Levi the tax collector (Lk 5:27-5:27)

“After this,

Jesus went out.

He saw a tax collector,

Named Levi,

Sitting

At the tax booth.

He said to him.

‘Follow me!’”

 

Καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐξῆλθεν, καὶ ἐθεάσατο τελώνην ὀνόματι Λευεὶν καθήμενον ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον, καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Ἀκολούθει μοι.

 

The call of Levi or Matthew follows the story of the paralytic healing in all three synoptic gospels.  Luke said that Jesus went out (Καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐξῆλθεν), presumably in Capernaum.  There he saw a tax collector (καὶ ἐθεάσατο τελώνην), named Levi (ὀνόματι Λευεὶν), sitting at the tax booth (καθήμενον ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον).  He said to him (καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ) to follow him (Ἀκολούθει μοι).  Mark, chapter 2:14, and Matthew, chapter 9:9, are similar to Luke, so that Mark might be the source of this event.  However, there are some significant differences.  Matthew called this man Matthew instead of Levi, his Jewish name.  Luke also followed Mark in calling him Levi.  Matthew and Luke did not mention his father, but Mark did.  It was strange that if this Matthew the apostle was the author of this gospel, why he did not mention the name of his father.  Both Matthew and Mark said that Jesus was walking along, when he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, or Matthew, sitting in his tax office, toll booth, or tax booth.  Jesus simply said to him to follow him.

Amazement (Lk 5:26-5:26)

“Amazement

Seized

All of them.

They glorified God.

They were filled

With awe.

They said.

‘We have seen

Strange things today.’”

 

καὶ ἔκστασις ἔλαβεν ἅπαντας, καὶ ἐδόξαζον τὸν Θεόν, καὶ ἐπλήσθησαν φόβου λέγοντες ὅτι Εἴδομεν παράδοξα σήμερον.

 

Luke and the other gospel writers said that not only the cured paralytic but all the people glorified God.  Did this include the Pharisees and Scribes?  Luke said that amazement seized all of them (καὶ ἔκστασις ἔλαβεν ἅπαντας).  They glorified God (καὶ ἐδόξαζον τὸν Θεόν).  They were filled with awesome fear (καὶ ἐπλήσθησαν φόβου).  They said (λέγοντες) that they had seen remarkable or strange things that day (ὅτι Εἴδομεν παράδοξα σήμερον).  This saying about the people being amazed is nearly the same as in Mark, chapter 2:12, and Matthew, chapter 9:8.  Mark said that they were all amazed, or marveled at what they had just witnessed.  They, not just the paralytic, glorified, honored, or praised God.  They said to one another that they had never seen anything like this before, because Jesus had a lot of power.  Matthew said that the crowds were in awe, or were amazed, or marveled at what they had just witnessed.  They glorified, honored, or praised God, since God had given so much authority to these men.  Notice that this is in the plural “men”, not just Jesus, one man, but potentially to his followers as well.  Thus, ends the story of the cured paralytic and the hole in the roof with the Pharisees and Scribes upset.

The law about marrying the brother of the dead man (Mt 22:24-22:24)

“The Sadducees said.

‘Teacher!

Moses said.

‘If a man dies

Childless,

His brother

Shall marry

The widow.

He will raise up

Children

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.

The Bible narrative story

There is a narrative quality to the Bible.  We have to appreciate truth in the story, because stories express truth.  We tend to dismiss things as just a story.  Even with modern technology, the Internet. YouTube, and Facebook are full of stories.  Scientific facts are not poetry and thus they have different rules.  The story world helps us understand our real world.  We would not have a real world without language and story.  Non-literate societies emphasized oral story as very important.  Even today, whether it is television or movies, we love a good story.  In the 1997 movie “Titanic” the story was simple, the ship sunk.  However, the love story of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet drew us in and made us feel the whole story.  Historical novels are very popular as a means of understanding the past historical times.

The Five Scrolls

Then there are the five scrolls that includes the poetic love story the Song of Solomon, or the Song of Songs from the 6th century BCE.  The Book of Ruth was about the story of Ruth, a Moabite foreigner who came to Israel, from the 9th to the 6th century BCE.  Lamentations has usually been ascribed to Jeremiah the prophet from the 6th century BCE.  Ecclesiastes is like a book of wisdom proverbs from the 4th century BCE.  The story of Esther is about a Jewish lady who becomes a Persian queen also from the 4th century BCE.

King Cyrus (Dan 14:1-14:1)

“When King Astyages

Was laid to rest

With his ancestors,

Cyrus the Persian

Succeeded to his kingdom.”

This last chapter of the Book of Daniel is often referred to as the story of Bel, the god, and the dragon. Daniel will show how each one was useless. Once again, this chapter is only in the Greek Septuagint, so that it is often called apocryphal. This story takes place at the later part of the life of Daniel, since Cyrus the Persian (598-530 BCE) was the King. His rule in Persia began in 559 BCE and lasted about 30 years. Here, he is still only the king of Persia that he received from his father, King Astyages (585-550 BCE). The sister of King Astyages was the wife of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Thus, you can see the connection, as Cyprus would have been the nephew of the Babylonian king. Eventually, Cyrus took over Babylon in 539 BCE.

Daniel’s accusers were put in the lion’s den (Dan 6:24-6:24)

“The king

Gave a command.

Those men,

Who had accused Daniel,

Were brought to him.

He threw them

Into the den of lions.

He not only threw them,

But their children,

With their wives.

Before they reached

The bottom

Of the den,

The lions

Overpowered them.

The lions broke

All their bones

Into pieces.”

In a reversal of fortunes, which is common among the biblical writings, like in Esther, chapter 6, the conspirators and their families were put into the lion’s den. Before they hit the bottom of the den, the lions had overpowered them, their children, and their wives. All their bones were broken into pieces. The moral of the story is not to be a conspirator.