Posts Tagged Augustine

On Neighborliness

Domenico Fetti - Parable of the Good Samaritan...

Domenico Fetti, "Parable of the Good Samaritan" (c. 1610–1623; photo credit: Wikipedia)

The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–35) is unique to Luke and contributes to the third Gospel’s general emphasis on socially marginalized characters and groups.1 Introducing the parable proper is an exchange between Jesus and a νομικός (lawyer), which the lawyer begins by inquiring τί ποιήσας ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω; (Luke 10:25b; what shall I do to inherit eternal life?). Both this question and the exchange that follows resemble some later rabbinic texts, not least in the lawyer’s concern to define proper Torah obedience.2

Following on their mutual agreement that loving יהוה with all one’s being and one’s neighbor as oneself (Luke 10:27–28) is key to gaining eternal life,3 the lawyer’s next inquiry is τίς ἐστίν μου πλησίον; (Luke 10:29; who is my neighbor?). Although asked to vindicate the lawyer’s own thoughts about the matter (Luke 10:29a), this question follows naturally enough on the preceding discussion: it seeks Jesus’ opinion on the definition of the category of other people toward whom the key command(s) demands love to be exercised.4

Jesus’ answer to this inquiry is to tell a parable in which the main characters include two Jews, one Samaritan, and one ἄνθρωπός τις [ὃς] κατέβαινεν ἀπὸ Ἰερουσαλὴμ εἰς Ἰεριχὼ καὶ λῃσταῖς περιέπεσεν (Luke 10:30; certain person [who] was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among bandits). Provocatively, Jesus proceeds to make out the Samaritan to be the hero of the story and inquires: τίς τούτων τῶν τριῶν πλησίον δοκεῖ σοι γεγονέναι τοῦ ἐμπεσόντος εἰς τοὺς λῃστάς; (Luke 10:36; who of these three [passers by] seems to you to have become the neighbor of the one who had fallen among the bandits?; cf. John 4:9b).5 Within Jesus’ narrative, the answer is clear: ὁ ποιήσας τὸ ἔλεος μετʼ αὐτοῦ (Luke 10:37; the one who acted compassionately with him)—that is, the Samaritan.6

There is, then, likely a bit of a double sense to Jesus’ πορεύου καὶ σὺ ποίει ὁμοίως (Luke 10:37; go and do likewise).7 In the first place, the lawyer should imitate the Samaritan in Jesus’ story and act compassionately.8 To say only this much, however, leaves the discussion quite at the place where the lawyer originally inquired τίς ἐστίν μου πλησίον; (Luke 10:29; who is my neighbor?). So, in the second place, the lawyer should consider as neighbors even those who stand beyond traditional boundary lines of neighborliness (Luke 10:36), even to the extent of removing such boundary lines altogether.9


1. R. T. France, “Matthew, Mark, and Luke,” in A Theology of the New Testament (ed. Donald A. Hagner; rev. ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 237, 242–43.

2. Joachim Jeremias, Rediscovering the Parables (New York: Scribner and Sons, 1966), 159; E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1977), 76–81, 112–14, 129; N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God 2; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 306.

3. On the joining of these two commandments, see Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 305n234.

4. Ibid., 306.

5. Craig Blomberg, Interpreting the Parables (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1990), 231; Jeremias, Rediscovering the Parables, 160.

6. Cf. Jeremias, Rediscovering the Parables, 160–61.

7. Blomberg, Parables, 231–32; Chrysostom, Hom. Heb., 10.8 (NPNF1, 14:417); cf. Augustine, Doctr. chr. , 1.30.31 (NPNF1, 2:530–31); Augustine, Tract. Ev. Jo., 43.2 (NPNF1, 7:240); Jeremias, Rediscovering the Parables, 161.

8. Kenneth E. Bailey, Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes: A Literary-Cultural Approach to the Parables in Luke (Combined ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 2:55; cf. Ambrose, Paen., 1.11.52 (NPNF2, 10:338).

9. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 306–7.

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

, ,

No Comments

Thousands and Ten Thousands

David quittant son troupeau. David et Saül. Da...

15th-c. Illumination (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First Samuel 18:6 describes David’s return after killing Goliath (1 Sam 17:41–58). Precisely how this event sits chronologically in relationship to the surrounding narrative is difficult to establish.1 One good way of reading the narrative, however, involves treating 1 Sam 18:1–5 as an extended parenthesis, which includes some foreshadowing, and understanding 1 Sam 18:6 to be bringing the reader back to the main plot line that had temporarily paused with 1 Sam 17:58.2 In this context, it begins to be said הכה שׁאול֙ באלפו ודוד ברבבתיו ‎(1 Sam 18:7; Saul has slain by his thousands and David by his ten thousands; see also 1 Sam 21:11; 29:5).3 Yet, thus far, David has specifically been reported to have killed only one person (Goliath) and some animals (1 Sam 17:34–37)—not רבבת (ten thousands).4 Rather, the women’s song quantitatively represents the qualitative value of David’s victory over Goliath as it relates to Saul’s previous exploits.5 On hearing this song, then, Saul becomes enraged and starts looking and acting to do David harm (1 Sam 18:8–9).

