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6. The Two Parables on the use of Earthly Goods: chap. 16
Those two remarkable passages are peculiar to Luke, though taken, according to Holtzmann, from the common source Λ from which Matthew also borrows. For what reason, on this hypothesis, has the latter omitted them? The second espeally (Luke 16:31: They have Moses and the prophets) was perfectly in keeping with the spirit of this Gospel. According to Weizsäcker, the two parables have undergone very grave modifications in the course of successive editions. In his view, the original thought of the parable of the unjust steward was this: Beneficence, the means of justification for injustices committed by him who shows it. In our Gospel, it is intended to promise to the Gentiles an entrance into the kingdom of God, as a recompense for their benefits toward the lawful heirs of the kingdom. The second parable would also belong in origin to the tendency of Ebionite Judeo-Christianity; it would transform into a description the idea of the four beatitudes and four maledictions, which in Luke open the Sermon on the Mount. Later, it became the representation of the rejection of the unbelieving Jews (the wicked rich man and his brethren), and of the salvation of the Gentiles represented by Lazarus (probably a Gentile, according to Luk 16:21 ). We shall see if the interpretation justifies suppositions so violent.
And first the parable: Luke 16:1-9.
In this portraiture, as in some others, Jesus does not scruple to use the example of the wicked for the purpose of stimulating His disciples. And in fact, in the midst of conduct morally blamable, the wicked often display remarkable qualities of activity, prudence, and perseverance, which may serve to humble and encourage believers. The parable of the unjust steward is the master-piece of this sort of teaching.
The rich man of Luk 16:1 is a great lord living in the capital, far from his lands, the administration of which he has committed to a factor. The latter is not a mere slave, as in Luke 12:42; he is a freeman, and even occupying a somewhat high social position ( Luk 16:3 ). He enjoys very large powers. He gathers in and sells the produce at his pleasure. Living himself on the revenue of the domain, it is his duty to transmit to his master the surplus of the income. Olshausen alleges that this master, in the view of Jesus, represents the prince of this world, the devil, and that only thus can the eulogium be explained which he passes ( Luk 16:8 ) on the conduct of his knavish servant. This explanation is incompatible with the deprivation of the steward pronounced by the master, Luke 16:2, and which, in the view of our Lord, can only denote death. It is not Satan who disposes of human life. Satan is not even the master of riches; does not God say, Haggai 2:8: “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine”? Comp. Psalms 24:1. Finally, it is not to Satan, certainly, that we shall have to give account of our administration of earthly goods! Our Lord clearly gives out Himself as the person represented by the master, Luke 16:8-9: The master commended...; and I also say unto you. Again, could we admit that in Luk 16:12 the expression: faithful in that which is another man's (your master's), should signify: “faithful to that which the devil has committed to you of his goods”? Meyer has modified this explanation of Olshausen: the master, according to him, is wealth personified, mammon. But how are we to attribute the personal part which the master in the parable plays to this abstract being, wealth? The master can only represent God Himself, Him who maketh poor and maketh rich, who bringeth low and lifteth up. In relation to his neighbour, every man may be regarded as the proprietor of his goods; but in relation to God, no one is more than a tenant. This great and simple thought, by destroying the right of property relatively to God, gives it its true basis in the relation between man and man. Every man should respect the property of his neighbour, just because it is not the latter's property, but that of God, who has entrusted it to him. In the report made to the master about the delinquencies of his steward, we are to see the image of that perfect knowledge which God has of all human unfaithfulness. To waste the goods of God, means, after having taken out of our revenue what is demanded for our maintenance, instead of consecrating the remainder to the service of God and of His cause, squandering it on our pleasure, or hoarding it up for ourselves. Here we have the judgment of Jesus on that manner of acting which appears to us so natural: it is to forget that we are but stewards, and to act as proprietors.
The saying of the master to the steward ( Luk 16:2 ) does not include a call to clear himself; it is a sentence of deprivation. His guilt seems thoroughly established. The account which he is summoned to render is the inventory of the property confided to him, to be transmitted to his successor. What corresponds to this deprivation is evidently the event by which God takes away from us the free disposal of the goods which He had entrusted to us here below, that is, death. The sentence of deprivation pronounced beforehand denotes the awakening of the human conscience when it is penetrated by this voice of God: “Thou must die; thou shalt give account.” Φωνήσας is stronger than καλέσας : “speaking with the tone of a master.” In the phrase τί τοῦτο , τί may be taken as an exclamation: “ How happens it that I hear this!” or interrogatively, with τοῦτο in apposition: “ What do I hear of thee, to wit this? ” The accusation which we should expect to follow is understood.
The present δύνῃ , in some Alex., is that of the immediate future.
The words: he said within himself, have some relation to those of Luke 15:17: when he came to himself. It is an act of recollection after a life passed in insensibility. The situation of the man is critical. Of the two courses which present themselves to his mind, the first, digging, and the second, begging, are equally intolerable to him, the one physically, the other morally. All at once, after long reflection, he exclaims, as if striking his forehead: I have it! ῎Εγνων , I have come to see ( Luk 16:4 ). He starts from the sentence as from a fact which is irrevocable: when I am put out. But has he not those goods, which he is soon to hand over to another, in his hands for some time yet? May he not hasten to use them in such a way that he shall get advantage from them when he shall have them no more, by making sure, for example, of a refuge for the time when he shall be houseless? When man thinks seriously of his approaching death, it is impossible for him not to be alarmed at that deprivation which awaits him, and at the state of nakedness which will follow. Happy if in that hour he can take a firm resolution. For some time yet he has in his hands the goods of his divine Master, which death is about to wrest from him. Will it not be wisdom on his part so to use them during the brief moments when he has them yet at his disposal, that they shall bear interest for him when they shall be his no more?
This steward, who will soon be homeless, knows people who have houses: “Let us then make friends of them; and when I shall be turned to the street, more than one house shall be open to receive me.” The debtors, whom he calls to him with this view, are merchants who are in the habit of coming to get their supplies from him, getting credit probably till they have made their own sales, and making their payments afterwards. The Heb. βάτος , the bath, contains about 60 pints. The gift of 50 of those baths might mount up to the sum of some thousands of francs. The κόρος , corus (homer), contains 10 ephahs; and the value of 20 homers might rise to some hundreds of francs. The difference which the steward makes between the two gifts is remarkable; it contains a proof of discernment. He knows his men, as the saying is, and can calculate the degree of liberality which he must show to each to gain a like result, that is to say, the hospitality he expects to receive from them until it be repaid. Jesus here describes alms in the most piquant form. Does a rich man, for example, tear up the bill of one of his poor debtors? He only does what the steward does here. For if all we have is God's, supposing we lend anything, it is out of His property that we have taken it; and if we give it away, it is with His goods ( that which is another's, Luk 16:12 ) that we are generous in so acting. Beneficence from this point of view appears as a sort of holy unfaithfulness. By means of it we prudently make for ourselves, like the steward, personal friends, while we use wealth which, strictly speaking, is that of our Master. But differently from the steward, we do so holily, because we know that we are not acting without the knowledge and contrary to the will of the divine Owner, but that, on the other hand, we are entering into His purposes of love, and that he rejoices to see us thus using the goods which he has committed to us with that intention. This unfaithfulness is faithfulness ( Luk 16:12 ).
The commendation which the master gives the steward ( Luk 16:8 ) is not absolute. It has a twofold limitation, first in the word τῆς ἀδικίας , “the unjust steward,” an epithet which he must certainly put in the master's mouth, and then in the explanatory phrase: “because he had done wisely. ” The meaning of the commendation, then, is to this effect: “Undoubtedly a clever man! It is only to be regretted that he has not shown as much probity as prudence.” Thus, even though beneficence chiefly profits him who exercises it, God rejoices to see this virtue. And while He has no favour for the miser who hoards His goods, or for the egoist who squanders them, He approves the man who disposes of them wisely in view of his eternal future. Weizsäcker holds that the eulogium given by the master should be rejected from the parable. Had he understood it better, he would not have proposed this suppression, which would be a mutilation.
