Below is a rough translation and some preliminary comments on Luke 17:11-19, the Gospel reading from the Revised Common Lectionary for the 21st Sunday after Pentecost. This is a familiar story, remembered mostly because of its proportional thanks – one out of ten returns to glorify God. And yet, there is more to it than the sheer numbers. The terms used to describe both the infectious condition and the deliverance from that condition –for the one and the ten – are intriguing. The location – that boundary space between cultural and religious factions – is intriguing.
11 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ πορεύεσθαι εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ καὶ αὐτὸς διήρχετο διὰ
μέσον Σαμαρείας καὶ Γαλιλαίας.
And it happened in the journeying to Jerusalem he also was passing through the middle of Samaria and Galilee.
ἐγένετο : AMI 3s γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being 2) to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen 2a) of events
πορεύεσθαι : PMInf, πορεύομαι, 1) to lead over, carry over, transfer 1a) to pursue the journey on which one has entered
διήρχετο : IMI 3s, διέρχομαι, 1) to go through, pass through 1a) to go, walk, journey, pass through a place
1. This verse speaks of the journeying to Jerusalem as something that has already begun and in continued here. Where does it begin? Twice, in c.9, Jesus discloses that the Son of Man is going to suffer and die, but he does not associate that disclosure with Jerusalem at that point. In 13:33-34, Jesus says, “Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Then, in 18:31-34, Jesus discloses his forthcoming death for the third time, this time associating it with Jerusalem.
2. The “middle” (μέσον) of Samaria and Galilee might refer to the portion of this journey that is on the border between the two. It could, as far as the maps show, mean that he was traveling down the heart of the two, but he would first go through Galilee, then Samaria if he’s traveling south to Jerusalem. Given the word order, I think the borderland is intended.
12καὶ εἰσερχομένου αὐτοῦ εἴς τινα κώμην ἀπήντησαν [αὐτῷ] δέκα λεπροὶ
ἄνδρες, οἳ ἔστησαν πόρρωθεν,
And as he entered into a certain village ten leprous men met [him], who stood at a distance,
εἰσερχομένου : PMPart, gms, εἰσέρχομαι, 1) to go out or come in: to enter
ἀπήντησαν : AAI 3pl, ἀπαντάω, 1) to go to meet, to meet
ἔστησαν : AAI 3pl, ἵστημι, 1) to cause or make to stand, to place, put, set 1a) to bid to stand by, [set up], 2) to stand
1. I like how Luke refers to the then as leprous men, not lepers. Their humanity is the essential quality of their being and their leprosy is an accidental quality.
13καὶ αὐτοὶ ἦραν φωνὴν λέγοντες, Ἰησοῦ ἐπιστάτα, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς.
and they raised a voice, saying, “Jesus Master, have mercy on us.”
ἦραν : AAI 3pl, αἴρω, 1) to raise up, elevate, lift up
λέγοντες: PAPart npm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
ἐλέησον : AAImpv 2s of ἐλεέω, have compassion, pity, mercy
1. ‘A voice’: The noun is singular and indefinite.
2. “Master” (ἐπιστάτα): The online definitions say that this vocative noun carries connotations of authority, like an overseer of some sort. It is used 7x in the NT, all in Luke. But, it is not the “master” of parables. It is only used in addresses to Jesus. (5:5, 8:24 [2x], 8:45, 9:33, 9:49, and here.)
14καὶ ἰδὼν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πορευθέντες ἐπιδείξατε ἑαυτοὺς τοῖς ἱερεῦσιν. καὶ
ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ὑπάγειν αὐτοὺς ἐκαθαρίσθησαν.
And having seen, he said to them, “Having gone, show yourselves to the priests.” And it happened in the leaving him they were cleansed.
