Luke 6: 39-45

I propose a biblical analysis with the following steps: first a look at the Greek text, which sometimes contains variants, before proceeding to a study of each Greek word of the gospel passage, followed by an analysis of the structure of the narrative and its context, to which is added a comparison of parallel or similar passages. At the end of this analysis and as a conclusion, I propose to summarize what the evangelist meant, and I end up with some suggestions on how this Gospel could shed light on our current situation.


Summary

The story

This account is part of the Sermon in the Plain, the equivalent of Matthew's Sermon on the Mount. After a call to be merciful and to remember that one will be judged as one has judged others, Luke writes that Jesus tells his disciples a parable. There follows a series of images whose logical connection is difficult to grasp at first sight: a blind man cannot lead another blind man, the disciple is not greater than his teacher, why look at the twig in the brother's eye when one cannot see the beam in one's own eye, the quality of the fruit depends on the tree, and so a good man produces the good, and an evil man produces the evil, all ending with the conclusion: the mouth expresses the abundance of the heart.

The vocabulary

With a few exceptions such as the word parabolē (parable), mēti (is it), and ouchi (not), hekaston (every), idiou (own), the entire vocabulary does not come from Luke, but from the Q Document, the common source of Luke and Matthew. Thus, most of the words and phrases appear almost identical in both Luke and Matthew. Little is known about this Q Document, except that it reports mostly the words of Jesus and resembles a binder of loose leaves, and Luke and Matthew draw from it according to the needs of their narrative, their catechesis and their theological vision.

Structure and composition

Since a parable is meant to illustrate a teaching, we can assume that when Luke writes, "He also told them a parable," he intends to create a link between what Jesus has just said ("do not set yourselves up as judges... the measure you use will also serve as a measure for you") and the sequence of images that follows. Note that all of the images that follow come from different loose leaves in the Q Document binder, and that Matthew will also use all of these images, but will scatter them in different contexts in his gospel. When we look closely at these images, Luke constructs a logical sequence: first the image of the blind leading the blind refers to what precedes, i.e. the one who sets himself up as a judge and therefore claims to judge the other, and therefore to guide him. The image of the disciple who is not greater than his teacher, and therefore must still consider himself as a blind man, follows from another leaf, until he has been trained by his teacher. To clarify what this training means, Luke uses another leaf around the image of the twig and the beam: one remains a blind man until one sees the beam that blocks one's sight. But how do we remove this beam? Luke then resorts to another loose leaf from the Q Document with the image of the tree and its fruit: the fruit of judgment depends on the tree that is his inner being: the good or bad man produces a different judgment. To be more precise, he uses another leaf which is a reflection on the fact that a good man brings forward from his treasure the good, an evil man brings forward from his treasure the evil; it is here that Luke adds the word "heart", the seat of emotions, inclinations, reflection and action, and above all, for him, the place where the word of God abides, because what a person says is the reflection of his heart. Finally, to conclude, he finds another leaf that sums it all up: "For out of the abundance of a heart speaks its mouth". Thus, a person reveals himself in the judgment he makes of others.

Intention of the author

Luke first addresses his gospel to a Greek Christian community, of which Corinth is a typical example. One of the characteristics of this community is that it is riddled with conflict: when he writes his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul denounces a whole series of conflicts: the factions that have formed (1 Cor 1:11), then certain conflicts of interest that are settled by recourse to the courts (1 Cor 6:1-8), and the splits between different social classes during Eucharistic gatherings (see 1 Cor 11:17-34). This tradition of conflict still existed when Pope Clement wrote his letter to the Corinthians in 96 CE.

This context helps us to understand certain axes of Luke's gospel, in particular our pericope. After introducing Jesus' exhortation not to judge others and reminding us that we will be judged by the way we have judged others, Luke draws from the binder in Q Document various images and words of Jesus to support his point and combines them together. He chooses the image of a blind man leading another blind man, because conflict often arises under the pretext that one wants to give the other good advice, i.e. to guide him in the right direction. One can then be a blind man who wants to guide another blind man. But Luke does not only want to accuse the people in conflict of being blind, he wants to propose a way out of blindness. Thus he finds the image of the disciple-teacher relationship, a relationship that aims at the disciple becoming like the teacher. In this context, the disciple who has been associated with the blind man guided by the teacher, the one who sees, can in turn become a teacher. To clarify what this training involves, Luke chooses the image of the twig and the beam; indeed, the objective of this training is to learn to discover the beam that prevents us from seeing our neighbor well and guiding him like a teacher. But how does one discover this beam? Luke, who repeatedly speaks of conversion in his gospel, knows that it is only through personal transformation that we can see this beam, because the way we look at others depends on who we are. So he chooses the image of the tree and its fruit. This makes it clear to his audience that the fruit that is the judgment proceeds from the tree that is the person, and just as the good or bad tree produces different fruits, the good or bad man produces a different judgment. Here Luke makes a point of adding the word heart ("from the good treasure of his heart"), because for him all human behavior depends on this heart, and it is there that the word of God can reside and transform it. Having said this, Luke can now conclude, and he does so by choosing from the same binder in Q Document this phrase: "For out of the abundance of a heart speaks the mouth of a person". Thus, all these judgments made about others are a reflection of the heart, i.e. of the deepest being of the person. It is up to the Corinthians to meditate on this sentence.


 


  1. Establishing the Greek text

    Since the ancient manuscripts were copied by hand, there are variations between them. We have opted for the Greek text of Kurt Aland's 28th edition which has made some choices among the variations. The passage from Lk 6:39-45 does not present any significant variations that need to be discussed. Let us just mention them briefly.

    V. 39
    "He told them another parable: 'Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a hole?'" The great majority of the readings (the Vaticanus, Bezae, Angelicus, Porphyrianus, Washingtonianus, Koridethi, families 1 and 13 as well as a large number of minuscules) present the retained text: eis bothynon empesountai (lit.: towards the hole they will fall in). But a number of readings (the Sinaiticus, Alexadrinus, Ephraemi Rescriptus, Zacynthius, Athous Lavrensis and Byzantine texts), rather than having the verb empiptō (to fall into), have simply the verb piptō (to fall). This has little impact on the meaning of the sentence.

    V. 40
    "The disciple is not above the teacher; every accomplished disciple will be like his teacher." The vast majority of readings (papyrus P75, Vaticanus, Bezae, Angelicus, Washingtonianus, Koridethi, Zacynthius, families 1 and 13, minuscules and some Latin translations) present the selected text: hyper ton didaskalon (above the teacher). But a number of readings (the Alexadrinus codex, Ephraemi Rescriptus, Athous Lavrensis, Byzantine texts, and Syriac versions) add a personal pronoun to "teacher," so that the expression becomes: above the teacher of him, i.e. above his teacher (hyper ton didaskalon autou). This has little impact on the meaning of the sentence.

    V. 43
    "There is no good tree that produces spoiled fruit, nor likewise a spoiled tree that produces good fruit." Important readings (papyrus P75, the codexes Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Angelius, Washingtonianus, Zacynthius, families 1 and 13, and some minuscules) have the text retained: poioun karpon sapron (lit.: making a rotten fruit). But readings (Codex Bezae, Latin and Syriac translations) have the expression in the plural: making rotten fruits. Finally, some readings (the codex Alexandrinus, Ephraemi Rescriptus, Bezae, Koridethi, Athous Lavrensis, Byzantine texts, some Syriac and Coptic translations) do not have the adverb "likewise". All this has little impact on the meaning.

    V. 44
    "Each tree is indeed recognized by its own fruit; one does not pick figs from thorns, nor does one harvest grapes from brambles". A few readings (the Codex Bezae, Tischendorfianus and some Latin and Syriac translations) do not have "indeed", and the Codex Bezae has "one does not pick figs" rather than "one does not gather figs".

    V. 45
    "The good man from the good treasure of the heart brings forward the good and the bad from the bad brings forward the bad. For from abundance of heart speaks the mouth of him.". The retained expression of "from the good treasure of the heart" is supported by the papyrus P75, the Vaticanus and Alexandrinus codexes, as well as some manuscripts. But some manuscripts have rather "good treasure from his heart" such as the codexes Alexandrinus, Ephraemi Rescriptus, Bezae, Angelicus, Washingtonianus, Koridethi, Zacynthius, Athous Lavrensis, families 1 and 13 of the minuscules, and the Byzantine texts. Let us also note that the codex Bezae and Washingtonianus do not have the article "the" before "good", and thus present the reading: "brings forward good".

    Finally, we should mention that some readings (codex Alexandrinus, Ephraemi Rescriptus, Koridethi, Athous Lavrensis, family 13 of minuscules, Byzantine texts, some Latin and Syriac translations) add "from the treasure of his heart" before the expression "brings forward the bad", whereas the retained text is supported by papyrus P75, codexes Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Bezae, Angelicus, Washingtonianus, Zacynthius, families 1 and 13 of the minuscules, some Latin and Coptic versions.

  2. Translation of the Greek text (28th edition of Kurt Aland)

    Greek textTransliterated Greek textLiteral translationTranslation in current language
    39 Εἶπεν δὲ καὶ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς· μήτι δύναται τυφλὸς τυφλὸν ὁδηγεῖν; οὐχὶ ἀμφότεροι εἰς βόθυνον ἐμπεσοῦνται; 39 Eipen de kai parabolēn autois• mēti dynatai typhlos typhlon hodēgein? ouchi amphoteroi eis bothynon empesountai? 39 Then, he said also a parable to them, is he not able a blind (man) to guide a blind (man)? Will they not both fall into a pit?39 Then Jesus gave them an example from life: "Can a blind man guide another blind man? Will they not both fall into a hole?
    40 οὐκ ἔστιν μαθητὴς ὑπὲρ τὸν διδάσκαλον· κατηρτισμένος δὲ πᾶς ἔσται ὡς ὁ διδάσκαλος αὐτοῦ.40 ouk estin mathētēs hyper ton didaskalon• katērtismenos de pas estai hōs ho didaskalos autou.40 A disciple is not above a teacher. Then, having been fully prepared, any (disciple) will be as his teacher.40 A disciple is not superior to the teacher. Once properly trained, every disciple will resemble the teacher.
    41 Τί δὲ βλέπεις τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου, τὴν δὲ δοκὸν τὴν ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ ὀφθαλμῷ οὐ κατανοεῖς; 41 Ti de blepeis to karphos to en tō ophthalmō tou adelphou sou, tēn de dokon tēn en tō idiō ophthalmō ou katanoeis? 41 Then why do you see the twig the (one) in the eye of the brother of you, then the beam the (one) in the eye in your own eye you do not observe?41 Why do you look at the twig in your brother's eye, but the beam in your own eye you do not even consider?
    42 πῶς δύνασαι λέγειν τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου· ἀδελφέ, ἄφες ἐκβάλω τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ σου, αὐτὸς τὴν ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ σου δοκὸν οὐ βλέπων; ὑποκριτά, ἔκβαλε πρῶτον τὴν δοκὸν ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ σου, καὶ τότε διαβλέψεις τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου ἐκβαλεῖν.42 pōs dynasai legein tō adelphō sou• adelphe, aphes ekbalō to karphos to en tō ophthalmō sou, autos tēn en tō ophthalmō sou dokon ou blepōn? hypokrita, ekbale prōton tēn dokon ek tou ophthalmou sou, kai tote diablepseis to karphos to en tō ophthalmō tou adelphou sou ekbalein.42 How are you able to say to your brother, Brother, let that I might cast out the twig the (one) in the eye of you, yourself the beam in the eye of you you are not seeing? Hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of the eye of you, and then you will see clearly the twig the (one) in the eye of the brother of you to cast out.42 How can you say to your brother, "Brother, let me remove the twig from your eye, when you yourself do not even perceive the beam in your own eye? Blind man! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly the twig in your brother's eye and remove it.
    43 Οὐ γάρ ἐστιν δένδρον καλὸν ποιοῦν καρπὸν σαπρόν, οὐδὲ πάλιν δένδρον σαπρὸν ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλόν. 43 Ou gar estin dendron kalon poioun karpon sapron, oude palin dendron sapron poioun karpon kalon. 43 For a good tree is not making fruit rotten, neither again a tree rotten is making a fruit good.43 For a good tree does not produce rotten fruit, any more than a rotten tree produces good fruit.
    44 ἕκαστον γὰρ δένδρον ἐκ τοῦ ἰδίου καρποῦ γινώσκεται· οὐ γὰρ ἐξ ἀκανθῶν συλλέγουσιν σῦκα οὐδὲ ἐκ βάτου σταφυλὴν τρυγῶσιν. 44 hekaston gar dendron ek tou idiou karpou ginōsketai• ou gar ex akanthōn syllegousin syka oude ek batou staphylēn trygōsin. 44 For every tree out of its own fruit is known. For from thorns they do not gather figs, neither from a bramble a bunch of grapes they harvest.44 In fact, every tree is known by its fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, just as a cluster of grapes is not harvested from a bramble.
    45 ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ θησαυροῦ τῆς καρδίας προφέρει τὸ ἀγαθόν, καὶ ὁ πονηρὸς ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ προφέρει τὸ πονηρόν· ἐκ γὰρ περισσεύματος καρδίας λαλεῖ τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ.45 ho agathos anthrōpos ek tou agathou thēsaurou tēs kardias propherei to agathon, kai ho ponēros ek tou ponērou propherei to ponēron• ek gar perisseumatos kardias lalei to stoma autou.45 The good man from the good treasure of the heart brings forward the good and the bad from the bad brings forward the bad. For from abundance of heart speaks the mouth of him.45 A good person does good from the goodness of his heart, while an evil person does evil from the evil in him. Indeed, the mouth expresses the abundance of the heart.

  1. Analysis of each verse

    v. 39 Then Jesus gave them an example from life: "Can a blind man guide another blind man? Will they not both fall into a hole?

    Literally: Then, he said also a parable (parabolēn) to them, is he not (mēti) able (dynatai) a blind (typhlos) [man] to guide (hodēgein) a blind [man]? Will they not (ouchi) both (amphoteroi) fall (empesountai) into a pit (bothynon)?

parabolēn (parable)
Parabolēn is the feminine noun parabolē in the accusative singular, the accusative being required because the word is the direct object of the verb "to say". It means: comparison, juxtaposition, illustration, analogy. It is usually translated as "parable", and the word appears only in the synoptic gospels (John uses the term paroimia which designates indirect and figurative language): Mt = 17; Mk = 13; Lk = 18; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

Basically, a parable is used to explain or clarify a situation or an event by relating it to another well-known situation or event, so that we end up with the couple: as well as... so. Sometimes the evangelist will use the term parable to describe a simple image or saying, but sometimes it will be a highly developed story. It is possible to think that some of the parables go back to the historical Jesus, given their number in all the gospels, even if it is difficult to validate a particular parable, given the absence of multiple attestations (the same parable coming from independent sources).

In fact, at the time of the writing of the gospels, the very word "parable" underwent a certain evolution, an evolution in two different directions:

  1. First, there was the allegorization of the parables, i.e. each element in the image of the parable took on a particular symbolic value (e.g., in the parable of the sower, the seed becomes the word of God, the roadside where the seed fell becomes Satan, the stony places where the seed fell become distress and persecution, the brambles become the cares of the world; see Mk 4:14-20), whereas the original point of Jesus' parable was simply to illustrate his faith in the success of his mission despite the appearance of failure. Thus, the allegorization of the parable does not go back to Jesus, but is the work of the early Christians.

  2. Then, with allegorization, the parable came to mean an obscure and enigmatic word, so that speaking in parables became synonymous with an enigmatic language, as opposed to a clear language. This is the paradox: the parable that was meant to be a way of illuminating a situation has become an obscure language. This is what Mark says when he puts the following words into Jesus' mouth: "And he said to them, 'To you the mystery of the kingdom of God has been given, but to those outside everything comes in parables'" (Mk 4:11), and so he needs to create a scene where the disciples have to ask Jesus to give an explanation of the parable: "and he did not speak to them without a parable, but in particular he explained everything to his disciples" (Mk 4:34). Thus, certain images that were clear in Jesus' time were no longer clear in the time of the first Christian communities.

Luke takes up many of Mark's parables (the sower, the mustard seed, the homicidal vinedressers and the fig tree). But he differs from them first of all by not using the generic expression "speaking in parables" that Mark uses (3:23; 4:2; 4:34; 12:1). For him, the parable is not an enigmatic language suggested by the expression "speaking in parables" and which must be interpreted afterwards, as one interprets a dream. Also, the word "parable" is almost always in the singular, and Luke wants to emphasize that what follows is a parable, an image to help understand a profound reality (see 4:23; 5:36; 6:39; 12:16; 13:6; 14:7; 15:3; 18:1.9; 19:11). In addition, Luke presents us with a whole series of parables of his own: The Good Samaritan (10, 29-37), the bending friend (11, 5-8), the rich fool (12, 16-21), the watchfulness (12, 35-48), the barren fig tree (13, 6-9), the choice of the last place (14, 7-11), the found coin (15, 8-10), the found son and the elder son (15:11-32), the clever manager (16:1-8), the rich man and Lazarus (16:19-31), the long-suffering judge (18:1-8), the Pharisee and the tax collector (18:9-14). It can be said that Luke is fond of parables, and in fact he uses this word the most.

Our v. 39 reflects what we have just said. For, as he does several times, Luke wants to warn us that what follows is a parable. But we may be surprised that what follows is considered by Luke to be a parable, since we do not really have a narrative, but rather a question, "Can one blind man be a guide to another blind man?" For Luke, the very fact of using an image to make a point is a parable. This is what we had earlier in Lk 4:23: "And he said to them, 'Surely you will quote this parable to me: Physician, heal thyself'"; Luke speaks of a parable when we are dealing with a saying. For him, images like those that follow in v. 40 (the twig and the beam), and v. 43 (the good tree and the rotten tree) are parables, i.e. images that try to express a profound reality.

Let us note in conclusion that the expression "Then he told them (another) parable" is typical of the Lucan style and runs through his gospel: 5:36; 6:39; 12:16; 13:6; 14:7; 15:3; 18:1.9; 21:29.

