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[Synoptic-L] Luke on the leper

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  • Maluflen@aol.com
    Since most everyone seems satisfied with my arguments for the priority of Matthew in the parallels on the cleansed leper (Matt 8:1-4 pars.), the next step,
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 28, 2003
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      Since most everyone seems satisfied with my arguments for the priority of Matthew in the parallels on the cleansed leper (Matt 8:1-4 pars.), the next step, (from a Two-Gospel hypothesis perspective) is to examine Luke's redaction of Matthew's story. Assuming my audience consists mostly of Farrerites, I need not argue at length for the position that Luke had Matthew's text in front of him as he wrote. On the other hand, and against the Farrerite position, it can be argued that there is no need whatsoever to assume that Luke also had the Markan version of the story in front of him as he wrote. The differences from Matthew in the text of Luke, which Mark shares with Luke, are all of a kind that can be shown to be typically Lukan in character, and therefore most likely to have originated with Luke.

      From the last part of Lk 5:12 into the middle of 5:13 one finds a series of 17 words (ME being treated as enclitic) in which there is complete verbal agreement between Lk and Matt. Strictly speaking, the literary dependence here could therefore be in either direction, but, as suggested above, I have not chosen to dialogue here with Lukan priority upholders, and so I will assume that most of you accept the idea that the dependence here is of Lk on Matt. Within this series of 17 words of exact agreement of Lk with Matt, it should be noted that there is also extensive agreement with the text of Mark. However, Mark's text disagrees with Matt and Lk either in word order or in exact verbal agreement at seven points within these 17 words, by my count. In other words, the text of Luke is significantly closer to Matt here than it is to Mark, so, if Luke knew only one of the two texts, the evidence favors the view that this text was Matt. One further verbal agreement between Luke and Matt alone should be noted, namely, the word IDOU in 5:12, which has a Matthean, but not a Markan parallel.

      The next step is to analyze what significant changes Luke has introduced into his story compared to the text of Matthew. The differences are greatest at the beginning and ending of the story, which is quite typical of the Synoptic phenomena generally. There is no extensive agreement between Luke and Mark in these sections either, although there are sufficient minor agreements in these sections to suggest that one or the other evangelist may have known the other's text.

      The main structural difference in the commonly shared part of the Matt-Luke story is in terms of spatial movements. In Matt, the leper "approaches" Jesus, and his leprosy is cleansed. In Luke the movement is on the part of the leprosy, not the leper. The "man" full of leprosy is said to "see" Jesus, to fall on his face and to pray (EDEHQH) for cleansing (but not to approach Jesus). When Jesus reaches out his hand and touches him, the leprosy is said to "go away from" the man. So, instead of the leper moving toward Jesus with his request, and then simply being cleansed (Matt), the man with leprosy is stationary through the story in Lk, and the disease itself moves away from him as a result of Jesus' healing ("cleansing") action.

      Luke's story implies, then, a certain conception of the disease of leprosy as something almost akin to a demon, quite distinct from the suffering subject who is its "host". This conception agrees with the way Luke opens his story, again compared with Matt. Matt speaks of a leper (LEPROS) who approaches Jesus. Luke instead speaks of a "man full of leprosy" (ANHR PLHRHS LEPRAS). So two subjects, the man and the leprosy, are immediately indicated as distinct, in the way that a fluid is distinct from the container in which it is held. This conception is fully in agreement with Luke's redaction elsewhere in his Gospel (and also in Acts). Instead of speaking of "demoniacs", as in Matt 8:28, Lk 8:27 speaks of "a man from the city having demons" (ANHR EK THS POLEWS EXWN DAIMONIA), a phrase that echoes Luke's ANQWPOS EXWN PNEUMA DAIMONIOU AKAQARTOU in 4:33. Luke avoids in similar fashion referring to a paralytic in 5:18 (as in Matt 9:2). Instead he speaks of a "man who was paralyzed". (Compare also Lk 8:43-44 with the Matthean parallel, where in Lk something happens to the RUSIS of blood as a result of the healing action of Jesus). In addition to these Gospel texts, Luke's own manner of speaking about illness or possession (without any reference to Mark) can be seen from Acts texts such as 5:16; 8:7; 16:16; 19:12; 19:16, etc.

      There is a reason why I insist on the Lukan character of this perspective, whereby the man / woman and the disease are considered in separation, and therefore the effect of Jesus' action is considered with reference to each separately, and not as a simple, unified effect of "healing", or "cleansing". The parts of Luke's leper story that show significant verbal agreement with Mark alone proceed precisely from this consideration. If my hypothesis is correct, these formulations can therefore be explained entirely on Lukan terms, without the need to suppose that Luke knew Mark's text (the dependence will therefore be in the other direction). Thus, when the leper is healed by Jesus, Luke will not be able to express this through a single term ("cleansed", as in Matthew) but will instead focus on what happens to the leprosy as a result of Jesus "command": it "departs from him". And, having used this roundabout way of referring to the cleansing without mentioning it by name, Luke has to supply, for clarity, an extra phrase in Jesus' statement to the leper: "…show yourself to the priest and offer FOR YOUR CLEANSING (words not found in Matt, but necessary in Luke because he has not yet spoken of a cleansing, since he instead spoke of the leprosy "going away") as Moses commanded…". Thus, the only significant Mark-Luke agreements in this pericope are best explained on terms of Luke's own conception of sickness or possession. This is indicated already in the difference between the way Luke introduces his client in the present pericope, as a "man full of leprosy" (5:12), as opposed to Matthew's "leper" (8:2). It is thus entirely unnecessary to suppose, in this set of parallels, that Luke knew the text of Mark. And Mark's text can well be understood as having picked up elements of Luke's redaction, where Mark-Luke agreements occur. Therefore, the Two Gospel Hypothesis best explains the data of the Synoptic Gospels in the pericope on the healing of the leper: Matthew is demonstrably the earliest version of the three, and Luke's version can be explained by the influence of Matthew and by the peculiarity of Luke's own understanding of sickness and possession, without any reference to the text of Mark.

