Luke 17
Expositor's Greek Testament


This chapter gives the impression of being a group of fragments with little connection in place, time, or topic, and nothing is gained for exegesis by ingenious attempts at logical or topical concatenation. If we view the group of parables in chaps. 15, 16 as a mass which has grown around the parable of the Lost Sheep as its nucleus, and reflect that that parable with the sayings in Luke 17:1-4 is found in Matthew 18, we may with some measure of confidence draw the inference that the discourse on humility at Capernaum was the original locus of at least these elements of Luke’s narrative. That they are mixed up with so much matter foreign to Mt.’s record speaks to extensive transformation of the tradition of our Lord’s words by the time it reached Lk.’s hands (vide Weizsäcker, Untersuchungen, p. 177).

Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!
Luke 17:1-4. Concerning offences and forgiving of offences (cf. Matthew 18:6-7; Matthew 21, 22).—ἀνένδεκτον: here only in N.T. and hardly found in classics; with ἐστι = οὐκ ἐνδέχεται (Luke 13:33), it is not possible.—τοῦ μὴ ἐλθεῖν: the infinitive with the genitive article may depend on ἀνένδεκτον viewed as a substantive = an impossibility of offences not coming exists (Meyer, J. Weiss), or it may be the subject to ἐστι, ἀνεν. being the predicate = that offences should not come is impossible (Schanz; Burton, M. and T., inclines to the same view, vide § 405).

It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
Luke 17:2. λυσιτελεῖ (λύω, τέλος), it profits or pays; here only in N.T. = συμφέρει in Matthew 18:6.—λίθος μυλικός, a millstone, not a great millstone, one driven by an ass (μύλος ὀνικὸς, T.R.), as in Mt.: the vehement emphasis of Christ’s words is toned down in Lk. here as often elsewhere. The realistic expression of Mt. is doubtless truer to the actual utterance of Jesus, who would speak of the offences created by ambition with passionate abhorrence.—περίκειται = perf. pass. of περιτίθημι in sense = has been placed; with ἔρριπται, another perfect, suggesting the idea of an action already complete—the miscreant with a stone round his neck thrown into the sea.—εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν: here again a subdued expression compared with Mt.—ἢ ἵνα σκανδαλίσῃ, than to scandalise; the subj. with ἵνα = the infinitive. Vide Winer, § 44, 8.

Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
Luke 17:3. προσέχετε ἑ., take heed to yourselves (lest ye offend), a reminiscence of the original occasion of the discourse: ambition revealing itself in the disciple-circle.

And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
Luke 17:4. ἑπτάκις τῆς ἡμέρας, seven times a day. The number recalls Peter’s question (Matthew 18:21), and the phrase seven times a day states the duty of forgiving as broadly as Mt.’s seventy times seven, but not in so animated a style: more in the form of a didactic rule than of a vehement emotional utterance; obviously secondary as compared with Mt.

And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
Luke 17:5-6. The power of faith (cf. Matthew 17:20).—οἱ ἀπόστολοι instead of μαθηταὶ. Luke 17:1. τῷ κυρίῳ: these titles for Jesus and the Twelve betray a narrative having no connection with what goes before, and secondary in its character.—πρόσθες ἡμῖν πίστιν, add faith to us. This sounds more like a stereotyped petition in church prayers than a request actually made by the Twelve. How much more life-like the occasion for the utterance supplied by Mt.: “Why could not we cast him out?”

And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
Luke 17:6. εἰ ἔχετε. εἰ with pres. in protasis, the imperf. in apodosis with ἄν. Possession of faith already sufficient to work miracles is here admitted. In Mt. the emphasis lies on the want of such faith. Another instance of Lk.’s desire to spare the Twelve.—συκαμίνῳ, here only in N.T. = συκομορέα, Luke 19:4, the fig mulberry tree (vide there). A tree here, a mountain in Mt.; and the miraculous feat is not rooting it out of the earth but replanting it in the sea—a natural impossibility. Pricaeus cites a classic parallel: τὸ πέλαγος πρότερον οἴσει ἄμπελον.

