Category Archives: S. Kent Brown

Luke 9:1–6: Sending the Twelve

This post is excerpted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown, pages 443-449. Here are the New Rendition, Notes, and Analysis. For this section, compare Matt. 10:1-15; Mark 6:7-13.

New Rendition

1 And when he had called together the Twelve, he gave them power and authority over all demons and to heal sicknesses. 2 And he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3 And he said to them, “Do not take anything for your journey, neither staff, nor a traveler’s bag, nor bread, nor money. Do not even have two shirts. 4 And whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. 5 And whoever does not welcome you, as you are leaving that town, shake the dust from your feet for a testimony against them.” 6 And departing, they traveled through the villages, proclaiming the good news and healing everywhere.

Notes

9:1 called his twelve disciples together: This scene does not frame the formal calling of the Twelve. Jesus calls them earlier (see the Note on 6:13) and then ordains them (see JST 8:1). At their ordination, of course, they receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, the right to serve as the presiding authority in his nascent church (see D&C 107:8, 18–19).[1] This authority, of course, comes by the laying on of hands, a very old practice (see Num. 27:18–23; Deut. 34:9).[2] In this setting, Jesus gives the Twelve their first charge. It is also possible that the Twelve are not all with him at the healing of Jairus’s daughter (see 8:41–42, 49–56) and that therefore he is summoning them to gather.[3]

gave them power and authority: The verb “to give” (Greek didōmi) stands in the past (aorist) tense, pointing to a single act of granting authority, that is, to the ordination of the Twelve under the hands of Jesus himself.[4] The Greek nouns are dynamis and exousia, common terms in Luke’s record to describe divine power and authority (see the Notes on 1:35; 4:6, 14, 36; the Analysis on 4:1–13).[5] Importantly, the Joseph Smith Translation points to events noted in 8:1 as the occasion for featuring the ordination of the Twelve, and possibly others. To what are they ordained on that earlier occasion? Evidently, to the Melchizedek Priesthood. In this latter instance, which is underlined in our current verse, they receive the full authority of the Apostleship (see the Notes on 8:1 and 9:2). Hence, they apparently receive priesthood authority in steps. Their newly received authority is underscored by their complaint about others exercising priesthood powers (see the Notes on 9:49–50). Continue reading

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.

BYU NTC Conference Saturday, January 26, 2019

“In the Beginning Were the Words: A Closer Look at Key New Testament Terms”

The BYU New Testament Commentary committee announces that on Saturday, January 26, 2019, they will present a conference at the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni Center at BYU in Provo, Utah. The conference is free and open to the public and will be held from 9 am until 4 pm. No registration is required. A video will be made of the presentations and posted on this website. Parking is available in the lot across the street to the east.

9:00 Welcome by Virginia Pearce Cowley, conducting the conference.

9:15 Eric D. Huntsman, Disciplemathētēs (μαθητής) Mathētēs is a word that John appeals to much more often than do the Synoptic Gospels. In particular, I will be stressing how John uses it for a much wider group than the Twelve, and how the different characters represent different walks of faith and different types of discipleship.

9:45 Julie M. Smith, Wayhodos (ὁδός) One of the earliest designations for the community of those who followed Jesus was “The Way.” The Greek word translated as “way,” hodos, exhibits a rich, multi-layered presence in the New Testament. In this presentation, we’ll examine the literal and figurative interplay of this word in order to gain insight into Jesus’ ministry and message.

10:15 John W. Welch, Blessed, Happymakarios (μακάριος)  Building on the treatment of the adored Beatitudes in chapter 3 of my book titled The Sermon on the Mount in the Light of the Temple (Ashgate, 2009), I shall examine how this term played a perhaps unsung but indispensable role in the Gospel of John, the book of Acts, Paul’s epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians, as well as in Revelation and elsewhere.

10:45 Break

11:00 Brent Schmidt, Gracecharis (χάρις) My earlier study of the term grace, published under the title Relational Grace, demonstrated that the original field of meaning was distorted as soon as it fell into the hands of the Christian fathers of the third and fourth centuries AD. Rather than describing a reciprocal relationship between God and believers that was undergirded by covenants, it became “cheap grace” that only depended on a passive, neo-Platonic and mysterious belief.

