Category Archives: Luke

Luke 6:20-49, The Sermon on the Plain

This post is excerpted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown, pp. 330-54. It begins with an introduction, the New Rendition (a new version of the Greek text by Eric D. Huntsman), a verse-by-verse commentary,  and finally an analysis.

Introduction

The Sermon on the Plain, it seems, is aimed as much at the Twelve as it is at the crowd, plainly setting out the rules for his community. He intends that the Twelve do as he will teach, offering them his guidelines as he and they step off together in their joint efforts to reach the hearts of others in both word and deed (see 6:47-49; also Matt. 5:19-20).

The sermon itself stands as a sleepless sentinel within the recorded words of the Savior, casting its reassuring gaze across his disciples and their lives. Its robust requirements touch much of how people live their lives and interact with others, lifting away the dazzle and heartache of this world and allowing a peek into the life to come. The command to love one’s enemies in imitation of the Father graces the most important part of the sermon (see the Notes on 6:27, 35-36). His command to “do good,” and then his illustrations of what it means to do exactly that, impart an enabling power and dignity into the lives of anyone who will follow this directive (see 6:27-34; the Analysis below). The differences in the content and recoverable setting between this sermon and the Sermon on the Mount point to the distinctiveness of the two sermons rather than to their unity (see the Analysis on 6:20-49 below).

Mediterranean landscape.

New Rendition

20And when he raised his eyes on his disciples, he said,

“Blessed are the poor,

because yours is the kingdom of God.

21Blessed are those who are now hungry,

because you will eat your fill.

Blessed are those who now weep,

for you will laugh. Continue reading

Luke 4:1-13

Excerpted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown, pp. 221-36, a volume of the BYU New Testament Commentary. The commentary can be purchased at BYU Studies. 

New Rendition

1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Ghost, turned back from the Jordan, and was led in the wilderness by the spirit 2 for forty days to be tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days, and when they were ended, he was hungry.

3 And the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, say to this stone that it become bread.” 4 And Jesus replied to him, “It is written that man shall not live by bread alone [but by every word of God].” Continue reading

Luke 3:16, 17: John the Baptist foretells Jesus’ baptism

Excerpted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown. This excerpt features the verse-by-verse commentary of Luke 3:16, 17. See the book for much additional analysis and the new rendition.

John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.

3:16 John answered: Here John’s response about himself points first to his ministering acts and then to the one who “cometh,” the same order as in John 1:26–27. According to John’s Gospel, the Baptist answers the queries of authorities by saying that he is not the Christ nor Elijah nor “that prophet” (John 1:20–21).

I indeed baptize you with water: Here Luke turns to words of John that he shares with Matthew and Mark, though Matthew adds “unto repentance,” a phrase missing in the records of Mark and Luke (see Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8). Perhaps Luke means to place emphasis on the difference between the water baptism that the Baptist offers and the Messiah’s baptism “with the Holy Ghost and with fire” that not only comes to one who repents but also purges the person’s sins (see 2 Ne. 31:13–14; 3 Ne. 9:20; 12:2). The phrase “with water” or “in water” represents a dative of instrument.[1]

one mightier: As do Mark and Matthew, Luke acknowledges that John introduces Jesus to his hearers, though Jesus himself does not appear in the story until 3:21. The expression does not seem to preserve a Christian answer to persons who venerate the Baptist as the Messiah.[2]

cometh: The verb (Greek erchomai), though common, seems to allude to that of LXX Malachi 3:1 (“behold, he comes”), which points to the “coming one” who brings both judgment and purifying powers (see 13:35; Acts 13:25; Ps. 118:26; Zech. 9:9; Mal. 3:2–3; Mosiah 3:9; D&C 133:2, 10, 17, 19, 66; JST Matt. 3:38–40).[3] Because the verb appears strategically here, at the beginning of Luke’s narrative, and near its end (see 19:38; 20:16), it forms a possible inclusio that unifies the Gospel account.[4]

the latchet: The Greek word (himas) means “thong” or “strap.” The act of unbinding such a strap is left to slaves.[5] The word draws subtle attention to the connection of Jesus’ sandals and the highway to be built for the coming king.

baptize you with the Holy Ghost: In another allusion to the creation, that of the spirit of God moving “upon the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2), John ties the actions of Jesus to those of Jehovah in the beginning. In his words to Nicodemus, Jesus speaks of being “born of . . . the Spirit,” an event equivalent to being baptized “with the Holy Ghost” (John 3:5).

