Sunday, March 6, 2022

From Threat to Lament

Below is a rough translation and some initial comments on one of the gospel readings for the second Sunday of Lent, Luke 13:31-35. It is a strange text in one respect: The first half and the second half do not seem terribly related to one another. Herod, the subject of vv.31-32, is the tetrarch of Galilee. V.33 speaks of Jesus going to Jerusalem, which is located in Judah. In fact, v.33 seems to pick up on the subject matter of v.32, then triggers the lament over Jerusalem. I suspect that once upon a time vv. 31-32 and vv.34-35 existed separately, with Luke constructing v.33 as a bridge between them. It would even seem that v.34 and v.35 were once separate sayings that have been melded together. It just seems that, as a whole, this is a stitched-together text.

Having said that, there are plenty of interesting pieces to the stitchwork – Pharisees that seem to be doing Jesus a favor; Herod, Schmerod, according to Jesus; Jerusalem is both the beloved place of Jesus’ longing and the place where prophets are killed. What begins as a threat and warning becomes a lament over the recalcitrant city. I welcome your comments.

31 Ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ προσῆλθάν τινες Φαρισαῖοι λέγοντες αὐτῷ, Ἔξελθε καὶ πορεύου ἐντεῦθεν, ὅτι Ἡρῴδης θέλει σε ἀποκτεῖναι.
In that hour some Pharisees approached saying to him, “Go and continue on from this place, because Herod wishes to kill you.”
προσῆλθάν: AAI 3p, προσέρχομαι, 1) to come to, approach  2) draw near to  3) to assent to
λέγοντες: PAPart npm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  
Ἔξελθε: AAImpv 2s, ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of 
πορεύου: PMImpv 2s, πορεύομαι, 1) to lead over, carry over, transfer  1a) to pursue the journey on which one has entered, to continue on  one's journey
θέλει: PAI 3s, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend
ἀποκτεῖναι: AAInf, ἀποκτείνω, 1) to kill in any way whatever
1. While I believe many Christians have a caricatured notion of what Pharisees are like, it does seem odd to find ‘some Pharisees’ who would be sympathetic enough to Jesus to bring him this warning. Does this text suggest that our view of Pharisees is simplistic and that their responses to Jesus was more complex than we imagine? Nicodemus, for example, was a Pharisee and seemed to be a disciple. Or, is this question not as innocent as it looks? Jesus’ answer seems to turn the tide and make them messengers to Herod – were they really functioning here as messengers of Herod?
2. Herod Antipater was the tetrarch of Galilee. He gets a lot of attention in Luke as the one who arrested then killed John the Baptizer after John confronted him about his marriage and other atrocities; as one who hears about Jesus and fears that he is John revived; and later during Jesus’ trial, Pilate sends Jesus to Herod, who was wanting to meet him and see a sign, but when Jesus says nothing Herod and his goons humiliate him. In the end, Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate and that exchange repairs a broken relationship between Herod and Pilate. One of Jesus’ supporters is identified also as the spouse of Herod’s steward. Maybe that’s where he is getting his info about Jesus.

32καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πορευθέντες εἴπατε τῇ ἀλώπεκι ταύτῃ, Ἰδοὺ ἐκβάλλω δαιμόνια καὶ ἰάσεις ἀποτελῶ σήμερον καὶ αὔριον, καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ τελειοῦμαι.
And he said to them, “Having gone say to that fox, “Behold I am casting out demons and accomplishing healings today and tomorrow, and on the third I am being completed. 
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  
Πορευθέντες: APPart npm, πορεύομαι, 1) to lead over, carry over, transfer  1a) to pursue the journey on which one has entered, to continue on  one's journey
εἴπατε: AAImpv 2p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  
Ἰδοὺ: AMImpv ὁράω, behold! calling attention to what may be seen, heard, or apprehended in any way.
ἐκβάλλω: PAI 1s, ἐκβάλλω, 1) to cast out, drive out, to send out
ἀποτελῶ: PAI 1s, ἀποτελέω, 1) to perfect, to bring quite to an end  2) accomplish
τελειοῦμαι: PPI 1s, τελειόω, 1) to make perfect, complete  1a) to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end 
1. “Πορευθέντες” is an aorist passive participle, not an imperative. (The same is true in Mt. 28:19, the so-called “Great Commission.” It is an aorist participle and not the imperative “Go...” there either.) While I think “having gone” is too wooden for a refined translation, the participle does imply that the saying and not the going is the point. The sense – it seems to me – is that Jesus is not sending them immediately to Herod with this message. Rather, as they go they can bear this message to Herod rather than bearing a warning to Jesus.
2. τελειοῦμαι is a present passive indicative. The verb τελειόω can mean ‘to perfect’, just as the adjective τελος can mean ‘perfect,’ but I think that tends to be misleading. (What I say of this verse is how I feel about Mt. 5:48 as well.) This is the word at the root of Aristotle’s teleological ethics, a way of apprising right and wrong based not on a rule but on the end result of one’s action. In addition, τελειοῦμαι is in the passive voice here, hence ‘being completed.’ Again, most translations refine the awkwardness out of it.