It is with the second part of Luk 16:8 that the application begins. “ Wisely: Yes, adds Jesus, it is quite true. For there is more wisdom found among the children of this world in their mode of acting toward the children of the generation to which they belong, than among the children of light in their conduct toward those who belong to theirs.” Αἰών οὗτος , this age (world); the period of history anterior to the coming of the kingdom of God. Φῶς : the domain of the higher life into which Jesus introduces His disciples, and in which the brightness of divine wisdom reigns. Both spheres have their own population, and every inhabitant of the one or the other is surrounded by a certain number of contemporaries like himself, who form his γενεά or generation. Those belonging to the first sphere use every means for their own interest, to strengthen the bonds which unite them to their contemporaries of the same stamp. But those of the second neglect this natural measure of prudence. They forget to use God's goods to form bonds of love to the contemporaries who share their character, and who might one day give them a full recompense, when they themselves shall want everything and these shall have abundance. Luk 16:9 finishes the application. The words: and I also say unto you, correspond to these: and the Lord commended ( Luk 16:8 ). As in chap. 15 Jesus had identified Himself with the Father who dwells in heaven, so in this saying He identifies Himself with the invisible owner of all things: and I. Jesus means: Instead of hoarding up or enjoying, a course which will profit you nothing when, on the other side of the tomb, you will find yourselves in your turn poor and destitute of everything, hasten to make for yourselves, with the goods of another (God's), personal friends ( ἑαυτοῖς , to yourselves), who shall then be bound to you by gratitude, and share with you their well-being. By a course of beneficence, make haste to transform into a bond of love the base metal of which death will soon deprive you. What the steward did in his sphere in relation to people of his own quality, see that you do in yours toward those who belong like you to the world to come. The Alex. reading, ἐκλίπη ( μαμωνᾶς ), would signify: “that when money shall fail you (by the event of death).” The T. R.: ἐκλίπητε , when ye shall fail, refers to the cessation of life, embracing privation of everything of which it is made up.
The friends, according to Meyer and Ewald, are the angels, who, affected by the alms of the beneficent man, are attached to him, and assist him at the time of his passing into eternity. But according to the parable, the friends can only be men who have been succoured by him on the earth, poor here below, but possessing a share in the everlasting inheritance. What service can they render to the dying disciple? Here is perhaps the most difficult question in the explanation of the parable. Love testified and experienced establishes between beings a strict moral unity. This is clearly seen in the relation between Jesus and men. May not the disciple who reaches heaven without having gained here below the degree of development which is the condition of full communion with God, receive the increase of spiritual life, which is yet wanting to him, by means of those grateful spirits with whom he shared his temporal goods here below? (Comp. Rom 15:27 and 1 Corinthians 9:11.) Do we not already see on the earth the poor Christian, who is assisted by a humane, but in a religious point of view defective, rich man, by his prayers, by the overflowing of his gratitude, and the edification which he affords him, requiting his benefactor infinitely more and better than he receives from him? Almsgiving is thus found to be the most prudent investment; for the communication of love once established by its means, enables him who practises it to enjoy provisionally the benefits of a spiritual state far superior to that which he has himself reached. A similar thought is found in Luke 14:13-14. But if this explanation seems to leave something to desire, we must fall back on sayings such as these: “He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord.” “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” It is Jesus, it is God Himself, who become our debtors by the assistance which we grant to those who are the objects of their love. And would such friends be useless in the hour of our dissolution? To receive is not to introduce. On the contrary, the first of these two terms assumes that admission is already adjudged. Faith, which alone opens heaven, is supposed in the hearers whom Jesus is addressing in the parable: they are disciples, Luke 16:1. Conversion, the fruit of faith, is equally implied, Luke 16:3-4. And since the disciple whom Jesus describes has chosen believers as the special objects of his liberality, he must to a certain degree be a believer himself.
The poetical expression eternal habitations (tents) is borrowed from patriarchal history. The tents of Abraham and Isaac under the oaks of Mamre are transferred in thought to the life to come, which is represented under the image of a glorified Canaan. What is the future of poetry but the past idealized? It is less natural to think, with Meyer, of the tents of Israel in the desert. We may here compare the πολλαὶ μοναί , the many mansions, in the Father's house, John 14:3.
There remains to be explained the phrase ὁ μαμωνᾶς τῆς ἀδικίας , the mammon of unrighteousness. The word μαμωνᾶς is not, as has often been said, the name of an oriental divinity, the god of money. It denotes, in Syriac and Phoenician, money itself (see Bleek on Mat 6:24 ). The Aramaic name is מָמוֹן , and, with the article, מָמוֹנָא . The epithet unrighteous is taken by many commentators simply to mean, that the acquisition of fortune is most frequently tainted with sin; according to Bleek and others, that sin readily attaches to the administration of it. But these are only accidental circumstances; the context points to a more satisfactory explanation. The ear of Jesus must have been constantly offended with that sort of reckless language in which men indulge without scruple: my fortune, my lands, my house. He who felt to the quick man's dependence on God, saw that there was a usurpation in this idea of ownership, a forgetfulness of the true proprietor; on hearing such language, He seemed to see the farmer playing the landlord. It is this sin, of which the natural man is profoundly unconscious, which He lays bare in this whole parable, and which He specially designates by this expression, the unrighteous mammon. The two τῆς ἀδικίας , Luke 16:8-9, correspond exactly, and mutually explain one another. It is therefore false to see in this epithet, with De Wette, the Tübingen School, Renan, etc., a condemnation of property as such. Man's sin does not consist in being, as one invested with earthly property, the steward of God, but in forgetting that he is so (parable following).
There is no thought more fitted than that of this parable, on the one hand, to undermine the idea of merit belonging to almsgiving (what merit could be got out of that which is another's?), and on the other, to encourage us in the practice of that virtue which assures us of friends and protectors for the grave moment of our passing into the world to come. What on the part of the steward was only wise unfaithfulness, becomes wise faithfulness in the servant of Jesus who acts on acquaintance with principle. It dare not be said that Jesus had wit; but if one could be tempted to use the expression at all, it would be here.
Of the many explanations of this parable which have been proposed, we shall merely quote some of the most prominent. Schleiermacher takes the master to be the Roman knights who farmed the taxes of Judaea, and sublet them to needy publicans; the steward, to be the publicans whom Jesus exhorted to expend on their countrymen the goods of which they cleverly cheated those great foreigners. Henri Bauer sees in the master the Israelitish authorities, and in the unfaithful steward the Judeo-Christians, who, without troubling themselves about theocratic prejudices, should strive to communicate to the Gentiles the benefits of the covenant. According to Weizsäcker, in the original thought of the parable the steward represented a Roman magistrate, who, to the detriment of the Jews, had been guilty of maladministration, but who thereafter strives to make amends by showing them gentleness and liberality. No wonder that from this point of view the critic knows not what to make of the eulogium passed by the master on his steward! But according to him, the sense and the image were transformed, and the description became in the hands of Luke an encouragement to rich and unbelieving Jews to merit heaven by doing good to poor Christians. The arbitrary and forced character of those explanations is clear as the day, and they need no detailed refutation. We are happy that we can agree, at least for once, with Hilgenfeld, both in the general interpretation of the parable and in the explanation of the sayings which follow ( Die Evangel, p. 199).
1 st. Luke 16:1-13. The Unjust Steward.
