Sunday, April 11, 2021

Opening their Minds to the Scriptures

Below is a rough translation and some preliminary notes regarding Luke 24:36-48, the Revised Common Lectionary gospel reading for the third Sunday of Easter, Year B.
Your comments are always welcomed. 

36 Ταῦτα δὲ αὐτῶν λαλούντωναὐτὸς ἔστηἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν καὶ λέγειαὐτοῖς, Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν. 
Yet while they were speaking these things he stood in the midst of them and says to them, “Peace to you.” 
λαλούντων: PAPart gpm, λαλέω, 1) to utter a voice or emit a sound  2) to speak
ἔστη: AAI 3s, ἵστημι, 1) to cause or make to stand, to place, put, set  1a) to bid to stand by, [set up]  1a1) in the presence of others, in the midst,
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
1. The “these things” they were speaking about would be the preceding story as Jesus is made known through breaking bread with the two travelers to Emmaus. The travelers seem to be greeted with the words “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’” But, that section of the story only has plural 3rdperson pronouns, so two possibilities arise, both of which have challenges. Either, one of the two travelers is named Simon and the other bursts in announcing Simon’s news, so that Simon can tell the story. Or, Jesus had a separate appearance to a Simon (Peter?) and that is what the eleven are talking about as they enter. The first possibility seems odd because the only name among the two travelers is Cleopas, not Simon. The second possibility is the customary reading, I guess, but that, too, is a little odd. Why would the appearance to Simon not be a story in itself? And if the Simon in question is Simon Peter, well, it’s even odder. The last we saw of Simon Peter was in v.12, where Peter leaves the tomb amazed at notseeing Jesus. 
I don't really know who is speaking and about whom they are speaking in v.34 when they refer to the risen Lord appearing to Simon. It’s a good thing that is part of last week’s pericope – we can leave it hanging! 

37 πτοηθέντεςδὲ καὶ ἔμφοβοιγενόμενοιἐδόκουνπνεῦμα θεωρεῖν
Yet having been terrified and having become fearful they were supposing to be viewing a spirit. 
πτοηθέντες: APPart npm, πτοέω, to terrify; pass. to be terrified 
γενόμενοι: AMPart npm, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being  2) to become,
ἐδόκουν: IAI 3p, δοκέω, 1) to be of opinion, think, suppose  2) to seem, to be accounted, reputed  3) it seems to me
θεωρεῖν: PAInf, θεωρέω, 1) to be a spectator, look at, behold  1a) to view attentively, take a view of, survey  
1. The appearances of Jesus continue to be mystical in nature. The two on the road to Emmaus do not recognize him until he breaks the bread. Here, they may know that it is Jesus, but fearfully reckon that it is a spirit. The gospels offer elusive accounts of what the risen body of Jesus is like, exactly. 
2. The terror and confusion here may be due to the fact that they witnessed Jesus die; but most of them had just been hearing that he is risen. (A preaching moment here might be to wonder how true this is of the church today. Sure, we are marvelous at “speaking of these [resurrection] things,” but do we flail around in terror whenever the risen Christ actually appears among us in some embodied form?) 

38 καὶ εἶπεναὐτοῖς, Τί τεταραγμένοιἐστέ, καὶ διὰ τί διαλογισμοὶ ἀναβαίνουσινἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν; 
And he said to them, “Why are you having been troubled and on what account are deliberations arising in your heart? 
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, , λέγω 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
τεταραγμένοι: PerfPPart, npm, ταράσσω, 1) to agitate, trouble (a thing, by the movement of its parts to and fro)  1a) to cause one inward commotion, take away his calmness of mind, disturb his equanimity  
ἐστέ:  PAI 2p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἀναβαίνουσιν: PAI 3p, ἀναβαίνω, 1) ascend  1a) to go up  1b) to rise, mount, be borne up, spring up
1. I know that “Why are you having been troubled” is very awkward, but I want to point out that there are two verbs, “are” (ἐστέ in the present tense) and “having been troubled” (τεταραγμένοι in the perfect tense) together. 

