The importance of the redactor in Luke 18,9-14

John J. Kilgallen

According to many commentators, Lk 18,9 is clearly a Lucan addition 1; thus, Luke inherited vv. 10-14 2. What could the meaning of those verses 10-14 be, that Luke would be attracted to them?

Verses 10-14 are divisible into two parts. First, there is a parable concerning two men, a Pharisee and a toll collector. Second, there is Jesus' interpretive comment about these two men, with a further interpretive statement from him in proverbial form 3.

Since the core of the inherited matter is the parable, let us first consider it. "How does the parable make its judgment?" 4 The lesson it is supposed to yield is found in Jesus' interpretive comment: the latter (toll-collector) went home justified and the other (Pharisee) not. Can we find in the parable why Jesus' assessment is true? – for it is the most likely reason to explain why Luke took this story into his Gospel.

The central issue of the parable is the prayers of the two men. Certainly, the posture of each of them is also very important, but as is usual, actions are better understood because of words, and so it is to the words of each of these persons that I turn.

Obviously, the prayer of the Pharisee (perhaps together with his posture) leads to Jesus' assessment that the Pharisee is not justified. Why is he not justified?

On the one hand, the positive actions the Pharisee cites from his habitual behavior (fasting, paying tithes) are positive, all the more because they are supererogational 5. In themselves they represent an attempt to do more than what is required, and such an attempt seems to reveal an attitude to God and the Law which is praiseworthy.

On the other hand, the gratitude for not being grasping, unjust (or crooked), and adulterous shows not only a life free from these sins, but also a sensitivity to what is the most important choice in life, not to sin. Moreover, the gratitude for not being like the sinner reflects prayers such as Psalm 26, a sign that not being like the sinner, not wanting to be like the sinner, is a blessing. Indeed, the note of gratitude with which the prayer opens suggests that the Pharisee recognizes the role God plays in the Pharisee's avoidance of sin. The Pharisee prayed with head unbowed; should he not have? Why is he not justified? 6

The prayer of the toll collector is anguished, if beating the breast 7, standing afar off, and not raising the eyes are understood correctly. His prayer is limited: have mercy on me a sinner. Clearly, we are to assume from Jesus' interpretation of the parable that this cry for mercy is the act which occasions the justification of the toll-collector. Since no more is said about this man, one is left to imagine the implications, if any, of this prayer for the man's future moral life.

From the above analysis, it is hard to see why Jesus declared the Pharisee to be unjustified 8. Probably one has an easier time, with the admission of sin and call for mercy, understanding why he thought the toll-collector was justified (though one hopes that the toll-collector's prayer means that he will amend his ways).

Verse 14b offers some light, but only some. Being a proverb, the sentence offers meaning and borrows meaning. The meaning it offers is in terms of self-exaltation as most likely ending in humiliation at the hands of another, and of self-humiliation ending in exaltation at the hands of another. Self-glorification and self-humiliation, glorification and humiliation at the hands of another are, however, terms meant to fit many and varied situations and thus, for any one particular circumstance, call for further clarification precisely from the circumstances in which they appear to be apt.

When we look for self-exaltation, the unbowed head of the Pharisee and his pointing to his piety are acts which might fit self-exaltation. As noted, however, one must admit that such actions, when they appear in earlier Jewish prayer, are not viewed easily as self-exaltation. Self-humiliation can be applied to the posture and prayer of the toll collector; while there is not a great amount of public humiliation here, the toll collector certainly shows shame, and accuses himself implicitly and declares a need that someone else have mercy on him, if he is to enjoy happiness. Glorification and humiliation at the hands of another can be reasonably interpreted as justification and no justification by God, though obviously, religious justification and no justification would not easily be dictionary-type synonyms for glorification and humiliation at the hands of another.

Thus, while Jesus' addition of v. 14b to his assessment in v. 14a does offer further insight into the meaning of the parable, I do not think the terms themselves point out the exact nature of the non-justification of the Pharisee. Certainly, to repeat the above, "self" glorification has a ring of negativity to it, and so suggests the error of the Pharisee, but, to repeat the above, attention to what the man says does not yield a confident assessment that he is wrongfully exalting himself –especially to the point that he is not at all (or little) justified. Why, to state again my initial question, is a moral person declared not justified? In terms of the newly added proverb, why is he humiliated at God's hands, and, one might further ask, why is the toll collector glorified by God?