Is there a connection between this lesson on riches and the preceding? The formula ἔλεγε δὲ καί , and He said also ( Luk 16:1 ), seems to indicate that there is. Olshausen supposes that the disciples ( Luk 16:1 ) to whom the parable is addressed are publicans brought back to God, those recent converts of chap. 15, whom Jesus was exhorting to employ wisely the earthly goods which they had acquired unjustly. But the expression: to His disciples ( Luk 16:1 ), refers naturally to the ordinary disciples of our Lord. In the sense of Olshausen, some epithet would require to have been added. The connection is rather in the keeping up of the contrast between the life of faith and pharisaic righteousness. The two chief sins of the Pharisees were pride, with its fruit hypocrisy, and avarice ( Luk 16:14 ). We see in the Sermon on the Mount, which was directed against their false righteousness, how Jesus passes directly from the one of those sins to the other ( Mat 6:18-19 ). This is precisely what He does here. He had just been stigmatizing pharisaic pride in the person of the elder son. Now this disposition is ordinarily accompanied by that proud hardness which characterizes the wicked rich man, as the heart broken by the experiences of faith is naturally disposed to the liberal actions of the unjust steward. Hence the form: He said to them also.
FOURTH PART: JOURNEY FROM GALILEE TO JERUSALEM, Luk 9:51 to Luke 19:28 .
A great contrast marks the synoptical narrative: that between the ministry in Galilee, and the passion week at Jerusalem. According to Matthew ( Mat 19:1 to Mat 20:34 ) and Mark (chap. 10), the short journey from Capernaum to Judea through Perea forms the rapid transition between those two parts of the ministry of Jesus. Nothing, either in the distance between the places, or in the number of the facts related, would lead us to suppose that this journey lasted more than a few days. This will appear from the following table:
The fourth part of the Gospel of Luke, which begins at Luke 9:51, gives us a very different idea of what transpired at that period. Here we find the description of a slow and lengthened journey across the southern regions of Galilee, which border on Samaria. Jerusalem is, and remains, the fixed goal of the journey (Luke 9:51, Luke 13:22, Luke 17:11, etc.). But Jesus proceeds only by short stages, stopping at each locality to preach the gospel. Luke does not say what direction He followed. But we may gather it from the first fact related by him. At the first step which He ventures to take with His followers on the Samaritan territory, He is stopped short by the ill-will excited against Him by national prejudice; so that even if His intention had been to repair directly to Jerusalem through Samaria (which we do not believe to have been the case), He would have been obliged to give up that intention, and turn eastward, in order to take the other route, that of Perea. Jesus therefore slowly approached the Jordan, with the view of crossing that river to the south of the lake Gennesaret, and of continuing His journey thereafter through Perea. The inference thus drawn from the narrative of Luke is positively confirmed by Matthew ( Mat 19:1 ) and Mark ( Mar 10:1 ), both of whom indicate the Perean route as that which Jesus followed after His departure from Galilee. In this way the three synoptics coincide anew from Luk 18:15 onwards; and from the moment at which the narrative of Luke rejoins the two others, we have to regard the facts related by him as having passed in Perea. This slow journeying, first from west to east across southern Galilee, then from north to south through Perea, the description of which fills ten whole chapters, that is to say, more than a third of Luke's narrative, forms in this Gospel a real section intermediate between the two others (the description of the Galilean ministry and that of the passion week); it is a third group of narratives corresponding in importance to the two others so abruptly brought into juxtaposition in Mark and Matthew, and which softens the contrast between them.
But can we admit with certainty the historical reality of this evangelistic journey in southern Galilee, which forms one of the characteristic features of the third Gospel? Many modern critics refuse to regard it as historical. They allege:
1. The entire absence of any analogous account in Matthew and Mark. Matthew, indeed, relates only two solitary facts ( Mat 8:19 et seq. and Luk 12:21 et seq.) of all those which Luke describes in the ten chapters of which this section consists, up to the moment when the three narratives again become parallel ( Luk 18:14 ); Mark, not a single one.
2. The visit of Jesus to Martha and Mary, which Luke puts in this journey ( Luk 10:38-42 ), can have taken place only in Judea, at Bethany; likewise the saying, Luke 13:34-35, cannot well have been uttered by Jesus elsewhere than at Jerusalem in the temple ( Mat 23:37-39 ). Do not these errors of time and place cast a more than suspicious light on the narrative of the entire journey? M. Sabatier himself, who thoroughly appreciates the important bearing of this narrative in Luke on the harmony of the four Gospels, nevertheless goes the length of saying: “We see with how many contradictions and material impossibilities this narrative abounds.”
It has been attempted to defend Luke, by alleging that he did not mean to relate a journey, and that this section was only a collection of doctrinal utterances arranged in the order of their subjects, and intended to show the marvellous wisdom of Jesus. It is impossible for us to admit this explanation, with Luke's own words before us, which express and recall from time to time his intention of describing a consecutive journey: Luke 9:51, “He stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem; ” Luke 13:22, “He was going through the cities and villages... journeying toward Jerusalem; ” Luke 17:11 (lit. trans.), “And it came to pass, as He went to Jerusalem, that He traversed the country between Samaria and Galilee.”
Wieseler, taking up an entirely opposite point of view, finds in those three passages the indications of as many individual journeys, which he connects with three journeys to Jerusalem placed by John almost at the same epoch. It is hoped in this way to find the point of support for Luke's narrative in the fourth Gospel, which is wanting to it in the two first. The departure mentioned Luk 9:51 would correspond with the journey of Jesus, Joh 7:1 to John 10:39 (feast of Tabernacles and of Dedication), a journey which terminates in a sojourn in Perea ( Joh 10:40 et seq.). The mention of a journey Luk 13:22 would refer to the journey from Perea to Bethany for the raising of Lazarus, John 11:0, after which Jesus repairs to Ephraim. Finally, the passage Luk 17:11 would correspond with the journey from Ephraim to Jerusalem for the last Passover ( Joh 11:55 ). It would be necessary to admit that Jesus, after His Ephraim sojourn, made a last visit to Galilee, proceeding thither through Samaria (Wieseler translates Luk 17:11 as in E. V., “through the midst of Samaria and Galilee”), then that He returned to Judea through Perea (Matthew 19:0; Mark 10:0).
We cannot allow that this view has the least probability. 1. Those three passages in Luke plainly do not indicate, in his mind at least, three different departures and journeys. They are way-marks set up by the author on the route of Jesus, in the account of this unique journey, by which he recalls from time to time the general situation described Luke 9:51, on account of the slowness and length of the progress. 2. The departure ( Luk 9:51 ) took place, as the sending of the seventy disciples proves, with the greatest publicity; it is not therefore identical with the departure ( Joh 7:1 et seq.), which took place, as it were, in secret; Jesus undoubtedly did not then take with Him more than one or two of His most intimate disciples. 3. The interpretation which Wieseler gives of Luk 17:11 appears to us inadmissible (see the passage).
It must therefore be acknowledged, not only that Luke meant in those ten chapters to relate a journey, but that he meant to relate one, and only one.
Others think that he intended to produce in the minds of his readers the idea of a continuous journey, but that this is a framework of fiction which has no corresponding reality. De Wette and Bleek suppose that, after having finished his account of the Galilean ministry, Luke still possessed a host of important materials, without any determinate localities or dates, and that, rather than lose them, he thought good to insert them here, between the description of the Galilean ministry and that of the passion, while grouping them in the form of a recorded journey. Holtzmann takes for granted that those materials were nothing else than the contents of his second principal source, the Logia of Matthew, which Luke has placed here, after employing up till this point his first source, the original Mark. Weizsäcker, who thinks, on the contrary, that the Logia of Matthew are almost exactly reproduced in the great groups of discourses which the first contains, sees in this fourth part of Luke a collection of sayings derived by him from those great discourses of Matthew, and arranged systematically with regard to the principal questions which were agitated in the apostolic churches (the account of the feast, Luke 14:1-35, alluding to the Agapae; the discourses, Luk 15:1 to Luke 17:10, to questions relative to the admission of Gentiles, etc.).
