§ 36. The banquet of the tax collector Matthew

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 2



§ 36.

The banquet of the tax collector Matthew.

Matthew 9:9-13.

The apologists should finally become wise and stop trying to completely stifle the contradictions in the Gospel accounts with such blind fury, lest they create the impression that the Christian religion stands or falls based on whether these contradictions are stifled or left free. However, it seems as if
a demonic force does not allow these people to rest, constantly driving them to work on this weakest aspect of their system, and making it more damaging through their work, because that is actually the case – their system really must fall if the contradictions are not stifled like they do, and finally, the punishment for their contempt for human freedom and reason should strike them. Even at this moment, they are circling, measuring, pressing, stretching, and doing everything possible with these contradictions, while criticism has recognized them and gained insight into their origin. The recognized contradiction is no longer a contradiction.


1. The Calling of Matthew.

The man whom Jesus called to follow him away from his tax booth after healing the paralyzed man is called Levi *) by Mark (2:14) and Luke (5:27), but the first Synoptist calls him a certain Matthew. In modern times, the solution to this contradiction was believed to be found in the possibility that “the tradition” had confused two people. Levi, says Sieffert, was called as all three Synoptists report, and his profession was to provide the occasion for that banquet where Jesus’ friendly relationship with tax collectors offended the Pharisees. “But it is certain that the apostle Matthew was also a tax collector before he was called by Christ to be his disciple, although his calling probably did not take place under the same circumstances that relate to the calling of Levi **).” Neander offers another solution to the difference: “It is always possible that the host was another rich tax collector named Levi, a friend of Matthew’s. Thus, the one whose calling provided the occasion for this feast and the host may have been confused with each other through tradition” *). However, all talk of tradition must be rejected from the outset, as it can be proven most clearly here, as previously, that the evangelist whom the church has called Matthew has used nothing but the writings of his two predecessors and his own wit for this narrative **). He noticed with amazement that neither Luke nor Mark mention that Levi, whom they report was called by Jesus to permanent discipleship, belonged to the twelve apostles. How, he asks, could this man not belong to the twelve? Yes, he belonged to them, he is only listed under a different name in the register. But under which name? He knew best, and it was previously believed that he himself was the Matthew from whom the first gospel originated, and whom Mark and Luke only mention under his original Hebrew name when they call him Levi. But if it gives us pause that this man speaks so strangely of himself and, when he immerses himself in history, does so with the formula “then Jesus saw a man named Matthew (ανθρωπον Ματθαιον λεγομενον),” the apologist awaits us with the edifying remark *), we must admire in this circumstance “the receding of subjectivity” which the evangelists **), as chaste historians, manifest who were purely absorbed in their sublime object. What nonsense! As if this were still purity when an evangelist speaks of himself in such a way that the reader is misled. “He saw a man named Matthew” does not simply introduce Matthew – does the apologist not have a Caesar who could teach him otherwise? – but also tells us that this Matthew was an unknown person to the evangelist. He only knew him from the list of apostles provided by Mark (3:18) and Luke (6:15). Luke recorded the story of Levi’s calling and included the list of apostles mechanically, but the synoptist who was preferred and placed first by the church, perhaps because they felt he was the apologist among the three, took offense at Levi not being named among the apostles – no! He was certain that Levi must have been one of the twelve and had hidden himself under another name in the list of apostles, and without much thought, he blindly picked from the multitude of unknown names that the list presented to him. Thus, Levi became Matthew. Both Mark and Luke did not think of identifying the two men, they would not have omitted the least thing that was required of them in this case, they would have at least called Matthew “the tax collector” so that their readers, if lucky, could come to the assumption that this Matthew was the tax collector whose calling they had previously recounted. But both list Matthew without further designation. If the apologist were right, they would not be secure from the accusation that their carelessness had caused unrest in the church for almost two millennia, and if the accusation were taken seriously, they would not be acquitted.

