Paul’s Use of the Word “Grace”

This text is chapter five of Relational Grace: The Reciprocal and Binding Covenant of Charis, by Brent J. Schmidt. The book is available free as a PDF, or for $21.95 as a print on demand book from BYU Studies. 

About the book:

In ancient Greece and Rome, charis was a system in which one person gave something of value to another, and the receiver gave service, thanks, and lesser value back to the giver. It was the word used to describe familial gifts, gifts between friends, gifts between kings and servants, and gifts to and from the gods. In Rome, these reciprocal transactions became the patron-client system.

Charis (grace) is the word New Testament authors, especially Paul, sometimes used to explain Christ’s gift to people. But what is the nature of the gift? Since the fifth century, a number of Christian scholars have taught that grace is something bestowed by God freely, with little or nothing required in return. This book sets out to show that “free grace” is not what Paul and others intended. Continue reading

What Does the Phrase “Wisdom of Words” Found in 1 Corinthians 1:17 Mean?

By Richard D. Draper. Adapted from Richard D. Draper and Michael Rhodes, Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.

Generally, the word translated “wisdom” (sophia) carried a very positive meaning denoting the capacity to understand and, thereby, act wisely. It also denoted knowledge that makes possible skillful activity or performance, and the accumulated philosophic, scientific, and experiential learning that includes an ability to discern essential relationships of people and things. It connoted a profound understanding of such human endeavors as philosophy, literature, and art. Though generally positive in meaning, it also connoted that which was bound to the mortal plane. Of greater concern for Paul was that it promoted worldly values. This is the sense in which Paul took it. Therefore, Paul’s phrase “wisdom of words” could be translated “cleverness in speaking,” but carrying the nuance of “manipulative rhetoric” or “tricks of speech” as used by the Sophists to beguile and catch hearers.

Ruins of the Temple of Apollo at Corinth, Greece.

The Apostle had already determined he would not use his skill as a rhetorician, though that would likely have appealed to the Corinthian mindset and may have given him a good hearing. But, as he said, he came “not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (2:1–2). Paul fully understood that it would not do to “market the gospel as a consumer commodity designed to please the hearers and to win their approval,” one scholar noted. “Whether such a strategy would have been successful, the nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ excluded its being treated as a market commodity tailored to the tastes and desires of market consumers.”[1] To have made it common or even popular would have exposed it to the will and capriciousness of the people. The result would have emptied it of its essence and stripped it of its power, a power manifest in the transforming of the human soul through the grace of Christ Jesus. No, no alteration of the message or compromise of the doctrine would do for popularity’s sake.

History has shown that the wisdom of men has failed to bring people to a united understanding of God. “The fact is,” stated President George Albert Smith, “the world through their wisdom know not God, and have lost sight of and forgotten the simplicity of our fathers, and the plainness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”[2] The truth is that it does not take a great intellect or deep training to understand either the Godhead or the Gospel. Therefore, the “weak things” are very capable of understanding and explaining both.

[1] Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans), 21.

[2] Journal of Discourses, 3:25.

How Paul Came to Corinth: Acts 18

This text is excerpted from Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes, Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, pages 18, 22-25.

How Paul Came to Corinth

During the year AD 50, Paul and his companion Silas (Σιλουανός, Silouanos) revisited the cities where he had proselyted during his first mission. He then decided to push further into Asia Minor. The Spirit prompted him not to head north, so he headed west instead. At Troas, the Lord opened a vision to Paul. In it, “there stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:9). Paul immediately made arrangements to pass over to Greece and began his work there. Within a year, he had established branches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. He then headed south to Athens.

If he thought the old capital of Achaia would produce a rich harvest, he was wrong. Athens had become a counterculture to Corinth. The once-vibrant community had stagnated. Indeed, it had become an old, decrepit, even sick city, no longer sustaining a productive and creative citizenry. Though once a bustling university town, its academic acumen had fallen, and such places as Paul’s home town of Tarsus and the up-and-coming Corinth had eclipsed it. Too staid and conservative to open its doors to new ideas, it was not a place where the Church could get any root. Little wonder Paul looked to Corinth as a more strategic center for the preaching of the gospel and as a European base for the new Church.[1] An added value was that success in this city could give the Church a good deal of cachet. As one scholar has noted, “The bustling emporium was no place for the gullible or timid; only the tough survived. What better advertisement for the power of the gospel could there be than to make converts of the pre-occupied and skeptical inhabitants of such a materialistic environment.”[2]

Here he was joined by his two companions, Silas and Timothy, and began his work.

Paul’s Social and Economic Status

Paul’s eighteen-month stay in Corinth began about March AD 50 and lasted until late September or early October AD 51.[3] The length of his stay suggests that the work went very well. Of great assistance was the hospitality of Aquila and Priscilla, two Jews already converted to Christianity. They had been forced from their home in Rome by the edict of Claudius Caesar in AD 49 that banished all Jews from the city due to contentions between them and the Christians.[4] It makes sense that these two would find their way to the Roman colony of Corinth where they once more set up shop. Though the KJV calls them “tentmakers,” the Greek word (σκηνοποιός, skēnopoios, Acts 18:3) denotes much more than tent making. It included labors dealing with animal hides and weaving hair and wool, but more particularly making leather products. Their goods could also include items for theaters and temples.[5] Thus, there was an ever-ready market for products that people with such skills could produce, and these two Jews seem to have had no trouble setting up shop and hiring laborers. Being good at the trade and a fellow Christian, Paul was readily hired.

The job helped Paul promote missionary work. As people came into the shop to purchase items or have odd jobs done, the Apostle could readily engage them in conversation and turn the topic to religion. But there was a downside to his employment. Many of the prestige-conscious Corinthians would not have been drawn to one engaged in such a menial trade. Indeed, Paul condemned some Christians for feeling smugly superior to him. He complained that they felt honorable while despising Paul and others who “labour, working with our own hands.” He was quick to note the true Christian’s proper if humble response: “being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day” (4:12–13).[6]

Some among the Christians would likely have preferred that Paul use his considerable skills as an orator to join the ranks of the ever-popular and highly respected sophists who generated a good deal of money and acclaim due to their speaking skills.[7] Instead, he chose to be a day laborer and for good reason. He could not afford to cheapen the word of God for self- aggrandizement even if it meant that he would not draw as many hearers from the pagans or find more acceptance from the socially conscious Christians. He adopted instead “a communicative strategy entirely at odds with the confident self-promotion of the sophist or pragmatic rhetoricism who played to the gallery.”[8] This may have forced him to spend more time making a living than he would have liked,[9] but it served to foster the correct attitude about the gospel and its message. His hope in Christ, and, ideally, that of all other Christians, should not be in gaining status in the world but pleasing God. The gospel was not about fame or power but self-sacrifice and service. It was not about finding place in this transitory, capricious, and short-lived world but finding place with God in the eternal world to come. It was not about competition leading to self-accrued glory but assisting others to a higher quality of life both in this world and the next. Pride, or as Paul calls it, being “puffed up” (4:18–19), had no place in Christ’s kingdom. Rather, the Saint needed to generate that humility that looked after and cared for others as much as self.

As a result, the gospel did not attract many of the upper class. It would be wrong, however, to view the early Corinthian Church as entirely made up of peasants and slaves.[10] Indeed, there seem to have been a number of men and women of means who were attracted to the gospel. Among these would have been Aquila, Priscilla, Erastus, Phoebe, Gaius, Stephanas, Crispus, and Quartus, all friends of Paul. Thus, the socioeconomic station of the Saints seems to have been rather mixed and produced some stratification between the “haves” and “have nots.”[11] The wealthy and well-born would have had a disproportionate influence. Paul had to fight against this by reminding the Saints that “the body is not one member but many,” and, therefore, the foot is as valuable as the hand and the ear as valuable as the eye. Indeed, “by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, . . . and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (12:13–16). He further admonished them to remember that they “are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you” (3:16).

Paul left Corinth having had much success. Indeed, the branches there were thriving and vibrant at the time, and the work was moving apace among all socioeconomic classes. The Apostle’s choice of Corinth as the strategic center of his missionary efforts to the west had proved well founded. Even so, the Church was young and still trying to find its way as it moved into pagan lands. Its primary task was to determine what it could accept and what it had to reject among the various societies in which it was growing. As a result, Paul continually kept track of happenings there and gave the Saints instructions through a series of letters. The one covered in this volume is the earlier of the two that have been preserved.

[1] Murphy-O’Connor, Paul, 108–9.

[2] Murphy-O’Connor, Paul, 109.

[3] The dating of Paul’s mission was greatly assisted by the discoveries of the Delphic letter of Claudius in relation to Lucius Junius Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia during Paul’s time at Corinth (see herein 18:12–17). The letter puts Gallio in Corinth not earlier than AD 51 or later than AD 53 with the earlier date being the better. See Murphy-O’Connor, Paul, 16–21.

[4] Suetonius, Life of Claudius 25.4, notes that the edict led to the expulsion of the Jews impulsore chresto, “on account of Chresto,” likely contentions between Jews and Christians over a person Suetonius identified as Chresto. Most scholars believe the word refers to Jesus since due to iotacism, Χρηστός (Chrēstos) and Χριστός (Christos) would have been pronounced the same, Christos. Fitzmyer, First Corinthians, 37. See also F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Free Spirit (Exeter: Paternoster, 1977), 250–51, 381.

[5] BDAG, 928–29. Tents were made of cilicium (woven goat hair), the name coming from the province in which Tarsus, Paul’s home town, was found. Patristic writers used the word interchangeably with σκυτοτόμοι (scytotomoi), “leather workers.” See Fitzmyer, First Corinthians, 40.

[6] See Ronald F. Hock, The Social Context of Paul’s Ministry: Tentmaking and Apostleship (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980); and especially Ronald F. Hock, “The Workshop as a Social Setting for Paul’s Missionary Preaching,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 41 (1979): 438–50.

[7] See Michael A. Bullmore, St. Paul’s Theology of Rhetorical Style: An Examination of 1 Cor. 2:1–5 in Light of First-Century Greco-Roman Rhetorical Culture (San Francisco: International Scholars Publication, 1995), 212–13.

[8] Thiselton, First Epistle, 22.

