Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Luke 17

Verse 1

It is impossible (ανενδεκτον εστινanendekton estin). See ουκ ενδεχεταιouk endechetai in Luke 13:33. Alpha privative (ανan -) and ενδεκτοςendektos verbal adjective, from ενδεχομαιendechomai The word occurs only in late Greek and only here in the N.T. The meaning is inadmissible, unallowable.

But that occasions of stumbling should come (του τα σκανδαλα μη ελτεινtou ta skandala mē elthein). This genitive articular infinitive is not easy to explain. In Acts 10:25 there is another example where the genitive articular infinitive seems to be used as a nominative (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1040). The loose Hebrew infinitive construction may have a bearing here, but one may recall that the original infinitives were either locatives -(ενιeni) or datives -(αιai). Τα σκανδαλαTa skandala is simply the accusative of general reference. Literally, the not coming as to occasions of stumbling. For σκανδαλονskandalon (a trap) See note on Matthew 5:29; and the note on Matthew 16:23. It is here only in Luke. The positive form of this saying appears in Matthew 18:7.

Verse 2

It were well for him (λυσιτελει αυτωιlusitelei autōi). An old word, but only here in the N.T., from λυσιτεληςlusitelēs and this from λυωluō to pay, and τα τεληta telē the taxes. So it pays the taxes, it returns expenses, it is profitable. Literally here, “It is profitable for him” (dative case, αυτωιautōi). Matthew has συμπερειsumpherei (it is advantageous, bears together for).

If a millstone were hanged (ει λιτος μυλικος περικειταιei lithos mulikos perikeitai). Literally, “if a millstone is hanged.” Present passive indicative from περικειμαιperikeimai (to lie or be placed around). It is used as a perfect passive of περιτιτημιperitithēmi So it is a first-class condition, determined as fulfilled, not second-class as the English translations imply. ΜυλικοςMulikos is simply a stone (λιτοςlithos), belonging to a mill. Here only in the text of Westcott and Hort, not in Mark 9:42 which is like Matthew 18:6 μυλος ονικοςmulos onikos where the upper millstone is turned by an ass.

Were thrown (ερριπταιerriptai). Perfect passive indicative from ριπτωrhiptō old verb. Literally, is thrown or has been thrown or cast or hurled. Mark has βεβληταιbeblētai and Matthew καταποντιστηιkatapontisthēi which see, all three verbs vivid and expressive. Rather than (η). The comparative is not here expressed before η as one would expect. It is implied in λυσιτελειlusitelei See the same idiom in Luke 15:7.

Verse 3

If thy brother sin (εαν αμαρτηιean hamartēi). Second aorist (ingressive) subjunctive in condition of third class.

Verse 4

Seven times in a day (επτακις της ημεραςheptakis tēs hēmeras). Seven times within the day. On another occasion Peter‘s question (Matthew 18:21) brought Christ‘s answer “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22), which see note. Seven times during the day would be hard enough for the same offender.

Verse 5

Increase (προστεςprosthes). Second aorist active imperative of προστιτημιprostithēmi to add to. Bruce thinks that this sounds much like the stereotyped petition in church prayers. A little reflection will show that they should answer the prayer themselves.

Verse 6

If ye have (ει εχετεei echete). Condition of the first class, assumed to be true.

Ye would say (ελεγετε ανelegete an). Imperfect active with ανan and so a conclusion (apodosis) of the second class, determined as unfulfilled, a mixed condition therefore.

Sycamine tree (συκαμινωιsukaminōi). At the present time both the black mulberry (sycamine) and the white mulberry (sycamore) exist in Palestine. Luke alone in the N.T. uses either word, the sycamine here, the sycamore in Luke 19:4. The distinction is not observed in the lxx, but it is observed in the late Greek medical writers for both trees have medicinal properties. Hence it may be assumed that Luke, as a physician, makes the distinction. Both trees differ from the English sycamore. In Matthew 17:20 we have “mountain” in place of “sycamine tree.”

Be thou rooted up (εκριζωτητιekrizōthēti). First aorist passive imperative as is πυτευτητιphuteuthēti have obeyed (υπηκουσεν ανhupēkousen an). First aorist active indicative with ανan apodosis of a second-class condition (note aorist tense here, imperfect ελεγετεelegete).

