A commentary on the Sayings of Jesus

"Aramaic poetry was characterised by rhyme, rhythm, parallelism of verse structure ....."
J.W.Bowman in Peak's Commentary on the Bible (1962), p.738
All these sayings are poetic aphorisms. Two-thirds of them exhibit parallelism in one form or another. As this is a primary characteristic of Semitic poetry, an origin in the Greek language can be ruled out, whereas an origin in the Aramaic language is highly plausible.
There are two separate pages on this site which deal with the context of a saying within the set of 72 sayings.
  1. For the context of a saying among its immediate neighbours, see the columns headed 'internal links' in each of the four tables in The structure of the logia
  2. For the 36 pairings, see The 36 links connecting the 72 sayings into pairs

id comment


Mt 5:3-8,11-12 // Lk 6:20-23

Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are the hungry, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are you when people hate you and insult you,
and say all sorts of evil against you on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven,
for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Mathew has nine blessings whereas Luke has only four. Most supporters of Q think Luke has kept the original number, and some go even further, positing that Luke's four woes were also in the original. It is more likely that there were originally seven blessings matching the seven woes, and that Matthew added two extra blessings, whereas Luke omitted three in order to leave four blessings to which he added four corresponding woes. Is there any evidence for this? Indeed there is. Consider Luke's blessings. The first two have links to the first two of the seven woes (D1-D7), for the first blessing and the first woe both refer to the kingdom of God; the second blessing is on the hungry, and the second woe mentions a plate. Luke's penultimate blessing is of those who weep, and the penultimate woe is about burdens (which might well make people weep). The last blessing refers to persecution of the prophets, and the last woe refers to shedding the blood of the prophets. We then need to introduce three more blessings from Matthew to make the number up to seven. 'Blessed are the merciful' (Mt 5:7) could have corresponded to Tithe mint which mentions mercy. 'Blessed are the meek' (Mt 5:5) could have corresponded to Craving respect, describing behaviour which is the opposite of being meek. 'Blessed are the pure in heart' (Mt 5:8) could have corresponded to Unmarked graves, which again describes an opposite, this time the opposite of purity. Of course we also need evidence that these sayings are not Matthew's creation. It is not hard to find. Mt 5:5,7,8 and 9 "do not display typical Matthean vocabulary or interests" [Davies & Allison I (1988) 434].
However Davies & Allison are wrong about Mt 5:9 because a blessing on peacemakers ties in perfectly with Matthew's redactional comment that "all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Mt 26:52), and with his portrayal of Jesus as refusing the temptation to strive for world dominion in Mt 4:8-10, c.f. [Brandon (1967) 305-312]. Therefore Mt 5:9 does display a typically Matthean interest, and it is unlikely to have been in the logia.
The first blessing is on the "poor" in Luke, but on the "poor in spirit" in Matthew. There should be no doubt that Luke's "poor" was in the logia. Matthew's phrase is ambiguous, "in spirit" sounds like a typical Matthean addition, and omitting "in spirit" seems less likely than adding it. Matthew moved the saying about those who mourn into second place, and the saying about the meek into third place, in order to establish in the first three places those blessings which have the clearest allusions to Isaiah 61, c.f. [Davies & Allison I (1988) 437]. He also composed two of his own blessings (Mt 5:9-10). Matthew probably altered "hate" (as in Luke) to "persecute". The four occurrences of "persecute" in the Sermon on the Mount are all redactional according to [Fleddermann (2005) 279 n.217]. Although there is not much difference between Matthew's "mourn" and Luke's "weep", the former is to be preferred because it occurs also in Luke's woes (Lk 6:25). It also improves the link with Burdens, c.f. the people of God mourning because they are oppressed [Davies & Allison I (1988) 448].
Luke's "leap" (6:23) appears to represent an inferior translation of the Aramaic for "rejoice" or "be glad", rendered more accurately by Matthew (5:12) according to M.Black. A final point about the reconstruction of the beatitudes is that in the last one, Luke's "of the Son of Man" is more likely to represent the original than Matthew's "my", because Matthew replaced Mark's "the Son of Man" with "he" in Mt 16:21. The beatitudes appear somewhat innocuous, so their omission by Mark may seem puzzling. It was probably related to the first and most prominent blessing, namely that of the poor. The link with poverty was so important to the original disciples that their collection of the sayings of Jesus began with "Blessed are the poor ...". Also Paul wrote "they would have us remember the poor" (Gal 2:10). In trying to distance himself from them, Mark did not want to propagate the blessing on them. His attitude was that the poor were not very important (Mk 14:7).

The first six blessings are linked by synthetic parallelism.