But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
Luke 17:7-10. The parable of extra service, in Luke only. For this name and the view of the parable implied in it see my Parabolic Teaching of Christ. It is there placed among the theoretic parables as teaching a truth about the Kingdom of God, viz., that it makes exacting demands on its servants which can only be met by a heroic temper. “Christ’s purpose is not to teach in what spirit God deals with His servants, but to teach rather in what spirit we should serve God.”

Luke 17:7. εὐθέως: to be connected not with ἐρεῖ but with παρελθὼν ἀ. = he does not say: Go at once and get your supper.

And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
Luke 17:8. ἀλλʼ οὐχὶ: ἀλλὰ implies the negation of the previous supposition.—ἕως φάγω, etc., “till I have eaten,” etc., A.V[134]; or, while I eat and drink.

[134] Authorised Version.

Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.
Luke 17:9. μὴ ἔχει χάριν, he does not thank him, does he? the service taken as a matter of course, all in the day’s work.

So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
Luke 17:10. οὕτως, so, in the Kingdom of God: extremes meet. The service of the Kingdom is as unlike that of a slave to his owner as possible in spirit; but it is like in the heavy demands it makes, which we have to take as a matter of course.—διαταχθέντα, commanded. In point of fact it is not commands but demands we have to deal with, arising out of special emergencies.—δοῦλοι ἀχρεῖοι: the words express the truth in terms of the parabolic representation which treats of a slave and his owner. But the idea is: the hardest demands of the Kingdom are to be met in a spirit of patience and humility, a thing possible only for men who are as remote as possible from a slavish spirit: heroic, generous, working in the spirit of free self-devotion. Such men are not unprofitable servants in God’s sight; rather He accounts them “good and faithful,” Matthew 25:21. Syr. Sin[135] reads simply “we are servants”.

[135]yr. Sin. Sinaitic Syriac (recently discovered).

And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
Luke 17:11-19. The ten lepers.

Luke 17:11. εἰς Ἱερ.: the note of time seems to take us back to Luke 9:51. No possibility of introducing historic sequence into the section of Lk. lying between Luke 9:51 and Luke 18:15.—αὐτὸς, He without emphasis; not He, as opposed to other pilgrims taking another route, directly through Samaria (so Meyer and Godet).—διὰ μέσον = διὰ μέσου (T.R.), μέσον being used adverbially as in Philip. Luke 2:15 = through between the two provinces named, on the confines of both, which explains the mixture of Jews and Samaritans in the crowd of lepers.

And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
Luke 17:12. δέκα λεπροὶ: ten, a large number, the disease common. Rosenmüller (das A. and N. Morgenland) cites from Dampier a similar experience; lepers begging alms from voyagers on the river Camboga, when they approached their village, crying to them from afar. They could not heal them, but they gave them a little rice.

And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
Luke 17:13. ἐπιστάτα: this word is peculiar to Lk., which suggests editorial revision of the story.—ἐλέησον: a very indefinite request compared with that of the leper in Luke 5:12 f., whose remarkable words are given in identical terms by all the synoptists. The interest wanes here.

And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
Luke 17:14. ἐπιδείξατε ἑ.: the same direction as in the first leper narrative, but without reason annexed.—ἱερεῦσι: plural, either to the priests of their respective nationalities (Kuinoel, J. Weiss, etc.) or to the priests of the respective districts to which they belonged (Hahn).—ἐν τῷ ὑπάγειν, etc., on the way to the priests they were healed. Did they show themselves to the priests? That does not appear. The story is defective at this point (“negligently told,” Schleier.), either because the narrator did not know or because he took no interest in that aspect of the case. The priests might not be far off.

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
Luke 17:15. δοξάζων τ. Θ.: general statement, exact words not known, so also in report of thanksgiving to Jesus.

And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
Luke 17:16. Σαμαρείτης: this, with the comment of Jesus, the point of interest for Lk.

And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
Luke 17:17. οὐχ (οὐχὶ, T.R.): asking a question and implying an affirmative answer. Yet the fact of asking the question implies a certain measure of doubt. No direct information as to what happened had reached Jesus presumably, and He naturally desires explanation of the non-appearance of all but one. Were not all the ten (οἱ δέκα, now a familiar number) healed, that you come back alone?—ποῦ: emphatic position: the nine—where? expressing the suspicion that not lack of healing but lack of gratitude was the matter the nine.