with fire: The allusion is both to judgment or punishment and to purifying, aspects that stand together in Malachi’s prophecy about the one who comes “to his temple” (see Mal. 3:1–3). These two functions are also joined in modern scripture (see 1 Ne. 22:17; 2 Ne. 30:10). Moreover, fire is the agent that purges sins: “then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost” (2 Ne. 31:17; see also 2 Ne. 31:13). Further, the clear tie between fire and offering sacrifices on a burning altar is not to be missed. Finally, the fire stands as an agent of testimony, along with the Holy Ghost. In this sense, the promise of fire is fulfilled in the burning hearts of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, thus forming an inclusio that arcs across Luke’s narrative and brings a unity to all.[6]

3:17 he will throughly purge his floor: Threshing floors in ancient Israel consist of walled areas where the soil is cleared off to expose the smooth limestone crust of the earth. The expression means to “clean thoroughly” and carries the senses (1) that the Messiah will clean the soil from the floor where the grains of wheat will fall to the earth after being threshed and separated from the chaff, and (2) that, because the threshing floor is completely clean, he will be able to retrieve every grain.

the wheat . . . the chaff: A subtle affirmation stands within these terms that the good and the bad grow up together, often inseparable until the judgment (see Matt. 13:24–43).

the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable: John returns to the image of fire as judgment.

[1] Blass and Debrunner, Greek Grammar, §195.

[2] Marshall, Luke, 145.

[3] BAGD, 310–11; TDNT, 2:666–69.

[4] Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 124–47, 366–67, 388, 390–93.

[5] BAGD, 376; Marshall, Luke, 146; Fitzmyer, Luke, 1:473.

[6] Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 124–47, 366–67, 388, 390–93.

Jesus on Forgiveness: Looking at Luke 23:34

A reading to accompany New Testament 2019: Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families, December 31-January 6. “We are responsible for our own learning: To truly learn from the Savior, I must accept His invitation, ‘Come, follow me.'” 

Excerpted from The Testimony of Luke, New Testament Commentary, by S. Kent Brown, pages 1077, 1081, 316, 338-39.

Let’s look in depth at the text of Luke 23:34: “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (KJV).

Notes

23:34 Then said Jesus: The earliest text (75) and many other manuscripts omit the first part of this verse, leaving only the portion that begins with “And they parted his raiment.” Such evidence seemingly points away from the following saying as originally belonging to Luke’s record. But the saying fits Luke’s language. And Stephen’s prayer in Acts 7:60 seems to draw its inspiration from the words of Jesus reported here, thus buttressing its genuineness as a saying of Jesus, whether or not it originally stands in Luke’s record. Significantly, the imperfect tense of the verb implies that Jesus repeats his request again and again, pleading with his Father to forgive these unknowing men. Incidentally, the Joseph Smith Translation preserves these words, with a clarifying insertion.

Father, forgive them: The placement of Jesus’ words directly after writing about the crucifixion (see 23:33) may signal that Luke is stressing, first, Jesus’ control of the whole situation, though his enemies do not know it, and second, Jesus’ control of his pain-filled body. Jesus addresses God as “Father” previously. Here he plainly makes intercession for others.

they know not: Jesus’ expression about his executioners’ ignorance mirrors Peter’s later remark about the Jewish rulers’ “ignorance” (Acts 3:17; see JST 13:27), thus pointing to the genuineness of Jesus’ prayer. The Joseph Smith Translation adds a surprising, clarifying explanation of Jesus’ meaning: “they know not what they do. (Meaning the soldiers who crucified him,)” (JST 23:35). Hence, Jesus’ forgiveness extends to the soldiers alone, not yet to “the rulers” (Luke 23:35; compare Acts 3:14–19; 7:60). Continue reading

The Legal Cause of Action against Jesus in John 18:29-30

By John W. Welch

Published in Celebrating Easter, eds. Thomas A. Wayment and Keith J. Wilson, 157–76. Provo, Utah: BYU, Religious Studies Center, 2007.

It is a joy to ponder and appreciate the eternal importance of Easter. On the day before Easter, the body of the Lord lay in the tomb while his spirit inaugurated his redemptive work among the throngs in the spirit world. What a thrilling day it must have been for them to receive that visit from him. I imagine that the timing caught them by surprise, as it did among the Nephites. How much joy and excitement there must have been on this day before Easter on the other side of the veil.