Noun parabolē in the New Testament
mēti (is it not)
Mēti is an interrogative particle: "is he not?" The term is not very frequent in the Bible as a whole, and more particularly in the Gospels: Mt = 4; Mk = 2; Lk = 2; Jn = 3; Acts = 1; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

For the two occurrences of the particle in Luke, it is he who seems to have introduced it in the source he uses: here, in 6:39, he copies an image that comes from the Q Document and which Matthew 15:14 presents as "if a blind man leads a blind man, both of them will fall into a pit," but under his pen the image takes the form of a question: "Is he not (mēti) a blind man able to guide a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? in 9:13 Luke repeats the scene of the first feeding of the crowd from Mark, but whereas Mark writes (6:37b), "When we (the disciples) have gone, shall we buy two hundred denarii of bread?", Luke modifies the sentence with "Will we not (mēti), having gone, buy food for all these people." So, if Luke does not use this particle often, it is part of his vocabulary.

What does he mean by this sentence in v. 39? By adding mēti, Luke intends to challenge his listener with a question whose answer is obvious, i.e. it is obvious that a blind man cannot lead another blind man. The New Testament gives us some examples of this use of mēti:

  • Mt 7: 16: "You will know them by their fruits. Are not (mēti) grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?"
  • Mk 4: 21: "He said to them, 'Is not (mēti) a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand?'"
  • Jn 18: 35: "Pilate replied, 'Would I be (mēti) a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?'"
  • Jas 3: 11: "Is it not (mēti) a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water?"

Particule mēti in the Bible
dynatai (he is able)
Dynatai is the verb dynamai in the present passive indicative, and the subject is "blind". It is a verb that appears regularly in the gospels, especially in John, and so its use is varied: Mt = 21; Mk = 24; Lk = 24; Jn = 36; Acts = 21; 1Jn = 2; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0. It means: to be able to, to be capable of.

Remarkably, this verb is almost always in a negative form in the gospels, and Luke is no exception to this rule. Let us give some examples:

  • Lk 1: 20a: "But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable (dynamai) to speak, until the day these things occur"
  • Lk 13: 11: "And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable (dynamai) to stand up straight."
  • Lk 14: 27: "Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot (dynamai) be my disciple."

The emphasis is therefore on human incapacity and limitations. When the verb dynamai is not in a negative form, then it appears as a question whose answer is negative. For example:

  • Lk 12: 25: "And can (dynamai) any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?"
  • Lk 18: 26: "Those who heard it said, 'Then who can (dynamai) be saved?'"

In Luke there is only one exception to this negative approach: in 3:8 Jesus states that "God can raise children from the stones to Abraham". Thus, only God does not see his capacity as limited.

Verb dynamai of v. 39 corresponds completely to the motive we have just highlighted: it appears in the context of a question whose expected answer is negative. The style is completely Lucan.

Verb dynamai in the gospels-Acts
typhlos (blind)
Typhlos is adjective typhlos in the nominative masculine singular, but which plays here the role of a noun (a blind man), the subject of the verb "to guide". It is quite present in the gospels: Mt = 17; Mk = 5; Lk = 8; Jn = 16; Acts = 1; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

These statistics can be misleading, giving the impression that Jesus is constantly in contact with blind people. A first distinction must be made: the word typhlos often appears in summaries to summarize Jesus' activity, and thus takes on the form of the plural to speak of the "blind" in general whom Jesus heals or has the mission to heal. In fact, scenes of encounters with particular blind people are rather rare: in Matthew there are three scenes, that of the two blind men in an unspecified place (9:27-31), that of a blind and mute demoniac in a still unspecified place (12:22) which seems to be an introduction to a discussion on Beelzebul, and that of the two blind men of Jericho (20:29-34) which repeats a scene from Mark; In Mark, there are two scenes of Jesus with blind people, first the scene of the blind man of Bethsaida (8:22-26), then the scene of the blind man of Jericho (10:46-52), both of which frame Jesus' announcements of his passion before arriving in Jerusalem; In Luke, there is only one encounter of Jesus with a particular blind man (18:35-43), a scene he takes from Mark; finally, in John, there is only this scene of the healing of the blind man (9:1-41).

A second distinction is necessary: typhlos sometimes has a symbolic or spiritual meaning, to designate the refusal to open up to the truth and to faith. This is the case in Matthew (23:26): "Blind Pharisee! First cleanse the inside of the cup and bowl, so that the outside may also become clean"), in John (9:39: "Jesus said, 'I came into this world for a purpose: that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind'") and in the rest of the NT (Romans 2:19: "and so you flatter yourself that you are the guide of the blind, the light of those who walk in darkness").

In both Luke and Mark, being blind refers only to the physical reality of not seeing. But this physical condition in the third gospel is linked to the wider group of the poor and oppressed. This is how Jesus presents his mission at the beginning of his ministry:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind (typhlos), to set the oppressed free (4:18)

And this theme will recur throughout his gospel.

Here, in v. 39, Luke uses an expression he found in the Q Document, since it is also found in Matthew (15:14), that of a blind leading the blind. Although the expression refers primarily to physical blindness, it serves as an image to introduce a spiritual reality, that of blindness to oneself. But unlike physical blindness over which the human being has no control, spiritual blindness is a matter of human freedom, hence the exhortation that follows.

Adjective typhlos in the New Testament
hodēgein (to guide)
Hodēgein is the verb hodēgeō in the active present infinitive, and means: to guide, to lead. It is very rare in the whole NT, and more so in the Gospels-Acts: Mt = 1; Mk = 0; Lk = 1; Jn = 1; Acts = 1; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

In the Synoptics, this verb appears only in Matthew and Luke, who take up an expression from the Q Document about a blind man who "guides" another blind man. Its meaning may seem trivial, but its presence elsewhere in the NT suggests a very important dimension of the spiritual life: in John (16:13) the Spirit of truth "guides" the believer to the whole truth; in Acts, the Ethiopian eunuch needs to be "guided" to understand Scripture; in Revelation the Lamb who is the risen Christ has the mission of "guiding" the believer to the springs of the waters of life, like a true shepherd.

To understand the deep meaning of this verb in the biblical world, we must go through the OT. In particular, a multitude of psalms express the cry of the psalmist who asks God for guidance (5:8: "Lord, guide me in your righteousness"; 25:5: "Guide me in your truth"; 27:11: "Guide me in the right way because of my enemies"), or expresses his faith that God will guide this people (80:1: "O shepherd of Israel be attentive, you who guide Joseph like a flock of sheep"), or gives thanks for what God has done for him (23:3: "he has guided me in the ways of righteousness for the glory of his name"; 61:3: "You have guided me, because you were my hope, and like an armed tower against my enemy"). There is also Isaiah 63:14, which is a form of psalm addressed to God, recalling the coming out of Egypt under the guidance of Moses: LXX "There they were, like flocks in the field. The Spirit of the Lord came down and guided them. (hodēgeō). This is how you have led your people, to give you a glorious name." Finally, let us mention the book of Wisdom where the author prays to the Lord to send his Wisdom: "For she knows and understands everything. She will guide me (hodēgeō) and will protect me with her glory" (9: 11).

Thus, the human being needs to be guided, and the role of guide belongs primarily to God, which he delegates to qualified people. To speak of a blind man guiding another blind man, as here in v. 39, is therefore a real catastrophe.

Verb hodēgeō in the New Testament

ouchi (not)
Ouchi is a negation particle. It is similar to the adverb ou (not), except that it is a reinforced negation, which could be translated as "absolutely not". It is sometimes found in the gospels-Acts, especially in Luke who uses it regularly: Mt = 9; Mk = 0; Lk = 18; Jn = 5; Acts = 2; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

The only reason to stop briefly at this particle is its frequency in Luke. Of the 18 occurrences in his gospel, 17 are his own. In fact it is only in Lc 12: 6 where the word comes from the Q Document, for it is also found in Mt 10:29 ("Are not [ouchi] two sparrows sold for a penny?"). Here, in v. 39, we said that the image of the blind man guiding another blind man comes from the Q Document, however the particle ouchi does not appear in Matthew. Was this particle originally in the Q Document which Matthew dropped, or was it not there and Luke added it. Given the abundance of the expression in Luke and the fact that ouchi also seems to be part of Matthew's vocabulary, it seems more likely that Matthew would not have intentionally dropped the particle, and it is Luke who would have added it here by taking the Q source.

Luke therefore intends to emphasize that he is sure that the two blind men will fall into the pit.

Particule of negation ouchi in the gospels-Acts

empesountai (they will fall into)
Empesountai is the verb empiptō in the future tense, middle form, 3rd person plural. It is formed by the preposition en (into) and the verb piptō (to fall), and therefore means: to fall into. It is a very rare verb in the whole NT, and appears only in Matthew and Luke in the Gospels-Acts: Mt = 1; Mk = 0; Lk = 2; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0; in fact the action of falling in is mostly expressed by the verb piptō (Mt = 19; Mk = 8; Lk = 17; Jn = 3; Acts = 9; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0).

Yet the verb empiptō is well known in the Septuagint, and the idea of falling into a pit occurs a number of times. For example:

  • Isa 24: 18a: "And it shall come to pass, that he that flees from the fear shall fall into (empiptō) the pit"
  • Isa 47: 11a: "And destruction shall come upon thee, and thou shalt not be aware; there shall be a pit, and thou shall fall into (empiptō) it"
  • Jer 48: 44: "He that flees from the terror shall fall into (empiptō) the pit"
  • Ps 7: 15: "He has opened a pit, and dug it up, and he shall fall into (empiptō) the ditch which he has made"

What does it mean? It seems that the verb empiptō fell into disuse in the New Testament period, and that it is found especially in the circles marked by the Septuagint. How can we explain that the verb empiptō is found here under the pen of Luke, and that it is absent from Mt 15, 14 which has instead the verb piptō, when both draw from the same Q Document? Would Luke be content to use the Q Document, while Matthew would have preferred the common verb piptō? But then how can we explain that the opposite occurs in another scene from the Q Document, that of an animal falling into a hole on the Sabbath (Lk 14:5 || Mt 12:11), where it is Luke who uses piptō, and Matthew empiptō? Usually, Luke tends to respect his sources better. But here we cannot come to a firm conclusion.

In any case, the verb empiptō almost always refers to a catastrophic situation: one falls into a hole, or into the devil's net, or into temptation, or into the enemy's hands.

Verb empiptō dans Nouveau Testament
amphoteroi (both)
Amphoteroi is the adjective amphoteros in the nominative masculine plural, the masculine plural being required because it qualifies the word "blind", the nominative being required because it plays the role of subject of the verb "to fall". It means: both of them, either. It is very rare in the NT: Mt = 3; Mk = 0; Lk = 4; Jn = 0; Acts = 2; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0; only Matthew and Luke, as well as the author of Ephesians, use this word.

Here the word probably comes from the Q Document source, since it is found in both Matthew and Luke. At the same time, it is a word that is part of Luke's vocabulary, for he uses it in his Acts of the Apostles, as well as in his infancy narrative, where he seeks to imitate the style of the Septuagint, which frequently uses this adjective.

The word amphoteros allows to translate the tragic side of the situation: through the two blind men who fall in the pit, it is the "so-called" teacher and the pupil who fall and know a terrible fate.

The number amphoteroi in the New Testament
bothynon (pit)
Bothynon is the masculine noun bothynos in the accusative singular, the accusative being required because of the preposition eis (toward): in falling into a pit, there is a movement toward the pit. The word appears only in Matthew and Luke in the NT, and a few times in the Septuagint, especially in the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah: Mt = 2; Mk = 0; Lk = 1; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0. It means: pit, hole.

In the gospels, the word appears in two contexts, that of the blind men who fall into a pit, to which both Luke 6:39 and Matthew 15:14 testify, and the context of the animal that falls into a pit on the Sabbath, to which Matthew 12:11 testifies. Both of these contexts come from the Q Document, and it is surprising that Luke, who also takes from the Q Document the story of the animal that fell into a hole on the Sabbath, uses the word "well" (phrear) instead. What word was in the Q Document, bothynos (hole, pit) as in Matthew, or phrear (well) as in Luke? Since Luke is more likely to respect his sources, and considering the fact that the well is more a part of the Palestinian setting than reflects the Q Document, it is possible that the original story referred to the animal falling into a well; It is easier to imagine Matthew replacing the word "well" with "pit" to give local color to the story, probably writing from Antioch, a mountainous region with crevices, than to imagine Luke replacing the word "pit" with "well" while writing in a Greek urban setting, perhaps Corinth. (see Where the Gospel of Luke was written).

However, none of this changes the meaning of the story. When we read the OT as translated by the Septuagint, the hole or pit usually refers to a catastrophic situation and plunges us into an atmosphere of misfortune that arrives suddenly, unexpectedly. For example:

  • Isa 47: 11: LXX And destruction shall come upon thee, and thou shalt not be aware; there shall be a pit (bothynos), and thou shalt fall into it: and grief shall come upon thee, and thou shalt not be able to be clear; and destruction shall come suddenly upon thee, and thou shalt not know"
  • Jer 48: 44: LXX 31, 44 He that flees from the terror shall fall into the pit (bothynos), and he that comes up out of the pit (bothynos), shall even be taken in the snare: for I will bring these things upon Moab in the year of their visitation"

Noun bothynos in the Bible
v. 40 A disciple is not superior to the teacher. Once properly trained, every disciple will resemble the teacher.

Literally: A disciple (mathētēs) is not above a teacher (didaskalon). Then, having been fully prepared (katērtismenos), any (disciple) will be as his teacher.

mathētēs (disciple)
Mathētēs is the noun mathētēs in the nominative singular masculine, the nominative being required because the word is the subject of the verb "to be". It means: to be a disciple or a pupil or a learner; it is someone who listens to a teacher. Since Jesus does not propose a particular doctrine, and what the gospels refer to as "disciples" are sometimes a very large group, some translators like André Chouraqui prefer to translate mathētēs by "partisan" or "supporter". As one can imagine, the word is very frequent in the Gospels-Acts: Mt = 72; Mk = 46; Lk = 37; Jn = 78; Acts = 28; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0. It refers to the disciples of Jesus as well as those of John the Baptist (Lk 5:33) or even those of the Pharisees (Mk 2:18).

Why is this term so common in the gospels? Could it be a creation of the first Christian communities to project their situation to the time of Jesus? After his analysis, J.P. Meier concludes that this term really belongs to Jesus era, since the first Christians rather got rid of this term to define themselves. Moreover, among those who have considered Jesus as a teacher, three different groups of people can be distinguished

  1. First, the small group of those who accompanied him physically on the roads, leaving work, family and home behind,
  2. Those who welcomed him into their home, offering him lodging and food and money when he visited their region,
  3. Finally, the crowd of onlookers who attended his preaching and expressed some kind of interest

It should be noted that although several women are mentioned, none of them are given the title of disciple, no doubt because of the culture of back then.

What about Luke? First, let us distinguish the Acts of the Apostles from the Gospels. In Acts, the word "disciple" refers to any baptized person who has joined the Christian community. In his gospel, he very often refers to a very large group of followers, so that he uses the expression "a large crowd of his disciples" (6:17) or "the whole multitude of disciples" (19:37). And he addresses these followers in these terms:

  • Lk 6: 20: "Then he looked up at his disciples (mathētēs) and said: 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.'"
  • Lk 10: 23: "Then turning to the disciples (mathētēs), Jesus said to them privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!"

Thus, the disciples belong to the group of the poor (6:20), the hungry and the weeping (6:21), those who are hated and insulted (6:22), but they are the "least of these" to whom the mysteries of the Kingdom hidden from the wise and the clever are revealed (10:21-23). All this is consistent with Jesus' initial program in Luke, proclaimed in the synagogue of Nazareth: "to bring good news to the poor..." (4:18). Therefore, anyone who does not carry his cross and renounce all his possessions cannot be a disciple (14:26-33). Likewise, the disciple does not worry for his life about what he will eat and what he will wear (12:22).

Luke differs from the other gospels in the role he assigns to the disciples. For his emphasis is on a very large group of disciples, so much so that he sends 72 people on mission in pairs (10:1), i.e. all the disciples. The place of the Twelve seems to be more restricted in his case. First of all, unlike Mark who associates the disciples with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry, and unlike Matthew where the Twelve have the role of intermediary, Luke introduces the word disciple for the first time in 5:30, almost three chapters after the beginning of Jesus' ministry. Moreover, there are no explicit scenes as in Mark and Matthew where Jesus calls his first disciples to follow him: there is simply the scene of the miraculous catch where Jesus says to Simon: "From now on you will have to catch men", and the narrator adds: "Then bringing the boats to land, they (the sons of Zebedee) left everything and followed him" (5:11). The only explicit call is that of Levi (5:27), a tax collector, symbol of the sinner. And it is only in 6:12 that Jesus, from the large group of his disciples, chooses 12 whom he names "apostles", i.e. "sent ones" (6:12). One has the impression that Luke reproduces the situation of the first Christian community at the time of Jesus' ministry, where the disciple designates the group of believers in the midst of which the apostles are the privileged witnesses of his ministry and resurrection. Let us conclude by pointing out that Luke eliminated from the passion narrative their flight at the time of Jesus' arrest, to protect their image.

Here, in v. 39, Luke is not referring to the "sent ones" but to any disciple in general. And even then, the term does not necessarily refer to Jesus' disciple, but to any disciple of any teacher. And the definition of a disciple, in terms of what follows, is one who does not yet possess the knowledge of the teacher. And so the emphasis is on what he lacks, on what he still has to acquire. Moreover, what follows is a hyperbole when we say: "The disciple is not above the teacher", because by definition the disciple is the one who has everything to learn from the teacher.

What does this phrase from Q Document, have to do with our story? After the mention of the blind leading the blind, the association of the disciple with the blind is natural: the disciple is not yet able to lead others, he is a learner. Perhaps there is a warning here for some of the younger members of the Christian community who think they are already fit to be teachers of others.

Noun mathētēs in the New Testament
didaskalon (teacher)
Didaskalon is the masculine noun didaskalos in the accusative singular, the accusative being required because of the preposition hyper (above). This word is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew rhabbi and means: the one who teaches, the teacher. It is quite frequent, especially in Luke: Mt = 12; Mk = 11; Lk = 17; Jn = 8; Acts = 1.

In the gospels, this title is almost always attributed to Jesus who is presented to us as a rabbi who teaches. But there are some exceptions: in the temple, there were teachers that the young Jesus went to listen to (Lk 2:46), then John the Baptist is called didaskalos (Lk 3: 12), Finally, Nicodemus receives the title of "teacher in Israel" (Jn 3:10).

