The purification (Lk 2:22-2:22)

“When the time came

For their purification,

According to the law

Of Moses,

They brought him up

To Jerusalem

To present him

To the Lord.”

 

Καὶ ὅτε ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ αὐτῶν κατὰ τὸν νόμον Μωϋσέως, ἀνήγαγον αὐτὸν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα παραστῆσαι τῷ Κυρίῳ,

 

Luke said that when the time or the days were completed (Καὶ ὅτε ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι) for their purification (τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ αὐτῶν), according to the law of Moses (κατὰ τὸν νόμον Μωϋσέως, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Jerusalem (ἀνήγαγον αὐτὸν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα) to present him to the Lord (παραστῆσαι τῷ Κυρίῳ).  What is this purification and is it different than circumcision.  The story of John did not have this purification ritual.  Strictly speaking, this was a purification of the mother to take place 40 days after the birth of a child that had made her unclean as described in Leviticus, chapter 12:1-8.  The presentation of the child and the father were not part of this purification ritual.  There was no law or custom about the presentation of a child, other than the presentation of the first born as in Exodus, chapter 13:2 and 13:16.  Women were considered unclean after childbirth because of the blood discharge that took place with birthing.  If a male was born, the woman was unclean for 7 days, like menstruation, so that on the 8th day the male child could be circumcised.  There were 33 more days of blood purification for the male child.  During her unclean period, this new mother could not touch any holy thing, or go into the sanctuary.  Thus, the purification ritual took place on the 40th day, a symbolic number based on the 40 years of the Israelites in the desert wilderness.

Release one prisoner (Mk 15:6-15:6)

“Now at the festival,

Pilate used to release

A prisoner

For them,

Anyone,

For whom they asked.”

 

Κατὰ δὲ ἑορτὴν ἀπέλυεν αὐτοῖς ἕνα δέσμιον ὃν παρῃτοῦντο.

 

This is almost word for word in Matthew, chapter 27:15.  In John, chapter 18:39, there is something similar about the custom of releasing prisoners, but there is nothing in Luke about this custom.  Mark said that at the festival time (Κατὰ δὲ ἑορτὴν), the Roman governor used to release one of the many prisoners to the Jewish people (ἀπέλυεν αὐτοῖς ἕνα δέσμιον), usually not a criminal facing the death penalty.  This crowd could request the one that they wanted (παρῃτοῦντο), so that this kept the local folks happy.  It is not clear how much this custom took place.  Who would you ask for?

Where will you prepare the Passover (Mk 14:12-14:12)

“On the first day

Of the Unleavened Bread,

When the Passover lamb

Is sacrificed,

His disciples

Said to him.

‘Where do you want

Us to go

And make

The preparations

For you

To eat

The Passover?’”

 

Καὶ τῇ πρώτῃ ἡμέρᾳ τῶν ἀζύμων, ὅτε τὸ πάσχα ἔθυον, λέγουσιν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ Ποῦ θέλεις ἀπελθόντες ἑτοιμάσωμεν ἵνα φάγῃς τὸ πάσχα;

 

This is similar to Matthew, chapter 26:17, and Luke, chapter 22:7-8, but in Luke, Jesus was speaking to Peter and John explicitly.  All three synoptic gospel writers said that this was the 1st day of the Unleavened Bread (Καὶ τῇ πρώτῃ ἡμέρᾳ τῶν ἀζύμων).  Mark explained that the Passover lamb was sacrificed then (ὅτε τὸ πάσχα ἔθυον), but Matthew did not feel the need to explain that to his Jewish Christian readers.  Some unnamed disciples spoke to Jesus (λέγουσιν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ).  They wanted to know where Jesus wished that they prepare to eat the Passover meal amonst themselves (Ποῦ θέλεις ἀπελθόντες ἑτοιμάσωμεν ἵνα φάγῃς τὸ πάσχα).  At that time, it was the custom to go to Jerusalem to eat the Passover, not in their homes as later, after the destruction of the Temple.  The question of whether this was the Passover or the day before the Passover seems somewhat moot, since this was the 1st day of the Unleavened Bread, when they ate the matzah bread, the Hebrew word for unleavened bread.  The Passover meal itself usually included a lamb.

The governor was going to release one prisoner (Mt 27:15-27:15)

“Now at the festival time,

The governor

Was accustomed

To release

A prisoner

To the crowd,

Anyone whom they wanted.”