Not dissimilarly did a later Saul also act against a later David (cf. Jer 30:9; Ezek 34:23–24; 37:24–25).6 Although the former Saul perhaps did so from envy and the later from zeal (cf. Rom 10:1–2; Gal 1:13–14; Phil 3:4b–6), they both found themselves standing against the one on whose side יהוה stood (1 Sam 16:14; 17:37; 18:12, 28; Acts 26:14).7 Although they were, in some ways, outstanding among their fellows (e.g., 1 Sam 9:2; 11:1–15; Gal 1:13–14; Phil 3:4b–6), the persecution in which they engaged was without any just cause (1 Sam 23:24b24:22; 26:1–25; Acts 9:4–5; 22:7–8; 26:14–15).8 Yet, despite some more positive moments of lesser tension in the relationship between the former Saul and the former David (e.g., 1 Sam 24:16–22; 26:21–25), this Saul dies by his own hand (1 Sam 31:4).9 Only in the case of the later Saul does the persecutor ultimately capitulate to the goodness of the one with whom יהוה stands and die by Torah in order to live in faithfulness and join with those who announce goodness of the Davidic Messiah, who has himself delivered his people from the one who had held them in terror (Gal 1:11–24; 2:19–20; Heb 2:14–15; cf. 1 Sam 17:11, 24).10


1. E.g., K&D, Samuel, 490–91n1; cf. Walter Brueggemann, “Narrative Coherence and Theological Intentionality in 1 Samuel 18,” CBQ 55, no. 2 (1993): 243; Antony F. Campbell, “The Reported Story: Midway between Oral Performance and Literary Art,” Semeia 46 (1989): 77–85; Simon J. De Vries, “David’s Victory over the Philistine as Saga and as Legend,” JBL 92, no. 1 (1973): 23–24, 35–36.

2. Burke O. Long, “Framing Repetitions in Biblical Historiography,” JBL 106, no. 3 (1987): 396; cf. Jerome, Ep., 46.2 (NPNF2, 6:61).

3. Brueggemann, “1 Samuel 18,” 238. The term רבבת does not itself designate an exact quantity, but it and its context do ascribe to David a significantly greater quantity of slaughter than to Saul (1 Sam 18:7–8; Brueggemann, “1 Samuel 18,” 228–29, 239; R. P. Gordon, I & II Samuel: A Commentary [LBI; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986], 160; HALOT, “רבבה”; Katherine Stott, “Herodotus and the Old Testament: A Comparative Reading of the Ascendancy Stories of King Cyrus and David,” SJOT 16, no. 1 [2002]: 63).

4. Based on David’s description in 1 Sam 17:14–15, 28, 33, 38–39, 42, 55–56, 58, 1 Sam 16:18 likely concerns David’s confrontation with the beasts that he mentions later (1 Sam 17:34–37; K&D, Samuel, 478–79). Or, the narrative of 1 Sam 16:14–23 may be a flash-forward to the parallel material in 1 Sam 18:10a (cf. Brueggemann, “1 Samuel 18,” 238; Chrysostom, Hom. 2 Cor., 24.4 [NPNF1, 12:393]). Moreover, according to 1 Sam 17:52, אנשׁי ישׂראל ויהודה (the people of Israel and Judah), or probably more simply, בני ישׂראל ‎(1 Sam 17:53; the children of Israel), are said to have routed the remainder of the Philistine army. To be sure, the narrative represents David’s defeat of Goliath was the catalyst for this larger victory. Yet, at this point, (1) אנשׁי ישׂראל ויהודה (the people of Israel and Judah) were certainly not under David’s command (1 Sam 17:12–20, 28, 33, 42) and (2) the text does not necessarily imply that David accompanied the rest of the people in their pursuit after the remainder of the Philistine army (1 Sam 17:51a, 54, 57). Indeed, even in such a pursuit, unless David had carried with him some weapon from the battlefield itself (e.g., Goliath’s sword; 1 Sam 17:50–51), after killing Goliath, David hardly seems to have been armed with more than a staff and four stones for his sling (cf. 1 Sam 17:40, 50).

5. Even the numbers of enemies later reported to have been killed in particular engagements by David’s שׁלֹשׁת הגברים (three mighty men) and their close associates pale in comparison (e.g., 2 Sam 23:8–23; 1 Chron 11:1012:22).

