Why I decided to take the Hermeneia/Continental Commentary Deal

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Joseph Turner | Forum Activity | Posted: Thu, Jul 12 2012 12:48 PM

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I would have posted this in the other thread, but that thread has moved on to other subjects, and I wanted people to get the end result.  I know that I said that I was going to pass on the deal, but I couldn’t stand it.  Why?

1.       1.  It is unlikely that I will ever find another deal like this one for this set, and I would likely have bought individual copies later on in paper.  If I buy 12 volumes, then I will have paid the $600 for what I could now buy all currently available volumes.  I can also sell my Enoch volume 1 for $50.00, which will also help.

2.       2.  I don’t have a commentary set that presents a liberal point of view to this extent, and I like how liberal scholarship takes more time on textual issues, including literary typing and comparative literature.  This will also give me a viewpoint that will make me think more than with those I already agree.

3.       3.  I have 30 days from today to return the set, which is more time than I have to decide to buy the set (this was pointed out by a salesman).

4.       4.  Most importantly, I like to take into account the opinions of people whom I respect, which is why I asked here first.  My favorite Bible scholar is Ben Witherington III, so I decided to open at random two of his commentaries (Romans and Acts), to see if he interacted with the authors (not just the commentaries themselves) of the respective Hermeneia volumes.  In both cases, his bibliography lists these commentaries, in addition to other articles and monographs by the two authors.  If Ben Witherington finds them worth interacting with, then I feel like they have strong academic credentials (this doesn’t mean that I, or BW3 for that matter, will agree with them).

Disclaimer:  I hate using messaging, texting, and email for real communication.  If anything that I type to you seems like anything other than humble and respectful, then I have not done a good job typing my thoughts.

Posts 2163
Joseph Turner | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 12 2012 12:49 PM

Don't know if it has something to do with the server change, but I could not post this using Internet Explorer.  I had to use Firefox.

Disclaimer:  I hate using messaging, texting, and email for real communication.  If anything that I type to you seems like anything other than humble and respectful, then I have not done a good job typing my thoughts.

Posts 80
Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 12 2012 1:01 PM

Joseph Turner:

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I would have posted this in the other thread, but that thread has moved on to other subjects, and I wanted people to get the end result.  I know that I said that I was going to pass on the deal, but I couldn’t stand it.  Why?

Cool!  Please let us know what you think of Hermeneia after you explore it a little?  I am curious to know.

Posts 2038
Unix | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 12 2012 2:30 PM

Well good that You can sell Your Enoch volume 1 print copy! I have a paper copy of Mt 8-20 but I don't think I'll sell it if I buy the Hermeneia Continental -commentaries, it's an important volume (I can show that about Mt 11:27 from it to people), and it's quite hard to sell books over here, I would probably never get it sold anyway or get extremely little for it. I have been able to sell books only once in my life (several books on the local language linguistics in shape as new) and that was way back. Not that I have any books I would sell.

Joseph Turner:
I can also sell my Enoch volume 1 for $50.00, which will also help.

Aply!
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Posts 2163
Joseph Turner | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 12 2012 2:53 PM

Unix:

Well good that You can sell Your Enoch volume 1 print copy! I have a paper copy of Mt 8-20 but I don't think I'll sell it if I buy the Hermeneia Continental -commentaries, it's an important volume (I can show that about Mt 11:27 from it to people), and it's quite hard to sell books over here, I would probably never get it sold anyway or get extremely little for it. I have been able to sell books only once in my life (several books on the local language linguistics in shape as new) and that was way back. Not that I have any books I would sell.

Joseph Turner:
I can also sell my Enoch volume 1 for $50.00, which will also help.

I just sell them through Amazon.com as a used seller.

Disclaimer:  I hate using messaging, texting, and email for real communication.  If anything that I type to you seems like anything other than humble and respectful, then I have not done a good job typing my thoughts.

Posts 2038
Unix | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 12 2012 2:56 PM

Yeah, that's impossible to do over here, I've looked it up.

Joseph Turner:
I just sell them through Amazon.com as a used seller.

Aply!
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Posts 8899
fgh | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 12 2012 3:40 PM

Unix:
it's quite hard to sell books over here, I would probably never get it sold anyway or get extremely little for it

http://www.bokborsen.se/  I've sold lots there, and for prices that are way above what I'd get on Amazon. (Though admittedly gardening sells better than Bible commentaries.)

"The Christian way of life isn't so much an assignment to be performed, as a gift to be received."  Wilfrid Stinissen

Mac Pro OS 10.9.

