Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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LUKE - Chapter 7

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Luke 7

Supplemental Commentary:

Note.  Only those parts of the Third Gospel that are peculiar to it are commented on here.  For all other parts the reader should consult the Commentaries on the parallel passages in the other Gospels.

I.  THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS  3-21 (continued)

3.  Second Period of the Ministry in Galilee and Across Its Lake  6, 17 -- 9, 17 (continued)

7, 1-10  The Centurion's Servant.  Parallel in Matt. 8, 5-13.  Peculiar to Luke's account is the indirect appeal of the centurion by means of the elders of the Jews (3) and his friends (6).  Likewise in Luke alone are certain details which add to the pathos of the scene: the servant was dear to him and was at the point of death (2).    5.  He loves our nation, etc.: since it is certain that the centurion was not a Jew by birth (cf. 9), it seems he was a proselyte, i.e., a convert to the Jewish religion.

7, 11-17:  The Widow's Son.  Peculiar to Luke.    11.  In the Greek text the town is called Nain.  No town by that name is mentioned in the Old Testament, but Nain is undoubtedly to be identified with the modern little village of the same name which lies at the eastern end of the plain of Esdraelon and at the northern base of the mountain which is now known as Little Hermon.  A few miles to the east in the same valley of Jezrahel lies the ancient village of Endor (cf. Jos. 17, 11; 1 Kgs. 28, 7; Ps. 82, 11).    12.  The only son of his mother, and she was a widow: note the skill that St. Luke shows in portraying the pathos of this scene.    13.  Luke is the only Evangelist who speaks of Jesus before His resurrection as the Lord: so also in 10, 1; 11, 39; 22, 61; all of these instances are in passages peculiar to the Third Gospel.    14.  Simply by the power of His word Jesus brings back to life the young man who was unquestionably dead.  Contrast with this the symbolic rites and the supplications used by Elias to raise the son of the widow of Sarepta (3 Kgs. 17, 19 ff) or by Eliseus to raise the son of the widow of Sunam (4 Kgs. 4, 32-36).  It is interesting to note that Sunam is only about three miles south of Naim.    17.  Judea is used here probably in the general sense of all "Palestine" (cf. 4, 44).

7, 18-23:  The Baptist's Deputation.  Parallel in Matt. 11, 2-6.    20 f.  Peculiar to Luke.    21.  Afflictions: literally "scourges," as distinct from diseases, would seem from 22 to refer to such permanent misfortunes as  lameness, deafness, etc.

7, 24-30:  Christ's Witness Concerning John.  Parallel in Matt. 11, 7-11.    29 f.  Peculiar to Luke.  Some commentators take these two verses as a parenthetical note added by the Evangelist (so according to the punctuation of our text); others take these words as spoken by Christ about John.  The sense of the Greek is, "And all the people who had listened to him and even the publicans justified God by being baptized with the baptism of John.  But the Pharisees and the lawyers brought to naught God's purpose concerning themselves by refusing to be baptized by him."  Since there is a direct contrast here, justified God seems to be directly opposite in meaning to brought to naught God's purpose and signifies "showed the wisdom of God's plan"; cf. the expression wisdom is justified in 35.

7, 31-35:  The Stubborn Children.  Parallel in Matt. 11, 16-19.

7, 36-50:  The Penitent Woman.  Luke alone records this beautiful and touching example of Christ's mercy for sinners.  The Evangelist introduces this narrative without any reference to time or place.    36.  One of the Pharisees: his name was Simon (40.44).  Since this was a very common name among the Jews at that time, it is merely coincidental that the similar anointing of Christ at a banquet in Bethany took place in the house of a certain Simon who was called "the leper" (cf. Matt. 26, 6-13; Mark 14, 3-9).  These two events are certainly distinct.    37.  A woman in the town who was a sinner: i.e., she was known in that locality as leading an immoral life.  The Evangelist does not identify her more definitely.  Apparently St. Gregory the Great (d. 604 A.D.) was the first to identify her with Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.  Since his time this identification has been commonly accepted as true.  The Gospel for the feast of St. Mary Magdalene is take from these verses of St. Luke.  But since this opinion, which originated in the sixth century and has always been unknown in the Eastern Church, cannot be considered as tradition in the strict sense, the affirmation or the denial of this identification has nothing to do with Catholic doctrine as such.  Most modern Catholic Scripture scholars consider this penitent woman of Galilee and Mary of Magdala and Mary of Bethany to be three distinct women.

39.  The Pharisee argues secretly as follows: Jesus naturally observes the traditions of the Pharisees according to which no good man would allow himself to be defiled by letting a sinful woman touch him; but since Jesus allows this woman to embrace and kiss His feet, He must not know what kind of a woman she is; hence He cannot be a true prophet, for a prophet would be expected to have an insight into the condition of her soul.    40-50.  Jesus therefore has to refute this false conclusion of the Pharisee by showing not only that He knows the true state of this woman's soul but that even from the Pharisee's viewpoint He is justified in letting her touch Him, because she is no longer a sinner.  Christ makes Simon admit that the greater a man's sense of gratitude for a remitted debt, the greater will be the signs of love that this man gives (41-43).  He then argues from the slight signs of love that Simon gave Him, that evidently Simon is but slightly conscious of any spiritual debts having been remitted him by Christ, whereas the great signs of love that this woman has given Christ show that she is deeply grateful for the great spiritual debt that He has canceled for her (44-47).  Therefore, according to the context, the most probable and now common interpretation of 47 is, "For this reason, I am justified in saying to thee that her numerous sins must have been forgiven, since she has given such great signs of her gratitude."  Shall be forgiven her: the Greek has the perfect tense of this verb in the sense of , "have been forgiven her and now are forgiven."  Of course, the woman must have had antecedent faith and love in order to have her sins forgiven, but this truth is not stated directly in the passage.    48.  These words do not imply the actual moment of absolution, but rather Christ's encouraging assurance to the woman and a public announcement for the benefit of the others present, that her sins had already been forgiven.    49.  Cf. 5, 21.    50.  Cf. the same words of Christ in 8, 48; 7, 19; 18, 42.  This faith signifies a firm, lively belief in Christ's divine power, combined with an unshaken confidence in His goodness.

