Beware children of Abraham! (Lk 3:8-3:9)

“Bear fruits

Worthy of repentance!

Do not begin

To say to yourselves!

‘We have Abraham

As our ancestor!’

I tell you!

‘God is able

From these stones

To raise up children

To Abraham.

Even now,

The ax is lying

At the root of the trees.

Every tree

That does not bear

Good fruit

Is cut down

And thrown

Into the fire.’”

 

ποιήσατε οὖν καρποὺς ἀξίους τῆς μετανοίας· καὶ μὴ ἄρξησθε λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς Πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν Ἀβραάμ· λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι δύναται ὁ Θεὸς ἐκ τῶν λίθων τούτων ἐγεῖραι τέκνα τῷ Ἀβραάμ.

ἤδη δὲ καὶ ἡ ἀξίνη πρὸς τὴν ῥίζαν τῶν δένδρων κεῖται· πᾶν οὖν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται.

 

Here is the first of the sayings from the so-called Q source.  Both Matthew, chapter 3:9-10, and Luke here have the exact same wording in their presentations of John’s preaching to the people.  Instead of just the Pharisees and Sadducees, Luke has John address this to all the people coming to be baptized.  This saying emphasized deeds, rather than relying on ancestry.  They were to produce fruit that was worthy of repentance (ποιήσατε οὖν καρποὺς ἀξίους τῆς μετανοίας).  They had to perform good deeds.  They should not presume that because they have had Abraham as their father, as the privileged chosen ones (καὶ μὴ ἄρξησθε λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς Πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν Ἀβραάμ), that all would go well for them.  Then John pointedly said to them (λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν) that God had the power (ὅτι δύναται ὁ Θεὸς) to change stones and rocks into the children of Abraham (ἐκ τῶν λίθων τούτων ἐγεῖραι τέκνα τῷ Ἀβραάμ), a Hebrew play on words that was translated into Greek.  The axe was already lying at the foot of the trees, ready to go to work (ἤδη δὲ καὶ ἡ ἀξίνη πρὸς τὴν ῥίζαν τῶν δένδρων κεῖται).  Every tree that was not bearing or producing good fruit would be cut down (πᾶν οὖν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται).  Then they would be thrown into the fire (καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται).

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The Temple curtain is torn in two (Mt 27:51-27:51)

“Then the curtain

Of the Temple

Was torn in two,

From top to bottom.

The earth shook.

The rocks were split.”

 

Καὶ ἰδοὺ τὸ καταπέτασμα τοῦ ναοῦ ἐσχίσθη ἀπ’ ἄνωθεν ἕως κάτω εἰς δύο, καὶ ἡ γῆ ἐσείσθη, καὶ αἱ πέτραι ἐσχίσθησαν,

 

This is almost word for word in Mark, chapter 15:38, about the Temple being torn in two, except there is no mention of an earthquake.  There was no mention of the Temple curtain tearing or the earthquake in Luke, chapter 23, or John, chapter 19.  Matthew said that the curtain of the Temple or the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the other parts of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom (Καὶ ἰδοὺ τὸ καταπέτασμα τοῦ ναοῦ ἐσχίσθη ἀπ’ ἄνωθεν ἕως κάτω εἰς δύο).  There also was an earthquake as the ground shook (καὶ ἡ γῆ ἐσείσθη) and the rocks split (καὶ αἱ πέτραι ἐσχίσθησαν).  Matthew also mentioned an earthquake in chapter 28:2, like the end times of the Old Testament Day of Yahweh.  Perhaps this indicates a prediction of the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.

The children of Abraham should not be presumptuous (Mt 3:8-3:10)

“Bear fruit

Worthy of repentance!

Do not presume

To say to yourselves.

‘We have Abraham

As our ancestor!’

I tell you

That God is able

To raise up children

To Abraham

From these stones.

Even now,

The axe is lying ready

At the root

Of the trees.

Every tree therefore

That does not bear good fruit

Is cut down.

It is thrown into the fire.’”

 

ποιήσατε οὖν καρπὸν ἄξιον τῆς μετανοίας·καὶ μὴ δόξητε λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς Πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν Ἀβραάμ· λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι δύναται ὁ Θεὸς ἐκ τῶν λίθων τούτων ἐγεῖραι τέκνα τῷ Ἀβραάμ. ἤδη δὲ ἡ ἀξίνη πρὸς τὴν ῥίζαν τῶν δένδρων κεῖται· πᾶν οὖν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται.