When we examine the people who give Jesus the title of didaskalos, there is a great variety: there are of course his own disciples, but there are also the scribes and the Pharisees (Mk 12, 14.32; Mt 8, 19; 9, 11; 12, 38; 22, 16. 36; Lk 19:39; 20:39; Jn 8:4), delegates of the chief priests and scribes (Lk 20:21), Sadducees (Mk 12:19; Mt 22:24; Lk 20:28), people from the house of a synagogue leader (Mk 5:35; Lk 8:49), someone from the crowd (Mk 9:17; 10:17; Mt 19:16; Lk 9:38; 12:13), a lawyer (Lk 10:25; 11:45), a notable (Lk 18:18), the tax collectors (Mt 17:24), Nicodemus (Jn 3:2), Martha (Jn 11:28), Mary Magdalene (Jn 20:16). The gospels give us the impression that the title of rhabbi or didaskalos was the "official" title of Jesus used by all, supporters and opponents alike.

But here, in v. 40, didaskalos does not seem to refer at first sight to Jesus, because it speaks of the general disciple-teacher relationship. We have already mentioned that this phrase comes from the Q Document which Luke simply copies. But if a tradition like the Q Document has been able to survive, it is because it has some relevance. In fact, it fits in well with the situation of the first Christian communities where there were different functions, including that of prophet and teacher (didaskalos) (see 13:1; 1 Cor 12:28-29; Eph 4:11; Heb 5:12; Jas 3:1); Paul himself was considered a didaskalos (1 Tim 2:7; 2 Tim 1:11). Thus, we can think that Luke may have picked up this phrase from the Q Document on the disciple-teacher relationship because it had some relevance in his Greek community where there were "learners" and "teachers" who trained them for the Christian life.

Noun didaskalos in the Bible
katērtismenos (having been fully prepared)
Katērtismenos is the verb katartizō in the perfect passive participle, nominative masculine singular, the nominative being required because this participle is the attribute of all (disciple). The verb katartizō is from the same root as the word artios (to be in order, to be complete). It expresses the idea of putting something in order, of restoring its integrity, hence repairing, restoring, forming, preparing; there is a movement from an incomplete or broken reality to a functional reality in all its splendor. It is a verb that is not very frequent in the whole of the NT, and especially in the gospels where it is known only from the Synoptics: Mt = 2; Mk = 1; Lk = 1; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

In the Synoptics, the verb katartizō has been introduced by Mark 1: 19 to describe the action of mending fishery nets, a scene copied by Mt 4: 21. In Mt 21:16, Matthew simply copies the Septuagint version of Ps 8:3 where God "prepares" or "forms" a praise. So we find ourselves with the unique case of our v. 40 where the disciple is called to become more complete by being formed, if he wants to be like the teacher. We might have expected to find the same verb katartizō in Mt 10:25a, which also refers to the Q Document on the same subject; but instead we have the verb "to become" (ginomai) like the teacher. Once again the question arises: is the verb katartizō coming from the Q Document, and Matthew would have replaced it with the simpler verb of ginomai (to become), or conversely is the Q Document presenting the verb ginomai (to become), and it is Luke who would have replaced it by the more complex verb of katartizō (to be trained)? Since Luke tends to respect his sources, and Matthew sometimes tends to simplify the accounts and make them more concise, we believe it is likely that katartizō comes from the Q Document that Luke just copies.

Since the Q Document is an ancient source, it could reflect the atmosphere of the first Christian communities. However, the writings of the New Testament help us to understand the meaning of this verb. For example, in his first letter to the Thessalonians written around the year 51, Paul writes "Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore (katartizō) whatever is lacking in your faith" (1 Thess 3: 10); Paul, as didaskalos, seeks to make the faith of young Christians more complete. In the same way, in his first letter to the Corinthians, written around the year 54, he invites the members of the Christian community to be restored (katartizō) in the same mind and the same purpose (1 Cor 1: 10). It is always the idea of a development started but not finished.

All this gives us a context to the phrase: Once properly trained, every disciple will resemble the teacher; in the Christian community, one cannot short-cut the long journey of training before being able to be in turn a didaskalos, i.e. to be able to guide others, for otherwise one will be a blind man who guides other blind men.

Verb katartizō in the New Testament
v. 41 Why do you look at the twig in your brother's eye, but the beam in your own eye you do not even consider?

Literally: Then why do you see (blepeis) the twig (karphos) the (one) in the eye (ophthalmō) of the brother (adelphou) of you, then the beam (dokon) the [one] in the eye in your own eye you do not observe (katanoeis)?

blepeis (you see)
Blepeis is the verb blepō in the present active indicative, 2nd person singular. It means: to look, to observe, to see. It is a fairly common verb in the gospels-Acts: Mt = 20; Mk = 15; Lk = 16; Jn = 17; Acts = 13; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 1; 3Jn = 0.

Luke is not the greatest user of this verb, but it is nevertheless part of his vocabulary, for he uses it 13 times in Acts, and of the 16 uses in his gospel, 8 are his own. Seeing is a value, which is why for Luke Jesus heals the blind so that they can see (7:21), and why a lamp is lit in the house (11:33), and why it is a great gift for the disciples to see Jesus' actions (10:23). But the verb to see also has a symbolic connotation: to see sometimes means "to understand" (21: 30: "as soon as the fig tree buds, you understand [lit. see: blepō] that summer is near"). To look at a thing also expresses interest in it: 9: 62: "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks (blepō) back is fit for the kingdom of God". Finally, there is the paradox of looking and not seeing: 8: 10: "but for others it is in parables, so that they look (blepō) without seeing (blepō) and hear without understanding", i.e. the data are in front of us, but we are unable to interpret them.

What is the meaning of looking at the twig in our verse 41? Of course, we are initially in front of an image where we physically look at a twig. But this image has a symbolic connotation: the look or the observation of a thing expresses its interest; the twig holds our attention. Why does this happen? The context suggests that our gaze is fixed on a reality that disturbs us, and this fixation has a paralyzing effect.

Verb blepō in the gospels-Acts
karphos (twig)
Karphos is the neuter noun karphos in the accusative singular, the accusative being required because the word acts as the direct object complement of the verb blepō (see). It means: straw, twig, splinter, and is extremely rare throughout the Bible: Mt = 3; Mk = 0; Lk = 3; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0. In fact, in the entire New Testament, it appears only in this excerpt from the Q Document, that Matthew and Mark copy. Elsewhere in the Bible, there is only this scene where, at the end of the flood, the dove brings back to Noah this twig, a sign that nature has returned to life.

The image of the twig contrasted with the beam is intended to shock by its exaggeration, because it makes a judgment on the value of what preoccupies a protagonist: it is only a trifle that does not deserve all this interest.

The fact that karphos does not belong to the vocabulary of the evangelists and has come down to us through the Q Document, an early source, suggests that it may ultimately have been part of the vocabulary of the carpenter of Nazareth, especially when contrasted with the beam.

Noun karphos in the Bible
ophthalmō (eye)
Ophthalmō is the masculine noun ophthalmos in the dative singular, the dative being required because of the preposition en (into), and thus plays the role of object complement of place attribution: the twig is in the eye. The word appears with regular frequency in the Gospels-Acts, especially in Matthew: Mt = 24; Mk = 7; Lk = 17; Jn = 18; Acts = 7; 1Jn = 3; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

In Luke, of the 17 occurrences of the word in his gospel, seven are his own. But the word "eye" in our verse belongs to the Q Document. In fact, of the 17 occurrences of this word in his gospel, nine are from the Q Document. These can be grouped into three sequences:

  1. There is the sequence of 11: 34: "Your eye (ophthalmos) is the lamp of your body. If your eye (ophthalmos) is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness."

  2. There is the sequence of 10: 23: "Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, 'Blessed are the eyes (ophthalmos) that see what you see!'"

  3. There is the sequence of 6: 41-42: "Why do you see the twig in your brother's eye (ophthalmos), but do not observe the beamin your own eye (ophthalmos)? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me cast out the twig in your eye (ophthalmos),' when you yourself do not see the beam in your own eye (ophthalmos)? You hypocrite, first cast out the beam of your own eye (ophthalmos), and then you will see clearly to cast out the twig of your brother's eye (ophthalmos)"

Let's look at the first two sequences before moving on to the third. The first sequence refers to the eye as the lamp of the body. We are placed at the level of the symbolism of the eye. Let us first recall that in the Jewish world, the human being is his body: we do not have this body-spirit dichotomy. To speak of the lamp of the body is to speak of the light which guides the human being in his totality. And if the eye is the lamp of the body, the eye becomes synonymous with the human heart, where decisions are made, where openness or closure to others takes place, and in particular to the word of God expressed through events. If the eye is healthy, i.e. if it is open to others and to God, the human being will reflect God's light in his actions and in his whole life. But if the eye is closed, all human action will reflect the darkness of a world without God.

In the second sequence (10:23), we are faced with a word of Jesus which follows on from this other word: "All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, nor who the Father is except the Son and the one to whom the Son is willing to reveal him. Thus, the context of the beatitude about the eyes that see is that of a revelation by Jesus. The eyes that see are the eyes of faith, that opening of the heart that welcomes Jesus in what he says and what he does.

What about the eyes in the third sequence (7:41-42) which belongs to our pericope? At first sight, the eye seems to have a different meaning from what we have identified in the first two sequences. Nevertheless, we can only understand what is being said by recalling the role of the eye: as a synonym of the heart, it is the seat of understanding of things, and thus of decisions and action. The problem with an obstacle in front of the eye is that it prevents one from seeing things clearly, i.e. from having an adequate understanding of things, and therefore from making the right decisions and acting properly. Thus, we are presented with a small obstacle, the twig, and a large obstacle, the beam, which almost completely blocks the view. The consequences of the two obstacles are very different, and the priorities in removing them are clear.

Noun ophthalmos in the gospels-Acts
adelphou (brother)
Adelphou is the masculine noun adelphos in the genitive singular, the genitive being required because the word "brother" plays the role of complement of the noun "eye": the eye of the brother. It is extremely frequent throughout the New Testament, and in particular in the gospels: Mt = 39; Mk = 20; Lk = 24; Jn = 14; Acts = 57; 1Jn = 15; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 3.

Of the 24 occurrences of "brother" in Luke, five come from the Q Document through two sequences.

  1. First, there is the sequence of 17:3-4 which deals with brotherly correction: "If a brother (adelphos) sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive". Brother refers to a member of the Christian community, and so Matthew, for his part, has placed this verse in a set of rules about governance in the church.

  2. And there is our sequence of 6:41-42 on the relationship to the other that is the brother, and in a certain way is linked to brotherly correction: how can one correct one's brother, if one has not first corrected oneself.

Thus, the meaning of brother in Q Document is to be understood not in the sense of a blood brother, but in the spiritual sense: the member of the Christian community. It is this meaning of brother that Luke puts into the mouth of Jesus when he says to Peter: "but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers (adelphos)". And the two sequences of the Q Document must be understood within the framework of the Christian community: we can imagine sessions of brotherly correction. It is probable that this pericope is inspired by a word of Jesus of which we do not have the details, but very early on it was updated to apply it to the community situation.

Noun adelphos in the gospels-Acts
dokon (beam)
Dokon is the feminine noun dokos in the accusative singular, the accusative being required because the word is the direct object of the verb katanoeō (to observe). The word dokos designates this piece of framework called: beam. It is absent from the New Testament, except for this passage in the Q Document which is found in Lk and Mt: Mt = 3; Mk = 0; Lk = 3; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0. In the Septuagint, there are ten occurrences of the word in reference to the beams in the framework of either the house or the temple. It often refers to the joists that support the roof, and sometimes speaking of the beams under the roof as in Gen 19:8 is a way of referring to the house.

Why was the image of the beam introduced into our pericope? It is likely that the beams that supported the roof were the most visible part of the house's structure, and thus offered the most striking contrast to the straw or twigs that lay on the dirt floor.

Noun dokos in the Bible
katanoeis (you observe)
Katanoeis is the verb katanoeō in the active present tense, 2nd person singular. It is formed by the preposition kata (which describes a movement from top to bottom) and the verb noeō (to perceive), and therefore means: to look with a penetrating gaze, hence our translation: to observe. It is not very frequent in the whole NT, especially in the Gospels-Acts: Mt = 1; Mk = 0; Lk = 4; Jn = 0; Acts = 4; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

This verb belongs to the vocabulary of Luke, since it is found four times in the Acts of the Apostles. But in his gospel, of the four occurrences, three appear in two pericopes that come from the Q Document.

  1. There is pericope 12: 24-27 where Jesus invites to "observe" (katanoeō) crows and to "observe" (katanoeō) the lilies who do not care about sowing or weaving, but who eat their fill and are well dressed, inviting his audience not to give priority to this type of concern. Matthew 6:25-33, which takes up this source, does not have these two instances of katanoeō, but has rather in the first case the verb emblepō (to look, to fix one's gaze on), and in the second case katamanthanō (to observe, to study closely), a very rare verb, the only case in the whole NT. It is possible that Luke wanted to standardize the vocabulary and replaced the two verbs of the Q Document by katanoeō.

  2. And there is our pericope of 6:41 where Jesus invites us to first examine the beam in our eye, and the verb katanoeō is also found in Matthew who also inserts this Q Document in his Gospel.

How do we interpret the verb "to observe", and more specifically the expression "to observe the beam in one's eye"? The call to observe the ravens and lilies does not help us much. But elsewhere some NT passages can shed light. First, there is the epistle to the Hebrews with this passage: "And let us observe (katanoeō) how to provoke one another to love and good deeds" (10: 24), and there is also the epistle of James (1: 23-24) which speaks of the person who examines himself in a mirror. These passages speak of personal or self-examination in a context of brotherly correction. Earlier, we mentioned that the word "brother" in 17:3-4 appears in a context of brotherly correction where Jesus invites to admonish the brother who comes to sin, a practice that seemed to exist in the early Christian communities. Thus, "observing the beam in one's eye" would be easily understood in the context of these sessions of brotherly correction: it is a call to examine one's own conscience before beginning to point out the trifles found in the other brothers of the assembly. From this point on, we understand the choice of two different verbs: first, we have the verb "to see" (blepō) for the glance carried on the twig, a glance carried on the other, then we have the verb "to observe" (katanoeō) when it comes to looking at oneself, and therefore to examining one's own conscience.

Verb katanoeō in the New Testament
v. 42 How can you say to your brother, "Brother, let me remove the twig from your eye, when you yourself do not even perceive the beam in your own eye? Blind man! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly the twig in your brother's eye and remove it.

Literally: How are you able to say to your brother, Brother, let (aphes) that I might cast out (ekbalō) the twig the (one) in the eye of you, yourself the beam in the eye of you you are not seeing? Hypocrite (hypokrita), cast out first (prōton) the beam out of the eye of you, and then you will see clearly (diablepseis) the twig the (one) in the eye of the brother of you to cast out.

aphes (let)
Aphes is the verb aphiēmi in the active aorist imperative, 2nd person singular. It is very frequent in the New Testament, but is found almost exclusively in the gospels: Mt = 47; Mk = 32; Lk = 31; Jn = 15; Acts = 3; 1Jn = 2; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0. Basically, it means: to leave, in the sense of letting go. But its meaning varies according to the contexts where it appears. These contexts can be grouped as follows.

  1. The most common context is that of forgiveness of faults, which is often presented as a remission of debt. In this case, aphiēmi translates the idea of "letting go" of the debt, i.e. handing over to the debtor the bill where the debt is written, and thus forgetting or erasing it. Our Bibles usually translate "forgive" the sins or failures.
    • Lk 7: 47: "Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been left (aphiēmi); hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is left (aphiēmi), loves little"

  2. Another common situation is when "leaving" means giving up something, possessions, relationships, or rules, often because of a choice for something else. It is easy to imagine, for example, that Jesus' call to follow him leads people to leave their jobs, their possessions, their families. But leaving can have a negative meaning.
    • Lk 10: 30: "Jesus replied, 'A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving (aphiēmi) him half dead'"

  3. The verb "to let" is regularly used to mean "to let go", i.e. to allow or authorize an action to take place. Very often aphiēmi is followed by a verb in the infinitive, and on several occasions aphiēmi is in the imperative, i.e. in the form of an order.
    • Lk 8: 51: "When he came to the house, he did not let (aphiēmi) anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child's father and mother"

  4. A number of times, the verb "to leave" simply means to move away from a person, place or thing, which is usually translated as leave.
    • Lk 4: 39: "Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left (aphiēmi) her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them"

  5. Occasionally, the verb "to leave" means "to leave something to someone", thus to give.
    • Jn 14: 27: "Peace I leave (aphiēmi) with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid"

It will come as no surprise to learn that of the 31 occurrences of aphiēmi in Luke's gospel, 15 occurrences refer to forgiveness of sins, and 9 to abandonment (i.e., giving up everything to follow Jesus), two of his major themes. But our periocope comes from the Q Document. In the passages where Luke inserts elements from the Q Document, we find 10 occurrences of aphiēmi :

  • Our pericope in 6:42 where it means: to allow or authorize an action to take place (someone asks his brother for permission to remove the twig in his eye)
  • In the scene in 9:60 where Jesus answers the one who wants to follow him only after burying his father: "Let (aphiēmi) the dead bury their dead; as for you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God"; it is a question of not intervening and allowing others to carry out the funeral duties
  • At the end of the prayer of the Lord's Prayer in the mention of the forgiveness of sins: "leave (aphiēmi) us our sins, for we ourselves leave (aphiēmi) everyone indebted to us" (11: 4)
  • In the passage about the sin against the Holy Spirit that will not be forgiven: "And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be left (aphiēmi); but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be left (aphiēmi)" (12: 10)
  • In the parable about vigilance, the teacher of the house does not allow his house to be broken into: "if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left (aphiēmi) his house being broken into" (12: 39).
  • In the complaint of Jesus about Jerusalem where Jesus announces that the temple will be abandoned by God: "See, your house is left (aphiēmi) to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'" (13: 35).
  • In the scene of the coming of the reign of God where a sorting out among the living takes place, i.e. one will be chosen and taken to life, the other will be abandoned on the spot: "I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left (aphiēmi). There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left (aphiēmi)" (17: 34-35)

What to conclude? Aphiēmi is a word that is indeed part of the Q Document, that ancient collection of sayings attributed to Jesus. Moreover, the meaning of this verb in this verse where someone asks permission to intervene with his brother is also found in other passages of the Q Document, such as the one where one asks permission to bury the dead or, conversely, in the parable of the watchfulness where one does not allow the house to be pierced.