[9] Paul speaks of his hard work as a laborer (4:11–12; 9:6; 1 Thes. 2:9; 2 Thes. 3:7–8; 2 Cor. 11:27). There is little doubt that he did not live high but the idea put forth by Justin J. Meggitt, Paul, Poverty and Survival (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1998), 75–97, that Paul frequently labored under extreme and harsh conditions, destitute perhaps to near starvation, seems too strong. His life was not easy, but he had good skills and many friends who supported him in his work. See Murphy-O’Connor, Paul, 117–18, 261–67, for counterbalance.

[10] This is the picture developed by Adolf Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, trans. Lionel Strachan, rev. ed. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1927), 144.

[11] Gerd Theissen, The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity: Essays on Corinth, trans. John H. Schütz (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), 69–75.

The Last Meeting in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36–49)

This post is extracted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown. It contains the New Rendition, Analysis, and Notes for these verses. Also compare Matt. 28:16–20; Mark 16:14–18; John 20:19–30.

New Rendition

36 While they spoke these things, he stood in the middle of them and said to them, “Peace be to you.” 37 And being alarmed and afraid, they thought they were seeing a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts spring up in your heart? 39 Behold my hands and my feet, that I am he. Handle me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see me have.” 40 And saying this, he showed them his hands and feet.

41 But while they were still disbelieving from joy and marveling, he said to them, “Do you have anything to eat here?” 42 And they gave him a piece of a cooked fish. 43 And taking it, he ate before them. 44 And he said to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that it is necessary that everything written in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms concerning me be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46 And he said to them,

“Thus it is written that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you. But you remain in the city until you be clothed with power from on high.” Continue reading

On the Cross (Luke 23:34–38)

By S. Kent Brown. This is an extract from The Testimony of Luke. For this reading, compare Matt. 27:37–43; Mark 15:26–32; John 19:19–27.

New Rendition

34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And dividing his garments, they cast lots. 35 And the people stood watching. And also the leaders kept sneering, saying, “Others he saved. Let him save himself, if he is the Christ, the chosen one of God.” 36 And the solders coming to him, ridiculed him, bringing vinegar to him, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 And there was also a writing above him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

Analysis

The Joseph Smith Translation’s stunning addition to the Savior’s plea for forgiveness in 23:34, which forms the heart of these verses because of the abuse that he receives—“Meaning the soldiers who crucified him” ( JST 23:35)—pushes forward the issue whether certain wicked acts can be forgiven. To be sure, some cannot, such as blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (see 12:10; D&C 132:27). But what about other serious sins? Are there limits to divine mercy? Are there bounds to celestial clemency? In response, we notice that, in the only existing sample of the Savior’s intercessional language in modern scripture, he limits his appeal to his Father, seeking the Father’s graciousness only for those who “believe on my name,” begging him to “spare these . . . that they may . . . have everlasting life” (D&C 45:5). This engaging framework fits snugly with other passages from latter- day scripture that set out a limit to salvation—only for those who believe and repent (see 2 Ne. 2:6–7; Mosiah 3:17–19; Alma 12:15; D&C 29:43–44; etc.). Why? Because saving the wicked, particularly those who “have willfully rebelled against God . . . and would not keep [the commandments of God]” cuts across God’s justice: “salvation cometh to none such; for the Lord hath redeemed none such; yea, neither can the Lord redeem such” (Mosiah 15:26–27). Continue reading

At the Place of Suffering (Luke 22:39– 46)

Extracted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown. On this section, compare Matt. 26:36–46; Mark 14:32–42.

New Rendition

39 And coming out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples also followed him. 40 And when he was at the place, he said to them, “Pray that you do not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them as far as a stone’s throw. And kneeling down he prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you will, remove this cup from me. However, let not my will, but yours be done.” 43 And an angel from heaven was seen by him, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more intently; and his sweat became like thick drops of blood falling down upon the ground. 45 And rising from prayer and coming to the disciples, he found them sleeping from grief. 46 And he said to them “Why do you sleep? Arise, pray that you not enter into temptation.”

Analysis

At last the Savior comes to “the hour” (22:14).[1] Throughout his ministry, he speaks openly and often to the Twelve and to others about the approach of this decisive climax (see the Notes on 9:22; 12:50; 17:25; 22:15). Now the eleven Apostles become its only witnesses,[2] perhaps aided by the memory of the unidentified young man (see Mark 14:51–52). But even the Apostles miss most of what happens because they sleep. In all, the most comprehensive account lies in the Gospel of Mark (see Mark 14:32–42).[3] Luke’s report is more  spare but holds the most graphic of descriptions: Jesus’ suffering causes him to bleed through the pores of his skin. This spilling of his own blood, occurring metaphorically in the heavenly sanctuary, “the holy place,” brings about the new covenant and its associated blessing of an “eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:12–15).

Through his divine foresight, Jesus anticipates the shocking intensity of what is coming and admits his anxiety about it all (see the Note on 12:50; also John 12:27; 18:11).[4] But by the time he climbs from Jericho to the capital city, he shows his now settled resolve to face his suffering by pushing the pace up the hill (see the Note on 19:28). However, even his divine foresight and resolve do not fully prepare him for what crashes down on him at Gethsemane—our sins on a sinless man, our wickedness on a righteous person, our guilt on an innocent soul, all of this in addition to paying the price for the transgression of Adam and Eve—“In all their afflictions [the Savior] was afflicted” (D&C 133:53; see Rom. 5:12–17; 1 Cor. 15:21–22; Alma 7:11–12).

When the moment of his suffering arrives in its fiery fury, his first reflex is to push it away; his first temptation is to escape: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me” (22:42). Again and again he begs his Father for a way out (see the Notes on 22:41–42).[5] As the other accounts illustrate through their verbs of repetition, he moves from standing to kneeling to standing again in an effort to diminish the awful anguish, to blunt the piercing pain (see Matt. 26:39; Mark 14:35). As his repeated visits to the Apostles (see Matt. 26:40, 43, 45; Mark 14:37, 40, 41) and as the additions to the Joseph Smith Translation illustrate (see JST Matt. 26:43; JST Mark 14:47), his suffering lasts most of the night.

But does the Savior bleed? At this point, all students of the New Testament Gospels have to make a decision: are verses 43 and 44 genuine? That is, does the angel really come and does Jesus bleed as if he is sweating? For many, these verses represent at best an independent and somewhat dubious Christian tradition that a scribe adds to a manuscript because, as theorized, Luke does not include enough about Jesus’ suffering.[6] For others, these verses are genuine.[7] For still others, these verses preserve “the most precious” of incidents from all the Gospels.[8] For Latter-day Saints, Jesus’ bleeding in Gethsemane is a fact (where else might Jesus bleed in this manner if not in Gethsemane?). It is as Luke describes and as the Risen Savior affirms: like sweat, the blood runs from “every pore” in his body. But this is not all. In the Savior’s own words, the searing “suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit” (D&C 19:18). Not surprisingly, prophecy captures this monumental moment: “behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people” (Mosiah 3:7). In this poignant light, we conclude that verse 44 preserves a genuine record of Jesus’ suffering.

But what about verse 43, which pictures the arrival of “an angel . . . from heaven, strengthening [ Jesus]”? The early Christian authors Justin and Irenaeus, when referring to this scene, draw attention only to the bleeding and not to the appearance of the angel. But this omission simply represents an oversight because Justin is writing about Jesus’ sufferings and Irenaeus is treating Jesus’ human nature.[9] In the case of Tatian, he includes the notice of the angel.[10] Importantly, both verse 43 and verse 44 stand together in all the manuscripts that carry them. Hence, it seems impossible to separate the two. Thus the account of the angel’s appearance is to remain with the report of Jesus’ bleeding.

For any who hold that 22:43–44 forms an insertion into Luke’s narrative and that this insertion shows Luke to be emphasizing Jesus’ prayers in contrast to his suffering,[11] we simply turn to the multitude of references where Jesus prophetically tells his closest followers that he will suffer and die (see the Note on 22:15). To be sure, if we set verses 43 and 44 aside, Mark and Matthew report much more about Jesus’ suffering, although they write nothing about answers to Jesus’ prayers except Jesus’ reference to the Father sending “more than twelve legions of angels” if only Jesus will ask (see Matt. 26:53). But when we accept these two verses as authentic, then we plainly see the underlying themes of God’s initiative in answering prayers and of Jesus’ suffering as fulfilled prophecy.

One further observation. When we think of Jesus bleeding into his clothing from “every pore,” staining thoroughly at least his inner garments, we recall the scene sketched in Isaiah 63:1–3 of the one who “cometh . . . with dyed garments . . . [and is] red in [his] apparel” and treads “the winepress alone.” This adds a significant coloration to the “coming one” of John the Baptist’s prophecy. Jesus’ coming to this moment fulfills older and deeper prophecy (see 13:35; Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:7; Acts 13:25; Mal. 3:1; Mosiah 3:9; D&C 29:11; 88:106; 133:2, 10, 17, 19, 66; the Notes on 3:16; 19:38; 20:16; 21:8, 27; the Analysis on 3:7–20 and 19:28–40).[12]

Notes

22:39 he came out: As in 21:37, Jesus exits the city. He doubtless leaves before midnight because continuing the Passover meal after midnight is forbidden and renders participants unclean.[13] When he returns, he will come back as a prisoner (see 22:54).

as he was wont: Jesus’ customary travel route takes him out of the east side of the city to the Mount of Olives rather than in another direction. Luke seems to indicate that Jesus regularly comes this way. Other reports intimate that Jesus stays in Bethany with friends (see Matt. 21:17; 26:6; Mark 11:11–12; 14:3; John 12:1), but Luke records that he spends an occasional night on the Mount of Olives (see the Note on 21:37; also John 8:1–2). Luke’s following note about “the place” hints that the mount is a regular stopping spot (22:40). On this night, Passover celebrants are not to leave the immediate environs of Jerusalem, so Jesus does not go to Bethany.[14]

to the mount of Olives: Unfortunately, Luke’s description does not assist us in locating the exact spot where Jesus and the Apostles spend the next hours. The traditional locale of Gethsemane lies on the lower slope of the Mount of Olives. But the real location of Gethsemane may be higher up the mountain.