The key to understanding the parable correctly, i.e., in the sense that Luke understood it, is Luke's own verse 9 9. It is clear, first of all, that, whereas vv. 10-14 are equally concerned with two persons, Luke's introductory remark has the effect of limiting one's attention to certain people, most clearly identified with the Pharisee of the parable. From Luke's efforts, the toll collector moves from central character to a foil to the Pharisee 10.

Luke's opening to the parable and to the form of its assessments is obviously more than just a recital of time and place. The parable is told to (or against) certain (tinas) people 11. While the object of his remarks is rather general 12, the use of Pharisee in the parable, in a Gospel which is highly critical of Pharisees, makes one think they in particular are Luke's audience here.

What, however, is key in this Lucan introduction which might explain the judgement of Jesus on this Pharisee?

Verse 9, which introduces the parable and Jesus' judgements, is recognizably divisible into two parts: Jesus speaks to (against) those 1. who have confidence in themselves that (because 13) they are just and 2. who despise others. Is the first characteristic what makes the parable and its judgements intelligible?

Certainly there is a link, intentionally created, between the term "just" in this introductory verse and the term "being made just" used in the judgment of Jesus in v. 14a. Here redaction builds on tradition. The redactor makes sure that the reader knows that this group the redactor singles out in his verse is represented by the Pharisee of the parable, who serves to spell out more clearly, on behalf of those mentioned in the introductory verse, why they think they are just.

As noted above, it is hard to fault the Pharisee, and by virtue of the first half of the redactor's composition, those represented by the Pharisee. As the Pharisee's prayer is mirrored in respected prayers and attitudes in earlier Jewish tradition, so the redactor's use of "just" throughout his work suggests a very positive quality. Zachary and Elizabeth are called "just" (Luke 1,6), as is Simeon (2,25), certain resurrected (14,14; cf. also Acts 24,15), Joseph (23,50) and Jesus himself (23,47; cf. also Acts 3,14; 7,52; 22,14); in Acts, Cornelius is described as "just" (10,22). Reverent and fearing God, Cornelius's "justice" is revealed in concrete acts of almsgiving and prayer (Acts 10,2; cf. also 10,22); Peter describes people like Cornelius as fearing God and doing justice (Acts 10,35). Presumably, the "justice" Luke presents so positively is, in most cases the justice that comes from obedience to the will of God, expressed so often in the Law of Moses 14. Indeed, one can point to this sense of "just" by looking at those who "pretend justice" (Luke 20,20); the reason these people can pretend justice is that they pretend a concern to obey law. Are those described by Luke in 18,9 as confident of their justice to be considered suspect in their self-evaluation? The question returns to the Pharisee, their representative: wherein lies his false estimate of himself? Is there something amiss in his statement that he is not grasping 15, unjust 16, adulterous, that he goes beyond even the Law in fasting and paying tithes? In other words, there is little in the first half of Luke's introduction to vv. 10-14 to indicate why certain people are wrong, and "will be brought low", for their claim to be what, after all, many others merited to be called: "just" 17.

Somewhat laboriously I have arrived at the second half of Luke's consciously crafted introductory verse. Here we read that the objects of Jesus' parable and judgements "despise 18 the rest 19". First, one recognizes immediately a concrete quality placed here in this introductory verse, in contrast to the preceding, very general quality "just". Second, one recognizes, in the use of "and", what is, for Luke's Gospel, an impossible, though obviously attempted, marriage: "justice" and "despising the rest".

By Chapter 18, Luke has spent much time in emphasizing for Theophilus the need for love of all people, a love which goes far beyond self-benefiting love (Luke 6,32-34). If Jesus orders love of enemy (6,35), one is expected also to love all those who fall short of being an enemy. In the context of the specific character of the parable, Jesus in real life seeks the good of toll collectors (cf. Luke 5,32), even though extensively criticized for this (7,29), and he finds himself closely approached by "all the toll collectors" (15,1).

On the other hand, the verb to mean "despise, disdain, contemn" and at times "reject with contempt" and "treat with contempt" 20, manifests a clear wickedness. No reader, made sympathetic to Jesus in Luke's Gospel, can approve of this quality, especially when, by the conscious effort of the redactor, it extends to "the rest" 21. The appeal of the Good Samaritan story rests foremost on the realization that no one among "the rest" can be in any way despised. The only logical conclusion to that story regarding historic enemies is the advice of Jesus, in the wake of the enemy's actions: "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10,37).