The original order of the blessings as now set out is supported by the one-to-one relationship between the blessings in A1 and the woes in D1-D7, forming an additional series of links:
1. kingdom of God // kingdom of God
2. hungry // plate
3. mercy // mercy
4. meek // (the opposite) choosing places of honour
5. pure in heart // (the opposite) whitewashed tombs
6. mourn // burdens
7. prophets of old persecuted // prophets of old persecuted

The opening clause: "Blessed are you poor" must indicate one of the primary concerns of the editor. It matches perfectly the concern of James, Peter and John (Gal 2:9-10a), to which Paul responded not only with words (Gal 2:10b), but also with deeds (2Cor 8 & 9; Rom 15:26). It clearly indicates the Sitz im Leben of the logia: a collection of Jesus' sayings edited by James et al. in Jerusalem.


......... Mk 9:50 ..............
Mt 5:13 ......... // Lk 14:34-35

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt becomes insipid, how will you season it?
It is no longer fit for the earth or the dunghill, but is thrown out and trodden underfoot.
The "You" refers to the "you" in the last stanza of A1.
"It is no longer fit for the earth" makes better sense if Matthew's "You are the salt of the earth" was in the original saying, as reconstructed above. The word here meant "earth" in the sense of "ground" as in Mt 10:29, so however Matthew understood it in 5:13, it did not originally imply a mission to Gentiles as in Matthew's "You are the light of the world".
The second "earth" was correctly retained by Luke.
The similarity between Mt 5:13b ("It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out ...") and Lk 14:35ab ("It is fit neither for ... nor for ... men throw it away"), and their positions in the Sermon on the Mount and the main non-Markan block in Luke respectively, show that the Matthean and Lukan texts did not derive from Mark. Mark reflects the original Aramaic "becomes insipid" (Greek: αναλον γενηται). The word used in both Matthew and Luke "becomes foolish" (Greek: μωρανθη) is a mistranslation, c.f. [Davies & Allison I (1988) 474]. Luke's "the earth or the dunghill" is more graphic than Matthew's "nothing", and therefore more likely to have been the original text. For the same reason, Matthew's "is thrown out and trodden underfoot" should be accepted rather than Luke's "they throw it away". Mark's enigmatic addition (“Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” 9:50b) looks like a somewhat clumsy attempt at an alternative ending.

The words "kingdom" and "salt" in the respective first lines of sayings A1 and A2 look and sound somewhat similar in Hebrew. If this is also the case in Aramaic, it would indicate a deliberate play on words set up by the editor of the logia when he chose A2 as the second logia saying.

Lighting a lamp

........ Mk 4:21 // ... Lk 8:16
Mt 5:15 ........ // .. Lk 11:33

No one after lighting a lamp
puts it under a measuring bowl,
but on a lampstand,
and it gives light to all in the house.
The saying "presupposes the typical , one room Palestinian peasant's dwelling" [Davies & Allison I (1988) 477]. Mt 5:15, which was probably not dependent on Mk 4:21, agrees with the latter on the reading "under a measuring bowl". Also this reading is a better match with "on a lampstand" than is Luke's "in a cellar", which adds to the likelihood that it was original. The last line is from Mt 5:15. The word "house" here brings to mind the "house of Israel", and for this reason is probably original. This association with a specifically Jewish mission ("gives light to all in the house") may explain why Mark omitted the line, and why Luke replaced it in 8:16 and 11:33 by "so that those who enter may see the light".

The saying exhibits chiasm, with the first and fourth lines concerning light and the middle lines concerning where the lamp is placed.


Mt 24:35 // Mk 13:31 // .. Lk 21:33
Mt 5:18 ............ // .. Lk 16:17

It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away
than for one stroke in a letter of the law to be dropped.
In his presentation of Christianity to the Gentiles, Mark could not tolerate the Jewish insistence on the permanence of their law. So he transformed this saying into a commendation of the permanence of the words of Jesus: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away". Matthew's "until all is accomplished" is obviously redactional.

Your accuser

Mt 5:25-26 // Lk 12:58-59

While you are on the way to court with your accuser, come to terms with him promptly;
otherwise he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer.
And you will be thrown into jail.
Truly I tell you, you will not be let out from there until you have paid the last penny..
The last line must surely be a reference to hell, so the accuser was a metaphor for Satan, and the saying is hinting at the last judgement, c.f. [Goulder, Luke, 559].

The role of the judge indicates Jewish territory [Davies & Allison I (1988) 519]. This may be why Mark, with his focus on the mission to Gentiles, omitted the saying.
Luke introduced the "magistrate" (Lk 12:58) to bring the passage into line with Hellenistic-Roman legal practice [Fleddermann (2005) 654].

Hand & eye

Mt 18:8-9 .. // Mk 9:43,47
Mt 5:30,29 ...............

If your right hand is causing your downfall,
cut it off and throw it away;
it is better for you to enter life maimed
than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

And if your right eye is causing your downfall,
pluck it out and throw it away;
it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into hell.
This aphorism should be allocated to the logia because it is a doublet in Matthew, and because one member of the doublet (Mt 5:30,29) is clearly set amongst non-Markan material, while the other member is clearly dependent on Mk 9:43,47.

