Forgiveness (Lk 17:4-17:4)

“If the same person

Sins against you

Seven times

A day,

Yet turns back

To you

Seven times,

And says.

‘I repent!’

You must forgive!”

 

καὶ ἐὰν ἑπτάκις τῆς ἡμέρας ἁμαρτήσῃ εἰς σὲ καὶ ἑπτάκις ἐπιστρέψῃ πρὸς σὲ λέγων Μετανοῶ, ἀφήσεις αὐτῷ.

 

Luke indicated that Jesus said that if the same person sinned against you (ἁμαρτήσῃ εἰς σὲ) 7 times a day (καὶ ἐὰν ἑπτάκις τῆς ἡμέρας), yet turned back to you 7 times (καὶ ἑπτάκις ἐπιστρέψῃ πρὸς σὲ), and said that he repented (Μετανοῶ, ἀφήσεις αὐτῷ), you must still forgive him (ἀφήσεις αὐτῷ).  There is something like this saying in Matthew, chapter 18:21-22, although there was no mention of Peter here in LukeMatthew indicated that Peter took on a specific leadership role.  He wanted to know how many times he should forgive his brother’s sins?  Peter wanted to know how often he should forgive his brother who had sinned against him (ποσάκις ἁμαρτήσει εἰς ἐμὲ ὁ ἀδελφός μου καὶ ἀφήσω αὐτῷ).  Peter thought that 7 would be a good number.  Was 7 times enough (ἕως ἑπτάκις)?  Most Jewish people had forgiven offenses 3 times.  3 strikes and you were out.  Peter seemed overly generous in his attempts at forgiveness.  Jesus surprised Peter with a solemn declaration (λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦ) by telling him to forgive his brother’s sins not just 7 times (Οὐ λέγω σοι ἕως ἑπτάκις) but 490 times, 7*70 (ἀλλὰ ἕως ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά).  However, this saying about 7*70 was unique to Matthew, who was the only one who ever used this number ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά in the New Testament literature.  This number, nevertheless, could be found in Genesis, chapter 4:24 when Cain and Lamech were talking about violent revenge.  Lamech wanted his vengeance 7*70.  Was this number an attempt to indicate infinity before we had that term?  490 seems overly generous in any circumstances.  However, here in Luke, it might be even more since forgiveness was expected 7 times each day.  How many times do you forgive people?

 

The blood of Abel (Lk 11:51-11:51)

“From the blood

Of Abel

To the blood

Of Zechariah,

Who perished

Between the altar

And the sanctuary.

Yes!

I tell you!

It will be charged

Against this generation.”

 

ἀπὸ αἵματος Ἄβελ ἕως αἵματος Ζαχαρίου τοῦ ἀπολομένου μεταξὺ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου καὶ τοῦ οἴκου· ναί, λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐκζητηθήσεται ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης.

 

Luke indicated that Jesus said with a solemn proclamation (ναί, λέγω ὑμῖν) that from all the blood of Abel (ἀπὸ αἵματος Ἄβελ) to the blood of Zechariah (ἕως αἵματος Ζαχαρίου), who perished between the altar and the sanctuary (τοῦ ἀπολομένου μεταξὺ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου καὶ τοῦ οἴκου) would be charged against this generation (ἐκζητηθήσεται ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης).  Matthew, chapter 23:35 is similar to this, perhaps a Q source.  Jesus said this bloodshed would be charged to the Pharisees and Scribes from the blood of the righteous Abel (ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος Ἅβελ τοῦ δικαίου) to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Barachiah (ἕως τοῦ αἵματος Ζαχαρίου υἱοῦ Βαραχίου).  He was murdered between the Temple sanctuary and the sacrificial altar (ὃν ἐφονεύσατε μεταξὺ τοῦ ναοῦ καὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου).  Abel was the brother that Cain killed in Genesis, chapter 4:8.  His just blood would cry out from the ground.  This Zechariah was a little more complicated.  2 Chronicles, chapter 24:20-22, has a Zechariah, the son of the priest Jehoiada who was stoned to death in the Temple courtyard.  As he was dying, he asked God to avenge his death.  However, Zechariah, the son of Barachiah in Zechariah, chapter 1:1, was a 6th century BCE prophet from a priestly family.  Genesis was the first book of the Hebrew Bible and 2 Chronicles was considered the last book of the Hebrew Bible.  Thus, all the innocent blood from the beginning of the world throughout Israelite history would be upon these Pharisees or this generation.  There would be a continuation of this innocent blood with Jesus himself.  How are you responsible for the death of Jesus?

