“Gnosis” in the NT: Luke 10:22 par

This is the first in a set of notes that are supplemental to the current series “Gnosis and the New Testament”. These notes, to begin with, will treat select verses where the words gnw=si$, ginw/skw, and other related terms, are used.

Luke 10:22 (par Matt 11:27)

The saying of Jesus in Luke 10:22 (with its parallel in Matt 11:27) is unique, and especially significant as being one of the few Synoptic sayings which appears to be closely aligned with the language used by Jesus in the Gospel of John. Here is verse 22 in translation:

“All things were given along to me under my Father, and no one knows who the Son is if not [i.e. except] the Father, and who the Father is if not [i.e. except] the Son, and the (one) to whom the Son should wish to uncover [i.e. reveal] (it)”.

As mentioned above, this sort of reciprocal relationship between Father and Son (and believer) is common in the Gospel of John, but rare by comparison in the Synoptics. The section Lk 10:21-24 represents a sequence of three (or four) sayings by Jesus which are also found in Matthew (but not Mark); as such, they are part of the so-called “Q” material. That they were originally separate sayings is indicated by the fact that vv. 23-24 occur in a different location in Matthew (13:16-17). However, it is possible that vv. 21 and 22 also reflect distinct sayings which were joined together at the earliest levels of Gospel tradition (by thematic “catchword” bonding). The sayings of Lk 10:21-24 all share the common theme of God (the Father) revealing things (and Himself) specially to the followers of Jesus:

    • v. 21: The Father has hidden things away from the wise and learned (of the world) and uncovered (i.e. revealed) them for the “infants”—that is, to Jesus’ followers, many of whom come from the lower (and relatively uneducated) segments of society.
    • v. 22: Only the “Son” knows the Father, and uncovers (reveals) the Father to those whom he wished (i.e. the followers of Jesus).
    • v. 23: The followers of Jesus are happy/blessed (maka/rio$) to have seen these things.
    • v. 24: The mighty/great persons of the world (“kings and prophets”) were not able to see/hear these things, however much they may have wished to do so.

In Luke, this unit is structured carefully enough to function as a chiasm:

    • Hidden away from the wise/learned of the world (v. 21)
      —Uncovered/revealed by the Son to those whom he wishes/chooses (v. 22)
      —Jesus’ followers see and hear, and so are greatly blessed (v. 23)
    • Kept away from the mighty of the world, who had longed to experience such a blessing (v. 24)

The two parts each have a common keyword:

    • Vv. 21-22: The verb a)pokalu/ptw (apokalúptœ)—lit. “remove the cover from”, i.e. “uncover, reveal”
    • Vv. 23-24: The verb(s) ble/pw/ei&dw—”see, look, perceive,” etc

Within the wider Lukan context, these verses also contain two basic themes which run through the section spanning 9:5118:34, set during Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem:

    • The nature and requirements of discipleship, of following Jesus, and
    • The revelation of Jesus (the Son [of Man]) as the Anointed One and Chosen (Son) of God, which will occur following his death and resurrection

The two themes blend together neatly in 10:21-24. If we consider the Matthean form of the saying in v. 22 (Matt 11:27), there are two small but significant differences worth noting: (a) the use of the compound verb e)piginw/skw instead of ginw/skw, and (b) an apparently simpler form of the saying without the repeated element ti/$ e)stin (“who…is”) found in Luke:

“All things were given along to me under my Father, and no one has knowledge about the Son if not [i.e. except] the Father, and n(either does) any (one) have knowledge about the Father if not [i.e. except] the Son, and the (one) to whom the Son should wish to uncover [i.e. reveal] (it)”

The compound verb e)piginw/skw (epiginœ¡skœ) literally means “to know (or have knowledge) upon [e)pi/] something”, in the fundamental sense of “looking upon” it (and understanding), i.e., perceiving, recognizing, gaining knowledge, etc. The preposition can also serve as an intensive element—i.e. to know something (or someone) completely, thoroughly, intimately, etc. It is possible to interpret the verb here in three ways: (i) the intimate knowledge the Father and Son have of each other; (ii) an emphasis on recognition, especially that of the disciples recognizing the Father in the Son (Jesus); and (iii) and emphasis on gaining knowledge, particularly that of the disciples coming to know the Father (through Jesus). Luke uses the simpler verb ginw/skw (ginœ¡skœ), and this version of the saying also makes clear the nature of the knowledge: “who (the Son/Father) is” (ti/$ e)stin). In this regard, the version of the saying in Matthew is presumably closer to an original (Aramaic) form, which would not have included a specific verb of being corresponding to Greek e)stin (ei)mi). Interestingly, Matthew still has one occurrence of the indefinite pronoun (ti/$), but used rather differently, in the sense of “whoever, any (person) who”.