11:30 Richard D. Draper, Loveagapē (ἀγάπη) Of the words discussed today, the term agapē may be the most important. On it, Jesus affirmed, “hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:40). In his turn, Paul treated this intriguing term in the moving, beloved hymn to Charity (1 Corinthians 13). We shall probe these sources and more.

12:00 Lunch on your own, available at the Cannon Center at Helaman Halls or the food court at the Wilkinson Student Center

1:00 John Gee, Scribegrammateus (γραμμματεύς) Scribes were one of the major groups opposing Jesus during his mortal ministry. Unlike the Pharisees, however, the dogmas that they held are not clearly defined. We will explore who the scribes were and why they hated Jesus.

1:30 Michael D. Rhodes, Mysterymystērion (μυστήριον)  A word that is found 28 times in the New Testament, the overall general sense is “secret knowledge revealed by God.” The term  mystērion occurs in a single significant setting in the synoptic Gospels when Christ explains to his disciples why he taught in parables. The remaining 25 occurrences are in the book of Revelation and the writings of Paul. I will examine the various nuanced meanings found in all 28 cases.

2:00 Brent Schmidt, Faith — pistis (πίστις) The earliest occurrences of the word “faith” embrace meanings such as knowledge, faithfulness, trust, and loyalty to covenants, all concepts that involve action on the part of the possessor. But in the third century AD, all this changed. From that point on, faith was seen as an inner, passive acceptance of whatever the early church taught termed “the Rule of Faith,” which later became the authoritative and solitary sola fide. This topic will be presented in detail in a forthcoming publication.

2:30 Break

2:45 Kent Brown, Inheritance: Who Owns All That Land? — klēronomia (κληρονομία)  One of the most important terms in scripture that dates from Abraham’s era, the word “inheritance” and associated terms underwent an important change in New Testament times, moving from a transfer of real estate and other property to the reception of a spiritual home in heaven.

3:15 Panel discussion on Mark’s Gospel and Julie M. Smith’s new commentary. Panelists are today’s presenters joined by Tom Roberts.

4:00 Closing

 

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.

Jesus’ Suffering Visible in the Verb Tense

by S. Kent Brown
In the New Testament Gospels, the most striking pointer to Jesus’ unspeakable suffering in Gethsemane, of course, is the notation that Jesus’ “sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44; see also Mosiah 3:7; D&C 19:18). Plainly, Jesus bleeds into his clothing and onto the ground. Importantly, other indicators exist in the Gospels that help us to grasp the enormity of his suffering. These appear chiefly in the tense of the verbs that describe these hours; but other hints appear in the Gospels. 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

Peter’s Keys (Matthew 16:18-19)

By S. Kent Brown

Somewhere near the Gentile town of Caesarea Philippi, close to the base of Mount Hermon, Jesus speaks words to Peter, his chief apostle, that find no correspondence in ancient scripture: “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19). (Outside of scripture, Michael the Archangel appears as keyholder; see 3 Baruch 11:2 and 4 Baruch 9:5). The question arises, What is Jesus promising to Peter? What are these keys? Latter-day Saints usually think of keys as the divinely bestowed, authorizing powers that allow a priesthood holder to exercise priesthood authority when performing an ordinance such as a setting apart, or a baptism, or a sealing in a temple. Resting beside this LDS understanding of such priesthood and temple keys are patterns that illuminate how people in the New Testament world may have understood the nature of Peter’s keys. It will become clear that the promised keys bear links to “the gates of hell,” to the next world, and to a greater knowledge of God.

To begin, we first turn to Isaiah’s record that offers the one instance of an Old Testament person receiving keys. A man named Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, is called by the Lord through Isaiah his prophet to serve as the royal treasurer. In intriguing language, the Lord hands the duty to Eliakim with the words, “the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open” (Isaiah 22:22). It appears that, among his duties, this man is to hold the key to the main door of the palace, part of his responsibility “over the [royal] house” (Isaiah 22:15). Continue reading