In the logia the sentence about the hand preceded the sentence about the eye, as in Mark.
The word "hell" translates the Greek γεεννα, which in turn transliterates the Aramaic word for the Valley of Hinnom, which contained a vile rubbish tip and became a metaphor for hell. Omitting "right" (as do Mk 9:43,47) leaves the ambiguous "your hand" and "your eye", where we might expect "one of your hands/eyes". In Mt 5, Matthew has reversed the order of the two warnings so that the sentence about the eye immediately follows the lustful gaze of Mt 5:28. As reconstructed from Matthew, both parts of the saying may have sexual implications [Davies & Allison I (1988) 523-27]. So Mark could have added the section concerning the foot (Mk 9:45) in order to make it less likely that his audience would think of such implications. Mark also embellished the punishments (9:43c,48). Luke did not reproduce this logia saying. Perhaps they were too barbarous for this most scholarly of the gospel writers.

The two stanzas constitute a good example of Semitic parallelism, with each conveying the same message through a different body part. The saying is also a good example of hyperbole, in which "Exaggeration jolts the hearers into a new perception" [Bailey & Vander Broek (1992) 102].


Mt 19:9 // Mk 10:11-12 ..............
Mt 5:32 .............. // .. Lk 16:18

Any man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery,
and he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
It is clear that the part about a man committing adultery by marrying a divorced woman must have been in the original saying, because it appears in Lk 16:18 as well as in Mt 5:32. Matthew's "except for unchastity" is not in Lk 16:18 and is widely regarded as redactional. Mark's "if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" is clearly not original because in Jewish law a woman could not divorce her husband. The clause reflects a society subject to Roman law, c.f. [Hooker (1991) 236-37]. Mark set the saying as the climax of a story centred around an encounter between Jesus and some Pharisees (10:2-12).

Love your enemies

Mt 5:39b-48 // Lk 6:27-30,32-36

If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well;
and if anyone wants to sue you to get your shirt, let him have your coat as well.
Give to anyone who begs from you,
and from one who borrows, do not ask to get back what is yours.

Love your enemies and pray for those who abuse you,
so that you may become sons of your Father,
for he makes the sun shine on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the just and the unjust.

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what reward do you have?
Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

So be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.
Matthew has preserved the order better than Luke, for it is more logical with the singular of "If anyone strikes you ..." in the first stanza developing into the plural of the other stanzas. Also Luke's version of 'Golden rule' is out of place in the middle of this saying. Matthew appears to treat it correctly as a separate saying. On the other hand, Matthew's introductory sentences starting "You have heard that it was said ..." are typically Matthean, c.f. Mt 5:27 and 5:32. Also the sentence about going the second mile in 5:41 must have been added by Matthew. It depends on the Roman soldiers' habit of forcing civilians to carry loads, which would not have been readily tolerated, let alone encouraged, by a group which included a zealot (Lk 6:15). Matthew's clauses about sun and rain (5:45) are more graphic than Luke's "he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish" (Lk 6:35c), and are therefore likely to have been in the original. However, sending rain is better matched with making the sun shine, rather than making the sun rise (Mt 5:45). Matthew's "rise" was probably a misunderstanding of an ambiguous Aramaic word, c.f. [Davies & Allison I (1988) 555]. Luke changed both "tax collectors" and "Gentiles" to "sinners" for the benefit of his predominantly non-Jewish audience. Luke's "compassionate" is to be preferred to Matthew's "perfect", which Matthew introduced into a Markan story in Mt 19:21. Mark may have omitted this saying because it portrays tax collectors and Gentiles as alien.

The parallelism in each of the three four-line stanzas is strong evidence for the Semitic origin of the saying.

Blind guide

Mt 15:14 // Lk 6:39

Can a blind man lead a blind man?
Will they not both fall into a pit?
Matthew's version has a single statement, whereas Luke's version has two rhetorical questions. These also occur in e.g. sayings A13, A19 and C14, so I take Luke's version to be the original here.

This saying was probably directed against the Pharisees, c.f. "You blind guides" in saying D3.


Mt 10:24-25 // Lk 6:40

A disciple is not above his teacher;
it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher.
The sentence about Beelzebul in Mt 10:25 seems to have been the raison d'etre for Matthew adding the slave/master comparison to an already existing disciple/teacher comparison.
However the meaning of the disciple/teacher comparison has baffled commentators on Luke and Q [Allison (1997) 94]. I offer a radical solution. The saying is linked to the previous one about the blind leading the blind. The accusation of being blind was applied to the Pharisees in sayings D2 and D3. Paul was a Pharisee (Php 3:5), and after the revelation about Jesus being the Son of God (Gal 1:15-16), Paul visited Peter ca. CE 37 and stayed with him for 15 days (Gal 1:18). Therefore the "disciple" could have been Paul and the "teacher" Jesus (so identified in the first line of saying B1), with the meaning that Paul had placed Jesus in a higher position (the "Son of God") than Jesus had placed himself (as the "Son of Man" in e.g. saying B1).

Be like a child

....... // Mk 10:15 // Lk 18:17
Mt 18:3 .......................