There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
Luke 17:18. οὐχ εὑρέθησαν, etc., best taken as another question (so R.V[136]).—ἀλλογενὴς, here only, in N.T.; also in Sept[137] =ἀλλόφυλος and ἀλλοεθνής in classics, an alien. Once more the Jew suffers by comparison with those without in respect of genuine religious feeling—faith, gratitude. It is not indeed said that all the rest were Jews. What is certain is that the one man who came back was not a Jew.

[136] Revised Version.

[137] Septuagint.

And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
Luke 17:19. ἀναστὰς πορεύου: that might be all that Jesus said (so in [138]), as it was the man’s gratitude, natural feeling of thankfulness, not his faith, that was in evidence. But Lk., feeling that it was an abrupt conclusion, might add ἡ πίστις σ. σ. σ. to round off the sentence, which may therefore be the true reading.

[138] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
Luke 17:20-37. Concerning the coming of the Kingdom and the advent of the Son of Man. In this section the words of Jesus are distributed between Pharisees and disciples, possibly according to the evangelist’s impression as to the audience they suited. Weiffenbach (Wiederkunftsgedanke Jesu, p. 217) suggests that the words in Luke 17:20-21 were originally addressed to disciples who did not yet fully understand the inward spiritual character of the Kingdom of God. I am inclined to attach some weight to this suggestion. I am sure at any rate that it is not helpful to a true understanding of Christ’s sayings to lay much stress on Lk.’s historical introductions to them.

Luke 17:20-21. μετὰ παρατηρήσεως: there is considerable diversity of opinion in the interpretation of this important expression. The prevailing view is that Jesus meant thereby to deny a coming that could be observed with the eye (“not with observation”). The older interpretation “not with pomp” (μετὰ περιφανείας ἀνθρωπίνης is the gloss of Euthy. Zig.) is closely related to this view, because such pomp alone would make the kingdom visible to the vulgar eye. J. Weiss (Meyer) contends that it is not visibility but predictability that is negated. Παρατήρησις, he remarks, “is used of the observation of the heavenly bodies, from whose movements one can calculate when an expected phenomenon will appear. In a similar way the apocalyptists sought to determine by signs the moment when the kingdom should be set up. That was what the Pharisees expected of Jesus with their πότε ἔρχεται. And it is just this that Jesus declines. The Kingdom of God comes not so that one can fix its appearing by observation beforehand.” The assumption is that when it does come the kingdom will be visible. It does not seem possible by mere verbal interpretation to decide between the two views. Each interpreter will be influenced by his idea of the general drift of Christ’s teaching concerning the nature of the kingdom. My own sympathies are with those who find in Christ’s words a denial of vulgar or physical visibility.

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Luke 17:21. οὐδὲ ἐροῦσι, nor will they say; there will be nothing to give occasion for saying: non erit quod dicatur, Grotius.—ὧδε, ἐκεῖ, here, there, implying a visible object that can be located.—ἐντὸς ὑμῶν, within you, in your spirit. This rendering best corresponds with the non-visibility of the kingdom. The thought would be a very appropriate one in discourse to disciples. Not so in discourse to Pharisees. To them it would be most natural to say “among you” = look around and see my works: devils cast out (Luke 11:20), and learn that the kingdom is already here (ἔφθασεν ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς). Kindred to this rendering is that of Tertullian (c. Marcionem, L. iv., 35): in your power, accessible to you: in manu, in potestate vestra. The idea “among you” would be more clearly expressed by ἤδη ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν. Cf. John 1:6. μέσος ὑ. στήκει, etc., one stands among you whom ye know not—cited by Euthy. to illustrate the meaning of our passage. Field (Ot. Nor.) contends that there is no clear instance of ἐντὸς in the sense of “among,” and cites as an example of its use in the sense of “within” Psalm 103:1, πάντα τὰ ἐντός μου.