Why ask permission? Permission is asked before someone who has authority. Here, in v. 42 it is the brother who has authority over his personal life, and someone wants to enter that personal life, a gesture symbolized by the removal of the twig. To do this, one must ask for permission.

Verb aphiēmi in the gospels-Acts
ekbalō (I might cast out)
Ekbalō is the verb ekballō in the aorist subjunctive active in the 1st person singular, the subjunctive being required because the verb expresses a wish or desire, rather than a reality. The verb is formed by the preposition ek (out of) and the verb ballō (to cast), and therefore means: to expel or cast out, to throw out or reject, to extract or obtain. It is quite frequent in the Gospels-Acts: Mt = 28; Mk = 18; Lk = 18; Jn = 3; Acts = 5; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 1.

When we go through the Gospels-Acts, we can group together the various uses of ekballō into three categories.

  1. The most widespread use (almost 50% of the cases) concerns exorcisms where demons are expelled. For example:
    • Mk 1: 39: "And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out (ekballō) demons"
    • Lk 13: 32: "He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, 'Listen, I am casting out (ekballō) demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work"

  2. With a meaning close to the expulsion of demons, the verb ekballō is also used to express rejection of people or things considered bad. For example:
    • Mk 11: 15: "Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to cast out (ekballō) those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves"
    • Lk 6: 22: "Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and cast out (ekballō) your name on account of the Son of Man"

  3. The verb ekballō also translates the idea of extracting or getting something. For example:
    • Jn 10: 4: "When he has brought out (ekballō) all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice"
    • Lk 10: 35a: "The next day he brought out (ekballō) two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper"

Here, in v. 41, the verb ekballō is used to express the removal or rejection of what one considers to be evil and which one has perceived in the brother. It is in some ways similar to the expulsion of the demon: it is a matter of expelling the evil that inhabits the other.

In the passages specific to Luke, ekballō is mostly used to talk about exorcisms. But here, it takes up the Q Document. And in the Q Document which Matthew and Luke testify to, ekballō has above all the meaning of driving out the evil or expelling the demons. And this is the meaning that we find here.

Verb ekballō in the New Testament
hypokrita (hypocrite)
Hypokrita is the masculine noun hypokritēs in the vocative singular. The root of the word is formed by the preposition hypo (under) and the verb krinō (to judge), and means: to judge what is underneath things, therefore to interpret them, and this has given: to interpret a play, to play a role. It is in this aspect that the word came to describe the one who is acting, i.e. his actions and words do not correspond to what he really is. It is a very rare word in the Bible, except in Matthew: Mt = 13; Mk = 1; Lk = 3; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0. Our analysis cannot be complete without mentioning two other words that are also very rare: the name hypokrisis (hypocrisy): Mt = 1; Mk = 1; Lk = 1; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0; and the verb hypokrinomai (to pretend, to be hypocritical) which appears only in Luke in the whole New Testament: Mt = 0; Mk = 0; Lk = 1; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

According to the gospels, who are the hypocrites or those who show hypocrisy? We can identify different situations.

  1. The hypocrite is one whose appearances are deceptive, i.e. his behavior and outward appearance do not reflect what the person really is. For example:
    • Mt 23: 27: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites (hypokritēs)! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth"

  2. In a similar way, the hypocrite is the one who puts on an act. For example:
    • Mt 6: 16: "And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites (hypokritēs), for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward"

  3. The hypocrite is one who thinks he is doing the right thing, but his action is destructive. For example:
    • Mt 23: 15: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites (hypokritēs)! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves"

  4. In the Aramaic language, the corresponding word is hanefâ which designates the perverse and the impious, in short the non-believer who has closed himself to the light. This meaning is sometimes found in the gospels. For example:
    • Lk 12: 1: "Meanwhile, when the crowd gathered by the thousands, so that they trampled on one another, he began to speak first to his disciples, "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy (hypokrisis)"

  5. Finally, the hypocrite is sometimes synonymous with one who is blind, who fails to interpret the word of God correctly. For example:
    • Mt 23: 23-24: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites (hypokritēs)! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!"

Here, in v. 42, it may seem surprising that the one who wants to remove the twig in his brother's eye is called a hypocrite. In what sense is he a hypocrite? The fact that in the gospel the hypocrite is sometimes synonymous with the blind may shed some light on this. This is the meaning found in Mt 23:23-24 as we have just seen. Moreover, our periocope comes from the Q Document. Now, there is another pericope from the Q Document in Luke where the word hypokritēs appears:

Hypocrites (hypokritēs)! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? (Lk 12, 56)

The hypocrite is the one who lacks discernment, he is blind to the signs of the times, and therefore he is unable to guide others to see the light. We find here the meaning of the Aramaic hanefâ which designates the impious, the blind person incapable of opening up to God and recognizing his signs.

This is the face of the hypocrite that we have in v. 42: unable to see himself as he is, blind to himself, he is unable to exercise good discernment and truly help others, including helping his brother to remove his twig.

Noun hypokritēs in the Bible

Noun hypokrisis in the Bible

Verb hypokrinomai in the Bible

prōton (first)
Prōton is an adverb that has the same root as the word prōtos (first), and therefore means: first; it establishes an order of priority. It appears regularly in the New Testament and in the gospels: Mt = 9; Mk = 7; Lk = 10; Jn = 5; Acts = 4; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0. As can be seen, it is very present in Luke where, out of the ten occurrences, eight are his own.

The adverb prōton is used to establish priorities. These priorities can be religious. For example:

  • Mt 5, 24: "leave your gift there before the altar and go; first (prōton) be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift"

Priorities can be moral. For example:

  • Mt 23, 26: "You blind Pharisee! First (prōton) clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean"

Priorities can be ritualistic. For example:

  • Lk 11, 38: "The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first (prōton) wash before dinner"

Priorities can be practical. For example:

  • Lk 14, 28: "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first (prōton) sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?"

In short, priorities can be placed at various levels. But here the adverb belongs to the Q Document, for it is also found in Mt 7:5. In Luke, there is another passage where he takes up the Q Document and which contains this adverb: "Another said, 'I will follow you, Lord; but let me first (prōton) say farewell to those at my home'" (9: 61). This is a false priority, because for Jesus, following him has priority over funeral duties.

What light does all this throw on our v. 42? First of all, it is not Luke who added this adverb to the pericope, for it was part of the original text. Secondly, this pericope presents us with a moral priority: the first step in brotherly correction is to humbly examine oneself before considering the shortcomings of the brother. This is practically a parallel to the words found in Mt 23:26: "Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and bowl, so that the outside may also become clean". Not to respect this priority is blindness.

Adverb prōtov in the gospels-Acts
diablepseis (you will see clearly)
Diablepseis is the verb diablepō in the active future tense, 2nd person singular. It is formed by the preposition dia (through) and the verb blepō (to see), and thus means: to see through, hence to see clearly. In the whole Bible, it appears only here in this extract from the Q Document (Lk 6:42 || Mt 7:5) and in Mk 8:25: Mt = 1; Mk = 1; Lk = 1; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0. In the Q Document as in Mark we are in a context of a blind man who is called to see clearly.

The choice of the verb diablepō is deliberate. In the previous sentence, Jesus says: "You do not see (blepō) the beam in your eye". One could not use the same verb here blepō, because it did not work, since the man does not see the beam. But using now diablepō, which is to cast a penetrating glance and which Mark 8:25 uses to speak of a blind man who recovers his sight, is meant to designate a glance different from the one that gave nothing; now the man will see clearly the beam before his eye.

Verb diablepō in the Bible
v. 43 For a good tree does not produce rotten fruit, any more than a rotten tree produces good fruit.

Literally: For a good (kalon) tree (dendron) is not making (poioun) fruit (karpon) rotten (sapron), neither again a tree rotten is making a fruit good.

dendron (tree)
Dendron is the neuter noun dendron in the nominative singular, the nominative being required because the noun plays the role of subject of the verb "to do". It means tree and it does not appear very often in the New Testament, and almost exclusively in the synoptic gospels: Mt = 12; Mk = 1; Lk = 7; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0. One might even add that of the 20 occurrences in the synoptic gospels, 16 come from the Q Document, .

Unlike many references to the tree in the Bible, which appears as an element of nature along with plants, the Q Document's interest in the tree is focused on the fruit tree. Let us recall the main fruit trees of Palestine: the fig tree, the olive tree and the vine are those that are named most often, but there are also:

  • the pomegranate tree (Song 4:3: "Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your speech is lovely. Your cheeks are like pomegranate halves behind your veil"),
  • the date palm (Jn 12:13: "They took branches of date palms [phoinix] and went out to meet Jesus"),
  • the carob tree (Lk 15: 16: "He wanted to fill his belly with the carobs that the pigs ate, but no one gave him any"),
  • the walnut tree (Song 6:11: "To the garden of the walnut trees I went down to see the young shoots of the valley, to see if the vine buds, if the pomegranate trees bloom"),
  • the pistachio tree (Gen 43:11: "Then their father Israel said to them, 'If you must, do this: take some of the best products of the land in your luggage and bring them as a present to this man, a little balm and a little honey, gum tragacanth and ladanum, pistachios and almonds,)
  • the almond tree (Eccl 12: 5: "When one fears the ascent and is afraid on the way. And the almond tree is in bloom, and the locust is heavy, and the caper loses its taste. While the man goes to his house of eternity and the mourners are already turning in the street"),
  • the sycamore tree (Lk 19:4: "So Zacchaeus ran forward and climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus, who was passing by")
  • the apple tree (Joel 1:12: "The vine is withered and the fig tree withered; pomegranate trees, palm trees and apple trees, all the trees of the field have withered. Yes, joy has dried up among people",
  • the black mulberry tree (Lk 17:6: "The Lord said, 'If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would have said to this mulberry tree, 'Uproot yourself and go plant yourself in the sea,' and it would have obeyed you.)

On several occasions the gospels speak of the importance of bearing fruit, as in the parable of the vinedressers (Mark 12:1-12; Matthew 21:33-46; Luke 20:9-19), or the image of the branch that bears fruit by being attached to the vine that is Jesus (John 15:2), or conversely the image of the barren fig tree (Mark 11:12-14; Matthew 21:18-19). In the Q Document, there are two passages that refer to the fruit tree, without specifying which tree it is.

  1. Lk 3: 9 || Mt 3: 10 report the word of John the Baptist: "Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees (dendron); every tree (dendron) therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

  2. Lk 6: 43-44 || Mt 7: 18-20 about the good tree that produces good fruit, and the rotten tree that produces rotten fruit.

The fruit tree is a symbol of fruitful life, and of what is expected of every human being.

Why does Luke introduce this sequence about the tree and its fruit here? The Q Document is like a binder of Jesus' own words. Matthew placed the sequence on the tree and its fruit in a pericope on how to distinguish true from false prophets. Luke places this sequence after the one about the twig and the beam. At first we might think that the mention of the twig and the wooden beam evoked in him the image of the tree. But more profoundly, after having introduced the idea that one cannot pass a good judgment on one's brother until one has examined oneself, and thus that one's inner being determines the quality of one's action, Luke saw fit to insert the sequence on the tree and its fruits, as a good follow-up to what had just been stated.

Noun dendron in the Bible
kalon (good) Kalon is the adjective kalos in the nominative neuter singular, because it is the attribute of the neuter word dendron (tree). It means: good or beautiful, and appears sporadically in the gospels, but is more frequent in Matthew: Mt = 21; Mk = 11; Lk = 9; Jn = 7; Acts = 1; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

In Luke, the adjective "good" qualifies a number of realities.

  • "A good measuring cup", i.e. an overflowing quantity (Lk 6:38)
  • "a good land", i.e. a fertile land (Lk 8:15)
  • "it is good that we are here", i.e. a situation is a source of joy and happiness (Lk 9: 33)
  • "salt is good", i.e. salt has a beneficial effect (Lk 14: 34)
  • "the good stones of the temple", i.e. stones that are beautiful (Lk 21:5)
  • "a good tree", "a good fruit" i.e. a fruitful tree that bears the expected fruit (Lk 3:9; 6:43)

Thus, the adjective "good" describes a reality with a certain quality, which is a source of joy and satisfaction. In Luke, kalos is never an attribute of a person.

Here, in v. 42, kalos qualifies the tree and its fruit, as in Lk 3:9, and in both cases the text comes from the Q Document. The context is that of the agricultural world, where quality trees are sought that will give the expected fruit. The harvest therefore depends on the quality of the tree; in other words, there is no miracle in the final result, everything depends on a good fruit tree.

Adjective kalos in the gospels-Acts
poioun (making)
Poioun is the verb poieō in the present active participle, in the singular neutral nominative form, this form being required because the participle is here the attribute of the word "tree". It basically means "to do" with all that this implies: to complete, to realize, to accomplish, to perform, to create. It is the fifth most frequent verb in the Gospels-Acts, after legō (to say), eimi (to be), erchomai (to go) et ginomai (to become), with a total of 405 occurrences: Mt = 86; Mk = 45; Lk = 87; Jn = 108; Acts = 68; 1Jn = 9; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 2. John uses it the most, because it is an all-purpose verb, and it suits the simple and rudimentary language of the fourth evangelist. But Luke follows closely, for of the 87 occurrences in his gospel, 58 are his own.

In Luke, there are 13 occurrences of poieō that come from the Q Document. Let's take a look at the different contexts where it appears.

  • The context of a tree that "makes" or produces fruit (3: 8.9; 6: 43)
  • The context of "doing" or putting into practice the word of Jesus (6: 46.47.49)
  • The context of the centurion of Capernaum who, when he says to his servant, "do this", he does it (7: 8)
  • The context of the curse on the Pharisees who should have "done" or practiced justice and love (11:42)
  • The context of the vigilant servant whom his master will find on his return from the wedding "doing this", i.e. distributing the rations of wheat as he was asked (12: 47)

What do we notice? All these contexts can be summarized in two basic ways: there is the context of the fruit tree that "makes" fruit, which is translated as "produces" fruit, and then there is the moral context of the human being who must do what has been asked of him or act in accordance with God's word. But it is clear that behind the image of the tree that produces fruit, there is a reference to the human being who is called to act and follow up on the word of the Gospel received with his whole life. This is how Luke seems to have understood the image of the fruit-bearing tree. To convince ourselves of this, let us look at the way he takes up the parable of the sower in Mark's gospel; we have compared the synoptic gospels and underlined what is similar.

Mk 4: 8Mt 13: 8Lk 8: 8a
And others (seeds) fell into the good soil, and they gave (didōmi) fruit rising and growing and they were producing: one thirty, one sixty, one hundred.Others (seeds) fell on good soil, and they gave (didōmi) fruit this one hundred, this one sixty, this one thirty.And from the other (seed) fell into the good soil, and having grown, it made (poieō) fruit to the hundredfold.

Let us recall that the parable of the sower originally expressed Jesus' hope that his mission would be fruitful in spite of the rejection of many, and that later Christian communities reinterpreted it to describe the impact that the word of the Gospel had on different groups. The seed in the good soil then describes the believer in whom the word of the Gospel has been transformed into consequent action. To describe the fruitfulness of this seed, Mark uses the expression "to give fruit". Matthew takes over as is Mark's expression "to give fruit". What does Luke do? He opts instead for the expression "to make fruit". This may be surprising, especially since Luke himself sometimes uses the expression "to give fruit" (see Lk 20:10). But one can imagine that he wanted to be consistent with the images used two chapters earlier in the Q Document that spoke of "making fruit".

All this guides our interpretation of v. 43: "to make fruit" concerns the Christian action that follows up the gospel word heard.

Verb poieō in the gospels-Acts
karpos (fruit)
Karpon is the masculine noun karpos (fruit) in the accusative singular, the accusative being required because "fruit" is the direct object complement of the verb "to do". It appears regularly in the whole of the New Testament, especially in the gospels, especially in Matthew: Mt = 19; Mk = 5; Lk = 12; Jn = 10; Acts = 1; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

The word "fruit" designates of course the product of the fruit tree which are the vine, the fig tree and the olive tree, but it also has a symbolic scope to designate metaphorically a set of things:

  • Fruit refers to any harvest no matter what has been sown (see Mt 13:26; Jn 12:24; Mk 4:7.29; Lk 12:17)
  • The harvest is not only what can be eaten, but it can be financial, like the collection for the poor of the Christian community in Jerusalem (Rom 15:28)
  • The fruit refers to what is born from the coupling of the man and the woman (Lk 1: 42; Acts 2: 30)
  • The fruit is the result of any action, such as missionary action or brotherly correction (Phil 1:22; Rom 1:13; 6:21; Heb 12:11)
  • Fruit refers to the result, consequence or impact of an attitude or life choice. For example:
    • The fruits of repentance (Lk 3:8)
    • The fruit of the Spirit which is charity, joy, peace, longsuffering, helpfulness, kindness, trust in others, to eternal life (Gal 5:22; Rom 6:22)
    • The fruit of a life according to God's will, called a life of justice (Phil 1:11)
    • The fruit of an unfailing attachment to Jesus (Jn 15:5)

What is the meaning of "fruit" in v. 43? Even though the word "fruit" is associated with the word "tree", we can guess that the gospel story does not intend to give a lesson in gardening. Further on, in v. 45, we read: "The good man from the good treasure of his heart produces the good". Thus, "fruit" is what is produced by the heart of a person, therefore the action that results from the person's being, his attitude, his choices. The Q Document had already pointed us in this direction with the words put into the mouth of John the Baptist: "Produce therefore fruits worthy of repentance" (Lk 3:8). Here is his answer: "Let him who has two coats share with him who has none, and let him who has food do the same... Do not demand anything more than what is set for you... Do not do violence or wrong to anyone and be content with your pay" (Lk 3:10-14). These are examples of the fruit of repentance.

Thus, the fruit is any action. But using the word "fruit" creates an inseparable link between a person's heart and his action, just as there is an inseparable link between the tree and its fruit.

The author of the Q Document was probably inspired by this passage from Sirach 27:6:

The fruit of a tree makes known the field that bears it so the word manifests the feelings of the heart of man.

Thus, according to Sirach, the word that comes out of someone's mouth is like the fruit of a tree, it manifests the true inclination of the person's heart as the fruit manifests the quality of a tree.