Whoever does not change and become again like a child
will never enter the kingdom of God.
Mt 18:3 is tentatively attributed to a non-Markan source in [Davies & Allison I I (1991) 756]. Its lesson in humility parallels that in C11 ('Humble exalted'). These two considerations make it highly likely that 'Be like a child' was in the logia.

Mark softened the saying, replacing “become again like a child ” with “receive the kingdom of God like a child”.

A Semitic original may lie behind the Greek of "become again like", c.f. [Davies & Allison II (1991) 758].

Eye of needle

Mt 19:24 // Mk 10:25 // Lk 18:25

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle
than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
Taken without its Markan context, this saying is highly likely to have been in the logia. It is a good example of an aphorism containing hyperbole (c.f. A log in your eye). Its dig at the rich perfectly complements the opening words of the first beatitude: “Blessed are the poor”.

It is clear from their contexts that Matthew and Luke were both following Mark here. We may reasonably suppose that Matthew and Luke were uneasy about the saying's implications for rich people, but were happy to include it together with its Markan context in which it is pointed out that for God, anything is possible.

This saying is a good example of antithetic parallelism in which the second line contrasts with the first.

A log in your eye

Mt 7:3-5 // Lk 6:41-42

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye,
but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

How can you say to your brother: "Let me take the speck out of your eye",
when there is a log in your own eye?

You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
The texts of Matthew and Luke here are almost identical, and none of the differences are important. This saying looks impressive in English, where each line ends with the word "eye". It is a good example of hyperbole. Also the saying is partially chiastic, with lines one and six mentioning the speck in your brother's eye, and lines two and five mentioning the log in your own eye.

Each of the three stanzas exhibits antithetic parallelism.

Do not judge

.......... Mk 4:24 ...............
Mt 7:1-2 ........... // Lk 6:37-38

Do not judge, and you will not be judged;
for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.
Matthew's "For with the judgement you make you will be judged" is a redactional elaboration of 7:1a [Davies & Allison I (1988) 669].
In Greek, Luke's "good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over" contains some characteristically Lukan terminology [Goulder, Luke, 367] so these words are very unlikely to have been derived from the Aramaic logia.

This couplet exhibits parallelism.

Pearls to pigs

Mt 7:6

Do not give your rings to the dogs,
and do not throw your pearls to the pigs,
lest they trample them underfoot
and turn to attack you.
This saying appears between 'A log in your eye' and 'Ask then receive' in the text of Matthew, thus lending support to its presence in the logia. It was probably rejected by Mark and Luke because “dogs” was a term often used to refer to Gentiles (c.f. Mk 7:27).

Matthew's "what is holy" is a mistranslation of the Aramaic for "ring" [Black (1967) 200]. This restores the poetic balance of the first two lines, with rings and pearls, dogs and pigs.

The stanza is chiastic, with pigs which trample in the middle lines, and dogs which attack in the outer lines.

Two gates

Mt 7:13-14 // Lk 13:24

Enter by the narrow gate.

For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction,
and those who enter through it are many.
But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life,
and those who find it are few.
Luke has an introductory verse (And someone said to him, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?", Lk 13:23) which was clearly intended to link the saying into his narrative. Matthew refers to a gate, whereas Luke refers to a door. Most supporters of Q think that "door" was original. They are wrong. Luke got himself into a muddle by confusing a narrow gate with a shut door, c.f. [Goulder (1989) 572-73]. The reconstruction here follows Matthew, c.f. Schulz and Guelich [Davies & Allison I (1988) 695, n1] Mark portrayed the Christians as “many” (Mk 10:45), so he omitted this saying, with its more restrictive portrayal of the followers of Jesus as “few”.

The main stanza exhibits antithetic parallelism.

Good tree

Mt 7:15-18 // Lk 6:43-44

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing
but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
You will know them by their fruits.
Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?

Every good tree bears pleasant fruit,
but the rotten tree bears evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bear evil fruit,
nor can a rotten tree bear pleasant fruit.
In the last section of the logia, false prophets are a prelude to the imminent coming of the Son of Man. So although the first two lines in the above stanza are only recorded by Matthew, they probably came from the logia, which was written at a time when the return of Jesus was still seen to be imminent. In Mt 7:19-20 the use of the phrase "thrown into the fire" (one of Matthew's favourite scenarios) indicates Matthean redaction. But I take Mt 7:15-18 to be a faithful translation of the original Aramaic version in the logia, apart from the superfluous "so" which in Mt 7:17 starts the sentence after "thistles" and is a word favoured by Matthew more than Luke. The reference to "evil" fruit (Gk πονηρος, c.f. Mt 7:17) looks strange. This word may have been chosen by the editor of the logia in order to produce three consecutive sayings referring to good and evil (A17, A18 and A19), just as the following three sayings use the verb "do". Luke understandably preferred to describe the fruit as "rotten" (Gk σαπρος , Lk 6:43).

The last two lines show the clearest parallelism, in this case antisynthetic.