22:40 the place: This term (Greek topos; Hebrew maqōm) often refers to a special, even sacred spot (see the Notes on 4:42; 23:33; Matt. 24:15; John 4:20).[15] Jesus’ command that his disciples pray in that spot adds weight to this view. Clearly, “the place” is the designated locale for his suffering. Only Matthew and Mark name the locale Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36; Mark 14:32). John terms it “a garden” or cultivated spot and reports that it lies on the east bank of the Kidron stream ( John 18:1). In a metaphorical sense, it becomes “the holy place” where Jesus enters to shed his blood (see Heb. 9:12–15). In a different regard, a cave near the lower, traditional location, basically a storage area for tools that gardeners use in working with olive trees, may have offered a warm nighttime resting place for Jesus and his followers because “it was cold” ( John 18:18; see the Note on 21:37).[16]

Pray: This command, when paired with the same command in 22:46, forms a bracket or inclusio for verses 40–46. The intended result for both instances is the same—to overcome temptation or trial. Jesus will now do exactly as he commands his disciples and will experience the result firsthand.[17]

temptation: The same term appears in 22:28 and 22:46. One of its meanings is “trial” (see the Notes on 4:2; 22:28, 46). The sense seems to be that disciples should avoid temptations or trials that overmatch their natural or presumed ability to overcome, because only with humility will God assist.[18]

22:41 about a stone’s cast: This notation matches others which point to a recollection of an eyewitness from whom Luke learns indirectly, or with whom Luke speaks directly (see the Note below).

kneeled down, and prayed: The report of these actions also nods toward an eyewitness account, either from one of the three Apostles who can see Jesus or, later, from Jesus himself in a later conversation with his disciples, or from the young man noted in Mark 14:51–52 (see 1:2; 6:10; 9:55; 10:23; 14:25; 19:3, 5; 22:61; 23:28; John 8:6–8; Acts 1:3–4; the Notes on 7:9, 44; 18:40; 22:31, 34).[19] The act of kneeling, also noted in Mark 14:35, “stresses the urgency and humility” of Jesus’ prayer because customarily a person stands to pray (see 18:11, 13).[20]

prayed: The Greek verb proseuchomai stands in the imperfect tense, which can mean repeated or continuous action.[21] This main verb controls the sense of the adjacent participles that are translated “kneeled down” (22:41) and “saying” (22:42). Hence, in our mind’s eye we should see Jesus kneeling, praying, and speaking the words of his prayer again and again, or over a long period of time. That is, he kneels and prays, then he kneels and prays again, and again. We compare Mark 14:35–36 (Greek text), where we also find a string of imperfect tenses in the verbs describing these acts of Jesus, all of which carry a ring of eyewitness authenticity.[22] Incidentally, Jesus and the Apostles follow later Jewish law that forbids any revelry fol- lowing the Passover meal.[23]

22:42 if thou be willing, remove: The first request out of Jesus’ mouth is that his Father take the cup away, illustrating the intensity of his agony (see the Note below). It also forms an unsuccessful attempt to shift the burden of responsibility onto his Father. It seems that Jesus requires time to gain full control of himself so that he can finally pray “nevertheless not my will.” This observation finds support in the repeating or continuous sense of the verb “prayed”—“he prayed again and again” or “he kept praying” (see Note on 22:41). It is evident that the first crushing load of pain and sin to fall on him brings him to this begging request (see Matt. 26:37–38; Mark 14:33–34).

this cup: Reference to the cup, which Jesus shares with his disciples a short while before, occurs in each of the Synoptic accounts of Jesus’ prayer (see Matt. 26:39; Mark 14:36; also 3 Ne. 11:11). The tie to the two cups poured by Jesus at the supper is not to be missed (see 22:17–18, 20). Thus Jesus’ Atonement links closely with sacred ceremony, sacred actions. The first of the cups nods toward the messianic banquet at the end of time; the second points directly to Jesus’ atoning blood. In this latter instance, the mention of the cup may possibly tie to the general concept of “the cup of the wine of the fierceness of [God’s] wrath” (Rev. 16:19; also Rev. 14:10; 3 Ne. 11:11; D&C 103:3). Notably, scripture paints divine wrath either as a liquid (see Job 21:20; Jer. 25:15–16; Hosea 5:10; Rev. 14:10; 19:15; Mosiah 5:5) or as a fire kindled by him (see Num. 11:33; Ps. 106:40; Jer. 44:6).[24]186 John 18:11 rehearses Jesus’ words to Peter about “the cup” at the time of his arrest, a reference that captures the meaning of this expression—“the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” Not incidentally, Luke alone records Jesus sharing two cups at the supper (see 22:17, 20). The other accounts mention only one, that which points to Jesus’ atoning blood. What are we to make of Luke’s double reference to the cup? Both of them point to the future, one immediate (the Atonement) and one far away (the messianic banquet). But they both form a ceremonial tie to Jesus’ work as conqueror of the difficulties of this world.

not my will: Finally, after praying and supplicating “with strong crying and tears” (Heb. 5:7), Jesus surmounts the temptation to back out of his suffering and submits to his Father’s will.

22:43 And there appeared: This verse and the next are not part of the earliest manuscript (75) or other important manuscripts of Luke’s Gospel. Hence, many scholars doubt their authenticity.[25] A few manuscripts place these verses after Matthew 26:39. Recent studies on P 69, a fragmentary text from the third century (held at Oxford) that preserves only a few verses from Luke 22 and omits verses 41–44 instead of just verses 43–44, illustrate that some early texts of these verses are in flux and unsettled.[26] Early Christian authors who quote passages from the Gospels—for example, the second-century writers Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and likely Tatian—show an acquaintance with the scenes painted in 22:43–44, specifically Jesus’ bleeding.[27] Other textual evidence points to their genuine character.[28] In another vein, the verb translated “there appeared” (Greek horaō) actually stands in the passive voice: literally “the angel was seen” by Jesus, underscoring not only the divine initiative to assist him[29] but especially Jesus’ direct sight of this celestial personality, a prominent theme in Luke (see the Notes on 1:11, 12, 29; 24:24, 31, 34).[30] On the question whether Jesus generally needs assistance from angels, see the Note on 4:13.

an angel: The angel’s appearance is a favorite image among painters of religious art. The identity of the angel remains unknown. But the angel’s coming demonstrates the truth of Jesus’ instruction to the Apostles, that prayer will bring results, including heavenly assistance in trials (see 22:40, 46).[31]

22:44 And being: The content of this verse is certainly accurate because Jesus’ bleeding is confirmed both in prophecy (see Mosiah 3:7) and in the Risen Savior’s personal reminiscence of his experience (see D&C 19:18).

being in an agony: Perhaps oddly, before this point Luke offers few clues to us that Jesus is in deep agony, except the imperfect verb “prayed” that nods toward repeated or continuous praying (see the Note on 22:41). This differs from the other accounts wherein Jesus verbalizes his sudden anguish (see Matt. 26:37–38; Mark 14:33–34). Some scholars who believe that verses 43–44 are added by later scribes also judge that, in Luke’s portrayal, Jesus does not suffer deep distress about the troubles that are about to engulf him. Rather, he faces them in a way that becomes an example to later believers.[32]

prayed more earnestly: Without speaking directly about the intensity of Jesus’ suffering, this note discloses that he is pleading desperately for help. As in 22:41, the verb is in the imperfect mood and points to repeated and continual praying (see the Note on 22:41).

his sweat: Luke graphically pictures that all of Jesus’ body is affected by his suffering, as if he is working hard, like an athlete, and his entire body is sweating, from his head to his feet: “profuse sweat.”[33] The Joseph Smith Translation renders the expression differently, changing the noun to a verb: “he sweat” (JST 22:44).

as it were: The force of the Greek comparative particle hōsei is difficult to judge. Some scholars propose that it means “like” and thus they translate “his sweat became like drops of blood” or “the sweat was falling like drops of blood,” thus discounting that Jesus actually sheds blood in Gethsemane.[34] The other sense for hōsei is “as” (see 24:11; Matt. 28:4; Mark 9:26; Rom. 6:13), that is, “his sweat came to be as drops of blood.”[35]

drops of blood: The term translated “drops” (Greek thrombos) appears only here in the entire New Testament. The word can mean “clot” or “small amount of blood.”[36]

falling down to the ground: The blood that oozes from Jesus’ skin does not simply cover and discolor his body but comes in such amounts that the fluid gathers on and drops from the skin of his face. This circumstance raises questions about how art portrays Jesus both in Gethsemane and after- ward, until his execution—he freely bleeds at least into his underclothes, staining them, as the expression “every pore” strongly hints (Mosiah 3:7; D&C 19:18).

22:45 when he rose up: The verb “found” governs this participle and is the simple past tense in Greek, thus conveying to the reader the sense that Jesus prays a long time and then stands up. Incidentally, the verb “to rise up” (Greek anistēmi) describes the resurrection in a few passages (see 9:8, 19; 16:31; 18:33; 24:7, 46).[37] Mark’s report pictures the scene very differently, that Jesus goes forward and falls and prays, then goes forward and falls and prays, actions underscored by the repetitive force of the imperfect verbs (see Mark 14:35). Luke’s adoption of the imperfect verb “he prayed” fits into this view of events (22:41, 44; see the Note on 22:41). In this connection, both Matthew and Mark report that Jesus walks three times to check on Peter, James, and John during this extended experience (see Matt. 26:40, 43, 45; Mark 14:37, 40, 41). Luke reports only one such contact. Luke seems to be placing more emphasis on Jesus’ act of praying and less on his interaction with the Apostles.[38]

for sorrow: The prepositional phrase means “from sorrow” (Greek apo tēs lypēs). The New English Bible renders the phrase “worn out by grief.” That sorrow or grief characterize the past days and hours which the Apostles, particularly Peter, spend with Jesus is certainly a matter of record: “being aggrieved” ( JST 22:33; also John 14:1, 27). The Joseph Smith Translation adjusts “for sorrow” to “for they were filled with sorrow” ( JST 22:45).

