeia 46 (1989): 128; Keil, Joshua, 26.

2. First Clement 12 (ANF, 1:8); Keil, Joshua, 27, regard Josh 2:8 as a reference to the spies’ going to sleep. Yet, because the preceding context says that the men had gone to the roof to hide (Josh 2:6), Josh 2:8–14 might be understood as a flashback or as Rahab’s later discussion with the men in which she discloses convictions she had already held (cf. McCartney, James, 171).

3. Chyrsostom, Hom. Heb., 27.3 (NPNF1, 14:487–88), suggests that the spies themselves brought to Rahab the news of what יהוה had done for Israel. If such were the case, then their possible communication of this news to others also might have been the reason that they attracted such unfavorable attention and that the king became aware of their presence at Rahab’s house. Yet, such a reading would present a difficulty with Joshua’s original commission of the men to perform their reconnaissance חרשׁ (Josh 2:1; secretly).

4. Cyril of Jerusalem, Paen., 9 (NPNF2, 7:10); Ephraim Syrus, The Pearl, 7.1 (NPNF2, 13:299), suggest Rahab as a model of Christian repentance. See also Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 87.5 (NPNF1, 8:421–22); Cyprian, Epist., 75.4 (ANF, 5:398); Jerome, Epist., 52.3 (NPNF2, 6:91).

5. Augustine, C. mend., 32 (NPNF1, 3:495–96), strongly prefers this later possibility.

6. Cf. 1 Clem. 12 (ANF, 1:8); Ambrose, Fid., 5.10.127 (NPNF2, 10:300); Beale, New Testament Biblical Theology, 520–22.

7. Westcott, Hebrews, 377.

8. Cf. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 264–74.