You are witnesses.
Of the deeds
Of your ancestors.
They killed them.
But you built
ἄρα μάρτυρές ἐστε καὶ συνευδοκεῖτε τοῖς ἔργοις τῶν πατέρων ὑμῶν, ὅτι αὐτοὶ μὲν ἀπέκτειναν αὐτοὺς, ὑμεῖς δὲ οἰκοδομεῖτε.
Luke indicated that Jesus continued this same idea. Jesus said that the Pharisees and lawyers were witnesses (ἄρα μάρτυρές ἐστε). They approved of the deeds of their fathers or ancestors (καὶ συνευδοκεῖτε τοῖς ἔργοις τῶν πατέρων ὑμῶν), who killed the prophets (ὅτι αὐτοὶ μὲν ἀπέκτειναν αὐτοὺς), by building their tombs (ὅτι αὐτοὶ μὲν ἀπέκτειναν αὐτοὺς). There is something similar in Matthew, chapter 23:31. Jesus said that these Pharisees and Scribes testified or witnessed against themselves, since they admitted that they were the descendants or sons of those people who murdered the prophets. Jesus then told them to finish up their work, using the measuring rod of their ancestors. Thus, they had the same attitude as their ancestors. However, there was very little evidence of Jewish prophets being killed. Do you have the same attitudes of your parents and grandparents?
When he came
To the place
He passed by
On the other side.”
ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ Λευείτης κατὰ τὸν τόπον ἐλθὼν καὶ ἰδὼν ἀντιπαρῆλθεν
Luke continued his unique story. Jesus said that a Levite also (ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ Λευείτης) came to this same place (κατὰ τὸν τόπον ἐλθὼν) on the road. He saw the wounded man (καὶ ἰδὼν). Then he too crossed over to the other side of the road (ἀντιπαρῆλθεν), so as not to engage with this man. The same questions can be asked of this Jewish Levite that were asked about the priest. Was it because of ritual purity? Was he in a hurry, so that he did not have time to stop? Did he simply not care? Was it too much of a bother? Normally, the Levites do not come in for much criticism in the gospel narratives. Levites were sons of Levi, and tied to ritualistic practice at the Temple. For instance, the father of John the Baptist was Zechariah and his mother Elizabeth, both of them were descendants of Aaron. Zechariah was a priest in the Jerusalem Temple, while Elizabeth was from a Levite family. These Levites had Temple duties. Thus, they were religious ritual leaders in the Jewish community. Both the priest and the Levite represented the upper religious strata of the Jewish community. Do you think that religious leaders should set an example by their lifestyle?
“God has remembered
That he swore
To our ancestor
ὅρκον ὃν ὤμοσεν πρὸς Ἀβραὰμ τὸν πατέρα ἡμῶν, τοῦ δοῦναι ἡμῖν
In case there was any doubt about what covenant or agreement Zechariah was talking about, he made it clear, via this canticle in Luke, that this was the covenant or agreement with Abraham to have him and his many descendants be prosperous as in Genesis, chapter 22:16-18. Zechariah said that God had remembered or given them (τοῦ δοῦναι ἡμῖν) the oath (ὅρκον) that he swore (ὃν ὤμοσεν) to Abraham (πρὸς Ἀβραὰμ), their ancestor or father (τὸν πατέρα ἡμῶν). The covenant was coming about right before their very eyes. Notice it was not the Mosaic, but the older Abrahamic covenant that Luke emphasized.
“Both of them
All the commandments
Of the Lord.”
ἦσαν δὲ δίκαιοι ἀμφότεροι ἐναντίον τοῦ Θεοῦ, πορευόμενοι ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐντολαῖς καὶ δικαιώμασιν τοῦ Κυρίου ἄμεμπτοι
Luke continued his unique portrayal of Zechariah and Elizabeth as righteous people (ἦσαν δὲ δίκαιοι ἀμφότεροι) before God (ἐναντίον τοῦ Θεοῦ). As they were descendants of Aaron, the expectations for their behavior were higher than other Israelites. They were blameless (ἄμεμπτοι). They walked or followed all the commandments, statutes, ordinances and regulations of the Lord (πορευόμενοι ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐντολαῖς καὶ δικαιώμασιν τοῦ Κυρίου). They were upright people, pillars of the community. They were faithful followers of the Jewish Law. Who could ask for anything more?