Noun karpos in the New Testament
sapron (rotten)
Sapron is the adjectivve sapros in the accusative masculine singular and agreeing with the word "fruit". It means: rotten, spoiled, that which has entered into a state of putrefaction, and thus in a general way that which has lost its quality and has become worthless. It is extremely rare in the whole Bible, and in fact appears only in the New Testament: Mt = 5; Mk = 0; Lk = 2; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

In the gospels, it is above all the Q Document with its image of the tree and its fruit that has brought us this adjective, the only exception being the image of the fisherman in Matthew who rejects the worthless fish (13:48). The adjective sapros means here to describe the fruit of the vine or the olive or the fig tree that has decayed for whatever reason.

One thing may be surprising. When Matthew takes up this same tradition in the sequence of Mt 7:17-18, twice he speaks rather of "bad fruit". So the question arises: did the Q Document have "rotten fruit" as in Luke, or "bad fruit" as in Matthew? It is likely that the Q Document had the expression "rotten fruit", which Luke respected, but which Matthew changed to "bad fruit", for the following reasons:

  1. sapros is not part of the vocabulary of Luke where it appears in 6:43 for the one and only time,
  2. Matthew is a heavy user of the adjective "bad". (ponēros) which appears frequently in his gospel
  3. Matthew tends to generalize and moralize Jesus' words to give them a wider scope, as he does for example in his beatitudes (Mt 5:3): "Blessed are the poor in spirit", rather than "blessed are you the poor" (Lk 6:20) in Luke; and so in Mt 7:17-18 Matthew does the same with "evil fruits" to give them an immediate moral application

As we have seen with the word fruit, the adjective "rotten", even though it refers primarily to the fruit of the tree, has a symbolic meaning. Matthew understood this and hastened to replace it with "bad". Just as the word "fruit" is intended to designate a person's action, the expression "rotten fruit" is intended to designate a person's evil action. Moreover, it is revealing to find this use of sapros in the epistle to the Ephesians 4:29: "Out of your mouths must not come any rotten (sapros) talk, but rather every good talk capable of edifying, when necessary, and of doing good to those who hear it". Here, we have an insight into the expression "rotten talk" by presenting its opposite, i.e. a constructive talk capable of edifying, and a word that does good (i.e. literally in Greek: a word that gives grace). This verse from Ephesians provides an interesting context for the whole sequence of the Q Document in Luke, for did we not speak of the twig in the other's eye and the beam in his eye, and did we not say that a possible context for this verse is brotherly correction? Now, brotherly correction is precisely about what one says about his brother. The epistle to the Ephesians describes the quality that this talk must have, and which it opposes to the rotten talk, like the rotten fruit. Simply seeing the twig in the other's eye is not constructive speech and does not give "grace".

Adjective sapros in the Bible
v. 44 In fact, every tree is known by its fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, just as a cluster of grapes is not gathered from a bramble

Literally: For every (hekaston) tree out of its own (idiou) fruit is known (ginōsketai). For from thorns (akanthōn) they do not gather (syllegousin) figs (syka), neither from a bramble (batou) a bunch of grapes (staphylēn) they harvest (trygōsin).

hekaston (every)
Hekaston is the adjective hekastos in the neuter nominative singular, because it is the attribute of the word tree (dendron). It means: every, and appears occasionally in the gospels, but more frequently in the rest of the New Testament: Mt = 4; Mk = 1; Lk = 5; Jn = 4; Acts = 11; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

This adjective, which is present in Luke through this sequence in the Q Document, is absent from the parallel passage in Matthew 12:33b, which has instead "For from the fruit the tree is known." It is difficult to determine whether it was Luke who added this adjective to his source, or Matthew who removed it, since the word seems to be part of the vocabulary of both evangelists; for example, in Matthew all occurrences are his own, and so it would be hard to understand why he would have removed it in this Q Document sequence. Also, there is some probability that Luke would have added "every" to this sequence in the Q Document. Why? By writing "every tree" Luke would be emphasizing the uniqueness of each tree, just as Paul emphasized the uniqueness of the charisms of each. And by emphasizing the uniqueness of each tree, he emphasizes the revealing and unique function of the fruit, the actions of each.

Adjective hekastos in the gospels-Acts
ginōsketai (he is known)
Ginōsketai is the verb ginōskō in the passive of the present indicative, 3rd person singular. It means: to know, and is very frequent in the gospels-Acts, especially in the Johannine tradition: Mt = 19; Mk = 11; Lk = 26; Jn = 57; Acts = 16; 1Jn = 25; 2Jn = 1; 3Jn = 0.

In the biblical world, and more particularly in the gospels, the verb "to know" is used to designate different realities, the main ones of which could be summarized as follows:

  1. "To know" refers to factual knowledge, the receipt of information, i.e. learning a fact or being made aware of something. For example:
    • Lk 2: 43: "When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know (ginōskō) it."

  2. "To know" means to grasp a life situation from certain clues, which is often translated as: to understand. For example:
    • Lk 20: 19: "When the scribes and chief priests knew (ginōskō) that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people"

  3. "To know" is knowledge derived from faith, and allows one to enter into God's vision of human history. For example:
    • Lk 8: 10: "He said, 'To you it has been given to know (ginōskō) the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that 'looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.'"

  4. "To know" refers to the perception of the identity of a reality and is mostly translated as: to recognize. A recognition presupposes a prior knowledge, and some clues allow to make the link with this prior knowledge. For example:
    • Lk 24: 35: "Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known (ginōskō) to them in the breaking of the bread"

  5. "To know" in the biblical world sometimes has a sexual meaning, to refer to mating without directly mentioning it, or to being in a couple relationship. For example:
    • Lk 1: 34: "Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I don't know (ginōskō) a man?'"

What knowledge is spoken of in v. 44? The issue is the identification of the tree, and it is a question of recognizing which tree it is. Of course, there is something exaggerated in the statement that we can only know the identity of a tree when it gives us its fruit. The botanical knowledge of the Jews of Palestine was sufficient to distinguish, for example, a fig tree from an olive tree or a vine without waiting for it to bear figs. All of this indicates that in the mind of the author of this sequence in Q Document, and also in the mind of Luke who uses this phrase, the starting point of the image is that of the human being who reveals his identity through his actions. Unless one is God ("You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows (ginōskō) your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God", 16: 15), we have to go through the mediation of his actions to determine the identity of the human being, i.e. his quality of being. And of course, this recognition presupposes a certain idea of the quality of being, and it is through the index of certain actions that we will find it.

Verb ginōskō in the gospels-Acts
idiou (own)
Idiou is the adjective idios in the genitive masculine singular, because it is the attribute of fruit which is in the genitive because of the preposition ek (out of, from). Idios means: proper, particular; it is thus from its own fruit that the tree is identified. It appears regularly in all the gospels: Mt = 10; Mk = 8; Lk = 6; Jn = 15; Acts = 16; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

This adjective usually takes three forms:

  • An adjective that plays the role of a possessive adjective: "his own horse" (Lk 10:34), "his own city" (Mt 9:1), "his own field" (Mt 22:5)
  • With the preposition kata, it forms the expression katʼ idian, which literally means "by itself", and is usually translated as: in particular, privately, apart. For example: "He took them with him and withdrew in private (kat'idian) to a city called Bethsaida" (Lk 9: 10); "Jesus said to them in private (kat' idian)" (Lk 10: 23)
  • In the plural it can take the form of a noun and mean: his goods, his possessions. For example: "Look, we have left what is our goods (idia) and followed you" (Lk 18, 28)

In v. 41 as in v. 44, it means: own. In the first case it refers to the eye of the one who sees the twig in the eye of the brother, to insist on the blindness to oneself, to one's own situation; in the second case it refers to the fruit to insist on the particularity of each fruit, each fruit being unique, and by implication, each tree is unique. This insistence shows that the author is aiming at the human being and his action, because it would be very difficult to show how each grape or each fig or each olive is unique.

However, v. 41 and 44 appear in a sequence that comes from the Q Document. At the same time, the adjective idios does not appear in Matthew (Mt 7:3 and 7:20), which uses the same sequences. What does this mean? Yet the adjective idios seems to be part of Matthew's vocabulary. It is likely that Luke added idios to the Q Document, he who regularly uses this adjective, especially in the Acts of the Apostles. Thus, after adding the adjective "every" to accompany the word "tree", he added the adjective "own" to accompany the word "fruit", insisting on the particularity of each tree and the particularity of each fruit, i.e. the particularity of individuals and their acts, the acts becoming the signature of the individuals.

Adjective idios in the gospels-Acts
akanthōn (thorns)
Akanthōn is the feminine noun akantha in the genitive plural, the genitive being required by the preposition ek (out of, from). The word means: thorn, and is very infrequent in the whole New Testament, in fact it appears only in the gospels: Mt = 5; Mk = 4; Lk = 4; Jn = 1; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0. To be more precise, this word is found only in Mark and the Q Document in the synoptic gospels, Matthew and Luke simply copying these two sources. In John, the word comes from the tradition about Jesus' crown of thorns.

In v. 44, the word belongs to this sequence of the Q Document that Luke and Matthew have copied. What is meant by thorns? Let us remember that in the Bible thorns evoke a negative reality: it is what hurts ("I will crush your flesh with thorns from the wilderness and Barcenim", Jdg 8:7), and therefore it is something that is not wanted and rejected ("All are like a despised thorn that is not taken with the hand", 2 Sm 23:6). Nevertheless, thorns appear when a tree is not cared for: "And I will leave my vineyard, and it shall not be pruned or spaded; and thorns shall grow on it as on a dry land, and I will command the clouds never to water it with rain" (Isa 5:6). And the image of a tree or a plant from which a harvest was hoped for but which gives thorns is well-known:

  • Isa 5: 2: "And I surrounded it with a hedge, and fenced it, and planted it with the plant of Sorec; and in the midst of it I built a tower, where I dug a cellar; and I counted that it would give me grapes, but it produced thorns (akantha)"
  • Jer 12: 13: "Sow wheat, and you will reap thorns (akantha); their share of the inheritance will not bring them anything; be confounded because of your pride and your contempt in the face of the Lord"

Thus, the idea is not that from an apple tree one does not harvest oranges, which is obvious, but rather that from a dead tree one can no longer pick fruit; the thorns are seen as a withered tree. The emphasis is on the conditions required to produce fruit, i.e. a healthy tree.

Note that in Matthew we have the opposite order: while Luke begins with the fig tree and ends with the vine, Matthew (7: 16b) does the opposite with a more concise sentence, typical of his style.

Noun akantha in the New Testament
syllegousin (they gather)
Syllegousin is the verb syllegō in the active present tense, 3rd person plural, the plural referring to a generic subject and usually translated as: one. It means: to pick up, to gather. It is a verb found only in Matthew and the Q Document in the whole New Testament: Mt = 7; Mk = 0; Lk = 1; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

It is not a verb that is part of Luke's vocabulary, since the only occurrence in Luke comes from the Q Document. We are faced with an agricultural image, since even though stones or pieces of wood can be gathered, it is mainly the harvest or fruit that is gathered in the Bible. In Matthew, apart from this verse from the Q Document, the verb is used to gather the tares in order to throw them into the fire, to gather the good fish when sorting them, and symbolically, to gather those who do evil and exclude them from the kingdom.

Here, in v. 44, the verb is used to describe the gathering of figs. In fact, the verb has a negative form: one does not pick figs on thorns, i.e. when the fig tree is dried up, it is useless to look for figs, because one will only find thorns.

Verb syllegō in the New Testament
syka (figs)
Syka is the neuter noun sykon in the accusative plural, the accusative being required because the word is the direct object of the verb "to gather". It means: fig, and is very rare in the whole New Testament, including the Gospels: Mt = 1; Mk = 1; Lk = 1; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0, and not very frequent in the rest of the Bible. One cannot mention "fig" without also mentioning sykē (fig tree), a slightly more frequent word: Mt = 5; Mk = 4; Lk = 3; Jn = 2; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

The fig tree with its figs was highly valued, as written in Jdg 9:11: "May I give up my sweet juice and my excellent fruit". Together with the vine and the pomegranate tree, it represents the value of the promised land of Palestine, symbolized by its oversized fruit: "When they came to the valley of the cluster, they explored it; they took a branch with its cluster and carried it away on levers; they also gathered pomegranates and figs". Usually, when a farmer had a vineyard, he also cultivated the fig tree on his land, as this parable shows: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard. He went to look for fruit and found none" (Lk 13:6). In fact, when we go through the OT, the vine and the fig tree are very often mentioned together: "If you want to be blessed, come to me, everyone will eat the fruit of his vine and his fig tree, and you will drink the water from your cisterns" (Is 36:16; see also: Jer 8:13; Hos 2:14; Joel 1:7; Mi 4:4; Ha 3:17; Zech 3:10; Ps 104:33; Song 2:13; 1 M 14:12); the vine and the fig tree together are the symbol of the farmer's land.

The fig, a word that comes to us from the Q Document, thus refers to a reality familiar to the Palestinian peasant. And to point out that one cannot pick figs from a tree so dried out as to be associated with thorns must have been obvious to him.

Noun sykon in the Bible

Noun sykē in the Bible

figuier

A fig tree

batou (bramble)
Batou is the feminine noun batos in the genitive singular, the genitive being required because of the preposition ek (out of, from). The word batos refers to Rubus ulmifolius, i.e., Elm-leaved Bramble, a bushy, thorny bramble in the Rosaceae family. This is an extremely rare word in the entire Bible, and especially in the New Testament where it appears only in the Gospels-Acts; in fact, occurrences in the Gospels are reduced to two, that of the Q Document which Luke 6:44 copies, and that of Mk 12:26 which Lk 20:37 copies: Mt = 0; Mk = 1; Lk = 2; Jn = 0; Acts = 2; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

Almost all occurrences refer to the scene of the burning bramble where Moses has a dialogue with the Lord, except for our passage in Lk 6:44 and Job 31:40. Thus, only this passage from Job can enlighten us.

then let the nettle come up to me instead of wheat, and a bramble (batos) instead of barley. And Job ceased speaking"

The book of Job gives us an example where the bramble symbolizes the disappointment of a failed harvest. It is a negative reality. The Q Document takes the opposite approach, since it does not say: "instead of a bunch of grapes, the vine produced a bramble", but rather: "from a bramble one does not harvest a bunch of grapes". The reason is simple: rather than focusing on the final product, the focus is on the identity of the producing being; in other words, if you want a specific finish line, you need a specific starting point.

One might ask why the bramble was chosen as an example of a plant that does not produce grapes? It is possible that the author of the Q Document judged that physically there is some resemblance between the Elm-leaved Bramble and a grapevine; indeed, there is a similarity between the leaves.

While Matthew has the couple: thorns versus grapes and thistles versus figs, Luke has the couple: thorns versus figs and bramble versus grapes. Who respects the Q Document better? It is almost impossible to answer this question. But we are inclined to think that the word "bramble" comes from the Q Document, because Matthew, who has the word "thistle" (tribolos) instead, had every interest in presenting the couple "thorns and thistles" which was very well known in Jewish circles, as testified by Heb 6:8 ("But she who bears thorns and thistles is reprobate"), Gen 3:18 ("He will produce for you thorns and thistles"), Hos 10:8 ("thorns and thistles will climb up their altars"). Luke's more difficult lesson with the pair "thorns and bramble" seems preferable.

What does the image of the bramble represent? It is a shrub that does not produce fruit, but is furnished with sickle-shaped prongs and grows in poor soil and arid environments. It is therefore the image of an individual with an unfruitful life, apt to injure, in a humanly poor environment.

Noun batos in the Bible
trygōsin (they harvest)
Trygōsin is the verb trygaō in the active present tense, 3rd person plural. It means: to harvest, and it is extremely rare in the whole New Testament, appearing only in Revelation and our passage of Lk 6:44: Mt = 0; Mk = 0; Lk = 1; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

In the OT milieu, the time when the grape is picked is a time of rejoicing and celebration, and not being able to harvest is a time of mourning. The farmer is proud of the product of his vineyard. Once again, we are in an agricultural world. And everyone knows that you cannot pick grapes from a bramble.

Verb trygaō in the Bible
staphylēn (a bunch of grapes)
Staphylēn is the feminine name staphylē in the accusative singular, the accusative being required because the word is the direct object of the verb "to harvest". It designates the bunch or cluster of grapes, and is also very rare in the New Testament, appearing only in Revelation and in this passage from the Q Document copied by Luke and Matthew: Mt = 1; Mk = 0; Lk = 1; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

As today, grapes could be consumed as they were or fermented and made into wine. If we are to believe Sirach (39:26), it was among the essential goods: "That which is of primary necessity for man's life is water, fire, iron and salt, wheat flour, honey and milk, the blood of the grape cluster (staphylē), the oil and the garment". The libation of grape juice on the altar also accompanied the burnt offering (see Sir 50:15).

In short, harvesting the grapes was an important activity.

Noun staphylē in the Bible
v. 45 A good person does good from the goodness of his heart, while an evil person does evil from the evil in him. Indeed, the mouth expresses the abundance of the heart.

Literally: The good (agathos) man (anthrōpos) from the good (agathos) treasure (thēsaurou) of the heart (kardias) brings forward (propherei) the good (agathos) and the bad (ponēros) from the bad brings forward the bad. For from abundance (perisseumatos) of heart speaks (lalei) the mouth (stoma) of him.

agathos (good)
Agathos is the adjective agathos in the nominative singular masculine, and is the attribute of the word "man". It means: good, and is sometimes used as a synonym for kalos which we saw earlier. It appears regularly in the New Testament, but its use is especially concentrated in Luke and Matthew: Mt = 16; Mk = 4; Lk = 16; Jn = 3; Acts = 3; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 1.

In Luke, what does agathos mean and is it different from kalos, a synonym? Let's settle the question of the plural right away: in the plural form, agathos very often refers to the "good things" of a person, i.e. his possessions (e.g., 1: 53: "he has filled the hungry with good things (agathos), and sent the rich away empty."; 12: 18: "there I will store all my grain and my goods (agathos).").