Adam (Lk 3:38-3:38)

“The son of Enos,

The son of Seth,

The son of Adam,

The son of God.”

 

τοῦ Ἐνὼς τοῦ Σὴθ τοῦ Ἀδὰμ τοῦ Θεοῦ.

 

These names are listed in 1 Chronicles 1:2-1:3, and Genesis, chapter 5:1-8.  Luke concluded his genealogy with Adam, whom he called the son of God.  This terminology was not part of the Jewish tradition.  Of course, this term was applied to Jesus, the Son of God.  Luke said that Cainan was the son of Enos (τοῦ Ἐνὼς), the son of Seth (τοῦ Σὴθ), the son of Adam (τοῦ Ἀδὰμ), the son of God (τοῦ Θεοῦ).  The grouping has the so-called first man Adam, with his son, and grandson.  His son, besides Cain and Abel who are not even mentioned here, was Seth who lived to be 912 years old.  Seth’s son was Enosh who lived to be 905 years old.  Obviously, there were other brothers and sisters, but they are not mentioned.  This genealogy repeats the theme of Genesis, chapter 1.  God created humans in the image of God, male and female.  When Adam had lived 130 years, he became the father of a son in his likeness, according to his image.  He named this son Seth.  Adam had other sons and daughters.  Thus, all the days that Adam lived were 930 years.  The offspring of Seth, and not Cain, were to lead to Noah.  Most of these patriarchs began having children in old age, but they all had other sons and daughters.  Seth became the father of Enosh.  Enosh was the son of Seth, but also the father of Kenan or Cainan.  Thus, Luke completed his genealogy by going from Jesus to Adam, while Matthew went from Abraham to Jesus.  These 77 names of Luke represented a lucky completion or fullness of time.  Jesus would not only be a Jewish leader of the tribe of Abraham, but a worldwide universal leader.

The innocent blood (Mt 23:35-23:35)

“Upon you

May come

All the righteous blood

Shed on earth.

This included

From the blood

Of the righteous Abel,

To the blood

Of Zechariah,

The son of Barachiah,

Whom you murdered

Between the sanctuary

And the altar.”

 

ὅπως ἔλθῃ ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς πᾶν αἷμα δίκαιον ἐκχυννόμενον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος Ἅβελ τοῦ δικαίου ἕως τοῦ αἵματος Ζαχαρίου υἱοῦ Βαραχίου, ὃν ἐφονεύσατε μεταξὺ τοῦ ναοῦ καὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου.

 

This is a saying unique to Matthew.  Jesus said to these Pharisees and Scribes that all the righteous blood that was shed on earth would come upon them (ὅπως ἔλθῃ ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς πᾶν αἷμα δίκαιον ἐκχυννόμενον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς).  This would be from the blood of the righteous Abel (ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος Ἅβελ τοῦ δικαίου) to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Barachiah (ἕως τοῦ αἵματος Ζαχαρίου υἱοῦ Βαραχίου).  He was murdered between the Temple sanctuary and the sacrificial altar (ὃν ἐφονεύσατε μεταξὺ τοῦ ναοῦ καὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου).  Abel was the brother that Cain killed in Genesis, chapter 4:8.  His just blood would cry out from the ground.  This Zechariah was a little more complicated.  2 Chronicles, chapter 24:20-22, has a Zechariah, the son of the priest Jehoiada who was stoned to death in the Temple courtyard.  As he was dying, he asked God to avenge his death.  However, Zechariah, the son of Barachiah in Zechariah, chapter 1:1, was a 6th century BCE prophet from a priestly family.  Genesis was the first book of the Hebrew Bible and 2 Chronicles was considered the last book of the Jewish Bible.  Thus, all the innocent blood from the beginning of the world throughout Israelite history would be upon these Pharisees.  There would be a continuation of this innocent blood with Jesus himself.