6. Cf. Irenaeus, Haer., 4.27.1 (ANF, 1:498).

7. Chrysostom, Hom. 2 Cor., 24.4 (NPNF1, 12:393); Irenaeus, Haer., 4.27.1 (ANF, 1:498); Tertullian, Praescr., 3 (ANF, 3:244).

8. Augustine, The Correction of the Donatists, 2.9 (NPNF1, 4:636); Irenaeus, Haer., 4.27.1 (ANF, 1:498); Tertullian, Praescr., 3 (ANF, 3:244).

9. Chrysostom, Hom. 2 Cor., 24.4 (NPNF1, 12:393).

10. Cf. Ibid.

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

, , , ,

No Comments

Prayer Prayers

Luke 11:1–4 recounts Jesus’ teaching his disciples how to pray. The substance of the prayer much resembles the parallel account in Matt 6:9–13. Yet, Luke’s version is considerably shorter than Matthew’s at a couple points. Also, rather than coming in the context of a longer discourse, Jesus’ teaching in Luke 11:2–4 responds to a specific request from one of the disciples that he teach them to pray, just as John had done with his own disciples (Luke 11:1).1

To some extent, the prayer’s final three petitions may evoke Prov 30:7–8,2 but whether in this connection or when compared with Matthew’s fuller version of the prayer itself, Luke’s retention of καὶ γὰρ αὐτοὶ ἀφίομεν παντὶ ὀφείλοντι ἡμῖν (Luke 11:4b; for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us) is a striking explanatory expansion within his otherwise terse report.3 The verb ἀφίομεν could be performative (we forgive as we pray), but given the larger context of Luke’s Gospel, a broader, customary sense is still more probable (we regularly forgive; e.g., Luke 6:37; 11:5–13; 17:3–4).4 Even when they are not praying per se, Jesus summons his disciples to forgive others in such a way that does not immediately give the lie to their own requests for forgiveness when they ask it of their Father (cf. Luke 4:16–21; 10:21–37; 11:5–13; 18:9–14; see also Matt 6:14–15; 18:21–35).5 Although Jesus frames his instruction with ὅταν προσεύχησθε λέγετε (Luke 11:2a; when you pray, say), the content of the prayer itself makes demands on Jesus’ disciples that extend far beyond their speech in prayer to their Father.6


1. Darrell L. Bock, Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 141.

2. Cf. Acts Thom. (ANF, 8:547); Augustine, Ep., 188.2.6 (NPNF1, 1:550); John Cassian, Conferences, 9.21 (NPNF2, 11:394–95); Tertullian, Jejun., 15 (ANF, 4:112).

3. Cf. N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God 2; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 169.

4. Clement of Alexandria, Strom., 7.13 (ANF, 2:546). Nearly quoting Matthew’s version of this prayer verbatim, Didache 8:3 prescribes that it be prayed three times a day. In such a context, even if the community’s confession of its own forgiveness toward its debtors within the prayer itself is purely performative, it certainly also happens with a frequency and regularity that would, in itself, put the community in a fairly consistent state of forgiveness toward such people.

5. Augustine, Tract. Ev. Jo., 7.11 (NPNF1, 7:51–52). Cf. Augustine, Pecc. merit., 2.21 (NPNF1, 5:53); Tertullian, Marc., 4.26 (ANF, 3:391–93); Tertullian, Pud., 2 (ANF, 4:76–77). See also Kenneth E. Bailey, Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes: A Literary-Cultural Approach to the Parables in Luke (Combined ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 1:119–41; Craig Blomberg, Interpreting the Parables (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1990), 276; Bock, Jesus according to Scripture, 141–42; James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Christianity in the Making 1; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 411, 589–92; Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 292–95.

6. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 168–70. Cf. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (ed. Irmgard Booth; trans. R. H. Fuller; rev. ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1963), 183–87.

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

, , , , ,

No Comments

Messiah, Our Passover

Scenes of the Passion of Christ (Image via Wikipedia)

As יהוה was delivering Israel from Egypt, he commanded his people spread lamb’s blood on their doorposts and lintels (Exod 12:7). In view of this blood, יהוה passed over his people and judged only the Egyptians’ firstborn and their gods (Exod 12:12–13), for יהוה had provided that the Israelites should redeem their firstborn with lamb’s blood (Exod 13:15; cf. Exod 34:18–20). He delivered them mightily, he brought them through the sea, he made a covenant with them, and he settled them in Canaan (Exod 12:29Judges 1:26). Nevertheless, even those who entered the land did not fully enter יהוה’s rest (Heb 4:8–11), and year by year, they offered sacrifices for sins (Lev 16:1–34; 23:26–32; Num 29:7–11; Heb 9:6–10; 10:1–4).