ἰδὼν : AAPart, nms, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes 2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
Πορευθέντες : APPart, nmpl, πορεύομαι 1) to lead over, carry over, transfer 1a) to pursue the journey on which one has entered, to continue on one's journey
ἐπιδείξατε : AAImpv 2pl, ἐπιδείκνυμι 1) to exhibit, show 1a) to bring forth to view, to show
ἐγένετο : AMI 3s, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being
ὑπάγειν : PAInf, ὑπάγω, 1) to lead under, bring under 2) to withdraw one's self, to go away, depart
ἐκαθαρίσθησαν: API 3pl, καθαρίζω, 1) to make clean, cleanse 1a) from physical stains and dirt 1a1) utensils, food 1a2) a leper, to cleanse by curing
1. The construction of the second sentence here is identical to the beginning of the pericope in v.11: Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ πορεύεσθαι (And it happened in the journeying) and καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ὑπάγειν (And it happened in the leaving). “Καὶ ἐγένετο” is the term that is quaintly translated “it came to pass” in the KJV and that is actually a very good translation. I am using “it happened,” because it is a verb that does not ascribe agency to anyone in particular. In each case, Καὶ ἐγένετο is followed by the preposition ἐν (in), which takes the dative, thus a definite article in the dative case, τῷ, follows ἐν. Then, however, instead of a noun to accompany that definite article, we have an infinitive. Literally “in the to enter” in v.11 and “in the to leave” in v.14. That literal construction is just too rigid for me, so I’m using “in the entering” and “in the leaving,” which is still awkward.
2. Showing oneself to the priest was an essential step in being welcomed or permitted back into the community by being declared no longer unclean. Perhaps within the language of this pericope, the priestly declaration is where the ‘cure’ (ἰάομαι) takes place.
15εἷς δὲ ἐξ αὐτῶν, ἰδὼν ὅτι ἰάθη, ὑπέστρεψεν μετὰ φωνῆς μεγάλης δοξάζων
Yet one out of them, seeing that he was cured, turned back with a loud voice glorifying God,
ἰάθη: API 3s, ἰάομαι, 1) to cure, heal 2) to make whole 2a) to free from errors and sins, to bring about (one's) salvation
ὑπέστρεψεν : AAI 3s, ὑποστρέφω, 1) to turn back 1a) to turn about 2) to return
δοξάζων : PAPart, 3s, δοξάζω, 1) to think, suppose, be of opinion 2) to praise, extol, magnify, celebrate
1. Again, a voice. In v.13 the leprous men spoke with a voice; here the one speaks with a loud voice.
2. The verb ἰάομαι (to cure) is different from the verb καθαρίζω (to cleanse) that is used in v.14. When it comes to an infectious disease like leprosy, there may be no difference in the meanings.
3. Or, if my suggestion in comment #2 of v.14 has any truth to it, this man is able to see with his own eyes that he is ‘cured’ and simply does not need the priest’s validation. Jesus does not scold him for disobeying his command (ἐπιδείξατε is an imperative in v.14) to show himself to the priest. Instead, he will simply release him in v.19.
16καὶ ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον παρὰ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ εὐχαριστῶν αὐτῷ: καὶ
αὐτὸς ἦν Σαμαρίτης.
And he fell on a face at his feet giving thanks to him; and he was a Samaritan.
ἔπεσεν : AAI 3s, πίπτω, 1) to descend from a higher place to a lower 1a) to fall (either from or upon) 1a1) to be thrust down
εὐχαριστῶν : PAPart, nms, εὐχαριστέω, 1) to be grateful, feel thankful 2) give thanks
ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. In a refined translation I would say ‘his face,’ but there is no pronoun in that phrase.
2. Perhaps the reference in v.11 to Samaria was to locate this group of ten as persons from both Galilee and Samaria. And to show that this Samaritan man was not ‘out of place.’ There is something arresting about the idea that the leprosy that these men shared might have been reason enough to make a community of both Galileans and Samaritans. I know of a couple, she is hearing and he is deaf, who are dancers in Israel. When they work with the deaf community in Israel, the identities of Jew, Palestinian, or Arab Christian often take second place to the identity of being deaf. Significantly, this newly-cleansed man’s identity as a Samaritan only comes into play after he is cleansed.
3. This is the 3rd and final “Samaritan” reference in Luke. The first was in c.9, when “a village of the Samaritans” refused to host Jesus. The second was in the parable of the good Samaritan in c.10.
4. As readers, we need the narrator to identify the newly-cleansed man as a Samaritan. Luke gets to know that, of course, because as the narrator he is omniscient with regards to what he chooses to tell the reader. But, within the story, how does Jesus know (v.18)? Accent? Hairstyle? Attire? Language? Terminology of worship? Nametags? I am showing my ignorance of 1st century Near Eastern culture.
17 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Οὐχὶ οἱ δέκα ἐκαθαρίσθησαν; οἱ δὲ ἐννέα
Yet having answered Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Yet where the nine?”