*) Mark calls him even more specifically the son of Alphaeus (τον του Αλφαιου). However, Wilke (p. 673) has convincingly demonstrated that this addition is later and inauthentic. Mark actually “only mentions one N. τον του Αλφαιου”, James in 3: 18, whom he has to distinguish from the other James, the brother of John.

**) Sieffert on the Origin of the First Canonical Gospel, p. 59.

*) L. J. Chr. 253.

**) Already the beginning of his narration (C. 9, 9) και παραγων εκειθεν ειδεν ανθρωποω is structured in such a way that it is only understandable when we compare it with Mark’s account. Παραγων means “in passing,” but how can this formula be immediately connected with the other phrase, “from there”? “In passing,” Jesus can only be thought of if it was said that he had left the place where he was before; but Matthew is silent about this. He does say “from there,” but “in passing.” This expression no longer reflects on the starting point that was left behind, but on the line along which one already finds oneself. The mediation and the movement that led to this line are done with, and just as the starting point is forgotten, the state that has now arisen can be called rest in comparison to that movement. Matthew had to reflect on the starting point and on the preceding movement, but he expressed this reflection disorderly. Why? Because it was tedious for him to deal with these details, which are essential for the appropriate construction of the narrative and which will never be missing in the original account. Because he did not want to copy Mark completely, because copying these minutiae was boring for him, because he was satisfied if he had the petty but essential assumptions of what follows roughly in his head, regardless of whether his readers were orientated in these matters or not, briefly, because he was only concerned with the essential content. Even Luke found this exact copying of the original tedious; he only says in chapter 5, 27: “And after that he went out, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom.” So he does not tell his readers where the customs house was located. Now listen to the original account (Mark 2, 13-14): “And he went out again by the seaside; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom.” Compare with John 9, 1: και παραγων ειδεν. Because of John, 8, 59 ιησους δε εκρυβη  . . . διελθων δια μεσου αυτων και παρηγεν ουτως. Compare Luke 4, 30 αυτός δε διελθών διά μέσου αυτών ἐπορεύετο. Παρηγεν Joh. 8, 59 is actually an inaccurate expression, but can still be explained at most: after he had gone “through the midst of them,” he went “quietly” past them “along the crowd” and “further.”

Regarding the difficulty we will find below, if Sieffert (p. 60) says that the first evangelist must have been unaware that the choosing of the twelve apostles had already taken place before the Sermon on the Mount, it has just been shown to us again that he could have easily obtained more precise information on such matters from the writings of his two predecessors if they had not caused him as much scruple as his apologist.

*) z. B, still Olshausen, I, 315.

**) Olshausen says, “the Gospels”! Here, only the haste was at fault for the blunder, but otherwise, the confusion in the language of the apologists proves that their cause itself is nothing but the confusion of self-consciousness. The apologist cannot write better because his cause does not give him courage, strength, and confidence. One only needs to look at the insane statement, “Of course, if Olshausen, at the aforementioned place, is excessively concerned with the retreat of subjectivity and the chastity of the evangelists and then continues a moment later: ‘Certainly, their reflectionlessness is also expressed in this. The twisted and contorted phrases, the uncertainty and lack of coherence in movement, and the pale bloatedness in the language of the apologists—all this dull and exhausting style comes from the untruth and dullness of the matter. If one analyzes the saw they anxiously twist, one must either lose patience because no content rewards the effort, or, if one seeks the truth with them out of fear, become insane, or move beyond this oppressed standpoint, if one wants to remain rational and patient during the analysis.”


In this important matter, Mark did not reflect yet. The list of apostles was given to him and he did not feel compelled to relate the story of the calling of the tax collector to it – why? Because this story only had value for him in regard to the hostile interaction between the Pharisees and the Lord that arose from it, and because he was only concerned with the development of Jesus’ relationship with the Jewish party in this context. Luke follows him without hesitation, but Matthew, the latest, for whom the pragmatism of his predecessor had become completely foreign, and who no longer wanted to simply copy, reflected – namely in his own way.

