In James Dunn’s helpful collection of essays in Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels he says this regarding scholarship pitting the imminent and future kingdom of God sayings in the Synoptics against each other,
In New Testament scholarship there has been a huge and long-lasting debate as to which of these two strands is the more ‘original’, although it has been a good deal quietened by the realisation that some of the Dead Sea Scrolls reflect a similar tension between an eschatological hope already fulfilled and a hope still maintained for imminent consumption. The debate within New Testament scholarship demonstrates more clearly than most others the futility of making conclusions regarding ‘the historical Jesus’ depend on individual verses and the conclusion that can be inferred from them. The fact is that both strands are well rooted in and run through the Synoptic tradition. Both are characteristic of the Synoptic Jesus. How dare we exegetes and expositors insist on squeezing such diverse traditions into a single mould and on squeezing out what does not fit our own ideas of consistency and good sense. It is much more responsible for historians and exegetes to recognise that this double characteristic of the Jesus tradition is best explained as a double characteristic of Jesus’ own teaching and mission. The overall two-sided impact of Jesus remains clear, even if it remains unclear how the two side were held together by Jesus and his first disciples.
In the ESV, Matthew 13:38–39 reads:
“The field is the world, the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.”
In the NA27 it reads:
ὁ δὲ ἀγρός ἐστιν ὁ κόσμος, τὸ δὲ καλὸν σπέρμα οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ υἱοὶ τῆς βασιλείας· τὰ δὲ ζιζάνιά εἰσιν οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ πονηροῦ, ὁ δὲ ἐχθρὸς ὁ σπείρας αὐτά ἐστιν ὁ διάβολος, ὁ δὲ θερισμὸς συντέλεια αἰῶνός ἐστιν, οἱ δὲ θερισταὶ ἄγγελοί εἰσιν.
A more helpful English translation would be
“…the good seed — these are the sons of the kingdom…”
It seems that Matthew is trying to differentiate and place an emphasis on who the kingdom people are. In 8:12, οἱ υἱοὶ τῆς βασιλείας, are Jews, who by birth are “sons of the kingdom” but are thrown into outer darkness because of their rejection of the Messiah. As Matthew’s Gospel progresses it becomes increasingly clear that ethnicity is not the determining factor of kingdom status. At this juncture Jesus has declared that those who identify with him — these are the kingdom people and those who reject him are of the devil. People of the kingdom are the ones who identify with and are planted by the Son of Man.
Here are the ways other versions translate this passage:
- Lexham English Bible – And the good seed—these are the sons of the kingdom
- HCSB – and the good seed—these are the sons of the kingdom.
- NIV 2011 – and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom.
- NRSV – and the good seed are the children of the kingdom
- NKJV – the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom
- NET – and the good seed are the people of the kingdom.
Luke depicted by a winged bull
As I study the Gospels I am always amazed at the emphasis of bringing in the Gentiles and outcasts into the kingdom of God. The new people of God are defined by their faith rather than ethnicity or ritual purity. The Gospel according to Luke is no exception. From the start there is emphasis on the Gentiles and outcast being brought into the kingdom of God (Lk. 2:31–32; 3:6; 4:18–19 etc.).
One emphasis that is played out in the Lukan narrative is the key phrase ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε (your faith has saved you). This phrase occurs four times in the Gospel and each time it is in relation to an outcast.
- Luke 7:50 – In the surrounding pericope Jesus is eating with the Pharisees and a “sinful woman” comes and anoints Jesus’ feet. This alarms the Pharisees, to which Jesus replies that she will be forgiven much because she loved much. Jesus tells the woman that she has been forgiven and concludes with “ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε· πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην” (your faith has saved you; go in peace).
- Luke 8:48 – In this section a woman who had “a discharge of blood for 12 years” goes to Jesus and touches him and she is healed. He says to the woman, “θυγάτηρ, ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην” (Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace).
- Luke 17:19 – This story Jesus approaches 10 lepers between Samaria and Galilee and has mercy on them. Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priest and Luke says that they were ἐκαθαρίσθησαν (cleansed). The Samaritan returns to give praise to God and Jesus tells him “ἀναστὰς πορεύου· ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε” (Rise and go; your faith has saved you).
- Luke 18:42 – Finally, Jesus heals a blind man who cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Jesus replies, “ἀνάβλεψον· ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε” (Regain your sight; your faith has saved you).
In each one of these stories it is the outcast from society (one was even a Samaritan!) that Jesus saves because of their faith. In my opinion Luke has intentionally blurred the lines between spiritual and physically healing. The individuals who come to Jesus are saved, both from physical illness/disability and spiritual illness. The kingdom of God is one in which the people of God have been restored. We are told that the already-not-yet(ness) of the kingdom says that we are restored spiritually but Jesus gives us a glimpse of the physical restoration that will also happen in the new kingdom.
The theme of peace is also present in these stories. Jesus told both woman to go in peace. The gospel is a gospel of peace. At the beginning of the Gospel the angels are praising God saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased. The woman can go in peace because through their faith they have found God’s favor.
Side note: The ESV makes a hard and fast distinction between spiritual and physical healing. In the encounter with the “sinful woman” the ESV translates “your faith has saved you” but in the other pericopes it is translated “your faith has made you well.” I think this interpretive judgment actually weakens Luke’s use of σῴζω, which he has purposely intended a two-fold meaning. The Greek word σῴζω carries this two-fold meaning while the English word “save” is primarily used biblical only in a spiritual salvation context. A word that could possibly bring out this double meaning would be “restored”. This word carries the idea of bringing something back to its original state. This is probably an imperfect solution but I think we should attempt to bring this two-fold meaning into English the best we can.