Who is the greatest? (Lk 9:46-9:46)

“And an argument arose

Among the disciples

As to which one

Of them

Was the greatest.”

 

Εἰσῆλθεν δὲ διαλογισμὸς ἐν αὐτοῖς, τὸ τίς ἂν εἴη μείζων αὐτῶν.

 

Luke said that an argument arose among the disciples of Jesus (Εἰσῆλθεν δὲ διαλογισμὸς ἐν αὐτοῖς) as to which one of them was the greatest (τὸ τίς ἂν εἴη μείζων αὐτῶν).  This question about the greatest can also be found in Matthew, chapter 18:1, Mark, chapter 9:33-34, and here, with some changes.  Mark said that Jesus asked them what they were discussing or arguing about on the way there.  Jesus knew that they had been talking about something that was a little heated.  Instead of coming to Jesus, as in Matthew, Mark had Jesus go to the disciples.  They were silent when Jesus asked them what they were talking about on their travels.  In fact, they had been arguing or discussing among themselves on the way there, who was the greatest.  Mark never mentioned the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, but just the greatest in general.  The late Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) always proclaimed that he was the greatest, without indicating what he was the greatest at.  They were looking for some sort of status.  Matthew said that the disciples came to Jesus with this question, instead of arguing among themselves.  They asked him who was the greatest in the kingdom of the heaven?  They were looking for some sort of status in a gnostic concept of a higher and lower status people.  After all, they were the important disciples of Jesus.  Who do you think is the greatest disciple of Jesus?

Satan will come to an end (Mk 3:26-3:26)

“If Satan

Has risen up

Against himself,

He is divided.

He cannot stand.

But his end

Has come.”

 

καὶ εἰ ὁ Σατανᾶς ἀνέστη ἐφ’ ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἐμερίσθη, οὐ δύναται στῆναι ἀλλὰ τέλος ἔχει.

 

There are similar statements to this in Matthew, chapter 12:26, and Luke, chapter 11:18.  Mark said that if Satan has risen up against himself (καὶ εἰ ὁ Σατανᾶς ἀνέστη ἐφ’ ἑαυτὸν), he was divided (καὶ ἐμερίσθη).  He would not be able to last   or stand (οὐ δύναται στῆναι) because the end of Satan has come (ἀλλὰ τέλος ἔχει).  Mark did not have the argument about how their own sons or other exorcists were able to cast out demons.  All in all, this was a very strong argument against Jesus and Beelzebul working together.

The moral use of the Bible

Some see the Bible as some sort of instruction manual on how to live a supposed good life.  Somehow, the Bible serves as a backup proof text for all the great questions in life.  A biblical response is either good or bad, not subject to argumentation.  You can only discuss the text.  Putting your life and belief system in the Bible means that you are trumping every other argument.  “The Bible tells me so” ends the discussion and the argument.  You can only agree, disagree, or argue about the meaning of the text, if your morality is based on the Bible.

False wooden idols (Jer 10:3-10:5)

“The customs of the people

Are false.

A tree from the forest

Is cut down.

It is worked with an ax

By the hands of an artisan.

People deck it with silver.

They deck it with gold.

They fasten it with a hammer.

They fasten it with nails.

Thus it cannot move.

Their idols are

Like scarecrows in a cucumber field.

They cannot speak.

They have to be carried.

They cannot walk.

Do not be afraid of them!

They cannot do evil.

It is not in them to do good.”

This section is a lot like that of Second Isaiah, especially chapters 40-44, against false human made idol gods. Thus this probably also comes from the later exilic times. Many people have this false custom of idol worship. He reminded them that these wooden idols come from a tree. Someone cut down the tree in the forest. Then an artisan or wood carver axed or created an image with a hammer and nails. Then they put silver and gold on it. Thus these false wooden idols cannot move. They are more like a scarecrow in a cucumber patch. They cannot talk or walk, since they have to be carried around. No one should be afraid of these scarecrow idols, since they cannot do any evil to you. However, they also cannot do any good for you either. Once again, this is an argument against the false wooden idol gods and their human makers.

Egypt was more culpable than Sodom (Wis 19:13-19:17)

“The punishments did not come upon the sinners

Without prior signs

With the violence of thunder.

They justly suffered

Because of their wicked acts.

They practiced a more bitter hatred of strangers.

Others had refused to receive strangers

When they came to them.

But these made slaves of guests

Who were their benefactors.

Not only so,

While punishment of some sort

Will come upon the former

For having received strangers with hostility,

The latter,

Having first received them with festal celebrations,

Afterward afflicted them with terrible sufferings.

They had already shared the same rights.

They were stricken also with loss of sight.

Just as were those at the door of the righteous man.

When surrounded by yawning darkness,

Each tried to find the way through their own door.”

Who was worse, the Egyptians or the Sodomites from Genesis, chapters 18-19? Did the Egyptians deserve to be punished? The decision rested on how they treated strangers. Interesting enough, the argument is not about immorality but about hospitality. There is no explicit mention of Sodom or Egypt, but the implications are clear. These Egyptians were clearly warned with the various plagues. Instead of refusing strangers, the Egyptians had welcomed the Israelites, especially based on the stories about Joseph in Genesis, chapters 37-47. There his whole family, father and brothers, the sons of Jacob were welcomed into Egypt. However, as pointed out at the beginning of Exodus, chapters 1 and 5, they then enslaved them and tried to kill the Israelite male babies. Unlike the Sodomites they were not blind, but simply lived in darkness. This story about blindness is clearly from the Sodomite story in Genesis.

These false worshipers are seeking something (Wis 13:6-13:9)

“These people are little to be blamed.

Perhaps they go astray.

But they were seeking God.

They desired to find him.

As they live among his works,

They keep searching.

They trust in what they see.

Because the things that are seen are beautiful.

Yet again,

Not even they are to be excused.

If they had the power to know so much

That they could investigate the world,

How did they fail to find sooner

the Lord of these things?”

This writer seems to give these nature idol worshipers a pass. They were at least seeking God (πλανῶνται Θεὸν). They were trying to find him in his works (τοῖς ἔργοις). They kept searching in this beautiful world. However, since they were so smart, they should have investigated further to find the creator of all this beauty. They are not to be totally excused because they should have found the maker and creator (δεσπότην) of all these things. This is an argument against nature worshippers who fail to see through to the divine maker of nature.

Strife (Prov 20:3-20:6)

“It is honorable to refrain from strife.

But every fool is quick to quarrel.

The lazy person does not plow in the autumn season.

Harvest comes.

There is nothing to be found.

The purposes in the human mind are like deep water.

But the intelligent will draw them out.

Many proclaim themselves loyal.

But who can find one worthy of trust?”

The honorable people stay away from arguments and strife, but the fools are quick to start an argument. The lazy person does not plow in the correct season so that when harvest comes, they have nothing to harvest. The human mind is deep, but the intelligent people can draw out the purposes of humans. Many people maintain that they are loyal, but it is hard to find a trustworthy person.