Seventy times seven (Mt 18:22-18:22)

“Jesus said to him,

I do not say to you

Seven times,

But seventy times seven.”

 

λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς Οὐ λέγω σοι ἕως ἑπτάκις, ἀλλὰ ἕως ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά.

 

This saying about 7*70 is unique to Matthew.  Jesus surprised Peter with a solemn declaration (λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦ) by telling him to forgive his brother’s sins not 7 times (Οὐ λέγω σοι ἕως ἑπτάκις) but 490 times, 7*70 (ἀλλὰ ἕως ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά).  Matthew is the only one who ever used this number “ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά” in the New Testament literature, but that number could be found in Genesis, chapter 4:24 when Cain and Lamech were talking about violent revenge.  Lamech wanted his vengeance 7*70.  Was this number an attempt to indicate infinity before we had that term?  490 seems overly generous in any circumstances, but was this to mean all the time?

Tower of Babel and Abraham (Wis 10:5-10:5)

“Wisdom also,

When the nations in wicked agreement

Had been put to confusion,

Recognized the righteous man.

She preserved him

Blameless before God.

She kept him strong

In the face of his compassion

For his child.”

Here there seems to be a link with the Tower of Babel and Abraham. Once again in this abridgment of Genesis, there is a leap from chapter 11 about the Tower of Babel and Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac in chapter 22. Obviously, we then have this abbreviated history of mankind that jumps from Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, to Noah and the flood, without explicitly mentioning their names. Now the jump is from the Tower of Babel to Abraham. Here it is wisdom and not God who caused the confusion as the men were building the high tower. She also recognized and preserved Abraham as the strong righteous man who was blameless before God (ἄμεμπτον Θεῷ). Just as the idea of God dominates over wisdom, she, wisdom, is the one who had compassion for the child (τέκνου) of Abraham, Isaac.

The flood (Wis 10:4-10:4)

“When the earth was flooded

Because of him,

Wisdom again saved it.

She steered the righteous man

By a paltry piece of wood.”

The flood seems to occur as in Genesis, chapters 6-8, because of Cain and his descendents. There is jump from Cain directly to the flood. It was wisdom (σοφία) and not God that saved the righteous men (τὸν δίκαιον) with a puny piece of wood (εὐτελοῦς ξύλου), what we call the ark.

Fratricide (Wis 10:3-10:3)

“But when an unrighteous man

Departed from her

In his anger,

He perished.

Because in rage

He killed his brother.”

Once again, based on Genesis, chapter 4, we have a reference to the dispute between Cain and Abel, without their names being used. Throughout this chapter of Wisdom, no specific names are used. In this Genesis story, Cain was the first born of Adam and Eve. This unrighteous Cain got angry because his sacrifice was not accepted, while his brother’s was accepted. Cain in a rage killed his younger brother, Abel. There is no clarity on why Cain was so unrighteous and departed from this female wisdom. However, he surely killed his brother, so that the first human murder was fratricide (ἀδελφοκτόνοις). Actually, most murders are not done by strangers.

My understanding of Genesis

These are the great stories of the Bible with unforgettable mythic characters and events that dominate our lives even today. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and Lot, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and the twelve sons of Israel are as real as any super heroes or fictional characters in history.  They are flawed heroes, not gods..  They are anything but perfect.   In what sense are they real people and is this a work of fiction?

History is always an interpretation.  Who knows what really happened over four thousand years ago?  Sometimes we call this period, pre-historic.  These stories are as good as any at trying to explain how the Israelites felt about themselves some 2500-3000 years ago.  These ancient oral traditions were gathered and written down in order to explain what they were doing then.  We know more about the belief of these ancient authors than about the people they were talking about.  These mythic characters had power over their lives.