22:46 Why sleep ye?: The synoptic Gospels document the Apostles’ fatigue (see Matt. 26:40, 43, 45; Mark 14:37, 40, 41). But only the Joseph Smith Translation hints at the length of their sleep: Judas and the arresting party approach “after they had finished their sleep” ( JST Mark 14:47; also JST Matt. 26:43). This added note indicates that they sleep about as much as they customarily do, that is, much of the night, and that the early dawn draws near (see the Note on 22:60). In this light, and in agreement with Jesus’ repeated returns to the slumbering Apostles, Jesus’ suffering in Gethsemane lasts a large portion of the night.

rise: The Greek verb anistēmi, which here is a participle, can bear the sense “to rise again,” that is, to resurrect.[39] Hence, Jesus’ words to the three Apostles may form a mild hint at his own future resurrection (see the Note on 22:45).

pray: This instruction to pray illustrates an important principle. The divine world seems to be persuaded, perhaps even supported, by the prayer of the righteous (see Jer. 7:16; James 5:16; the Note on 10:2). Such appears to be the case when Jesus instructs followers in the New World to pray even while he is in their midst (see 3 Ne. 19:17–18, 22–26, 30; 20:1).

lest ye enter into temptation: The expression here is stronger than that in 22:40. Is it possible that Jesus’ experience in Gethsemane brings him to express himself more forcefully? That certainly seems to be the case in Mark 14:38, where Jesus’ words brim with meaning because he faces the temptation not to go through with the Atonement—“The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.”[40]

temptation: The sense may reflect both meanings of this term: (1) to be tempted to do or think something inappropriate, or (2) to undergo a trial of some sort (see the Notes on 4:2; 22:28, 40). The appearance of the word “temptation” means that an overtone of Jesus’ prior temptations at the hands of the devil also lingers here (see 4:2–13). In that earlier case, the devil himself administers the temptations. None of his minions take the lead. We can be certain that Satan comes to Jerusalem both to influence Judas (see the Notes on 22:3, 31) and for Jesus’ last hours (see 22:53—“this is your hour, and the power of darkness”). Hence, Satan’s presence may be one of the reasons for Jesus’ instruction that his three chief Apostles pray.

[1] S. Kent Brown, “Gethsemane,” in EM, 2:542–43.

[2] Branscomb, Gospel of Mark, 267.

[3] Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 197–201.

[4] Barrett, Gospel according to St John, 436; Marshall, Luke, 547; Morris, Luke, 340– 41; Clivaz, L’Ange et la Sueur de Sang, 411–51, 626–33.

[5] Maxwell, “New Testament,” 26–27.

[6] Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1443–45; Stein, Luke, 559; Ehrman, New Testament: A Histori- cal Introduction, 124.

[7] Marshall, Luke, 832, “with very considerable hesitation”; Brown, Death, 1:185; Morris, Luke, 340.

[8] Plummer, Luke, 509, quoting B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, early scholars of the New Testament text.

[9] Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 103.8; Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 3.22.2.

[10] Tatian, Diatessaron 48:16–17.

[11] Ehrman, New Testament: A Historical Introduction, 124.

[12] TDNT, 2:666–69.

[13] Mishnah Pesahim 10:9.

[14] Jeremias, Eucharistic Words, 55.

[15] TDNT, 8:195–99, 203–5; TDOT, 8:537–43.

[16] Wilkinson, Jerusalem as Jesus Knew It, 130–31; Taylor, “Garden of Gethsemane,” 26–35, 62.

[17] Green, Luke, 777.

[18] TDNT, 6:28–29.

[19] Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 200–201.

[20] Marshall, Luke, 830.

[21] Smyth, Greek Grammar, §§1790, 1890–94, 2341; Blass and Debrunner, Greek Grammar, §325, 327.

[22] Branscomb, Gospel of Mark, 267.

[23] Mishnah Pesahim 10:8.

[24] Charles, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, 2:14–17.

[25] For example, Bart D. Ehrman and Mark A. Plunkett, “The Angel and the Agony: The Textual Problem of Luke 22:43–44,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 45, no. 3 (1983): 401– 16; Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1443–45; Stein, Luke, 559; Ehrman, New Testament: A Historical Introduction, 124.

[26] Thomas A. Wayment, “A New Transcription of P. Oxy. 2383 (P69),” Novum Testamentum 50, no. 4 (2008): 351–57; see also Claire Clivaz, L’Ange et la Sueur de Sang: Ou comment on pourrait bien encore écrire l’histoire, vol. 7 of Biblical Tools and Studies (Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2010), 460–65, 627.

[27] Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 103.8; Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 3.22.2; Tatian, Diatessaron 48.17.

[28] Bovon, Luke 3, 197–99; Lincoln H. Blumell, “Luke 22:43–44: An Anti-Docetic Interpolation or an Apologetic Omission?” TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism 19 (2014): 1–35; see also Clivaz, L’Ange et la Sueur de Sang, 609–18, 633–39.

[29] BAGD, 581–82; Brown, Death, 1:186.

[30] TDNT, 5:317, 324, 342.

[31] Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1444.

[32] For example, Stein, Luke, 559; Ehrman, New Testament: A Historical Introduction, 124.

[33] Johnson, Luke, 355; Tannehill, Luke, 324.

[34] Marshall, Luke, 832–33; Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1444–45; Bock, Luke, 2:1761–62.

[35] Plummer, Luke, 510–11; Liddell and Scott, Greek Lexicon, 2040; Blass and Debrunner, Greek Grammar, §453(3); BAGD, 907.

[36] Liddell and Scott, Lexicon, 807; BAGD, 364.

[37] BAGD, 69; TDNT, 1:369–71.

[38] Marshall, Luke, 833.

[39] BAGD, 69; TDNT, 1:369–71.

[40] Neal A. Maxwell, “The New Testament—a Matchless Portrait of the Savior,” Ensign 16 (December 1986): 20–27.

 

Jesus Questioned about Resurrection (Mark 12:18-27)

By Julie M. Smith. This post is extracted from The Gospel according to Mark, part of the BYU New Testament Commentary.

New Rendition

18 And Sadducees—who say there is no resurrection—come to him. And they were questioning him,  saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses  wrote  for  us,  ‘If a man’s brother should die and leave behind a wife and not leave children, he should marry his brother’s wife, and he should raise children for his brother.’ 20 There were seven brothers, and the first took a wife and, dying, left no children. 21 And the second took her and died, not having left children, and the third, the same. 22 And none of the seven had children. And last of all, the woman died. 23 In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as a wife.” 24 Jesus said to them, “Aren’t you mistaken because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they do not marry nor are they given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. 26 Now as for the dead—that they are raised—have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the [burning] bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob?’ 27 He is not the God of the dead but of the living. [So] you are very mistaken.”

Analysis

The point of the Sadducees’ (highly unlikely) scenario is to suggest that resurrection cannot be possible because if it were, a woman might end up with seven husbands in the next life. The Sadducees would rather deny the Resurrection than countenance the possibility of polyandry. Given that they presumably had no problem with polygyny (which is mentioned in their scriptures), this serves as a startling example of sexist thought. Further, this scenario is only a problem for them if they assume that all marriages are eternal. If there was any possibility in their minds that marriages were not eternal, then the solution to their question is simple: most or all of her marriages would not be eternal. (Even for Latter-day Saints, who believe in the possibility of eternal marriages, there is doubt as to whether levirate marriages would be eternal since the purpose of the marriage was to provide children to the deceased brother, not to be a permanent match.)

This story is not solely a dispute about this one unusual case. To the extent that the Sadducees (or Mark’s audience) understood that Jesus would die and be resurrected, it is important for Jesus to be able to defend the idea of resurrection; otherwise, his entire ministry is undermined.

Jesus’ teachings here also imply that it is not the mere fact of a marriage that makes it eternal, but rather a marriage requires something else (what Latter-day Saints would now call the sealing authority) to render it a post- mortally valid marriage. Apparently, the Sadducees did not realize this, hence Jesus’ comment that they do not understand the scriptures (which reference covenants and ordinances and sealing power, if not with the clarity that Latter-day Saint readers sometimes superimpose on them) or the power of God (which makes it possible for some, if not all, marriages to be eternal). The obvious way out of the Sadducees’ trap is for Jesus to say that there are no marriages in heaven; the fact that the Sadducees do not consider this a possibility (and thus think that their question proves that there can be no resurrection) suggests that the Sadducees assumed that Jesus would believe in marriage after death so strongly that he would be more likely to concede the Resurrection than postmortal marriage. In other words, this trap question is a testament to the strength of Jesus’ (and the Sadducees’) belief in marriage after death.

Jesus’ warning about not knowing the scriptures fits into a pattern in Mark’s Gospel where knowledge of the scriptures is shown to be different from understanding of the scriptures; this would have been a powerful warning for Mark’s audience. The Sadducees assumed that the law of Moses was a template for the eternal order, but this is not correct: Jesus’ answer implies that the law of Moses was, in at least some respects, an accommodation to the problems of a fallen world. It may have been a particularly relevant statement for the Sadducees, since they rejected most of the scriptural record. (While the evidence is scant, it is likely that the Sadducees only accepted the first five books of the HB as scripture.)

Jesus’ teachings about marrying in heaven may appear to be contrary to Latter-day Saint ideas about the eternal potential of marriages. But given that the Sadducees are not actually interested in learning from Jesus but rather just trying to trip him up, one should not be surprised that Jesus chose not to teach them anything else about marriage at this point (compare 11:33). Of course, there may be a hint of a higher teaching in the note that God has powers that they do not understand. In other instances in Mark, Jesus hints at the eternal nature of marriage (see 10:8–9, where it is difficult to imagine that God would “tear asunder” the “one flesh” after death). Further, the wording used in this passage refers to the contracting of new marriages (“marry” and “given in marriage”; not “continue to be married”). This idea is wholly congruent with Latter-day Saint thought: it is precisely because new marriages are not believed to be contracted in the next life (D&C 132:16)[1] that proxy marriages are performed in this life and that eternal marriages are regarded as so very important. Even some non–Latter-day Saint interpreters take this view (although, admittedly, the sentiment is rare): “Notice what Jesus does not say. He does not say that there will be no marriage in the age to come. The use of the terms [marry] and [are given in marriage] is important, for these terms refer to the gender-specific roles played in early Jewish society by the man and the woman in the process of getting married.. . . Thus Mark has Jesus saying that no new marriages will be initiated . . . this is surely not the same as claiming that all existing marriages will disappear.”[2]

Notes

12:18 Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying: This is the only reference to Sadducees in Mark’s Gospel. “They were not so much a religious party (as the Pharisees), but more of a social class, or elite, composed mostly of the priests. The traditionalists of their day, they rejected all ‘innovations,’ including the idea of the resurrection, angels, etc.”[3]70 In addition to the priests themselves, the term “the Sadducees” probably includes their family members and followers.