39 ἴδετετὰς χεῖράς μου καὶ τοὺς πόδας μου ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι αὐτός: ψηλαφήσατέμε καὶ ἴδετε, ὅτι πνεῦμα σάρκα καὶ ὀστέα οὐκ ἔχεικαθὼς ἐμὲ θεωρεῖτεἔχοντα
See my hands and my feet that I am he; touch me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bone just as you view me having. 
ἴδετε: AAImpv 2p, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes 2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
ψηλαφήσατέ: AAImpv 2p, ψηλαφάω, 1) to handle, touch and feel  2) metaph. mentally to seek after tokens of a person or a thing
ἔχει: PAI 3s, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold
θεωρεῖτε: PAI 2p, θεωρέω, 1) to be a spectator, look at, behold  1a) to view attentively, take a view of, survey  
ἔχοντα: PAPart asm, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold
1. Most translations have “as you see I have” at the end of this verse. I want to show that there are two different verbs here: “see” (ἴδετε) and “view” (θεωρέω). 2. Technically, θεωρέω could be translated as “see,” but then the English would lose the distinctions that are in the Greek. 

40 καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼνἔδειξεναὐτοῖς τὰς χεῖρας καὶ τοὺς πόδας. 
And having said this he showed to them the hands and the feet. 
εἰπὼν: AAPart nsm, λέγω 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
ἔδειξεν: AAI 3s, δεικνύεις, to show, exhibit;
1. Theological moment (proceed with caution): It strikes me that the physicality of Jesus’ resurrected body can be taken in a couple of different directions. At one level, which I think is kind of superficial but very popular, these ‘touch and see’ stories could be interpreted as attempts to prove that Jesus did, in fact, arise bodily. One might respond, “Okay, and so what?” The answer to the “so what?” is what either takes us to a deeper level of meaning or gets us off track (IMHO). The “off track” would be something like, “So, unless you believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, then you’re not a real believer” – which would make resurrection a litmus test doctrine or orthodoxy of some sort. The better and deeper level of meaning would be to wonder why it is significant for the gospels that Jesus’ resurrected presence is an embodied presence. It would be so easy just to say that death releases us from the confines of the body and allows our spirits to be free as the wind. That would have been compatible with the popular Greek notions of the mind/body or spirit/body relationship. It would give credence to popular current notions about the body as some kind of shell with which we are stuck for a time, to be released one day. But, that’s not what the gospels say. The risen Christ is the embodied Christ. And that is profound. Simply profound. 

41 ἔτι δὲ ἀπιστούντωναὐτῶν ἀπὸ τῆς χαρᾶς καὶ θαυμαζόντωνεἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἔχετέτι βρώσιμον ἐνθάδε; 
Yet while they were disbelieving from the joy and were wondering he said to them, “Do you have something edible here?” 
ἀπιστούντων: PAPart gpm, ἀπιστέω, 1) to betray a trust, be unfaithful  2) to have no belief, disbelieve
θαυμαζόντων: PAPart gpm, θαυμάζω, 1) to wonder, wonder at, marvel  2) to be wondered at, to be had in admiration
Ἔχετέ: PAI 2p, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold
1. It seems that we have a couplet “disbelieving (from joy) and wondering” (ἀπιστούντων ἀπὸ τῆς χαρᾶς καὶ θαυμαζόντων) to answer for the couplet of “terrified and becoming fearful” (πτοηθέντες καὶ ἔμφοβοι γενόμενοι) in v. 37. 
2. “Disbelieving from joy” is worth a month of reflection in itself, no? 

42 οἱ δὲ ἐπέδωκαναὐτῷ ἰχθύος ὀπτοῦ μέρος: 
Yet they gave to him a piece of cooked fish; 
ἐπέδωκαν: AAI 3p, ἐπιδίδωμι, 1) to hand, give by hand 2) to give over  2a) give up to the power or will of one

43 καὶ λαβὼνἐνώπιον αὐτῶν ἔφαγεν.
and having taken he ate in front of them. 
λαβὼν: AAPart nsm, λαμβάνω, 1) to take  1a) to take with the hand, lay hold of, any person or thing  in order to use it
ἔφαγεν: AAI 3s, ἐσθίω, 1) to eat  2) to eat (consume) a thing  2a) to take food, eat a meal  3) metaph. to devour, consume 
1. There is a comment in Mark and Matthew (Mk. 12:25, Mt. 22:30) that in the resurrection there will no longer be marriage, because the resurrected ones will be like angels. One could read that comment in a way that says the resurrected body will be unlike the body we know, with our drive/need for sex and marriage. Here, the resurrected body eats, which is a drive/need that we know in our current bodies. So, again, the description of the similarities/differences of the resurrected body from the current bodies that we know are either elusive or inconsistent or something else.  