33 πλὴν δεῖ με σήμερον καὶ αὔριον καὶ τῇ ἐχομένῃ πορεύεσθαι, ὅτι οὐκ ἐνδέχεται προφήτην ἀπολέσθαι ἔξω Ἰερουσαλήμ.
Nevertheless, it behooves me today and tomorrow and the next to go, because it is not permissible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.
δεῖ: PAI 3s, δέω, 1) to bind tie, fasten  1a) to bind, fasten with chains, to throw into chains  1b) metaph. 
ἐχομένῃ: PMPart dsf, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold 
πορεύεσθαι: PMInf, πορεύομαι, 1) to lead over, carry over, transfer  1a) to pursue the journey on which one has entered, to continue on  one's journey
ἐνδέχεται: PMI 3s, ἐνδέχεται, 1) to receive, admit, approve, allow  2) it can be allowed, is possible, may be
ἀπολέσθαι: AMInf, ἀπόλλυμι, 1) to destroy  1a) to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin  1b) render useless  1c) to kill 
1. I don’t use the word “behooves” often, but here’s why I am using it here. The verb δεῖ is in the third person. I typically translate it as “it is necessary” but the pronoun με is in the accusative case, therefore it is the direct object of a transitive verb. “Behooves” can have that direct object, unlike “it is necessary.” To translate it “I must” is quite a shortcut and Luke had many other options to say it that way if he wanted to.
2. Following Mark, Luke uses δεῖ with respect to the necessity of the death of Jesus. (See Mk.8:31/Lk.9:22.) Jesus’ point seems to be that he will indeed leave Galilee and go elsewhere – as he was warned to do in v.31 – but not because of Herod. He is going because it is necessary for him to die in Jerusalem, the death place of prophets.
3. It is very tempting to make something large out of ‘today, tomorrow, and on the third.’ Maybe Luke is concocting a resurrection motif, but within the flow of the narrative itself, this is a very curious reference.
4. ἐχομένῃ is the present middle participle of ἔχω, which usually means ‘to have’ or ‘to hold.’ Apparently, there is a way that it can also mean ‘next.’ (This is listed as the 7th option and only for the middle voice and only 3x in the NT according to the lexicon used by (It sounds like a case of “It must mean this because every other meaning we know doesn’t seem to make sense.”) A wooden translation of ἐχομένῃ in its usual sense would be “In the having to go” which is indeed very awkward.

34 Ἰερουσαλὴμ Ἰερουσαλήμ, ἀποκτείνουσα τοὺς προφήτας καὶ λιθοβολοῦσα τοὺς ἀπεσταλμένους πρὸς αὐτήν, ποσάκις ἠθέλησα ἐπισυνάξαι τὰ τέκνα σου ὃν τρόπον ὄρνις τὴν ἑαυτῆς νοσσιὰν ὑπὸ τὰς πτέρυγας, καὶ οὐκ ἠθελήσατε.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone the ones who are sent to you, how often I wanted to gather your children as a hen her brood under the wings, and you would not.
ἀποκτείνουσα: PAPart vsf, ἀποκτείνω, 1) to kill in any way whatever  1a) to destroy, to allow to perish
λιθοβολοῦσα: PAPart vsf, λιθοβολέω, 1) to kill by stoning, to stone  2) to pelt one with stones 
ἀπεσταλμένους: PerfPPart apm, ἀποστέλλω, 1) to order (one) to go to a place appointed  2) to send away, dismiss
ἠθέλησα: AAI 1s, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend 
ἐπισυνάξαι: AAInf, ἐπισυνάγω, 1) to gather together besides, to bring together to others  already assembled 
ἠθελήσατε: AAI 2p, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend 
1. Typically, I would translate the ἡ before a participle as “she who ...” but the participles here (ἀποκτείνουσα and λιθοβολοῦσα) are in the vocative case, which expresses direct address, “you.”