Correspondingly, Jesus was a faithful son in all things ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ (Heb 5:7; in the days of his flesh; cf. Heb 3:6).1 Yet, especially in his death, ἔπρεπεν . . . αὐτῷ, διʼ ὃν τὰ πάντα καὶ διʼ οὗ τὰ πάντα, πολλοὺς υἱοὺς εἰς δόξαν ἀγαγόντα τὸν ἀρχηγὸν τῆς σωτηρίας αὐτῶν διὰ παθημάτων τελειῶσαι (Heb 2:10; it was fitting for him, because of whom are all things and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to perfect through afflictions the originator of their salvation; cf. John 19:30; 1 Cor 5:7).2 Having thus died and risen again, therefore, this Jesus has secured an eternal redemption and brings those who side with his faithfulness οὐ . . . ψηλαφωμένῳ (not to what may be touched) with dire consequences (Exod 19; Heb 12:18–21) but to a resplendent πόλις . . . ἡ μέλλουσα (Heb 13:14; city that is to come; cf. Rom 3:21–26; Eph 2:19–22; Phil 3:20–21; Heb 6:11–12; 9:11–12; 10:19–31; 12:18–29).3


1. Cf. Augustine, Faust., 19.10 (NPNF1, 4:243).

2. Athanasius, Ep., 2.7, 6.2, 7.3, 10.10, 19.1 (NPNF2, 4:512, 520, 524, 531, 544–45); Augustine, Faust., 19.10 (NPNF1, 4:243); Augustine, Tract. Ev. Jo., 55.2, 117.2, 121.3 (NPNF1, 7:299–300, 428, 436); Hippolytus, Fragments, 5 (ANF, 5:238); Tertullian, Adv. Jud., 10 (ANF, 3:167); (Pseudo-)Tertullian, Marc., 2.83–112 (ANF, 4:147); cf. Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Cor., 15.6–7 (NPNF1, 12:85–86); Origen, Comm. John, 10.11, 10.13 (ANF, 9:388–90).

3. Athanasius, Ep., 6.2, 13.7, 43 (NPNF2, 12:520, 541, 552–53); Augustine, Doctr. chr., 2.41 (NPNF1, 2:555); Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.13 (NPNF1, 8:124); Augustine, Ep., 55.3.5 (NPNF1, 1:304–5); Augustine, Faust., 19.10 (NPNF1, 4:243); Chrysostom, Hom. Eph., 23 (NPNF1, 13:165–66); Hippolytus, Haer., 8.11 (ANF, 5:123); Peter of Alexandria, Fragments, 5.7 (ANF, 6:282); cf. Clement of Alexandria, Strom., 4.10 (ANF, 2:460); Leo the Great, Serm., 59.5 (NPNF2, 12:1:172); Origen, Comm. John, 10.11 (ANF, 9:388); Tertullian, Marc., 5.7 (ANF, 3:443).

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

, , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Frightful Fishing and Forgiven Catching

Raphael, "The Miraculous Draught of Fishes" (Image via Wikipedia)

Although the calling of Simon Peter appears in all three synoptic Gospels (Matt 4:18–20; Mark 1:16–18; Luke 5:1–11; cf. John 1:35–51; 21:1–11), Luke’s narrative develops the pericope in much greater detail than Matthew’s or Mark’s. Luke 5:3 indicates that Jesus did some teaching from Simon’s boat. After concluding, Jesus instructs Simon to take the boat into the λίμνη (lake), and set out the nets for a catch (Luke 5:4). Although incredulous, Simon acquiesces (Luke 5:5–6a, 8–10a).1 Then, to his surprise, not only do they catch fish, but their catch is of such quantity that it nearly nearly tears the nets and sinks both their boat and another called to help (Luke 5:6b–7). Observing this situation, Simon προσέπεσεν τοῖς γόνασιν Ἰησοῦ λέγων· ἔξελθε ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι ἀνὴρ ἁμαρτωλός εἰμι, κύριε. θάμβος γὰρ περιέσχεν αὐτὸν καὶ πάντας τοὺς σὺν αὐτῷ ἐπὶ τῇ ἄγρᾳ τῶν ἰχθύων ὧν συνέλαβον (Luke 5:8–9; fell at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, because I am a sinful man, Lord.” For, astonishment at the catch of fish that they had enclosed had come upon him and all those who were with him).2

