Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

What Is Opened in Luke 24:45, the Mind or the Scriptures?

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

What Is Opened in Luke 24:45, the Mind or the Scriptures?

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

In the Gospel of Luke, the disciples, who are granted to know the "mysteries of the kingdom of God" (Luke 8:10), nevertheless repeatedly fail to understand the necessity of Jesus's passion.1 This failure is finally reversed in the conclusion of the narrative when the disciples receive illumination, which enables them to understand Jesus's suffering as a fulfillment of the Scriptures:

Now [Jesus] said to them, "These are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that it was necessary to fulfill all of the things written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their mind to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, "Thus it stands written, that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day." (Luke 24:44-46)2

In a previous issue of this journal, Matthew Bates proposed an alternative understanding of the syntax in Luke 24:45, taking ... ("mind") rather than ... ("Scripture") as the direct object of the infinitive ... ("to open"), effectively recasting Jesus's action of illumination, the opening of the mind, with exposition, the opening of the Scriptures:


Then Jesus exposited the Scriptures so that the disciples could understand their meaning.3

While Bates is able to provide semantic support for his rendering of Jiavoiyw and ... his reconstruction is nearly impossible on syntactical grounds (for reasons not considered in his article), and it does not fit the context of Luke nearly as well as the traditional reading.

Bates rightly begins with the question, "is the proposed alternative translation syntactically feasible?"4 He answers in the affirmative, finding no syntactical objection to taking ... as the infinitive's direct object (thus, "to understand the meaning").5 Yet two significant objections should be raised: (1) Rarely, if ever, in extant Greek literature does the direct object of an articular infinitive precede the article of that construction (i.e., direct objects of articular infinitives are not proleptic in this way); and (2) where the subject of the infinitive is unspecified, it is normally assumed from the subject of the main verb, thus the implied subject of the infinitive in Luke 24:45 should not be "the disciples" as Bates assumes.6

First, in Greek literature adjuncts (including the direct object) of an articular infinitive normally occur either between the article and the infinitive or immediately after the infinitive:7

... (Xenophon, Mem. 2.1.8)

For considering how hard a job it is to provide for one's own needs, I think it absurd not to be content to do that, but to shoulder the burden of supplying the wants of the community as well. (Marchant, LCL)

... (Gen 47:29 LXX)

... Do not bury me in Egypt. (NRSV)

... (Mark 9:10)

... what this rising from the dead could mean. (NRSV)

... (1 Cor 16:4)

If it seems advisable that I should go also ... (NRSV)

This is also true where the construction involves a preposition:

... (Mark 5:4)

for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. (NRSV)

... (Acts 8:11)

And they listened eagerly to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. (NRSV)

... (Heb 11:3)

... so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. (NRSV)

... (1 Pet 4:2)

so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. (NRSV)

It has proven difficult to find a single clear exception to this pattern analogous to the one Bates proposes for Luke 24:45, where the direct object of the articular infinitive precedes the article.8 Crucially, none of the twenty-three examples Bates offers in support of his syntactical construction exhibits the prolepsis of the direct object before the article of an articular infinitive construction. …

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