Sometimes, however, he did not reflect or could not direct his reflection, which was directed to other things, to circumstances that also cannot be overlooked. His reflection was always only directed to individual points, so it was not all-powerful. But let us not reveal the secret too early; the apologist would be unhappy and would have to despair of everything, and in the end, he believed he was at the end of the world if his miserable worries were taken away from him. Only in his petty obsession with the letter did he have his true self-confidence, and whoever robs him of that is evil.

Luke – namely, Mark is not considered in this world question – first tells of the calling of Levi – that is, of Matthew in the apologetic world – (Ch. 5, 27), then he reports how Jesus, in the solitude to which he later withdrew, chose the Twelve – including Matthew – and held the Sermon on the Mount before them as well as before the crowd that had just arrived (Ch. 6, 12-20). Terrible! The first synoptist reports that Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount before the disciples and the people, before telling us about the calling of Matthew and the determination of the circle of disciples, and the poor apologist must still know Matthew as well as the Twelve if he is to hear the Sermon on the Mount devoutly and with the proper effect! So how can he be helped?


It is not easy to find a way out of this, as evidenced by the various tortures to which Tholuck has to resort; however, a way out is always found in the end. For the moment, we would have too much to do if we wanted to reflect on “the fact that Matthew also thought about the election of the apostles preceding the Sermon on the Mount, although he does not mention it here or anywhere else” *) – we will soon hear that the first evangelist, in chapter 10, did not report on the election of the apostles at all. Let us focus for now on the core of Tholuck’s explanation. Matthew was already called to be an apostle before the Sermon on the Mount; “but this election may have been something surprising and unexpected for him, he could not simply stay with Jesus, but had to return to his tax business and only here fulfill his obligations completely. And then, after a few days, when Jesus went out of Capernaum again, he found the tax collector sitting at the tax booth, who in the meantime had made his arrangements, and now called him to join him” **).

*) Tholuck, Ausleg. der Bergpr. p. 26.

**) Ibid. p. 28.

That would be a disciple as evangelical belief demanded! It is very unfortunate when Tholuck reminds us of the disciple whom Jesus invited to follow him another time, but who asked permission to first bury his father. What did Jesus answer this young man? And would he – namely he, as he lived, acted and spoke in evangelical belief – not have answered the tax collector just as strictly if he had said after the invitation: “Let me make arrangements first before I follow you?” Furthermore, when we see the tax collector sitting calmly in his booth as Jesus passes by and calls him – for the second time – we do not see that he has made his arrangements in the meantime; he is rather sitting there as if he is thinking about nothing but his daily business. Yes, the narrative would fall apart if the contrast were removed that the man who sits calmly in his tax business is moved to follow Jesus by a word from the Lord and immediately – whoever wants to take care of the business afterwards! – leaves his business.


But why waste words to prove that the first evangelist knows nothing about an earlier calling of Matthew: we have seen why he immediately reached so far into Luke’s presentation at the beginning and brought forward the Sermon on the Mount and placed it at the forefront of his presentation of the public life of the Lord. Once the Sermon on the Mount had received this place, the account of the calling of the tax collector had to follow later. The evangelist did not care about the consequences of this, and he did not expect the believers to be so troubled by it. He was not always as literal-minded as the later theologians.


2. The Banquet.

And as he was reclining at table in the house, the first Evangelist continues, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples at table (Matt. 9:10).

In what house? Fritzsche thinks it was Jesus’ own house *). When? Some time after the calling of Matthew, Fritzsche answers. Certainly! One cannot write more carelessly than Matthew did; but no matter how deficient his account may be, it still reveals, by its structure, the original intention behind it. The house is in contrast to the tax collector’s booth which Matthew had just left, and because he had left it immediately to follow the Lord, the banquet was arranged by him right after his calling. This is what it really says in the original text: “And it came to pass, as he (namely Jesus) reclined at table in his (the tax collector’s) house, many tax collectors and sinners were also reclining with Jesus and his disciples at table; for there were many of them and they followed him” — namely, they followed him from the tax collector’s booth (Mark 2:15) *). Luke further elaborated on Mark’s account when he says (Luke 5:29), “And Levi made him a great feast in his own house.”