To Simon, Jesus then addresses the words μὴ φοβοῦ· ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν ἀνθρώπους ἔσῃ ζωγρῶν (Luke 5:10b; Do not fear; from now on, you will be catching people). For, the huge catch of fish has sufficiently demonstrated to Simon that Jesus is one to whom he should have listened from the first (Luke 5:5, 8).3 The others’ θάμβος (Luke 5:9; astonishment) may have been more simply “not knowing what to say,” but Simon’s is apparently mixed with fear so that he has ready on his tongue a judgment that he is ἀνὴρ ἁμαρτωλός (a sinful man) and a petition that Jesus leave (Luke 5:8, 10). Simon has found himself to have grumbled against someone who can apparently even command fish and who, therefore, bears authority from Israel’s God.4 Having been at such odds with this person, Simon might well have cause for fear (cf. Jer 16:16–18). Consequently, Jesus’ admonition that Simon not fear and his assertion about Simon’s new vocation of ἀνθρώπους . . . ζωγρῶν (Luke 5:10; catching people) are tantamount to forgiveness and a welcoming of Simon into Jesus’ closest body of followers.5 Under the ban of ἀνὴρ ἁμαρτωλός (a sinful man), Simon had wished Jesus to depart (cf. Luke 4:35), but Jesus extends to Simon forgiveness and welcome as an agent in welcoming others into his community.6


1. Jon L. Berquist, “Luke 5:1–11,” Int 58, no. 1 (2004): 62; Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (New International Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 232.

2. Or, if Ἰησοῦ is a dative, προσέπεσεν τοῖς γόνασιν Ἰησοῦ may be “he fell on [his own] knees before Jesus” (I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke [New International Greek Testament Commentary; Exeter: Paternoster, 1995], 204).

3. H. J. Flower, “The Calling of Peter and the Restoration of Peter,” ATR 5, no. 3 (1922): 239.

4. Berquist, “Luke 5:1–11,” 62; Fred B. Craddock, Luke (Interpretation; Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 2009), 70; Flower, “The Calling of Peter and the Restoration of Peter,” 238–39; Green, Luke, 232; Marshall, Luke, 204–5; N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God 2; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 193–95, 297–301. Although other understandings of this part of the narrative have been proposed, this reading seems at least very reasonable in view of (1) the narrative’s specific focus on Peter (Luke 5:5, 8, 10) and (2) Peter’s reaction to the catch by describing himself as ἀνὴρ ἁμαρτωλός (a sinful man) rather than, perhaps, simply as someone who was unworthy of Jesus’ presence (cf. Luke 1:8–80; 7:6–8; 9:28–36; 15:18–19).

5. Cf. Berquist, “Luke 5:1–11,” 64; Green, Luke, 231, 234.

6. Berquist, “Luke 5:1–11,” 62, 64; Green, Luke, 234–35. Instead of Luke’s ἀνθρώπους . . . ζωγρῶν (catching people) addressed particularly to Simon Peter, Matt 4:18–19; Mark 1:16–17 have ἁλιεῖς ἀνθρώπων (fishers for people) addressed to Simon Peter and Andrew. Between Luke’s greater focus on Peter in this pericope and his selection of the more general ζωγρεῖν (to catch), therefore, one wonders whether Luke might perhaps here have a view toward at least some of Peter’s later activity (cf. Acts 10:9–16; LSJ, s.v. “ζωγρέω”; Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 68.23 [NPNF1 8:294]; see also Chrysostom, Hom. Matt., 3.8 [NPNF1 10:19]).

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

,

No Comments

Faithful Rahab

Foster Bible Pictures 0084-1 Rahab Helping the...

Rahab Helping the Two Israelite Spies (Image via Wikipedia)

After assuming leadership over Israel (Josh 1:10–18), Joshua commissions two men to survey Jericho and the surrounding area (Josh 2:1a). Rather tersely, then, the menוילכו ויבאו בית־אשׁה זונה ושׁמה רחב וישׁכבו־שׁמה (Josh 2:1b; went and entered the house of a prostitute, whose name was Rahab, and they lodged there). For onlookers, such an action might not have been unusual in itself,1 but by some means or other, the king became aware of these Israelite’s intent to survey Jericho ahead of some forthcoming military action (Josh 2:3).

Even before the king’s messengers had arrived, however, Rahab had apparently become aware that they were coming and hid the Israelite spies (Josh 2:4a, 6). While the spies are hiding (Josh 2:8),2 Rahab engages them in a brief exchange that solidifies both her promise of protection to them and their promise of the same to her and her family on certain conditions (Josh 2:9–14). When Rahab describes the background for her actions, she twice acknowledges Jericho’s broad recognition of יהוה’s greatness (Josh 2:9, 11a) because of what he had recently done for Israel in helping them against other peoples they had encountered before arriving at Jericho (Josh 2:10, 11b).3 Yet, only in Rahab’s case is this fear of יהוה said to translate into חסד (Josh 2:12; kindly) acts,4 to which the spies respond חסד ואמת (Josh 2:14; kindly and faithfully; cf. Josh 2:17–20; 6:22–23, 25).