Interestingly, in the HB, the only generally accepted references to life after death are in Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 2:2 (although many other texts are interpreted to refer to postmortal life by some). The Pharisees and other Jews did believe in resurrection, so, interestingly, Jesus will side with the Pharisees here.

12:19 Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man’s brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother: This verse quotes Deuteronomy 25:5, which describes levirate marriage, the practice of a childless widow marrying her deceased husband’s brother so that she might have children. Those children were regarded as belonging to the deceased brother and thus continuing his line and memory.

It is perhaps no coincidence that the term for “raise up” (Greek: exanistēmi) is similar to the term for “resurrection” (Greek: anastasis). The implication for the Sadducees is that an actual resurrection is not necessary since the children produced by the levirate marriage serve whatever purpose would be filled by resurrection: people would, in effect, live forever through their children. Of course, in this case, even six levirate marriages did not “raise up” anything, so their own example undermines the idea that levirate marriage negates the need for resurrection.

12:20 Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. 21 And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. 22 And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. 23 In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. 24 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God: It may seem a little odd that Jesus says that they “err” when they have only asked a question, but their question contained erroneous assumptions. These assumptions would include that (1) levirate marriages would be eternal or that (2) polyandry in the next life is so unthinkable that it could be used to deny the Resurrection. (One way to avoid polyandry in this situation would be for the woman to be given a choice of husbands, but apparently the Sadducees find that notion equally impossible.) The possibility of polyandry may seem excessively speculative, but in the last instance when Jesus was challenged about marriage relationships, he took the argument in a decidedly nonandrocentric direction that was almost certainly unanticipated by his audience (10:12), so perhaps the same thing happens here. That said, the first option is more likely: Jesus is teaching here that contra the assumption of the Sadducees, not all marriages are eternal. (This is likely to strike Latter-day Saint readers as ironic.) The Sadducees have asked whose wife she would be, but Jesus does not say “the first man’s” or “all of theirs.” Jesus’ answer in 12:25 suggests that none of these marriages will be eternally valid—even the first one, which was not a levirate marriage, apparently wasn’t eternally permanent either. But particularly for the levirate marriages, there is a good case to be made that they would not be expected to be eternal. In chapter 10, Jesus explains that marriages stem from the original order of creation, but only the Fall—by bringing death into the world—would provide a scenario where levirate marriage was required. Thus, many Jews (and, apparently, Jesus here as well) separated regular marriage from levirate marriage.

What does it mean to say that the Sadducees do not know the power of God? At its most basic, this phrase means that resurrected life is different from earth life. First, concerns about dying without seed would not be applicable, so levirate marriage would not be necessary. Second, God’s power permits some (but not all) marriages to be eternal. And life in the resurrection is different from earthly life—to the point where the potential for polyandry is not a reason to discount the Resurrection.

12:25 For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven: At its most basic level, this statement goads the Sadducees, who apparently did not believe in angels.[4] It is easy to imagine Mark’s early audiences laughing at this line. While most interpreters assume that the reference to angels means that angels will be unmarried,[5] this is not necessarily the case. The HB does not describe angels as asexual (Gen. 6:1–4). Rather, being like the angels means not being subject to death and therefore not requiring levirate marriage.

12:26 And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying: This question indicates that Jesus was well aware that the Sadducees’ question was not really about marriage but rather about resurrection.

The phrase “in the bush” probably functioned much as chapter and verse divisions do today: it was a short-hand way of saying “in the story of the burning bush” and calling the audience’s attention to the story to which he was referring. At the same time, the fact that the bush was on fire but was not consumed serves as an example of the power of God, specifically (if subtly) of the power of God to preserve life from death.

I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?: This is a quote from Exodus 3:6. In context, God is self-identifying to Moses to prepare Moses to return to the people. If Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob no longer existed at the time this was spoken, then it would have made no sense for God to mention their names. The fact that God does use them leads to the conclusion that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must have existed after death (as Jesus explains in the next verse). Further, “God had made promises to these patriarchs, and since they had not all yet been fulfilled, it must be assumed that they are still alive.”[6]73 So the continued existence of the patriarchs negates the Sadducees’ beliefs.

While some have emphasized the tense of the verb “am” (as opposed to “was”), Mark does not actually have that verb in the text (it is assumed but not included), and so that does not appear to be the point of the statement.

12:27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye there- fore do greatly err: Jesus explains that, in a sense, there are no dead people: God can self-define in terms of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because they are still living.

“Ye . . . do . . . err” translates the same Greek verb (planaō) as “ye . . . err” in 12:24, framing Jesus’ remarks and emphasizing the idea that the Sadducees’ question relies on erroneous assumptions.

[1] Note that the language appears to echo this very passage in Mark with its references to marrying, being given in marriage, and being as angels.

[2] Witherington, Gospel of Mark, 328; compare Collins, Mark, 561–62.

[3] Bratcher and Nida, Translator’s Handbook, 374.

[4] Acts 23:8. However, there are several references to angels in the first five books of the HB (for example, Gen. 22:15), which the Sadducees did accept as scripture, so it is difficult to know what to make of this evidence.

[5] This is contra the position of D&C 132:16, which takes the angelic state as an unmarried one, but in terms of determining how Mark’s audience would have interpreted the reference to angels, it does not seem likely that they would have assumed that the angelic state was an unmarried one.

[6] Witherington, Gospel of Mark, 329.

Signs of the Coming Son of Man (Luke 21:25–28)

by S. Kent Brown. This text is excerpted from The Testimony of Luke, part of the BYU New Testament Commentary. (For this reading, compare Matt. 24:29–31; Mark 13:24–27.) This reading includes the New Rendition, the Analysis, and Notes.

New Rendition

25 “And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth anguish of nations in anxiety at the sounds of the sea and the waves, 26 men fainting from fear and expectation of things coming upon the world, since the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and much glory. 28 And when these things begin to occur, stand up and raise your heads, because your deliverance approaches.”

Analysis

In these verses, the Savior turns to the signs that will precede his Second Coming and the end-time, illuminating a gap between the fall of Jerusalem and these future events. By borrowing language from the Old Testament that is difficult to grasp in places, Jesus predicts troubling portents in the heavens, on the earth, and among men and women.[1] Frighteningly, no one will escape except those who can “lift up [their] heads” and confidently anticipate that their “redemption draweth nigh” (21:28). Hence, Jesus graciously offers the optimistic view to his followers that he and they will ultimately triumph even when challenges seem most sharp and daunting.[2]

Earlier, Jesus presents himself as Son of Man in both his contemporary, earthly contexts and future, heavenly scenes (see 9:26; 11:30; 12:8, 40; 17:22, 24, 26, 30; 18:8).[3] In each of these settings, Jesus offers a hint or an aspect of his work, both here and hereafter. But when he sketches his future arrival as one “in a cloud with power and great glory,” he places a capstone on his ministry, affirming that he comes as lord and king of all (21:27), arriving “with all the holy angels” (D&C 45:44; “all the hosts”— D&C 29:11).

More concretely for his Apostles, Jesus affirms personally to them in his first-person account that, when he comes again, “if ye have slept in peace blessed are you; for as you now behold me and know that I am, even so shall ye come unto me” from their sleep in the grave. More than this, in that day “your redemption shall be perfected,” bringing a glorious climax to their quest for eternal life (D&C 45:46).

In this section of Luke’s record, the Joseph Smith Translation adds clarifying words both to the setting with the Twelve and to the Savior’s sayings that support the idea of a substantial gap in time between the fall of Jerusalem and his Second Coming. At the beginning of 21:25 where we read “there shall be signs,” the JST inserts the following: “And he answered them, and said, In the generation in which the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled, there shall be signs” (JST 21:25). Jesus is responding to a request from the Twelve that does not appear in Luke’s report: “Master, tell us concerning thy coming?” (JST 21:24), elucidating that Jesus’ discussion of the “signs” arises from the disciples’ honest query. Those “signs” will appear only “in the generation in which the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled,” that is, in a distant day, and will include “The earth also [being] troubled” along with “the waters of the great deep” (JST 12:24). In a word, Jesus’ Second Coming and the signs that precede it are not imminent. They remain far away.

Notes

21:25 there shall be signs: Picking up the thread at the end of the prior verse about “the times of the Gentiles,” the Joseph Smith Translation adds introductory words from Jesus to this verse: “And he answered them, and said, In the generation in which the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled, there shall be signs” (JST 21:25). Thus, the signs that Jesus discloses will characterize particularly that distant age. Incidentally, the Greek term for “sign” (sēmeion) appears elsewhere in negative dress (see 2:34; 11:16) as well as positive (see 2:11–12; the Notes on 11:16, 29; 21:7).[4]

the sun, . . . the moon, . . . the stars: This celestial set of signs often appears in different but somewhat obscure language: “before the day of the Lord shall come, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon be turned into blood, and the stars fall from heaven” (D&C 45:42; Matt. 24:29; Mark 13:24–25; also Ezek. 32:7; D&C 29:14). Even though this more descriptive language is missing from Luke’s report, Jesus’ recorded words clearly point to an important day, the day of the Lord (see Isa. 13:9–10; 34:4; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15; Acts 2:20; 2 Pet. 3:10, 12). This scene is augmented in other scripture that speaks of future events, almost as if the heavenly spheres are alive: “the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light; and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down” (D&C 88:87). What is more, at the time of the Savior’s coming, “so great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame, and the moon shall withhold its light, and the stars shall be hurled from their places” (D&C 133:49). But he adds the caution that “these things . . . shall not pass away until all shall be fulfilled” (D&C 45:23). Even so, when the moment arrives, the celestial world will acknowledge the arrival of its king in dramatic fashion (see D&C 43:18; 49:23).

upon the earth distress of nations: Mirroring the celestial disturbances are terrestrial events that will engulf “nations” or “peoples” (Greek ethnos).[5]

the sea and the waves roaring: The latter part of this verse and the first part of 21:26 stand only in Luke’s account. This image of nature out of control appears nowhere else and the Joseph Smith Translation strengthens this scene: “The earth also shall be troubled, and the waters of the great deep” (JST 21:25; also Moses 7:66). Further hints exist in Jesus’ first- person account: “the whole earth shall be in commotion” and “there shall be earthquakes also in divers places, and many desolations” and “the earth shall tremble, and reel to and fro” and the earth’s inhabitants “shall see signs and wonders, for they shall be shown forth . . . in the earth beneath” (D&C 45:26, 33, 48, 40; also 2 Ne. 6:15; 8:6). In related language, scripture pleads for people to repent in the aftermath or midst of alarming natural phenomena (see Rev. 9:20–21; 1 Ne. 19:11; D&C 43:25; 88:87–91). Notably, the JST makes a subtle adjustment that impacts the meaning of Luke’s expression: “there shall be . . . upon the earth distress of nations . . . like the sea and the waves roaring” (JST 21:25; emphasis added).