From all this, the point to be made seems to be the following. Luke inherited a parable and at least one expression, if not two, of Jesus' judgment 22 about the two central figures of the parable. For his own teaching ends, Luke constructed an introductory statement which would tilt the parable towards interest in one of these two figures, the Pharisee. While it is unclear from the parable just whom the Pharisee might represent, it is very clear from Luke's introduction that the Pharisee stands for those 23 who have confidence in themselves that (because) they are just and (while) 24 they despise the rest. From Luke's introduction, in which he plays off "just" and "contempt", it is clear that Luke means here to claim an incompatibility, thus an impossibility that justice can sit in the same room (or soul) with contempt for the rest. Too much of the Lucan Gospel speaks to this incompatibility.

This introductory verse gives excellent clarity to what I have suggested is unclear about the parable and the judgments which follow. Whatever the balanced presentation of the Pharisee and the toll collector might suggest to the hearer of the parable, and whatever reason Jesus' words might suggest as the reason the Pharisee remains unjust and the toll collector becomes just, and whatever the sense the parable gives to the proverb of v. 14b, it is now clear that the Pharisee fails 25 to gain Jesus' favorable judgment because of his words "I thank you that ... I am not like this toll collector" (v. 11) 26. That statement, though one can argue that it reminds one of the holiness of the Psalmist, is not to read in any other way that as a statement of contempt. It is Luke who defines it that way.

In its own way, Luke's redactional verse also determines the meaning of the judgment Luke inherited from Jesus. Luke so reads the story that he knows Jesus' authoritative judgment to be founded, not on the good deeds of the Pharisee, but on what Luke presumes to be Jesus' complaint against the Pharisee: contempt for the rest. As elsewhere (Luke 11,42) Jesus had said about the Pharisees that "these are the things you should practice (justice and the love of God), without omitting the others (paying tithes), so Jesus can be said here to refuse justification to the Pharisee 27, the representative of those who think they are just, because he has refused what is for Jesus the essential of what makes one worthy to enter eternal life (cf. Luke 10, 25-28).

Thus, crucial to the interpretation of the entire story Luke presents in 18,10-14 is Luke's own reading of the matter. By the very fact that he presents vv. 10-14 at length allows these verses to have their own impact on the reader, an impact which was, one can always assume to be, part of the dynamism of the story as it existed before it came to Luke.

It is then when one considers this earlier existence of the story, that one can ask just what is implied in the toll collector's brief prayer, because of which he merits to be called just. Indeed, the title "just" seems to belong to those who "do", who "struggle", to enter the kingdom of God; how does what appears to be a simple call for mercy fit in here? But, as the story stands now, Luke has definitely turned attention to the first person of the parable, and made clear, from his v. 9, that justice will not be assigned to those who will, for all the rest of the Law that they obey, contemn "the rest" 28. Here is a good example of how redaction interpreted what it inherited from Jesus, so that those words might speak very clearly to Theophilus and his community. As often happened, Jesus' parables were to varying degrees mystifying; not only once, I am sure, people asked him, "What is the meaning of the parable?" (Luke 8,9). In the case we have studied, it fell to Luke to read out of the parable and its attendant judgments the lesson he thought would contribute excellently to the good of his audience. In brief, there is no standing before God for those who, whatever other good they do, despise others.


Regarding the story of Luke 18, 9-14 there is disagreement among exegetes as to the reason why, in Jesus' view, the Pharisee did not return home justified. In what did the Pharisee fail? This essay suggests that the answer to this question is to be found in the introductory verse Luke gives to his reader; v. 9 makes clear how Luke read his inherited material (more likely than not including v. 14b) and wanted his reader to understand it. Whereas vv. 10-14 had to do with both Pharisee and Publican, v. 9 turns the reader's attention to the Pharisee and to the reason all his good deeds did not bring him justification.

1 E.g., A. PLUMMER, Gospel According to S. Luke (ICC; Edinburgh 41913) 416: "...this preface is the Evangelist's"; E. ELLIS, The Gospel of Luke (London 1966) 214: "Luke introduces (9) and concludes (14b) the story"; G. SCHNEIDER, Evangelium nach Lukas 2 (Gütersloh 1977) 363 : "Lukas hat das Gleichnis (18,10-14a) "gerahmt'"; J. FITZMYER, The Gospel According to Luke (AB 28a; Garden City 1983) 1183:"Luke has provided the introductory v. 9, which is written in characteristically Lucan style (see J. JEREMIAS. Die Sprache, 272; Cf. HST 193, 335)"; G. ROSSÉ, Il Vangelo di Luca (Roma 1992) 691: "Luca ha preso la parabola dalla tradizione propria, inquadrandola in una introduzione (v.9) e una conclusione (v.14b) redazionali, reinterpretandola così per i suoi lettori".