Good treasure

Mt 12:34-35 // Lk 6:45

The good person out of good treasure produces good things,
and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil things.
Good words cannot come from people who are evil,
for out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.
The third line is a likely reconstruction based on Mt 12:34. Luke may have considered it superfluous. But in Lk 6:45 there is a mismatch between "good things" and speech. So the above balanced couplets, with the first two lines dealing with things (deeds?) and the third and fourth lines dealing with speech, probably constituted the original poetic saying.
The saying could be taken as supporting a fatalistic attitude (‘there are good people ... and there are evil people ...’), so Mark with his message of believing and being saved, had good reason to omit it.
Matthew's subsequent "I tell you this ..." indicates that a new thought follows [Davies & Allison II (1991) 350], so 12:36-37 represents Matthew's redactional addition to the original saying.

Semitic parallelism is evident between lines 1 and 2, and between lines 3 and 4.

Ask then receive

Mt 21:22 .. // Mk 11:24 .............
Mt 7:7-11 ............. // Lk 11:9-13

Ask, and you will receive;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and the door will be opened to you.

For everyone who asks, receives;
and whoever seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Which person among you, if your son asks you for a fish, will give him a snake?
Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?
So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him?
With a sayings source which, unlike Q, has no Temptation story and no preceding prayer mentioning bread, it should be obvious that Luke's 'egg' and 'scorpion' are original. Matthew almost certainly altered them to 'bread' and 'stone' respectively in order to match the bread and stones in Mt 4:3. Mark's version in Mk 11:24 is merely a summary of this logia saying, probably to save space. Matthew's "good things" is to be preferred against Luke's "Holy Spirit" because it is a better match with the "good gifts" of the previous line, and there is no indication elsewhere in the saying that its application is specifically to spiritual gifts.

The parallelism in all three stanzas indicates the Semitic origin of the saying.

Golden rule

Mt 7:12 // Lk 6:31

Just as you want people to do to you,
so you should do to them.
The only substantial difference between the text of Matthew and Luke here is that Matthew added "for this is the law and the prophets". We can be confident of this because the combination of law and prophets is typical of Matthew. Mark probably omitted this saying because it is too far from the heart of the Pauline gospel.

The saying exhibits synthetic parallelism.

This and the next two sayings were all about doing. Bearing in mind that the previous three were all about good and evil, the assembly of three sayings about doing looks like the work of the editor of the logia. Consequently the Lukan positioning of this saying in the middle of his adaptation of 'Love enemies' was due to Luke, and not his source.


Mt 7:21-23 // Lk 6:46; 13:26-27

Not everyone who says to me: "Master, master" will enter the kingdom of God,
but whoever does the will of the Father.
On that day many will say to me: "We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets".
But I will declare to them: "I do not know you; depart from me you evildoers".
The reconstruction here is based on Mt 7:21-22a + Lk 13:26bc + Mt 7:23, though it is Matthew who retained the structure and continuity of the saying. The will of the Father is referred to also in saying C1('Kingdome come!') and is therefore not a peculiarly Matthean concept as many commentators claim. Matthew's 'prophesy, cast out demons and do deeds of power' was obviously intended as a more dramatic form of the mundane 'ate and drank and taught' which appears in the text of Luke. Luke's repetition of "I do not know where you come from" suggests he has added one of the scenarios. He seems to have added the shut door scenario to blend in with the narrow door in Lk 13:24. Mark's gospel was probably written in Rome, and so "We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets" would not have resonated with Mark's primary audience, hence the omission from his gospel.

Rock or sand

Mt 7:24-27 // Lk 6:47-49

Everyone who hears my words and does them,
is like a man who built his house on rock.
The rain came down, the floods rose, the winds blew and battered that house;
but it did not fall because it had been founded on rock.

And everyone who hears my words and does not do them,
is like a man who built his house on sand.
The rain came down, the floods rose, the winds blew and battered that house;
and immediately it collapsed, and it fell with a great crash.
The only important difference here between Matthew and Luke is that Matthew refers to a wise man and a foolish man in the first and second parts of this saying respectively. Obviously they belong together. "foolish" or "fool" (Greek: μωρος) occurs elsewhere in Matthew five times, in each case redactionally. Therefore "wise" and "foolish" were almost certainly not in Rock or sand. This vivid saying commends the man who builds his house on rock (Aramaic: ‘Cefas’; Greek: πετρος). Corinthian supporters of Peter (1 Cor 1:12) would surely not have been able to resist the temptation to present the apostle Peter as the rock on which to build their faith. Mark had a very low regard for Peter (e.g. presenting him as denying Jesus), and probably omitted 'Rock or sand' because of its word association with Peter.

The two stanzas are related to each other line by line in an antithetic relationship.

The message is clear and memorable. In the synoptic gospels, this final saying in the first section of the logia became in Matthew the final saying in the Sermon on the Mount, and in Luke the final saying in the Sermon on the Plain.

Following Jesus

Mt 4:18-22 // Mk 1:16-20 .............
Mt 8:19-22 ............. // Lk 9:57-62

Someone said to him: "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go".
And Jesus said to him: "Foxes have dens,
and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head".