21:26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear: In the human sphere, the celestial and terrestrial terrors will cause unparalleled fright (see D&C 88:89, 91). Besides fear, in this era “the love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound” (D&C 45:27). This circumstance will be reversed among believers: rejoicing, they will be confident that their “redemption draweth nigh” and “that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand” (21:28, 31; also Joel 3:16).

those things which are coming on the earth: The Greek verb (eperchomai) bears the sense “to come upon” with unpleasant consequences.[6] In the first person account, the Risen Savior spells out his meaning in more detail: “they shall behold blood, and fire, and vapors of smoke” (D&C 45:41). Moreover, in this dark moment “the nations of the earth shall mourn” and “calamity shall cover the mocker . . . and they that have watched for iniquity shall be hewn down and cast into the fire” (D&C 45:49–50; also D&C 87:6–8; JST 2 Pet. 3:10, 12).

the powers of heaven shall be shaken: The meaning of this declaration remains unsure. This description appears in all the records of this sermon, but only partially in Doctrine and Covenants 45:48, and exhibits Old Testament ties (see Joel 2:10; Hag. 2:6, 21). The context consistently connects this statement to the “signs” of the sun, moon, and stars as well as the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds (see 21:25, 27; Matt. 24:29–31; Mark 13:24–27; JST 2 Pet. 3:10; JS–M 1:33–36; D&C 88:87; 133:49). Hence, the prophecy has much to do with the heavens, occasionally partnered with the earth. But the identity of “the powers” (Greek dynamis), which seem to possess individuality, continues unspecified although other New Testament passages make reference to them (see Rom. 8:38; Eph. 1:21; 1 Pet. 3:22; also D&C 24:1; 38:11). It seems plain that events of the end-time will fracture their world (see D&C 21:6).[7]

21:27 And then shall they see: Before this expression, the Joseph Smith Translation inserts all of verse 28 and adds three words; by doing so, it becomes apparent that Jesus cements the link between “signs” in heaven and earth (see the Notes on 21:25–26), and the event they point to—his Second Coming: “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads, for the day of your redemption draweth nigh” (JST 21:27; emphasis added). In a different vein, the audience for Jesus’ distant arrival, noted by the pronoun “they,” remains unclear in Luke’s account. Matthew 24:30 holds that “all the tribes of the earth” will see his arrival (also JST Matt. 24:37–38; JST Mark 13:41–42). In other scripture, the audience is “the remnant [that] shall be gathered unto this place [Jerusalem]” (D&C 45:43). At some point, ominously, “the arm of the Lord [shall] fall upon the nations” (D&C 45:47; also D&C 1:13–14; 35:14; 45:45).

the Son of man coming in a cloud with power: As in other passages, the “coming one” is the Savior (see 3:16; Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:7; Acts 13:25; Mal. 3:1; Mosiah 3:9; D&C 29:11; 133:2, 10, 17, 19, 66; the Notes on 3:16; 13:35;

19:38; 20:16; 21:8, 27; the Analysis on 3:7–20; 19:28–40, 45–48; 22:39–46).[8]

But on this occasion, he comes as he has never come before, descending from heaven. Concretely, he will arrive at several spots near one another, including the Mount of Olives (see Zech. 14:4; D&C 45:48; 133:20), Mount Zion (see D&C 133:18), and Jerusalem itself (see D&C 133:21).

great glory: This time, Jesus, the coming one, will arrive in royal dress, in royal hues, and in his resurrected form (see 24:26; also 9:26; D&C 29:11; 45:16, 44, 56).[9]

21:28 And when these things begin: The Joseph Smith Translation relocates this entire verse to a position preceding 21:27, forming an introduction to the arrival of the Son of Man (see JST 21:27–28).

these things: The reference seems to be to the “signs” that Jesus enumerates in 21:25–26,[10] a view made more secure by the movement of this verse in the JST.

lift up your heads: The lifting of one’s hands or eyes or voice often points to a special, sometimes sacred occasion, including prayer and giving blessings (see 16:23; 18:13; 3 Ne. 11:5, 8; the Note on 6:20).[11]

your redemption draweth nigh: This teaching, already linked in the Old Testament to the Lord’s voice heard from Jerusalem (see Joel 3:16), is expressed in other scripture a bit differently: “your redemption shall be perfected” by the coming of the Lord (D&C 45:46; also Moses 7:67). The Greek term for “redemption” (apolytrōsis), appearing only here in the Gospels but frequently in Paul’s writings (see Rom. 3:24; 8:23; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:7, 14; etc.), bears the sense of being delivered.[12]88 The Joseph Smith Translation adds three words: “the day of your redemption draweth nigh” (JST 21:27; emphasis added). Such language indicates that Jesus’ actions will occur in an earthly time frame and not in a timeless setting. In a related vein, modern scripture holds that the newly baptized church members will intelligently begin to look “for the signs of [ Jesus’] coming, and shall know [him]” (D&C 39:23). After this final expression in verse 28, the JST inserts verse 27: “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with power and great glory” (JST 21:28).

 

[1] Green, Luke, 740, nn. 44–47 for references; we note that Green’s reference in n. 46 should be to Isa. 5:30, not to Jonah 5:30, which does not exist.

[2] Morris, Luke, 322; Green, Luke, 740–41.

[3] Green, Luke, 740

[4] BAGD, 755–65; TDNT, 7:231–36, 238–40.

[5] BAGD, 217.

[6] BAGD, 284; TDNT, 2:680–81.

[7] BAGD, 207; TDNT, 2:285, 307–8.

[8] TDNT, 2:666–69.

[9] Fitzmyer, Luke, 1:789; Green, Luke, 740.

[10] Marshall, Luke, 777.

[11] TDNT, 1:186.

[12] Plummer, Luke, 485; TDNT, 4:351–56; Morris, Luke, 328.

Jesus Teaches about Wealth (Mark 10:17–31)

By Julie M. Smith

This is excerpted from The Gospel according to Mark. It includes the New Rendition, Notes, and Analysis.

New Rendition

17 Now as he went forth on the way, a man having run up to him and having knelt down, asked him, “Good teacher, what should I do so that I might inherit eternal life?” 18 But Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not give false testimony. Do not defraud. Respect your father and mother.’” 20 But he said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have strictly obeyed from my youth.” 21 But Jesus, having looked at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing of yours is lacking: go, as much as you have—sell, and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me.” 22 But he, his face falling at this saying, went away grieving, for he was one who had many possessions.

23 And having looked around, Jesus says to his disciples, “How hard it is for those having riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” 24 But the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus again answering says to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God. 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” 26 But they were extremely astonished, saying to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus, having looked at them, says, “With mortals it is impossible, but not with God. Indeed, all things are possible with God.”

28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left all things and are following you.” 29 Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or land for my sake and for the good news 30 who will not take a hundred times as much now in this time—homes and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and land, with persecution—and in the age which is coming, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Notes

10:17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?: The man’s question relies on some problematic assumptions:

  1. Whether it is appropriate to call Jesus “good” (see the next verse).
  2. Whether eternal life requires certain actions in order to “inherit” This idea does not mesh well with Jesus’ teachings about receiving the kingdom as a child. The question is also somewhat self-contradictory since one normally does not need to do anything in order to receive an inheritance.

Neither the man’s wealth (which Mark’s audience will not learn about until the very end of the story) nor his commandment-keeping has left him feeling secure about his prospects for eternal life; this is especially significant if the man’s statement that he has kept all of the commandments (see 10:20) is accepted as accurate.

10:18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good?: The word “me” is emphatic here.

Jesus’ refusal to accept being called “good” can be difficult to under- stand; possible interpretations include:

  1. The man may have called Jesus “good” in order to obligate Jesus to address him with a similarly flattering Jesus’ refusal to accept being called “good” thus signals his unwillingness to engage in mutual flattery, despite social convention.
  2. Many HB texts praise God as good (1 16:34; 2 Chr. 5:13; Ps. 100:5; 106:1; 107:1; 136:1). Perhaps Jesus was not willing to permit this man to lavish praise on him that properly belongs only to God. Jesus may be, in a hyperbolic way, shifting the glory from himself to God as a way to highlight God’s glory. If this is the best reading, it is a departure from the frequent tendency in Mark to place Jesus in narrative roles where he is identified with the God of the HB; perhaps it is the case that the narrative can reveal Jesus’ role as God but the discourse cannot.
  3. Jesus’ refusal to be called “good” may indicate his refusal to identify with the privileged members of the household; the point would be that God alone is good while all others are equal.

there is none good but one, that is, God: Jesus’ statement opens up some distance between himself and God and thus could be weighed in later debates regarding the nature of the relationship between Jesus and God, although this is not Mark’s concern here.

10:19 Thou knowest the commandments: Focusing on the Ten Commandments is interesting in light of 10:1–12, where Jesus downplayed the law of Moses in favor of the creation ordinances.

Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness: Jesus recites the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth commandments, following the Hebrew order.

