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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Luke 12




Verses 1-12

Luke 12:1-12 . Exhortation to fearless utterance , addressed to the disciples ( cf. Matthew 10:17-33 ). ἐν οἷς , in these circumstances, i.e. , while the assaults of the Pharisees and scribes on Jesus were going on (Luke 11:53 ). μυριάδων : a hyperbolical expression for an “innumerable multitude,” pointing, if the words are to be taken in earnest, to the largest crowd mentioned anywhere in the Gospels. Yet this immense gathering is not accounted for: it does not appear where or why it collected, but the ἐν οἶς suggests that the people had been drawn together by the encounter between Jesus and His foes. πρῶτον from its position naturally qualifies προσέχετε , implying that hypocrisy was the first topic of discourse (Meyer). But it may also be taken with μαθητὰς , as implying that, while Jesus meant to speak to the crowd, He addressed Himself in the first place to His disciples (Schanz, J. Weiss, Holtzmann). Bornemann points out that while Mt. places τρῶτον after imperatives, Lk. places it also before, as in Luke 9:61 , Luke 10:5 . ἀπὸ τῆς ζύμης τ . φ .: this is the logion reported in Matthew 16:6 and Mark 8:15 , connected there with the demand for a sign; here to be viewed in the light of the discourse in the Pharisee’s house (Luke 11:37 f.). In the two first Gospels the warning expresses rather Christ’s sense of the deadly character of the Pharisaic leaven; here it is a didactic utterance for the guidance of disciples as witnesses of the truth. ἥτις ἐστὶν ὑπόκρισις : not in Mt. and Mk.; might be taken as an explanatory gloss, but probably to be viewed as part of the logion . Hypocrisy, the leading Pharisaic vice = wearing a mask of sanctity to hide an evil heart; but from what follows apparently here to be taken in a wider sense so as to include dissimulation, hiding conviction from fear of man as in Galatians 2:13 (so J. Weiss in Meyer). In Lk.’s reports our Lord’s sayings assume a form adapted to the circumstances of the writer’s time. Hypocrisy in the sense of Galatians 2:13 was the temptation of the apostolic age, when truth could not be spoken and acted without risk.

Verse 2

Luke 12:2 = Matthew 10:26 , there connected with a counsel not to fear men addressed to persons whose vocation imposes the obligation to speak out. Here = dissimulation, concealment of your faith, is vain; the truth will out sooner or later.

Verse 3

Luke 12:3 . ἀνθʼ ὧν , either = quare , inferring the particular case following from the general statement going before, or = because, assigning a reason for that statement. This verse = Matthew 10:27 , but altered. In Mt. it is Christ who speaks in the darkness, and whispers in the ear; in Lk. it is His disciples. In the one representation the whispering stage has its place in the history of the kingdom; in the latter it is conceived as illegitimate and futile. What you whisper will become known to all, therefore whisper not but speak from the housetop.

Verse 4

Luke 12:4 . λέγω δὲ , introducing a very important statement, not a mere phrase of Lk.’s to help out the connection of thought (Ws [114] , Mt.- Evang., 279). τοῖς φίλοις μου , not a mere conventional designation for an audience, but spoken with emphasis to distinguish disciples from hostile Pharisees = my comrades, companions in tribulation. μὴ φοβηθῆτε , etc., down to end of Luke 12:5 = Matthew 10:28 , with variations. For Mt.’s distinction between body and soul Lk. has one between now and hereafter ( μετὰ ταῦτα ). The positive side of the counsel is introduced not with a simple “fear,” but with the more emphatic “I will show ye whom ye shall fear”. Then at the end, to give still more emphasis, comes: “Yea, I say unto you, fear him”. Who is the unnamed object of fear? Surely he who tempts to unfaithfulness, the god of this world!

[114]s. Weiss (Dr. Bernhard).