ἀποκριθεὶς: APPart nsm, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
1. There is no verb (like “are”) in the last question.
2. To whom is Jesus speaking? This question would seem, in this verse, as if Jesus is asking the newly-cleansed Samaritan where his other companions are, since it begins “having answered.” But, as the question continues in the next verse, the newly-cleansed Samaritan becomes “this foreigner,” a third person reference, not a second person reference (“you.”) So, to whom is Jesus speaking? The twelve? Are the twelve even there? A crowd? Is there a crowd? The reader? (That would have to be Luke’s voice, since Jesus was going about his work, not writing a book to readers). Is it a soliloquy where Jesus speaking to himself, in the same manner that people do in movies/novels when the viewer/reader needs to hear the internal thought process?
3. For Jesus to grill the newly-cleansed Samaritan about the whereabouts of the nine would be as unfitting as a preacher yelling at a congregation about folks who don’t show up for worship. In fact, I’m willing to bet that this scripture has evoked just such sermons over the years.
4. These questions, and the next, imply that the right response was not to follow Jesus’ command to ‘go and show’ but to return and give thanks.
18οὐχ εὑρέθησαν ὑποστρέψαντες δοῦναι δόξαν τῷ θεῷ εἰ μὴ ὁ ἀλλογενὴς
Were none found having turned back to give glory to God except this foreigner?
εὑρέθησαν : API 3pl, εὑρίσκω, 1) to come upon, hit upon, to meet with ὑποστρέψαντες : AAPart, nmpl, ὑποστρέφω, 1) to turn back 1a) to turn about 2) to return
δοῦναι : AAInf, δίδωμι, 1) to give 2) to give something to someone 2a) of one's own accord to give one something, to his advantage
1. The phrase “give glory to God” shows that it is not Jesus’ ego that is the point of his question but the recognition that God cleanses. Even with the man lying prostrate at his feet, Jesus’ emphasis is on God’s glory, not his own.
2. The phrase “this foreigner” sounds rather dismissive in English and that might be deceiving. This verse contains the only use of the word ἀλλογενὴς in the NT, so there are no corresponding contexts to help discern the flavor of the word. In itself, it simply means something like ‘otherly-born.’ It reminds me of a time when I was the lone religion student in a graduate philosophy class and the professor scolded the philosophy majors asking why I, a religion student, was the only one who was willing to offer an interpretation of a peculiarly difficult text from Kant. I was pointed out at an ‘other,’ but mostly for the purpose of demonstrating that rest of the class was even more highly expected to have done what I did. Likewise, I do not see this verse as being dismissive of the Samaritan, but rather wondering why the Galileans who were cleansed were not using that as an occasion to glorify God.
3. It’s a bit “Galilean-normative” for Jesus to be “in the middle of Samaria and Galilee” and yet refer to a Samaritan as one “otherly-born.” That’s why I assume Jesus is talking to other Galileans when he asks his questions.
19καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἀναστὰς πορεύου: ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε.
And he said to him, “Having risen up be going; your faith has made you whole.”
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Ἀναστὰς : AAPart, nms, ἀνίστημι, 1) to cause to rise up, raise up
πορεύου: PMInf, 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
σέσωκέν : PerfAI 3s, σῴζω, 1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction 1a) one (from injury or peril) 1a1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore
1. Again, the woodenness of this translation makes the gracious words of Jesus sound stiff, but what wonderful words these are. The aorist participle “having risen up,” simply puts the action of rising as a condition for the subsequent action of going. The “be going” is not in the imperative voice (as most refined translations imply with “go”) but the infinitive which I take to be a softer release.
2. This verse introduces yet another term, in addition to ‘cleansed’ (καθαρίζω, vv. 14 and 17) and ‘cured’ (ἰάομαι, v.15) to signify the Samaritan man’s new state of being: σῴζω. I think it is to our loss that σῴζω has become reglionized (I made that word up) to mean “saved from sins/hell.” It can mean that, in certain contexts, but it means so much more than that in every context. I hear that term implying a kind of wholeness that was not there before, regardless of whether what was not ‘whole’ before is sin-related, danger, illness, or being a pariah. For Jesus to use σῴζω here signifies that there is more than the skin or infection that is at stake. This man can now return to his home, his family, his community, his work, his village ... his life. Even if we speak of ‘saved’ as ‘saving from sin,’ I hope this expansive meaning of the word σῴζω can expand our view of what ‘sin’ is – anything that is destructive of the life and community that gives us wholeness.