The famine at the time of Elijah (Lk 4:25-4:26)

“In truth!

I say to you!

There were many widows

In Israel

At the time of Elijah.

The heavens

Were shut closed for

Three years and six months.

There came

A great famine

Over all the land.

Yet Elijah was sent

To none of them,

Except to a widow

At Zarephath,

In Sidon.”

 

ἐπ’ ἀληθείας δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, πολλαὶ χῆραι ἦσαν ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἡλείου ἐν τῷ Ἰσραήλ, ὅτε ἐκλείσθη ὁ οὐρανὸς ἐπὶ ἔτη τρία καὶ μῆνας ἕξ, ὡς ἐγένετο λιμὸς μέγας ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν

καὶ πρὸς οὐδεμίαν αὐτῶν ἐπέμφθη Ἡλείας εἰ μὴ εἰς Σάρεπτα τῆς Σιδωνίας πρὸς γυναῖκα χήραν.

 

There are no similar stories in Mark and Matthew.  Luke uniquely had Jesus tell this story about Elijah as found in 1 Kings, chapter 17:1-16.  John the Baptist had been compared to Elijah, a major almost romantic 9th century BCE prophet, whose name appears more than 100 times in the biblical literature.  Elijah also appeared with Moses in the transfiguration of Jesus mentioned later in this work.  Elijah’s influence on the evangelical authors was very important, just like here.  There were a series of stories about Elijah when King Ahab (874-853 BCE) was king of Israel.  Elijah, commanded by Yahweh, went to a northern town near Sidon, probably a Phoenician town.  He provided a widow and her family with a never-ending jar and jug that provided meal and oil for her and her household until the drought came to an end.  Luke pointed out with a solemn pronouncement (ἐπ’ ἀληθείας δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν) that there were many widows (πολλαὶ χῆραι ἦσαν) at the time of Elijah (ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἡλείου), in Israel (ἐν τῷ Ἰσραήλ).  The heavens were closed or shut down (ὅτε ἐκλείσθη ὁ οὐρανὸς) for 3 ½ years (ἐπὶ ἔτη τρία καὶ μῆνας ἕξ).  Thus, there was a great drought across the whole land (ὡς ἐγένετο λιμὸς μέγας ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν).  However, Yahweh sent Elijah to none of the Israelite widows (καὶ πρὸς οὐδεμίαν αὐτῶν ἐπέμφθη Ἡλείας).  Instead Elijah was sent to a widow at Zarephath, in Sidon (εἰ μὴ εἰς Σάρεπτα τῆς Σιδωνίας πρὸς γυναῖκα χήραν).

The gospel preaching of John (Lk 3:18-3:18)

“Thus,

With many other exhortations,

John proclaimed

The good news gospel

To the people.”

 

Πολλὰ μὲν οὖν καὶ ἕτερα παρακαλῶν εὐηγγελίζετο τὸν λαόν·

 

Only Luke has this explanation that John the Baptist with many other exhortations (Πολλὰ μὲν οὖν καὶ ἕτερα παρακαλῶν), other than those recounted here, proclaimed the good news to the people (εὐηγγελίζετο τὸν λαόν).  Was this the same good news or gospel (εὐηγγελίζετο) that Jesus would later preach?  Luke was the only one among the other gospel writers who linked John and Jesus as relatives in chapter 1:36.  John’s mother, Elizabeth, and Jesus’ mother, Mary, were relatives of some sort, thus making their children relatives or cousins also.  They could be compared in some ways to Aaron and Moses or the later Peter and Paul.  One was superior to the other, but the other played an indispensable role.  John the Baptist was a Jewish itinerant preacher in the early first century CE.  He used baptism, some kind of dipping in water, as the central symbol or sacrament of his messianic movement.  Thus, he became known as the one who baptizes, the Baptizer, John the Baptist.  This John certainly had a relationship with Jesus, but the exact relationship between John and Jesus is also problematic.  They may have originally been co-workers.  However, they separated as Jesus went along a different route.  However, the shadow of John the Baptist appeared again and again in the biblical stories about Jesus and his apostles.  Some believe that Jesus may have been an early follower or disciple of John, but the textual indications are that John saw himself as clearly subservient to Jesus.  Some of Jesus’ early followers had previously been followers of John, such as the apostle Andrew, the brother of Simon, in John, chapter 1:40, and in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 19:2-6.  There may have been also some contact between John the Baptist and the Qumran-Essene community, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.  John might have been associated with them or part of their community for a while.  Thus, John the Baptist has been revered as a prophet and a Christian saint throughout the centuries.