Verse 6

Luke 12:6 . πέντε , five, for two farthings, two for one in Mt. (Matthew 10:29 ); one into the bargain when you buy a larger number. They hardly have a price at all! ἐπιλελησμένον , forgotten, for Mt.’s “falls not to the ground without”; the former more general and secondary, but the meaning plainer.

Verse 7

Luke 12:7 . ἠρίθμηνται , they remain numbered, once for all; number never forgotten, one would be missed.

Verses 8-12

Luke 12:8-12 . Another solemn declaration introduced by a λέγω δὲ = Matthew 10:32-33 . ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀγγέλων τ . Θ .: in place of Mt.’s “before my Father in heaven”. In Luke 12:6 “God” takes the place of “your Father” in Mt. It seem as if the Christian circle to which Lk. belonged did not fully realise the significance of Christ’s chosen designation for God.

Verse 10

Luke 12:10 . πᾶς ὃς ἐρεῖ , etc.: the true historical setting of the logion concerning blasphemy is doubtless that in Mt. (Matthew 12:31 ), and Mk. (Mark 3:28 ), where it appears as a solemn warning to the men who broached the theory of Beelzebub-derived power to cast out devils. Here it is a word of encouragement to disciples (apostles) to this effect: blaspheming the Holy Spirit speaking through you will be in God’s sight an unpardonable sin, far more heinous than that of prejudiced Pharisees speaking evil against me, the Son of Man, now.

Verse 11

Luke 12:11 . τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς ἐξουσίας : a general reference to heathen tribunals in place of Mt.’s συνέδρια (Luke 10:17 ). “Synagogues,” representing Jewish tribunals, retained.

Verse 12

Luke 12:12 . τὸ Ἅγιον Πνεῦμα : their utterances always inspired by the Holy Ghost (hence to contradict their word blasphemy), and specially when they are on their defence .

Verse 13

Luke 12:13 . τις ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου : the crowd now comes to the front, and becomes the audience for at least a few moments. εἰπὲ here takes after it the infinitive, instead of ἵνα with subjunctive. μερίσασθαι , to divide, presumably according to law, one-third to the younger, two-thirds to the elder (Deuteronomy 21:17 ). The references to tribunals in Luke 12:11 may have suggested this application to Jesus.

Verses 13-21

Luke 12:13-21 . An interlude leading to a change of theme , in Lk. only.

Verse 14

Luke 12:14 . ἄνθρωπε , man! discouraging, no sympathy with the object ( cf. Romans 2:1 ; Romans 9:20 ). κριτὴν , a judge, deciding the right or equity of the case; μεριστὴν , an arbiter carrying out the judgment (here only in N.T.). The application was the less blameworthy that appeals to Rabbis for such purposes seem to have been not infrequent (Schanz).

Verse 16

Luke 12:16 . εὐφόρησε , bore well; late and rare (here only in N.T.). Kypke gives examples from Josephus and Hippocrates. χώρα , estate, farm = ἀγρός (Luke 9:12 ), so in John 4:35 .

Verses 16-21

Luke 12:16-21 . Parable of the rich fool , simply a story embodying in concrete form the principle just enunciated: teaching the lesson of Psalms 49:0 , and containing apparent echoes of Sir 11:17-19 .

Verse 18

Luke 12:18 . τὸν σῖτον (or τὰ γενήματα ): may refer to the fruits ( καρπούς , Luke 12:17 ) of the season, τὰ ἀγαθὰ to the accumulated possessions of bygone years.

Verse 19

Luke 12:19 . ἀναπαύου , etc., rest, eat, drink, be jolly: an epicurean asyndeton .

Verse 20

Luke 12:20 . εἶπε δὲ α ., but God said to him, through conscience at the death hour (Euthy.). ἀπαιτοῦσι , they ask thy life = thy life is asked. τίνι ἔσται , whose? Not thine at all events.