“There were seven brothers.
The first one married.
When he died,
He left no children.
ἑπτὰ ἀδελφοὶ ἦσαν· καὶ ὁ πρῶτος ἔλαβεν γυναῖκα, καὶ ἀποθνῄσκων οὐκ ἀφῆκεν σπέρμα·
This story about the woman and 7 brothers can be found in Matthew, chapter 22:25, and in Luke, chapter 20:29, almost word for word. Thus, this story was fairly well known. There were 7 brothers (ἑπτὰ ἀδελφοὶ ἦσαν). The first one married or took a wife (καὶ ὁ πρῶτος ἔλαβεν γυναῖκα). Then he died (καὶ ἀποθνῄσκων). He was childless, since he had no seed descendants or offspring (οὐκ ἀφῆκεν σπέρμα).
This Gospel of Matthew has a prologue with five parts that echo the book of Genesis. First, there was the genealogy of Jesus via Joseph that began with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then this genealogy went through the twin sons of Judah and the descendants of Perez. Then it went from Ruth to King David. Then there was the kings of Judah from Solomon to the gap and up to and including the Babylonian captivity. Finally, there were the unknown names in this genealogy that led up to Joseph and his father. Matthew then explained the genealogy of Jesus, since there were differences of this genealogy with that of the Gospel of Luke.
The second part of this prologue was the virgin birth of Jesus. First of all, there was the conception of Jesus from Joseph’s point of view, not Mary’s. Joseph wanted to divorce Mary for being pregnant until an angel in a dream told him that Jesus would be a special child that fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah. After waking up from his dream, there was the virgin birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
The third part of this prologue was the visit of the Magi. They brought their questions to Herod the Judean Roman king, who was annoyed and frightened. He found out that Bethlehem was described by the prophet Micah as the place where the Messiah would be born. Herod summoned the Magi and sent them to Bethlehem. The Magi followed the star and found Mary with the child at the so-called Epiphany. However, they went home another route so that they did not go back to King Herod.
The fourth part was the flight into Egypt, as Joseph had another dream. They went to Egypt to fulfill another prophecy that the Messiah would come out of Egypt. Meanwhile, King Herod killed all the under two-year old boys in the Bethlehem area as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah.
Finally, the fifth part of the prologue was the return of Jesus to Nazareth when Joseph had a third dream. He was told to return to Israel, or more specifically to Galilee in a place called Nazareth. Thus, this prologue gave the unique perspective of Joseph.
You are descendants
Of your ancestors!”
ὥστε μαρτυρεῖτε ἑαυτοῖς ὅτι υἱοί ἐστε τῶν φονευσάντων τοὺς προφήτας
καὶ ὑμεῖς πληρώσατε τὸ μέτρον τῶν πατέρων ὑμῶν.
There is something similar in Luke, chapter 11:48. The Pharisees and Scribes testified or witnessed against themselves (ὥστε μαρτυρεῖτε ἑαυτοῖς), since they admitted that they were the descendants or sons of those who murdered the prophets (ὅτι υἱοί ἐστε τῶν φονευσάντων τοὺς προφήτας). Jesus then told them to fill up or complete the work with the measuring rod of their ancestors (καὶ ὑμεῖς πληρώσατε τὸ μέτρον τῶν πατέρων ὑμῶν). Thus, they have the same attitude as their ancestors. However, there is very little evidence of Jewish prophets being killed.
“Now there were seven brothers
The first one married.
Then he died
He left his widow wife
To his brother.
The second did the same.
As also did the third,
Down to the seventh.
Last of all,
The woman herself died.”
ἦσαν δὲ παρ’ ἡμῖν ἑπτὰ ἀδελφοί· καὶ ὁ πρῶτος γήμας ἐτελεύτησεν, καὶ μὴ ἔχων σπέρμα ἀφῆκεν τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ·
ὁμοίως καὶ ὁ δεύτερος καὶ ὁ τρίτος, ἕως τῶν ἑπτά·
ὕστερον δὲ πάντων ἀπέθανεν ἡ γυνή.