Defraud not: This phrase appears to have been in the earliest manuscripts but was omitted by some later scribes, probably because they realized that “defraud not” did not belong to a listing of the Ten Commandments.[1] And surely the audience would have expected a reference to the tenth commandment, which prohibited coveting, here. But instead Jesus violates their expectations with the command not to defraud. Why does Jesus mention defrauding in a manner designed for maximum audience impact? Perhaps because “the command, ‘You shall not defraud,’ would have immediately elicited in the minds of Jesus’ listeners the whole constellation of images which associated elite wealth with greed, land acquisition, and the abuse of day laborers.”[2] While Mark’s audience has not yet been informed of it, this man is wealthy. So the reference to defrauding is most appropriate to his personal situation and speaks to Jesus’ prophetic gifts. (It may also reflect the commandments in Lev. 19:13 and/or Deut. 24:14– 15.) In the economic reality of Jesus’ time, there was no path to wealth except to defraud others: “In the localized zero-sum economy of agrarian Palestine, there was little chance one could become rich without having defrauded people along the way.”[3] Also, through the act of altering the list of the Ten Commandments in order to reflect the personal situation of his interlocutor, Jesus makes clear his own relationship to the law.[4]

Honour thy father and mother: Jesus returns to the Ten Commandments but presents the fifth commandment out of order. It is not clear why Jesus mentions this commandment last; it may be because it is the only commandment with a promise attached, and that promise is long life (Ex. 20:12), which is related—at least tangentially—to the man’s question about eternal life. It is also possible that the man’s wealth may have pro- vided special temptations for not honoring parents, perhaps through a vow of corban (see the Notes on 7:11).

10:20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth: There are two different approaches to the man’s answer:

  1. He is Otherwise, it would be hard to explain why Jesus loved him in the next verse. Also, he now addresses Jesus as “teacher” (KJV: “master”) instead of “good teacher,” so he is teachable and willing to accommodate his behavior to Jesus’ request.
  2. He had not kept all of the commandments, although perhaps he didn’t realize it.

While this character is often called “the rich young man,” Mark does not present him as young, as the phrase “from my youth” indicates.

10:21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him: There is a good chance, based on context and language, that “loved” includes a physical gesture such as hugging or putting his arm around him.

One thing thou lackest: There is an interesting irony here: despite all of his riches, he lacks something.

go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor: Because the word “go” is common in healing stories, it hints that the man’s possessions are like a disease from which he must be liberated.

In some strains of Jewish thought, selling everything was forbidden because it would make the giver dependent upon others.

and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: The language here is not coincidental: the man has to give up his treasures on earth in order to get treasures in heaven.

It would have been nearly impossible to become wealthy without collaborating with Rome, so Jesus is inviting this man to focus on a different kingdom.

and come, take up the cross, and follow me: The phrase “take up the cross” is not in the best ancient manuscripts.[5]

The invitation to follow Jesus is the same invitation extended to the other disciples, supporting the reading that this is also a call story, distinctive as the only call that is refused.

10:22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: Without saying a word, the man’s face falls and he walks away. His reaction contrasts to Jesus, who looked at him and loved him; he shows his lack of love for Jesus by being unwilling to follow him. He is, as a wealthy man who attempts to engage in mutual flattery, the opposite of the child who welcomes the kingdom.

for he had great possessions: Possessions would include land and property.

Relationship to Malachi 3. In Malachi 3, the Lord is on the way to the temple to examine its corruption, as Jesus is “on the way” to the temple in Mark’s text. Malachi asks who will be able to stand when the Lord comes, which means that the rich man’s kneeling in this text could be read as a narrative signal that the man cannot “stand” in the Lord’s presence,[6] as his unwillingness to divest of his possessions indicates. An allusion to Malachi might help explain Jesus’ puzzling objection to calling him good, since in Malachi, apparently innocuous questions weary the Lord (see Mal. 2:17).[7]104 A close link between the two texts comes with Malachi 3:5, which in the LXX uses the same Greek word for “defraud” (KJV: “oppress”) as is found in 10:19. If Mark’s audience caught an allusion to Malachi 3:5 in Jesus’ mention of not defrauding, they likely would have presumed that this man was guilty of oppressing his employees by withholding wages or by paying unfair wages. Another verbal link exists with the word “observed” (10:20), which is also found in LXX Malachi 3:7 (KJV: “kept”): in Mark,  the rich man insists that he has observed the commandments, but the link to the Malachi texts suggests that the Lord’s complaint is that he has not, in fact, done so. Further, Jesus’ reference to “treasures in heaven” (10:21) echoes Malachi 3:10’s use of “treasure” (KJV: “storehouse” or treasury) and “heaven.” But the rich man rejects Jesus’ offer, just as the audience rejects the Lord’s offer in Malachi. The reference to Jesus’ love for the man echoes the “theme of God’s covenantal love for unfaithful Israel [that] underlies the entire book of Malachi.”[8] These allusions to the Malachi text would place Jesus in the narrative role of the God of the HB.

10:23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!: The Greek text permits the possibility that the wealthy can enter the kingdom.

The discussion of entering the kingdom relates this scene to the previous one, which couched receiving the kingdom in terms of receiving a child.

Interpretation of this teaching hinges on whether the man’s statement that he had kept all of the commandments is accepted as accurate. If he had kept them, then the point is clear: keeping the commandments while refusing to follow Jesus does not permit eternal life.

10:24 And the disciples were astonished at his words: The disciples’ astonishment is explained by the idea in the HB that wealth is a bless- ing from God (Gen. 24:35; 26:12–14; 33:11; Lev. 26:3–10; Ps. 112:3). Their

assumption would likely have been that only the righteous were blessed with wealth, so the wealthy would be the ones most likely to enter the king- dom. Thus, for Jesus to say that it was extremely difficult for the wealthy to enter the kingdom would be difficult to comprehend.

But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!: The oldest manuscripts omit the phrase “for them that trust in riches,” so that Jesus is saying that it is hard for everyone to enter the kingdom of God. The modifying phrase appears to have been added to soften Jesus’ statement or to make it more specifically relevant to the immediate situation.[9] But 10:26 requires a blanket statement before it in order to make sense; other- wise, the answer to 10:26 would have been obvious: anyone who was not wealthy could enter the kingdom. On the other hand, it is possible that the phrase might have been present initially; the disciples’ astonishment in the next phrase would be understandable in terms of their belief that the wealthy were blessed. So, if the wealthy, the most blessed of people, could not enter the kingdom of God, that would indeed be surprising.

10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle: Some of the later manuscripts have the word kamilon (“rope”) instead of kamelon (“camel”).[10] The change to rope was probably made because the image of a camel going through a needle’s eye seemed bizarre or impossible.[11] Given how similar the two words are in Greek, it is also possible that the change happened accidentally.[12]

A camel was the largest animal in Palestine at the time and the eye of a needle was the smallest opening with which they would have been familiar. Thus, the image plays on the reputation of camels and needles as the most extreme members of their respective classes in order to emphasize the impossibility of the situation. Further, camels were beasts of burden, weighed down by many “possessions,” and thus the ideal symbol for the wealthy man who refuses to put down his own possessions.

than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God: Both 10:23 and 24 make the point that it was extremely difficult for a rich person to enter the kingdom; this verse suggests that it is impossible. Embedded within Jesus’ teaching is the assumption that human effort—even keeping all of the commandments, as the rich man had done—is insufficient to enter the kingdom of God. This explains why the man needed to follow Jesus; it also hints at the need for Jesus’ ministry.

10:26 And they were astonished out of measure, saying among them- selves, Who then can be saved?: The disciples, operating under the influence of HB teachings that equated riches with God’s blessings, cannot understand how anyone can be saved if the wealthy cannot be.

10:27 And Jesus looking upon them saith: The reference to Jesus looking is the third and final reference to his gaze in this passage (see also 10:21 and 23). Symbolically, Mark may be suggesting that Jesus’ viewpoint should be an object of focus and that it is, as the previous verse made clear, significantly different from the viewpoint of others in this story.

With men it is impossible, but not with God, for with God all things are possible: Once again, the idea that humans—wealthy or otherwise—can enter the kingdom on their own merit is debunked. A subtle indication of the need for an atonement is suggested here.

Relationship to Genesis 18. In Genesis 18:14, the Lord rhetorically asks Abraham if anything is impossible for the Lord in reference to the idea of Sarah having a child at an advanced age. Jesus’ use of similar language in Mark would indicate that he is fulfilling the same narrative role as the Lord. Further, the passage compares God’s ability to welcome someone into the kingdom of heaven with Sarah’s ability to bear a child. This feminized metaphor for God’s welcoming meshes well with Mark’s frequent concern with showing women as full participants in Jesus’ ministry.

10:28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee: “All” in this verse translates the same Greek word that Jesus used for “all things” in the last verse, suggesting that Peter is making a link between his own actions and God’s.

Peter seems to be reenacting the approach of the wealthy man (who called Jesus “good”) by making a statement designed to elicit praise from Jesus—praise that Jesus does not offer.

10:29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house: Jesus’ reference to leaving one’s “house” has the following possible referents:

  1. Leaving home in order to preach the gospel.
  2. Losing one’s home because of persecution.
  3. Selling one’s possessions to follow Jesus, as the rich man was invited to One weakness of this reading is that, as previous instances in Mark have shown (1:29; 3:9), the disciples still had access to their property even after leaving to follow Jesus.
  4. The inhabitants of one’s household who are left behind when one leaves to In this reading, the remainder of the verse would describe those left behind. (This structure would parallel the structure of the tenth commandment, which commands not coveting a neighbor’s house[hold] and then lists the occupants of it.[13]) In this case, Jesus is not only requiring that they do not covet what belongs to other people but also that they freely give up what belongs to them.

or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s: The earliest manuscripts do not include the word “wife” in this verse;[14] indeed, it would be surprising for Jesus to suggest that people leave their spouses in light of his teachings on divorce at the beginning of this chapter.

There may be some tension between the idea of leaving father and mother and of honoring them, a commandment that Jesus has recently mentioned. Perhaps the very reason that he referred to the fifth commandment—out of order, nonetheless—in 10:19 was to prepare for the statement here by indicating that the need to leave father and mother for the sake of the gospel did not negate the commandment to honor them. See also 7:10–13.

10:30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands: The terms in 10:29 were joined by the word “or” while those in this verse are joined by the word “and,” implying that if a disciple leaves behind but one item mentioned in 10:29, she or he will receive everything listed in this verse.

with persecutions: This phrase is quite a startling conclusion to the previous list of blessings. While 10:29 and 30 contain parallel (if not identical) lists, 10:29 ends with “for my sake, and the gospel’s” while 10:30 ends with “with persecution.” Thus Jesus clearly links following him to enduring persecution. Interestingly, this verse could be interpreted to say that persecution is a blessing and, in light of the obstacle which wealth was to the man asking about eternal life, this reading fits the context particularly well.

