Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Luke 17




This chapter gives the impression of being a group of fragments with little connection in place, time, or topic, and nothing is gained for exegesis by ingenious attempts at logical or topical concatenation. If we view the group of parables in chaps. 15, 16 as a mass which has grown around the parable of the Lost Sheep as its nucleus, and reflect that that parable with the sayings in Luke 17:1-4 is found in Matthew 18, we may with some measure of confidence draw the inference that the discourse on humility at Capernaum was the original locus of at least these elements of Luke’s narrative. That they are mixed up with so much matter foreign to Mt.’s record speaks to extensive transformation of the tradition of our Lord’s words by the time it reached Lk.’s hands (vide Weizsäcker, Untersuchungen, p. 177).




Verses 1-4

Luke 17:1-4. Concerning offences and forgiving of offences (cf.Matthew 18:6-7; Matthew 21, 22).— : here only in N.T. and hardly found in classics; with = (Luke 13:33), it is not possible.— : the infinitive with the genitive article may depend on viewed as a substantive = an impossibility of offences not coming exists (Meyer, J. Weiss), or it may be the subject to , . being the predicate = that offences should not come is impossible (Schanz; Burton, M. and T., inclines to the same view, vide § 405).



Verse 2

Luke 17:2. ( , ), it profits or pays; here only in N.T. = in Matthew 18:6.— , a millstone, not a great millstone, one driven by an ass ( , T.R.), as in Mt.: the vehement emphasis of Christ’s words is toned down in Lk. here as often elsewhere. The realistic expression of Mt. is doubtless truer to the actual utterance of Jesus, who would speak of the offences created by ambition with passionate abhorrence.— = perf. pass. of in sense = has been placed; with , another perfect, suggesting the idea of an action already complete—the miscreant with a stone round his neck thrown into the sea.— : here again a subdued expression compared with Mt.— , than to scandalise; the subj. with = the infinitive. Vide Winer, § 44, 8.



Verse 3

Luke 17:3. ., take heed to yourselves (lest ye offend), a reminiscence of the original occasion of the discourse: ambition revealing itself in the disciple-circle.



Verse 4

Luke 17:4. , seven times a day. The number recalls Peter’s question (Matthew 18:21), and the phrase seven times a day states the duty of forgiving as broadly as Mt.’s seventy times seven, but not in so animated a style: more in the form of a didactic rule than of a vehement emotional utterance; obviously secondary as compared with Mt.



Verse 5-6

Luke 17:5-6. The power of faith (cf.Matthew 17:20).— instead of . Luke 17:1. : these titles for Jesus and the Twelve betray a narrative having no connection with what goes before, and secondary in its character.— , add faith to us. This sounds more like a stereotyped petition in church prayers than a request actually made by the Twelve. How much more life-like the occasion for the utterance supplied by Mt.: “Why could not we cast him out?”



Verse 6

Luke 17:6. . with pres. in protasis, the imperf. in apodosis with . Possession of faith already sufficient to work miracles is here admitted. In Mt. the emphasis lies on the want of such faith. Another instance of Lk.’s desire to spare the Twelve.— , here only in N.T. = , Luke 19:4, the fig mulberry tree (vide there). A tree here, a mountain in Mt.; and the miraculous feat is not rooting it out of the earth but replanting it in the sea—a natural impossibility. Pricaeus cites a classic parallel: .



Verse 7

Luke 17:7. : to be connected not with but with . = he does not say: Go at once and get your supper.



Verses 7-10

Luke 17:7-10. The parable of extra service, in Luke only. For this name and the view of the parable implied in it see my Parabolic Teaching of Christ. It is there placed among the theoretic parables as teaching a truth about the Kingdom of God, viz., that it makes exacting demands on its servants which can only be met by a heroic temper. “Christ’s purpose is not to teach in what spirit God deals with His servants, but to teach rather in what spirit we should serve God.”



Verse 8

Luke 17:8. : implies the negation of the previous supposition.— , etc., “till I have eaten,” etc., A.V[134]; or, while I eat and drink.

[134] Authorised Version.



Verse 9

Luke 17:9. , he does not thank him, does he? the service taken as a matter of course, all in the day’s work.



Verse 10

Luke 17:10. , so, in the Kingdom of God: extremes meet. The service of the Kingdom is as unlike that of a slave to his owner as possible in spirit; but it is like in the heavy demands it makes, which we have to take as a matter of course.— , commanded. In point of fact it is not commands but demands we have to deal with, arising out of special emergencies.— : the words express the truth in terms of the parabolic representation which treats of a slave and his owner. But the idea is: the hardest demands of the Kingdom are to be met in a spirit of patience and humility, a thing possible only for men who are as remote as possible from a slavish spirit: heroic, generous, working in the spirit of free self-devotion. Such men are not unprofitable servants in God’s sight; rather He accounts them “good and faithful,” Matthew 25:21. Syr. Sin[135] reads simply “we are servants”.