 

Κατὰ δὲ ἑορτὴν εἰώθει ὁ ἡγεμὼν ἀπολύειν ἕνα τῷ ὄχλῳ δέσμιον ὃν ἤθελον

 

This is almost word for word in Mark, chapter 15:6.  In John, chapter 18:39, there is something similar about the custom of releasing prisoners, but there is nothing in Luke about this custom.  Matthew and Mark said that at the festival time, the Roman governor had the custom (Κατὰ δὲ ἑορτὴν εἰώθει ὁ ἡγεμὼν) to release one of the many prisoners to the crowd (ἀπολύειν ἕνα τῷ ὄχλῳ δέσμιον), usually it was not a criminal facing the death penalty.  This crowd could pick anyone that they wanted (ὃν ἤθελον), so that this kept the local folks happy.

Where will the Passover be? (Mt 26:17-26:17)

“On the first day

Of Unleavened Bread,

The disciples

Came to Jesus.

They said.

‘Where do you want us

To make the preparations

For you

To eat

The Passover?’”

 

Τῇ δὲ πρώτῃ τῶν ἀζύμων προσῆλθον οἱ μαθηταὶ τῷ Ἰησοῦ λέγοντες Ποῦ θέλεις ἑτοιμάσωμέν σοι φαγεῖν τὸ πάσχα;

 

This is similar to Mark, chapter 14:12, and Luke, chapter 22:7-9, but in Luke, Jesus was speaking to Peter and John explicitly.  All three synoptic gospel writers said that this was the 1st day of the Unleavened Bread (Τῇ δὲ πρώτῃ τῶν ἀζύμων).  Mark and Luke explained that this was the Passover (τὸ πάσχα), but Matthew did not feel the need to explain that to his Jewish Christian readers.  Some unnamed disciples came to Jesus (προσῆλθον οἱ μαθηταὶ τῷ Ἰησοῦ).  They wanted to know where Jesus wished them to make preparations to eat the Passover (λέγοντες Ποῦ θέλεις ἑτοιμάσωμέν σοι φαγεῖν τὸ πάσχα).  At that time, it was the custom to go to Jerusalem to eat the Passover (φαγεῖν τὸ πάσχα), not in their homes as later, after the destruction of the Temple.  The question of whether this was the Passover or the day before the Passover seems somewhat moot, since this was the 1st day of the Unleavened Bread, when they ate the matzah bread, the Hebrew word for unleavened.  The Passover meal itself usually included a lamb.

 

Ten bridesmaids (Mt 25:1-25:1)

“The kingdom of heaven

Will be like this.

Ten bridesmaids

Took their lamps.

They went to meet

The bridegroom.”

 

Τότε ὁμοιωθήσεται ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν δέκα παρθένοις, αἵτινες λαβοῦσαι τὰς λαμπάδας ἑαυτῶν ἐξῆλθον εἰς ὑπάντησιν τοῦ νυμφίου

 

This parable is unique to Matthew, but there is something similar in Luke, chapter 12:35-36, about having lamps lit.  Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven would be like (ότε ὁμοιωθήσεται ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν)10 bridesmaids, virgins, or unmarried maidens (δέκα παρθένοις) having lamps with them (αἵτινες λαβοῦσαι τὰς λαμπάδας ἑαυτῶν).  They were waiting to go out to meet the bridegroom (ἐξῆλθον εἰς ὑπάντησιν τοῦ νυμφίου).  The custom at that time was to have these virgin bridesmaids or unmarried maidens accompany the bridegroom from his house to the house of the bride before they would go to the wedding place.  Thus, these bridesmaid virgins would act as an escort in a procession to the bride’s house and then to the wedding banquet place.

Ship’s wooden idols and providence (Wis 14:1-14:5)

“Again,

One preparing to sail,

About to voyage over raging waves,

Calls upon a piece of wood

More fragile than the ship that carries him.

It was desire for gain

That planned that vessel.

Wisdom was the artisan who built it.

But it is your providence,

O Father!

That steers its course.

Because you have given it a path in the sea,

A safe way through the waves.

You show that you can save it from every danger.

Thus even a person who lacks skill

May put to sea.

It is your will

That works of your wisdom

Should not be without effect.

Therefore people trust their lives

Even to the smallest piece of wood.

They pass through the billows

On a raft

So that they come safely to land.”

Apparently there was a custom to put a wooden idol on the front or the prow of the ship to protect them. Even today we see some sort of decoration on the front of ships. Obviously, this decorative idol was less firm than the whole ship. However, this author points out that it was the wisdom (σοφίᾳ) of the carpenter and the desire for gain that built the ships. God was the providence (πρόνοια) and father (πάτερ) of all who steered their course through the waves of the sea. Once again, this is a Greek philosophical and biblical concept about providence guiding the world. Thus even those who lacked skill were still protected by divine wisdom (τῆς σοφίας). People put trust in the tiniest piece of wood to guide them through rough patches on the sea.