Verse 21

Luke 12:21 . εἰς Θεὸν πλουτῶν , rich with treasure laid up with God. Other interpretations are: rich in a way that pleases God, or rich in honorem Dei , for the advancement of God’s glory. The last sense implies that the riches are literal, the first implies that they are spiritual.

Verses 22-31

Luke 12:22-31 . Dissuasives against earthly care (Matthew 6:25-33 ). The disciples again become the audience.

Verse 23

Luke 12:23 . ψυχὴ and σῶμα are to be taken in the physical sense, the suggestion being that God has given us these the greater things, and therefore may be expected to give us food for the one and raiment for the other, the smaller things.

Verse 24

Luke 12:24 . κόρακας , the ravens, individualising, for Mt.’s πετεινὰ . ὁ Θεὸς for ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν in Mt.

Verse 26

Luke 12:26 . ἐλάχιστον : the application of this epithet to the act of adding a cubit ἐπὶ τὴν ἡλικίαν at first appears conclusive evidence that for Lk. at least ἡλικία must mean length of life: as to add a cubit to one’s stature is so great a thing that no one thinks of attempting it (Hahn, similarly Holtzmann, H. C.). But adding to one’s stature a cubit or an inch is of minimum importance as compared with lengthening our days. Yet it must be owned that Lk.’s ἐλάχιστον puts us off the track of the idea intended, if we take ἡλικία = stature. The point is, we cannot do what God has done for all mature persons: added a cubit at least to the stature of their childhood, and this is the greater thing, not the least, greater than giving us the means of life now that we have reached maturity. Vide notes on Mt.

Verse 29

Luke 12:29 . μετεωρίζεσθε : a ἅπ . λεγ . in N.T. and variously rendered. The meaning that best suits the connection of thought is that which finds in the word the figure of a boat tempest-tossed, but that which is best supported by usage points rather to high-mindedness, vain thoughts. The Vulgate renders nolite in sublime tolli = lift not yourselves up to lofty claims (Meyer); do not be ambitious, be content with humble things, a perfectly congruous counsel. Still the rendering: be not as tempest-tossed vessels, vexed with care, is a finer thought and more what we expect. Hahn renders: do not gaze with strained vision heavenwards, anxiously looking for help. Pricaeus: “ex futuro suspendi”. Theophylact gives a paraphrase which in a way combines the two senses. He defines meteorismus as distraction ( περισπασμὸν ), and a restless movement of the mind, thinking now of one thing now of another, leaping from this to that, and always fancying higher things ( ἀεὶ τὰ ὑψηλότερα φανταζομένου ).

Verse 30

Luke 12:30 . τ . ἔ . τοῦ κόσμου , the nations of the world ; this addition is peculiar to Lk., the expression here only in N.T., but frequent with the Rabbis (Lightfoot, ad loc. ); meaning with them the peoples of the outside world as distinct from the Jews; here probably all (Jews included) but Christians. On the thought vide on Mt.

Verse 31

Luke 12:31 . πλὴν , much rather (Schanz, Hahn). ζητεῖτε , etc.: In his version of this great word of Jesus Lk. omits πρῶτον and τὴν δικαιοσύνην , so that it takes this simple and absolute form: seek His (the Father’s) kingdom : very probably the original form. As temporal things are added ( προστεθήσεται ) they do not need to be sought. Mt.’s final word about not caring for to-morrow Lk. omits, either deeming it superfluous, or giving what follows as a substitute.

Verses 32-34

Luke 12:32-34 . The little flock , in Lk. only. ποίμνιον (contracted from ποιμένιον ), a flock (of sheep), a familiar designation of the body of believers in the apostolic age (Acts 20:28 , 1 Peter 5:3 ); μικρὸν adds pathos. That Jesus applied this name to His disciples is very credible, though it may be that in the sense of the source from which Lk. drew, the little flock is the Jewish-Christian Church of Palestine subject to persecution from their unbelieving countrymen (J. Weiss in Meyer). The counsel “fear not” is Mt.’s “ take no thought for to-morrow ,” but the “to-morrow” refers not to temporal but to spiritual things; hence the declaration following. Paraphrased = Fear not future want of food and raiment, still less loss of the kingdom, the object of your desire. Your Father will certainly give it.

