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Re: [Synoptic-L] The same Aramaic word "cleanse"?

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  • Ken Olson
    Ron, I suspect that Kloppenborg was aiming at putting forward a stronger case than Wellhausen/Black and was not overly concerned with attempting to demonstrate
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 30, 2005
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      Ron,

      I suspect that Kloppenborg was aiming at putting forward a stronger case
      than Wellhausen/Black and was not overly concerned with attempting to
      demonstrate the impossibility of a scribal error in a hypothetical source. I
      think he succeeded.

      The main part of the case is his argument that the text of Luke is perfectly
      understandable as Lukan redaction of his source and there is thus no need to
      posit a mistranslation of an Aramaic original. None of the authors of the NT
      is more concerned than Luke with the ethics of wealth. For Luke, the way a
      man disposes of his wealth is a manifestation of the way he regards God in
      his heart. To vastly oversimplify Luke's position: almsgiving cleanses the
      soul or, perhaps more accurately, is the sign of a clean soul. Conversely,
      lack of charity is the sign of an unclean soul. This means that Luke's "of
      the things within, give alms, and behold! Everything will be clean for you,"
      in Lk. 11.41 is very likely to be Luke's own elaboration on the theme of
      inner cleanliness found in his source (whether that is Q or, dare I suggest,
      Matthew).

      There is some pre-Lukan background to this idea both in non-Christian
      Judaism (Tobit 4.7-12) and in Christianity (Mk. 10.21, =Lk. 18.22), but Luke
      develops the idea much farther than his predecessors. The theme is found
      often in Luke's special material. Matthew and Luke both have John the
      Baptist's preaching on the repent-or-be-destroyed theme, but Luke alone goes
      on to define this repentance. It consists first of all of sharing
      possessions (Lk. 3.10). It is also present in his Parables of the Rich Fool
      and the Unjust Manager, which end with the morals: "So it is with those who
      store up treasure for themselves but are not rich toward God" (Lk. 12.21)
      and "You cannot serve God and wealth" (Lk. 16.13). It is also in the
      background of the Lazarus story where the poor man who longed for the crusts
      of bread from the rich man's table goes to heaven, while the rich man, who
      apparently could not spare his crusts, goes to hell (Lk. 16.21), and in the
      Zacchaeus story, where Jesus announces that salvation has come to Zacchaeus'
      house because, though he is a tax collector and thus a member of a group
      despised among all peoples in all places at all times, he offers half of all
      he has as alms to the poor (Lk. 19.8-9).

      The fullest explication of the theme is probably the one found in Lk.
      12.32-34:

      "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to
      give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for
      yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no
      thief comes and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is your heart will
      be also" (Lk. 12.32-34).

      I found Goulder's and Johnson's commentaries on Luke very helpful on this
      issue. You might want to respond to their ideas if you intend to make a
      serious case for an Aramaic source for Luke based on supposed
      mistranslations. Maybe you should also take a look at Johnson's Literary
      Function of Possessions in Luke Acts, which I admit I haven't read.

      Best Wishes

      Ken

      Kenneth A. Olson
      MA, History, University of Maryland
      PhD Student, Theology, University of Birmingham

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Ron Price" <ron.price@...>
      To: "Synoptic-L elist" <Synoptic-L@...>
      Sent: Saturday, April 30, 2005 2:14 PM
      Subject: [Synoptic-L] The same Aramaic word "cleanse"?


      > In _Excavating Q_ pp. 74-77, Kloppenborg Verbin attempts to destroy the
      > argument that Luke's "give alms" (11:41) is a mistranslation of the
      > Aramaic
      > word for "cleanse". Part of his argument (p.75) is that if a translation
      > was
      > involved, the Aramaic 'dakkau' (not his transliteration) would have had to
      > have been translated correctly in 11:39 and then the same word would have
      > had to be translated *incorrectly* in 11:41.
      >
      > But Kl. appears to be forgetting that we are not talking about the
      > computer age, nor even the age of typewriters. The Aramaic word would have
      > been written by hand. So it is perfectly possible that the first 'd' in
      > the
      > second occurrence could, through scribal carelessness or a blemished
      > papyrus, have been more easily mistaken for a 'z' making 'zakkau' and
      > hence
      > the "give alms" of v.41.
      >
      > Ron Price

      Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
      List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
    • Ken Olson
      OK. Another delayed response from me. Sorry for reproducing so much of the previous discussion. I have marked my new additions with *KO (an asterisk and my
      Message 2 of 4 , May 15, 2005
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        OK. Another delayed response from me. Sorry for reproducing so much of the
        previous discussion. I have marked my new additions with *KO (an asterisk
        and my initials).

        KO: > As
        > far as I am aware, there is no way to demonstrate the non-existence of a
        > hypothetical source, or of a hypothetical scribal error in a hypothetical
        > source. One can only show the lack of evidence favoring it. I know of at
        > least three ways to do that:
        >
        > (1) by showing the hypothetical source to be unnecessary
        >
        > (2) by showing that the hypothetical source does not, in fact, solve the
        > problem it is hypothesized to solve
        >
        > (3) by showing that the hypothetical source involves us in further
        > problems
        > that make it less probable than other solutions to the problem it was
        > hypothesized to solve

        RP: >>You seem to have missed one: (4) by showing that the hypothetical
        source is
        internally so inconsistent and incoherent that it could never have existed
        as a stand-alone source.<<

        *KO:

        I was considering that under (3). It is unlikely that a hypothetical source
        could have so many attendant difficulties as to render it impossible, but it
        might well have so many difficulties as to make it much less attractive than
        other options.

        KO: > JSKV used all of these. While he did not specifically address the
        > possibility of scribal error, getting around his case that way falls under
        > category (3). Tuckett, (pp. 88, 90) and Head and Williams (pp. 15-16) have
        > some relevant remarks. Daleth and Zayin are not particularly graphically
        > close; there is not much evidence for them being confused in this period;

        RP: >>"not much" implies that there is *some* evidence. How would anyone
        make the
        judgement that the 'some' is not enough?<<

        *KO:

        I was paraphrasing Tuckett's statement "The situation in Q 11.41 seems to
        involve faulty _hearing_ of an Aramaic text _dakku_ for _zakku_: there is
        little evidence that the letters _daleth_ and _zain_ would have been
        confused at this period" (Tuckett, Q and the History, p. 90).

        So you don't actually know what the evidence is for the two letters being
        confused in this period, but you deduce from the fact that Tuckett says
        there is little evidence that there must be some, and that some, whatever it
        may be, is enough for you. There is still the problem of why, in a sequence
        about cleansing which used the word cleanse before and after this occasion,
        the scribe heard or read the wrong word here and it didn't occur to him to
        check.

        You seem to be holding yourself to the standard of possibility rather than
        likelihood. Once again, I am not concerned to show the impossibility of the
        theory you're advocating (which I do not think it is possible to do), but
        that it has attendant problems and comes off second-best (or third or fourth
        or later) to the theory that Luke was redacting a Greek source that
        resembled or was Matthew.

        KO: > I would also caution that while Luke's TA ENONTA may
        > be difficult for modern interpreters to understand, that does not
        > necessarily make it nonsensical.

        RP:>>Do you think Theophilus or Luke's other original readers would have
        understood it? I doubt it.<<

        *KO:

        As with all literature, there are levels to understanding Luke's gospel. On
        a general level, I think both the original audience and modern interpreters
        understand Lk. 11.41 quite well. One should not concern oneself with ritual
        observance, because it is acts of benevolent goodwill that justify the soul.

        KO: > But there is no obvious reason that
        > Luke's wooden (mis-)translation of Dakkau/Zakkau should lead him to
        > introduce the 'nonsensical' TA ENONTA.

        RP:>>I agree that origin of the plural is not obvious. But the meaning "what
        is
        inside" could have derived from the same Aramaic word (whatever that was)
        which Matt 23:26 translates as TO ENTOS.<<

        *KO:

        So you don't actually know of any scholar competent in Aramaic who has put
        forward a detailed argument for how Luke derived the plural TA ENONTA from
        an Aramaic source, but are speculating that this might possibly be the case?


        KO: > >If he's going to make a free translation, why not one that makes
        sense?<<

        RP:>>As a master of the Greek language eager to convince both his patron and
        his
        readers, Luke rarely wrote anything that doesn't make complete sense. Of
        course thanks to Mark G., we know Luke occasionally suffered from 'fatigue',
        which produces a rather distinctive type of error. Working from Aramaic
        would have given Luke another potential way of going wrong, especially if he
        had a less than perfect grasp of that language, and a degree of respect for
        the wording of the source as he perceived it.<<

        *KO:

        It's that 'complete sense' thing that gets me. Luke is a sophisticated
        writer and theologian and wrote many things that are difficult to understand
        and on which interpreters disagree. You are right that TA ENONTA in Lk.
        11.41 is a crux for translators. So is Luke's ENTOJ in 17.21. Grammatically,
        the end of 17.21 ought to mean: "the kingdom of God is _inside_ you".
        Currently, more interpreters probably favor the understanding: "the kingdom
        of God is _among_ you". I think they're probably wrong. It seems to me that
        Luke's conception of the things inside a man is a complex problem and not
        one to be pushed aside as a mistranslation. I do not think I fully grasp
        what Luke is getting at, but it seems to me that taking these two texts and
        Lk. 6.45 together is a step in the right direction. To be very reductive,
        Luke is saying: 'the man who has the kingdom of God in his heart expresses
        it through goodwill to his neighbors'. Or something like that.

        KO: > The same principle applies to the alleged mistranslation in Lk. 11.48.
        The
        > interpretive problem in the text is that Jesus takes the fact that his
        > audience builds the tombs of the prophets whom their ancestors killed as
        > evidence that they are in agreement with their ancestors. This seems to be
        > a
        > non-sequitur. We can change the text by replacing Luke's "you build" in
        > 11.48 with the alleged Aramaic original "you are their children" (=Mt.
        > 23.31). This does little to solve the problem. We still have "you build
        > their tombs" in Lk. 11.47 (where it IS parallel to Mt. 23.29) being taken
        > as
        > evidence of agreement with the ancestors. Adding "you are their [i.e.,
        > your
        > ancestors] children" in 11.48 would still not explain why this would
        > indicate agreement with them; it replaces one form of redundancy with
        > another.

        RP:>>Surely the key to the original meaning is to be found in Matthew's
        version.
        There the scribes and Pharisees are presented as admitting that they are
        descendants of those who murdered the prophets, and that confirms their
        guilt by the peculiar logic that the descendants will behave like the
        ancestors. So replacing "you build" by "you are their children" does
        introduce the sort of twisted logic which was in Matthew and (I would argue)
        also in the Aramaic original.<<

        *KO:

        I quite agree about Matthew's version containing the 'original' meaning of
        the saying, but the idea that the Jews are the descendents of those who
        killed the prophets is already present in 11.47, so "you are their children"
        would not introduce anything new. Luke is adding an additional argument
        against the Jews with "you build", on which, see below.


        KO: > Further, the Greek MEN. DE construction used in Lk. 11.48 suggests
        > that that feature was a product of Greek composition. I would argue that
        > it
        > is likely to have come from the same redactional hand as SUNEUDOKEITE
        > ("you
        > agree with", "you approve of"). The sense is that the children have
        > collaborated with their ancestors in the deaths of the prophets. The
        > ancestors, for their part, performed the actual killings, while the
        > children, for their part, dug the graves.

        RP:>>There still seems to me to be an awkwardness in the Greek, i.e. the
        absence
        of an explicit object corresponding to "you build", though admittedly I
        don't know whether someone more fluent in Greek would perceive this as
        awkward or as natural.<<

        *KO:

        Good point. Let's suppose you're right that Luke is a master of the Greek
        language and has put some thought into what he says. Even if he introduced
        the word "you build" in place of "you are their descendants", either as an
        intentional play on words (as Black holds) or by mistake, he still knows
        that OIKODOMEW is a transitive verb and normally takes a direct object.
        Also, as I argued previously, he's already made the point that the Jewish
        leaders build the tombs of the prophets their ancestors killed in 11.47. Why
        does he repeat himself, or rather, why does he repeat himself except for
        leaving off the object of the verb. I would suggest that we consider the
        possibility that Luke knows what he is doing and that if he didn't include
        "the tombs of the prophets" in 11.48, it may be because he meant "you build"
        more broadly than just that.

        It is always dangerous to build a theory on either single words or on an
        omission, as Black does and I am about to do. But in this case I think it is
        justified to suggest that Lk. 11.48 contains in brief a theme that Luke
        develops more fully elsewhere. That theme is that the Jews honor the works
        of their own hands rather than the commandments of God as delivered by his
        prophets.

        This theme is most fully developed in the conclusion of Stephen's speech in
        Acts 7.37-53:

        37 This is that Moses who told the Israelites, 'God will send you a prophet
        like me from your own people.' 38 He was in the assembly in the desert, with
        the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he
        received living words to pass on to us. 39 But our fathers refused to obey
        him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40
        They told Aaron, 'Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow
        Moses who led us out of Egypt-we don't know what has happened to him!' 41
        That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought
        sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor of what their hands had
        made.

        [vv. 42-43 omitted]

        44"Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the
        desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he
        had seen. 45Having received the tabernacle, our fathers under Joshua brought
        it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before
        them. It remained in the land until the time of David, 46who enjoyed God's
        favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.
        47But it was Solomon who built the house for him.

        48"However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the
        prophet says:

        49" 'Heaven is my throne,

        and the earth is my footstool.

        What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord.

        Or where will my resting place be?

        50Has not my hand made all these things?'

        51"You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just
        like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52Was there ever a
        prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted
        the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him-
        53you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but
        have not obeyed it."

        Commentators on Acts 7.47 and environs have not been slow to pick up on Luke's
        theme:

        E. Haenchen observes: "The speaker sees in the building of the Temple an
        apostasy from the true service of God" (Haenchen, p. 285).

        L. T. Johnson, comments on Acts 7.48's use of 'made with hands', a term
        normally associated with pagan idols, "The shock here is to see it turned
        against the Jewish Temple. But there is a tradition of such criticism in
        Israel. Like kingship itself, the Temple did not meet unanimous approval.
        Even the oracle legitimating its being built was in the form of a
        conditional clause: "if the commandments are kept" (1 Kings 6.11-13). The
        prophets in particular warned against the tendency of the people to rely on
        ritual rather than obedience" [Johnson, p. 133].

        B. R. Gaventa, arguing against those commentators who think Luke took a hard
        line against the temple, says: "The verses that follow, taken together with
        the criticism of idolatry in vv. 39-43, suggest that the problem is not the
        temple _per se_ but Israel's false perception that the temple renders God
        manageable. The Israelites are recalled for celebrating 'the work of their
        hands' (v. 41) in the wilderness" [Gaventa, p. 129].

        I conclude from this that Luke 11.47-48 expresses a theme found elsewhere in
        Luke-Acts. In building the tombs of the prophets, the Israelites follow
        their ancestors in honoring the works of their own hands [the Golden Calf,
        the Temple] instead of obeying the commands of God delivered by the
        prophets. They killed them and you build just as you kill them and they
        built.


        [material on Casey snipped]


        KO:> First, the basic point of Occam's razor is that theories require
        evidence.
        > The essential argument for an Aramaic source behind Lk. 11.41/Mt. 23.26 is
        > that the identification of almsgiving with purity could not occur in Greek
        > but could occur in Aramaic. If it could plausibly occur in Greek (and I
        > will
        > show below that it could), if Luke "saw in the text what he wanted to
        > see",
        > then there is no basis for hypothesizing an Aramaic source.

        RP:>>Because there are several candidate cases for mistranslation, Occam's
        razor
        can't be applied to this case in isolation.

        Also if Luke was working entirely in Greek, a domain over which he had
        indisputable mastery, why did he produce a woe which is so difficult to
        understand, in contrast with e.g. the following which, though peculiar and
        difficult to accept, are fairly easy to understand? :<<

        > "It is better to give alms than to amass gold. For almsgiving delivers
        > from
        > death and cleans away every sin" [Tobit 12.8-9].
        >
        > "As water extinguishes a blazing fire, so almsgiving atones for sin"
        > [Sirach 3.30]

        *KO:

        First, the basic point is that theories require evidence. The alleged
        mistranslation of "purify" as "almsgiving" is the major point in making the
        case for an Aramaic source. A virtually unlimited number of bad arguments
        may be advanced in favor of any theory, so the mere fact of their existence
        counts for little. As it happens, the subsidiary arguments are even worse
        than thi one and have been dealt with, so Occam is hardly being applied in
        isolation.

        Second, as argued above, the full depth of meaning of Luke's TA ENONTA may
        be difficult to understand, but this is not untypical of Luke. The general
        sense of the woe in 11.41 as a whole is not difficult to understand.

        To recap:

        The identification of acts of benevolent goodwill (e.g., giving alms) with
        the cleansing of sin, as found in Lk. 11.41, is already found in Greek
        before Luke in Tobit 12.8-9 and Sirach 3.30, so we don't need an Aramaic
        source to account for it.

        The backup argument that TA ENONTA in Lk. 11.41 is a crux for interpreters
        is vulnerable to the objections that, in fact, Luke has many passages that
        are cruces for interpreters and that it can be explained on the basis of
        Luke's conception of what is inside a man, which is also a crux elsewhere in
        Luke. Further, no scholar competent in Aramaic has put forward an
        explanation of precisely how the Aramaic source would explain the
        difficulty.

        "You build" in Lk. 11.48 is perfectly consistent with, and explicable on the
        basis of, Luke's theme that the Jews honor the works of their own hands
        rather than obeying the commandments of God as delivered by the prophets.

        Best,

        Ken

        Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
        List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
      • Ron Price
        ... *RP: Indeed. This is where I think you Farrer adherents understate your case. I ve done a lot of work on the structure of all the major NT documents, and
        Message 3 of 4 , May 17, 2005
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          Ken Olson wrote:

          > It is unlikely that a hypothetical source
          > could have so many attendant difficulties as to render it impossible, but it
          > might well have so many difficulties as to make it much less attractive than
          > other options.

          *RP:
          Indeed. This is where I think you Farrer adherents understate your case.
          I've done a lot of work on the structure of all the major NT documents, and
          by comparison the Q structure looks incredible for a stand-alone document.

          > *KO:
          >
          > I was paraphrasing Tuckett's statement "The situation in Q 11.41 seems to
          > involve faulty _hearing_ of an Aramaic text _dakku_ for _zakku_: there is
          > little evidence that the letters _daleth_ and _zain_ would have been
          > confused at this period" (Tuckett, Q and the History, p. 90).

          *RP:
          Your paraphrase missed the "would have been", so my reply that there must
          have been *some* evidence was an invalid deduction. My apologies.

          > *KO:
          > There is still the problem of why, in a sequence
          > about cleansing which used the word cleanse before and after this occasion,
          > the scribe heard or read the wrong word here and it didn't occur to him to
          > check.

          *RP:
          I've already answered this one: at that point Luke saw what he wanted to
          see.

          >> RP: I agree that origin of the plural is not obvious. But the meaning "what
          >> is
          >> inside" could have derived from the same Aramaic word (whatever that was)
          >> which Matt 23:26 translates as TO ENTOS.<<

          > *KO:
          >
          > So you don't actually know of any scholar competent in Aramaic who has put
          > forward a detailed argument for how Luke derived the plural TA ENONTA from
          > an Aramaic source, but are speculating that this might possibly be the case?

          *RP:
          No. I'm saying I can see where the *root* of the word came from, but not
          where the *plural* came from.

          >> RP: As a master of the Greek language eager to convince both his patron and
          >> his readers, Luke rarely wrote anything that doesn't make complete sense...
          >
          > *KO:
          >
          > It's that 'complete sense' thing that gets me. Luke is a sophisticated
          > writer and theologian and wrote many things that are difficult to understand
          > and on which interpreters disagree.

          *RP:
          Perhaps my choice of phrase was inaccurate. Luke rarely wrote anything that
          looks like nonsense, and our disagreements represent differing judgements as
          to whether certain texts look nonsensical.

          > *KO:
          >
          > You are right that TA ENONTA in Lk.
          > 11.41 is a crux for translators. So is Luke's ENTOJ in 17.21. Grammatically,
          > the end of 17.21 ought to mean: "the kingdom of God is _inside_ you".
          > Currently, more interpreters probably favor the understanding: "the kingdom
          > of God is _among_ you". I think they're probably wrong. It seems to me that
          > Luke's conception of the things inside a man is a complex problem and not
          > one to be pushed aside as a mistranslation. I do not think I fully grasp
          > what Luke is getting at, but it seems to me that taking these two texts and
          > Lk. 6.45 together is a step in the right direction. To be very reductive,
          > Luke is saying: 'the man who has the kingdom of God in his heart expresses
          > it through goodwill to his neighbors'. Or something like that.

          *RP:
          Perhaps so. But it could at the same time be a deliberate but clumsy
          distortion of the well-attested "The kingdom of God is near", replacing near
          in time by near in place in order to further dampen enthusiasm for an
          imminent return of Jesus.

          > *KO: > The same principle applies to the alleged mistranslation in Lk. 11.48.
          > .......
          >
          > The sense is that the children have
          > collaborated with their ancestors in the deaths of the prophets. The
          > ancestors, for their part, performed the actual killings, while the
          > children, for their part, dug the graves.

          *RP:
          This appears to assume that Luke thought it reprehensible to dig the
          prophets' graves (or build their tombs). The nearest NT analogy that springs
          to mind is Joseph of Arimathea. But he is viewed with respect by all the
          gospel writers, not least by Luke himself who calls Joseph "a good and
          righteous man".

          Your subsequent exposition about Luke [snipped] is about building idols and
          building the Temple. Even if it is true as you argue, that Luke was critical
          of the Temple, it's not clear to me that the argument carries over to tombs.
          Notwithstanding Lk 9:60a "Leave the dead to bury their own dead" (which I
          take to be a typical example of hyperbole taken from the early sayings
          source), Jews and early Christians alike had a high respect for tombstones.

          >> RP: Because there are several candidate cases for mistranslation, Occam's
          >> razor
          >> can't be applied to this case in isolation.

          > *KO:
          > ....... As it happens, the subsidiary arguments are even worse
          > than thi one and have been dealt with, so Occam is hardly being applied in
          > isolation.

          *RP:
          What I meant was that it would only need the verification of a single
          candidate mistranslation to confirm the existence of the Aramaic source, at
          which point the source would no longer be hypothetical. But even this is not
          needed. The source did exist: Papias wrote about it. The effect of this is
          that individual mistranslation arguments should not need to be as strong as
          they would have needed to be had there been no external evidence for the
          existence of the source.

          Ron Price

          Derbyshire, UK

          Web site: http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/index.htm


          Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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