2 ELLIS, Luke, 214: " is tempted to think that he [Luke] heard it first as a 'Jesus tradition' related by Paul".

3 There are various opinions regarding v. 14b. For instance, ELLIS, Luke, 216 suggests: "14b ... perhaps an independent saying of Jesus". W. WIEFEL, Das Evangelium nach Lukas (THkNT 3; Berlin 1988) 317 considers 14b to be not from Jesus, and "eine Zufügung"; E. KLOSTERMANN, Das Lukasevangelium (HXNT 5; Tübingen 31975) 181: "ein Zusatz". I. MARSHALL, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan 1978) 681: "The comment may belong organically here". J. ERNST, Das Evangelium nach Lukas (RNT; Regengsburg 1976) 498: "Der verallgemeinernde Schlusssatz ... dürfte auf das Konto der Redaktion gehen...". PLUMMER, Luke, 420, asks: "Why is it assumed that Jesus did not repeat his sayings?" M.-J. LAGRANGE, Evangile selon Saint Luc (Paris 1948) 478: "Notre-Seigneur ... a sans doute prononcé plus d'une fois cette sentence (xiv,ll; M'I'. xxiii,12) qui est très bien appropriée... ". J. SCHMID, Das Evangelium nach Lukas (RNT 3; Regensburg 41960) 283: "v. 14b spricht also nicht die Moral der Parabel aus und ist zu ihrer Vollständigkeit nicht notwendig, und darum auch kein ursprünglicher Bestandteil von ihr" (an opinion repeated word-for-word in ERNST, Lukas, 498). FITZMYER, Luke, 1183: " seems more likely that he [Luke] left standing a more generic conclusion to the parable which was already present in "L"; SCHNEIDER, Evangelium, 365 agrees with this.

4 B. SCOTT, Hear Then the Parable (Minneapolis 1989) 97.

5 L.F. GARCÍA-VIANA, Evangelio según San Lucas (MNT 3; Salamanca 1989)169 speaks of "El fariseo, que hace más de lo que exigía la ley…". MARSHALL, Luke, 677 describes the Pharisee as exceeding the requirements of the OT Law"; 679, "going beyond legal requirements". ELLIS, Luke, 215: "The Pharisee greatly exceeded ,the normal requirements...". PLUMMER, Luke, 418 speaks of "supererogation".

6 PLUMMER, Luke, 417: There is no hint that he was lying in acquitting himself of gross and flagrant crimes"; on the other hand Plummer will also say: "There is no prayer, even in form... And only in form is this utterance a thanksgiving". ELLIS, Luke, 215: "These were sincere convictions...". ROSSÉ, Luca, 695: "… il fariseo sa… questa sua vita così impeccabile... è un dono di Dio; e per questo ringrazia". SCHNEIDER, Lukas, 364: "Es ist kaum ein ostentatives Beten gedacht... es zählt in V 11b unterlassene Sünden und in V 12 Leistungen auf. Der Pharisäer wird nicht karikiert... Er dankt Gott für seine Frömmigkeit". ERNST, Lukas, 146: "Der Pharisäer war in der Tat fromm". E. LINNEMANN Gleichnisse Jesu (Göttingen 71978) 65: "Wir dürfen es auch nicht als hochmütige Verachtung ansehen, wenn er sagt: 'Ich danke Dir, Gott, dass ich nicht bin wie...'; "ein echter Dankgebet für Gottes gnädige Führung".

7 MARSHALL, Luke, 680: "The breast or heart is regarded as the seat of sin, and hence the act [of beating upon it] is one of grief or contrition".

8 But we are warned by J. NOLLAND, Luke 9:21–18:34 (WBC 35 B; Dallas 1993) 877: "In ways that are at first not easy to put one's finger on, something seems not quite right".

9 ROSSÉ, Luca, 693: "Con questo versetto [v. 9]... l'evangelista orienta il giudizio del lettore verso un'interpretazione moralizzante della parabola". SCOTT, Parable, 94: "Without Luke"s introduction a hearer would not automatically and initially think of the Pharisee as a negative caricature". Contrary to seeing Luke's introductory verse as determining the sense of the parable, EVANS, Luke, 641: "As with some other Lukan parables the picture is somewhat blurred by the introduction and conclusion, which may represent Lukes own deductions from the story".