      Leonard Maluf
      Blessed John XXIII National Seminary
      Weston, MA
    • Karel Hanhart
      ... From: Maluflen@aol.com To: Synoptic-L@bham.ac.uk Sent: Friday, November 28, 2003 6:00 PM Subject: [Synoptic-L] Luke on the leper Leonard wrote (Nov 28)
      Message 2 of 2 , Mar 3, 2004
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        ----- Original Message -----
        Sent: Friday, November 28, 2003 6:00 PM
        Subject: [Synoptic-L] Luke on the leper
         
         
        Leonard wrote (Nov 28)

        "<snip>.......Luke's story implies, then, a certain conception of the disease of leprosy as something almost akin to a demon, quite distinct from the suffering subject who is its "host". This conception agrees with the way Luke opens his story, again compared with Matt. Matt speaks of a leper (LEPROS) who approaches Jesus. Luke instead speaks of a "man full of leprosy" (ANHR PLHRHS LEPRAS). So two subjects, the man and the leprosy, are immediately indicated as distinct, in the way that a fluid is distinct from the container in which it is held. This conception is fully in agreement with Luke's redaction elsewhere in his Gospel (and also in Acts). Instead of speaking of "demoniacs", as in Matt 8:28, Lk 8:27 speaks of "a man from the city having demons" (ANHR EK THS POLEWS EXWN DAIMONIA), a phrase that echoes Luke's ANQWPOS EXWN PNEUMA DAIMONIOU AKAQARTOU in 4:33. Luke avoids in similar fashion referring to a paralytic in 5:18 (as in Matt 9:2). Instead he speaks of a "man who was paralyzed". (Compare also Lk 8:43-44 with the Matthean parallel, where in Lk something happens to the RUSIS of blood as a result of the healing action of Jesus). In addition to these Gospel texts, Luke's own manner of speaking about illness or possession (without any reference to Mark) can be seen from Acts texts such as 5:16; 8:7; 16:16; 19:12; 19:16, etc
         
        Leonard,
         
        I wish to comment on your careful notes as follows:
         
        As you know, I believe that none of the so-called miracle stories were intended to be taken as healings of a literal physical disease. The authors of the Gospel make this clear, each in their own way. I fully realize that this remark goes against the grain of an age old and persistent exegetical tradition.  I also seriously question the hermeneutic of a good many critical scholars claiming that these odd tales about the exorcism of evil spirits and the notion that physical diseases should all be attributed to the naiveté of first century authors of the Gospels. These authors were not naive! The arresting and seemingly inconsequential startling details of these stories are put in these stories in midrashic fashion. First century Judean readers were perfectly capable of analyzing their metaphorical meaning. It was a first century Judean way of  teaching. I mentioned before that the bystanders of the first exorcism in Mark identify it as "a new TEACHING with authority".
        The same is true with the second (or third?) miracle: the cleansing of the leper (Mark 1,40-44).. As I see it, with this miracle story Mark illustrates Jesus' well known first beatitude : "Blessed are the poor", a teaching he exemplified in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. We know of the poor Lazarus - laying at the rich man's gate -   that he was a LEPER, "covered with sores" and the dogs! (having pity on him?) licking his sores.
        This first "healing" is a midrashic comment on the Levitical rule that only a priest should determine whether someone is suffering of leprosy or that one's sores or ulcers are non leprous. The manner in which lepers were literally excommunicated from the people (of God) living in colonies  outside the community, was a prime illustration of all other ways in which the "poor" with a broken spirit are discriminated in any society. Now it seems to me that Luke with his description of a "man full of leprosy" (ANHR PLHRHS LEPRAS) makes clear that we are not dealing with a sudden and inexplicable cure of a real leper. You rightly observed :"So two subjects, the man and the leprosy, are immediately indicated as distinct, in the way that a fluid is distinct from the container in which it is held". This fluid - container distinction makes clear that the excommunicated man did not have a skin disease but was suffering in his very existence. One cannot really say that a man is "filled with sores" or "filled with leprosy" and mean this literally. PLHRHS  does not fit here. But one may say that the spirit of a person is broken like the spirit of Lazarus' at the gate and the rich passing through the gate and ignoring him. That is the reason, I think, why Luke clarifies the Markan and Matthean version for his readers. So the healing stories, told in this way for the sake of the children in the ecclesia, are illustrations of Jesus' beatitudes and parables, such as the one of Lazarus. They are called a new "teaching", that is he taught a radical love of the neighbor AS oneself.    
           
        cordially,
         
        Karel
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