John baptizes with water (Lk 3:16-3:16)

“John answered

All of them.

‘I baptize you

With water.

But one who is

More powerful

Than I

Is coming.

I am not worthy

To untie

The thong

Of his sandals.’”

 

ἀπεκρίνατο λέγων πᾶσιν ὁ Ἰωάνης Ἐγὼ μὲν ὕδατι βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς· ἔρχεται δὲ ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ·

 

This citation of John seems to be a response to an unasked question, although it is similar to Matthew, chapter 3:11, Mark, chapter 1:7, and John, chapter 1:26, where there was an explicit question.  Luke seemed closer to Mark, as he indicated that John answered all of the people (ἀπεκρίνατο λέγων πᾶσιν ὁ Ἰωάνης).  He said that he baptized them with water (Ἐγὼ μὲν ὕδατι βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς).  However, one more powerful than him was coming (ἔρχεται δὲ ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου).  John was not worthy (οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς) to untie the thong or the strap of his sandals (λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ).  John the Baptist said that he was anticipating a messianic figure greater than himself.  He clearly baptized in water.  However, after him there would be a messianic one more powerful than him.  Matthew had John unfit to carry the sandal of Jesus rather than untie the sandal.  Mark, John, and Luke here had John speak about being unfit to untie the tong or strap of his sandals.  John the Baptist saw himself as subservient or unworthy as compared to the Messiah to come.

The other apostles (Mk 3:18-3:18)

Then there was

Andrew,

And Philip,

And Bartholomew,

And Matthew,

And Thomas,

And James

The son of Alphaeus,

And Thaddaeus,

And Simon,

The Cananaean.”

 

καὶ Ἀνδρέαν καὶ Φίλιππον καὶ Βαρθολομαῖον καὶ Μαθθαῖον καὶ Θωμᾶν καὶ Ἰάκωβον τὸν τοῦ Ἁλφαίου καὶ Θαδδαῖον καὶ Σίμωνα τὸν Καναναῖον

 

This section about naming the 12 apostles is similar to Matthew, chapter 10:3-4, and Luke, chapter 6:14-16.  This list can also be compared to the list in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 1:13.  Except for Matthew and Andrew, the other 6 apostles are not mentioned by name elsewhere in the gospels.  Andrew (καὶ Ἀνδρέαν), the brother of Simon, is first here, but without being called his brother.  Then there was Philip (Φίλιππον), Bartholomew (καὶ Βαρθολομαῖον), Matthew (καὶ Μαθθαῖον), not called Levi, Thomas (καὶ Θωμᾶν), James, the son of Alphaeus (Ἰάκωβον τὸν τοῦ Ἁλφαίου), Thaddaeus (καὶ Θαδδαῖον), Simon the Cananaean (καὶ Σίμωνα τὸν Καναναῖον).  Obviously, this Simon may have not been Jewish since he is called a Cananaean.  Sometimes, this may have been a reference to the Zealots.  In Mark 2:14, Levi or Matthew was called the son of Alphaeus as James is here.  However, Thaddaeus was only listed by Matthew and Mark, while Luke and the Acts listed him as Jude or Judas, the son of James, not Thaddaeus.  Are these two-different people or just two different names?  Is this Jude Thaddeus like Simon Peter and Levi Matthew?  Did he have a Jewish and a Greek name?

First there was Peter (Mk 3:16-3:16)

“Thus,

Jesus appointed

The Twelve.

There was Simon

Whom he named Peter.”

 

καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς δώδεκα, καὶ ἐπέθηκεν ὄνομα τῷ Σίμωνι Πέτρον·

 

This section about the names of the 12 apostles is similar to Mathew, chapter 10:2-4 and Luke, chapter 6:13-16.  This list can also be compared to the list in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 1:13.  Mark said that Jesus appointed these 12 disciples as apostles (καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς δώδεκα).  First of all, there was Simon, known as Peter (καὶ ἐπέθηκεν ὄνομα τῷ Σίμωνι Πέτρον).  Mark indicated that Simon’s name of Peter came from Jesus.  It is interesting that his brother Andrew was not listed here as in in the other listings in Matthew and Luke, since his calling was linked with his brother Simon in Mark, chapter 1:16-17.  Instead, he was listed with the other apostles later.  Why did Andrew not make the cut with his brother Simon here?