*) on Matthew, p. 341.

*) και εγένετο εν τω κατακείσθαι αυτόν εν τη οικία αυτού. Matt. 9:10: και εγένετο αυτού ανακειμένου εν τη οικία.


3. The Question of the Pharisees.

As Fritzsche says, he does not know how the Pharisees had seen Jesus eating with tax collectors, but it is certain that their question to the disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” had been posed by them later **). They did not even see him sitting at the table himself, but later, de Wette ***), “found out” that he had eaten with tax collectors. But not even in the careless account of Matthew is there a justification for this explanation, because immediately after it was mentioned that the tax collectors were sitting at table with Jesus and his disciples, it is said “when the Pharisees saw” †), so this is supposed to be the immediate consequence of the former. Just as quickly as the striking phenomenon that Jesus is sitting at table with tax collectors and sinners has occurred, the reader is amazed and reflects on the remarkable event, no! before the reader can even come to reflection, the Pharisees are supposed to express their amazement and give occasion for Jesus to interpret and explain the striking appearance. Luke hastens to this point of the report so quickly that he does not even notice that the Pharisees had seen Jesus sitting at table, but immediately says: “they murmured and said to the disciples” *). In the writing of Mark, the matter is correctly presented: “And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and sinners, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?'”

**) in Matthew, p. 342: posthac aliquando.

***) 1, 1, 92.

†) και ιδόντες οι φαρ.

*) και εγόγγυζον …. λέγοντες.


4. The Response of Jesus.

“The strong, Jesus answered when he heard the question of the Pharisees **), do not need a physician, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. The Pharisees, explains De Wette, are, if only comparatively, the healthy and righteous, because they did not live in such injustice as the tax collectors” ***) “Jesus recognizes legal righteousness.” But can there be a harsher, sharper saying than the one which here we see the apologists, out of fear that Jesus might appear too harsh and offensive, dulling? The saying is revolutionary and expresses in a striking point the reversal of the concept and the revolution that entered the world with Christianity, which humiliated the pride of self-righteousness and redeemed the rejected – it is the entire revolutionary irony of the Christian principle, as it cannot be expressed better in its simplest form *).

**) Mark 2:17 and after him Matthew (9:12). The question and answer followed one after the other. Luke hurries back quickly by suppressing the “they” and instead saying in 5:31,  και αποκριθεις ο ιησους ειπεν προς αυτους.

***) see  Handb. 1, 1, 92.

*) Calvin: est ironica concessio. Compare Weisse 1, 481.


Luke also recorded the saying, probably not because he thought the point was too sharp, but because he remembered that Jesus had come to call for repentance (Mark 1:15) — softened by saying that Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32) **). So he misunderstood the meaning of the saying; for the monstrous thing about the ironic contrast is that sinners are “called to salvation,” while the righteous are rejected, and the kingdom of heaven is destined for those sinners who are considered outcasts by the world.

Matthew also introduced a new element into the saying, interrupting its original movement on the one hand and weakening the impact of the point on the other, by directing the reader’s attention to a point that is outside the direction of the saying. After the words, “The strong do not need a doctor, but the sick do,” Jesus says, “But go and learn what this means ***): ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13). Matthew was the one who introduced this “for/because” – ου γαρ ηλθον – into the saying, and it is precisely this “for” that completely disrupted the coherence of the saying. If one were to retain the “for” as the authentic saying, although it is very dispensable and does not even form an appropriate transition from one half to the other, it could only connect the general statement that the sick, not the strong, need a doctor, and its confirmation by referring to Jesus’ actual purpose. But is there still coherence when the saying of Hosea is inserted between the two sentences? And what does this saying have to do here, where Jesus is speaking about his behavior and only has to speak about it, since the Pharisees had taken offense at his behavior? Finally, even if Jesus wanted to say how others should follow his example, and that he could do so in the midst of the saying that justifies and describes his behavior, could he then possibly think of that saying of the prophet? Never! For the point in this word of the prophet has nothing to do with the thought of the opposite fate that is destined for the righteous and sinners, and it points to a completely different point, namely, where the absolute value of inwardness is decided against external observance of the law. Only the echo that there is a contrast contained in Jesus’ saying and that of the prophet, and that Jesus, when he calls sinners, is practicing the mercy that the prophet recommends, only this echo, which becomes dissonant if one listens to it for more than a moment, has prompted the evangelist to insert this saying here *).