Verse 33

Luke 12:33 counsels a heroic mood for which apprehension as to future temporal want has become an impossibility, such want being now viewed as a means of ensuring the one object of desire, eternal riches. πωλήσατε , etc.: the special counsel to the man in quest of eternal life generalised ( cf. Luke 18:22 ). βαλάντια , purses: continens pro contento (De Wette). παλαιούμενα : in Hebrews 8:13 applied to the Sinaitic covenant. Covenants, religions, wax old as well as purses . ἀνέκλειπτον , unfailing. Cf. ἐκλίπῃ , Luke 16:9 , in reference to death: “vox rara, sed paris elegantiae cum altera ἀνεκλιπὴς , quam adhibet auctor libri Sapient., vii. 4, viii. 18, ubi habes θησαυρὸς ἀνεκλιπὴς et πλοῦτος ἀνεκλιπής ,” Wolf. There is poetry in this verse, but also some think asceticism , turning the poetry of Jesus into ecclesiastical prose. I prefer to believe that even Lk. sees in the words not a mechanical rule, but a law for the spirit.

Verse 34

Luke 12:34 = Matthew 6:21 , with σου turned into ὑμῶν .

Verses 35-36

Luke 12:35-36 contain the germ of the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1 f.). So De Wette, J. Weiss, Holtzmann, Schanz, etc. ὀσφύες περιεζωσμέναι , loins girt, for service. λύχνοι καιόμενοι , lamps burning, for reception of the master expected to return during the night . In the spiritual sphere the loins girt point to a noble purpose in life, and the burning lamp to the spirit of hope.

Verses 35-38

Luke 12:35-38 . Loins girt, lamps burning . Connection with what goes before is not apparent, but there is a latent affinity which makes the introduction of this logion here by Lk. or his source intelligible. The kingdom the summum bonum ; all to be sacrificed for it; its coming (or the King’s) to be eagerly waited for.

Verse 36

Luke 12:36 . ἀναλύσῃ , when ( πότε = ὁπότε ) he shall return ; the figure is taken from sailors making the return voyage to the port whence they had sailed, Beza ( vide Philippians 1:23 , 2 Timothy 4:6 ). ἐλθόντος καὶ κρούσαντος : the participles in the genitive absolute, though the subject to which they refer, αὐτῷ , is in the dative.

Verse 37

Luke 12:37 . μακάριοι : here as always implying rare felicity the reward of heroic virtue. ἀμὴν : the Hebrew word retained here contrary to custom, introducing a startling thought, the inversion of the relation of master and servants, lord and slaves, through joy over their fidelity. For the other side of the picture vide Luke 17:7-10 . διακονήσει αὐτοῖς : the master, in genial mood, turns servant to his own slaves; makes them sit down, throws off his caftan, girds his under-garments, and helps them to portions of the marriage feast he has brought home with him , as a father might do for his children (De Wette, Koetsveld, p. 244). There is not necessarily an allusion either to the last supper (Luke 22:27 ) or to the Roman Saturnalia (Grotius, Holtzmann, H. C.).

Verse 38

Luke 12:38 . ἐν τῇ δευτέρᾳ , etc., second and third watches named as the times at which men are most apt to be overtaken with sleep (Hahn), the night being probably supposed to consist of four watches, and the first omitted as too early, and the last as too late for the return.

Verses 39-40

Luke 12:39-40 . The thief (Matthew 24:43-44 ). A new figure is now employed to give pictorial embodiment to the counsel: be ever ready. The master returning from a wedding is replaced by a thief whose study it is to come to the house he means to plunder at an unexpected time. This logion is reproduced by Lk. substantially as in Mt. with only slight stylistic variations.

