Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Luke 16:16: The Good News of God's Kingdom Is Proclaimed and Everyone Is Forced into It

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Luke 16:16: The Good News of God's Kingdom Is Proclaimed and Everyone Is Forced into It

Article excerpt

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In Luke 16:16 Jesus declares: ? ??µ?? ?a? ?? p??f?ta? µ???? ???????* ?p? t?te ? ßas??e?a t?? Te?? e?a??e???eta? ?a? pa? e?? a?t?? ß???eta?. The last words, ?a? pa? e?? a?t?? ß???eta?, are lacking in some manuscripts;1 this may be a sign of a certain difficulty with these words and their meaning. In fact, modern translations, as I shall argue, generally are unsatisfying precisely in regard to these words. The NRSV renders: "The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force," and the RSV has: "The law and the prophets were until John; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone enters it violently." The God's Word translation runs as follows: "Moses' teachings and the prophets were in force until the time of John. Since that time, people have been telling the good news about the kingdom of God, and everyone is trying to force their way into it." The KJV and the Webster translation have: "The law and the prophets [were] until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached and every man presseth into it." The ASV runs as follows: "The law and the prophets [were] until John: from mat time the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached and every man entereth violently into it."2 Luther renders: "Das Gesetz und die Propheten weissagen bis auf Johannes, und von der Zeit wird das Reich Gottes durchs Evangelium gepredigt, und jedermann dringt mit Gewalt hinein."3 The Italian CEI translation runs: "La Legge e i Profeti fino a Giovanni; da allora in poi viene annunciato il Regno di Dio e ognuno si sforza per entrarvi," and similarly other modem versions,4 such as the Spanish Reina-Valera version: "La ley y los profetas eran hasta Juan; desde entonces el reino de Dios es anunciado, y todos se esfuerzan por entrar en él," and the French Bible de Jérusalem translation: "Jusqu'à Jean ce furent la loi et les prophètes; depuis lors le royaume de Dieu est annoncé, et tous s'efforcent d'y entrer par violence."

While the modern versions and almost all commentators understand the last words of this verse as "everyone endeavors to enter it" or "forces his way into it," I do not think that this interpretation is correct, mainly because the Gospel of Luke itself records many cases in which the proclamation of the kingdom encounters opposition or indifference, certainly not enthusiastic adherence, for example, Luke 4:16-30 (Jesus preaches in the Nazareth synagogue, but his public is indignant and they even want to kill him); 9:53 (Jesus is granted no hospitality in a Samaritan village); 15:2 (the Pharisees and the scribes criticize Jesus); 16:1-15 (the Pharisees disagree with Jesus' teaching concerning riches); 19:7 (Jesus is criticized because he dwells in a sinner's house),5 to which of course we must add that Jesus is finally put to death. Furthermore, the refusal of Jesus' preaching in Luke 16:1-15 comes immediately before the kingdom logion in Luke 16:16.

Thus, against almost all of the commentators, who generally take ß???eta? in 16:16 either as "endeavors, tries hard"6 or as "uses force on, against,"7 I think that ß???eta? here must be interpreted as a passive: "The kingdom of God is being preached and everyone is forced into it."8 In my view it is probably a theological passive, all the more in that God is mentioned immediately before, as the Lord of the kingdom itself. Everyone is pushed by God into his kingdom - of course, through its proclamation.

A strong piece of evidence in support of my exegesis is, to my mind, the exact conceptual parallel that is found in Luke 14:23. Here the kingdom of God is presented as a banquet to which a man - who symbolizes God9 - invites all, including the poor, the blind, and all sorts of handicapped persons (14:21: t??? pt????? ?a? ??ape????? ?a? t?f???? ?a? ?????? e?s??a?e ?de), and when his servant tells him that there is still room, he orders him to go out again and summon all and force everyone to enter: ? …

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