**) εις μετάνοιαν.

***) μαθετε τι εστιν. On another occasion, Matthew lets the Lord quote the same saying of Hosea with the same formula – on his own authority: C. 12, 7 ει δε εγνωκειτε, τι εστιν.

*) Cf. Wilke, p. 349.


5. Credibility of the Report.

The main saying itself, which is short but of tremendous power and penetration, seems to be entirely genuine and to have originated on this occasion; nevertheless, we are forced to make a remark, or rather we have just made it and have not yet expressed it, which will shake and completely overthrow the assumption that we have really received many sayings of Jesus literally handed down to us in the Gospels. In any case, we no longer have a definite occasion on which the saying could have arisen, the one at least that Mark reports to us, we have lost it in our contemplation.


For religious belief, however, when it artistically shapes and works out its inner determination into history, the scene in which the tax collector immediately follows the first call of Jesus, abandons his tax booth and violates his duty, can be held, because in it it sees the power of Jesus’ word and sees it all the more surely, the more the tax collector was bound by his duty to the post he left and the more ruthlessly he left it. What in the world of religious belief is called faith and zeal for the Lord is in the real and human world forgetfulness of duty; what in that world is natural and simple form, in this world is a storm that whips all relationships together wildly and tears them out of their sockets; what is possible in that world is impossible or insane in this one. By their tortured interpretations, the expositors have already betrayed to us that it is incomprehensible how the Pharisees could be immediately at hand to object to the striking spectacle of this banquet, how they could express their amazement to the disciples, and finally, how Jesus could hear their accusation and answer them. Religious belief does not concern itself with such difficulties; for intelligent contemplation, these difficulties are things of impossibility.

Only the remark about the saying! One only needs to make it oneself— a glance at the accounts of the three Synoptics is enough. Luke and Matthew had the written letter in the scripture of Mark before them, and what did they make of the saying? Luke gave it a different and even inappropriate meaning, while Matthew made its meaning unclear by splitting the punchline and inserting a foreign one. If this happens to a saying that they read in writing, what will happen to the fate of a saying that wanders around in the memory of a scattered community composed of heterogeneous elements for who knows how many years? Well, we don’t need to be concerned about it, as it cannot wander around in this unstable, changeable element, since it will become different in every head, in every particular circle, and assume new forms — that is, there can no longer be talk of a particular saying. It would have been very little indeed if the first followers of Jesus had brought and shared nothing more than a couple or hundreds of sayings from their life together with the Savior; they could neither have founded a community nor overcome the world with that. Rather, it was principles, principles, general views, and the creation of a new essential world that gave the community its existence, which initially occupied it alone and later drove it to create individual views, punchlines, contrasts, and sayings. The specific, individual is shaped only when the essence and the general have become common property and firm possession of a life circle, after the view of the essence and the essential principles had formed again from a series of individual stimuli, influences, and impacts. Jesus had given his own and the world this impetus — but not through individual sayings alone, not even through sayings that were in fact the expression of the new principle in the broadest sense, but by infinitely expanding the soul of his own through the endless series of his influences, which they had never suspected until then, and thus deeply shaking it that they were finally — after his departure — forced to bring this inner expansion to self-consciousness in the thought of the new principle and in the view of the essential world and to trace it back to its simplest expression. The moment that created this expression gave the community its life, and its first vital movements and efforts were — as the Pauline letters prove — directed towards further defining this expression — but still initially in the form of general principles. From these principles, the sayings of Jesus were formed later, which the anachronism that always creeps into religious views makes the first historical expression and the basis of those principles in the Gospels that emerged when the general interest of faith became historical.