Verse 41

Luke 12:41 . Peter’s question reminds us of Mark 13:37 : “What I say unto you, I say unto all, watch”.

Verses 41-46

Luke 12:41-46 . A question by Peter and a reply (Matthew 24:45-51 ). Some look on Peter’s question as a literary device of the evangelist either to connect his material (Weiss in Meyer; x. 29, xi. 45 cited as similar instances), or to give what follows a special relation to the Apostles and to Peter as their head (Holtzmann, H. C., the passage thus becoming in his view a substitute for Matthew 16:18-19 ).

Verse 42

Luke 12:42 . σιτομέτριον , the due portion of food; a word of late Greek. Phryn., p. 383, forbids the use of σιτομετρεῖσθαι , and enjoins separation of the compound into its elements: σίτον , μετρεῖσθαι . The noun occurs here only; the verb in Genesis 47:12 and occasionally in late Greek authors.

Verse 44

Luke 12:44 . ἀληθῶς here, as usual, for ἀμὴν (Luke 12:37 an exception).

Verse 45

Luke 12:45 . ἐὰν δὲ : introducing supposition of an abuse of power, conceived possible even in the case of an apostle, of a Peter. Let no proud ecclesiastic therefore say, Is thy servant a dog? χρονίζει : a delayed παρουσία , a prominent thought in our Lord’s later utterances. The delay may possibly be long enough to allow time for the utter demoralisation of even the higher officials. Vide on Mt. τοὺς παῖδας , etc., the men- and maidservants, instead of συνδούλους in Mt. διχοτομήσει : the retention of this strong word by Lk., who seems to have it for one of his aims to soften harsh expressions, is noticeable, especially when he understands it as referring to the Apostles, and even to Peter. It makes for the hypothesis that the word means not to cut into two as with a saw, but either to lash unmercifully, to cut to pieces in popular parlance, or to separate from the household establishment (Beza, Grotius, etc.). μετὰ τῶν ἀπίστων points to degradation from the confidential position of οἰκονόμος to a place among the unfaithful ; dismissed, or imprisoned, or set to drudging service .

Verses 47-48

Luke 12:47-48 . Degrees of guilt and punishment , in Lk. only, and serving as an apology for the severity of the punishment as described in Luke 12:46 . That punishment presupposes anger. The statement now made is to the effect: penalty inflicted not as passion dictates but as principle demands. ὁ δοῦλοςγνοὺς , etc.: describes the case of a servant who knows the master’s will but does not do it ( μηδὲ ποιήσας ), nay, does not even intend or try to do it ( μὴ ἑτοιμάσας ), deliberately, audaciously negligent. δαρήσεται πολλάς ( πληγάς ): many stripes justly his portion.

Verse 48

Luke 12:48 . ὁ δὲ μὴ γνοὺς : the opposite case is that of one who does not know . What he would do if he did know is another question; but it is not to be gratuitously supposed that he would neglect his duty utterly, like the other, though he does commit minor faults. He is a lower servant in the house to whom the master gave no particular instructions on leaving, therefore without special sense of responsibility during his absence, and apt like the average servant to take liberties when the master is away from home. παντὶ δὲἐδόθη , etc.: a general maxim further explaining the principle regulating penalty or responsibility ( cf. Matthew 25:15 ff.).

Verse 49

Luke 12:49 . πῦρ : the fire of a new faith, or religion, a burning enthusiasm in believers, creating fierce antagonism in unbelievers; deplorable but inevitable. βαλεῖν , used by Mt. in reference to peace and war, where Lk. has δοῦναι . τί θέλω εἰ , etc., how much I wish it were already kindled; τί = ὡς and εἰ after θέλω to express the object of the wish, as in Sir 23:14 ( θελήσεις εἰ μὴ ἐγεννήθης , you will wish you had not been born).

Verses 49-53

Luke 12:49-53 . Not peace but division (Matthew 10:34-36 ). This section is introduced by no connecting particle. Yet there is a certain affinity of thought. Strict fidelity demanded under penalties, but fidelity not easy; times of fierce trial and conflict awaiting you. I forewarn you, that ye may be forearmed.