Posts 2038
Unix | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 12 2012 4:00 PM

Are You pleased with focusing so much on different commentaries instead of other resource types? I have a hunch that my purchases are going to split up approximately like this (this includes both printed matter and Bible software) over the years:

  • ⅜ commentaries
  • ⅝ other resources, of which:
    • ⅓ the English text (without any introductions), Gk & Hebrew Bibles of the 66 books of the Bible, manuscripts in original languages
    • other resources, of which:

      • ⅜ encyclopaedias (I have few), introductions to books of the Bible or passages, such the 2011 Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible (that was $250 incl. postage), 2 books by Carlo M. Martini, and 1 introduction to 2 Pt, Jude by Knight, & Jewish eschatology

      • ⅝ other

        • of which ⅜ theology & the Bible study softwares themselves (Logos (it's sort of free but they sort of charge for it with a base-package and I did an estimate on this) and probably Accordance to have the 1989 Revised English Bible)

        • ¼ form criticism, textual criticism

        • ¼ linguistics, Early Church Fathers, apocrypha in English and Gk

        • ⅛ about English Bibles, dictionaries

It wouldn't help much to do an exact calculation on all the resources I currently have printed and electronic, as the weight will probably shift.
I didn't place lexicons in only 1 of the divisions in the above outline, as I think those split into many of them depending on how You use them. Note that I also split the content of for example the 2010 NABRE English Bible and the 2012 UPDV 2.16 Bible between a few of the divisions.

Aply!
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Posts 2163
Joseph Turner | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 12 2012 4:24 PM

I am guessing that your post was addressed to me, so I will answer. I started with Scholar's Gold, and I added the IVP Dictionaries, Anchor Bible, Journals, BDAG/HALOT, and a lot of the other types of stuff you mentioned, so a really good liberal commentary set was something that I really needed. I think it all depends on where your library is lacking vs interests/needs as to what you need.

Disclaimer:  I hate using messaging, texting, and email for real communication.  If anything that I type to you seems like anything other than humble and respectful, then I have not done a good job typing my thoughts.

Posts 1686
Allen Browne | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 13 2012 2:28 AM

Joseph Turner:
1.       It is unlikely that I will ever find another deal like this one for this set, ...

2.       I don’t have a commentary set that presents a liberal point of view to this extent ... 

3.       I have 30 days...

4.       ...  My favorite Bible scholar is Ben Witherington III, ...  his bibliography lists these commentaries ...

My reasons for buying this set include your #1 and #2.
And the fact that I need them for my M Th research.

Paul Lee:
Cool!  Please let us know what you think of Hermeneia after you explore it a little?  I am curious to know.

Have not had the chance to use many of the volumes yet, Paul, but I was very impressed with Robert Jewett's handling of Romans 1. Better than I had expected.

There are some other authors in this series I really look forward to engaging with.

Even having a commentary on 1 Enoch will be useful: I need to get a good handle on apocalyptic as a genre.

Posts 1686
Allen Browne | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 13 2012 5:16 AM

Have you guys read Enoch before? Pênêmûe is the #4 bad angel, who led humans astray. So, Enoch 69:8–10 says:

And the fourth was named Pênêmûe: he taught the children of men the bitter and the sweet, and he taught them all the secrets of their wisdom. 9 And he instructed mankind in writing with ink and paper, and thereby many sinned from eternity to eternity and until this day. 10 For men were not created for such a purpose, to give confirmation to their good faith with pen and ink.

The writer of the Similitudes of Enoch doesn't seem keen on apologetics. Or Logos forums. Wink

Posts 116
Paolo russo | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 8 2014 1:26 PM

Bump

Posts 2163
Joseph Turner | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 8 2014 2:12 PM

Paolo russo:

Bump

This is an old thread.  Did you have a particular question that you wanted to ask about the set?  I did notice that it is on sale again.  It is a great set.

Disclaimer:  I hate using messaging, texting, and email for real communication.  If anything that I type to you seems like anything other than humble and respectful, then I have not done a good job typing my thoughts.

Posts 116
Paolo russo | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Aug 11 2014 12:06 AM

You told that later on, you will give your review of this commentary.

You're right, it is on sale, that is why I'm interested on people's opinion, so that I may decide if I want to buy it.

How do you like it?

Posts 1952
mike | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Aug 11 2014 1:05 AM

I'm not a pro, but from my browsing experience..it has the same type of technicality like ICC, but much newer.

its good if you have plenty of time and into research stuffs. But if you're preaching, i'd recommend something else.

Posts 116
Paolo russo | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Aug 11 2014 2:20 AM

I personally dont like the ICC style, neither WBC. I dont like NICOT/NICNT so much.

I'm more fond of NAC, Holman, EBC, UBS, NIB, Tyndale, IVP, Boice, Wiersbe, NIVAC, ACCS. So I'm wondering if I can find some interesting stuff in Hermeneia to deal with.