To another he said: "Follow me".
But he said: "Master, first let me go and bury my father".
But Jesus said to him: "Let the dead bury their own dead;
but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God".
Both Matthew and Luke have an introduction to this saying, intended to integrate it into their respective narratives. Matthew has "And a scribe came up ..." and Luke has "As they were going along the road ...". Neither of these formed part of the original saying. In the first encounter Matthew has "Teacher" but Luke omits the word. It was almost certainly present in the logia balancing "Master" in the second encounter. In the second encounter, "first" in Mt 8:21 hangs in the air [Davies & Allison I I (1991) 54], but it makes sense after "To another he said 'follow me'", so clearly this clause was present in the logia. I take Luke's "but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God" as part of the original saying. There may be a play on words between "bury" and "proclaim" for they look and sound similar in Hebrew. The saying in this longer form makes a fitting start to the logia section on mission.
Matthew omitted the clause because he had moved the saying out of its original missionary context and placed it in the middle of stories about the power of Jesus. In a dramatically imaginative rewrite, Mark transformed the second stanza of this saying into the story of the call of the first disciples in Mk 1:16-20. "Follow me ... [leave your father] ... proclaim the kingdom of God" became "Follow me ... they left their father Zebedee ... [to] become fishers of men". Mark also made use of the 'Follow me' theme in the call of Levi (2:13-14) and the story of the rich young man (10:21).
Luke presents Jesus as meeting a third person (9:61-62). But "The vocabulary and thought of the third dialogue are unmistakably Lucan" [Fleddermann (2005) 396].

The clearest parallelism is between the last two lines of each of the stanzas.

Cup of water

Mt 10:42 // Mk 9:41

If anyone gives even a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones
because he is a disciple,
Truly I tell you he will certainly not lose his reward.
This aphorism is sandwiched between B14 ('For or against') and C9 ('Millstone') in the text of Mark, thus suggesting its presence in the logia.

“little ones” was probably a term Jesus applied to his disciples [Davies & Allison I I (1991) 228-29]. "cold water" (Greek: ψυχθρος) in the Matthean version occurs only here in the gospels, supporting the view that Matthew was here using a non-Markan source. Mark was probably influenced by Paul when he translated the third line as "because you belong to Christ" (c.f. 1 Cor 1:12; 3:23).


Mt 9:37-38 // Lk 10:2

The harvest is plentiful,
but the workers are few,
so ask the owner of the harvest
to send out workers into his harvest.
This saying reproduced above is the same in the Greek of Matthew and Luke, though it has a different position within the mission instructions. In Mark the parable of the seed growing secretly (Mk 4:26-29) is sandwiched between two sayings derived from the logia. It contains Mark’s only mention of the word “harvest”. So it looks as if Mark, instead of copying the saying, may have used its theme to compose his own parable. However the link is not sufficiently certain to consider Mark's parable as a formal parallel.

There is a clear antithetic parallelism between the first two lines.

Mission instructions

............ Mk 1:15b; 6:8-11 ..// Lk 9:2-5.....
Mt 10:5b-15 ................... // Lk 10:3a,4-12

Go nowhere among the Gentiles,
and do not enter any Samaritan town,
but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Preach as you go saying: "The kingdom of God is getting near".
Carry no money, no bag, no sandals, nor a staff,
and greet no one on the way.

Whatever house you enter, first say: "Peace to this house".
And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him;
but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.

And stay in the same house,
eating and drinking whatever they provide,
for the worker deserves his pay.

But if you enter a town and they do not receive you,
as you leave that town shake the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.
I tell you, it will be more tolerable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
The original saying appears to have been in five three-line stanzas as set out above. The first stanza reproduces Mt 10:5b-6. Its pointed lack of interest in witnessing to Gentiles must have been original because it plainly preceded the more global message of the apostle Paul. It is clearly related to the source doublet saying Through all Israel, of which the second line is "for you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes". Thus the coming of the kingdom in the second stanza is apocalyptic, and "The kingdom of God is near" is ambiguous because it could refer merely to a nearness in space. "The kingdom of God is getting near" conveys the time element which the apocalyptic context demands. I take Luke's "greet no one on the way" as original because it suggests the need to concentrate on the mission, and because it probably inspired the "greet it" in Mt 10:12 (see below on the third stanza). For the third stanza, "your peace [will] return to you" (Mt 10:13 and Lk 10:6) only makes proper sense if Luke's "Peace to this house" was in the original rather than Matthew's "greet it". In the fourth stanza, Luke's "eating and drinking whatever they provide" was probably original, Matthew omitting it because he couldn't envisage Jews taking such a relaxed attitude to diet. But of course in the originally envisaged mission portrayed above, the Jewish mission was confined to Israel, so religious objections to the food provided would have been unlikely. In the fifth stanza, "day of judgement" (Mt 10:15) is typically Matthean, and therefore probably an addition. Also Matthew probably added "Gomorrah" because he liked the biblical phrase "Sodom and Gomorrah" [Davies & Allison I I (1991) 179].
"heal the sick" is present in both Mt 10:8 and Lk 10:9. But it could not have been in the logia for two reasons. Firstly, the saying C5 rules out Jesus' use of miracles ("no sign will be given..."). Secondly, in Paul's extant letters (more than 22000 Greek words), in spite of multiple references and allusions to logia sayings (see the next page on this site), he makes no reference whatsoever to Jesus as a miracle worker. If Jesus did perform miracles, Peter would have witnessed many of them first-hand, and would have been keen to relate them to the new convert Paul during the 15-day visit mentioned in Gal 1:18. In other words Paul would have known about Jesus as a miracle worker, and the lack of any indication of this in Paul's extant letters is inconceivable if the gospel stories of the miracles of Jesus had any historical basis.
Mark retained and adapted several of the saying's sentences in Mk 6:8-11, but enveloped these core sentences within radically new material involving miracles ("he ... gave them authority over unclean spirits" in v.7 and “they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them” in v. 13 and repentance in v.12. Thus in Mark the logia’s mission with a message about the imminence kingdom of God, became a demonstration of miraculous powers accompanied by a plea for repentance.