Of course, according to those three points of view, the historical introductions with which Luke prefaces each of those teachings would be more or less his own invention. He deduces them himself from those teachings, as we might do at the present day. As to the rest, Bleek expressly remarks that this view leaves entirely intact the historical truth of the sayings of Jesus in themselves. We shall gather up in the course of our exegesis the data which can enlighten us on the value of those hypotheses; but at the outset we must offer the following observations: 1. In thus inventing an entire phase of the ministry of Jesus, Luke would put himself in contradiction to the programme marked out ( Luk 1:1-4 ), where he affirms that he has endeavoured to reproduce historical truth exactly. 2. What purpose would it serve knowingly to enrich the ministry of Jesus with a fictitious phase? Would it not have been much simpler to distribute those different pieces along the course of the Galilean ministry? 3. Does a conscientious historian play thus with the matter of which he treats, especially when that matter forms the object of his religious faith?
If Luke had really acted in this way, we should require, with Baur, to take a step further, and ascribe to this fiction a more serious intention that of establishing, by those prolonged relations of Jesus to the Samaritans, the Pauline universalism? Thus it is that criticism, logically carried out in questions relating to the Gospels, always lands us in this dilemma historical truth or deliberate imposture.
The historical truth of this journey, as Luke describes it, appears to us evident from the following facts: 1. Long or short, a journey from Galilee to Judea through Perea must have taken place; so much is established by the narratives of Matthew and Mark, and indirectly confirmed by that of John, when he mentions a sojourn in Perea precisely at the same epoch ( Luk 10:40-42 ). 2. The duration of this journey must have been much more considerable than appears from a hasty glance at the first two synoptics. How, in reality, are we to fill the six or seven months which separated the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:0, month of October) from that of the Passover, at which Jesus died? The few accounts, Matthew 19:20 (Mark 10:0), cannot cover such a gap. Scarcely is there wherewith to fill up the space of a week. Where, then, did Jesus pass all that time? And what did He do? It is usually answered, that from the feast of Tabernacles to that of the Dedication (December) He remained in Judea. That is not possible. He must have gone to Jerusalem in a sort of incognito and by way of surprise, in order to appear unexpectedly in that city, and to prevent the police measures which a more lengthened sojourn in Judea would have allowed His enemies to take against Him. And after the violent scenes related Joh 7:1 to John 10:21, He must have remained peacefully there for more than two whole months! Such an idea is irreconcilable with the situation described John 6:1; John 7:1-13.
Jesus therefore, immediately after rapidly executing that journey, returned to Galilee. This return, no doubt, is not mentioned; but no more is that which followed John 5:0. It is understood, as a matter of course, that so long as a new scene of action is not indicated in the narrative, the old one continues. After the stay at Jerusalem at the feast of Dedication ( Joh 10:22 et seq.), it is expressly said that Jesus sojourned in Perea ( Luk 9:40-42 ): there we have the first indication apprising us that the long sojourn in Galilee had come to an end. Immediately, therefore, after the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus returned to Galilee, and it was then that He definitely bade adieu to that province, and set out, as we read Luke 9:51, to approach Jerusalem slowly and while preaching the gospel. Not only is such a journey possible, but it is in a manner forced on us by the necessity of providing contents for that blank interval in the ministry of Jesus. 3. The indications which Luke supplies respecting the scene of this journey have nothing in them but what is exceedingly probable. After His first visit to Nazareth, Jesus settled at Capernaum; He made it His own city ( Mat 9:1 ), and the centre of His excursions ( Luk 4:31 et seq.). Very soon He considerably extended the radius of His journeys on the side of western Galilee (Nain, Luk 7:11 ). Then He quitted His Capernaum residence, and commenced a ministry purely itinerant ( Luk 8:1 et seq.). To this period belong His first visit to Decapolis, to the east of the lake of Gennesaret, and the multiplication of the loaves, to the north-east of that sea. Finally, we learn from Matthew and Mark that Jesus made two other great excursions into the northern regions, the one to the north-west toward Phoenicia (Luke's great lacuna), the other toward the north-east, to the sources of the Jordan (Caesarea Philippi, and the transfiguration). To accomplish His mission toward Galilee there thus remained to be visited only the southern parts of this province on the side of Samaria. What more natural, consequently, than the direction which He followed in this journey, slowly passing over that southern part of Galilee from west to east which He had not before visited, and from which He could make some excursions among that Samaritan people at whose hands He had found so eager a welcome at the beginning of His ministry?
Regarding the visit to Martha and Mary, and the saying Luke 13:34-35, we refer to the explanation of the passages. Perhaps the first is a trace (unconscious on the part of Luke) of Jesus' short sojourn at Jerusalem at the feast of Dedication. In any case, the narrative of Luke is thus found to form the natural transition between the synoptical accounts and that of John. And if we do not find in Luke that multiplicity of journeys to Jerusalem which forms the distinctive feature of John's Gospel, we shall at least meet with the intermediate type of a ministry, a great part of which (the Galilean work once finished) assumes the form of a prolonged pilgrimage in the direction of Jerusalem.
As to the contents of the ten chapters embraced in this part of Luke, they are perfectly in keeping with the situation. Jesus carries along with Him to Judea all the following of devoted believers which He has found in Galilee, the nucleus of His future Church. From this band will go forth the army of evangelists which, with the apostles at its head, will shortly enter upon the conquest of the world in His name. To prepare them as they travel along for this task, such is His constant aim. He prosecutes it directly in two ways: by sending them on a mission before Him, as formerly He had sent the twelve, and making them serve, as these had done, a first apprenticeship to their future work; then, by bringing to bear on them the chief part of His instructions respecting that emancipation from the world and its goods which was to be the distinctive character of the life of His servants, and thus gaining them wholly for the great task which He allots to them.
What are the sources of Luke in this part which is peculiar to him? According to Holtzmann, Luke here gives us the contents of Matthew's Logia, excepting the introductions, which he adds or amplifies. We shall examine this whole hypothesis hereafter. According to Schleiermacher, this narrative is the result of the combination of two accounts derived from the journals of two companions of Jesus, the one of whom took part in the journey at the feast of Dedication, the other in that of the last Passover. Thus he explains the exactness of the details, and at the same time the apparent inexactness with which a visit to Bethany is found recorded in the midst of a series of scenes in Galilee. According to this view, the short introductions placed as headings to the discourses are worthy of special confidence.
But how has this fusion of the two writings which has merged the two journeys into one been brought about? Luke cannot have produced it consciously; it must have existed in his sources. The difficulty is only removed a stage. How was it possible for the two accounts of different journeys to be fused into a unique whole? As far as we are concerned, all that we believe it possible to say regarding the source from which Luke drew is, that the document must have been either Aramaic, or translated from Aramaic. To be convinced of this, we need only read the verse, Luke 9:51, which forms the heading of the narrative.
If we were proceeding on the relation of Luke to the two other synoptics, we should divide this part into two cycles, that in which Luke moves alone ( Luk 9:51 to Luk 18:14 ), and that in which he moves parallel to them ( Luk 18:15 to Luk 19:27 ). But that division has nothing corresponding to it in the mind of the author, who probably knows neither of the two other canonical accounts. He himself divides his narrative into three cycles by the three observations with which he marks it off: 1 st. Luk 9:51 to Luke 13:21 (Luke 9:51, the resolution to depart); 2 d. Luk 13:22 to Luke 17:10 (Luke 13:22, the direction of the journey); 3 d. Luk 17:11 to Luke 19:27 (Luke 17:11, the scene of the journey). Such, then, will be our division.