So in this case, Mark has expressed the irony of the Christian principle sharply, purely, and effectively in the saying he puts into the Lord’s mouth. The opportunity for this was easily found: the tremendous word had to be spoken against the self-righteous Pharisees, the condescension of the Lord who associates with the rejected – with tax collectors and sinners – had to give rise to the occasion, and so that this occasion – the banquet where association even as eating and drinking with the despised appears – would naturally come about, the tax collector who is organizing the banquet to bid farewell to his former friends must be summoned.

Mark has constructed this story only for the context in which he allows the collision between the Savior and the Pharisees and scribes to arise, and at this moment he does not think beyond this context. He does not, therefore, think of comparing this account, which he created for a special purpose, with the list of the twelve apostles and putting them in connection. He could not yet carry out this work. That story of the tax collector had just been created by him, while the list of apostles was given to him; but the list tells him nothing about a Levi, nothing about a tax collector who belonged to the Twelve; so it was impossible for him to insert that tax collector into the list. For the first Synoptist, for this pragmatic artist, these difficulties no longer existed; he could compare and put both calmly in connection, and he did it boldly enough by blindly inserting that tax collector as Levi’s substitute and making him a tax collector.


Luke has not yet compared, but, as he usually does, has copied from Mark. Instead, he has done something else, namely used the point of Mark’s story to create a new story, or rather to spin this story – it is that of Zacchaeus – from it. Everything in this story, from the name of the tax collector which from the outset should indicate the inner purity of the man *), to the fact that Jesus addresses him by name, even though he was previously unknown to him and had climbed a mulberry tree to see him **), since how can chance, the name of a person, be known to another person other than through experience – everything has been purified. To secure the evidence, we are allowed to anticipate a later investigation here. On the journey to Jerusalem, Mark reports (chapter 10, 46-52) that as Jesus passed through Jericho and went through the gate ***), a blind man who was standing by the roadside called out to him for help, and after Jesus had restored his sight, the man followed him on the journey †). Mark intended for a witness of his miraculous power to follow the Lord on the way to Jerusalem. Luke says that Jesus healed the blind man when he was near Jericho, simply stating that the blind man followed the Lord, omitting the words “on the journey,” since he only needs the blind man for the pomp of the procession through the city. He now fills the gap he still feels by saying that the healed man praised God and that the entire crowd, which was witness to the miracle, joined in this praise. It is clear why Luke has made changes – he wants to make the procession through Jericho more magnificent, and by giving the Lord a praising entourage, he motivates the curiosity of the chief tax collector *) in a striking way.

*) זַכָּ֔י, the pure, the louder, e.g. Ezra 2: 9.

**) Luk. 19, 5: Zacchaeus,  descend with haste.

***) εκπορευομένου αυτού από Ιεριχώ.

+) ήκολούθει τώ Ι. εν τη οδώ.

*) εζήτει ιδείν τον Ι. τίς έστι.


“Today I must stay at your house,” Jesus calls to Zacchaeus, who is still sitting in the tree. He quickly climbs down and joyfully welcomes his guest, who had invited himself. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, “He has gone in to be guest with a man who is a sinner.” Weisse **) thought he had to praise the “living individuality” in this story, but it may not be called nitpicking if we ask who are the “all” who murmur about Jesus’ kindness to the tax collector, and if we answer that from the context it is not only inexplicable but also purely impossible that everyone should have had such an attitude towards the Lord. Only the people had been mentioned before. But if they had just praised God for the healing of the blind man and followed the miracle worker in fervent zeal on the triumphal procession through Jericho, how is it possible that all of a sudden they should change their minds? If Jesus had compassion on the blind man and therefore received praise, he could also be merciful to a “sinner” without being rebuked. Olshausen says, “the Pharisees” murmured ***), but how else can he know than from a story that the evangelist at this moment has in mind, even copying it carelessly and hastily, borrowing only the punchline (the people’s accusation) and, because he is only concerned with this, forgetting to indicate who was murmuring about the Lord? In short, Luke has given the account he had already copied from Mark on his own, with a variation for the second time †). He also repeats the saying that the Son of Man came not to call the righteous, but sinners, in a different, free-form when he has the Lord say he came (C. 19:10) to seek and to save the lost.