In each stanza there is parallelism between the second and third lines.

Lambs among wolves

Mt 10:16 // Lk 10:3

Look, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves;
so be wary as snakes and innocent as doves.
Luke's "lambs" is probably original rather than Matthew's "sheep" because lambs are not mentioned elsewhere in the synoptic gospels or Acts, whereas Matthew does introduce sheep redactionally in several places (7:15; 12:11-12; 25:32-33). The second line is not in Luke. But it seems to be required for the sense. Simply telling the missionaries how bad things are going to be would not have been very helpful. Paul had often despised wisdom (e.g. 1Cor 1:20), so it is unlikely that his supporters (who included Mark) would have wanted to present Jesus’ followers as "wary" or "wise" (Greek: φρονιμος). This could perhaps explain Mark’s omission of this saying.

Was it Matthew or was it Luke who retained the original order of this saying? "I send you out" should arguably come before 'Instructions' as in Luke. However the verse as a whole has the emphasis on the danger rather than on the sending out. The Matthean order is better because the saying then provides a context for being hated (Mt 10:22). Matthew's (and the logia's) "Go nowhere among the Gentiles ..." (10:5b) indicates the sending out. Luke, having rejected this anti-Gentile text, had to move Sheep/wolves forward in order to achieve a sending out between Harvest and Instructions.

Hated by all

Mt 24:9b,13 // Mk 13:13 // Lk 21:17,19
Mt 10:22 .............................

And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.
But he who endures to the end will be saved.
In Matthew this saying is a doublet, with the non-Markan member in the middle of a block of text (Mt 10:17-25) in which all the other sayings are attributed to the logia. Also its aphoristic style well matches the other logia sayings. Consequently I have no doubt that 'Hated by all' belonged to the logia.

The Greek in Mk 13:13 is identical to that of the non-Markan member of the doublet in Mt 10:22. Regarding the first line, the Greek of Lk 21:17 is identical to its equivalent in Mk 13:13. Regarding the second line, Luke's slightly different wording is not enough to overrule the agreement in wording between Mk 13:13 and Mt 10:22.

Through all Israel

Mt 24:14 // Mk 13:10
Mt 10:23 ...........

When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next;
for you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
In Matthew this saying is a doublet, in which one member (24:14) was clearly derived from Mark. The other member was surely derived from the logia because in this context it had a key role in closing the mission within a mission which started with "Go ..." at the beginning of 'Instructions' (Mt 10:5b).

In Mark this aphorism has been inserted in the middle of 'Help in testifying', suggesting it came from the same source. Superficially the two members of the doublet appear very different, yet they are closely related. Mt 10:23 relates to preaching the kingdom of God to the people of Israel whereas Mt 24:14 relates to the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom to all nations. Obviously the former is the original, the latter being an adaptation for the Christian mission, c.f. Mt 28:19-20. Mark had replaced the original preaching of the kingdom with preaching the gospel, Israel with all nations, the coming of the Son of Man with the expected apocalyptic end, and a mission not completed before the coming with a mission to be completed before the coming. By the time Matthew's gospel was written it must have been obvious that this prophecy had not been fulfilled. Therefore Matthew's respect for the logia is the only thing that would have led to its preservation. Like Mark, Luke also must have realized that the original saying left no time for a mission to the Gentiles, but instead of transforming the saying he simply omitted it.

Formal defence

............ Mk 13:9,11 // Lk 21:12-15
Mt 10:19-20 ........... // Lk 12:11-12

When they arraign you before synagogues, do not worry about how you are to answer or what you are to say;
for it will be given to you at that time what to say.
The mention of synagogues here, and also in saying D4, is consistent with the association of Jesus and the original apostles with Galilee. For the only certain evidence for synagogues in Israel ca. 30 CE to 70 CE is in the north of the country.