35 ἰδοὺ ἀφίεται ὑμῖν οἶκος ὑμῶν. λέγω [δὲ] ὑμῖν, οὐ μὴ ἴδητέ με ἕως [ἥξει ὅτε] εἴπητε, Εὐλογημένος ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου.
Behold your house is being left to you.  [Yet] I say to you, you absolutely shall not see me until [it will come when] you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the lord.’”
Ἰδοὺ: AMImpv ὁράω, behold! calling attention to what may be seen, heard, or apprehended in any way.
ἀφίεται: PPI 3s, ἀφίημι, 1) to send away  1a) to bid going away or depart 
λέγω: PAI 1s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  
ἴδητέ: AASubj 2p, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
ἥξει: FAI 3s, ἥκω, 1) to have come, have arrived, be present  2) metaph.
εἴπητε: AASubj 2p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  
Εὐλογημένος: PerfPPart nsm, εὐλογέω, 1) to praise, celebrate with praises  2) to invoke blessings
ἐρχόμενος: PMPart nsm, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons  
1. The word ἀφίεται (or the root ἀφίημι) is used often in the NT and gets translated in a wide variety of ways. It is the word used to speak of “forgiving” sin or for “divorcing” a spouse. Its primary meaning is “to send away,” which is very suggestive in all of its translations. It is used several other times in Luke in the passive voice as “is left” – see Lk.17:34,35, and maybe 36. Here it is translated widely as “is left desolate,” because, as Bill Schlesinger points out in the comments below, some of the manuscripts add ἔρημος as an adjective. Those manuscripts - used by the KJV -  also have an ἀμὴν, making Jesus' words, "Truly I say to you ..." The older manuscripts do not contain the ἔρημος or the ἀμὴν.
2. Is this a way for Luke’s Jesus to acknowledge the destruction of the temple?
3. The conjunction δὲ can mean many things. It is not in all the manuscripts either.
4. οὐ and μὴ are both negative particles, οὐ being indicative and μὴ being subjunctive. Together they have the force of an emphatic negative.
5. This is a puzzling ending to these verses. Does it suggest the Palm Sunday parade or an eschatological day of welcoming Jesus as the Blessed One or something else entirely?


  1. I liken the Pharisees announcement to Amos 7:10-16. Amaziah wants Amos out of town...sounds familiar to our passage this week.

  2. Just a word of thanks for sharing your work. Your blog is one of the first places I check as I begin my sermon study every week.
    Your translations are stunning, and offer many directions for preaching. But personally, they strike my heart with 'Amen!'
    Please don't stop!

  3. Ah! The wife of the steward ... the insider - talk about joining the dots. I never got that before. Thank you again for all your work; my Greek is terribly basic and I really appreciate how thoroughly you explain it (even if I don't understand it). Best wishes and thanks.

  4. Ah! The wife of the steward ... the insider - talk about joining the dots. I never got that before. Thank you again for all your work; my Greek is terribly basic and I really appreciate how thoroughly you explain it (even if I don't understand it). Best wishes and thanks.

    1. Thanks, Ruth. It's my joy to engage in these texts along with you.

  5. This appears to be addressed to the Jews who do not "apprehend or comprehend" that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. They bring warning and are given a reply that is "eschatological warning". Your house is left (deserted by God) and you will not "see me" until you declare "hesed" blessing on He who comes in the name of the Lord. We are to preach this desire of our Lord to gather in those at enmity with God, to protect them who fear death, to come under the shelter of his wings in trust.

  6. Blueletter has: ού ἀφίεται ὑμῖν ὁ οἶκος ὑμῶν ἔρημος ἀμὴν δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐ μὴ με ἴδητέ ἕως ἄν ἥξῃ ὅτε εἴπητε Εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου.

    Is ἔρημος dropped out of other versions? Don't see it in yours. Wilderness/desolation?

    1. It must be in some of the manuscripts that older translations, like KJV and Young's used, but not "more reliable" manuscripts that newer translations have available.

    2. The same would be true with the ἀμὴν.

  7. Love that your posts are so incredibly detailed and easy to read. Keep sharing!

  8. Another awesome and helpful post, thanks!

  9. I really love it, Thanks for sharing! Looking forward for more!

  10. Thanks Mark - appreciate your careful exegesis and explanations.


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