 

Here is the first of the sayings from the so-called Q source. Both Matthew and Luke have the exact same pronouncement of John to the people, who presumed that they were saved by being the children of Abraham. Instead of just the Pharisees and Sadducees, Luke, chapter 3:7, had John address this to all the people coming to be baptized. This saying emphasized deeds, rather than relying on ancestry. They were to produce fruit that was worthy of repentance (ποιήσατε οὖν καρπὸν ἄξιον τῆς μετανοίας). They had to perform good deeds. They should not presume that because they have had Abraham as their father, as the privileged chosen ones (καὶ μὴ δόξητε λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς Πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν Ἀβραάμ), that all would go well for them. Then John pointedly said to them (λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν) that God had the power (ὅτι δύναται ὁ Θεὸς) to change stones and rocks into the children of Abraham (ἐκ τῶν λίθων τούτων ἐγεῖραι τέκνα τῷ Ἀβραάμ). This was a Hebrew play on words translated into Greek. The axe was already lying at the foot of the trees, ready to go to work (ἤδη δὲ ἡ ἀξίνη πρὸς τὴν ῥίζαν τῶν δένδρων κεῖται). Every tree that was not bearing or producing good fruit would be cut down (πᾶν οὖν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται). Then they would be thrown into the fire (καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται).

The hunters and fishermen (Jer 16:16-16:18)

“Says Yahweh.

‘I am now sending

For many fishermen.

They shall catch them.

Afterward I will send

For many hunters.

They shall hunt them

From every mountain.

They shall hunt them

From every hill.

They shall hunt them

Out of the clefts of the rocks.

My eyes are upon all their ways.

They are not hidden from my presence.

Their iniquity is not concealed

From my sight.

I will doubly repay their iniquity.

I will doubly repay their sin.

Because they have polluted my land

With the carcasses of their detestable idols.

They have filled my inheritance

With their abominations.”

Yahweh was going to send fishermen and hunters to gather up the Israelites. This is a reference to the Egyptians, probably the fishermen, and the Babylonians, the hunters. These hunters would hunt all over the place, from the mountains, hills, and rocks. No one could hide from them. Yahweh saw all of them. He was going to repay them in double for their sins and iniquities. They had polluted his land with their detestable idols. These abominations and false worship gods had ruined his inheritance.

The pending crisis in the days to come (Isa 7:17-7:19)

“Yahweh will bring on you,

On your people,

On your ancestral house

Such days

As have not come

Since the day

That Ephraim

Departed from Judah.

Watch for the king of Assyria!

On that day,

Yahweh will whistle for the fly

That is at the sources

Of the streams of Egypt.

He will whistle for the bee

That is in the land of Assyria.

They will all come.

They will settle

In the steep ravines,

In the clefts of the rocks,

On all the thorn bushes,

On all the pastures.”

Isaiah predicts that things will not be good in the near future. Yahweh was going to bring bad things to the Israelites, their people, and their ancestral homes that they had not been seen since Ephraim split with Judah after the death of King Solomon. Yahweh would call out the king of Assyria with his bees to get together with Egypt and its flies to attack Judah. Yahweh, via Isaiah, had just reassured King Ahaz that Ephraim and Syria would fail in their attacks. However, this seems like another more serious attack from a combination of Assyria and Egypt. These attacking bees and flies would settle in the ravines, rocks, thorn bushes, and pastures.

The day of the exaltation of God (Isa 2:9-2:11)

“People are humbled.

Everyone is brought low.

Do not forgive them!

Enter into the rocks

From the terror of Yahweh!

Hide in the dust

From the glory of his majesty!

The haughty eyes of people

Shall be brought low.

The pride of everyone

Shall be humbled.

Yahweh alone

Will be exalted On that day.”

Isaiah warned that there would come a day when Yahweh, the Lord would be exalted. Then on that day the people would be humbled and brought low. Their sins would not be forgiven. They might try to hide behind rocks or in the ground, but the terror of Yahweh would find them. The glory of his majesty would overtake them. The haughty eyes of everyone would be humbled. Only Yahweh would remain alone and exalted.

Some proverbs (Sir 40:12-40:17)

“All bribery

Will be blotted out.

All injustice

Will be blotted out.

But good faith

Will last forever.

The wealth of the unjust

Will dry up like a river.

The wealth of the unjust

Will crash like a loud clap

Of thunder in a storm.

A generous person

Has cause to rejoice.

Lawbreakers

Will utterly fail.

The children of the ungodly

Put out few branches.

They are unhealthy roots

On sheer rock.

The reeds by any water

Or river bank

Are plucked up

Before any grass.

Kindness is

Like a garden of blessings.

Almsgiving endures forever.”

Sirach utters some proverbs or sayings about injustice and life. Bribery and injustice will be blotted out, but good faith will last forever. The wealth of the unjust will disappear like a dried up river or thunder in a storm, here today, but gone tomorrow. Generous people should rejoice, while the lawbreakers will fail. The children of the ungodly will have few branches because their unhealthy roots are on solid rocks so they will have no yield. They are like reeds near water that is plucked before the grass. Kindness, on the other hand, grows into a garden of blessings. Then too almsgiving endures forever.