The Yahweh tradition made no attempt at being historical.  Everything takes place in some vague somewhere and sometime. Yahweh appears a little capricious choosing who he likes and who he does not. The priestly tradition, however, loved order, genealogies, and clear structure, in trying to put things into a wider perspective, yet explaining why they do things the way that they did them. The Elohist tradition tries to put God into a more distant governing, but kind power.

God had special relationships with these archetype patriarch heroes, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The three great belief religious systems of the west, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share in this Abrahamic heritage.  Joseph, the son of Jacob, and his Technicolor coat ended up almost ruling Egypt when his brothers turned against him.

The general narrative is that there is a loving caring God who spoke with these bigger than life characters.  Yahweh has chosen these guys to be fruitful and prosperous, to inhabit a land, to be righteous, to follow Yahweh, and be circumcised.  God is almighty.

The details are shocking as we see these heroes with warts and all. The primordial man, Adam could not even follow a simple divine order not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Eve, mother of all, gets duped by a snake of all things.  Cain kills Able because God somehow liked him better.  The world gets populated either by the sons of Adam and Eve having sex with Eve, their sisters, or female animals.  There are no other options if you want to follow the single source theory.  Only the multiple source theory allows for other female humans from other humans.

Noah is an interesting character who follows God’s orders, but he does not get much credit, except as a builder before some giant flood hit the Middle East.  He actually is the origin of all humans according to this story, since all humans were destroyed, except for him and his family.  All of these stories of magic trees, wonderful gardens, and massive floods can be found in most religions of the world.  This seems to be something that humans crave that is part of practically all oral traditions.

The story of Abraham is more complicated.  Somehow he is the father of all the good guys and the bad guys. His two sons Isaac and Ishmael become symbolic of good and evil.  Isaac, born of Sarah, is good, and actually appears as one of the nicer figures in these stories. Ishmael, however, born of the slave woman from Egypt, Hagar, is bad.  When you add in Keturah and her children you can figure out how the Middle East was populated.

Isaac is a very sympathetic figure, if only because Abraham was going to offer him as a sacrifice to God, until he was stopped by an angel.  He marries his cousin, which was quite normal and has twin boys, who fight all the time for his favor.  In a twist of fate and deceit, Jacob and not Esau, who was the oldest by seconds or minutes, gets everything.  Eventually, they make up and all prosper.  None of these characters are poor people.  They have lots of livestock and slaves.

Jacob is the most deceitful.  He tricks his brother Esau all the time.  He meets his match with his uncle Laban, who tricks him also.  Jacob marries two sisters at once, both his first cousins.  Just as Abram became Abraham, Jacob became Israel, as the new names become important.  Jacob who becomes Israel has twelve sons with four different women, the two sisters Rachel and Leah, plus their female maid servants.  This then becomes the twelve tribes of Israel.

The most interesting personality is Joseph, who was not liked by his ten brothers who tried to kill him.  He gets sold as a slave to an Egyptian.  Due to his ability to discern dreams he becomes the second in command in Egypt and even gets an Egyptian name.  When his brothers come to get grain during a famine, they do not recognize him, but he recognizes them.  He puts them through all kinds of demands, until there is a grand reunion and the whole family moves to Egypt.

This all explains why the sons of Israel were in Egypt, where Moses will try to get them out of there.  Joseph seems like a wise man, who speaks his mind.  One of the key concepts of Genesis is genealogy, showing how people are connected to each other via birth.  Marriages seem to be with very close relatives. First cousins are not abnormal.  Another key concept is land, particularly the land of Canaan.  Over and over again, these characters are promised this land.  In some cases they are already there.

Finally the covenant idea is clearly dominant.  God has made a special pact with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to be their God.  The main element of this pact is male circumcision.  It may sound odd to us today, but that clearly was in the minds of the biblical authors.  They made male circumcision a really important religious activity.

Thus Genesis is the foundation book of religious stories about the fallibility of man and his need and fear of God in this life.  These mythical religious persons, who have spoken with God, are not always living up to the ideal, but they keep trying despite themselves.  This is an important lesson of all people and all times.  Be true to yourself and your relationship with a higher power even when you are not perfect.