10 J. ERNST, Lukas (Düsseldorf 1985) 146: "Der reuige Sünder ist der Mann des Evangeliums, der selbstgerechte Pharisäer hat nur noch der Wert einer Kontrastfigur". While this may be the case if one considers the parable without the introductory v. 9, and while this may be the case if one considers what attitude is most consistent with the Gospel and Acts and most praised, I believe that from a narratological point of view v. 9 has altered the roles of the two men at prayer, so that emphasis is placed more heavily on the figure of the Pharisee.

11 Opinions here differ notably. KLOSTERMANN, Lukasevangelium, 179: "pros – wohl wie gewöhnlich 'zu', nicht 'gegen', auch nicht 'mit Rücksicht auf'". Evans, Luke, 642: "to whom... with reference to... against whom". MARSHALL, Luke, 678: "Pros may indicate the persons to whom the parable is addressed (Klostermann) or possibly the people 'against' whom it is directed (20:19)". FITZMYER, Luke, 1185: "Possibly one should translate pros + acc. in this instance as 'against some'. LAGRANGE, Luc, 475: "Pros ne signifie pas 'contre' ".

12 NOLLAND, Luke, 875: "...centrally, not necessarily exclusively of certain of the Pharisees". ROSSÉ, Luca, 692: "L'evangelista racconta la parabola a chi è intimamente persuaso di essere giusto...".

13 MARSHALL, Luke, 678-679: "Pepoithotas eph' 'eautois is taken by Jeremias Parables 139, n.38, to mean that they trusted in themselves rather than in God; if so, hoti must be translated 'because', giving the reason for their self-confidence, rather than 'that', stating the content of their self-confidence"; cf. also EVANS, Luke, 642; contra, Klostermann, Lukasevangelium, 179: "...wohl nicht 'weil' "; M. GOULDER, Luke 2 (JSNTSS 20; Sheffield 1989) 669: "hardly 'because' ".

14 LAGRANGE, Luc, 475: "dikaioi: ceux qui observaient la Loi".

15 MARSHALL, Luke, 679: "robber, swindler".

16 MARSHALL, Luke, 679: "swindler, cheat".

17 Contra, L. SABOURIN, Il Vangelo di Luca (Roma 1995) 296: "Egli non esprime... l'intenzione di riparare ai torti commessi; qui l'insegnamento concerne l'attegiamento interiore necessario, da cui tutto il resto dipende".

18 Plummer, Luke, 416: "a strong word"; NOLLAND, Luke, 876: "disparaging and offhand dismissal..."; R. TANNEHILL, Luke (Nashville 1996) 266: "regarded others with contempt".

19 PLUMMER, Luke, 416: "all others"; FITZMYER, Luke, 1185: "all others".

20 W. BAUER, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, tran. from the fourth German edition by W. ARNDT and F. GINGRICH (Chicago 1957) 277.

21 FITZMYER, Luke, 1187: "the rest of mankind".

22 PLUMMER, Luke, 419: "Here Christ once more claims to know the secrets both of man's heart and of God's judgments"; LAGRANGE, Luc, 475: "...Le Sauveur conforme ce verdict de la conscience en nous faisant connaître celui de Dieu".

23 Not uncommon is the opinion of SCHNEIDER, Lukas, 364: "…so ist das Gleichnis im Sinne des Lukas zugleich eine Mahnung, die (reuigen) Sünder in der Gemeinde nicht zu verachten...".

24 In the light of Luke's intent to contrast characteristics in v. 9, it seems justifiable to see here an example of an adversative kai: "Kai can be used even where there is actual contrast (at times 'and yet')", F. BLASS, A. DEBRUNNER, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament, ff. tran. from the ninth-tenth German edition by R. FUNK (Chicago 1961) #442(1), 227.

25 Contra, FITZMYER, Luke, 1184: "We are never told what sin the Pharisee commits...".

26 TANNEHILL, Luke, 266: "Even more clearly, the prayer shows that this Pharisee 'regarded others with contempt' "; the prayer shows this, it is my contention, only because or Luke's interpretation of it.

27 EVANS, Luke, 642: "The further characteristic 'and despised others (='the rest')', is taken from v. 11, but is this only one feature of the parable, and that a subordinate one". In my view these last words are indefensible.

28 ROSSÉ, Luca, 697: "[Il fariseo] associa il suo ringraziamento a Dio con il disprezzo degli altri uomini".