**) a. a. O. II, 176,

***) a. a. O. I, 765.

†) Luke 19:7: και ιδοντες – He has the text of Mark before him and picks up the ξαναρρίπτων that he had let fall earlier in Luke 5:37 – πάντες εγόγγυζον, λέγοντες, ότι παρά αμαρτωλω ανδρί εισήλθε καταλύσαι.


It is actually superfluous to note that the following words of Zacchaeus and Jesus are not appropriate to the context: even if they were much better formulated and seemed to flow naturally from the occasion, the fact remains that the occasion was contrived. When the people murmured, Zacchaeus stepped forward and said, “Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Luke 19:8). But that would be a beautiful “sinner,” as the Lord desires, if Zacchaeus stepped forward so confidently and said he was one of those tax collectors who acted as the Baptist had commanded (Luke 3:13). He does indeed want to defend himself against the popular cry of “he stays with a sinner,” but it was still inappropriate to enumerate the virtues that adorn him. And how he praises himself! The first part of his self-praise, “I give half of my goods to the poor,” is boastful, and the second part, “if I have defrauded anyone, I restore it fourfold,” is even more ambiguous and only arose from the fact that Luke wanted to incorporate the reminiscence of his saying of the Baptist, “take no more than what is prescribed for you,” into the tax collector’s speech. Even Jesus’ speech is not very successful for the evangelist, indeed he does not even know how to introduce it properly when he addresses it to Zacchaeus *), although the saying that the Son of Man seeks the lost, as is done correctly in Mark’s account **), must be directed immediately against the self-righteous. Even Luke could not help but develop Jesus’ speech in such a way that it was addressed to strangers, not to Zacchaeus. “Today,” Jesus says, “salvation has come to this house, since he too is a son of Abraham.” In fact, we need only to have rid ourselves of the bad habit of taking every word as given *), to see how it is more similar to a timid retreat than a bold attack on the proud and the divine defense of sinners and the lost, when Jesus justifies or rather excuses his choice of the tax collector by saying that he too – και αυτος – is a son of Abraham, just like the dissatisfied and envious critics!

*) V. 9: είπε δε προς αυτόν.

**) Mark 2, 17: noi héyal aŭrois ουκ ήλθον καλέσαι.

*) and thinks it is sufficient to explain by exchanging the words of the text with a couple of others that mean the same thing. Thus Olshausen, I, 765: “As an Abrahamite, he had the next right to salvation.” Similarly, de Wette, I, 2, 96.


Once again – for the third time – Luke has taken the narrative of Mark word for word to let the point emerge in new variations. But they all, Luke says in chapter 15, verses 1 and 2, came near to him, all (!) tax collectors and sinners, to hear him. Then the Pharisees and scribes murmured **) saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” “He eats with them” belongs to Mark’s scripture; “He receives sinners” is a later reflection of the community, a reflection which praises the beneficence and mercy as such, namely as an exalted quality of the Lord, and could not be more appropriately placed than here, where it is reported as a reflection of the Pharisees. “He receives sinners” is the theme of the parables of the lost sheep, coin, and son that follow (chapter 15, 3-32). Later, when Matthew gives us the opportunity, we will examine these parables and similar passages in the third Gospel, in which the acceptance of sinners is praised in more detail; for now we only notice – which is actually superfluous – that this third outbreak of the Pharisees’ displeasure is patterned after Mark’s narrative *) and that Luke had in mind this section of his own writing, in which the word “lost” was used three times (verses 6, 9, 32), when he later formulated the general principle in the narrative of Zacchaeus that the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost.

**) και διεγόγγυζον οι φ. και οι γρ. λέγοντες, ότι ούτος αμαρτωλούς προσδέχεται και συνεσθίει αυτοίς.

*) The Pharisees say: “He eats with sinners!” and before that it was only reported that the tax collectors and sinners came near to hear him!



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Neil Godfrey

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