Verse 50

Luke 12:50 . βάπτισμα : before the fire can be effectually kindled there must come for the kindler His own baptism of blood, of which therefore Jesus naturally speaks here with emotion. πῶς συνέχομαι , how am I pressed on every side, either with fervent desire (Euthy., Theophy., De Wette, Schanz, etc.), or with fear, shrinking from the cup (Meyer, J. Weiss, Holtzmann, Hahn).

Verse 51

Luke 12:51 . διαμερισμόν : instead of Mt.’s μάχαιραν , an abstract prosaic term for a concrete pictorial one; exactly descriptive of the fact, however, and avoiding possible misapprehension as to Christ’s aim = Jesus not a patron of war .

Verse 52

Luke 12:52 . τρεῖς ἐπὶ δυσὶν , etc.: three against two and two against three; five in all, not six though three pairs are mentioned, mother and mother-in-law ( μήτηρ and πενθερὰ ) being the same person. This way of putting it is doubtless due to Lk. ἐπὶ with dative = contra , only here in N.T.; κατὰ with genitive in Mt.

Verses 54-59

Luke 12:54-59 . A final word to the crowd ( cf. Matthew 16:2 f., Luke 5:25 f.). τοῖς ὄχλοις : in Mt. Jesus speaks to the Pharisees and Sadducees, in reply to their demand for a sign, which gives a more definite occasion. But the words might quite appropriately have been addressed to the people at large. The weather-skill ascribed to the audience is such as any one might possess, and all Jews needed the warning. The precise circumstances in which this logion was spoken are uncertain. ἐπὶ δυσμῶν , in the west, the region of the setting sun, and of the Mediterranean. A cloud rising up from that quarter meant, of course, rain (1 Kings 18:44-45 ).

Verse 55

Luke 12:55 . καύσων , the sirocco, a hot wind from the desert, blighting vegetation (James 1:11 ), equally a matter of course.

Verse 56

Luke 12:56 . ὑποκριταί seems too strong a term to apply to the people, and more appropriate to a Pharisaic or professional audience (Matthew 16:3 ). Raphel, after Erasmus Schmidt, translates harioli , weather prophets, citing a passage from Lucian in support of this sense. This is certainly one meaning of the word ( vide Passow), but, as Hahn remarks, the usage of the N.T. does not support it here.

Verse 57

Luke 12:57 . ἀφʼ ἑαυτῶν , from or of yourselves ( sua sponte , Palairet); without needing any one to tell you the right; implying that the persons addressed were destitute of the average moral insight ( cf. Luke 21:30 ).

Verse 58

Luke 12:58 . ὡς γὰρ : introducing a legal scene from natural life to illustrate a similar situation in the moral world. It is implied that if they had the necessary moral discernment they would see that a judgment day was at hand, and understand that the duty of the hour was to come to terms with their adversary by timely repentance. That is hew they would all act if it were an ordinary case of debtor and creditor. δὸς ἐργασίαν (phrase here only): usually interpreted give diligence, give thine endeavour = da operam , a Latinism. Theophylact renders it: give interest (of the sum owed); Hofmann, offer work, labour, in place of money. κατασύρῃ (here only in N.T.), lest he drag thee to the judge, stronger than Mt.’s παραδῷ (Luke 5:25 ), realistic and not exaggerated. τῷ πράκτορι , the man whose business it was to collect the debts after the judge had decreed payment, or to put the debtor in prison till the debt was paid. Kypke defines πράκτορες : “exactores qui mulctas violatorum legum a judice irrogatas exigunt,” citing an instance of its use from Demosthenes.

Verse 59

Luke 12:59 . λεπτὸν , the half of a κοδράντης (Mt.’s word), making the necessity of full payment in order to release from prison still more emphatic.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Luke 12". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.