In the singular form, agathos can be the attribute of a person, as in this passage copied from Mark where a notable calls Jesus: good teacher (Lk 18:18). Rather, we have noted that kalos in Luke is never an attribute of a person. Similarly, in this passage copied from the Q Document, a servant is called "good" (agathos: Lk 19: 17); He is called good for having fulfilled his responsibilities well, faithful to the will of his master. Finally, in this passage on Joseph of Arimathea, copied from Mark 15:43, Luke adds: good man (agathos) and just. In what sense is Joseph a good man? Some bibles have translated here agathos by: righteous. The fact that agathos is associated with "righteous (dikaios), a term that designates someone who respects religious rules, like Jesus' father, Joseph, and Zechariah and Elizabeth are called "righteous", suggests that it designates someone who is faithful to God and attentive to his will. All this could help us to understand the surprising words that Mark 10:18 puts into Jesus' mouth: "Why do you call me good (agathos)? No one is good (agathos) but God alone". Indeed, if goodness is the privilege of God, the human being can only be good by reflecting what God is and what he wants, in short by doing his will, by being loyal and faithful to him.

What is the difference between agathos and kalos, since both terms are often translated as: good? In Luke we find a surprising thing: in the parable of the sower, when he copies the phrase from Mark 4:8 of the grains that fell into the good (kalos) soil, Luke 8: 8 replace kalos with agathos. But when Lk 8:15 copies the explanation of the parable from Mk 4:20, this time he retains the term kalos from Mark to designate "the good soil", as if agathos and kalos were interchangeable. But why in this same verse does he speak of those who hold fast the word with the expression "with a kalos and agathos heart"? No one dared to translate: "with a good and good heart". The NRSV, King James, American Standard have translated: "in an honest and good heart", the American Bible has translated: "with a generous and good heart", the NIV has translated: "with a noble and good heart". We note that there is almost unanimous agreement to translate kalos by "good"; in fact, as we noted earlier, kalos in Luke means something of quality, which can be translated as good or beautiful (like the "beautiful" stones of the temple in Lk 21:5). As for agathos, We have seen that the term applied to Joseph of Arimathea designates a person faithful to God and attentive to his will, respectful of religious rules. Thus to translate agathos by "honest" makes senses, as long it means "loyal" or "faithful" to God. But can all this shed light on the fact that Luke first uses agathos to designate the good soil, then kalos? This would be an example of great coherence in Luke: since the earth represents the human heart, the seed of the word fell into a heart faithful to the will of God (agathos) and has kept its integrity, i.e. uncorrupted and has kept all its properties (kalos), like the right salt or the right tree.

What is the meaning of agathos in v. 45 which is used three times in the same verse? Note that the adjective first qualifies two different realities: a man and the treasure of his heart, then it is used as a neutral noun: "he brings forward the good". Moreover, we are dealing with a verse that comes from the Q Document. In Luke we find two other occurrences of agathos which comes from the Q Document, Lk 11:13 which speaks of "good things" being given to children and Lk 19:17 in the parable of the "good servant" who remained faithful to his responsibilities in the absence of the master. The "good man" could be understood as the "good servant", the one who is faithful and loyal to his master, i.e. to God, and the "good treasure of the heart" refers to this capacity to think well and make good decisions as we will see in our analysis of the "heart". What does "he brings forward (propherei) the good" mean? The Greek verb propherō means "to bring forward, to produce", and is related to the verb "to profess", i.e. to lay claim to, to declare openly. So "to bring forward" is related to bringing out the word, and must be understood in a context where we express ourselves orally. And "good" must be given the same meaning as that other passage of the Q Document in Lk 11:13 which speaks of the good things that are given to children, i.e. what is beneficial, useful, constructive. Thus, the human being who is faithful to God's will is the one who is able to understand in his heart and want what God wants, and therefore speaks words that will be beneficial and constructive for the other. The rest of the verse will confirm that we are in a context of brotherly correction.

Adjective agathos in the gospels-Acts
anthrōpos (man)
Anthrōpos is the masculine noun anthrōpos in the nominative singular, the nominative being required because it plays the role of subject of the verb "to bring forward" or to utter. It is a word that is omnipresent throughout the Bible: Mt = 115; Mk = 56; Lk = 95; Jn = 59; Acts = 45; 1Jn = 1; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0. It means: man, but this word has three main meanings.
  1. It refers to the human species or human nature, without any sexual connotation; it applies to every human being as a human being, and distinguishes him from animals or God. The word is also used in reference to Jesus in the expression: son of man. It appears mostly in the singular. For example:
    • Lk 4: 4: "Jesus answered him, 'It is written, 'A man (anthrōpos) does not live by bread alone.'"

  2. The word refers to society in general, to the individuals who compose it, to all those who surround us. Our Bibles often translate this word as "people" or "others. Of course, the word includes both women and children, and it is very often in the plural. For example:
    • Lk 6: 31: "And according to what you want men (anthrōpos) do for you, do in the same way to others"

  3. Finally, it designates a male being, a particular and well identified individual whose name is sometimes given. Often, it is the context that makes it possible to determine that it is indeed a male. For example:
    • Lk 2: 25: "Now there was a man (anthrōpos) in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man (anthrōpos) was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him"

Luke uses this word very frequently, as do all the other evangelists, with the three main meanings we have identified. On 24 occasions, the word belongs to the Q Document that Luke copies. Here again we find a similar distribution of the three main meanings, with a greater share for the reference to the human species in general because of the expression "Son of man" which appears seven times.

In v. 45, the expression "the good man" does not refer to any particular individual that could be named, or to actual people in society, but to human beings in general: we are at the level of a philosophical consideration of the human species. The extracts from the Q Document that Luke gives us contain a number of these considerations:

  • Human beings do not live by bread alone (Lk 4:4, in a quote from Deut 8:3)
  • The true disciple is the one who puts into practice the word received, and is like the human being who laid the foundations of his house on the rock, and not on the ground, and thus was able to face the bad weather (Lk 6, 47-49)
  • The situation of the human being who has been freed from the devil (i.e. who has become a Christian) becomes worse when he falls back into his power (i.e. becomes an apostate) (Lk 11:24-26)

Here, in v. 45, the author of this passage from the Q Document intends to consider the link between what a person says and his or her deepest identity before God: in order to say constructive things to one's brother or sister, one's heart must already belong to God.

Noun anthrōpos in the gospels-Acts
thēsaurou (treasure)
Thēsaurou is the masculine noun thēsauros (treasure) in the genitive singular, the genitive being required because of the preposition ek (out of, from). This noun has given us the word: thesaurus. The noun is infrequent throughout the New Testament, including the Gospels: Mt = 9; Mk = 1; Lk = 4; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0. As can be seen, Matthew uses this word the most.

When we go through the Bible on the use of thēsauros, by which the Septuagint often translates the Hebrew: ʾôṣār, we can make the following remarks.

Thēsauros sometimes refers to physical or material realities, sometimes to spiritual realities.

As a physical reality, treasure can refer to various material possessions that are amassed, and often kept in a secure place. For example:

  • Mt 6: 19: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures (thēsauros) on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal"
  • Isa 2: 7: "Their land abounded in silver and gold, and their treasures (thēsauros, Heb.ʾôṣār) were without number. And their land was covered with horses, and their chariots could not be counted."

As a physical reality, treasure can also refer to the room, or store, or box where one's possessions are deposited. For example:

  • Isa 39: 4: "And the prophet said, What have they seen in thy palace? And the king answered, They have seen all that is in my palace; there is nothing that I have not shown them, either in my palace or in my treasures (thēsauros, Heb. ʾôṣār)"
  • Dan 1: 2: "And the Lord delivered to him King Jehoakim with some of the vessels of the temple of God, and he took these vessels to the land of Sennaar, where the temple of his god was, and laid them in the house of the treasure (thēsauros, Heb. ʾôṣār) of his god"

As a spiritual reality, treasure can refer to the teaching of Scripture, to the wisdom contained therein, to the light brought by Christ, to the presence of a faithful friend, to a favorable situation in God's world. In short, these are various intangible goods. For example:

  • Mk 10: 21: "Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure (thēsauros) in heaven; then come, follow me"
  • Sir 1: 25: "The treasures (thēsauros) of wisdom contain maxims of prudence, but piety towards God is an abomination to the sinner"

The word thēsauros does not belong to Luke's vocabulary: of the four occurrences in his gospel, three are from the Q Document, and one from Mark. What is its meaning? In two occurrences (12:33 from the Q Document, and 18:32 from Mark), it speaks of the "treasure in heaven". This treasure is opposed to earthly riches. It is as if there were a spiritual capital that could be accumulated. In the Jewish mentality, there is sometimes reference to a great book of life in heaven in which all human deeds are recorded, as testified to in 1 Enoch: "So I looked at the tablet(s) of heaven, read all the writing (on them), and came to understand everything. I read that book and all the deeds of humanity and all the children of the flesh upon the earth for all the generations of the world" 81:2 (see the allusions to this book in Ex 32:32; Ps 69:29; Dan 12:1). This notion of people being recorded in the book of life also exists in the New New Testament period, as we see in Paul (Phil 4:3) and in Luke 10:20: "Yet do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (see also Rev 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12.15; 21:27). Thus, a spiritual account book makes it possible to establish people who are rich in the eyes of God.

The other two occurrences (6:45 and 12:34) associate treasure with the heart. First, 12:24 we have: "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also", which can be translated as follows: what we consider to be wealth reveals where our interests, concerns, thoughts and actions are.

Then, in 6:45, we have an expression that has few equivalents in the whole Bible: "the good treasure of his heart". Note that Matthew speaks simply of "the good treasure"; the expression "of his heart" is probably an addition by Luke to the Q Document, for in Luke the word "heart" occupies an important place. What does he mean by "the treasure of his heart"? We have already noted that in the OT the word "treasure" can refer to a spiritual reality, such as the treasure of wisdom (see Sir 1:25). For a Jew, the Law is a real treasure, as Isaiah 33:6 affirms: "They will submit to the Law; our salvation is in its treasures; there wisdom, knowledge and piety are with the Lord; there are the treasures of justice." For the Christian, the treasure is no longer the Law, but the revelation brought by Christ, as we can read in the letter to the Colossians: "I want their hearts to be encouraged and to be united in love, so that they may come to the fullness of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God: Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (2: 2-3). And for Luke, this treasure is summed up in the word of God, which must be received in the heart: "Those who hear the word in a loyal and good heart are in the good soil" (8:13). Thus, "the treasure of one's heart" refers to the word of God that resides in the believer. This treasure is good, because it comes from God, the "good" par excellence.

Noun thēsauros in the New Testament
kardias (heart)
Kardias is the noun kardia in the genitive singular, the genitive being required because the noun is a noun complement of the word "treasure". It means: heart, and it occupies an important place in the whole New Testament, including the gospel-Acts: Mt = 16; Mk = 11; Lk = 22; Jn = 7; Acts = 20; 1Jn = 4; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0. This importance is clear in Luke's gospel as well as in his Acts of the Apostles. What then is the heart?

The heart refers to the whole person, but seen under different aspects.

  1. The human being is capable of feelings and emotions, and the heart is the seat, for example:
    • Jn 16: 6: "But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts (kardia)"

  2. Human beings are capable of reflection and understanding, and for a Jew, this reflection and understanding takes place in the heart, for example:
    • Mk 2: 8: "At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, "Why do you raise such questions in your hearts (kardia)?"

  3. The human being is a moral being, inhabited by values, capable of making decisions and taking action. For a Jew, the origin of these decisions and actions is the heart. For example:
    • Mk 7: 21: "For it is from within, from the human heart (kardia), that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder"

For Luke, as for the New Testament world, the heart is therefore at the center of a person's identity and is the seat of his or her emotions, feelings, interests, memory, questioning, reflection, values, decisions and action, and it is there that the word of God can abide. This is how Luke presents the feelings aroused by this word on the disciples of Emmaus: "Were not our hearts (kardia) burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" (Lk 24: 32). When this word raises questions, it is in the heart that it happens: "All who heard them put them in their heart (kardia) and said, 'What then will this child become?'" (Lk 1: 66). But this word can only be fully understood after Easter, and that is why it must be meditated on at length in one's heart: "But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart (kardia)" (Lk 2: 19). In order to understand this word, one must be able to open oneself to a horizon greater than one's own, hence this word from Jesus: "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart (kardia) to believe all that the prophets have declared!" (Lk 24: 25). Finally, the reflection of the heart leads to decision and action, as illustrated by the attitude of the first Christians: "Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart (kardia) and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common" (Acts 4: 32).

Here, in v. 45, in the phrase "of the good treasure of the heart," Luke has added "of the heart" to the phrase "of the good treasure" which came to him from the Q Document, as Matthew testifies. Why did he do this? One can think that the original expression of the Q Document: "The good man out of the good treasure brings forward the good", contained in his eyes a certain ambiguity; of which treasure are we speaking? Probably the author of the Q Document meant to refer to Christian wisdom with the word "treasure". Luke would have wanted to personalize this phrase by designating the word of God as received in the believing being, in that heart capable of vibrating to this word, of understanding it and of acting accordingly.

But this connection between the heart and human speech or action was already present in the Jewish world, as we saw earlier in our analysis of the word "fruit" with Sirach 27:6. Intertestamental texts also bear witness to this, as we see in the Testament of Asher:

"But if a man's inclination is to evil, his whole action is evil... Even if he does good, it turns to evil; for when he begins to do good, the purpose of his action leads him to evil, since the treasure of his inclination is full of evil spirit" (1: 8-9).

The heart defines the direction and value of the word or action.

Noun kardia in the gospels-Acts
propherei (he brings forward)
Propherei is the verb propherō in the active present tense, 3rd person singular. It is a verb formed by the preposition pro (before, in front of) and the verb pherō (to bear). It means: to bring or put forward, hence to utter, to produce. It is a very rare verb in the whole Bible and appears only here in the whole New Testament.

This verb does not belong to Luke's vocabulary and its presence in v. 45 is explained simply because it comes from the Q Document that Luke uses. Matthew, who also uses this Q Document, preferred to replace this almost unknown verb by one of the verbs in his vocabulary which he uses a lot: ekballō (to cast out). But in doing so, he changes the meaning of his sentence, since it is now a matter of extracting good things from his treasure, as one takes out precious objects from his bag.

What is the meaning of the phrase in Luke with his use of the Q Document? When we examine the few occurrences of propherō In the Septuagint, it is noted that it almost always has the meaning of "to utter something" or "to put forward an idea", and thus places us in a context of oral interaction. A good example is Prov 10:13: "He whose lips brings forward (propherō) Wisdom strikes the senseless man with a rod"; in other words, the wise man crushes the fool with the wisdom that comes from his mouth. In the 3rd book of Maccabees, a writing by a Jew from Alexandria around 100 BC, the verb propherō is used only to introduce a dialogue. Thus, in Luke, the idea is that the good man, from the good treasure of his heart inhabited by the word of God, speaks a word that is constructive and beneficial.

Verb propherō in the Bible
ponēros (bad)
Ponēros is the adjective ponēros in the nominative masculine singular, and it is the attribute of the implied word "man", which is the subject of the verb "to bring forward". It is a word used variously by the evangelists, i.e. very little by Mark, but quite abundantly by Matthew: Mt = 25; Mk = 2; Lk = 12; Jn = 3; Acts = 8; 1Jn = 6; 2Jn = 1; 3Jn = 1.

This is not a word that seems to be in Luke's vocabulary. Despite the 12 occurrences listed, 8 are simply a copy of the Q Document. Of the four occurrences that may be his, two appear in the phrase "evil spirit" (Lk 7:21; 8:2), another refers to "evil things" done by Herod Antipas to John the Baptist (Lk 3:19), and a fourth appears in a context from the Q Document and may not be his (Lk 6:35).

Let's focus on the occurrences that come from the Q Document, since here in v. 45 it is an excerpt from that source. What do we find? In the majority of cases, the adjective evil refers to human beings: "evil servant" (Lk 19:22), "evil generation" (Lk 11:29), "you who are evil" (Lk 11:13), "evil man" (Lk 6:45), to which we could add Lk 6:35, appearing in the context of a quotation from the Q Document: "God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked (ponēros)". Who are the wicked? Let us begin with the "wicked servant" (Lk 11:29) who was afraid of his master, whom he considered to be severe, and hid what had been entrusted to him, without making it fruitful: This is the example of one who does not really know God and has not made the word received bear fruit; the "evil generation" (Lk 11:29) is the one that asks for signs, because it is not really believing; "Finally, the "God who is good to the ungrateful and wicked" (Lk 6:35) appears in a context of prayer for enemies, and the ungrateful and wicked refer to unbelievers. In short, the wicked does not refer to the corrupted being, but rather to the unbeliever or the one who has not adequately received the word of God as Jesus made it known.

It is in this context of the being who has not adequately received the word of God that we must understand the wicked man of v. 45. And this "wicked man" is contrasted with the "good man", i.e. the human being faithful to God's will.

The word "evil" comes up twice more in this verse, first in the expression: "out of the evil he puts forth...", an expression contrasted with "out of the good treasure of the heart he puts forth...". What does this second "bad" mean? Let us notice that we do not have a real parallel with the good man, because for the bad man, Luke no longer speaks of treasure and no longer speaks of the heart. On this point, Matthew appears more faithful to the Q Document when he writes: "and the evil man out of the evil treasure". Why would Luke eliminate the word "treasure" and not add the word "heart"? Since the word "treasure" probably referred to the word of God, it made no sense to talk about "evil treasure. And by eliminating the word "treasure" he was automatically eliminating its noun complement. What then does "out of the evil he puts forth..." mean? We have already defined the evil man as the one who has not adequately received the word of God, and therefore "out of the evil" refers to this imperfect faith, and even to unbelief.

The word "bad" is finally used in the expression "he brings forward the bad". We said earlier that the good man utters a constructive and beneficial word. In contrast, the evil man utters a word that is neither constructive nor beneficial, and therefore destructive, i.e. evil.

Adjective ponēros in the gospels-Acts
perisseumatos (abundance)
Perisseumatos is the neuter noun perisseuma in the genitive singular, the genitive being required because of the preposition ek (out of, from). It means: abundance, and is very rare throughout the Bible: Mt = 1; Mk = 1; Lk = 1; Jn = 0; Acts = 0; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 0; 3Jn = 0.

In the gospels, the word first appeared in Mark's account of the second feeding of the crowd (8:8), where abundance is intended to refer to the surplus that the people did not need to feed themselves. Otherwise, the word is found in this Q Document passage quoted almost literally by Luke (6:45) and Matthew (12:34).