And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.
Luke 17:22-25. The coming of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:26-28).—πρὸς τ. μαθητάς: so in Mt., but at a later time and at Jerusalem; which connection is the more original cannot be decided.—ἐλεύσονται ἡμέραι, there will come days (of tribulation), ominous hint like that in Luke 5:35.—μίαν τ. ., etc., one of the days of the Son of Man; not past days in the time of discipleship, but days to come. Tribulation will make them long for the advent, which will put an end to their sorrows. One of the days; why not the first, the beginning of the Messianic period? Hahn actually takes μίαν as = first, Hebraistic fashion, as in Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2.—οὐκ ὄψεσθε, ye shall not see, not necessarily an absolute statement, but meaning: the vision will be deferred till your heart gets sick; so laying you open to temptation through false readers of the times encouraging delusive hope.

And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.
Luke 17:23. ἐκεῖ, ὧδε: cf. the more graphic version in Matthew 24:26, and notes thereon.—μὴ διώξητε, do not follow them, give no heed to them.

For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.
Luke 17:24. ἐκ τῆς, χώρας understood, so also χώραν after εἰς τὴν = from this quarter under heaven to that. Here again Mt.’s version is the more graphic and original = from east to west.

But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.
Luke 17:25. πρῶτον δὲ δεῖ, etc.; the Passion must come before the glorious lightning-like advent. What you have to do I meantime is to prepare yourselves for that.

And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.
Luke 17:26-30. The advent will be a surprise (Matthew 24:37-41).

They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
Luke 17:27. ἤσθιον, etc.: note the four verbs without connecting particles, a graphic asyndeton; and note the imperfect tense: those things going on up to the very hour of the advent, as it was in the days of Noah, or in the fateful day of Pompeii.

Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;
Luke 17:28. ὁμοίως: introducing a new comparison = similarly, as it was in the days, etc.—so shall it be in the day of, etc. (Luke 17:30). Bornemann ingeniously connects ὁμοίως with ἅπαντας going before, and, treating it as a Latinism, renders perdidit omnes pariter.—ἤσθιον, etc.: again a series of unconnected verbs, and a larger, six, and all in the imperfect tense. This second comparison, taken from Lot’s history, is not given in Mt. The suddenness of the catastrophe makes it very apposite.

But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
Luke 17:29. ἔβρεξε (βρέχω): an old poetic word used in late Greek for ὕειν, to rain. βροχή is the modern Greek for rain (vide Matthew 5:45).

Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
Luke 17:30. κατὰ τὰ αὐτὰ, etc., the apodosis of the long sentence beginning Luke 17:28.

In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.
Luke 17:31-34. Sauve qui peut (Matthew 24:17-18; Mark 13:15-16). The saying in Luke 17:31 is connected in Mt. and Mk. with the crisis of Jerusalem, to which in this discourse in Lk. there is no allusion. The connection in Mt. and Mk. seems the more appropriate, as a literal flight was then necessary.

Remember Lot's wife.
Luke 17:32. μνημονεύετε, etc.: the allusion to Lot’s wife is prepared for by the comparison in Luke 17:28. It is not in Mt. and Mk., being inappropriate to the flight they had in view. No fear of looking back when an invading army was at the gates. Lk. has in view the spiritual application, as is shown by the next ver., which reproduces in somewhat altered form the word spoken at Caesarea Philippi concerning losing and saving life (Luke 9:24).—ζωογονήσει, will preserve alive, used literally in this sense in Acts 7:19.

Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.
I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.
Luke 17:34-37. The final separation (Matthew 24:40-41).

Luke 17:34. τ. τ. νυκτὶ, on that night; day hitherto, the Jewish day began with night (Hahn), and the reference to night suits the following illustration. No need to take night metaphorically = imago miseriae (Kuinoel).—ἐπὶ κλίνης μ., in one bed; in the field in Mt.

Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
Luke 17:35. ἀλήθουσαι ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό, grinding at the same place; in the mill, Mt. Proximity the point emphasised in Lk.—near each other, yet how remote their destinies!

Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.
Luke 17:37. σῶμα, the carcase = πτῶμα, Matthew 24:28; so used in Homer, who employs δέμας for the living body.

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