No fasting while the bridegroom was present (Mk 2:19-2:19)

“Jesus said to them.

‘The wedding guests

Cannot fast

While the bridegroom

Is with them.

Can they?

As long as they have

The bridegroom

With them,

They cannot fast.”

 

καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς Μὴ δύνανται οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ νυμφῶνος ἐν ᾧ ὁ νυμφίος μετ’ αὐτῶν ἐστιν νηστεύειν; ὅσον χρόνον ἔχουσιν τὸν νυμφίον μετ’ αὐτῶν, οὐ δύνανται νηστεύειν.

 

Luke, chapter 5:34, and Matthew, chapter 9:15, are similar to Mark, so that Mark might be the source of this saying of Jesus.  Matthew also spoke about mourning, since fasting was associated with distress.  Mark indicated that Jesus spoke directly in response to the disciples of John (καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς).  He compared himself to a bridegroom (ὁ νυμφίος).  The wedding guests or the sons of the bride chamber were not able to mourn (Μὴ δύνανται οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ νυμφῶνος…νηστεύειν), while the bridegroom, Jesus, was with them (ἐν ᾧ ὁ νυμφίος μετ’ αὐτῶν ἐστιν).  As long as Jesus, the bridegroom, was around them, they were not able or could not fast (ὅσον χρόνον ἔχουσιν τὸν νυμφίον μετ’ αὐτῶν, οὐ δύναντα νηστεύειν).  This was a time of joy and good news, not fasting.

Temptations in the wilderness (Mk 1:13-1:13)

“Jesus was

In the wilderness

Forty days.

He was

Tempted by Satan.

He was

With the wild beasts.

The angels

Ministered to him.”

 

καὶ ἦν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τεσσεράκοντα ἡμέρας πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ Σατανᾶ, καὶ ἦν μετὰ τῶν θηρίων, καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι διηκόνουν αὐτῷ.

 

Mark has an abbreviated description of the temptations of Jesus compared to Matthew, chapter 4:2-11, and Luke, chapter 4:2-13.  Jesus was in the wilderness 40 days (καὶ ἦν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τεσσεράκοντα ἡμέρας).  All 3 synoptics agree on the 40 days, since there was a symbolism to this number with the 40 years that the Israelites were in the wilderness during the Exodus.  All agree that Jesus was tempted by Satan or the devil (πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ Σατανᾶ).  Satan was the adversary or the accuser after the Persian influence on the Israelites after the exile.  The older devil concept was considered a fallen angel without all the powers of God, but nevertheless very strong.  Sometimes the devil was referred to as the personification of evil.  Why was Jesus tempted?  God, the Father, Yahweh, often tested the righteous ones and the prophets in the Hebrew Bible.  Luke and Matthew are very similar with their detailed account of these 3 temptations.  Mark does not mention Jesus fasting or any of the 3 specific detailed temptations that are in Luke and Matthew.  Jesus was with the wild beasts (καὶ ἦν μετὰ τῶν θηρίων), but this remark was not found in the longer detailed descriptions of Matthew and Luke, only here.  Mark makes it seem like the temptation was physical or like the fear of wild animals.  Then the angels ministered to him (καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι διηκόνουν αὐτῷ).  This is somewhat similar to Matthew, chapter 4:11, but there were no angels ministering to Jesus in Luke, chapter 4:13.  Here, a number of angels came, as in 1 Kings, chapter 19:4-8, where an angel came to help Elijah when he was in the desert, as the shadow of Elijah appeared in many of these gospel stories.  These angels came to wait on and care for Jesus.

Fourth narrative

The fourth narrative section revealed the increasing opposition to Jesus.  Thus, his disciples had to prepare for his absence.  These instructions emphasized responsibility and humility.  Simon was renamed Peter, the rock upon which he was going to build his church, especially the mystery of the kingdom of heaven.

While Jesus was preaching in the various towns, John the Baptist was put in prison.  The disciples of John questioned Jesus and Jesus responded.  Jesus then asked questions about John.  Was John more than a prophet?  Then Matthew had a series of Old Testament scriptural quotations about John.  How great was John the Baptist?  Was John Elijah?

