Gospel of Luke 09 (ch. 20, 21)


Bailey, Kenneth E..  The Cross & the Prodigal: Luke 15 Through the eyes of Middle Eastern Peasants, second edition.  (IVP Books, Downers Grove IL, 2005).  (A)

————————-  Finding the Lost Cultural Keys to Luke 15.  (Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis MO, 1992). (B)

————————-  Jacob and the Prodigal: How Jesus Retold Israel’s Story.  (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 2003). (C)

Byrne, Brendan.  The Hospitality of God: a Reading of Luke’s Gospel.  (Liturgical Press, 2000 , Collegeville MN).

Craddock, Fred B.  Luke.  Part of Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching edited by James L. Mays.   (John Knox Press, Louisville, 1990).


Culy, Martin M., Mikeal C. Parsons, and Joshua J. Stigall.  Luke: A Handbook on the Greek Text.  (Baylor University Press, 2010, Waco TX).


Fitzmyer, Joseph A.  The Gospel According to Luke I – IX.  A New translation with Introduction and commentary.  Part of the Anchor Bible Commentary Series edited by W. F. Albright and David Noel Freedman.  (Doubleday, New York, 1970).


————————–  The Gospel According to Luke X – XXIV.  A New translation with Introduction and commentary.  Part of the Anchor Bible Commentary Series edited by W. F. Albright and David Noel Freedman.  (Doubleday, New York, 1985).


Gillman, John.  Luke: Stories of Joy and Salvation.  Part of the Spiritual Commentaries on the Bible series edited by Mary Ann Getty-Sullivan.  (New City Press, Hyde Park NY, 2002).


Gonzalez, Justo L.  Luke.  Part of the Belief: A theological commentary on the Bible series, Amy Plantinga Pauw and William C. Placher General Editors.  (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2010).


Hendrickx, Herman.  The Third Gospel for the Third World.  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN, 1997).

  • Volume One – Luke 1:1-2:52
  • Volume Two – A  Luke 3:1-6:49
  • Volume Two – B  Luke 7:1-9:50
  • Volume Three – A  Luke 9:51-13:21
  • Volume Three – B  Luke 13:22-17:10
  • Volume Three-C  Luke 17:11-19:44
  • Volume Four  – A  Luke 19:45-21:38


Johnson, Luke Timothy.  The Gospel of Luke.  Part of the Sacra Pagina biblical commentary series edited by Daniel J. Harrington S.J..  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN, 1991).

Levine, Amy-Jill and Marc Zvi Brettler editors.  The Jewish Annotated New Testament / New Revised Standard Version Bible Translation.  (Oxford University Press, New York, 2011).

Marshall, I. Howard.  The Gospel of Luke.  Part of the New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC) series edited by I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner.  (Eerdmans, 1978, Grand Rapids MI)

McKenna, Megan.  Luke: The Book of Blessings and Woes.  (New City Press, Hyde Park NY, 2009).

Patella, Michael F..  The Gospel According to Luke.  Part of the New Collegeville Bible Commentary edited by Daniel Durken O.S.B.  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN, 2005).

Walker, Thomas W..  Luke.  Part of the Interpretation Bible Studies series .  (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2001).




Chapter 20

Jesus questioned by authorities

This is not a casual encounter but an organized confrontation.   “What are you doing here?  By what authority are you disrupting the business / work of the Temple?”   With many thousands of people pouring into the Temple and Jerusalem for the upcoming festival there was a lot of urgency for the authorities to handle this and get back to smooth operations.

Fitzmeyer p. 1275 points out that John the Baptist was not a recognized rabbi but the people recognized his authority.

Parable of Tenant Farmers

Comparison to Israel as a vineyard quite old and extensive.

Isaiah 5:1-7 is the most complete version:

The Song of the Vineyard

Now let me sing of my friend, my beloved’s song about his vineyard.

My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside;

He spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines;

Within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press.

Then he waited for the crop of grapes, but it yielded rotten grapes.


Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem, people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard:

What more could be done for my vineyard  that I did not do?

Why, when I waited for the crop of grapes, did it yield rotten grapes?


Now, I will let you know what I am going to do to my vineyard:

Take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled!*

Yes, I will make it a ruin: it shall not be pruned or hoed,

but will be overgrown with thorns and briers; I will command the clouds  not to rain upon it.


The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, the people of Judah, his cherished plant;

He waited for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!


Paying Taxes to Rome

This might have been one of the standard questions of the day to determine where people stood on the issue.  The Roman occupiers were hated, and dissent had to be carefully expressed.

To complicate matters – where Rome directly ruled the tax was in effect.  Where Rome indirectly ruled (as in Galilee through appointed rulers / kings) the particular tax in question was NOT in effect – though clearly other taxes were.  So, part of the scene here is Jesus, a country boy / rabbi from the “outside” of Galilee, where this direct tax was NOT paid, walking into a more or less hot political situation in Jerusalem where this direct tax WAS paid  – and one can imagine the sophisticated authorities believing that this was an easy trap to spring on him.

Fitzmeyer . 1291: “Implied in his question is this: If you ‘upright’ Jews of Roman Judea actually carry and use the silver denarius with the name and inscription of Caesar on it, then you acknowledge your dependence on him.”

Fitzmeyer p. 1292:  What did Jesus really think?

  1. Two-kingdoms coexisting
  2. Ironic (who cares about the things of Caesar when the Kingdom of God is what really matters)
  3. Anti-Zealot interpretation.  Don’t openly reject the payment of the tax, there are more important things to worry about.

No good Jew would have had a Roman or pagan coin in their pockets while in the Temple area – it would have been considered an idol.  Here the money-changers outside the Temple proper fulfilled their jobs – taking coins from around the world from travelers and exchanging them for acceptable Temple coins.



Question about Resurrection

Sadducees were a sect within Judaism – somewhat akin to the Samaritans.  Neither group accepted as God’s word anything beyond the 5 Books of Moses / Torah.  No oral tradition (as was being developed by the Pharisees and earlier teachers).  The prophets and other writings were respected and used but not with the same status.  “Show me in the Torah where it talks about resurrection of the dead.”  Jesus has an answer for them citing the Torah – whether it satisfies them or not is another question.

Exodus 3:4-6:   So Moses decided, “I must turn aside to look at this remarkable sight. Why does the bush not burn up?”  When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to look, God called out to him from the bush: Moses! Moses! He answered, “Here I am.”  God said: Do not come near! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.   I am the God of your father,* he continued, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.   Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Fitzmeyer p. 1302: “Such deuterocanonical, intertestamental, and extrabiblical references seem to make it clear that at least some first-century Palestinian Jews were believing in the resurrection of the dead, and probably even in immortality.  ‘The extent to which this belief was influenced by the Greek duality of body and soul is hard to say.  The Sadducees would have none of it; hence the question that they pose to Jesus.”

Question about David’s Son

Psalm 110: 1-3

A psalm of David.

The LORD says to my lord:

“Sit at my right hand,

while I make your enemies your footstool.”


The scepter of your might:

the LORD extends your strong scepter from Zion.

Have dominion over your enemies!


Yours is princely power from the day of your birth.

In holy splendor before the daystar,

like dew I begot you.


Jesus, and the tradition of the time, assumes that David wrote this psalm and has God / LORD speaking to the expected Messiah.  Fitzmeyer p. 1315:  However, given the culture of the times, David could not be speaking of a descendant since a descendant would be “lesser” than he by definition.  He could not call a lesser person “my lord”.


Many of the psalms  (73 of 150, just under half of them) in the Book of Psalms have this heading (many do not).  This is pretty doubtful attribution according to modern scholarship (David also is supposed to have written most of the proverbs in the Book of Proverbs).  Tradition also asserts David as the greatest king, a great warrior, and more.

In reality, Psalm 110 reads best as the work of someone other than the king sitting on his throne in Jerusalem ABOUT / TO / FOR  the king sitting on the throne in Jerusalem.

Denunciation of Scribes

As “guardians” of the property of widows (who could not easily own or inherit property) the scribes and authorities would get a fee.  Enough such small fees make a good living, and some took more than a small amount – happened then, happens now.

While “long robes” is in the text – meaning may be more “fancy robes”.  Everyone wore long robes which inevitably dragged across the ground getting dirty.  The connotation may also be that the wealthy walked in palaces and places with stone floors etc. and did not generally “dirty” themselves by being out in the town.  Marshall p. 750 thinks one of two things is meant – the recognized long robes of a scholar OR their “Sabbath finest”.

Chapter 21

Poor Widow / contribution

What does it mean?  Fitzmeyer p. 1321: “There is no basis in the text for giving according to one’s means; the widow gives all that she has!  She gives beyond her means.  To reduce the point of the story to a counsel about almsgiving is to miss its main thrust; certainly almsgiving to the poor is out of the question here.”  Then he goes on: “In the preceding episode Jesus was displeased with what the Scribes were doing to widows’ estates; here he is no more pleased with what he sees.  He heaps no praise on the widow, but rather laments the tragedy of the day: ‘She has been taught and encouraged by religious leaders to donate as she does, and Jesus condemns the value system that motivates her action.’  In short, Jesus’ comment contains words of lament, not of praise.”

Destruction of the Temple

Jesus died somewhere in the vicinity of 33 AD.  The Temple was destroyed by the Romans toward the end of a Jewish rebellion – around 70 AD.  Luke’s gospel was written somewhere in the vicinity of 65 to 75 AD.  SO – did Jesus predict the destruction of the Temple 40 or so years in advance?  Some say yes, some say this is later tradition and/or the gospel writers  putting this in Jesus’ mouth.  There is no way to uncover much more than this.   Fitzmeyer p. 1330 –  not a warning but a prophetic prediction  based on the failure of the cult, corruption, etc.

To add to the difficulty in making sense of the rest of this chapter – is there ONE destruction of Jerusalem in the future or TWO?  The ONE would be by the Romans in 70AD.  A second, assuming that it would have been rebuilt, would be before the end times.   I think that the entire section has to deal with the Romans in 70 AD and the aftermath and the thought that the end-times had been initiated.

Signs of the End-times

Using apocalyptic symbols and images of his day Jesus begins a section of teaching about the “end time”.   Fitzmeyer p. 1339: “Apocalyptic literature grew up in an OT matrix as a form of persecution-literature, intended to give hope to the persecuted.”

Ezekiel 38: 16-24  – the root images BEFORE apocalyptic images began to work with them

You shall rise up over my people Israel like a cloud covering the land. In those last days, I will let you invade my land so that the nations acknowledge me, when in their sight I show my holiness through you, Gog.  Thus says the Lord GOD:

About you I spoke in earlier times through my servants, the prophets of Israel, who prophesied at that time that I would let you invade them.  But on that day, the day Gog invades the land of Israel—oracle of the Lord GOD—my fury will flare up in my anger,  and in my jealousy, with fiery wrath, I swear on that day there will be a great earthquake in the land of Israel.

Before me will tremble the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, the beasts of the field and everything that crawls on the ground, and everyone on the face of the earth. Mountains will be overturned, terraces will collapse, and every wall will fall to the ground. Against him I will summon every terror—oracle of the Lord GOD; every man’s sword will be raised against his brother.

I will execute judgment on him: disease and bloodshed; flooding rain and hailstones, fire and brimstone, I will rain down on him, on his troops and on the many nations with him.  And so I will show my greatness and holiness and make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.

Fitzmeyer p. 1335: “When one considers such false prophets, portents, and ominous signs associated with the historic destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, it makes it plausible to think the “the end” of v. 9 could well be in Luke’s view that of Jerusalem and its Temple.  For this reason we see no need to import reference to the end of the world at this point in the Lucan eschatological discourse – which is the custom of the majority of commentators upon it.”

Coming Persecution

Assuming with Fizmeyer that the previous section applied to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in 70AD, with all of the confusion and fear and death associated with it, this unit is clearly about the turmoil and distress of the early church of Luke’s time and the succeeding decades (70 to 90AD).

This section begins “before all this occurs” – and this raises a question.  Is the “all this” referring backwards  to what was just said about Jerusalem and the Temple (Fitzmeyer) OR does it refer forwards to discussion of the end times (Barbernitz and others)?


Great Tribulation

Typically in time of war the countryside fled INTO the walled city for protection.   Jesus advises his followers to flee instead to the mountains AWAY from the city.

Fitzmeyer p. 1343: “The surrounding of Jerusalem by Titus’ army and camps is described by Josephus. .. Josephus numbers the Jews of Jerusalem and Judea put to the sword by the Romans as 1,100,000.  Jewish captives are described as part of Titus’ triumphal procession at Rome and numbered as 97,000.  To illustrate the woe uttered by Jesus over women with children, one can point to the story recorded by Josephus about Mary, a woman from Perea, who was among the Jews starving in Jerusalem and who seized her child, an infant at her breast, slew it, and roasted it for food for herself.”

Coming of the Son of Man

Fitzmeyer p. 1348: “The first part of the discourse was a prophetic utterance, formulated with hindsight by the evangelist about the end of Jerusalem; it had the overtones of prophecy fulfilled.  Now Jesus utters prophetic utterances about the future, with overtones of prophecy yet to be fulfilled.”  This begins a section on the end times for the world.

It may help to think about it this way: in the gospel Jesus has entered Jerusalem and is bringing to a head the conflict between himself and the Jewish authorities.  Events will unfold and the Jewish authorities will appear to “win” – but instead bring judgment down upon themselves.  Destruction will ensue.  Later, at some unknown future time, Jesus will return as Son of Man.  Before then there is conflict in the world between Jesus’ followers and those who deny him.  When he comes again there will be judgment on the world.

Ministry in Jerusalem

Fitzmeyer p. 1357: “The main emphasis in the summary is thus not on Jesus’ nightly bivouac, but on his daily teaching in the Temple; the secondary emphasis is on the eagerness of the people to listen to him.  Implied is the opposition of the Jerusalem authorities and that will surface again soon enough.”


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