The patriarchs before the flood (Gen 5:1-5:32)

“This is the list of the descendents of Adam. When God created humankind, he made him in the likeness of God.  Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them humankind when they were created.”

The priestly tradition tries to tie up things nicely with a long genealogy of about 1,000 years from Adam to Noah.   This genealogy repeats the theme of Genesis, chapter 1.  God created humans in the image of God, male and female.

“When Adam had lived one hundred thirty years, he became the father of a son in his likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth. The days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years. He had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years.  Then he died.”

The offspring of Seth and not Cain were to lead to Noah. Most of these patriarchs began having children in old age and continued on. This is the list of the first born males, but in each case they all “had other sons and daughters,” even Adam. Adam died at age 937. Seth, who was born when Adam was 130, counts and Cain and Abel do not, although Cain was the oldest.

“When Seth had lived one hundred five years, he became the father of Enosh.  Seth lived after the birth of Enosh eight hundred seven years, and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Seth were nine hundred twelve years. Then he died.”

Seth died at age 912. Enosh was born when Seth was 105. The only explanation of why these people lived hundreds of years is that they were using a different calendar, if any at all.

When Enosh had lived ninety years, he became the father of Kenan.  Enosh lived after the birth of Kenan eight hundred fifteen years, and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Enosh were nine hundred five years. Then he died.”

 Enosh died at age 905. Kenan was born when Enosh was 90.

“When Kenan had lived seventy years, he became the father of Mahalalel.  Kenan lived after the birth of Mahalalel eight hundred forty years, and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Kenan were nine hundred ten years. Then he died.”

Kenan died at age 910. Mahalalel was born when Kenan was 70.

 “When Mahalalel had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Jared.  Mahalalel lived after the birth of Jared eight hundred thirty years, and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Mahalalel were eight hundred ninety-five years.  Then he died.”

Mahalalel died at age 895.   Jared was born when Mahalalel was 65.

 “When Jared had lived one hundred sixty-two years he became the father of Enoch.  Jared lived after the birth of Enoch eight hundred years, and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty-two years. Then he died.”

Jared died at age 762.  Enoch was born when Jared was 162.

“When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methuselah.  Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty-five years.  Enoch walked with God.  Then he was no more because God took him.”

This Enoch lived to age 365, a big drop off in age here. Methuselah was born when Enoch was 65.  Enoch was Cain’s son in chapter four above.  Maybe we have a tie in with Cain’s genealogy.  However, this Enoch has this strange remark that God took him, not that he died. He was considered the seventh generation, the lucky number.  In fact, there is a Book of Enoch, from around 200 BCE, that some considered canonical.

 “When Methuselah had lived one hundred eighty-seven years, he became the father of Lamech.  Methuselah lived after the birth of Lamech seven hundred eighty-two years, and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty-nine years. Then he died.”

Methuselah lived to age 969.  Lamech was born when Methuselah was 187. This name is close to Cain’s great-great grandson.  The other anomaly is that he is the oldest when he bears his first child, 187, and lives the longest, 937, even more than Adam. Thus it became a saying that an old man was as ‘old as Methuselah.’

 “When Lamech had lived one hundred eighty-two years, he became the father of a son. He named him Noah, saying, ‘Out of the ground that Yahweh has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands.’  Lamech lived after the birth of Noah five hundred ninety-five years, and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy-seven years.  Then he died.”

Lamech lived to age 777 (lucky numbers).  Noah was born when Lamech was 182.  Once again there is a tie in with Cain with the same name.  Is this the same Lamech who was descended from Cain?  However, Noah is somehow special.

 “After Noah was five hundred years old, Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.”

Noah was 500 when he had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  Obviously Noah had a long puberty.  Instead of one son, all three are mentioned. Noah was the 10th in this line from Adam.  The Babylonians also had ten heroes before their flood experience.  Most of them seemed to reach puberty and bear children around 100.  There are about 10 generations, so if the first born had children, this genealogy took about 1067 years to go from Adam to Noah.  This is how a literal interpretation could lead to Dispensationalism, like that of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882).  His basic idea was that the earth is six thousand years old, which then led to the confusion with Darwinism.