March 22: Luke 9:22

The first “Son of Man” saying in Luke which I will be examining in this Easter season note (cf. the prior introduction) is Luke 9:22—the first of three Passion predictions in Synoptic tradition where Jesus is recorded announcing (prophetically) his own suffering and death.

Luke 9:22

In all three Gospels, this first statement follows Peter’s confession of Jesus as the “Anointed (One)” (o( xristo/$, ho christós, i.e. “the Christ”); for more on the idea of Jesus as the “Anointed (One)” (‘Christ, Messiah [j^yv!m* m¹šîaµ]’), cf. throughout the study series “Yeshua the Anointed“. The episode in Luke 9:18-20 (par Mark 8:27-29; Matt 16:13-16), culminating in Peter’s confession, is central to this identification in early Gospel tradition. Here, for the first time, Jesus’ own disciples begin to come to grips with who he is (note the question, “who do you count/reckon me to be?”); Peter clearly gives the answer. In fact, it may be possible to detect a development of Gospel tradition right in this passage. If we compare the three [Synoptic] versions (Mk 8:29 / Lk 9:20 / Matt 16:15-16), each has an identical question by Jesus: u(mei=$ de\ ti/na me le/get ei@nai; (“and who do you count/reckon me to be?”); however, Peter’s answer differs somewhat:

  • Mark has the shortest and simplest version:
    su\ ei@ o( xristo/$ “you are the Anointed (One)”
  • Luke’s version contains a bit more:
    to\n xristo\n tou= qeou= “(you are) the Anointed (One) of God
  • In Matthew it is expanded considerably:
    su\ ei@ o( xristo/$ o( ui(o\$ tou= qeou= tou= zw=nto$
    “you are the Anointed (One), the son of the living God

In the view of many critical scholars, the italicized portions reflect subsequent belief about Jesus in the early Church, rather than Peter’s own words per se—that is, as a kind of gloss or commentary on Peter’s statement. Indeed, it is most unlikely that Peter had in mind a developed doctrine of Christ’s deity at such an early stage; however, it is certainly possible for an Israelite or Jew in the first century to have understood an Anointed figure (Messiah) as the “son of God”, at least in a qualified sense. The Aramaic text 4Q246 from Qumran would seem to confirm this (col. ii, line 1, cf. Lk 1:32, 35). Bear in mind also that Matthew records Peter’s answer (stated by Jesus) to be an inspired utterance by God (Matt 16:17); Peter may well have not understood the full force of what he was saying. Following this confession, the Synoptic tradition has the interesting notice that:

“laying a charge upon them, he gave along the message [i.e. instructed them] to tell this to no one” (Lk 9:21, par. Mk 8:20 / Matt 16:20)

On purely objective grounds, this instruction not to tell anyone he was the Anointed One (Messiah)—the so-called “Messianic secret”—must be historical and factual; it is extremely unlikely that such a tradition would have been produced (subsequently) by the early Church. Various suggestions have been made by commentators as to why Jesus would want to keep his identity a secret. Perhaps the most reasonable (and best) explanation is that it would (prematurely) result in the expectation that he would fulfill a particular idea of the Messiah—i.e., as a Davidic ruler who would restore the (earthly) kingdom of Israel (cf. Lk 17:20; 19:11; Jn 6:15; Acts 1:6, etc). Many of Jesus’ sayings and teachings about the kingdom (of God) reflect a very different idea. In any event, a follower who expected Jesus to fulfill the eschatological role of a triumphant Messiah-king, would certainly have been shocked by the Passion prediction by Jesus which comes in the next verse. I set the Lukan version side-by-side with Mark/Matthew in the context of the Synoptic tradition:

Luke 9:22

ei)pw\n o%ti dei= to\n ui(o\n tou= a)nqrw/pou polla\ paqei=n kai\ a)podokimasqh=nai a)po\ tw=n presbute/rwn kai\ a)rxiere/wn kai\ grammate/wn kai\ a)poktanqh=nai kai\ th=| tri/th| h(me/ra| e)gerqh=nai

“…saying that it is necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many (things) and to be removed from examination [i.e. be rejected] from [i.e. by] the Elders and Chief Sacred-officials and Writers and to be (set forth to be) killed, and, on the third day, to be raised (from the dead)”

Mark 8:31

kai\ h&rcato dida/skein au)tou\$ o%ti dei= to\n ui(o\n tou= a)nqrw/pou polla\ paqei=n kai\ a)podokimasqh=nai u(po\ tw=n prebute/rwn kai\ tw=n a)rxiere/wn kai\ tw=n grammate/wn kai\ a)poktanqh=nai kai\ meta\ trei=$ h(me/ra$ a)nasth=nai

“and he began to teach them that it is necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many (things) and to be removed from examination [i.e. be rejected] under the Elders and the Chief Sacred-officials and the Writers and to be (set forth to be) killed, and, after three days, to stand up (out of the dead).”