Rahab thus constitutes an example of one who both hears the report about יהוה’s mighty deeds and rightly credits that report, δεξαμένη τοὺς κατασκόπους μετʼ εἰρήνης (Heb 11:31b; receiving the spies with peace; cf. Heb 4:2). Yet, alongside Abraham (Jas 2:21–23), James sets forth Rahab as an example of one who is ἐξ ἔργων δικαιοῦται . . . καὶ οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως μόνον (Jas 2:24; justified from works and not from faith only; cf. Jas 2:25–26). It is difficult to assess whether James sees Rahab’s deception of the king’s men (Josh 2:3–5) as an endemic component of her kindness toward the spies (cf. Josh 2:14) or as deception that יהוה presumably forgave within the context of her faith in him (cf. Gen 20:1–13; 26:6–11).5 What is clear, however, is that, in Jas 2:14–20, δικαιοῦσθαι ἐκ πίστεως μόνον refers to something like “being justified for fine words while sitting on one’s hands.” Fine words acknowledging יהוה’s greatness Rahab certainly does have (Josh 2:9–13), but James holds her forth as an example because her fine words, as faithful words, are a genuine testimony of one piece with her ὑποδεξαμένη τοὺς ἀγγέλους καὶ ἑτέρᾳ ὁδῷ ἐκβαλοῦσα (Jas 2:24; having received the messengers and sent them out by another way).6 Indeed, in so doing (cf. Josh 6:25), Rahab the sinner received the Israelite men and kept them from harm,7 and thus, Rahab came to stand in the line of the Israelite man who receives sinners and keeps them from harm (cf. Matt 1:5; Luke 15; John 9:110:18).8


1. Bird, “The Harlot as Heroine,” Semeia 46 (1989): 128; Keil, Joshua, 26.

2. First Clement 12 (ANF, 1:8); Keil, Joshua, 27, regard Josh 2:8 as a reference to the spies’ going to sleep. Yet, because the preceding context says that the men had gone to the roof to hide (Josh 2:6), Josh 2:8–14 might be understood as a flashback or as Rahab’s later discussion with the men in which she discloses convictions she had already held (cf. McCartney, James, 171).

3. Chyrsostom, Hom. Heb., 27.3 (NPNF1, 14:487–88), suggests that the spies themselves brought to Rahab the news of what יהוה had done for Israel. If such were the case, then their possible communication of this news to others also might have been the reason that they attracted such unfavorable attention and that the king became aware of their presence at Rahab’s house. Yet, such a reading would present a difficulty with Joshua’s original commission of the men to perform their reconnaissance חרשׁ (Josh 2:1; secretly).

4. Cyril of Jerusalem, Paen., 9 (NPNF2, 7:10); Ephraim Syrus, The Pearl, 7.1 (NPNF2, 13:299), suggest Rahab as a model of Christian repentance. See also Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 87.5 (NPNF1, 8:421–22); Cyprian, Epist., 75.4 (ANF, 5:398); Jerome, Epist., 52.3 (NPNF2, 6:91).

5. Augustine, C. mend., 32 (NPNF1, 3:495–96), strongly prefers this later possibility.

6. Cf. 1 Clem. 12 (ANF, 1:8); Ambrose, Fid., 5.10.127 (NPNF2, 10:300); Beale, New Testament Biblical Theology, 520–22.

7. Westcott, Hebrews, 377.

8. Cf. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 264–74.

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

, , , , , , ,

No Comments

So Then You Also Were Made to Die

In Rom 7:1–6, Paul appears to draw on Num 5:11–31 as a metaphorical way of characterizing the Christian community’s history.1 While her husband lives, the wife’s involvement with another man would make her liable to the charge of adultery from her current husband. From this charge, the wife would also become liable to the ritual of Num 5:11–31, and the serious consequences that it would entail if she had indeed committed adultery (Num 5:21–22, 24, 27–28).2

Such would also have resembled the situation for those whom Paul addresses in Rom 7:1–6 but for one thing: they have “put[] off the old man [and] walk not in the oldness of the letter but in the newness of the spirit” (cf. Rom 6:6; 7:1, 4, 6).3 Having become unlinked from τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας (Rom 6:6; the body of sin; cf. Rom 7:24), they have become united with τὸ σώμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ (Rom 7:4; the body of the Messiah). Because of the old person’s death,4 they do not have the fruit that comes from an accurate accusation of adultery (Rom 7:1, 5; cf. Num 5:21–222427–28).5 Rather, in union with Messiah Jesus, they have the fruit of righteousness, which is pleasing to God, and of eternal life (Rom 6:12–23; 7:5).6


1. Barrett, Romans, 127; Cranfield, Romans, 332–33; Dunn, Romans, 359–60; Moo, Romans, 411–12; Osborne, Romans, 168; Rehmann, “The Doorway into Freedom,” JSNT 79 (2000): 97.