In this paper, I will focus on only one aspect of the trial of Jesus, drawing more attention particularly to John 18:29-30 and articulating more clearly to an LDS audience why the accusation in that verse holds a key for understanding the legal cause of action and strategy of the chief priests before Pilate at that stage in the proceedings against Jesus. Continue reading

Preparing for Easter: Using the Days of Holy Week to Enrich Your Celebration

By Eric D. Huntsman

“There would be no Christmas if there had not been Easter. The babe Jesus of Bethlehem would be but another baby without the redeeming Christ of Gethsemane and Calvary, and the triumphant fact of the Resurrection.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Dec. 2000, 2)

I am convinced that if it were not for commercial and cultural factors, Easter would be more important to us than Christmas. As President Hinckley noted in the quote above, Christmas is only significant because of the miracle of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and his glorious resurrection.

With Palm Sunday and the week before Easter, much of the Christian world enters into a period of reflection and celebration known as “Holy Week.” Each of the events chronicled in this last week casts light on Jesus’ true nature as the Son of God, and reviewing them deepens the faith of believers in his matchless love.

While the LDS community does not formally observe Holy Week, the period from Palm Sunday to Easter morning present a wonderful opportunity for believers to use the scriptures to reflect upon the last days of our Lord’s earthly ministry. Striving to observe Holy Week and celebrate Easter more fully over the past years has convinced me that the best ways to do this are first through personal study, and second, through developing rich family traditions.

My 2011 volume God So Loved the World: The Final Days of the Savior’s Life and a subsequent online blog, LDS Seasonal Materials, represent my previous attempts to make Holy Week more accessible for Latter-day Saints. This current effort, a collation of the New Testament texts of Jesus’ final week, aims to supplement my earlier materials by bringing the scriptural accounts to individuals and families in what I hope is a useful format.

In one sense, it is a collection of scriptures in the early Christian tradition of a lectionary, a collection of readings for given days or occasions. In another, it is a soft academic effort to help readers better understand the source materials—particularly how the four gospels relate to each other while simultaneously painting unique portraits of Jesus and his final week. It is more of a collation than a harmony, and it is arranged as a reader’s edition, formatted in paragraphs rather than verses, labeling sections, and using modern conventions such as quotation marks to better indicate dialogue.

Whether used in connection with my earlier publications or used alone for one’s scripture readings in the days leading up to Easter, I hope that you and your families may find this a useful resource in celebrating the greatest story ever told.

Eric Huntsman Lent 2017

The Last Days of Jesus: A Collation of the New Testament Texts

A Holy Week Lectionary to be used with God So Loved the World, “Easter Meditations: From Palm Sunday to Easter Morning,” or the LDS Seasonal Materials blog

While Latter-day Saints do not formally observe the last days of Jesus’ life, this period is an ideal time to deepen our understanding of and faith in what the Lord did for us. We can use this sacred time to worship with both our minds and our hearts through both concentrated personal study of the pertinent scriptures and rich family traditions that use these events as opportunities to share testimony and feel the spirit. Continue reading

Seven Versions of Jesus’ Prophecy on the Mount of Olives

By S. Kent Brown

For Latter-day Saints, Luke chapter 21 presents readers with one of seven versions of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount of Olives. Naturally, we know the versions that are presented in Mark 13 and Matthew 24–25. But there are more. We first notice that the Joseph Smith Translation completely freshens the reports of the sermon preserved by Mark and Matthew with a large number of changes that render their records largely the same; fewer adjustments appear in Luke 21. In each of the JST versions of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the alterations bear on the meaning and thrust of Jesus’ words. Thus far, we see six versions—those in the three synoptic Gospels and those in the JST version of those Gospels, one of which is partially reported in Joseph Smith—Matthew of the Pearl of Great Price. The seventh record of the sermon lies in Doctrine and Covenants 45:16–59. As a preface, the Lord tantalizingly declares that “I will speak . . . and prophesy, as unto men in days of old. And I will show it plainly as I showed it unto my disciples as I stood before them in the flesh” “upon this mount,” the Mount of Olives (D&C 45:15–16, 48). With these words, we learn the vivid detail that Jesus imparts in the sermon while standing before his disciples, as a distinguished teacher, not sitting with them as Matthew 24:3 and Mark 13:3 lead us to believe.