Matthew 16:21

a)po\ to/te h&rcato o(  )Ihsou=$ deiknu/ein toi=$ maqhtai=$ au)tou= o%ti dei= au)to\n ei)$  (Ieroso/luma a)pelqei=n kai\ polla\ paqei=n a)po\ tw=n presbute/rwn kai\ a)rxiere/wn kai\ grammate/wn kai\ a)poktanqh=nai kai\ th=| trith| h(me/ra| e)gerqh=nai

“from then Yeshua began to show his learners that it is necessary for him to go (away) from (there) into Yerushalaim and to suffer many (things) from the Elders and Chief Sacred-officials and Writers and to be (set forth to be) killed, and, on the third day, to be raised (from the dead)”

In the Lukan version, Jesus described four things which will happen, presented with a string of (aorist) infinitive forms. Here is the structure of the sentence:

  • dei= “it is necessary”
    • to\n ui(o\n tou= a)nqrw/pou “(for) the Son of Man”
      {the sequence of infinitives follows, linked by polla\ [“many things”, i.e. suffer many things]}
      • paqei=n “to suffer (many things)”
      • a)podokimasqh=nai “to be considered unworthy, i.e. be rejected”, literally something like “to be thrown out from the test”
        —rejected by [a)po\ lit. “from”] the Elders and Chief sacred-officials (“Chief priests”) and Writers (“Scribes”), i.e. members of the Council (Sanhedrin) in Jerusalem
      • a)poktanqh=nai “to be killed (off)”, that is, “se(n)t away to be put to death”
      • e)gerqh=nai “to be raised (up) in/on the third day

If we take this statement as authentic prophecy (by Jesus), then it provides an accurate summary of the events which would take place, as recorded in the Gospel narrative:

    • paqei=n—that he would suffer “many things” (polla/), covering the next two terms as well, but also including specifically Jesus’ suffering in the garden, along with his subsequent arrest (Luke 22:39-53 par).
    • a)podokimasqh=nai—the use of the verb a)po)dikma/zw indicates an examination, someone or something being taken under consideration or put to the test, etc. This certainly fits Jesus’ appearance before the Sanhedrin (Luke 22:54-65 par). Contrary to popular belief, the meeting of the Sanhedrin presumably was not an official trial, but an ad hoc tribunal of sorts, in response to what was deemed an urgent situation. The prefix a)po indicates someone being taken away from consideration, removed from the test, i.e. being rejected, in this instance by the members of the Sanhedrin (the Elders, Chief Priests and Scribes).
    • a)poktanqh=nai—his being “killed off”, or, more precisely, being taken away and put to death—which includes all of the proceedings of the Roman governor (Pilate) leading to the execution (at the stake, i.e. crucifixion), Luke 23:1-49 par.
    • e)gerqh=nai—the resurrection, his being raised (from the dead), Luke 24:1-12ff par.

What of Jesus’ use of the expression “the Son of Man” (o( ui(o\$ tou= a)nqrw/pou) here? Given Peter’s declaration in verse 20, we might have expected him to have responded that “it is necessary for the Anointed (“Christ”) to suffer many things…”, which is the language he is recorded as using in Lk 24:25-26, 46f, after the resurrection. Instead here he uses “the Son of Man”, as also in the other two Passion predictions (Lk 9:44; 18:31-32 par; cf. also 24:7). For the moment, I can only offer a tentative interpretation—a more complete explanation must wait until the other two passages have been discussed; but there are several possibilities which may be considered:

    1. Jesus simply uses the expression as a way to refer to himself, i.e. “the son of man” is equivalent to “I”. In a number of the Son of Man sayings, Jesus is clearly speaking of himself, and that is likely how the early tradition understood it here, judging by the parallel in Matt 16:21. There is some evidence for the use of “son of man” (<da /b / vna rb) as a circumlocution for the pronoun “I” or “you” in direct address, but it is relatively slight, and it is by no means clear that it was common practice in Jesus’ time. Such usage stems from the general or indefinite sense of the expression, i.e. “a(ny) man”.
    2. He may be identifying himself specifically with humankind, that is, in terms of his own human ‘nature’—here, especially, of mortality, including suffering and death. The idea, then, might be a kind of representative or collective identification, such as would be developed doctrinally in the early Church (cf. Romans 5:12ff; 8:3f, 17; Heb 2:10-18, etc).
    3. If he is drawing upon the image of a divine/heavenly figure (taken primarily from Daniel 7:13f; 10:5, 15), as appears to be the case in a number of the Son of Man sayings we will be examining (cf. Lk 9:26, etc), then Jesus may be indicating a striking contrast—instead of coming in (eschatological) glory and power, the “Son of Man” (that is, Jesus himself) will first suffer and be put to death. Only with the resurrection, will he appear subsequently in a glorious, victorious form.
    4. There may also be a specific contrast with Peter’s identification of Jesus as “the Anointed One” (Christ/Messiah), especially if understood in the (traditional) sense of an end-time Davidic ruler who will judge the Nations and restore the kingdom to Israel. It is abundantly clear, both from the New Testament and other Jewish writings of the period, that there was no expectation that the ‘Messiah’ would suffer and be put to death. Such an idea appears to be unique to Jesus’ own teaching, and must have come as something of a shock to his followers at the time. This is presumably the basis for the sharp exchange with Peter in Mk 8:32-33 / Matt 16:22-23, which is omitted by Luke. Of course, we cannot be sure exactly what Peter may have said; the verb e)pitima/w (also used by Jesus in Mk 8:33 [to Peter], and previously in Lk 9:21 par), has a fairly wide range of meaning—to place honor (and/or blame) upon someone, to place a charge upon someone; more generally, to rebuke, admonish, threaten, forbid, etc., depending on the context.

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