2. Numbers 5:11–31 suggests that only the wife would undergo the ritual (Ephraim Syrus, On Our Lord, 6 [NPNF2 13:308]; cf. Jerome, Epist., 55.3 [NPNF2 6:110]). Yet, Prot. Jas. 16 (ANF 8:364–65), has Mary and Joseph both drink water from the priest’s hand. Because they both “return[] unhurt,” they are both cleared from wrongdoing in Jesus’ conception (see Prot. Jas. 15 [ANF 8:364]).

3. Jerome, Epist., 69.7 (NPNF2 6:146); cf. Augustine, Tract. Ev. Jo., 112.5 (NPNF1 7:417); see also Rehmann, “The Doorway into Freedom”; Tertullian, Marc., 5.13 (ANF 3:456–59); contra Origen, Comm. Matt., 12.4 (ANF 9:451–52).

4. Cf. Sanday and Headlam, Romans, 171–72; Thielman, Paul and the Law, 196–97; Wright, Climax of the Covenant, 196; Wright, “Letter to the Romans,” 558–59; see also Barrett, Romans, 127–28; Barth, Romans, 231–34; Bruce, Romans, 144–45; Chrysostom, Hom. Rom., 12.7.1–6 (NPNF1 11:418–20); Dunn, Romans, 363, 365, 368; Moo, Romans, 413; Rehmann, “The Doorway into Freedom,” 102. Chrysostom, Hom. Rom., 12.1–4 (NPNF1 11:418–19), suggests that, in Paul’s scenario, both the husband and the wife die (Rom 7:1–4). In Chrysostom’s reading, because the wife has also died, her resurrection to be united with her new husband leaves her so much the freer from her previous spouse’s claims on her.

5. Cf. Augustine, Faust., 11.8 (NPNF1 4:182); Augustine, Serm. Dom., 1.14 (NPNF1 6:17); Tertullian, Mon., 13 (ANF 4:70).

6. Augustine, Grat., 15 (NPNF1 5:450); Augustine, Tract. Ev. Jo., 3.9 (NPNF1 7:22).

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

, , , , ,

No Comments

Not up to Seven Times

Depiction of the Parable of the Unmerciful Ser...

Depiction of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Image via Wikipedia)

The interchange in Matt 18:21–22 looks back to Jesus’ immediately preceding comments on handling a community member (ἀδελφός) who sins (Matt 18:15–20; Chrysostom, Hom. Matt., 61.1 [NPNF1 10:357]; cf. Matt 18:21; 19:1). Read within this context, Peter’s question ποσάκις ἁμαρτήσει εἰς ἐμὲ ὁ ἀδελφός μου καὶ ἀφήσω αὐτῷ; (Matt 18:21a; How many times* shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?) addresses a very plausible ambiguity in Jesus’ preceding comments. Judging from this question, Peter presumably thinks it inappropriate for a community member endlessly to sin and repent, but as long as some repentance was involved, Jesus’ instructions could seem never to allow further action to be taken. As many times as the community member would sin and repent, this member would also be restored (Matt 18:15b; Chrysostom, Hom. Matt., 61.1 [NPNF1 10:357]).

Other things may be in view also, but someone who might try to “work the system” could certainly fall within the range of Peter’s concern here. Doubtless, Peter’s ἕως ἑπτάκις; (Matt 18:21b; Up to seven times?) was, to him, a generous number of repetitions for this situation (cf. Lightfoot, Commentary, 2:259), but following on Jesus’ previous comments (Matt 18:15–20), Peter’s essential question remains quite understandable (Chrysostom, Hom. Matt., 61.1 [NPNF1 10:357]). Yet, Jesus’ response of ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά (Matt 18:22; “seventy-seven times” or “seventy times seven times”) expands Peter’s proposal to almost unimaginable proportions and certainly to ones impractical to count (Chrysostom, Hom. Matt., 61.1 [NPNF1 10:357–58]; Snodgrass, Stories, 67).