Confraternity Bible:

The Centurion's Servant  1 When he had finished all his discourse in the hearing of the people, he entered Capharnaum.  2 Now a servant of a certain centurion, to whom he was dear, was sick to the point of death.  3 And the centurion, hearing of Jesus, sent to him elders of the Jews, beseeching him to come and save his servant.  4 And when they came to Jesus, they entreated him earnestly, saying to him, "He is worthy that thou shouldst do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation and himself has built our synagogue."

6 So Jesus went with them.  And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, "Lord, do not trouble thyself, for I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof; 7 this is why I did not think myself worthy to come to thee.  But say only the word, and my servant will be healed.  8 For I too am a man subject to authority, and have soldiers subject to me; and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."

9 Now when Jesus heard this, he marvelled, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, "Amen I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith."  10 And when the messengers returned to the house, they found the servant in good health who had been ill.

The Widow's Son  11 And it came to pass soon afterwards, that he went to a town called Naim; and his disciples and a large crowd went with him.  12 And as he drew near the gate of the town, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large gathering from the town was with her.  13 And the Lord, seeing her, had compassion on her, and said to her, "Do not weep."  14 And he went up and touched the stretcher; and the bearers stood still.  And he said, "Young man, I say to thee, arise."  15 And he who was dead, sat up, and began to speak.  And he gave him to his mother.

16 But fear seized upon all, and they began to glorify God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us," and "God has visited his people."  17 And this report concerning him went forth throughout the whole of Judea, and all the country roundabout.

The Baptist's Deputation  18 And John's disciples brought him word of all these things.  19* And John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord, saying, "Art thou he who is to come, or shall we look for another?"

20 And when the men had come to him, they said, "John the Baptist has sent us to thee, saying, 'Art thou he who is to come, or shall we look for another?'"  21 In that very hour he cured many of diseases, afflictions and evil spirits, and to many who were blind he granted sight.  22 And he answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you have heard and seen: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise, the poor have the gospel preached to them.  23 And blessed is he who is not scandalized in me."

Christ's Witness Concerning John  24 Then, as the messengers of John left, he began to say to the crowds concerning John, "What did you go out to the desert to see?  A reed shaken by the wind?  25 But what did you go out to see?  A man clothed in soft garments?  Behold, those who wear fine clothes and live in luxury are in the houses of kings.  26 But what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  27* This is he of whom it is written,
'Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall make ready thy way before thee.' 
28 I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."

29* And when they had heard him, all the people and the publicans justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John.  30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers, not having been baptized by him, brought to naught God's purpose concerning themselves.

The Stubborn Children  31 "To what then shall I liken the men of this generation?  And what are they like?  32 They are like children sitting in the market place, calling to one another and saying,
'We have piped to you, and you have not danced; we have sung dirges, and you have not wept.' 
33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He has a devil.'  34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, 'Behold a man who is a glutton, and a wine-drinker, a friend of publicans and sinners!'  35* And wisdom is justified by all her children."

The Penitent Woman  36 Now one of the Pharisees asked him to dine with him; so he went into the house of the Pharisee and reclined at table.  37 And behold, a woman in the town who was a sinner, upon learning that he was at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment; 38 and standing behind him at his feet, she began to bathe his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with ointment.

39 Now when the Pharisee, who had invited him, saw it, he said to himself, "This man, were he a prophet, would surely know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner."

40 And Jesus answered and said, "Simon, I have something to say to thee."  And he said, "Master, speak."  41 "A certain money-lender had two debtors; the one owed five hundred denarii, the other fifty.  42 As they had no means of paying, he forgave them both.  Which of them, therefore, will love him more?"  43 Simon answered and said, "He, I suppose, to whom he forgave more."  And he said to him, "Thou hast judged rightly."  44 And turning to the woman, he said to Simon, "Dost thou see this woman?  I came into thy house; thou gavest me no water for my feet; but she has bathed my feet with tears, and has wiped them with her hair.  45 Thou gavest me no kiss; but she, from the moment she entered, has not ceased to kiss my feet.  46 Thou didst not anoint my head with oil; but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  47* Wherefore I say to thee, her sins, many as they are, shall be forgiven her, because she has loved much.  But he to whom little is forgiven, loves little."  48 And he said to her, "Thy sins are forgiven."  49 And they who were at table with him began to say within themselves, "Who is this man, who even forgives sins?"  50 But he said to the woman, "Thy faith has saved thee; go in peace."


19: The Baptist asked this question for the benefit of his disciples and the people.  He wished to convince them fully that Jesus was the Messias.

27: Mal. 3, 1; Isa. 40, 3.

29: Justified God: acknowledged in their baptism the mercy of God manifest in the Baptist's preaching.

35: The Pharisees and the lawyers were dissatisfied with the greater austerity of John as well as the more ordinary conduct of Jesus, who ate and drank with sinners and publicans.  Yet those who followed either John or Jesus found true wisdom or a divine plan in their different methods.

47: The parable appears at first sight to imply that the woman loved much because of the greatness of the sin remitted; but our Lord's words at the end indicate rather that her love was the cause of her pardon.