May 17: Mark 13:11; Matt 10:19-20; Lk 12:11-12

In discussing the saying on the Holy Spirit in Mark 3:28-29 par (cf. the previous days’ notes), I pointed out the distinctive setting of the Lukan version (Lk 12:10). It so happens that this section (Lk 12:8-12) contains another reference to the Holy Spirit (v. 12), which I will be examining today.

Mark 13:11; Matthew 10:19-20; Luke 12:11-12

This saying is part of instruction given by Jesus to his disciples, relating to the persecution that he declares (and predicts) that his followers will face. In Mark, it is part of the so-called Eschatological (“Olivet”) Discourse (Mk 13)—a collection of sayings and teachings with an eschatological theme and orientation, set during Jesus’ final days in Jerusalem. Mark 13:9-13 summarizes the persecution which will come upon believers; the corresponding section in Luke’s version of the ‘Discourse’ (Lk 21) is found in vv. 12-19, that of Matthew in Matt 24:9-14, both with a number of significant differences. Here are the three versions side by side (marked by ellipses):

Mark 13:9-13 Matt 24:9-14 Luke 21:12-19
“…they will give you along into (their place)s of sitting-together {sanhedrins} and (their place)s of gathering-together {synagogues} (and) you will be beaten, and upon [i.e. before] governors and you will be (made to) stand, for my sake, unto [i.e. as] a witness to them…and when they shall lead you, giving you along, do not be concerned before(hand) (about) what you should speak, but whatever should be given to you in that hour, this you should speak—for it is not you (who are) the (one)s speaking, but the holy Spirit. … And you will be hated under [i.e. by] all people through my name. But the (one) remaining under [i.e. enduring] unto completion, this (one) will be saved.” “Then they will give you along into distress/oppression and will kill you off, and you will be hated under [i.e. by] all the nations through my name. … but the (one) remaining under [i.e. enduring] unto completion, this (one) will be saved….” “…they will cast their hands upon you and pursue (you), giving (you) along into th(eir place)s of gathering-together {synagogues} and guard-rooms [i.e. prisons], leading (you) away upon [i.e. before] kings and governers, for my name’s sake—and it will step away [i.e. turn out] for you into a witness. Set then in your hearts not to have care [i.e. give thought] before(hand) to giving account of (yourselves), for I will give you (a) mouth and wisdom, for which all the (one)s stretched (out) against you will not have power to stand against or say (anything) against (you). …and you will be hated under [i.e. by] all through my name…(but) in your remaining under [i.e. enduring] you will acquire your souls.”

Matthew’s version effectively omits the italicized portion corresponding to the Holy Spirit saying (in Mark). However, a similar saying is found in Matt 10:17-20 with a parallel in Luke 12:11-12. It would appear that it has been preserved separately in two strands of tradition, presumably deriving from a single saying (or group of sayings) by Jesus. According to the standard critical view, Matt 10:17-20 / Lk 12:11-12 are part of the so-called “Q” material; Luke has made use of both Mark (with some modification) and Q, while Matthew has preserved only the Q version of the saying. The substantial differences between the version in Lk 21:14-15 and Mk 13:11 can be explained several ways:

    • Luke has reworked the Markan version, using his own wording (cf. Acts 6:10)
    • Luke has substituted in an entirely different (third) saying/version (“L”)
    • Mark has modified a saying corresponding to the Lukan version, substituting in a saying akin to Matt 10:17-20.
    • Luke and Mark (independently) preserve variant forms of the same Synoptic tradition

The most notable difference is that in Mark 13:11 the Holy Spirit is identified as the source of inspiration; in Luke 21:14-15, Jesus declares that he himself (“I” e)gw/ emphatic) will give his followers the ability to speak. Of course, Luke also preserves a version of the saying which emphasizes the role of the Spirit, Lk 12:11-12, which I here present in comparison with the ‘parallel’ in Matt 10:17-20:

Luke 12:11-12Matt 10:17-20
“And when they carry [i.e. bring] you in upon the(ir place)s of gathering-together {synagogues} and the(ir) chiefs and the(ir) authorities, do not be concerned (as to) how or (by) what you should give account of (yourselves), or what you should say—for the holy Spirit will teach you in that hour the (thing)s it is necessary (for you) to say.”“…they will give you along into (their place)s of sitting-together {sanhedrins} and in the(ir place)s of gathering-together {synagogues}…. but when they give you along, do not be concerned (as to) how or what you should speak, for you will be given in that hour what you should speak—for you are not the (one)s speaking, but the Spirit of your Father (is) the (one) speaking in you.”