I'm not preaching, I research mostly, and study in academic field and/or teach. i.e. I was studying the parable of the Unjust Steward in Luke 16, and it was hard to find some comprehensive study of the variety of understanding of this parable over the centuries. I found the most complete article from the Westminister Journal from the author Ireland

What I look for is a new set where I can find interesting ideas, someway within evangelical boundary.

ps. can you post the passage study in Hermeneia, about the unjust steward in luke 16? as a proof

Posts 2163
Joseph Turner | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Aug 11 2014 4:48 AM

Paolo russo:

I personally dont like the ICC style, neither WBC. I dont like NICOT/NICNT so much.

I'm more fond of NAC, Holman, EBC, UBS, NIB, Tyndale, IVP, Boice, Wiersbe, NIVAC, ACCS. So I'm wondering if I can find some interesting stuff in Hermeneia to deal with.

I'm not preaching, I research mostly, and study in academic field and/or teach. i.e. I was studying the parable of the Unjust Steward in Luke 16, and it was hard to find some comprehensive study of the variety of understanding of this parable over the centuries. I found the most complete article from the Westminister Journal from the author Ireland

What I look for is a new set where I can find interesting ideas, someway within evangelical boundary.

ps. can you post the passage study in Hermeneia, about the unjust steward in luke 16? as a proof

What made me want this set is that it tends to be more liberal than the other commentaries that I owned at the time, so I wanted to add that perspective.  I don't mean to use the word liberal negatively, because they are great for text critical and historical information.  Here is an excerpt from the section you wanted in Luke 16:  


The parable of the dishonest manager (vv. 1–9), which has given rise to innumerable commentaries and which is in fact a parabolic narrative, has been considered a crux interpretum. So what does it indeed mean? Does it stress the proper use of material goods? Or is the stress on insolent resourcefulness, which is rewarded in the end? Or on the existential stance to take in the face of the imminence of the parousia or death? In addition to that general question, there are further particular questions: Is the κύριος (“lord,” “master”) of v. 8 the rich owner of the parable or the Lord Jesus Christ? How is the parable to be subdivided? Does the pericope end with v. 8, v. 9, or v. 13? In v. 9, who are the “friends” that one should make and what is the “mammon of dishonesty”? In the same verse, what do the “eternal tents” represent?


Analysis

Synchronic Analysis

Although chap. 15 was addressed to the Pharisees and the scribes, chap. 16 is aimed first of all at the disciples, who must understand and live the good news (chap. 15) in community and in the world (chap. 16).
In v. 14, what Jesus says is interrupted by a comment on the part of the narrator, who calls our attention to the decisive presence of the Pharisees, described as lovers of money. At this point Jesus speaks to them (v. 15). I assume that it is also to them that Jesus addresses the following aphorisms on the law (vv. 16–17) and divorce (v. 18) and, finally, the parable of the rich man and the poor man, Lazarus (vv. 19–31). But just as the Pharisees, along with the disciples, had been the audience for the first parable, the disciples are, in turn, along with the Pharisees, the audience for the second one.
The two parables are found at opposite ends of chap. 16 (vv. 1–9 and vv. 19–31). They both call attention to a rich man (vv. 1 and 19), one of whom was in dialogue with his manager (v. 1); the other, having to deal with a beggar (v. 20). While the second parable ends without commentary (v. 31), the first one gathered to it, at the end, a series of explanatory maxims, first in vv. 8b and 9, then in vv. 10–13, which, linked to each other and to what precedes by the linking word “mammon,” provide a variation on the theme of the first parable. If we think of this chapter as a balanced construction, the small block of material concerning the Pharisees (vv. 14–15), by reason of its content, serves not only as a conclusion to the first parable but also as an introduction to the second. We should probably also link vv. 16–18 to the second parable, even though the connection between these passages and that parable is not immediately obvious. A reading of the chapter as a whole reveals that the crucial theme is material goods; but the reader will also sense the fact that money is the visible face of what constitutes the human being, his or her righteousness before God (v. 15).


