March 25: Luke 9:43-45

Following close after the Transfiguration scene in Luke’s account (Lk 9:28-36, cf. the prior note), we find the second of the three Passion predictions by Jesus (Lk 9:43b-45). These three prophecies are fixed in the Synoptic tradition, being found in all three Gospels. The parallel versions of the second prediction are in Mark 9:30-32 and Matt 17:22-23. In Mark, these pronouncements by Jesus of his impending suffering, death and resurrection, punctuate the narrative fairly evenly (Mk 8:31ff; 9:30-32; 10:32-34); Luke, on the other hand, includes a considerable amount of material between the second and third prediction (Lk 18:31-34). I examined the first prediction (Lk 9:21-23) in a previous note.

Luke 9:43-45

“And as they all (were) wondering upon all the (thing)s which he was doing, he said toward his learners [i.e. his disciples]:
‘You must set/place these sayings into your ears: for the Son of Man is about to be given along into the hands of men‘ (Lk 9:43b-44)

The verb paradi/dwmi literally means “give along”, or, specifically, “give over”—i.e., hand over, deliver—and can be used in a positive, neutral, or negative sense. The latter is meant here; in the context of the Passion narrative, this refers to the betrayal and arrest of Jesus. Interestingly, Luke’s version of this saying refers only to the arrest/betrayal, while in Mark/Matthew the entire Passion is summarized (as in the first prediction):

Mark 9:31—”The Son of Man is being given along into the hands of men, and they will kill him off, and being killed off, with [i.e. after] three days he will stand up [i.e. rise] (again).”
Matt 17:22b-23—”The Son of Man is about to be given along into the hands of men, and they will kill him off, and on the third day he will be raised (up).”

It would appear that Luke has retained only the first part of the saying. In several ways, the author has enhanced the dramatic impact:

    • Jesus introduces the saying with a solemn instruction: “you must set/place these words/sayings into your ears”. In English idiom, we might say something like “let these words really sink in”. It is possible that this instruction is related to other sayings and teachings, but only the prediction of verse 44 is presented here in the narrative.
    • By retaining only the first part of the Synoptic saying, it results in an extremely terse and enigmatic announcement, which creates a sense of menace and foreboding, since it is not stated what the “men” will do to him.
    • The reaction by the disciples (v. 45) has also been expanded (cf. Mark 9:32), emphasizing their confusion and lack of understanding (and the reason for it).

It is worth considering this last point in a bit more detail, by examining the structure and syntax of verse 45:

    • “but they did not know [i.e. understand] this utterance”
      • “and [kai\] it was covered over [i.e. hidden] from them…”
        —”…(so) that [i%na] they should not perceive it”
      • “and [kai\] they feared to ask him about this utterance”

This may also be arranged as a chiasm:

    • did not know this utterance
      —it was covered over from them
      —they feared to ask him about (it)
    • about this utterance

The significance of this sentence hinges on the central, inner sub-clause: “that they should not perceive it”. The exact force of the connective particle i%na is uncertain; there are two main possibilities:

(a) it was covered over… and so (as a result) they could not perceive it
(b) it was covered over…so that they would not (be able) to perceive it

The second interpretation expresses purpose, and would certainly mark the passive form of the prior verb as a theological passive—i.e., it was hidden from them by God. The precise syntax here is almost impossible to render literally in English: an imperfect (h@n “it was [being]”) + perfect passive participle (parakekalumme/non “having been covered over”). In English we might say “it was being covered over” or “it had been covered over”, but we cannot really combine them—i.e., it had been covered over by God, and was now being covered over for the disciples in their experience. The idea that God and/or Christ would want to keep the truth hidden, or from being properly understood, may be troublesome to Christians, but it is very much present throughout the Gospel tradition (cf. Mark 4:11-12 par [citing Isa 6:9-10]), especially with regard to the so-called “Messianic secret” (Mark 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:30; 9:9 pars). It was not until after the resurrection that Jesus’ disciples were to understand just who he was and what many of his sayings truly meant (John 2:22, etc).

The second Passion prediction, like the first, is a saying involving the expression “Son of Man”. There is little here to add in relation to the first saying, other than to point out that the specific emphasis on the betrayal/arrest of Jesus enhances the idea of suffering—that the Son of Man should suffer. This may be meant to draw a contrast with the previous glory of the Transfiguration scene, just as the first Passion prediction could be contrasted with Peter’s confession of Jesus as “the Anointed (One)”. That the ‘Messiah’ should be given over to suffer and die would certainly be startling and difficult to understand. In this regard, note how Luke’s shortened version of the saying creates a striking (poetic) parallel:

    • the son of man (o( ui(o\$ tou= a)nqrw/pou)
      —to be given over
      —into the hands of
    • men (a&nqrwpoi)

Earlier, I had pointed out that the main use of “son of man” in the Old Testament (Hebrew <d*a* /b#), was as a (poetic) synonym for “man” (<d*a*), as a way to express the nature and character of humankind, a human being, particularly with respect to mortality. Here we find a reverse parallel (“son of man… man”) which specifically emphasizes the suffering and death of Jesus.

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