Vers. 10-13. “ He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in the least, is unjust also in much. 11. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust that which is true? 12. And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? 13. No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. ”
Many regard these reflections as arbitrarily placed here by Luke. But whatever Bleek may say, is it not just the manner in which we constitute ourselves proprietors of our earthly goods, which leads us to make a use of them which is contrary to their true destination? The following piece, therefore, derives its explanation from the parable, and is directly connected with it. Luke 16:12 ( τῷ ἀλλοτρίῳ ) would even be unintelligible apart from it.
Ver. 10 is a comparison borrowed from common life. From the experience expressed in the two parallel propositions of this verse, it follows that a master does not think of elevating to a higher position the servant who has abused his confidence in matters of less importance. Faithful toward the master, unjust toward men.
The application of this rule of conduct to believers, Luke 16:11-12. The unrighteous mammon is God's money, which man unjustly takes as his own. Faithfulness would have implied, above all, the employment of those goods in the service of God; but our deprivation once pronounced (death), it implies their employment in our interest rightly understood by means of beneficence. Through lack of this fidelity or wisdom, we establish our own incapacity to administer better goods if they were confided to us; therefore God will not commit them to us. Those goods are called τὸ ἀληθινόν , the true good, that which corresponds really to the idea of good. The contrast has misled several commentators to give to the word ἄδικος the meaning of deceitful. This is to confound the word ἀληθινός with ἀληθής ( veracious). The real good is that which can in no case be changed to its opposite. It is not so with money, which is at best a provisional good, and may even be a source of evil. This is the application of 10a; Luk 16:12 is that of 10b. Earthly goods are called another's good, that is to say, a good which strictly belongs to another than ourselves (God). As it is faithfulness to God, so it is justice to man, to dispose of them with a view to our poor neighbour. That which is our own denotes the good for which we are essentially fitted, which is the normal completion of our being, the Divine Spirit become our own spirit by entire assimilation, or in the words of Jesus, the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world. Our Lord's thought is therefore this: God commits to man, during his earthly sojourn in the state of probation, goods belonging to Him, which are of less value (earthly things); and the use, faithful or unfaithful, just or unjust, which we make of these settles the question whether our true patrimony (the goods of the Spirit, of which the believer himself receives only the earnest here below) shall or shall not be granted to him above. Like a rich father, who should trust his son with a domain of little value, that he might be trained later in life to manage the whole of his inheritance, thus putting his character to the proof, so God exposes external seeming goods of no value to the thousand abuses of our unskilful administration here below, that from the use which we make of them there may one day be determined for each of us whether we shall be put in possession, or whether we shall be deprived of our true eternal heritage, the good which corresponds to our inmost nature. The entire philosophy of our terrestial existence is contained in these words.
Ver. 13, which closes this piece, is still connected with the image of the parable: the steward had two masters, whose service he could not succeed in reconciling, the owner of the revenue which he was managing, and money, which he was worshipping.
The two parallel propositions of this verse are usually regarded as identical in meaning, and as differing only in the position assigned to each of the two masters successively as the objects of the two opposite feelings. But Bleek justly observes, that the absence of the article before ἕνος in the second proposition seems to forbid our taking this pronoun as the simple repetition of the preceding τὸν ἕνα in the first; he therefore gives it a more general sense, the one or the other of the two preceding, and places the whole difference between the two parallel propositions in the graduated meaning of the different verbs employed, holding to being less strong than loving, and despising less strong than hating. Thus: “He will hate the one and love the other; or at least, he will hold more either to the one or other of the two, which will necessarily lead him to neglect the service of the other.”
It makes no material difference.
This verse, whatever the same learned critic may say, concludes this discourse perfectly, and forms the transition to the following piece, in which we find a sincere worshipper of Jehovah perishing because he has practically made money his God. The place which this verse occupies in Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount ( Luk 6:24 ) is also suitable, but somewhat uncertain, like that of the whole piece of which it forms part.
Vers. 14 and 15. “ The Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things; and they derided Him. 15. And He said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. ”
The last words of Jesus on the impossibility of combining the service of God and mammon, fell full on the heads of the Pharisees, those pretended servants of Jehovah, who nevertheless in their lives showed themselves such zealous worshippers of riches (Matthew 6:0, transition between Luk 16:18-19 ). Hence their sneers ( ἐκμυκτηρίζειν ). The poverty of Jesus Himself was perhaps the theme of their derision: “It is easy to speak of money with such disdain...when one is destitute as thou art.” In His answer ( Luk 16:15 ), Jesus gives them to understand that the judgment of God is regulated by another standard than that of the men who are at their side. It is at the heart that God looks; and the reign of a single passion, such as that avarice which devours them, suffices to render odious in His eyes that whole righteousness of outward observances which gains for them the favour of the world. The phrase: Ye are they which justify yourselves, signifies, “your business is to pass yourselves off as righteous.” The ὅτι , for, is explained by the idea of condemnation, which here attaches to that of knowledge: “God knows you [and rejects you], for...” ᾿Εν ἀνθρώποις , on the part of men, may mean: among men, or in the judgment of men. In connection with the idea of being highly esteemed, those two ideas are combined. Jesus means: “What men extol and glorify, consequently the ambitious, who, like you, by one means or another push themselves into the front rank, become an object of abomination to God.” For all glorification of man rests on falsehood. God alone is great and deserving to be praised.
What had chiefly irritated the Pharisees in the preceding was the spiritual sense in which Jesus understood the law, unveiling under their airs of sanctity the stain of shameful avarice which defiled them. This idea affords the point of connection for what follows ( Luk 16:16-18 ).
2 d. Luke 16:14-31. The Wicked Rich Man.
The introduction ( Luk 16:14-18 ) is composed of a series of sayings which at first sight appear to have no connection with one another. Holtzmann thinks that Luke collects here at random sayings scattered throughout the Logia, for which till now he had not found any place. But there are only two leading ideas in this introduction: the rejection of the Pharisees, and the permanence of the law. Now these are precisely the two ideas which are exhibited in action in the following parable: the one in the condemnation of the wicked rich man, that faithful Pharisee (“ father Abraham,” Luke 16:24; Luke 16:27; Luk 16:30 ); the other in the manner in which Abraham asserts, even in Hades, the imperishable value of the law and the prophets. The relation between these two essential ideas of the introduction and of the parable is this: the law on which the Pharisees staked their credit will nevertheless be the instrument of their eternal condemnation. This is exactly what Jesus says to the Jews, John 5:45: “ There is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. ” It must be confessed, however, that this introduction, Luke 16:14-18, has a very fragmentary character. It contains the elements of a discourse, rather than the discourse itself. But this very fact proves that St. Luke has not taken the liberty of composing this introduction arbitrarily and independently of his sources. What historian would compose in such a manner? A discourse invented by the evangelist would not have failed to present an evident logical connection, as much as the discourses which Livy or Xenophon put into the mouth of their heroes. The very brokenness suffices to prove that the discourse was really held, and existed previously to this narrative.
Vers. 16-18. “ The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. 17. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of the law to fail. 18. Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. ”
But, adds Jesus ( Luk 16:16 ), a new era is beginning, and with it your usurped dominion comes to an end. Since the time of John, that law and those prophets which you have made your pedestal in Israel are replaced by a new dispensation. To the religious aristocracy which you had succeeded in founding there follows a kingdom of God equally open to every man ( πᾶς ); all have access to it as well as you! Βιάζεσθαι should not be taken in the passive sense, as Hilgenfeld would have it: “Every man is constrained by the gospel,” but as a middle, in the sense of to hasten, to throw themselves. There is, as it were, a dense crowd pressing through the gate which is now open, and every one, even the lowest of the publicans, is free to enter. Recall here the parables of chap. 15. But while this repentant crowd penetrates into the kingdom ( Luk 7:29 ), the Pharisees and scribes remain without, like the elder son in the preceding parable. Let them beware, however! That legal system on which they have founded their throne in Israel is about to crumble to pieces ( Luk 16:16 ); while the law itself, which they violate at the very moment they make it their boast, shall remain as the eternal expression of divine holiness, and as the dreadful standard by which they shall be judged ( Luk 16:17 ). The δέ is adversative: but. It indicates the contrast between the end of the legal economy and the permanence of the law. This contrast reminds us of the antitheses of Matthew 5:0, of which this saying is a sort of summary: “ Ye have heard that it was said...; but I say unto you...” Jesus only abolishes the law by fulfilling it and confirming it spiritually. Κεραία , diminutive of κέρας , horn, denotes the small lines or hooks of the Hebrew letters. The least element of divine holiness which the law contains has more reality and durability than the whole visible universe.