Diachronic Analysis

The two parables, which are without Synoptic parallels, come from Luke’s special material, L, as is suggested also by some structural and stylistic indications. These parables, which begin with the characteristic expression ἄνθρωπός τις, “a man,” effortlessly recount a story. The vocabulary is simple but not without precision. In the first parable, the manager carries on an interior monologue, which is characteristic of L.7 The sayings of vv. 10–12, however, have a completely different style, and in their sapiential manner of expression resemble some of the maxims of the preceding chapters (cf., e.g., 11:36; 12:2–3; etc.). As they have no Synoptic parallels, commentators usually attribute them to L. Verses 13 and 16–18, on the other hand, with parallels in Matthew (Matt 6:24; 11:12–13; 5:18; 5:32; and 19:9) and, in part, in the Gospel of Thomas (Gos. Thom. 47 and 11), come from Q. This last sequence is interrupted by a brief apophthegm (vv. 14–15), whose construction would appear to be redactional, since we know that this Gospel writer was fond of emphasizing a maxim by inserting it into a narrative context. Verse 14 is redactional and creates a scenario for Jesus and the Pharisees. It introduces a maxim the first half of which has a Lukan ring to it (v. 15a) and the second half of which could well be from the tradition (the word βδέλυγμα, “abomination,” is not characteristic of the Third Gospel).
If we concentrate on vv. 1–9, we will see the hand of the author of the Gospel of Luke in the summary introduction to the parable (v. 1a). Luke may have retouched the parable, but it is essentially the work of the gifted author of L, who drew on an oral parable whose rural flavor is proof of an ancient origin (which may have been Palestinian, since later Diaspora Christianity was primarily urban). Verse 8a provided a conclusion for the parable and the “master” (κύριος) mentioned there stood originally for the owner in the parable. As was often the case in the Synoptic tradition,11 the early Christians were anxious to add their interpretation in the form of a saying by Jesus. Verse 8b, which fulfills this function, is obviously outside the parable, since it can in no way pass for a word of commendation from the owner. What is more, the two successive occurrences of ὅτι (“that,” “because,” “for”) are awkward; the first belongs to the parable and the second to the commentary. This commentary grew out of a double embarrassment: ascertaining the point of the parable, and dealing with the implication that the story might encourage dishonest conduct. The vocabulary having to do with intelligence (φρονίμως, “shrewdly,” in v. 8a; φρονιμώτεροι, “shrewder,” in v. 8b) takes care of linking the parable to this first addition to it. The double ambiguity is thus resolved by the opposition, typical of earliest Jewish Christianity, between “children of this age” and “children of light.” The saying rebukes the “children of light” by forcing them to look at the example of the “children of this age.”
Taking as focus a wisdom stance, this commentary was not sufficient. It was necessary to spell out its ethical content—hence the addition of a second saying, ceremoniously introduced by the words: “And as for me, I say to you.” That the claim of authenticity is made so pointedly indicates that the saying is unlikely to be genuine. The person speaking here is not the historical Jesus but a Christian prophet. Believing himself to be inspired, he takes care to direct the practical wisdom of the disciples toward others, undoubtedly the poor, at the same time flashing a heavenly reward before their eyes (we will come across this same contrast in the second parable). The archaic vocabulary of v. 9 is a clear indication that it dates back to an oral Aramaic phase of the earliest church in Palestine. The two successive commentaries (vv. 8b and 9) doubtless come from the same period.
The sayings in vv. 10–12 can also function as commentaries, but, unlike vv. 8b and 9, they had an independent existence before being joined to the parable and its commentaries by reason of similarities of a thematic order (the management motif) and structural order (the words “mammon” and “unjust”). What is more, this joining was not accomplished without problems, since vv. 10–12 extol honesty, while the parable itself praises a certain kind of dishonesty. But it was for that very reason that Christians of that time drew on these two verses to resolve the double ambiguity of the parable in a more satisfactory way than vv. 8a, 8b, and 9 did. Furthermore, this bringing together of these elements required some structural adjustment: v. 10b, which borders on improbability (one does not entrust large amounts of property to someone who has proved incapable of managing small amounts!), may have been created at the time when v. 10a was joined to the parable, to make it more appropriate.