What is the meaning of the expression: "from the abundance of a heart..."? We have already pointed out that the heart designates the being of the person in his feelings, his reflection and his action, it is his identity, what defines him. Abundance therefore designates the dominant feelings, reflection and action. It is in this line that we must understand this passage from Ecclesiastes 2:15: "And I said in my heart, 'As the event of the fool is, so shall it be to me, even to me; and to what purpose have I gained wisdom?' I said moreover in my heart, 'This is also vanity, because the fool speaks of his abundance (perisseuma)'". Let us remember that wisdom in the biblical world is not simply knowledge, but a way of being that includes acting. The ecclesiastes deplores the fact that both the wise and the foolish express their being in their word in the same way, and therefore this word has the same weight, and moreover, both will end their days in the same way.

Thus, the abundance of a heart refers to all the weight of the feelings, thoughts and actions of a person that mark his identity and take the path of the word. This abundance can be marked by the word of God, as well as by its absence.

Noun perisseuma in the Bible
lalei (he speaks)
Lalei is the verb laleō in the active present indicative, 3rd person singular and it means: to speak. We can imagine that this verb is very frequent: Mt = 26; Mk = 21; Lk = 31; Jn = 59; Acts = 58; 1Jn = 1; 2Jn = 1; 3Jn = 0. We find this verb especially in John who introduces his gospel with the word (logos) who became flesh, and in Luke, for whom the word is a central theme of his gospel and of his Acts. But in general it can be said that Judaism presents us with a God who speaks, which has given us these books of the Bible, and the New Testament bears witness to this word made flesh in Jesus. It is not surprising, therefore, that the verbs legō (to say), the most frequent among the evangelists (more than two thousand times), and laleō come up so often.

But there is a distinction in Greek between legō (to say) and laleō (to speak): legō is the only one able to introduce the content of a saying, and often this verb is in the present participle, which gives us a structure that is often found in the gospel-acts: "he spoke, saying" (e.g., Acts 8:26: "Then an angel of the Lord spoke [laleō] to Philip saying"). Of the 31 occurrences of laleō In Luke, 25 of these are his own. When we examine the passages where these occurrences are proper to him, we note that the verb exercises a certain number of functions:

  1. The first and principal function is a revelatory function in which God has intervened in history and spoken in different ways: he spoke through the Fathers in favor of Abraham and his progeny (1:55), he made promises through the prophets (1:70; 24:25), and now through the angel Gabriel (1:19) or the shepherds (2:18), or the prophetess Anna (2:38) he announces the good news. Jesus is this living word that announces the kingdom of God (9:11) and often "speaking" in Jesus is synonymous with teaching (5:4). After his resurrection, reference is made to what he spoke about when he was in Galilee (24:6, 44). Thus "speaking" is a reference to the word of God, so that we find in Luke this curious expression: "speaking the word" (see 2:17, 50; 24:44).

  2. In Luke there is a function to the action of speaking that is also present in the other evangelists, when it is mentioned that someone is speaking, without mentioning its content: they simply want to affirm that there is a change of state, that a person who was mute is now healed, or that a dead person has regained life, or conversely, that a person who was able to speak can no longer do so. For example:
    • Lk 7: 15: "The dead man sat up and began to speak (laleō)" (see also 1: 20.22.64; 11: 14)

  3. Another function of the verb, often in the present participle, which is also found in the other evangelists, is that of establishing a connection or link with what precedes, a way of showing that a scene that begins must be read in the light of what precedes. For example:
    • Lk 22: 60: "But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are talking about!" At that moment, while he was still speaking (laleō), the cock crowed" (see also 8: 49; 11: 37; 22: 47; 24: 36)

Where does our verse 45 fit into what we have just identified as the functions of the verb "to speak"? It is noticeable that to say that "out of the abundance of a heart the mouth speaks" does not fit at all with any of the three functions we have specified. This should not be surprising, since Luke is copying here what comes to him from the Q Document. The function of speech, then, is to mirror the person, to reflect his identity. At the same time, this verse assumes at the outset that we are in a context of oral interaction: people are speaking, and then the audience is invited to understand that the content of what is said sheds light on the person's identity, and thus allows the value of what is said to be qualified. The context is no longer that of preaching about the kingdom of Jesus, but that of community interaction.

Verb laleō in the gospels-Acts
stoma (mouth)
Stoma is the neuter noun stoma in the nominative singular, and it is the subject of the verb "to speak". It means: mouth. Its presence in the Gospels-Acts is concentrated in Matthew and Luke (Gospel and Acts): Mt = 11; Mk = 0; Lk = 9; Jn = 1; Acts = 12; 1Jn = 0; 2Jn = 2; 3Jn = 2. The mouth in the human being has two main functions: speaking and eating; but the function of speaking largely dominates in the Gospels-Acts, for out of the total of 37 occurrences, 32 refer to the mouth as the organ of speech.

In Luke, the mouth always refers to its function in speech, with the exception of 21:24 with the expression "mouth of the sword", a biblical expression (see Gen 34:26; Josh 8:24; 19:47; Jdg 1:8; Si 28:18; Heb 11:34) to describe the fact that the sword devours human beings by killing them. Thus the mouth of Zechariah opens to bless God (1:64), the mouths of the prophets announced a power of salvation (1:70), words full of grace come out of the mouth of Jesus (4:22), in the face of their adversaries, the disciples will have in their mouths a word of wisdom to confound their adversaries (21: 15), what comes out of Jesus' mouth is watched to trap him (11: 54), what comes out of Jesus' mouth about the son of man is used for his condemnation (22: 71), what comes out of the mouth of the servant about the severity of his master is used for his condemnation (19: 52).

Our v. 45 where the word "mouth" comes from the Q Document belongs to a class of its own, for it does not refer to any particular message. Even though it clearly designates the organ of speech, no specific word is mentioned: we simply have the general statement that what comes out of that mouth is to be judged according to the quality of the person.

Noun stoma in the gospels-Acts
  1. Analysis of the narrative's structure

    Introduction: Jesus announces a parable v. 39a

    1. Image of the blind man v. 39b - 40
      1. Question about the ability of a blind person to guide a blind person
      2. Application to the disciple: the disciple is not above the teacher and must be guided to complete training

    2. Image of the twig and the beam v. 41-42
      1. Question about fixing on the twig and blinding on the beam
      2. Answer on the conditions for brotherly correction

    3. Image of the tree and its fruit v. 43-45a
      1. General observation on the link between the tree and its fruit
      2. Application to human beings

    Conclusion: For the mouth reflects the heart v. 45b

    Finding a structure to the whole of verses 39-45 is a challenge. First of all, it is a division that comes from a liturgical choice. Second, Luke himself has drawn from the Q Document, that large binder with loose sheets of Jesus' sayings, various sayings that are not related to each other and that are also found in Matthew scattered in other ways and in other contexts. Thus, the image of the blind leading the blind is one of these loose leaves, the statement of the disciple not being above the teacher is another loose leaf, the image of the twig and the beam is another, the image of the tree and its fruit is another, the image of the man and the treasure of his heart is another. Putting these disparate phrases together, as Luke does, gives them new meaning.

    Thus, the teacher-disciple relationship can be seen as an application of the image of a blind man who cannot lead another blind man, the image of the twig and the beam that is overlooked can be seen as the continuation of the image of the blind man who cannot lead a blind man, the image of the tree and its fruit can be seen as the continuation of the image of the twig-beam, for the fruit being seen as the ability to see or judge well, and this ability is dependent on the human heart, as the fruit is dependent on the tree.

  2. Context analysis

    Let us proceed in two stages, first by considering a possible plan of the whole of the Gospel and by observing where our passage fits in this great plan, then by considering the immediate context of our narrative, i.e. what precedes and what follows.

    1. General context

      There is no agreement on a plan for the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. We propose one, if we exclude the infancy narrative, which follows the geography of the scenes and is probably not far from Luke's intention. The infancy narrative, on the other hand, represents a kind of conclusion of the Old Testament: all the main characters are pious Jews, the best of the Old Testament, and their prayers are made up of Old Testament material, especially the psalms. For Luke, the Old Testament is part of the larger salvation story, and his infancy narrative creates a kind of pivot through which one can move into the New Testament. In this framework, the mission of Jesus appears as the middle of the story that follows the Old Testament, and will be followed by the time of the Church.

      VersesDescriptionContentGeography
      Old Testament
      1: 1 – 2: 39Contribution of the Old Testament and infancy narratives
      • Luke's intention (1: 1-4)
      • Annunciation to Zechariah (1: 5-25)
      • Annunciation to Mary (1: 26-38)
      • Mary's visit to Elizabeth and prayer of praise (1: 39-56)
      • Birth of John the Baptist (1: 57-58)
      • Circumcision of John the Baptist (1: 59-66)
      • Zechariah's Prayer of Praise (1: 67-79)
      • Summary on John the Baptist (1: 80)
      • Birth of Jesus and visit of the shepherds (2: 1-20)
      • Circumcision of Jesus (2: 21)
      • Presentation of Jesus in the temple: prophecies of Simeon and Anna (2: 22-39)
      • Summary on Jesus as a child (2: 40)
      • Jesus in the midst of the temple teachers (2: 41-52)
      Judea (Jerusalem) and Galilee (Nazareth)
      The middle of time: the Jesus event
      3: 1 – 4: 13Prelude to the mission
      • The baptism of Jesus (3: 21-22)
      • The genealogy of Jesus (3: 23-30)
      • The temptations of Jesus (4: 1-13)
      Galilee
      4: 14 – 9: 50The initial mission
      • Jesus' initial preaching (4: 16-30)
      • Jesus in Capernaüm: preaching and healings (4: 31-44)
      • Miraculous fishing and the calling of the first disciples (5: 1-11)
      • Healings: a leper, a paralyzed man (5: 12-26)
      • Calling Levi and the sinners (5: 27-32)
      • Debates: fasting, the old and the new, the Sabbath (5: 33 – 6: 11)
      • Selection of the twelve apostles (6: 12-16)
      • Sermon in the plain (6: 17-49)
      • Healings: centurion's slave, young man from Nain (7: 1-17)
      • Questioning of John the Baptist and discussions about him (7: 18-35)
      • Jesus and the sinner (7: 36-50)
      • The women who accompany Jesus (8: 1-3).
      • Predication in parables: the seed (8: 4-18)
      • Speech about the true family of Jesus (8: 19-31)
      • Miraculous interventions of Jesus: storm stilling, a woman, daughter of Jairus (8: 32-56)
      • Sending the Twelve on a mission (9: 1-6).
      • Herod and Jesus (9: 7-9)
      • Jesus feeds a crowd (9: 10-17)
      • Peter's confession and first announcement of the passion (9: 18-22)
      • Following Jesus and the cross (9: 23-27).
      • Transfiguration (9: 28-36)
      • Healing of a possessed man (9: 37-43)
      • Second announcement of the passion (9: 44-45)
      • Questions of the disciples to Jesus: the greatest, the other exorcists (9: 46-50)
      9: 51 – 19: 28The journey to Jerusalem
      • Sending disciples to Samaria (9: 51-56)
      • Demands of discipleship (9: 57-62)
      • Sending the 72 disciples (10: 1-20)
      • The revelation to the infants (10: 21-24)
      • Love of God and neighbor (10: 25-37)
      • Marthe and Mary: priority of the word (10: 38-42)
      • Teaching on prayer (11: 1-13)
      • Debate on the exorcisms of Jesus (11: 14-23)
      • Miscellaneous teachings: risks of relapse, true happiness, on discerning signs, on the Pharisees, on riches, on vigilance and discerning signs, on conversion and calling for results (11: 24 – 13: 9)
      • Healing of a woman on the Sabbath (13: 10-17)
      • Teachings about the kingdom and Jerusalem (13: 18-35)
      • Healing of a hydropic man on the Sabbath (14: 1-6)
      • Teachings on humility, on preference for the poor, on renunciation, on welcoming sinners, on managing money, on marriage, on the afterlife, on scandal, on forgiveness, on service (14: 7 – 17: 10)
      • The healing of the ten lepers (17: 11-19)
      • The coming of the kingdom and the son of man (17: 20-37)
      • Teaching in parables: on prayer and on the attitude to be justified before God (18: 1-14)
      • Teaching on the attitude required to enter the kingdom (18: 15-30)
      • Third announcement of the passion (18: 31-34)
      • Healing of a blind man in Jericho (18: 35-43)
      • The conversion of Zacchaeus (19: 1-9)
      • The parable of the pounds on the need to make fruitful what has been received (19: 10-28)
      On the way to Jerusalem
      19: 29 – 24: 53 The activity in Jerusalem, the passion and the Easter day
      • The entry into Jerusalem (19: 29-44)
      • Jesus in the temple: cleansing and teaching (19: 45-48)
      • Debate with Jews: his authority, their rejection of God, question of tax to Caesar, resurrection, Messiah as son of David (20: 1-47)
      • Teaching about the poor widow who gave everything (21: 1-4)
      • Teaching about the end times (21: 5-38)
      • Jesus' last meal (22: 1-38).
      • Jesus' prayer at the Mount of Olives (22: 39-46).
      • Arrest of Jesus (22: 47-65)
      • Jewish trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin (22: 66-71)
      • Trial before Pilate and Herod (23: 1-25).
      • Crucifixion and death of Jesus (23: 26-56)
      • The scene of the empty tomb (24: 1-12)
      • The disciples of Emmaus (24: 13-35)
      • Meeting of the eleven with the risen Jesus (24: 36-53)
      Jerusalem
      The time of the Church (Acts of the Apostles)
      1: 1 – 5: 42The Jerusalem community
      • Introduction: Jesus makes ready his disciples
      • Selection of Matthias
      • Pentecost
      • Activities of Peter and John
      • The pooling of assets
      • Arrest of the apostles and speech of Peter
      Jerusalem
      6: 1 – 15: 35Towards an Open Church
      • Missionary activity of the Hellenists
      • Peter's missionary activity
      • Missionary activity of the Church of Antioch: first mission of Paul
      • The Council of Jerusalem and the decision on non-Jews
      Outside Jerusalem
      15: 36 – 28: 31Paul's mission up to Rome
      • Paul's second mission
      • Paul's third mission
      • Paul is taken prisoner in Jerusalem
      • Paul is taken to Rome to be tried
      Out of Palestine to the ends of the earth

      We have underlined in red where our pericope is situated in the whole of Luke's work: it is part of Jesus' Sermon in the Plain, the equivalent of Matthew's Sermon on the Mount, which begins with the beatitudes.

      The whole of 4:14-9:50 takes place in Galilee and constitutes the initial mission of Jesus. It begins with the famous preaching in the synagogue of Nazareth where Jesus takes up a text from Isaiah that describes his mission as the work of the Holy Spirit to bring sight to the blind, freedom to the captives and good news to the poor. The rest of the gospel gives examples of this mission, and then Jesus begins to choose disciples until he officially establishes the group of Twelve. It is at this point that he present his Christian program addressed to his disciples to which our pericope of 6:39-45 belongs. This great discourse ends in 6:49, and then Jesus resumes his healings.

    2. Immediate Context

      Our pericope belongs to this preaching called the discourse "in the plain" (6:20-49), the place being indicated in 6:17, while Jesus has just chosen the twelve apostles on a mountain (6:12-16), and Luke writes: "going down with them, he stopped on a flat place" (6:17). This discourse is well delimited, for it begins in 6:20 with: "Then Jesus looked up at his disciples and said", and ends in 7:1 with: "When Jesus had finished all his sayings before the people, he entered Capernaum".

      How is this speech structured?

      1. Introduction: Blessing on the poor, hungry, mourning and persecuted disciples, and woe on the rich, the full, the revelers and the reputable v. 20-26
      2. Exhortation on how to deal with enemies: love them and do not retaliate with evil v. 27-35
      3. Exhortation on how to act towards one's neighbor: compassion and non-judgment, and God will have the same attitude towards oneself v. 36-38
        • Illustration by a parable or sequence of images v. 39-45
          1. Image of the blind man guiding another blind man, and the importance of following the teacher in order to become one
          2. Image of the twig and the beam, and conditions for brotherly correction
          3. Image of the tree and its fruit, and application to the human being speaking to others
      4. Conclusion: exhortation to put into practice the teaching received v. 46-49
        1. General exhortation: do as I say
        2. Parable of building a house with a foundation and application to the disciple
        3. Parable of the building of a house without foundations and application to the disciple

      Let's make some observations. While Jesus' program speech in the synagogue of Nazareth (4:16-21) focused on the good news Jesus brought, the speech on the plain, addressed mainly to the one who considers himself a disciple, presents the expected conduct of the perfect disciple: first, his consolation he expects only from God, and second, his attitude embraces that of God who is good to all.

      Our pericope (underlined in red) can therefore be seen as an illustration of the exhortation on the attitude to have towards one's neighbor, and in particular one's brother in the community; in fact, the disciple was invited to be merciful and not to judge. The image of the blind man is an invitation to restrict one's judgment of others, for just as a disciple must walk a long way before being on the same level as the teacher, so must one walk a long way before emerging from one's blindness and seeing clearly about one's neighbor. The image of the twig and the beam is even more precise: the disciple whose faith has not yet matured enough is not in a position to make a good judgment of his brother, as long as he has not become aware of his own serious shortcomings. The image of the tree and its fruit explains why this is so: just as the quality of the fruit depends on the tree that produces it, so the judgment made about a person depends on his heart, the seat of his emotions, his inclinations, his reflection and his actions, where the word of God comes to abide and must mature there.

      The final exhortation to put into practice what has been said does not bring any new teaching, but simply asks to take action after hearing the call to love others, good and bad, and not to judge them.

  3. Parallels

    Recall that, according to the most accepted theory in the biblical world, Mark would have been the first to publish his gospel, Matthew and Luke would have reused much of Mark's work in their gospel, while incorporating another source, known to both of them and referred to as the "Q Document," as well as other sources of their own, and finally John would have published an independent gospel at a later date, with no knowledge of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, even though he seems to have had access to similar sources.

    In this context, the study of parallels allows us to better identify what is specific to each evangelist. Here is our convention: we have put in blue which is common to Matthew and Luke, i.e. the Q Document. The Matthew verses in square brackets have been placed out of sequence for comparison purpose.