The two verses, Luke 16:16-17, are put by Matthew in the discourse of Jesus regarding John the Baptist, Luke 11:12-13, inversely in point of order. We can easily understand how the mention of John the Baptist, Luke 16:16, led Matthew to insert this saying in the discourse which Jesus pronounced on His forerunner. We have seen that in that same discourse, as given by Luke (chap. 7), this declaration was with great advantage replaced by a somewhat different saying, Luke 16:29-30; and if, as Bleek owns (i. p. 454 et seq.), Luke decidedly deserves the preference as to the tenor of the words, it will doubtless be the same as to the place which he assigns them; for it is in general on this second point that his superiority appears.
Ver. 18. Not only in spite of the abolition of the legal form will the law continue in its substance; but if this substance even comes to be modified in the new economy, it will be in the direction of still greater severity. Jesus gives as an example the law of divorce. This same idea meets us, Matthew 5:31-32; it tallies fully with the meaning of the declaration, Mat 19:3 et seq., Mar 10:2 et seq., which was uttered in this same journey, and almost at the same period. Jesus explains to the same class of hearers as in our passage, to the Pharisees namely, that if Moses authorized divorce, merely confining himself to guard it by some restrictions, there was a forsaking for a time of the true moral point of view already proclaimed Genesis 2:0, and which He, Jesus, came to re-establish in its purity. Luke and Matthew do not speak of the case of voluntary separation on the part of the woman referred to by Mark ( Mar 10:12 ) and Paul ( 1Co 7:10-11 ). And Paul does not expressly interdict the divorced man, as Mark does, from contracting a second marriage. Those shades in such a precept cannot be voluntary; they represent natural variations due to tradition (Syn.) or to the nature of the context (Paul).
The parallels quoted leave no doubt as to the real connection of Luk 16:18 with Luke 16:17. The asyndeton between those two verses is explained by the fragmentary character of Luke's report. What remains to us of this discourse resembles the peaks of a mountain chain, the base of which is concealed from view, and must be reconstructed by reflection. As to the compiler, he has evidently refrained from filling up at his own hand the blanks in his document. The disjointed character of this account has been turned into an accusation against him; but it ought rather to be regarded as a proof of his conscientious fidelity.
Does the context, as we have just established it, leave anything to be desired? Has Holtzmann ground for regarding this piece as a collection of sentences thrown together at random? Or is it necessary, in order to justify Luke 16:18, to regard it, with Schleiermacher, as an allusion to the divorce of Herod Antipas from the daughter of Aretas, and his unlawful marriage with Herodias, a crime which the scribes and Pharisees had not the courage to condemn like John the Baptist? Or, finally, must we, with Olshausen, take the idea of divorce in a spiritual sense, and apply it to the emancipation of believers from the yoke of the law, agreeably to Rom 7:1 et seq.? No; the explanation which we have given, as well as the authenticity of the context, appear to be sufficiently established by the parallels quoted (Matthew 5:18-19; Matthew 5:31-32; Mat 19:3 et seq.; Mar 10:2 et seq.).
The saying of Luke 16:17, proclaiming the eternal duration of the law, has appeared to some critics incompatible with the Pauline character of Luke's Gospel. Hilgenfeld alleges that the canonical text of Luke is falsified, and that the true original form of this passage, as well as of many others, has been preserved by Marcion, who reads: “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of my sayings to fail.” But, 1. The manifest incompatibility of our canonical text with Marcion's system renders it, on the contrary, very probable that it was Marcion who in this case, as in so many others, accommodated the text to his dogmatic point of view. 2. Could Jesus have applied the word tittle to His own sayings before they had been expressed in writing? 3. The parallel, Matthew 5:18, proves that the expression in its original meaning really applied to the law. If such was the primary application in the mind of Jesus, would it not be extremely surprising if, after an earlier Luke had departed from it, the more modern Luke should have reverted to it? Besides, this supposition, combated by Zeller, is withdrawn by Volkmar, who first gave it forth ( Die Evangel, p. 481). Zeller, however, supposes that the evangelist, feeling the anti-Pauline tendency of this saying, designedly enclosed it between two others, intended to show the reader that it was not to be taken in its literal sense. But would it not have been far simpler to omit it altogether? And does not so much artifice contrast with the simplicity of our Gospels?
According to the Talmud, Tract. Gittin ( Luk 9:10 ), Hillel, the grandfather of Gamaliel, the man whom our moderns would adopt as the master of Jesus Christ, taught that the husband is entitled to put away his wife when she burns his dinner. We can understand how, in view of such pharisaic teachings, Jesus felt the need of protesting, not only by affirming the maintenance of moral obligation as contained in the law, but even by announcing that the new doctrine would in this respect exceed the severity of the old, and would conclusively raise the moral obligation to the height of the ideal. The declaration of Jesus, Luke 16:17, about the maintenance of the law, is, besides, perfectly at one with St. Paul's view ( 1Co 7:19 ): “The keeping of the commandments of God is everything;” comp. Romans 2:12: “As many as have sinned under the law, shall be judged by the law. ”
On the basis of this introduction, announcing to the Pharisees the end of their paraded show of righteousness and the advent of real holiness, there rises by way of example the following parable. To the words of Luke 16:15, that which is highly esteemed among men, there corresponds the representation of the sumptuous and brilliant life of the rich man; to the predicate, is an abomination in the sight of God (same verse), the description of his punishment in Hades; to the declaration of Luk 16:17 regarding the permanence of the law, the reply of Abraham: they have Moses and the prophets.
The terrestrial scene, Luke 16:19-22. It embraces four portraitures which, taken two and two, form counterparts of one another: the life of the rich man, Luke 16:19, and that of the poor man, Luke 16:20-21; then the death of the former, Luke 16:22 a, and that of the latter, Luke 16:22 b. The description of the rich man's life presents two prominent features: the magnificence of his dress, πορφύρα , the upper dress, a woollen garment dyed purple, and βυσσός , the under garment, a tunic of fine linen; next, the sumptuousness of his habitual style of living, a splendid banquet daily. This description of the life of the rich of that day applied to the Jews as well as to the Gentiles. Nay, among the former, who sometimes regarded wealth as a sign of divine blessing, the enjoyments of that privileged state must have been indulged with so much the less scruple; so the Pharisees in particular seem to have done ( Luk 20:46-47 ).
After the rich man, who first claims attention, our eyes are carried to the unhappy man laid at the entrance of his house, Luke 16:20-21. The Greek name Lazarus does not come, as some have thought, from Lo-ezer, no help, but from El-ezer, God helps; whence the form Eleazar, abbreviated by the Rabbins into Leazar; and hence Lazarus. This name, according to John 11:0, was common among the Jews. As this is the only case in which Jesus designates one of the personages of a parable by his name, this peculiarity must have a significance in the account. It is intended, doubtless, as the name so often was among the Jews, to describe the character of him who bears it. By this name, then, Jesus makes this personage the representation of that class of the Israelitish people which formed the opposite extreme of pharisaism poor ones whose confidence was in God alone, the Aniim of the O. T., the pious indigent.
The gateway at the entrance of which he was laid is that which conducts in Eastern houses from the outside to the first court. The word ἐβέβλητο , was thrown, expresses the heedlessness with which he was laid down there and abandoned to the care of those who were constantly going and coming about this great house.