Jesus warned that this was a childish generation that was indifferent as they kept on eating and drinking, as if nothing important was happening.  Jesus was against the various Galilean cities and towns, especially Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.  Jesus explained that there were hidden things from the wise ones, especially the relationship of the Father with the Son, but that the disciples had an easy yoke to bear.

Next came the question of eating on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees reacted against Jesus, but he used the example of David and the priests in the Temple to respond to them.  God was the Lord of the Sabbath.  Thus, when Jesus went into the synagogue, they asked him if he would heal anyone on the Sabbath?  Jesus compared sheep to human beings and then healed the man’s hand.  Thus, the Pharisees conspired against Jesus, while he took a low profile.

Jesus said that the fulfillment of the prophesy of Isaiah was at hand in the servant of Yahweh.  Jesus cured the blind and mute man as the crowds were amazed.  However, the Pharisees compared Jesus to Beelzebul, the devil.  Jesus responded that a divided kingdom would not stand.  The Spirit of God was with Jesus.  The bandits tied up people before stealing from them.  You were either for or against Jesus.  They should be aware of the sin against the Holy Spirit.

Jesus then issued a series of sayings about a tree and its fruit.  He compared the Pharisees to a brood of vipers.  There could be good and bad treasures.  Words would either save or condemn them.

Jesus told them about the sign for this evil generation that was always seeking signs.  He was only going to give them the sign of Jonah.  Notice how the men of Nineveh reacted.  The Queen of Sheba brought gifts to Solomon.  The unclean spirit would return with other evil spirits.  The relatives of Jesus, his mother and brothers showed up, but Jesus said that he had a new family.

Then Jesus spoke in parables siting in a boat by the sea.  There was the parable of the sower with his lost seeds, where only a few of the seeds fell on good soil.  His disciples wanted to know why he was speaking in parables, so that Jesus explained why he used parables.  Once again, he referred to a prophecy of Isaiah.  He explained about the seeds on the rocky ground and the seeds among the thorns.  Finally, he explained the meaning of the seeds on good ground or path since they were the blessed ones.

Then there was the parable about the weeds among the wheat.  The slaves let the weeds grow and then separated them at harvest time.  There were other parables about the mustard seed and the yeast.  Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, but he explained these parables to his disciples, especially the sower, the field, and the seeds.  He explained the enemy and the burning of the weeds.  The punishment for the weeds came at the harvest end times.  Thus, the reward for the righteous will be at the end times.

The kingdom of heaven was like a treasure, like pearls, and like a fishing net.  Jesus explained the parables because the disciples did not understand them.  They were like new and old treasures.

Jesus was an astonishment in his own home town.  They all knew the family of Jesus.  Thus, he was a prophet without honor in his own country.

Herod thought that Jesus was a resurrected John the Baptist, but he was afraid of John the Baptist.  At his birthday party, Herod granted the wish to have the head of John the Baptist on a platter.  Meanwhile, John the Baptist’s disciples buried him.

Jesus was worried as he was healing the sick people.  The disciples complained about the crowds, so that Jesus told them to give them something to eat.  However, they only had five loaves and two fish.  Then Jesus blessed the five loaves of bread and distributed them to the crowd.  There were even leftovers from this crowd of five thousand people.

The disciples left in a boat, so that Jesus prayed alone.  The boat was in the middle of the sea when Jesus walked on water to come to them.   Peter talked to Jesus and then attempted to walk on the water.  Jesus then saved Peter who recognized Jesus as the Son of God.  Then there were the healings at Gennesaret, where Jesus cured the sick.

The Pharisees from Jerusalem came to Jesus to ask him why his disciples did not wash their hands before eating.  Jesus responded by telling them to honor their parents since there was hypocrisy in their traditions.  He cited Isaiah about vain worship.  He told them to hear and understand.  They should watch what came out of their mouth rather than what went into their mouth as defilement.  The Pharisees were offended, but Jesus called them blind guides.  Peter wanted to understand more so that Jesus explained the mouth should speak from the heart.

Jesus went to the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon where he met a Canaanite woman.  He said that he was only going to the lost sheep of Israel, but this Canaanite woman persistently asked for help.  Jesus refused again saying that he could not feed the dogs.  However, she responded that dogs eat crumbs from the table.  Jesus said that she had great faith and healed her.