44 Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς, Οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι μου οὓς ἐλάλησαπρὸς ὑμᾶς ἔτι ὢνσὺν ὑμῖν, ὅτι δεῖπληρωθῆναιπάντα τὰ γεγραμμένα ἐν τῷ νόμῳ Μωϋσέως καὶ τοῖς προφήταις καὶ ψαλμοῖς περὶ ἐμοῦ. 
Yet he said to them, “These my words which I spoke to you while I was with you, that it is necessary for all the writings in the law of Moses and in the prophets and the psalms concerning me to be fulfilled.” 
ἐλάλησα: AAI 1s, λαλέω, 1) to utter a voice or emit a sound 2) to speak
ὢν: PAPart nsm, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
δεῖ: PAI 3s, δέω, 1) to bind tie, fasten  1a) to bind, fasten with chains, to throw into chains
πληρωθῆναι: APInf, πληρόω, 1) to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full
1. The phrase “these my words” is awkward. One can supply a verb ‘to be’ (“are”) here and treat ‘these’ as the nominative subject and ‘my words’ as the nominative predicate, which is what most translations seem to be doing. 
2. The ὅτι could be translated as ‘that’ or it could simply introduce a quote: “These my words …” 

45 τότε διήνοιξεναὐτῶν τὸν νοῦν τοῦ συνιέναιτὰς γραφάς. 
Then he made open-minded their mind to the like-mindedness of the writings/scriptures.
διήνοιξεν: AAI 3s, διανοίγω, 1) to open by dividing or drawing asunder, to open … to open one's soul, i.e. to rouse in one the faculty of understanding or the desire of learning
συνιέναι: PAInf, συνίημι, 1) to set or bring together 1a) in a hostile sense, of combatants 2) to put (as it were) the perception with the thing perceived  2a) to set or join together in the mind  2a1) i.e. to understand: the man of understanding  2a2) idiom for: a good and upright man (having the knowledge  of those things which pertain to salvation)
1. This is a very awkward translation, I admit. But, I want to pick up on the duplicity of the words “open one’s mind” (διήνοιξεν) and “mind” (νοῦν). I think the word “meaning” (συνιέναι) is also in this vocabulary family – especially considering that one definition is “to join together the mind”. 
2. The phrase that is typically translated to “love God with all your … mind” has the noun διάνοια, which is the nominal version of this verb “open the mind” διήνοιξεν. 
3. I have written a blogpost for The Politics of Scripture, centering on this verse, at

46 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὅτι Οὕτως γέγραπταιπαθεῖντὸν Χριστὸν καὶ ἀναστῆναιἐκ νεκρῶν τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ, 
And he said to them “Thus it has been written the Christ to suffer and to rise out of death on the third day, 
γέγραπται: PerfPI 3s, γράφω, 1) to write, with reference to the form of the letters  1a) to delineate (or form) letters on a tablet, parchment,  paper, or other material  2) to write, with reference to the contents of the writing
παθεῖν: AAInf πάσχω, 1) to be affected or have been affected, to feel, have a  sensible experience, to undergo  1a) in a good sense, to be well off, in good case  1b) in a bad sense, to suffer sadly, be in a bad plight  1b1) of a sick person
ἀναστῆναι: AAInf. ἀνίστημι, 1) to cause to rise up, raise up  1a) raise up from laying down  1b) to raise up from the dead
1. Grammatically, what has been written is described with the noun in the accusative case “the Christ” and an infinitive verb “to suffer”. The pattern is repeated in the second part of this sentence in v.47 with the noun “repentance” and the verb “to be preached.” 

47 καὶ κηρυχθῆναιἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ μετάνοιαν εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν εἰς πάντα τὰ ἔθνη ἀρξάμενοιἀπὸ Ἰερουσαλήμ: 
and repentance into release of sins to be preached in his name into all the nations which are beginning from Jerusalem; 
κηρυχθῆναι: APInf, κηρύσσω, 1) to be a herald, to officiate as a herald  1a) to proclaim after the manner of a herald  1b) always with the suggestion of formality, gravity and an  authority which must be listened to and obeyed  …  3) used of the public proclamation of the gospel and matters  pertaining to it, made by John the Baptist, by Jesus, by the apostles and other Christian teachers
ἀρξάμενοι: AMPart npm, ἄρχω, 1) to be chief, to lead, to rule

48 ὑμεῖς μάρτυρες τούτων.
you [are] witnesses of these things. 
1. This sentence has no verb, so I supplied one. 