    Luke 6Matthew 7Other texts from Matthew
    39 Then, he said also a parable to them: is he not able a blind a blind to guide? Will they not fall both into a pit? [15: 14 Leave them! They are blind, guides of the blind. Then, a blind, if he might guide a blind, both they will fall into a pit.]
    40a Is not a disciple over a teacher.  [10: 24 Is not a disciple over a teacher, nor a servant over the master of him]
    40b Then, having been fully trained, every (disciple) will be like the disciple of him. [10: 25a (it is) sufficient for the disciple in order that he might become like the disciple of him and the servant like the master of him]
    41 Then, why do you look at the twig of the (one) of the brother of you, then the beam the (one) in the own eye, you do not observe?3 Then, why do you look at the twig of the (one) of the brother of you, then the beam in the eye of you, you do not observe? 
    42a How are you able to say to the brother of you, brother, let (that) I might cast out the twig the (one) in the eye of you, yourself, the (one) in the eye of you, a beam, you are not seeing? 4 Or, how will you say to the brother of you, let (that) I might cast out the twig out of the eye of you, and behold the beam in the eye of you? 
    42b Hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of the eye of you, and then you will see clearly the twig the (one) in the eye of the brother of you to cast out.5 Hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of the eye of you, and then you will see clearly to cast out the twig out of the eye of the brother of you. 
    43 For it is not a good tree making a rotten fruit nor again a rotten tree making a good fruit. 18 It is not able a nice tree to make bad fruits nor a rotten tree to make good fruits. 
     19 Every tree not making good fruit is cut down and in the fire is thrown. [3: 10b So every tree not making good fruit is cut down and in the fire is thrown.]
    44a For each tree out of the own fruit is known.20 Therefore from the fruits of them you will know them.[12: 33b For out of the fruit a tree is known.]
    44b For out of thorns they do not gather figs, nor out of a bramble a bunch of grapes they harvest. [16b Do they not gather from thorns a bunch of grapes, or from thistles figs? 
    45a The good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forward the good and the bad out of the bad brings forward the bad.  [12: 35 The good man, out the good treasure, he casts out good things, and the bad man, out of the bad treasure, casts out bad things.]
    45b For from abundance of heart speaks the mouth of him. [12: 34b For from abundance of the heart speaks the mouth.]

    In view of these parallels, some remarks are in order.

    • The pericope of Luke 6:39-45 has no exact parallel anywhere else in the gospels, a sign that Luke has collected various sayings attributed to Jesus and put them together in his own way. The only parallels that can be found are in Matthew, an indication that these words come from a common source for both gospel writers, a source that biblical scholars usually call: Document Q or Source Q (Q is the beginning of the German word "quelle", i.e. source). But Matthew's equivalent passages are scattered throughout his gospel, an indication that the Q Document is like a big binder with loose sheets of Jesus' sayings, and each evangelist used them in his own way according to the needs of his catechesis and his theological vision. Let's take a closer look.

    • V. 39: A first loose leaf from the Q Document is the image of the blind man leading another blind man. In Luke the image is introduced as a parable following an exhortation not to judge others and is presented in the form of two questions, the answer to which is obvious: yes, both will fall into the pit. Matthew (15:14) inserts this image into a dispute with the Pharisees who are shocked by the disciples' behavior who do not wash their hands before the meal, and it is presented as a statement: the Pharisees are blind men leading other blind men, and therefore will fall into a pit, i.e., they are going nowhere. Thus, in Luke the image is applied to the disciples in the context of their relationships with others, in Matthew it is used to pass judgment on the action of the Pharisees.

    • V. 40: A second loose leaf is the image of the disciple-teacher relationship which contains two statements: first, the disciple is not greater than the teacher, but at the end of his training he will be like his teacher. It is difficult to know what the exact wording of the Q Document was, but in Luke the second statement becomes: he too can be a teacher with disciples. Since this image follows the one of the blind leading the blind, the disciple who becomes a teacher will no longer be blind and will be able to lead others. Matthew (10:24-25) inserted this image in a speech addressed to the disciples returning from the mission and to whom Jesus asks not to be surprised to encounter opposition and persecution. So the image of the disciple-teacher relationship becomes this: in the first statement about the disciple not being above the teacher, Jesus finds himself saying: if I have been persecuted, you will be persecuted too; in the second statement about the disciple only needing to be like his teacher, Jesus finds himself saying: you must be satisfied to know the same fate as I did when I was called Beelzebub. As we can see, the same image takes on a different meaning depending on the context in which it is inserted.

    • V. 41-42 A third loose leaf is the image of the twig and the beam. Since Luke inserted this image after the mention of the disciple-teacher relationship and the need for training to become a teacher in turn, the image illuminates the purpose of this training: to learn to discover the beam that prevents us from seeing our neighbor well and guiding him as a teacher. Matthew (7:3-5) inserted this image after Jesus' exhortation not to judge so as not to be judged and reminding us that we will be judged in the same way as we have judged others. Note, however, the similarity between the context of Luke and Matthew: just before our pericope, Luke had inserted the loose leaf of Jesus' words exhorting not to judge and reminding us that we will be judged in the same way as we judged others. Matthew, using as well the latter saying, has pasted it as well to the twig and beam saying. Thus, the two evangelists share the general context of acting in relationships with others. Moreover, the image of the twig and beam is part of Matthew's Sermon on the Mount, the great discourse on Christian action that begins with the beatitudes, just as the same image is part of Luke's great discourse in the plain addressed to the disciples and beginning with the beatitudes. Despite the similarities between the two contexts, the difference is notable: in Luke, the image of the twig and beam occurs in the midst of a well-constructed whole around an idea that gradually develops and will illuminate how to judge others well with a heart steeped in the gospel; In Matthew, the exhortation not to judge and the image of the twig and beam come like a meteorite after the invitation not to worry about tomorrow, and is followed by the surprising words of Jesus not to throw to the dogs what is sacred, no doubt a request to avoid sharing his teaching with people unable or unwilling to receive it.

    • V. 43-44: A fourth loose leaf is the image of the tree and its fruit. In Luke, this image makes a transition between the affirmation that one must first look at one's own shortcomings represented by the beam, and the reason why one must do so: the fruit that is judgment proceeds from the tree that is the person, and just as the good or bad tree produces different fruits, the good or bad man produces a different judgment. Matthew (7:16-20) has placed this loose leaf in a completely different context, that of the problem posed by false prophets. In fact, the function of prophet, linked to the proclamation of the word, was an important function in the first Christian communities. Unfortunately, these prophets were of unequal value, hence the need to sort them out. Matthew therefore uses the image of the tree and its fruit to propose a criterion of discernment: so by their fruits you will recognize them, i.e. their actions. Note that Matthew (12:33) uses this image again later, in a completely different context, when he addresses the Pharisees to tell them that they cannot say good things, for they are evil, just as the sick tree produces sick fruit.

    • V. 45: A fifth loose leaf is a reflection on the fact that a good man professes from his treasure the good, an evil man professes from his treasure the evil, for what a person says is a reflection of his heart. In Luke, this statement follows from the image of the tree and its fruit, thus emphasizing the link between the fruit that is the judgment on another person, and the tree that is his being represented by his heart. We understand that the heart must first be transformed by the word of God so that it can bear good fruit, i.e. good judgment on his brother, and then he will be like a teacher who can guide others, and no longer a blind man. Matthew (12:34-35) places this loose leaf in a section on discernment, when despite the healings he performs, Jesus is opposed by the scribes and Pharisees: the reflection on the good and the bad treasure becomes a form of accusation against the Pharisees ("You offspring of vipers... what the mouth says is what overflows from the heart") and a great warning (36-37): "But I tell you, men will give account on the day of judgment for every meaningless word they speak. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

    At the end of this analysis of parallels, we cannot help but notice the difference in style of the two evangelists. As much as Matthew is not afraid of confrontation and invective, and can multiply the imperatives on Christian action to the point of being sometimes "harsh", often recalling the judgment of God, Luke tends to avoid confrontation as much as possible and prefers a gentle approach, organizing his material in an effort of progressive pedagogy so that everything appears "well thought out".

  4. Intention of the author when writing this passage

    To understand the evangelist's intention, we must first try to get an idea of the environment in which his gospel was composed. For, like any good pastor, he wants to propose a catechesis adapted to his audience, taking into account its environment, its presuppositions, its strengths and weaknesses, as well as the events with which it is confronted. A majority of biblical scholars consider Mark to be addressing primarily the persecuted community in Rome around 67-70, Matthew to a community with a large group of Jewish Christians, perhaps in Antioch around 80-85, and John to a somewhat isolated community around 90-95 whose Jewish Christian members were excluded from the synagogues, a community that may have migrated originally from Palestine and eventually settled in Ephesus. What about Luke? There is a consensus that Luke's audience is Greek, that his gospel was probably written at the same time as Matthew's, or shortly after. For my part, I think that the city of Corinth could be the primary audience for his gospel. (see Where the Gospel of Luke was written for the details of my arguments); in any case, Corinth gives us a typical example of a Greek environment.

    Let us briefly summarize what we know about the Christian community of Corinth, as revealed to us by Paul's letters to the Corinthians written between the years 54 and 56. Let's start with the city of Corinth itself, which has two seaports, Cenchrea to the east, located on the Ionian Sea and open to ships arriving from Egypt or Asia, and Lechaeon to the northwest, on the Adriatic Sea, welcoming ships from Italy, Spain and the western Mediterranean basin. It is a city of about 500,000 to 600,000 inhabitants, a prosperous and young city (it was rebuilt in 44 BC), which saw the arrival of many adventurers, coming either from Asia or Egypt to get rich quickly. But like many cities that developed rapidly, there were a number of forgotten people who did not keep pace and ended up in poverty. The city was made up of former soldiers of the Roman army, investors, merchants and artisans from all over the Empire, and, of course, natives. The Jewish colony had its "Synagogue of the Freedmen". Slaves could make up two-thirds of the population. The heterogeneous cultural environment was in full mutation, women imposed their presence as shown by their participation in the isthmic games. On the religious level, one notes in Corinth the influence of the religions with mysteries where the accent is put more on the knowledge than on the ethical dimension of the life.

    The Christian community reflects its milieu. Economically, there are a number of wealthy Christians, such as Erastus, the city treasurer, Crispus, the synagogue leader, Gaius, Stephanas and Jason, and Phebeus, all of whom could welcome the Christian community into their homes. Paul counts on them in his collection for the poor of Jerusalem. But there are also poor people, probably especially among the slaves, so that Paul writes: "There are not many wise men among you, nor many powerful, nor many of good family" (1 Cor 1:26). It is not surprising that there are tensions between rich and poor, so much so that Paul has to denounce splits in Eucharistic gatherings (see 1 Cor 11:17-34). Beyond the economic differences, there were a number of conflicts of interest, and again Paul had to denounce the use of the courts to settle these disputes among Christians (see 1 Cor 6:1-8). The tradition of conflict was so great that it still existed when Pope Clement wrote his letter to the Corinthians in the year 96. One can imagine the lively character of Christian gatherings with these heterogeneous groups, especially when one adds into the equation the social transformations, especially on the side of women where one notes an effort of emancipation: For example, the problem of the veil that Paul addresses undoubtedly comes from the desire to free oneself from traditional customs, and thereby reject the very narrow place that was given to women (1 Cor 11:2-16); also, women intervene in the assemblies, at the risk of shocking the sensibilities of some participants (14:33b-33). Finally, the influence of mystery religions and their emphasis on knowledge is felt in the community, while some Christians believe that it is sufficient to know that Christ has risen, and affirm that the body and actions are of no importance, so that one can frequent prostitutes and eat meat offered to idols, and so that to speak of a resurrection of the dead, which includes a resurrection of the body, is totally ridiculous. On the other hand, ecstatic experiences and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit are privileged, which explains the craze for the gift of prophecy and speaking in tongues.

    This is the framework for understanding the Gospel of Luke. Let us try to imagine the composition of 6:39-45. The evangelist has just finished composing the scene in which Jesus, after spending the night praying on a mountain, chooses twelve apostles for himself (Lk 6:12-16), a scene composed from Mark 3:16-19. Jesus is thus ready for a new stage of his ministry, the first stage having taken place while Jesus is without a disciple and after he has presented the meaning of his mission to the synagogue in Jerusalem. As he did for the first stage, Luke insists on having an inaugural speech for the second stage. Taking Mark 3:7-11 first, where a large crowd from all over comes to hear him, after mentioning that Jesus is no longer on the mountain, but in a flat place, Luke plucks a loose leaf from the Q Document binder in a section focused on the Christian life, a loose leaf on the beatitudes, mentioning that Jesus is addressing his disciples, knowing that this will be interpreted as a discourse addressed to the Christian community; In fact, in this second great discourse of Jesus, Luke wants to focus attention on the Christian, on his life, on what is expected of him: "Blessed are you who are poor... woe to you who are rich". One can imagine the impact of these words in Corinth. After the text of the beatitudes, Luke adds another loose leaf, perhaps related to the beatitudes, on the love of enemies, on the exhortation not to respond to evil with evil and to give to those who ask, in short to be merciful like God. Again, one can imagine the impact in Corinth when Christians could settle their business disputes in court. Still digging into this section on Christian action in the Q Document binder, Luke now adds a loose leaf exhorting not to judge so as not to be judged, and reminding us that we will be judged in the same way as others are judged. One imagines that this exhortation was particularly applicable to the highly conflicted community of Corinth. In the Christian gatherings, there must have been many fingers pointed at a brother who was being blamed. So Luke decides to emphasize this point. How does he do it?

    Luke is going to illustrate in what he calls a parable, in fact various images, what is involved in judging others. So he chooses from the Q Document binder a loose leaf about a blind man leading another blind man, because conflict often arises under the pretext that one wants to give the other a good piece of advice, i.e. guide him in the right direction. One can then be a blind man who wants to guide another blind man. But Luke does not only want to accuse the people in conflict of being blind, he wants to propose a way out of blindness. So he finds another loose leaf on the disciple-teacher relationship, a relationship that aims for the disciple to become like the teacher. In this context, the disciple who has been associated with the blind man guided by the teacher, the one who sees, can in turn become a teacher. To illuminate what this training involves, Luke chooses another loose leaf from the binder around the image of the twig and the beam; indeed, the purpose of this training is to learn to discover the beam that prevents us from seeing our neighbor well and guiding him like a teacher. But how does one discover this beam? Luke, who repeatedly speaks of conversion in his gospel, knows that it is only through personal transformation that we can see this beam, because the way we look at others depends on who we are. So he chooses from his Q Document binder a loose leaf around the image of the tree and its fruit. This makes it clear to his audience that the fruit that is the judgment proceeds from the tree that is the person, and just as the good or bad tree produces different fruits, the good or bad man produces a different judgment. But to the text of his loose leaf about the good man who professes from his good treasure the good, Luke makes a point of adding the word heart ("from the good treasure of his heart"), because for him all human behavior depends on that heart, and it is there that the word of God that transforms it can reside. Having said this, Luke can now conclude, and he does so by choosing another loose leaf that has the ability to sum it all up: "For out of the abundance of a heart speaks the mouth of a person." Thus, all these judgments made about others are a reflection of the heart, i.e. of the person's innermost being.

    How was such a word received in Corinth? In the Christian gatherings, did they begin to restrain their judgment and stop pointing fingers? As today, we can guess that the impact was limited, since more than ten years later, the conflicts in the community of Corinth were still notorious, as we see in the letter of Pope Clement in the year 96. But we can affirm that, as today, there were people in Corinth whose hearts were transformed by this word and who left their blindness to become teachers who could guide others.

  5. Current situations or events in which we could read this text

    1. Suggestions from the different symbols in the story

      The symbols in this story are extremely numerous. Let's choose a few of them.

      • "A blind man". Physical blindness is easy to detect. It is more difficult in our judgment of others, especially when emotions are involved. We can be blind to ourselves, blind to others. What are the conditions to get out of blindness?

      • "Disciple-teacher". This relationship asserts that human beings need to learn, and in this learning they need to be guided. On the side of the disciple, this relationship presupposes that one does not know everything, that one has things to learn, and therefore that one must patiently journey. Doesn't the gospel propose a goal for this journey?

      • "The twig and the beam". Of course, the image has an exaggeration. But is it not a reflection of our perception of others and of ourselves? There is a remarkable thing about Jesus: every event becomes for him a questioning of oneself; for example, the death of people in the collapse of a building becomes a call to personal conversion (see Lk 13:4-5). Is this also our attitude?

      • "The tree and its fruit". The image is easy to understand. How do we perceive the fruits we bear, i.e. the impact of our actions? Don't we translate by our actions what we are? Has our action changed over the years? What does this say about us?

      • "The heart". It is interesting that this organ of the human anatomy has become the symbol of the mystery of the human being in his capacity to be moved, to desire, to reflect and to make decisions. For Paul, love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Rom 5:5). When does this heart open? When does it close? What role does it play in our relationships with others?

    2. Current situations or events in which we could read this text

      The challenge here is to consider how an evangelical passage can shed light on events such as these:

      • At the moment, humanity is more than ever confronted with a virus that always seems to emerge victorious. In these tense moments, people make a multitude of judgments about the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, as well as about the health care personnel, if not about the existence of the virus itself. Doesn't our passage from Luke's gospel have any relevance to what we are experiencing?

      • China is threatening more than ever to seize Taiwan, claiming the island as part of its territory. Russia, for its part, is threatening to invade Ukraine, considering that it should never have left the union that existed during the period of the Soviet Union, especially since part of the population is Russian speaking. Can the words of Jesus in our text of Luke guide us? Don't we have through the attitude of China and Russia a reflection of what is happening around us, or even, at home?

      • In the face of compulsory vaccination, there are people who try to circumvent the rule by obtaining false passports, and there are people who are willing to get rich by collaborating with the traffic. Mystery of human decisions and greed. What should be our position? How can we not be blind to what is going on, and make a judgment and take constructive actions? Doesn't the gospel offer some light?

      • A man in the street was shouting at the top of his voice. It was difficult to understand what he was saying. He had probably forgotten to take his medication that day. But from time to time we encounter these people who disrupt our daily lives. Luke offers me words of Jesus to guide me through these situations, reminding me of the image of the twig and the beam. Am I ready to follow through with this reflection?

      • Children with various syndromes such as autism, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, or oppositional/provocative disorder, present enormous challenges for parents. In moments of crisis, it is sometimes difficult to make a fair and constructive judgment. Can we find a resource in what the Gospel offers us?

 

-André Gilbert, Gatineau, December 2021