As Jesus healed the crowds of people in the mountain near the Sea of Galilee, he had compassion for them.  Where will they get food?  His disciples said that they had seven loaves.  Jesus then gave thanks over them and distributed the bread to four thousand men as there was a second multiplication of bread loaves.

Jesus went to Magadan.  There the Pharisees asked for a sign from heaven.  Once again, Jesus said that there are weather signs, but he would only give this evil generation the sign of Jonah.

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, but Jesus warned them about the yeast of the Pharisees.  He reprimanded his disciples for their lack of faith as he reminded them about the multiplication of the loaves of bread.  They should be worried about the Pharisees not food.

What was the role of Peter?  Jesus asked about the Son of Man as the disciples responded.  Then Jesus asked them about himself.  Peter gave a very positive response, so that Jesus rewarded him.  The Messianic secret was tied to the future of Jesus in this conversation between Peter and Jesus.  He would have to take up his cross if wanted to save his life because the Son of Man in his kingdom would be coming soon.

Jesus took three of his apostles up a mountain where he was transfigured before them.  Moses and Elijah appeared with him.  Peter wanted to set up three tents for them.  A voice from the cloud came as the three apostles adored him.  Jesus asked them to be silent about this.  What was the role of Elijah and John the Baptist?

An epileptic man knelt before Jesus that his disciples were unable to heal.  Jesus then healed him, so that his disciples wondered why they were unable to heal this epileptic?  Jesus spoke about the future of the Son of Man.  Should they pay the Temple tax?  Jesus responded that the son of the king did not pay taxes, but he told Peter to pay them anyway.

Finally, we have the ecclesiastical discourse about who is the greatest.  A child is the greatest because when you welcome a little child, you welcome Jesus.  They were not to cause children to sin.  They were not to tempt people.  It would be better to be maimed and blind than suffer eternal fire.  They were not to despise the little ones.  Jesus explained the parable of the lost sheep and fraternal correction.  What were you to do with a sinning brother.  Let him become a gentile, if he does not listen.  Common prayer was important so that they should gather in his name.  How often should they forgive?  The response was the seventy times seven.

Then there was the parable of the unforgiving servant slave.  The master settled accounts with servant slaves.  One owed ten thousand talents, so that the king forgave him his debt.  However, this servant slave would not forgive the debt of his fellow slaves, who were angry.  Thus, this unforgiving slave was tortured.  This parable explanation was simple, forgive your brothers.

The king gave a great wedding banquet (Mt 22:2-22:2)

“The kingdom of heaven

May be compared

To a king

Who gave a wedding banquet

For his son.”

 

Ὡμοιώθη ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν ἀνθρώπῳ βασιλεῖ, ὅστις ἐποίησεν γάμους τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ.

 

This is somewhat similar to Luke, chapter 14:16, where it was “someone” and not “a king” who was giving a great dinner.  Thus, Jesus, via Matthew, compared the kingdom of heaven (Ὡμοιώθη ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν) to this male king (ἀνθρώπῳ βασιλεῖ) who had prepared a great wedding banquet for his son (ὅστις ἐποίησεν γάμους τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ).  This is an obvious allusion to the king, God the Father, giving a wedding banquet feast for his son, Jesus.

Settle accounts with servant slaves (Mt 18:23-18:23)

“Therefore,

The kingdom of heaven

May be compared

To a king

Who wished

To settle accounts

With his servant slaves.”

 

Διὰ τοῦτο ὡμοιώθη ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν ἀνθρώπῳ βασιλεῖ ὃς ἠθέλησεν συνᾶραι λόγον μετὰ τῶν δούλων αὐτοῦ

 

This parable about the unforgiving servant slave is unique to Matthew.  This is not a hidden parable, because right up front, Jesus said that this was a comparison to the kingdom of heaven (Διὰ τοῦτο ὡμοιώθη ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν).  In this parable kingdom story, this male king (ἀνθρώπῳ βασιλεῖ) may be an allusion to God.  This king wished to settle his words or accounts (ὃς ἠθέλησεν συνᾶραι λόγον) with his servants or male slaves (μετὰ τῶν δούλων αὐτοῦ).  Matthew was the only New Testament writer who used the word “συνᾶραι” 3 times that means to settle a situation.  In other words, these household slaves would not have had much to settle.