[135]yr. Sin. Sinaitic Syriac (recently discovered).



Verse 11

Luke 17:11. .: the note of time seems to take us back to Luke 9:51. No possibility of introducing historic sequence into the section of Lk. lying between Luke 9:51 and Luke 18:15.— , He without emphasis; not He, as opposed to other pilgrims taking another route, directly through Samaria (so Meyer and Godet).— = (T.R.), being used adverbially as in Philip. Luke 2:15 = through between the two provinces named, on the confines of both, which explains the mixture of Jews and Samaritans in the crowd of lepers.



Verses 11-19

Luke 17:11-19. The ten lepers.



Verse 12

Luke 17:12. : ten, a large number, the disease common. Rosenmüller (das A. and N. Morgenland) cites from Dampier a similar experience; lepers begging alms from voyagers on the river Camboga, when they approached their village, crying to them from afar. They could not heal them, but they gave them a little rice.



Verse 13

Luke 17:13. : this word is peculiar to Lk., which suggests editorial revision of the story.— : a very indefinite request compared with that of the leper in Luke 5:12 f., whose remarkable words are given in identical terms by all the synoptists. The interest wanes here.



Verse 14

Luke 17:14. .: the same direction as in the first leper narrative, but without reason annexed.— : plural, either to the priests of their respective nationalities (Kuinoel, J. Weiss, etc.) or to the priests of the respective districts to which they belonged (Hahn).— , etc., on the way to the priests they were healed. Did they show themselves to the priests? That does not appear. The story is defective at this point (“negligently told,” Schleier.), either because the narrator did not know or because he took no interest in that aspect of the case. The priests might not be far off.



Verse 15

Luke 17:15. . .: general statement, exact words not known, so also in report of thanksgiving to Jesus.



Verse 16

Luke 17:16. : this, with the comment of Jesus, the point of interest for Lk.



Verse 17

Luke 17:17. ( , T.R.): asking a question and implying an affirmative answer. Yet the fact of asking the question implies a certain measure of doubt. No direct information as to what happened had reached Jesus presumably, and He naturally desires explanation of the non-appearance of all but one. Were not all the ten ( , now a familiar number) healed, that you come back alone?— : emphatic position: the nine—where? expressing the suspicion that not lack of healing but lack of gratitude was the matter the nine.



Verse 18

Luke 17:18. , etc., best taken as another question (so R.V[136]).— , here only, in N.T.; also in Sept[137] = and in classics, an alien. Once more the Jew suffers by comparison with those without in respect of genuine religious feeling—faith, gratitude. It is not indeed said that all the rest were Jews. What is certain is that the one man who came back was not a Jew.

[136] Revised Version.

[137] Septuagint.



Verse 19

Luke 17:19. : that might be all that Jesus said (so in [138]), as it was the man’s gratitude, natural feeling of thankfulness, not his faith, that was in evidence. But Lk., feeling that it was an abrupt conclusion, might add . . . to round off the sentence, which may therefore be the true reading.

[138] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.



Verse 20-21

Luke 17:20-21. : there is considerable diversity of opinion in the interpretation of this important expression. The prevailing view is that Jesus meant thereby to deny a coming that could be observed with the eye (“not with observation”). The older interpretation “not with pomp” ( is the gloss of Euthy. Zig.) is closely related to this view, because such pomp alone would make the kingdom visible to the vulgar eye. J. Weiss (Meyer) contends that it is not visibility but predictability that is negated. , he remarks, “is used of the observation of the heavenly bodies, from whose movements one can calculate when an expected phenomenon will appear. In a similar way the apocalyptists sought to determine by signs the moment when the kingdom should be set up. That was what the Pharisees expected of Jesus with their . And it is just this that Jesus declines. The Kingdom of God comes not so that one can fix its appearing by observation beforehand.” The assumption is that when it does come the kingdom will be visible. It does not seem possible by mere verbal interpretation to decide between the two views. Each interpreter will be influenced by his idea of the general drift of Christ’s teaching concerning the nature of the kingdom. My own sympathies are with those who find in Christ’s words a denial of vulgar or physical visibility.



Verses 20-37

Luke 17:20-37. Concerning the coming of the Kingdom and the advent of the Son of Man. In this section the words of Jesus are distributed between Pharisees and disciples, possibly according to the evangelist’s impression as to the audience they suited. Weiffenbach (Wiederkunftsgedanke Jesu, p. 217) suggests that the words in Luke 17:20-21 were originally addressed to disciples who did not yet fully understand the inward spiritual character of the Kingdom of God. I am inclined to attach some weight to this suggestion. I am sure at any rate that it is not helpful to a true understanding of Christ’s sayings to lay much stress on Lk.’s historical introductions to them.



Verse 21

Luke 17:21. , nor will they say; there will be nothing to give occasion for saying: non erit quod dicatur, Grotius.— , , here, there, implying a visible object that can be located.— , within you, in your spirit. This rendering best corresponds with the non-visibility of the kingdom. The thought would be a very appropriate one in discourse to disciples. Not so in discourse to Pharisees. To them it would be most natural to say “among you” = look around and see my works: devils cast out (Luke 11:20), and learn that the kingdom is already here ( ). Kindred to this rendering is that of Tertullian (c.Marcionem, L. iv., 35): in your power, accessible to you: in manu, in potestate vestra. The idea “among you” would be more clearly expressed by . Cf.John 1:6. . , etc., one stands among you whom ye know not—cited by Euthy. to illustrate the meaning of our passage. Field (Ot. Nor.) contends that there is no clear instance of in the sense of “among,” and cites as an example of its use in the sense of “within” Psalms 103:1, .



Verses 22-25

Luke 17:22-25. The coming of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:26-28).— . : so in Mt., but at a later time and at Jerusalem; which connection is the more original cannot be decided.— , there will come days (of tribulation), ominous hint like that in Luke 5:35.— . ., etc., one of the days of the Son of Man; not past days in the time of discipleship, but days to come. Tribulation will make them long for the advent, which will put an end to their sorrows. One of the days; why not the first, the beginning of the Messianic period? Hahn actually takes as = first, Hebraistic fashion, as in Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2.— , ye shall not see, not necessarily an absolute statement, but meaning: the vision will be deferred till your heart gets sick; so laying you open to temptation through false readers of the times encouraging delusive hope.



Verse 23

Luke 17:23. , : cf. the more graphic version in Matthew 24:26, and notes thereon.— , do not follow them, give no heed to them.



Verse 24

Luke 17:24. , understood, so also after = from this quarter under heaven to that. Here again Mt.’s version is the more graphic and original = from east to west.



Verse 25

Luke 17:25. , etc.; the Passion must come before the glorious lightning-like advent. What you have to do I meantime is to prepare yourselves for that.



Verses 26-30

Luke 17:26-30. The advent will be a surprise (Matthew 24:37-41).



Verse 27

Luke 17:27. , etc.: note the four verbs without connecting particles, a graphic asyndeton; and note the imperfect tense: those things going on up to the very hour of the advent, as it was in the days of Noah, or in the fateful day of Pompeii.



Verse 28

Luke 17:28. : introducing a new comparison = similarly, as it was in the days, etc.—so shall it be in the day of, etc. (Luke 17:30). Bornemann ingeniously connects with going before, and, treating it as a Latinism, renders perdidit omnes pariter.— , etc.: again a series of unconnected verbs, and a larger, six, and all in the imperfect tense. This second comparison, taken from Lot’s history, is not given in Mt. The suddenness of the catastrophe makes it very apposite.



Verse 29

Luke 17:29. ( ): an old poetic word used in late Greek for , to rain. is the modern Greek for rain (videMatthew 5:45).



Verse 30

Luke 17:30. , etc., the apodosis of the long sentence beginning Luke 17:28.



Verses 31-34

Luke 17:31-34. Sauve qui peut (Matthew 24:17-18; Mark 13:15-16). The saying in Luke 17:31 is connected in Mt. and Mk. with the crisis of Jerusalem, to which in this discourse in Lk. there is no allusion. The connection in Mt. and Mk. seems the more appropriate, as a literal flight was then necessary.



Verse 32

Luke 17:32. , etc.: the allusion to Lot’s wife is prepared for by the comparison in Luke 17:28. It is not in Mt. and Mk., being inappropriate to the flight they had in view. No fear of looking back when an invading army was at the gates. Lk. has in view the spiritual application, as is shown by the next ver., which reproduces in somewhat altered form the word spoken at Caesarea Philippi concerning losing and saving life (Luke 9:24).— , will preserve alive, used literally in this sense in Acts 7:19.



Verse 34

Luke 17:34. . . , on that night; day hitherto, the Jewish day began with night (Hahn), and the reference to night suits the following illustration. No need to take night metaphorically = imago miseriae (Kuinoel).— ., in one bed; in the field in Mt.



Verses 34-37

Luke 17:34-37. The final separation (Matthew 24:40-41).



Verse 35

Luke 17:35. , grinding at the same place; in the mill, Mt. Proximity the point emphasised in Lk.—near each other, yet how remote their destinies!



Verse 37

Luke 17:37. , the carcase = , Matthew 24:28; so used in Homer, who employs for the living body.



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Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Luke 17". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.