Commentary

■ 1a Luke is just as likely to use the Greek imperfect as the Greek aorist to introduce Jesus’ words. The imperfect is better suited to a relatively long utterance.18 Moreover, Luke is witness to the evolution of the language: he often shuns the classical use of the dative after the verb “to say” in favor of the preposition πρός followed by the accusative, which would normally mean “toward,” or “to” (e.g., 17:1). Furthermore, most manuscripts made the text smoother by speaking of “his disciples” rather than just “the disciples.”
The story that is told respects the rules of oral literature in that it never has more than two people interacting at a time. The opening situation, which is summarily described in v. 1b, allows the action to get off to a running start. The first scene is laid out in v. 2: when the master is informed of the scandal, he does not even wait to get any explanation from his manager but asks immediately for a rendering of the accounts and fires him. Verses 3–4 portray the second scene: left to fend for himself, the manager asks himself what he will do; then he suddenly hits on a solution. Scenes three (vv. 5–6) and four (v. 7) are symmetrical; the manager is placed opposite two of his debtors (of course, to avoid repetition, the second encounter, in v. 7, is more compact than the first, vv. 5–6). There is symmetry of the last scene (v. 8a) with the beginning, in that this last scene again mentions the owner and his manager. Here once more, only the master is permitted to speak.
This summary does not give expression to one essential element, brought up by the manager himself in v. 6: ταχέως, “quickly.” Everything takes place very quickly, as would be expected in such a circumstance. As one novelist has written, “Quick reaction is essential for anyone who wants to clear their name.” The rich man takes action just as soon as he learns of the scandal. For his part, the manager does not have a moment to lose before his master’s orders go into effect. Our own day, marked by numerous scandals, is very much aware of what is going on here, even if two modern factors were missing in ancient times: the role of the media and the intervention of governmental authorities. The fact that they are absent from this story only makes the story line still purer.
■ 1b The manager acted in a manner similar to the prodigal son, in that he squandered his master’s possessions. This text is even more restrained than the one in the preceding chapter (15:13–14, 30), and provides no spicy details. Nor is it interested in the rich man’s source of information.
■ 2 The past is of little importance. The master’s present decision puts the manager at bay; he must hit on an immediate solution in order to assure himself of a safe future. Otherwise, he will be lost. To be sure, he is not threatened with legal action; nevertheless, when he is fired26 he loses his salary and his reputation. Unless …
The manager’s first offense was all the more serious in that his master had placed his confidence in him and his critical task was to manage his master’s possessions. He was a “manager,” “steward” (οἰκονόμος); his work was one of “management,” “administration” (οἰκονομία); and his job was to “manage,” “administer” (οἰκονομεῖν). These terms, which are obviously stressed in this text, are familiar to the reader of Luke, who will remember a similar story, that of the manager at a fork in the road who is called on to choose between wisdom and folly (12:42–46). In a Christian community in the process of organization, stewardship represented a primary concern. Wise organization and good leadership are for that matter of concern not only to the church but also to the family, society in general, and especially the private sector.
The rich man’s power was not absolute; to be sure, he was in a position to fire his manager (“because you cannot manage the business any longer”), but he was still dependent on his collaborator for one last service: “Give an accounting of your management!” Although he was the boss, he had seen fit to delegate authority. Therefore, he was obliged to ask his subordinate to step down. The manager’s stroke of genius is seen in the way he carried out this last job in a way that would serve his own interests, namely, using to his own benefit the fine margin of maneuverability remaining to him. The clause ἀπόδος τὸν λόγον τῆς οἰκονομίας σου probably does not mean “turn in your accounts to me,” which could be done immediately, but rather “give me an accounting of your management.”
■ 3 The interior monologue is typical of L. It enables the hero to express his embarrassment and then to communicate his decision out loud. A management type, he could not picture himself performing pick-and-shovel work.32 Furthermore, he no longer had the physical strength for manual labor. He belonged to the well-off middle class and therefore could not stoop to begging, for which he lacked the moral fiber. He did not want to be reduced to either of these extreme alternatives.