Again there are a number of minor differences—Matthew’s version is quite close to Mk 13:11, and may represent the same saying/version set in a different location. Interestingly, Luke does not include here the specific idea of inspiration—that is, of the Spirit actually speaking through believers—even though we see this idea illustrated quite often throughout Luke-Acts. Instead, in Luke’s version here Jesus declares that the Holy Spirit will teach his followers what they are to say. This reflects a different theme in Luke-Acts—that of the guidance of the Spirit. Both of these themes will be discussed further in upcoming notes.

April 6 (2): Luke 17:21-24

The Eschatological Discourse (sometimes called the “Olivet Discourse” from Mark 13:3 par) refers to a block of teaching by Jesus on future events as recorded in the Synoptic Gospels. The Gospel setting presents this as a single discourse, spoken by Jesus during his last week in Jerusalem (Mark 13, Matthew 24, Luke 21:5-36); however, it seems likely that different sayings and discourses of Jesus have been gathered together in the tradition, due to the common subject matter. On the other hand, one might argue that the days before his upcoming death would be an appropriate time for Jesus to address such matters. At the very least, the prophecy regarding the destruction of the temple (Mark 13:1-2; Matthew 24:1-2) seems to fit in the current Gospel position.

Perhaps no portion of the Gospels is more controversial, or bristles with more (serious) interpretative difficulties, than these chapters. For now, I wish to look at a section of Jesus’ eschatological teaching in Luke, which the author presents as taking place prior to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (Luke 17:20-27), though there are also parallels to portions of it in Matthew’s “Olivet” discourse (24:17, 23, 27, 28, 36-41). I will discuss the famous saying in verse 21, and then briefly touch upon an interesting phrase found in vv. 23-24ff.

Luke 17:21

In response to a question from the Pharisees asking when the kingdom of God would come (v. 20), Jesus responds first: ou)k e&rxetai h( basilei/a tou= qeou= meta\ parathrh/sew$, ou)de\ e)rou=sin: i)dou\ w!de h& e)kei=, “the kingdom of God does not come with close watching [lit. watching alongside], and they shall not say ‘See here!’ or ‘[See] there!'” (v. 20b, 21a). The same language (“See here, see there”) also occurs at v. 23 (with similar sayings in Mark 13:21; Matthew 24:23). In Matthew and Mark the reference is specifically to people saying “Here/there is the Messiah!”, whereas in Luke both references are unspecified: the first refers to the kingdom of God, the second presumably is to the Son of Man (or the “day” of the Son of Man [see below]). In all instances, we are dealing with people claiming that the Messiah (or the Kingdom of God / Son of Man) is to be found in a specific location or with a specific person. Regarding those who make such claims, Jesus warns “do not go from (where you are) and do not pursue (after them)” (Luke 17:23). The phrasing Jesus uses in v. 20b is interesting: does it mean “the kingdom does not come as the result of close watching” or “the kingdom does not come so as to be perceived through close watching”? The latter sense is probably to be preferred, as the point seems to be that the kingdom cannot be perceived visibly (by means of the senses); however, I think the verb also indicates the effort of watching closely which does not help one see (much less bring about) the kingdom of God (cf. John 3:3).

What of the concluding phrase (v. 21b)? — ga\r h( basilei/a tou= qeou= e)nto\$ u(mw=n e)stin, “for the kingdom of God is e)nto\$ you (pl.)” The main difficulty is how to understand e)nto/$, an adverb (used as a preposition) related to e)n (“in”), which would normally be translated “within, inside”. Where this word occurs elsewhere in the New Testament (Matthew 23:26) or in the Greek translation of Psalm 39:4; 103:1; 109:22; Isa 16:11, it is used rather concretely—the OT passages all refer to the heart or organs within/inside a person. It can also be used in a more general sense (spatially or temporally), “within the limits of” or “within reach of”. However, in nearly every instance a singular object is involved.

There are several possible interpretations:

  1. Mystical-spiritual: This involves a literal translation, i.e., the kingdom of God is within the heart/soul of believers, on the spiritual (or psychological) level. This certainly would make a suitable contrast to a visible/sensual coming of the kingdom. However, it is difficult to find many other passages in the Synoptic Gospels (Luke, in particular), where Jesus refers to the kingdom of God in this manner; but it may still be consonant with Jesus’ teaching (see references in John [3:3, 5; 18:36], and note the variant reading in the Lord’s Prayer [Luke 11:2] which connects the coming of the kingdom with the coming of the Spirit). A number of early translators (Old Latin, Vulgate, Peshitta) seem to have understood the verse this way, as did Church Fathers such as Origen and Gregory of Nyssa (but no doubt influenced by their own orthodox ‘gnostic’ approach). The real difficulty with this interpretation is grammatical—the plural personal object (u(mw=n).
  2. Communal-collective: In light of the plural pronoun, one might better understand e)nto/$ as “among, within the limits/confines of”. Normally, this would be expressed more simply with the preposition e)n, which, when  the object involves a group of people, often means “among”; thus, the use of e)nto/$ to express this would be a bit strange. But if “among” is the correct sense, there are still several possibilities, one of which is that the kingdom refers to believers in the midst of the people at large.
  3. Hidden kingdom: The meaning could still be “among” or “in the midst of”, but with an emphasis on the invisible presence of the Kingdom—i.e., that God is working (in the person of Jesus, or by the Holy Spirit) in the midst of the people, but without it being readily apparent to the senses.
  4. Kingdom “at hand”: This interpretation understands e)nto/$ as “within reach, close”. This would fit the early Gospel message that the kingdom of God “has come near” (h&ggiken) (Mark 1:15 par., and esp. Luke 21:31). Or, perhaps it should be understood in a temporal sense: the kingdom of God will soon/suddenly appear.

All of these interpretations have merit, but I think that (3) probably comes closest to what Luke (and Jesus himself) originally intended.

There are several other parallel versions of this saying, which may (or may not) be derived from Luke 17:21:

    • (Coptic) Gospel of Thomas §3: Jesus said, “If those who lead you say, ‘See, the Kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the Kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty.” (translation Thomas O. Lambdin)
    • Gospel of Thomas §113 (Coptic): His disciples said to Him, “When will the Kingdom come?” <Jesus said,> “It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying ‘Here it is’ or ‘There it is.’ Rather, the Kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it.” (Lambdin)
    • Gospel of Thomas (Greek):  Jesus said, “If those who attract you say, ‘See, the Kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is under the earth,’ then the fish of the sea will precede you. Rather, the Kingdom of God is inside of you, and it is outside of you. [Those who] become acquainted with [themselves] will find it; [and when you] become acquainted with yourselves, [you will understand that] it is you who are the sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty.” (Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 654.9-16, translation Grenfell-Hunt)

Luke 17:22-24

Verses 22-37 constitute another block of eschatological teaching, which may have originally been said in a different context from vv. 20-21 (these two portions were likely joined early on as a result of “catchword-bonding”). At first glance, this seems to present a more conventional “futurist” eschatology (as opposed to the “realized eschatology” of vv. 20-21). But here there are also some difficulties; I will mention just two:

  1. Jesus says to his disciples, e)leu/sontai h(me/rai o%te e)piqumh/sete mi/an tw=n h(merw=n tou= ui(ou= tou= a)nqrw/pou i)dei=n kai\ ou)k o&yesqe, “days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man and you will not look-with-eyes (upon it) [i.e. see it]”. What exactly are these “days of the Son of Man”? And what does it mean to refer to “one” (mi/a) of these days? The plural “days” (repeated in v. 26) is a bit peculiar—does it have any concrete significance, or is merely used as grammatical parallel (in context) to “the days of Noah” (v. 26) and “the days of Lot” (v. 28)? I wonder if the plural does indicate a general temporal period (similar to the “days” of Noah), which is in some sense contrasted with the “day” (singular) of the Son of Man in verse 24—the singular “day”, then, would not be a period of time as much as a specific representation of the Son of Man himself (in his appearing), much like the phrase “day of the Lord”. If so, then “one of the days” might indicate the possibility of deception (emphasized in v. 23)—in other words, a warning is implied: beware of seeking a specific temporal manifestation of the kingdom. The Son of Man in his day (e)n th=| h(me/ra| au)tou=, omitted in some MSS: Ë75 B D it) will appear suddenly and completely (like a lightning flash that fills the sky, v. 24).
  2. However, this image of the sudden, spectacular appearance of the Son of Man is itself difficult. The parallel saying in Matthew 24:27 prefaces the apocalyptic imagery of the Son of Man appearing in the cloud(s) with power and glory. Luke includes something of this, but in a quite modified form, later in 21:25-28; he also includes the parable of the fig tree (vv. 29-32), again in a very different form. Luke concludes this later eschatological discourse (v. 31) with a reprise of the early Gospel proclamation: ginw/skete o%ti e)ggu/$ e)stin h( basilei/a tou= qeou= (“know that the kingdom of God is close”). How does this relate to 17:21?—can the Kingdom of God be both “close” (e)ggu/$) and “within you” (e)nto\$ u(mw=n) already?

For more on these verses, see the discussion in the series on the “Son of Man Sayings of Jesus”.