This resurrection appearance moves from convincing “the eleven and their companions” (including now Cleopas and the other Emmaus road traveler) that he really is the risen Christ and not a spook, to opening their minds to understanding. I really wish we had an English word that could make v.45 work as well as it does in Greek, with Jesus mind-blowing their minds to mind the scriptures. (See, it just doesn’t work with “mind.” Got a better option?) 

The content of what Jesus reveals to them is given in this way: 
A: v.44: The words that Jesus spoke before the crucifixion came to this: “It is necessary for all the writings in the law of Moses and in the prophets and the psalms concerning me to be fulfilled.”

    B: v.45: Then, after the resurrection, he opened their minds to the meaning of 
    the Scriptures. 

A1: v.46-8: What the Scriptures mean is this: “Christ is to suffer and to rise out of death on the third day, and repentance into release of sins is to be preached in his name into all the nations which are beginning from Jerusalem.” 

    B1: v.48: The community’s commission is this: You [are] witnesses of these 


  1. "Disbelieving from the joy" makes me think we can delay our faithing or even betray because of wonderful things. Joyful distractions need a focus and re-minding just as much as other obstacles.

    1. This is an intriguing thought. Maybe 'disbelieving' is an okay place to be some times and does not need a remedy. But, I want to sit with the idea that 'joyful distractions' need focus and re-minding. That's worth a walk around the labyrinth for me.

  2. A question and some observations:

    Why 'the hands and the feet' as identifiers that it is 'I myself' ? Luke makes no mention of them in his crucifixion narrative. Is the use of egw eimi co-incidental?

    Observations: Jesus 'standing' is pointed: the dead do not and cannot stand! And 'in the middle' (not 'among')implies his status and significance in the Christian community (cf Rev 1:13 etc.)

    1. A friend and NT scholar recently sent a memo out to pastors just before Good Friday, remind us that there are no "nails" in the NT stories. There are, however, allusions to the hands and feet here, then the wounds of his hands and side in John, that have given artists and preachers alike reason to assume nails, spears, etc. And we have a mental image of what "crucify" means, as a result.
      Within this text, however, "hands and feet" seem to be the viewable and touchable places that will demonstrate that Jesus is, in fact, flesh and bone. That seems to be important to the story, more than the assumptions that we could make about what those hands and feet seem to look like.
      Nice to hear from you.

  3. I love your translation "disbelieving from the joy." I've been caught by this verses as it translated in the NRSV "while in their joy they were disbelieving" and how it differs from many other translations that seem to go more along the lines of "they were so happy they couldn't believe it" which doesn't really seem to be the same thing.

    I've been thinking about the ways that we can be joyful about things even as we disbelieve or wonder about them, especially as it relates to resurrection (both Jesus's and the promise of resurrection broadly). We don't fully understand (or possibly even believe it), and that could easily lead to fear and despair. However, these disciples' experience allows them to move from fear to respond in joy even as they don't understand.

    1. I think that sometimes, on this side of a 2,000 year old tradition, we act as if the disciples ought to have said, "Oh, hi Jesus. I was wondering if you had been raised from the dead yet." And yet, we have a whole genre of movies about how awful it would be if the dead were raised.
      I love the way Luke captures the mixed emotions of actually seeing hands and feet and knowing that this is the one whom they saw horribly killed just days before. "Disbelieving with joy" is probably much more accurate than our flabby uses of the word "faith" these days.
      I like how you're processing this.
      Thanks for writing,

    2. It has struck me recently that our statement of belief in resurrection is quite at odds with our cultural depictions of such things. We're much more comfortable with the "undead" (vampires are cool and sexy) than the "raised dead." How convenient it would be if we could have the eternal life without all that pesky dying part.

  4. I'm turning over in my mind your comments on mind-related words in v.45, and it occurs to me that there might be another connection here: μετάνοιαν in v.47. Could you comment?