■ 4 The monologue skillfully avoids indicating the content of the action the man had decided on. He was content with triumphantly announcing that he had found the best solution. That is the meaning of ἔγνων—“I’ve got it,” “I’ve got a solution,” “I have decided.” The words “I have decided what I am going to do” (ἔγνων τί ποιήσω, v. 4) are of course the answer to the question “what could I possibly do?” (τί ποιήσω, in v. 3). Leapfrogging over the solution, as I have indicated, the sentence nevertheless tells us to what favorable conclusion the right answer will lead. It does so via a subordinate final clause that defines a final state that symmetrically balances the initial state: “so that, when I am dismissed as manager, they may welcome me into their homes.” Continuing to have a welcome is equivalent to preserving one’s dignity, not losing one’s social status, maintaining a sense to one’s life, getting off easy after an emotional struggle.
■ 5–7 The solution decided on seems simple enough but nevertheless poses a legal problem that compounds the literary problem. Does the proposition offered to the various debtors by the manager, who seemed to enjoy a certain autonomy, imply dishonesty or not? At first blush, it seems to recommend making false entries. On the other hand, it could be that the manager simply decided to forgo his own commission. It would appear that such a custom was in effect in antiquity (even if the Torah forbade lending at interest). It was not uncommon for managers, like tax collectors, to be able to add a large margin of profit to what had to be repaid to the owner who made loans. Everyone knew perfectly well that a large amount that was included for commission, and which was tantamount to usury, ended up in the pocket of the manager. It has even been demonstrated that the rate of that commission, not so much in cash as in kind, could reach astronomical levels.38 Although that hypothesis is attractive, I do not subscribe to it, for I feel that the manager’s “dishonesty” (ἀδικία, v. 8a) consisted not only in squandering his master’s property but also in falsifying the “documents” (γράμματα), the promissory notes or tenant contracts. I also feel that the commentary on v. 8b has successfully unearthed a “child of this age” in our main character rather than a manager who, after having given in to the weakness of squandering, shapes up and acts honestly (vv. 5–7).
As always, the author of L, followed in this by Luke, prefers good narrative to legal precision. He does not tell us exactly what these “documents” (γράμματα) are. Nor does he tell us if the debtors are merchants or farmers.40 In either case the figures speak volumes: 100 baths of oil correspond to 450 liters or the equivalent of the pay for 500 to 600 days of a laborer’s work. An explanation has also been found for the more modest reduction in the amount owed for the wheat.42
■ 8a If we identify the “lord” (ὁ κύριος) of v. 8a with the rich man (he is also called by the same Greek word in vv. 3 and 5, where we have translated it by “master”), we have to be surprised at his reaction. Should he not be doubly furious over (a) the squandering and then (b) the forgery of the documents? There is much truth in that, and Günther Schwarz, appealing to the Semitic substratum, has reconstructed an original text that says the direct opposite of what our passage says. In this reconstruction we read, “And the owner cursed the unrighteous manager, because this manager had tricked him”!44 Likewise, another scholar, basing his reconstruction on the fact that the earliest manuscripts lacked punctuation, has proposed reading v. 8a as a question or, at least, an exclamation: “So then, is the owner going to congratulate the manager for having acted wisely?” The implicit answer to that would be “No, of course not.” I refuse to resort to these exegetical stratagems and call our attention to the fact that the owner does not congratulate the manager in an unqualified manner but simply praises him for having acted intelligently, that is, in a self-interested way for his own profit (which is the way a rich man would see things). The “owner” (ὁ κύριος) is a good loser and, as such, takes off his hat to his manager’s class act. It was neither the first nor the last time that Luke’s Jesus shocked middle-class sensitivities and advocated unworthy conduct in order to bring out better what one Spanish commentator has called “the scandal of the righteousness of God’s reign.”47 This is done by an argument from the lesser to the greater.
■ 8b This verdict is given in a style that is quite different from that of the parable. On the heels of a surprising detail in the story comes a severe observation, an implicit warning. Ancient Judaism, followed in this by early Christianity, opposed two worlds and two ages: “this aeon,” “this time” (ὁ αἰὼν οὗτος), and the aeon to come, the one of God and his reign, referred to here as “light” (τὸ φῶς). Believers, “children of light” who are still encircled by darkness, must at all times and in all places be put on their guard. Paul, who makes use of the same dualism, speaks in the same vein in 1 Thess 5:5–6: “For you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others [understood as the children of darkness] do, but let us keep awake and be sober” (NRSV). Here in Luke, as in Paul, the atmosphere is apocalyptic and the believers know that they are living in the last days. What is daring in Luke 16:8b is that “the children of this age” are hailed—albeit in certain limited circumstances—as an example for the “children of light.” This is a little like the “owner” (κύριος, who, for the early Christians, gradually became the Lord God or better the Lord Jesus), who praised the unworthy manager for having demonstrated the wisdom that rightly belongs to God’s reign alone. This is close to the thought of the Matthean maxim: “Be wise (φρόνιμοι, another form of the same Greek word that we find in Luke 16:8) as serpents …” (Matt 10:16, NRSV).