In contrast to Mark 13 and Matthew 24–25, Luke chapter 21 provides two delectable dishes, not just one, ending with crowds still seeking Jesus’ company (see Luke 21:38). The first small dish consists in the refreshing story of a poor widow’s two mites, complete with tasteless displays of wealth that contrast with her tiny gift to the temple that glows with her adoring devotion (see Luke 21:1–4). Why is this story in this place? Possibly because of Mark’s placement of it just before the Savior’s sermon on the future (see Mark 12:41–44). On this view, the fact that Luke includes this story here may demonstrate a dependence on Mark’s order of events for Jesus’ last week. Perhaps significantly, Matthew omits the story, effectively dulling the notion that Mark serves as Luke’s main or only source for Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem, including the sermon on the Mount of Olives. Another possibility glimmers in front of us: Jesus’ mention of “widows’ houses” in the foregoing (Luke 20:47) may instead form a verbal bridge that brings the widow’s story here, pointing to a catchword association, a feature that may also infuse Mark 12:40–42.

But why recount this story about the widow before rehearsing the sermon about the fate of Jerusalem and its citizens? Because, after a first glance, her story brings together a raw, untouched comparison between her situation and the gleaming opulence of both the temple and its contributors, the latter offering a practiced yet worn piety that will not save the temple from destruction. In addition, we sense that, while the temple’s importance remains strong in the minds and hearts of even the poor, its officials and major contributors are out of touch with common persons, rudely flaunting their wealth in their presence. Such a perception may also give flavor to Jesus’ prior talk about those who “devour widows’ houses” (Luke 20:47).

In the eschatological discourse on the Mount of Olives, the second and longest part of this chapter that rehearses Jesus’ grand and often frightful vision of the future (see Luke 21:5–36), the words of Jesus stir together a number of prophecies that appear elsewhere in Luke’s Gospel. The list is short: the exhortations to watch (see Luke 12:35–48; 21:34–36; especially JST 12:35–57); the warnings about deceptions (see Luke 17:20–24; 21:8–9); the desolation that stalks Jerusalem (see Luke 13:34–35; 21:20–24; JST 13:35–36); and the signs of the Second Coming (see Luke 17:26–37; 21:25–28; JST 17:26–40). The main question is whether the Savior indeed speaks such words away from Jerusalem, as Luke reports Jesus’ teachings. The answer is Yes, as both the JST version of Luke 12:41–45 and Jesus’ declarations about Jerusalem’s fate and the future kingdom make abundantly clear (see Luke 13:33–35; 17:20–37). Hence, we should see Jesus’ discourse on the Mount of Olives as one wherein he brings together sayings uttered on other occasions, along with fresh prophecies, and shapes them into a whole piece that addresses the issues of the future of Jerusalem, of the disciples, and of the end-time.

In light of the Savior’s introduction to the sermon preserved in modern scripture, “As ye have asked of me concerning the signs of my coming” (D&C 45:16), no compelling reason exists to suppose that it is Luke who selects some of these sayings from their original setting in this sermon and inserts them into other, earlier contexts, or vice versa. Even so, we find what may be hints that Luke pens his version of the sermon after the Jewish War (AD 66–70), for he tops it with the vivid notation, “ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies” (Luke 21:20; also 19:43). The other accounts omit this detail. Instead, they feature the “abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14), an expression from the book of Daniel which the Joseph Smith Translation interprets as “the destruction of Jerusalem” (JST Matt. 24:12; JST Mark 13:14; see Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). This said, reasons exist to question the scholarly insistence that Luke writes in hindsight, after the end of the war.

This view of the discourse does not enjoy widespread support. Many see the sermon as a collection of disparate sayings that Mark, the first Gospel writer, artfully stitches together into an absorbing sermon that simply reflects the major concerns in the primitive church’s preaching, that is, warnings against false Christs and prophets, the sufferings of believers, the judgment upon Jerusalem, and the requirement of disciples to watch for Jesus’ return. In this view, much of the sermon illumines Jesus’ teachings, but Mark alone, or his source, is responsible for its ordering and flavoring, or even its composition.[1] For Latter-day Saints, both the inspired changes introduced into the Joseph Smith Translation of the synoptic Gospels and the first-hand account of the sermon that the Savior rehearses in Doctrine and Covenants 45:16–59 stand firmly against such a view. Instead of Mark presenting a table of teachings based on the church’s preaching interests, it seems more likely that it is Jesus’ words in the sermon that set the agenda for those interests.