Relationship to Job. Job gives up all of his possessions and family relations and is persecuted but, at the end of his story, has everything returned to him doubled ( Job 42:10). If Jesus was alluding to Job’s story, then the point would be that the follower of Jesus has even more restored to him or her as persecutions are righteously endured.

and in the world to come eternal life: Here Jesus returns the conversation to the impetus for the scene—the question regarding eternal life. Jesus’ message is that the way to eternal life is through sacrifice. The wealthy man’s refusal to follow Jesus now appears all the more short-sighted in light of this teaching.

Jesus’ response to Peter, when taken in its entirety, emphasizes not eternal life but rather the blessings of gospel living during mortal life (namely, fellowship and hospitality).

10:31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first: The word translated as “but” (Greek: de) could be an explanatory “for,” which would mean that this verse explains why the last verse is true.

This line links to the plight of the wealthy man, who in refusing to make himself last will have no chance to be first. But those, as Jesus has taught, who are willing to take last place will in fact end up being first.

This teaching serves as a warning to Peter who, as a leading disciple, is in spiritual danger, as his bragging about leaving everything to follow Jesus has indicated.

Analysis

This passage contains the only reference to Jesus’ love for another in Mark’s Gospel; “While Jesus may be reciting the Decalogue, he is in fact practicing the ‘great commandment.’”[15] On the one hand, Jesus loves this man despite his errors. On the other hand, this love does not stop Jesus from correcting him and encouraging him to change his behavior.

While the impulse to minimize Jesus’ teachings should generally be avoided, there is good reason to believe that the command to sell all was not meant to be a universal command but rather was unique to this man’s situation:

  1. Even after their call to follow Jesus, Peter still had a house and (presumably) James[16] and John still had a boat—evidence that they, even as apostles, were not under a similar command.
  2. In chapter 6, the apostles were sent out as missionaries without provisions with the understanding that other people would provide for their needs— something that would have been impossible had everyone given away all of their Similarly, 10:29 pictures a situation where followers of Jesus pool their goods and share them, which would be impossible if everyone had sold everything.
  3. In 14:3–9, a woman spends a year’s wages on anointing oil for Observers object that the woman should have sold the ointment and given the proceeds to the poor, echoing the commandment here. And yet Jesus defends the woman’s actions, strongly suggesting that the counsel to sell all is not universal.
  4. The man approached Jesus with a personal question (“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”), not a general one (“What must one do?”), suggesting that Jesus’ answer would likewise be personal and not general.

Why was it necessary for this man to sell everything? Most likely because his wealth was not acquired legitimately; in fact, such a thing was generally not possible: “The only way someone became wealthy in Israelite society (as in any traditional agrarian society) was to take advantage of someone else who was vulnerable, to defraud others by charging interest on loans, which was forbidden in covenant law, and eventually gaining control of others’ possessions (labor, fields, households).”[17] (Thus there are numerous protections built into the law of Moses to limit the concentration of wealth [Lev. 19:9–10; 25:8–55; Deut. 14:28–29; 15:1–11; 24:14–15; 24:19–22].)

This command to sell all is similar to the call stories in 1:16–20 and 3:14 because the man is being asked to leave his worldly goods. This is, in effect, a failed call story; contrast the next story, the healing of Bartimaeus, which has elements of a successful call story. It is painfully ironic that the only person who Jesus is said to love rejects Jesus’ call to follow him.

Mark withholds the detail that the man was rich until the end of the story; it is a common technique for Mark to delay crucial information in order to emphasize it and to heighten the suspense in the story (compare 5:42; 6:44; 15:41). The late placement of this detail also emphasizes Jesus’ prophetic ability since he presumably already knew about the man’s wealth. The great wealth explains the man’s refusal to follow Jesus; implicit is that the man’s love for his possessions contrasts with Jesus’ love for the man. But Jesus loved him even in his prideful ignorance. Leaving the detail about the man’s wealth out of the story permits the audience to share Jesus’ love for the man; had they known earlier that he was wealthy, it likely would have been impossible for them to love him. Oddly, a lack of information makes it easier for the audience to adopt Jesus’ perspective—a perspective that comes from an abundance of information (as Jesus’ command to the man to “defraud not” indicated).

In the HB, riches were usually regarded as a blessing from God or as evidence that one was blessed by God.[18] Here, the riches are an obstacle to blessings; the man’s wealth keeps him from eternal life despite his explicit desire for it. Perhaps Mark has withheld the information about the man’s riches from the audience until the end of the story to suggest that one may not realize what an impediment wealth is to eternal life until it is, in effect, too late.

It is significant that this man is genuinely interested in eternal life and willing to be corrected by Jesus (in the matter of calling him “good”). That is, his questions are not like those in the controversy stories that are posed only in order to trick Jesus. The point is that even a fundamentally good person can be misled by an attachment to wealth. This story could have provided solace to the poor, who knew that this was not a temptation that they faced.

When Mark’s audience finds out about the man’s great wealth at the end of the story, they might wonder if he viewed eternal life as just another possession that he wanted to add to his collection; this would explain why he wasn’t willing to give up his other possessions in order to qualify for eternal life.

The reference to “hundredfold” links this teaching to the harvest from the good soil in the seed parable in chapter 4, particularly in light of the recent picture of the man whose attachment to riches choked the seed. It also suggests that this is not a promise of private, literal possession—a reading contradicted not only by common sense but also lived experience. Rather, the promise here is that the disciple will enjoy the fellowship and hospitality of the Christian community, which will include access to hundreds of houses to stay in and fellow followers of Jesus who will be, in effect, a new family (compare 3:31–35). This may also explain the lack of reference to spouses here, since a disciple would not treat all other Christians as a spouse. Given that family relationships in antiquity signified economic security as much as—if not more so—than they signified sentimentality, this is an important promise. Additionally, this passage is an important component of Jesus’ teachings on renunciation of property: “Jesus’ intention was not to call people into poverty but into community.”[19] There are rewards—even immediate rewards—for following Jesus. At the same time, as the next phrase will indicate, those rewards will be accompanied by persecution.

The lack of reference to fathers in 10:30 is significant, particularly since fathers were mentioned in the previous verse (compare 3:31–35, which does not include fathers in the “new family” either). The omission may be due to the fact that the new community has but one father, the Father in Heaven. It may also stem from the reality that the outsized power that fathers had in the ancient world could not be appropriately exercised among Jesus’ followers (compare 10:43). Or, Jesus may be the unmentioned father, especially since he has taken on the role of father as the one who blesses children and since he has just referred to his audience as “children” (10:24; see also 2:5; 5:34). Jesus’ statement refutes Peter’s claim to have given up everything by showing that Peter has actually gained more than he forfeited.

 

[1] Metzger, Textual Commentary, 89.

[2] Joseph H. Hellerman, “Wealth and Sacrifice in Early Christianity: Revisiting Mark’s Presentation of Jesus’ Encounter with the Rich Young Ruler,” Trinity Journal, n.s., 21 (Fall 2000): 155.

[3] Michael Peppard, “Torah for the Man Who Has Everything: ‘Do Not Defraud’ in Mark 10:19,” Journal of Biblical Literature 134, no. 3 (2015): 604.

[4] Richard Hicks, “Markan Discipleship according to Malachi: The Significance of Me Aposterēsēs in the Story of the Rich Man (Mark 10:17–22),” Journal of Biblical Literature 132, no. 1 (2013): 182.

[5] Metzger, Textual Commentary, 89.

[6] Hicks, “Markan Discipleship,” 189.

[7] Hicks, “Markan Discipleship,” 190.

[8] Hicks, “Markan Discipleship,” 194.

[9] Metzger, Textual Commentary, 90.

[10] Metzger, Textual Commentary, 40.

[11] John A. Tvedtnes debunked the explanation that the “eye of the needle” was a gate to Jerusalem through which a camel could enter, but only on its knees, by explaining that a camel’s anatomy would not permit this. He suggested one of two possibilities for understanding this verse: either that the word originally used was “rope” or that this was “deliberate hyperbole,” which, he notes, was a characteristic of Jesus’ speaking style specifically and of his environment in general. He concludes that “all three possible explanations of Matthew 19:24—the gate, the rope, and the Jewish figure of speech—have been mentioned by prominent Latter-day Saint leaders. (See James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1973, pp. 485–6; Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–73, 1:556.) In any event, the idea is clear—riches can become a serious stumbling block to a person seeking eternal life.” John A. Tvedtnes, “I Have a Question,” Ensign 15 (March 1985): 29.

[12] Collins, Mark, 474 note f.

[13] Robert H. Gundry, “Mark 10:29: Order in the List,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 59, no. 3 (1997): 467.

[14] Bratcher and Nida, Translator’s Handbook, 326.

[15] Myers, Binding the Strong Man, 273.

[16] See the Notes on 1:19.

[17] Richard A. Horsley, Hearing the Whole Story: The Politics of Plot in Mark’s Gospel

(Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 191.

[18] Although note the countertradition: Jer. 9:22–23; Micah 2:1–2; and especially Amos 2:6–8.

[19] Steve Barr, “The Eye of the Needle—Power and Money in the New Community: A Look at Mark 10:17–31,” Andover Newton Review 3, no. 1 (1992): 42.

 

 

Parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1–12)

This is excerpted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown. It includes the New Rendition, Analysis, and Notes on each verse.

New Rendition

1 And he began to speak also to his disciples, “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and he was accused before him as squandering his property. 2 And after he had called him, he said to him, ‘What is this I hear concerning you? Give an accounting of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ 3 And the steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my lord is taking away the stewardship from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg. 4 I know what I should do so that, when I am removed from my stewardship, they will receive me into their houses.’

5 “And summoning each one of his lord’s debtors, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my lord?’ 6 And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and write eighty.’ 8 And the lord commended the unjust steward because he acted shrewdly—because the sons of this age are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.

9 “And I say to you, make for yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness so that, when it fails, they may receive you into the everlasting dwellings. 10 He who is trustworthy in little is also trustworthy in much, and he who is unjust in little is also unjust in much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the real riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy in what is another’s, who will give to you what is yours?” Continue reading