The crumbs denote the remains of the meal which the servants would sometimes throw to him, but which were not enough to satisfy him. The omission of the words τῶν ψιχίων by some Alex. arises from the confusion of the two τῶν by an ancient copyist; these words are wrongly rejected by Tischendorf; they are to be preserved as the counterpart of the drop of water, Luke 16:24. The nakedness of the poor man contrasts with the rich man's elaborate toilet, as those crumbs do with his banquets. The words ἀλλὰ καί , moreover, which indicate a higher degree of endurance, forbid us to regard the feature of the dogs licking the sores of Lazarus as an alleviation of his miseries. Besides, this animal is never represented in the Bible, nor among the Orientals in general, in a favourable light. The licking of the poor man's unbandaged wounds by those unclean animals as they passed, is the last stroke of the picture of his nakedness and forsakenness.
To the contrast between the two lives there soon succeeds that between the two deaths, Luke 16:22, which introduces the contrast between the two states in the life to come. Lazarus dies first, exhausted by privations and sufferings. That very moment he finds in the heavenly world the sympathy which was refused to him here below. In Jewish theology, the angels are charged with receiving the souls of pious Israelites, and transporting them to that portion of Hades which is reserved for them. Abraham's bosom, a figure also common among the Rabbins, denotes either intimate communion in general ( Joh 1:18 ), or more specially the place of honour at a feast ( Joh 13:23 ); this is naturally assigned to the newlyarrived stranger, all the more that his earthly sufferings demand a rich compensation. Abraham presides at the feast until the Messiah comes to take the first place, and the feast of the kingdom begins ( Luk 13:25 ). Meyer concludes, from the fact that the interment of Lazarus is not mentioned, and from the object αὐτόν , him, that he was transported body and soul to Abraham's bosom. But so early as in the Targum of Canticles, we find the distinction between body and soul: “The righteous whose souls are carried by angels to paradise.” The pronoun αὐτόν thus designates only his true self, the soul.
The burial of Lazarus is not mentioned, for it took place without ceremony, or perhaps not at all. The body, claimed by no one, was thrown to the dunghill. The contrast to the rich man is evident. No angels to transport his soul; but for his body, on the contrary, a splendid funeral procession.
What is the crime in the life of this rich man which accounts for the terrible condition described in the following scene? From the fact that it is not mentioned, the conclusion has been drawn that it must be simply his riches. The Tübingen School says: he is condemned as being rich, and Lazarus is saved as being poor. And M. Renan thinks that the parable should be entitled, not the parable of the wicked rich man, but merely of the rich man. Here, it is said, we meet again with the Ebionite heresy of Luke (De Wette). But how has it escaped observation, that if no crime properly so called is laid to the charge of the rich man, his misdeed is nevertheless clearly indicated? and it is no other than the very existence of this poor man laid at his gate in destitution, without any relief being brought to his wants. Such is the corpus delicti. The crime of the life described Luke 16:19, is the fact referred to Luke 16:20-21. Every social contrast between the more and the less, either in respect of fortune, or strength, or acquirement, or even piety, is permitted and willed by God only with a view to its being neutralized by man's free agency. This is a task assigned from on high, the means of forming those bonds of love which are our treasure in heaven ( Luk 12:33-34 ). To neglect this offer is to procure for oneself an analogous contrast in the other life, a contrast which shall be capable of being sweetened for us no more than we have ourselves sweetened it in the life below.
It would be hard to understand how, if wealth as such were the rich man's sin, the celestial banquet could be presided over by Abraham, the richest of the rich in Israel. As to Lazarus, the real cause of the welcome which he finds in the world to come is not his poverty, but that which is already pointed out by his name: God is my help.
Vers. 19-31. The Parable of the Wicked Rich Man.
It is composed of two principal scenes, which correspond so exactly with one another, that in their correspondence we must seek the very idea of the parable; these are, the scene on the earth ( Luk 16:19-22 ), and that in Hades ( Luk 16:23-31 ).
Vers. 23-26. After the short sleep of death, what an awakening! The idea of suffering does not lie in the words ἐν τῷ ᾅδῃ , which our versions render by: in hell. Scheol (Heb.), Hades (Gr.), the Inferi or infernal regions (Lat.), simply denote the abode of the dead, without distinguishing the different conditions which it may include, in opposition to the land of the living. Paradise ( Luk 23:43 ) as well as Gehenna ( Luk 12:5 ) forms part of it. Hence, also, from the midst of his punishment the rich man can behold Abraham and Lazarus. The notion of pain is actually found only in the words: being in torments.
On Abraham in the abode of the dead, comp. John 8:56, where Jesus speaks without figure.
The plural τοῖς κόλποις , substituted for the singular ( Luk 16:22 ), denotes fulness; a whole region is meant where a company is gathered together.
The situation, Luk 16:24 et seq., is very similar to that of the dialogues of the dead found in the ancients, and particularly in the Rabbins. Φωνήσας , calling in a loud voice, corresponds to μακρόθεν , afar off, Luke 16:23. Nothing more severe for those Pharisees, who made a genealogical tree the foundation of their salvation, than this address put into the mouth of the poor condemned man: Father Abraham! “All the circumcised are safe,” said the Rabbins; therefore, was not circumcised equivalent to son of Abraham? In this situation, there arises in the mind of the rich man a thought which had never occurred to him while he was on the earth, namely, that the contrast between abundance and destitution may have its utility for him who is in want. He expresses his discovery with a simplicity in which shamelessness disputes the palm with innocence. The gen. ὕδατος with βάπτειν : to drop water; this expression denotes water falling drop by drop from the finger which has been immersed in it; it thus corresponds to the word crumbs, Luke 16:21.
On flame, comp. Mark 9:43-49. Lustful desires, inflamed and fed by boundless gratification, change into torture for the soul as soon as it is deprived of the external objects which correspond to them, and from the body by which it communicates with them.
The address: my son, in the mouth of Abraham, is more poignant still than that of: Father Abraham in that of the rich man. Abraham acknowledges the reality of the civil state appealed to, and yet this man is and remains in Gehenna!
The word remember is the central one of the parable; for it forms the bond between the two scenes, that of the earth and that of Hades. “Recall the contrast which thou didst leave unbroken on the earth..., and thou shalt understand that the present corresponding contrast cannot be alleviated without injustice. Thou hast let the time pass for making Lazarus thy friend ( Luk 16:8-9 ); he can now do nothing for thee.” In ἀπέλαβες , thou receivedst, there is, as in the ἀπέχειν , Matthew 6:2; Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:16, the notion of receiving by appropriating greedily for the purpose of enjoyment. The selfish appropriation of goods was not tempered in him by the free munificence of love. He thought only of draining to the very bottom the cup of pleasure which was at his lips. The same idea is expressed by the pronoun σοῦ added to ἀγαθά , “ thy good things;” this qualification is not added to κακά , in the second clause; Abraham says simply: “evil things.” God trains the human soul by joys and by sorrows. The education of every soul demands a certain sum of both. This thought forms the foundation of Luke 16:25. It refers exclusively to the pedagogical economy here below or in the world above. The words comforted and tormented are not the equivalents of saved and damned, absolutely taken. Nothing could be final among the members of the ancient covenant till they had been brought into contact with Jesus Christ. “The gospel,” says St. Peter (1 Eph 4:6 ), “was preached to them that are dead, that they might be [capable of being] judged.” The knowledge of Jesus Christ is the condition on which the pronouncing of the final sentence on every soul is based. The hour of this judgment has not yet struck for the rich man. Consequently this verse neither teaches salvation by poverty nor damnation by riches; ὧδε , here, which is read by all the Mjj., is preferable to ὅδε , he. Here is opposed to: in his lifetime.