Verse 7

Sit down to meat (αναπεσεanapese). Recline (for the meal). Literally, fall up (or back).

Verse 8

And will not rather say (αλλ ουκ ερειall' ouk erei).

But will not say? ΟυκOuk in a question expects the affirmative answer.

Gird thyself (περιζωσαμενοςperizōsamenos). Direct middle first aorist participle of περιζωννυμιperizōnnumi to gird around.

Till I have eaten and drunken (εως παγω και πιωheōs phagō kai piō). More exactly, till I eat and drink. The second aorist subjunctives are not future perfects in any sense, simply punctiliar action, effective aorist.

Thou shalt eat and drink (παγεσαι και πιεσαιphagesai kai piesai). Future middle indicative second person singular, the uncontracted forms -εσαιesai as often in the Koiné. These futures are from the aorist stems επαγονephagon and επιονepion without sigma.

Verse 9

Does he thank? (μη εχει χαρινmē echei chariṉ). ΜηMē expects the negative answer. Εχω χαρινEchō charin to have gratitude toward one, is an old Greek idiom (1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:3; Hebrews 12:28).

Verse 10

Unprofitable (αχρειοιachreioi). The Syriac Sinaitic omits “unprofitable.” The word is common in Greek literature, but in the N.T. only here and Matthew 25:30 where it means “useless” (αa privative and χρειοςchreios from χραομαιchraomai to use). The slave who only does what he is commanded by his master to do has gained no merit or credit. “In point of fact it is not commands, but demands we have to deal with, arising out of special emergencies” (Bruce). The slavish spirit gains no promotion in business life or in the kingdom of God.

Verse 11

Through the midst of Samaria and Galilee (δια μεσον Σαμαριας και Γαλιλαιαςdia meson Samarias kai Galilaias). This is the only instance in the N.T. of διαdia with the accusative in the local sense of “through.” Xenophon and Plato use δια μεσουdia mesou (genitive). Jesus was going from Ephraim (John 11:54) north through the midst of Samaria and Galilee so as to cross over the Jordan near Bethshean and join the Galilean caravan down through Perea to Jerusalem. The Samaritans did not object to people going north away from Jerusalem, but did not like to see them going south towards the city (Luke 9:51-56).

Verse 12

Which stood afar off (οι ανεστησαν πορρωτενhoi anestēsan porrōthen). The margin of Westcott and Hort reads simply εστησανestēsan The compound read by B means “rose up,” but they stood at a distance (Leviticus 13:45.). The first healing of a leper (Luke 5:12-16) like this is given by Luke only.

Verse 13

Lifted up (ηρανēran). First aorist active of the liquid verb αιρωairō f0).

Verse 14

As they went (εν τωι υπαγειν αυτουςen tōi hupagein autous). Favourite Lukan idiom of ενen with articular infinitive as in Luke 17:11 and often.

Verse 16

And he was a Samaritan (και αυτος ην Σαμαρειτηςkai autos ēn Samareitēs). This touch colours the whole incident. The one man who felt grateful enough to come back and thank Jesus for the blessing was a despised Samaritan. The αυτοςautos has point here.

Verse 18

Save this stranger (ει μη ο αλλογενηςei mē ho allogenēs). The old word was αλλοπυλοςallophulos (Acts 10:28), but αλλογενηςallogenēs occurs in the lxx, Josephus, and inscriptions. Deissmann (Light from the Ancient East, p. 80) gives the inscription from the limestone block from the Temple of Israel in Jerusalem which uses this very word which may have been read by Jesus: Let no foreigner enter within the screen and enclosure surrounding the sanctuary (Μητενα αλλογενη εισπορευεσται εντος του περι το ιερον τρυπακτου και περιβολουMēthena allogenē eisporeuesthai entos tou peri to hieron truphaktou kai peribolou).

Verse 20

With observation (μετα παρατησεωςmeta paratēseōs). Late Greek word from παρατηρεωparatēreō to watch closely. Only here in the N.T. Medical writers use it of watching the symptoms of disease. It is used also of close astronomical observations. But close watching of external phenomena will not reveal the signs of the kingdom of God.

Verse 21

Within you (εντος υμωνentos humōn). This is the obvious, and, as I think, the necessary meaning of εντοςentos The examples cited of the use of εντοςentos in Xenophon and Plato where εντοςentos means “among” do not bear that out when investigated. Field (Ot. Norv.) “contends that there is no clear instance of εντοςentos in the sense of among” (Bruce), and rightly so. What Jesus says to the Pharisees is that they, as others, are to look for the kingdom of God within themselves, not in outward displays and supernatural manifestations. It is not a localized display “Here” or “There.” It is in this sense that in Luke 11:20 Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God as “come upon you” (επτασεν επ υμαςephthasen eph' humās), speaking to Pharisees. The only other instance of εντοςentos in the N.T. (Matthew 23:26) necessarily means “within” (“the inside of the cup”). There is, beside, the use of εντοςentos meaning “within” in the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus saying of Jesus of the Third Century (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 426) which is interesting: “The kingdom of heaven is within you” (εντος υμωνentos humōn as here in Luke 17:21).

Verse 23

Go not away nor follow after them (μη απελτητε μηδε διωχητεmē apelthēte mēde diōxēte). Westcott and Hort bracket απελτητε μηδεapelthēte mēde Note aorist subjunctive with μηmē in prohibition, ingressive aorist. Do not rush after those who set times and places for the second advent. The Messiah was already present in the first advent (Luke 17:21) though the Pharisees did not know it.

Verse 24

Lighteneth (αστραπτουσαastraptousa). An old and common verb, though only here and Luke 24:4 in the N.T. The second coming will be sudden and universally visible. There are still some poor souls who are waiting in Jerusalem under the delusion that Jesus will come there and nowhere else.

Verse 25

But first (πρωτον δεprōton de). The second coming will be only after the Cross.

Verse 27

They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage (ηστιον επινον εγαμουν εγαμιζοντοēsthion εισηλτενepinon ηλτενegamoun απωλεσενegamizonto). Imperfects all of them vividly picturing the life of the time of Noah. But the other tenses are aorists (Noah entered eisēlthen the flood came ēlthen destroyed apōlesen).


Verse 28

Note the same sharp contrast between the imperfects here (ate ηστιονēsthion drank επινονepinon bought ηγοραζονēgorazon sold επωλουνepōloun planted επυτευονephuteuon builded ωικοδομουνōikodomoun) and the aorists in Luke 17:29 (went out εχηλτενexēlthen rained εβρεχενebrexen destroyed απωλεσενapōlesen).

Verse 30

Is revealed (αποκαλυπτεταιapokaluptetai). Prophetic and futuristic present passive indicative.

Verse 31

Let him not go down (μη καταβατωmē katabatō). Second aorist active imperative of καταβαινωkatabainō with μηmē in a prohibition in the third person singular. The usual idiom here would be μηmē and the aorist subjunctive. See Mark 13:15. and Matthew 24:17. when these words occur in the great eschatological discussion concerning flight before the destruction of Jerusalem. Here the application is “absolute indifference to all worldly interests as the attitude of readiness for the Son of Man” (Plummer).

Verse 32

Remember Lot‘s wife (μνημονευετε της γυναικος Λωτmnēmoneuete tēs gunaikos Lōt). Here only in the N.T. A pertinent illustration to warn against looking back with yearning after what has been left behind (Genesis 19:26).

Verse 33

Shall preserve it (ζωογονησει αυτηνzōogonēsei autēn). Or save it alive. Here only in the N.T. except 1 Timothy 6:13; Acts 7:19. It is a late word and common in medical writers, to bring forth alive (ζωοσ γενωzōos genō) and here to keep alive.

Verse 34

In that night (ταυτηι τηι νυκτιtautēi tēi nukti). More vivid still, “on this night,” when Christ comes.

Verse 35

Shall be grinding (εσονται αλητουσαιesontai alēthousai). Periphrastic future active indicative of αλητωalēthō an old verb only in the N.T. here and Matthew 24:41.

Together (επι το αυτοepi to auto). In the same place, near together as in Acts 2:1.

Verse 37

The eagles (οι αετοιhoi aetoi). Or the vultures attracted by the carcass. This proverb is quoted also in Matthew 24:28. See Job 39:27-30; Habakkuk 1:8; and Hosea 8:1. Double compound (επισυνepi -επισυναχτησονταιsun -) in epi -sun -achthēsontai completes the picture.

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Luke 17". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.