■ 9 Verse 9 raises four difficult questions, but the overall meaning that we can draw from it is simple. With all his authority (“And as for me, I tell you”), the Lukan Christ invites his readers to make friends for themselves with their material wealth and promises them in return spiritual benefits in the world to come.53
Let us examine each of the four questions in turn:
(a) The “friends” have been taken to be the poor to whom you grant favors. The difficulty with that identification is the necessity of affirming that it is the poor who will welcome those who are saved into the kingdom of God (“the eternal tents”). So other solutions have been proposed: that it is the angels who hide behind the beneficiaries of your generosity,55 or even that your personified alms will serve as your intercessors in the other world (this is a Jewish and early Christian concept). In my opinion, the “friends” are those persons who benefit from the sharing of your goods and who, in a symbolism of the eschatological banquet, will welcome you to that eschatological table and who will not shut the door in your face (cf. 13:23–30).
(b) The “mammon of dishonesty.” “Mammon” is a word of Semitic origin yet absent from the Hebrew Bible; it came into general use in New Testament times. Its etymology is uncertain, but it might very well be from the same root as our word “amen,” what one can have confidence in, what one can trust. Since human beings count on their money, the word came to refer to material goods. In line with the critical stance toward money adopted by various currents of early Christianity, the term is consistently used in a negative sense in the New Testament. The expression “mammon of dishonesty” is not very precise and needs to be explained on the basis of the origin of the maxim (a prophetic commentary on the parable). In this case it definitely has to do with money acquired in a dishonest way.58 But it should not be deduced from this that money is inherently evil, even if there is—from the point of view of the kingdom, not of earthly justice—no clean money. Giving it away is the only way to make dirty money clean; that is in fact the main point of our text.
(c) “When it is gone”: the Greek verb ἐκλείπω is often used without a direct object with the intransitive meaning “to be missing,” “to be absent,” “to disappear.” The meaning is thus clear: when there is no more money. But that raises a question: can your money not be missing before you arrive in the kingdom of God, before the end of your life? Here again, we must find an explanation by drawing on the exegetical character of the maxim. The text plays on the idea of virtue that is rewarded and is expressed in the manager’s language: “so that, when I am dismissed as manager, they may welcome me into their homes” (v. 4b). We encounter once more the verb “receive,” the image of welcome into a home, the observation that there has been a rupture, and the idea of finality. Since the commentary in v. 9 opens up the perspective to the divine world, the stopping place (“when it is gone,” ὅταν ἐκλίπῃ) is delightfully ambiguous. Money loses its usefulness at the moment of our death, which is the very time when one is the most deprived of a single cent. Yet it is also the moment when, as in the parable, it is good to be able to count on one’s friends.
(d) The “eternal tents” have caused a lot of ink to flow, no doubt in vain. Just as the Johannine Christ speaks of “many rooms” reserved for believers in the “Father’s house” (John 14:2), so does the Lukan Christ draw on the same divine reality. The “tent” (which we find again in the singular in Rev 13:6) was one of the blessings of the blessed time of the exodus. In the first instance, it was the place where one could meet God, the “tent of meeting” (see Exodus 25–27; 33:7); later it became the family living space where the Israelites were wont to live in a time when sedentary life and domestic comfort represented the dangers of idolatry. Here the tents are eternal, which means that they are to be taken in a figurative sense. Two different kinds of spiritual meaning are obviously possible: the “eternal tents” are either the place believers go to at death or the place where the faithful will be welcomed at the time of the parousia.
The prophet who uttered this oracle must have been speaking in a figurative way about the kingdom of God. For the author of L and especially for Luke himself, we see a shift in focus due to the individualization of eschatology, so the dwelling place in mind is no doubt the one to which Christians will go at the time of their death. The second parable, with its contrast between this life and the life after death, confirms this interpretation. This is, moreover, the way in which the parable was understood early on in the history of its interpretation.


History of Interpretation

One curious ancient interpretation is the one that Jerome attributed to Theophilus, bishop of Antioch. Not surprisingly, Theophilus interpreted the parable allegorically but, more surprisingly, applied it to the apostle Paul. Did not Paul, for a long time, cheat God, whom the “rich man” stands for? When the manager is abruptly unmasked, this represents the Damascus road and Christ stopping Paul with these words: “Why are you persecuting me?” What could I possibly do, Paul asks himself, in order for Christians to welcome me when I will be relieved of my status as a Jewish teacher? The answer: change the requirement for Gentiles by replacing the Law and the Prophets with conversion or penance, and help Jews, sustained by divine mercy, by reducing their debts (all they have to do is believe henceforth in the resurrection of Christ, which took place on the eighth day, and which is referred to by the eighty measures).
For Jerome (Epist. 121.6), who stated that he had discovered no explanation of the parable in the writings of Origen or Didymus, the parable calls to mind the fate of sinners who find the way to be saved. But, he wrote, we should be warned that this parable is only a shadow of truth (Jerome was doubtless anxious to rein in allegorical flights of fancy). In his opinion, we should note the presence of an argument from the lesser to the greater. If the manager, sinner that he was, knew how to act intelligently before being praised by his master, how much more will not Christ praise his disciples? (ibid.).
For his part, Ambrose emphatically declared that wealth is foreign to human beings (Exp. Luc. 7.246). It is neither born with them nor dies with them. That is one more reason for not coming under its influence.
Albert the Great saw in the manager a rascal who nevertheless acted with a wisdom worthy of God’s own wisdom; did he not send the debtor away freed of his burden, after the debtor had taken good stock of the situation? (Enarr. in Luc. 16.1–9 [416–25]). The measures of oil, which the man kept for himself instead of giving them to their rightful owner, are the food intended for widows and orphans. According to Albert, the debtor’s burden is not entirely lifted, since the faithful, once they are pardoned, still have responsibilities to shoulder and must still bear a moral share.
According to Anselm of Canterbury (ca. 1033–1109) the manager’s fate is in the first instance an image of malice, and then of the progress that it is possible for any holder of an ecclesiastical charge to make (Hom. 12).66 Since priests are to have no authority after death, the critical moment is not death but an illness or some difficult moment in their life. The miraculous solution is authentic preaching that moves its hearers to repentance. Typical of the exegetes of his time, Anselm delighted in attaching symbolic meaning to various numbers. The manager was iniquitous only in his earlier actions. His later action (equivalent to his preaching), on the other hand, was wise and intelligent. If the text calls him the “manager of iniquity,” it does so with reference to his past, just as the Gospel continues to call Matthew a “tax collector” when he no longer is one.
In one sermon in Old German, we find the purest example of the classical explanation: the steward is praised not because he has been unfaithful to God but because he has proved wise with respect to himself. This assertion holds good for anyone and everyone. The parable exhorts one and all to get ready for death or rather to foresee what their personal and financial situation will be at that decisive moment.
According to Erasmus, in this parable the Lord invites his disciples to demonstrate as much gentleness as possible and to do good on all occasions, all the while knowing that our kindness is never wasted but has lasting value for the future. In Erasmus’s way of thinking, the time when the Master strikes is at the hour of our death—and life is short. That is one more reason for preparing without delay for our eternal life. Our material goods have been entrusted to us not for our personal advantage but to be used for the benefit of our neighbors. It is spiritual riches that are the true ones.69
Luther felt obliged to explain once more justification by faith alone since, said he, there are biblical texts, such as Luke 16, that people never stop quoting in a way that is contrary to the meaning of the text, as an argument in favor of justification by works. For Luther, only the believer who is freely made righteous by God’s grace is in a position to act in the way intended by Christ in this passage in Luke. Only the Word of God makes people aware of the tragic nature of their sinfulness and makes it possible for them to change their lives in such a way that they can act intelligently. Luther also refused to admit that the mention of “friends” in v. 9 could justify the heavenly role of “saints.”
There are few pericopes on which Bengel commented as carefully as this one. It is difficult to see why. He insisted on the links with the preceding chapter: after the love of God for us (Luke 15) comes our love for our neighbor (Luke 16); after the feast, daily life resumes. Criticism is not aimed at all managers, but only unfaithful ones. When the manager is dismissed, he is unable to dig because it is work he is not used to, or beg because of excess modesty.73 He is triply guilty (squandering of his master’s goods, falsification of the accounts, and love of self instead of love for God). Here, as in Luke 15, God, in his generosity, gives up his rights and values the one who even wastes what belongs to God himself.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, H. Bauer interpreted the parable allegorically by deciphering in it the unfolding history of early Christianity. According to him, what Luke had in mind was the movement away from Jewish particularism toward Christian universalism. The owner represents the theocratic leaders of the people of Israel; the manager, the apostles, who were incapable of keeping for themselves the spiritual benefits that had been entrusted to them (the benefits of the covenant, the law, and the theocracy) and who shared them with the Gentiles.76


Conclusion

The reason Jesus chose to shock his audience was that it made it possible for him to engage them more effectively. He told a scandalous story in order to invite each listener to take steps that were existentially sound. In this story a spendthrift manager has no hesitation about becoming openly dishonest in order to limit the damage of his personal ruin. Instead of panicking, this imaginary person finds within himself what we dare to call the moral resources necessary to avoid a catastrophe. It is the character of this last-minute effort that Jesus invests with a parabolic virtue. The setting furnished by the rendering of the accounts suggests in particular the imminent arrival of the last judgment.
Christian tradition has preserved this parable in spite of the fact that it was a source of embarrassment. It has attempted to offer an acceptable interpretation of it. First of all, it noted, with a certain displeasure, that pagans sometimes act more intelligently than Christians (v. 8b). Next, when prompted to reflect on the spiritual function of money, it introduced here the interpretation of a Christian prophet faithful to the wisdom of Israel who encouraged generosity (v. 9).
Luke, who inherited this composition as part of L, offers this parable and its earliest interpretations to the disciples, therefore to Christians themselves (v. 1a). He is also happy that he has vv. 10–12, which rule out understanding the parable as an incitement to deception and which stress each person’s personal responsibility.


François Bovon, Luke 2: A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 9:51–19:27, ed. Helmut Koester, trans. Donald S. Deer, Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2013), 443–454.

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Joseph Turner | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Aug 11 2014 4:50 AM

This is his bibliography from that seciton:

Bibliography

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François Bovon, Luke 2: A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 9:51–19:27, ed. Helmut Koester, trans. Donald S. Deer, Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2013), 439–442.

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Posts 116
Paolo russo | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Aug 11 2014 4:57 AM

Wow this is great.

Is this quality level more or less the same over all the books? 

Posts 5129
David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Aug 11 2014 6:31 AM

Still some Logos Hermeneia CDs on ebay for dirt cheap. You can pick one up and then use dynamic pricing to fill in the blanks. FYI, the Lutheran Gold package has Continental included, so with the Hermeneia CD, you would only have about 3-4 volumes you need to fill in with dynamic pricing.

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