Ver. 26. But even supposing that some concession might be made in respect of justice, there is another reason which cuts off all hope the impossibility of the thing. The Rabbins represent the two parts of Hades as separated by a wall; Jesus here substitutes a gulf, a figure which agrees better with the entire description. It is the emblem of God's inflexible decree. Only from the fact that this gulf cannot be crossed at present, it does not follow that it may not be so one day by means of a bridge offered to repentant Jews (comp. Mat 12:32 ). The omission of οἱ before ἐκεῖθεν , by the Alex., identifies those who pass with those who repass.
The scene from beyond the tomb, Luke 16:23-31, offers a contrast exactly corresponding to the terrestrial scene. We do not attempt to distinguish in the representation what should be taken in a figurative sense and what strictly. The realities of the spiritual world can only be expressed by figures; but, as has been said, those figures are the figures of something. The colours are almost all borrowed from the palette of the Rabbins; but the thought which clothes itself in those figures that it may become palpable, is, as we shall see, the original and personal thought of Jesus.
Of the two interviews forming this scene, the first relates to the rich man's lot ( Luk 16:23-26 ), the second to that of his brethren ( Luk 16:27-31 ).
Vers. 27-31. The second Conversation.
The rich man acquiesces so far as his own person is concerned. But he intercedes for his brethren still in life. And again it is Lazarus who must busy himself on their behalf!
What is the thought contained in this conclusion? Starting from the standpoint that the idea of the parable is the condemnation of wealth, De Wette, the Tübingen School, and Weizsäcker himself find this last part entirely out of keeping with the rest of the description. For it is their impenitence face to face with the law and the prophets which exposes the five brethren to danger, and not their being rich men. They allege, therefore, that Luke at his own hand has added this conclusion, with the view of transforming a doctrine which was originally Ebionite and Judeo-Christian into one anti-Judaic or Pauline. The rich man who, in the original meaning of the similitude, simply represented riches, becomes in this conclusion the type of Jewish unbelief in respect of the resurrection of Jesus. Weizsäcker goes the length of regarding Lazarus as the representative of the Gentiles despised by the Jews. This last idea is incompatible with the Jewish name Lazarus, as well as with the place awarded to him in Abraham's bosom, the gathering place of pious Jews. As to the rich man, from the beginning he represents not the rich in general, but the rich man hardened by well-being, the Pharisee, whose heart, puffed up with pride, is closed to sympathy with the suffering. This appears from the expressions: Father Abraham, my son, Luke 16:24-25, which are as it were the motto of Israelitish formalism (Matthew 3:7-9; Joh 8:39 ). This conclusion is thus nothing else than the practical application of the parable, which, instead of being presented to his hearers in the form of an abstract lesson, is given as the continuation of the scene itself. It is exactly the same in the parable of the prodigal son, in which the elder son exhibits the Pharisees with their murmurings, and the divine answer. The first portrait, Luke 16:19-21, depicted the sin of the rich man; the second, Luke 16:22-26, his punishment. In this appendix Jesus unveils to His hearers the cause of this misery, the absence of μετάνοια , repentance, and for those who wished to profit by the warning, the means of preventing the lot which threatens them at the moment of their death: taking to heart Moses and the prophets very differently from what they have ever done. There must pass within them what took place in the prodigal son, the figure of the publicans (Luke 15:17: he came to himself), and in the steward, the type of the new believers (Luke 16:3: he said within himself): that act of solemn self-examination in which the heart is broken at the thought of its sins, and which impresses an entirely new direction on the life, and on the employment of earthly goods in particular. To reject this conclusion is therefore to break the arrow-point shot by the hand of Jesus at the consciences of His hearers.
Ver. 27. The five brethren cannot represent the rich of this world in general, and as little the Jews who remained unbelieving in respect of Jesus Christ. They are Jews living in a privileged, brilliant condition, like that of the rich man the Pharisees, whom this man represented; this relation is the idea expressed by the image of the kinship which connects them. Some have imagined that those five brethren are the five sons of the high priest Annas. Would Jesus have condescended to such personalities? The forms of address: father, Luke 16:27, father Abraham, Luke 16:30, continue to define the meaning of this principal personage very clearly. Διαμαρτύρεσθαι , Luke 16:28, does not signify only: to declare, but to testify in such a way that the truth pierces through the wrappings of a hardened conscience ( διά ). In putting this request into the rich man's mouth, Jesus undoubtedly alludes to that thirst for miracles, for extraordinary and palpable manifestations, which He never failed to meet among His adversaries, and which He refused to satisfy. Such demands charge with insufficiency the means of repentance which God had all along placed in Israel. Some commentators, unable to allow any good feeling in one damned, have attributed this prayer of the rich man to a selfish aim. According to them, he dreaded the time when his own sufferings would be aggravated by seeing those of his brethren. But would not even this fear still suppose in him a remnant of love? And why represent him as destitute of all human feeling? He is not yet, we have seen, damned in the absolute sense of the word. If we must seek a selfish alloy in this prayer, it can only be the desire to excuse himself, by giving it to be understood, that if he had been sufficiently warned he would not have been where he is.
Abraham teaches all his sons by his reply, Luke 16:29, with what earnestness they should henceforth listen to the reading of that law and those prophets, the latter of which they had, up till now, heard or even studied in vain ( Joh 5:38-39 ). The subject has nothing to do with unbelief regarding Jesus; the situation of this saying is purely Jewish.
The rich man insists. His answer, Nay, father Abraham, Luke 16:30, depicts the Rabbinical spirit of disputation and pharisaic effrontery. Repentance would produce, he fully acknowledges, a life wholly different from his own (such as it has been described, Luk 16:19 ); but the law without miracles would not suffice to produce this state of mind.
Jesus unveils, Luke 16:31, the complete illusion belonging to this idea of conversion by means of great miraculous interpositions. He whom the law and the prophets bring not to the conviction of his sins, will be as little led to it by the sight even of one raised from the dead. After the first emotion of astonishment and terror, criticism will awake saying, Hallucination! and carnal security, shaken for a moment, will reassert itself. Jesus not having showed Himself, and not having preached to the Jews after His resurrection, this saying cannot be an invention of Luke borrowed from that event.
Such is the terrible answer of Jesus to the derision of His adversaries, the proud and covetous Pharisees, Luke 16:14. He shows them their portrait, the likeness of their present life, and their lot after death. Now they know what they are in the eyes of God (19-21), and what awaits them (23-35); they know also the real cause of their near perdition, and the only means which can yet avert it (27-31).
From this study it follows: 1. That all the indications of the preface ( Luk 16:14-18 ) are entirely justified; in particular, that the Φαρισαῖοι ( the Pharisees), Luke 16:14, is the real key of the parable. 2. That there reigns throughout this description a perfect unity of idea, and that the context furnishes no well-founded reason for distinguishing between an original parable and a later re-handling. 3. That the piece as a whole, and all its details, are in direct correspondence with the historical situation in which Jesus was teaching, and find their natural explanation without any need of having recourse to the later circumstances of apostolic times. 4. That this passage furnishes no proof of an Ebionite document anterior to our Gospel, and forming one of the essential materials employed by the author. Hilgenfeld says ( Die Evangel. p. 102): “ Nowhere does our Gospel allow us to distinguish so clearly the original writing of which it is the anti-Jewish and Pauline handling.” Nowhere so clearly! This passage proving nothing, it follows that the others prove less than nothing.
This character, not anti-Jewish, but certainly anti-pharisaic, belongs equally to the whole series of pieces which we have just surveyed (comp. Luk 11:37 to Luk 12:12 ); then (after an interruption), Luke 13:10-31, Luke 14:1, Luke 15:2, Luke 16:14. The parable of the unfaithful steward is also connected with this series by the law of contrast. Here, then, is the time of the most intense struggle between Jesus and pharisaism in Galilee, like the contemporaneous period, John 7-10, in Judaea.
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Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Luke 16". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany