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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Seventy (2)

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SEVENTY.—The mission of the Seventy,* [Note: Some very ancient MSS (BDMR) read Seventy-two (ἑβδομήκοντα δύο); but אACLΞ, etc., omit δύο.] recorded in Luke 10, belongs to the third year of our Lord’s public ministry. They were sent forth some time after the Transfiguration (Luke 10:1), when the Galilaean ministry of Jesus had closed, and when He had ‘set his face to go to Jerusalem’ (Luke 9:51). The mission of the Twelve had taken place in the previous year (Luke 9:1; Luke 9:10).† [Note: Although only Luke mentions the Seventy, indications of Jesus having a wider circle of ‘disciples’ than the Twelve are found elsewhere, as in John 6:66, Acts 1:15, 1 Corinthians 15:6.] Seventy was regarded by the Jews as a complete number of persons for any important work.‡ [Note: The descendants of Jacob who entered Goshen were seventy (Genesis 46:27). Seventy elders assisted Moses in the work of judgment and instruction (Exodus 18:25; Exodus 24:9, Numbers 11:16; Numbers 11:25). The Sanhedrin consisted of seventy besides the president (Hastings, DB iv. 399). The LXX is so called from the tradition (first told in a literary fiction usually ascribed to about b.c. 200) that seventy or, more exactly, seventy-two elders executed the version (Hastings’ DB iv. 438). Josephus appointed seventy rulers of Galilee (BJ ii. xx. 5).] Our Lord may have had specially in view (1) the seventy elders under Moses, who was a type of Himself; (2) the Hebrew tradition that the nations scattered at Babel were seventy in number (pseud.-Jon. Targ. [Note: Targum.] on Genesis 11:8),§ [Note: Seventy-two, according to Clem. Recogn. ii. 42. See Driver, Dt. p. 355 f.] just as the appointment of the Twelve may have been suggested by the number of the tribes of Israel.

1. The office and mission of the Seventy resemble those of the Twelve.—(1) A twofold commission is given in each case to preach and to heal, Matthew 10:7-8, Luke 10:9. (2) Instruction is given to both (a) to go in pairs, two and two, Mark 6:7, Luke 10:1, in order to strengthen their testimony and to give mutual help and sympathy; (b) to take with them neither purse (for the labourer is worthy of his entertainment), nor wallet (for needless encumbrance was to be avoided), nor shoes, i.e. in addition to the sandals which they wore (for sandals befitted the poor, shoes the well-to-do), Matthew 10:9-10, Mark 6:9, Luke 10:4.|| [Note: | A somewhat similar prohibition existed (no staff, shoes, scrip, or purse) for those about to enter the Temple: so that this particular instruction to the Seventy may suggest that those sent forth were to perform their service in the spirit of worshippers (Edersheim, The Temple, etc. p. 42).] (3) In each case the burden of the message was ‘Peace’ and the ‘Kingdom of God.’ Peace was and still is the favourite Eastern salutation; the Kingdom of God was the Jews’ highest aspiration. The Seventy, however, like the Twelve, would use these words, doubtless, with a fresh significance. Peace would include peace with God as well as with men, peace of conscience, the peace of discipleship to a perfect Master (Matthew 11:28-30): the Kingdom of God would be, not a mere external, but an internal theocracy, the reign of God within as well as over men (Matthew 12:28, Mark 4:26-27); and this Empire of God was Peace. (4) In both instructions the warning is added that they would be as sheep or lambs amid wolves, Matthew 10:16, Luke 10:3. The Seventy, like the Twelve, were to be prepared for persecution and tribulation. Even in Christ’s lifetime there are indications of His followers being persecuted (John 9:34; John 12:10); and some of the Seventy at least were destined to suffer for Christ’s sake.

2. On the other hand, there are important differences in the two commissions. (1) The mission of the Twelve was permanent; they were pre-eminently Christ’s Apostles: that of the Seventy was temporary; they disappear, as a body, from view, like the Seven of Acts 6, although the office of evangelist, without Apostolic status, continues (Acts 21:8, Ephesians 4:11). (2) The Twelve were not only to minister, but to administer—to exercise discipline and government (John 20:23, Acts 1:20-26). To the Seventy no such functions were committed: they were simply preachers and healers. (3) The commission to the Twelve was expressly limited to ‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ ‘Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not’ (Matthew 10:5-6). It was expedient at first to postpone the obtrusive extension of the privileges of the Kingdom beyond the Jews, lest these should be prejudiced against the gospel. By the time, however, that the Seventy were sent forth, Christ Himself had gone into ‘the borders of Tyre and Sidon’ (in addition to His earlier visit to Samaria), and had healed the Syrophœnician’s daughter (Mark 7:24). His disciples had thus been educated so far into realization that the Kingdom was intended to embrace others than Jews. The restriction, accordingly, is omitted in the commission to the Seventy, although there is no positive evidence that any of them preached, at this time, to Gentiles. (4) The commission to the Twelve included not only healing, but raising from death: that to the Seventy omits the latter. It is notable that only Apostles in the special sense are ever represented in the NT as raising the dead (Acts 9:40; Acts 20:9-10). (5) A definite itinerary was arranged for the Seventy: they were to go ‘into every city and place where Jesus himself intended to come’ (Luke 10:1), so as to prepare the way for Him. Their mission field thus included the country east of the Jordan, which was visited by our Lord during this closing year of His ministry. (6) A special feature of the directions to the Seventy was the injunction to ‘salute no man by the way.’ The ‘time when he should be received up ‘was at hand: there were many places still to be visited; delay in preparing the way must be avoided; the profuse and elaborate salutations, customary on a journey, must be forgone.* [Note: Geikie (The Holy Land and the Bible, i. pp. 328–329) describes graphically the salutation of two Orientals in Palestine even at the present day. On meeting, each lays his right hand on his heart, then raises it to his brow or mouth. Thereafter they take hold each of the other’s hand, and a series of particular inquiries follows, taking up considerable time.]

3. Return of the Seventy (Luke 10:17-20). (1) Their return collectively is related; but we need not infer, what the nature of the case must have prevented, that they all returned simultaneously. As Christ approached some town or district in the itinerary, some pair out of the Seventy would report the outcome of their particular mission. (2) The Seventy return with exultation. Their satisfaction culminated in this: ‘Even demons are subject to us in thy name.’ There was something commendable, and something defective in their joy. It was right to rejoice in the power of exorcism, but there was a higher joy of which, apparently, they thought little, the joy of enrolment among the servants of God. Accordingly (3) the Lord (a) manifests His sympathy, ‘I was beholding Satan fall like lightning from heaven’; as if He had been following the Seventy in spirit during the progress of their mission. (b) He assures them of security against real harm from the powers of evil. Although they were among ‘serpents and scorpions,’ ‘nothing shall in any wise hurt you’; a special providence would be their privilege, (c) He raises their aspirations to a higher level. Even to die in such a service would be ‘gain’; their ‘names are written in heaven’ (cf. Is 4:3, Daniel 12:1). They were fellow-workers with the King, whose cause, even should they suffer tribulation, must prevail.

4. The credibility of the mission of the Seventy has been doubted by Strauss, Baur, de Wette,* [Note: Strauss, Life of Jesus, ii. 94–96; Baur, Evangelien, pp. 435, 498; de Wette, Erklürung Luc. p. 79: Köstlin, Com. p. 267.] and others, owing to (1) the silence of the other Gospels regarding it; (2) the lack of later authentic trace of the Seventy; the close resemblance between the mission of the Seventy and that of the Twelve, being suggestive, it is argued, of confusion.

(1) The argument from silence is not strong; because, owing to the temporary character, so far as appears, of the commission, there was nothing in the organization of the Church, as it existed when the three Gospels were written, such as would constrain an Evangelist to relate the history of the Seventy; whereas the position and work of the Twelve made it natural, if not necessary, to give some account of the origin of the Apostolate. (2) The fact that Luke relates also the mission of the Twelve, and the notable differences (chronological and circumstantial) between the accounts of the two missions, render it highly improbable that the two narratives refer to a single event. (3) It is inaccurate to say that there is no authentic trace of the Seventy in later times. Philip ‘the evangelist’ was probably, from this designation (Acts 21:8), one of them. Clement of Alexandria, writing in the latter part of the 2nd cent., names Barnabas, Matthias, and Cephas, who ‘had the same name with the Apostle,’ as others of the Seventy.† [Note: Strom, ii. 20, Hypotyposeis, v., as quoted by Eus. i. 12.] The historian Eusebius, without giving his authority, states that the Barsabbas of Acts and the Sosthenes mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:1 are said to have been of the same company.‡ [Note: i. 12.] The early disappearance of the Seventy as an organization is readily accounted for. They had no authority as rulers such as would make the appointment of successors requisite. One, as we have seen, became an Apostle; Philip became one of the ‘Seven ‘of Acts 6; a considerable number were probably included in one or other of the orders of evangelists, prophets, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). The individuals thus, for the most part, doubtless survived, and occupied more or less influential positions; although the office itself, like that of the ‘Seven,’ disappeared.§ [Note: A professedly complete catalogue of the Seventy is given by pseudo-Dorotheos (6th cent.) as follows:—James (brother of the Lord), Timothy, Titus, Barnabas, Ananias, Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Simon, Nicolas, Parmenas, Cleopas, Silas, Silvanus, Crescens, Epenetus, Andronicus, Amplias, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, Aristobulus, Narcissus, Herodion, Rufus, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Hermas, Patrobas, Rhodion, Jason, Agabus, Linus, Gaius, Philologus, Olympas, Sosipater, Lucius, Tertius, Erastus, Phygellus, Hermogenes, Dermas, Quartus, Apollos, Cephas, Sosthenes, Epaphroditus, Caesar, Marcus, Joseph Barsabbas, Artemas, Clemens, Onesiphorus, Tychicus, Carpus, Euodius, Philemon, Zenas, Aquila, Priscas, Junias, Marcus (2), Aristarchus, Pudens, Trophimus, Lucas the Eunuch, Lazarus. The list is manifestly untrustworthy. With some probability, indeed, are included all the seven ‘deacons’ (so called), along with some others (as Barnabas, Barsabbas, Marcus, Cleopas, Silas, Agabus, and Ananias), who were primitive disciples resident in or near Palestine. But many others, including such Gentile Christians as Titus, Tychicus, Trophimus, and brethren like Timothy and Apollos, who became converts long after our Lord’s Ascension, are obviously the outcome of indiscriminating conjecture.]

5. The appointment of the Seventy for a definite ministry, yet without ecclesiastical authority such as was conferred on the Twelve, is significant and instructive. Our Lord does not appear to have instituted any definite and detailed form of Church government, but to have left such outward arrangements to the Apostles as His chosen disciples, and through them eventually to the Church itself, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Yet the appointment of the Seventy clearly indicates the principle that Christian ministry, including preaching, is neither to be confined to those who bear rule, nor regarded as entitling those who exercise such ministry to receive office as rulers. On the one hand, some who are able to give valuable service to the Church as evangelists or teachers may not be suitable, or even if suitable may not be required at the time, for rulership. On the other hand, those who bear rule in the Church are not, in the spirit of hierarchical exclusiveness, to discourage brethren who (without having the faculty or opportunity of government) possess some useful gift, from exercising it under due supervision, for the good of the Church and of the community at large.

Literature.—Trench, Studies in the Gospels, 231–242; Plummer, ‘St. Luke’ in ICC [Note: CC International Critical Commentary.] ; A. B. Bruce, ‘Synoptic Gospels’ in EGT [Note: GT Expositor’s Greek Testanent.] i. pp. 538–542; Meyer, Com. in loc.; Edersheim, Life and Times, ii. pp. 37–43; ExpT [Note: xpT Expository Times.] xv. [1903] 14.

Henry Cowan.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Seventy (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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