There has been some question among commentators as to whether the historical Jesus would have used the (absolute) expression “the Son” (o( ui(o/$). While this occurs rather frequently in the Gospel of John (some 15 times) it is hardly found at all the Synoptic Gospels; apart from the passage under discussion, it occurs only in Mark 13:32 (par Matt 24:36) and the baptismal formula in Matt 28:19. In the Synoptics, Jesus almost always refers to himself as “(the) Son of Man” (o( ui(o\$ tou= a)nqrw/pou). The title “Son of God” is applied to Jesus, but by others (Mk 3:11; 5:7; 14:61; 15:39 and pars; Matt 4:3, 6 par; 14:33; 16:16; 27:40, 43; Lk 1:32, 35), never by Jesus himself (but note Matt 27:43). Though admittedly rare in the Synoptics, the fact that the expression “the Son” occurs in two distinct sayings, transmitted, apparently, through different lines of tradition—the Synoptic (Markan) tradition (Mk 13:32 par), and the double tradition of Matthew-Luke (“Q”)—argues for its historicity. Indeed, this is strengthened by the Johannine usage (a third line of tradition), and its similarities with the very saying under discussion here (cf. below).

It is significant that use of “the Son” in the Gospels virtually always occurs in direct connect to a reference to God as “the Father”, both in John (Jn 3:35-36; 5:19-27; 8:36ff; 14:13; 17:1ff) and the rare Synoptic sayings. I think it likely that the idea (and idiom) behind the usage is the general illustration of a son (“the son“) and his relationship to his father (“the father“), especially in the sense of a dutiful son who learns (as a pupil or apprentice, etc) by following the example of his father, imitating what he says and does. This is certainly the case in the Gospel of John, where Jesus states repeatedly that he (the Son) is only doing and saying what he sees/hears his Father doing and saying. Almost certainly, this is also the background of the illustrative language in Luke 10:22 par. The verb paradi/dwmi (“give along[side]”) is often used for the transmission of traditional teaching and instruction, etc, from one generation to the next; it occurs frequently in this sense in early Christianity (Luke 1:2; Acts 16:4; Rom 6:17; 1 Cor 11:2, 23a; 15:3; 2 Pet 2:21; Jude 3), along with the related noun para/dosi$ (1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6, etc).

If this line of interpretation is correct, then it also helps to clarify the meaning of the pronouns pa/nta (“all [thing]s”) and tau=ta (“these [thing]s”) in vv. 21-22—they are (all) the things which the Son (Jesus) has learned from the Father, including the working of miracles, but especially in respect to the Father’s revelation of Himself (i.e. who He is). Through the Son (Jesus), the Father has now revealed these to the chosen ones (believers, followers of Jesus) as well—”all things” is a comprehensive term, but it is centered specifically in the knowledge of God. The saying in Mark 13:32 par is noteworthy in that Jesus emphasizes that there is at least one thing (the time of the end and the Last Judgment) which the Son has not learned from the Father, i.e. which the Father has not (yet) revealed to him.

The similarity of language and idiom between Luke 10:22 par and the Gospel of John has been noted several times above. The main passages to consider in a comparative study are: John 3:35; 6:65; 7:29; 10:15; 13:3; 14:7-11; 17:2ff, 25; and also 20:21 (cf. Mark 9:37 par). The common wording/phrases and concepts can be seen by a literal translation of several of these passages (note the italicized portions):

    • Jn 3:35: “The Father loves the Son, and all things [pa/nta] have been given in(to) his hand”
    • Jn 7:29: “I see/know Him [i.e. the Father], (in) that I am (from) alongside [para/] (of) Him, and that One has se(n)t me forth from (Him)”
    • Jn 10:15: “Even as the Father knows [ginw/skei] me, (so) I also know [ginw/skw] the Father…”
    • Jn 14:7: “If you have/had known me, you would/will [have] know[n] the Father also; but from now (on) you know him and have seen him”
    • Jn 17:2: “Even as You [i.e. the Father] gave [e&dwka$] him [i.e. the Son] (the) authority/ability o(ver) all flesh, (so) that (for) every (one) th(at) You have given [de/dwka$] to him [i.e. the Son], he might give [dw/sh|] to them Life of-the-Ages [i.e. eternal life]”
    • Jn 17:25: “O just/righteous Father, (indeed) the world did not know you, but I knew you, and these [i.e. Jesus’ followers] have (come to) know that you se(n)t me forth from (you)”

Jn 10:15 and 17:2 are the closest to the Synoptic saying.

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