Despite questions about Matthew’s composition history at this point (see Blomberg, Parables, 240–41; Snodgrass, Stories, 67), if one reads with the narrative of Matt 18 as it stands, the immediately following parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt 18:23–35) can play a meaningful role in further responding to Peter’s question. In particular, the parable’s concluding interpretation urges the practice of forgiveness on the part of each community member in the face dire consequences if this instruction is not followed (Matt 18:35). In this connection, the parable develops Jesus’ earlier comment (Matt 18:22) and suggests that Peter’s inquiry about forgiveness is simply the wrong question. Forgiveness per se is an essential, constitutive feature of Jesus’ community (Augustine, Civ., 15.6 [NPNF1 2:287]), and it is the presupposition rather than the goal of the procedure that Jesus outlines in Matt 18:15–18, which focuses on the related but distinct issue of restoring damaged fellowship (see Matt 18:15b; cf. Phil 3:8; Augustine, Serm., 32.4 [NPNF1 6:358]). Thus, in Matthew’s narrative, rather than directly answering Peter’s question, Jesus highlights Peter’s misunderstanding in order to stress the importance of forgiveness as a prerequisite for how the community approaches resolving its own internal offenses when they occur (Augustine, Serm., 32.4, 7 [NPNF1 6:358–59]).


* See BDAG, s.v. ποσάκις; Chrysostom, Hom. Matt., 61.1 (NPNF1 10:357). Rather than the common rendering “how oft(en)” (e.g., ESV, KJV, NASB95, NRSV, RSV) which focuses on the frequency of an offense, Peter’s immediately following question (ἕως ἑπτάκις; Matt 18:21b; Up to seven times?) suggests that ποσάκις may best be taken in the sense “how many times,” which focuses on the number of individual instances of an offense(s) (e.g., HCSB, NIV 1984; NIV 2011).

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

,

No Comments

Master of the Sea, Son of God

English: Walk on the water Deutsch: Rettung de...

Image via Wikipedia

Matthew 14:22–33 narrates Jesus’ walking on water. Yet, unlike the parallel accounts in Mark 6:45–52; John 6:15–21, Matt 14:33 reports that the disciples’ conclusion, at the end of this episode, was ἀληθῶς θεοῦ υἱὸς εἶ (truly, you are the son of God). Apparently thinking along the lines similar to Heb 3:5–6, Archelaus, Disputation with Manes, 44 (ANF 6:220), relates this text to Jesus’ superiority to Moses. Perhaps more to the point here, however, is a chaos-versus-creation motif (Boring, “Matthew,” NIB 8, 327) in which Jesus subjects the surrounding disorder (Graves, “Followed by the Sun,” RevExp 99, no. 1 [2002]: 92; Ladd, Theology of the New Testament, rev.ed., 163; Verseput, “The Faith of the Reader,” JSNT 46 [1992]: 14–16; cf. Augustine, Serm., 25.6 [NPNF1 6:338]; Jerome, Epist., 30 [NPNF2 6:45]). He does so, first, by walking on the sea himself and then all the more by causing Peter to do the same (Chrysostom, Hom. Matt., 50.2 [NPNF1 10:311–12]). In this framework, then, if Israel’s God is master of the seas (e.g., Job 9:8; Ps 89:9, 19–37; Hab 3:8, 15; cf. Gen 1:2 [LXX; LSJ, s.v. ἐπιφέρω, §§2–3])—a kind of mastery not otherwise within the realm of human experience—Jesus’ walking on the sea is an eminently good reason for identifying Jesus as θεοῦ υἱός (son of God) and worshiping him as such (see Matt 14:33; Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 6.51 [NPNF2 9:117]; cf. Mark 6:51–52John 6:21; Aristotle, Poetics, 5.6, 6.2).

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

, , , , ,

No Comments

Melchizedek’s Bread and Wine

Photograph of medieval canvas "Abraham an...

Abraham and Melchisedek (Image via Wikipedia)

As Abram returns from rescuing Lot (Gen 14:1–16), Melchizedek brings out bread and wine (Gen 14:18), and so, fittingly does the priest do the same whom David says has been appointed in Melchizedek’s order (Ps 110:4; Heb 7:1–26; Augustine, Civ., 16.22 [NPNF1, 2:323]; Augustine, Doctr. chr., 4.21 [NPNF1, 2:590]; Bede, Genesis, 269; Cyprian, Epistles, 62.4 [ANF, 5:359]). Melchizedek is without genealogy (Heb 7:3), and his bread and wine are also without origin. Yet, he brings them to Abram and, in a way, to Abram’s seed (Gal 3:15–29; Heb 7:9–10; cf. Bede, Genesis, 269; Cyprian, Epistles, 62.4 [ANF, 5:359]). The messianic seed, however, brings bread and wine as from himself, and he brings them to those also who are in himself as Abram’s other offspring (Matt 26:26–29; Mark 14:22–25; Luke 22:14–20; Gal 3:15–29; Heb 2:10–18).

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

, ,

No Comments