    1. You are absolutely right. When I first did this work a few years back, I overlooked this incredibly important word. I would need to study Luke's use of it more closely to say too much, but as I just completed a year of working closely on Mark, I can say that metanoia is the essence of the call of the gospel. And yes, it is indeed a "mind" word, with νοῦς as the root, so I apologize for not focusing more intently on it. I have the sense from Mark - and can only conjecture for Luke - that it means something like "Change your entire way of thinking" which is necessary to trust in the presence of the reign of God at hand. Something like that.
      Thanks for pointing this out.

  5. The mind thing means to me "awareness" or "deepest understanding" - awareness is historically justified, I guess - but I had to look that up! My Dad used too say "use your nous" (pronounced with a London accent as "nowce" like "house"). That just meant "think it through and use your common sense/own intelligence". It feels like this sort of "mind" is the major building block for action - what we do and how we are is based upon the deep awareness/knowledge of who Jesus is. I rely on you for the depth of the Greek but that is how I read it in terms of preaching it.

    1. I suspect you will preach it very well indeed, Caroline. As a nerd, hopelessly devoted to written texts and so forth, I have to caution myself against a use of "mind" that seems to keep everything in the upper chamber of our heads. I have found that words like 'intuition,' 'subconscious,' and 'blind spots' help to mitigate that a bit. When it comes to things like racial bias, I can think all I want, but when the heroes of my past were all presented under the presumptions of manifest destiny or the enlightenment, I have things in my mind that my consciousness would reject but still manage to get their way too often.
      I hope I am agreeing with you, but at the same time trying to prevent my own tendency to get too cerebral, even when looking at "mind" matters.
      By the way, I love the explanation of your dad's use and pronunciation of nous. Thanks for that.

  6. Thanks for the great commentary and translation. A friend pointed out to me that the Aramaic version has Jesus eating fish and honeycomb. I wonder if meros (piece) was misread as melos (honey)? In any case I love that idea of honey and sweetness being part of the meal Jesus eats after he has risen from the dead. Not just nourishment but joyous feasting. Further, the detail of the fish being grilled or cooked is fascinating to me. Why that was pointed out is so odd -- as if the reader would think Jesus was going to eat raw fish. Again, there is something about the messianic feast here I think. "A feast of fine meats and well-aged wines." Or maybe the "cooked fish" is symbolizing something else that I am not aware of?

  7. Hi Richard,
    Not knowing 1st century eating habits - or habits about describing eating - I love your questions and have no response other than guesses or hunches. I do recall reading a commentary on the 'loaves and fishes' story that said the fish was probably a condiment, rather than a main course or side dish, that went atop the bread. Less like tuna fish from a can and more like sardines, I take it. So, maybe there is a fish that one carries or eats when traveling and a fish that one might serve when in the house. Perhaps that is the significance of describing it. Again, nothing more than a guess.
    Thanks for writing.

  8. The Emmaus Road Story is a wonderful tale but step back for a moment and take a look at it with a skeptical mind: Why didn’t the disciples recognize Jesus? Did Jesus disguise himself? If so, why? If we are to believe the same gospel author, Jesus appeared to these same two disciples (and the Twelve) later that same day without a disguise. Sounds contrived to me.

    And what about the fact that not one other Gospel author mentions this appearance? Matthew doesn’t. John doesn’t. And these two guys were (allegedly) part of the Twelve! This is one of the first appearances of the resurrected Jesus, Creator and Lord of the universe, and Matthew and John don’t feel it warrants mention in their Gospels?? Didn’t fit with their “theme”? I don’t buy it.

    I will bet that this entire story is pure fiction. It was invented for theological purposes. It was invented to teach Christians that they should be on their guard at all times: Jesus is everywhere! Jesus is listening and watching everything you do.

    Like many tall tales, there may be a kernel of truth to the Emmaus Road Story. It is entirely possible that there was a “sighting” on the Emmaus Road. Someone saw a bright light or a shadow and believed it to be an appearance of “their Lord”. And like all ghost stories, this tale spread like wild fire and took on a life of its own. Eventually, a full dialogue between the humans and the ghost was added.

    These stories are not historically reliable, folks. Read and enjoy them for their rich literary value, but don’t read them as historical facts. There is no good evidence that the supernatural operates within our universe.


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