In a completely different vein, this sermon will save the lives of uncounted disciples who, knowing of Jesus’ warnings about the fall of Jerusalem and its temple, will flee from the capital city which becomes the headquarters of the church in its early days. Rather than retreat into the city for safety, as thousands do when war breaks out with Rome late in AD 66 and again when Roman armies approach Jerusalem’s gates in AD 70, Christians flee northward, many of them settling in a gentile town, Pella, on the east bank of the Jordan River. There they wait out the war and survive intact.

This text is extracted from S. Kent Brown, The Testimony of Luke, 929–932. 

[1]Bultmann, History, 125; Francis W. Beare, The Earliest Records of Jesus (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), 216; Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1323–25; George R. Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Last Days: The Interpretation of the Olivet Discourse (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), 350–65.

Palm Sunday

By Eric D. Huntsman
This post is excerpted from Dr. Huntsman’s blog, http://huntsmanseasonal.blogspot.com.

Palm Sunday is not a regular part of Latter-day Saint observance, and not even all Christian churches celebrate it.  Nevertheless, recounting Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem has a long history in the Christian tradition, and it plays an important in the liturgies of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and some Protestant churches.  For me celebrating Palm Sunday truly opens Holy Week, setting it apart from other weeks by focusing my thoughts and faith on Christ my king. Continue reading

The Widow’s Two Mites

by S. Kent Brown
The verses in Luke 21:1-4 frame a bridge that links the Savior’s condemnation of the scribes (Luke 20:45–47) and his warning about the temple’s destruction (Luke 21:5–6). His critique of the scribes is direct and open. At the center of his harsh words stands his rebuke of how some of them treat women, specifically widows, the most vulnerable people in his society. All are under scriptural mandate, especially the scribes, the experts in interpreting scripture, to look out for the best interests of women and widows. But they do not (see Isa. 1:17, 23; 10:2; Jer. 7:6; Micah 2:9; Zech. 7:10; etc.; the Note on 20:47).

Widow's Two Mites photo by Kaye HansonOn a similar track, Jesus chastises temple authorities, but his reprimand is indirect. He speaks of the temple and gifts that come to it (see 21:3–4) and its eventual fate, not mentioning priests and Levites directly; yet he implicates them by condemning the temple culture that pays attention to gifts of the wealthy and barely acknowledges the gifts of the poor, in this case gifts from widows, the persons least able to afford to give.[1] But these women give from the inner depths of their souls. And no one notices. Except Jesus.

Because Jesus notices, he is able to draw his disciples into a lesson of ultimate sacrifice, ultimate devotion, ultimate worship, ultimate discipleship. The poor widow’s gift reaches into the fabric of her livelihood, into her empty cupboards, her spent storage jars, her bare clothes closet, her bed made lonely by the death of her husband. Her gift diminishes her ability to provide for herself in even the most basic ways: “she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had” (21:4). She is the true disciple, giving all. Continue reading

“The Testimony of Luke” by S. Kent Brown now available in print!

testimony-of-lukeWe are happy to announce that the first printed volume of the New Testament Commentary is now available. The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown, hard cover, is available for $29.95 plus shipping by ordering on the BYU Studies website. It will soon be available through LDS bookstores and Amazon. For more on this book, including sample pages, see this page. The book appeared as an ebook in 2014 and is available here. Several posts on this website by Dr. Brown are excerpted from this book; find them by searching “S. Kent Brown.” Dr. Brown’s love for and knowledge of the scriptures shines through every one of the 1,200 pages.

Giving praise about The Testimony of Luke, Camille Fronk Olson of BYU writes, “S. Kent Brown combines a lifetime of dedicated study of the ancient world with his reverence for the Bible and insights from restoration scripture to create a readable, relevant, and thought-provoking commentary of the Gospel according to Luke. Beautifully written with a unique sensitivity toward Jesus’ focus on family relationships, the sanctity of the home, and the dangers of materialism, this book invites a fresh view of the Savior’s ministry for a modern world.” Richard Neitzel Holzapfel writes, “S. Kent Brown has produced the most important LDS commentary on Luke’s Gospel to date. This is his magnum opus, and a reader will be transported to the world of the New Testament to hear Jesus Christ’s voice as he ministered among the people.” 

Other volumes of the NTC series are in progress.