This story about the woman who married 7 brothers can be found in Mark, chapter 12:20-22, and in Luke, chapter 20:29-32, almost word for word. Thus, this story was fairly well known. There were 7 brothers among them (ἦσαν δὲ παρ’ ἡμῖν ἑπτὰ ἀδελφοί). The first one married (καὶ ὁ πρῶτος γήμας). Then he died (ἐτελεύτησεν). He was childless since he had no descendants or offspring (καὶ μὴ ἔχων σπέρμα). Thus, he left his widowed wife to his brother (ἀφῆκεν τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ). Likewise, the same thing happened to the 2nd and 3rd brother all the way down to the 7th brother (ὁμοίως καὶ ὁ δεύτερος καὶ ὁ τρίτος, ἕως τῶν ἑπτά). Last of all, this woman widow herself died (ὕστερον δὲ πάντων ἀπέθανεν ἡ γυνή). This was a nice simple but improbable story.
“The Sadducees said.
‘If a man dies
He will raise up
For his brother.’”
λέγοντες Διδάσκαλε, Μωϋσῆς εἶπεν Ἐάν τις ἀποθάνῃ μὴ ἔχων τέκνα, ἐπιγαμβρεύσει ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀναστήσει σπέρμα τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ
Mark, chapter 12:19, and Luke, chapter 20:28, are almost word for word as here in Matthew. These Sadducees addressed Jesus very respectfully as “Teacher” or “Rabbi (λέγοντες Διδάσκαλε).” They quoted a Mosaic text, as Moses says (Μωϋσῆς εἶπεν), from Deuteronomy, chapter 25:5-10. If a man died without any children (Ἐάν τις ἀποθάνῃ μὴ ἔχων τέκνα), his brother should marry the widow (ἐπιγαμβρεύσει ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ). He would then raise up the descendants for his brother (καὶ ἀναστήσει σπέρμα τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ). This levirate law goes back as far as Tamar in Genesis, chapter 38:1-30, with the story of Judah’s 3 sons and Tamar, the original wife of Er. The brother of the deceased was supposed to marry his brother’s widow if he had no sons. The widow was not to marry outside her family. It also assumes that the brother lived close by or in the same house as his brother. There was no indication of whether the brother was married or not, but this seems to assume a younger brother. This was an attempt to prolong the heritage and name of a person, which was common in ancient times. The punishment for the brother’s refusal was an insult rather than any physical punishment.
“Then was fulfilled
What had been spoken
Through the prophet Jeremiah.
‘A voice is heard
With loud lamentation.
Rachel is weeping
For her children.
She refuses to be consoled,
Because they are no more.’”
τότε ἐπληρώθη τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἰερεμίου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος
Φωνὴ ἐν Ῥαμὰ ἠκούσθη, κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὀδυρμὸς πολύς·
Ῥαχὴλ κλαίουσα τὰ τέκνα αὐτῆς, καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν παρακληθῆναι ὅτι οὐκ εἰσίν.
Matthew once again has a prophetic citation, but this time explicitly from the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 31:15. He said that the prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled here (τότε ἐπληρώθη τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἰερεμίου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος). In the Jeremiah prophecy, Yahweh talked about Rachel, one of the wives of Jacob and the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. At the time of Jeremiah, Rachel had been dead and buried for a long time at Ramah, about 6 miles north of Jerusalem in the former Benjamin territory. Thus, Rachel (Ῥαχὴλ) was loudly lamenting from her grave. Jeremiah said that a voice from Ramah was heard (Φωνὴ ἐν Ῥαμὰ ἠκούσθη). She was weeping bitterly and mourning (κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὀδυρμὸς πολύς) for her lost children (κλαίουσα τὰ τέκνα αὐτῆς). She refused to be comforted (οὐκ ἤθελεν παρακληθῆναι), because they were dead and gone. They were no more (ὅτι οὐκ εἰσίν). Here Matthew, used this saying to apply to the innocent male children that Herod had killed. In the follow up to the Rachel story in Jeremiah, Yahweh told her to stop weeping and dry her tears, because she was going to be rewarded with descendants. There is no indication of that here in this text.