But arguably the most important issue here is whether "Holy Spirit" was in the original. It is in Lk 12:11-12 but absent from Mt 10:17-20. It is therefore comparable to the situation regarding 'Ask then receive', so it is likely that Luke added Holy Spirit here as well. This is supported by Luke's use of "in that very hour" in the clause "for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say" (Lk 12:12), because the phrase occurs also in Lk 10:21, 13:31 and 20:19, but nowhere else in the synoptic gospels, and this, together with Luke's frequent use of "the Holy Spirit", makes it likely that the whole clause was composed by Luke.. With Mt 10:17-20 now included in the data to be considered, and the "how or what" occurring here as well as in Lk 12:11-12, it is clear that it was also in the logia. "how you are to answer" is a paraphrase - the words "you are to answer" are not in the Greek texts. Matthew's "for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you" looks like an addition by Matthew because the word "spirit" is very common in the synoptics, but does not occur in any of the other logia sayings. Mark adapted this saying by adding a reference to “governors and kings” (apparently copied in Mt 10:18), making his gospel more relevant to a mission to the Gentile world.

Bold confession

Mt 16:27 .. // Mk 4:22; 8:38 // Lk 8:17; 9:26
Mt 10:26-33 .................// Lk 12:2-9 ...

Nothing is hidden that will not be made known,
or secret that will not come to light.
What I say to you in the dark, speak in the light;
and what you hear whispered in the inner rooms, proclaim on the housetops.

Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
Rather fear the one who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's consent.
Moreover even the hairs of your head have all been counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Everyone who acknowledges me in front of others,
the Son of Man also will acknowledge in front of the angels of God;
but whoever disowns me in front of others,
the Son of Man will disown in front of the angels of God.
That this substantial saying was presented in the logia as three stanzas, is supported by the observation that the central stanza is framed by "do not be afraid" in its first and last line.

With regard to the sparrows, Matthew's "two sparrows ... a penny" is to be preferred to Luke's "five sparrows ... two pennies" [Fleddermann, Q: a Reconstruction and Commentary (2005) 570]. In the third stanza, Mark's "Son of Man" is more picturesque than the passive tense of Lk 12:9. But Luke's "angels of God" nicely balances "Son of Man". Matthew (in 10:26-33) and Luke (in 12:2-9) both have this sayings material consecutively and in the same order, so it appears to have belonged together as a single saying. In the third and fourth lines of the first stanza, Luke altered the logia's missionary message to bring the saying "into conformity with the hypocrisy theme he introduced in v.1" [Fleddermann (2005) 567]. But Luke's "inner rooms" balances the "housetops" which is in both Mt 10:27 and Lk 12:3. The reconstruction of the central stanza is based mainly on Mt 10:28-31, c.f. [Fleddermann (2005) 568-71]. The Markan adaptations of the first and last stanzas of this saying can be found in Mk 4:22 and 8:38 respectively. Mk 4:22 twice uses “[in order] to” (Greek: ινα), and this adaptation seems to have been aimed at making the saying support Mark’s theme of a messianic secret, c.f. [Hooker (1997) 133-134]. In Mk 8:38, the apocalyptic nature of the last stanza is emphasized by Mark’s addition of “when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels”.

All three stanzas display parallelism, and this is evidence for their Semitic origin.

A sword

Mt 10:21 ...// Mk 13:12 .. // Lk 21:16 ..
Mt 10:34-35 .............. // Lk 12:51,53

Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth?
I did not come to bring peace but a sword.
For I have come to set son against father,
and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
With Mt 10:34-36 being included in the data to be considered, it is clear that the two lines containing references to family were preceded in the logia by two lines containing a statement of the purpose of the coming of Jesus. Matthew's "sword" is more specific than Luke's "division" and was therefore probably original. The reconstruction of the last two lines follows Mt 10:35-36 except that Luke's slightly more consistent "son against father" is preferred to Matthew's "man against his father". Matthew's "and a man's foes will be those of his own household" (Mt 10:36) was probably added under the influence of Mic 7:6. This logia saying inspired Mark to create his own rather different version in Mk 13:12.

Lines one and two exhibit antithetic parallelism, whereas lines three and four exhibit synthetic parallelism.

My disciple ?

Mt 16:24 ... // Mk 8:34 // Lk 9:23 ...
Mt 10:37-38 ........... // Lk 14:26-27

Whoever does not hate his father and mother cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not hate his son and daughter cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
The first and second lines above show that the full saying included a disciple's relationship with family members. Luke's "does not hate" is Semitic and therefore almost certainly original. Matthew softened the phrase to "loves". The clause "take up his cross" (Mk 8:34 and Mt 16:24) was a rare expression, and so more likely to be original than "carry his cross" (Lk 14:27). On the other hand, Matthew has a simpler sentence structure and exhibits Semitic parallelism, and therefore on the whole it should be taken as closer to the original. Mark added "deny himself and" before "take up his cross", which makes Mark’s placement of this saying (8:34) immediately after Jesus’ rebuke of Peter (8:31-33) highly significant. For it exposes "let him deny himself" as a thinly veiled criticism of Peter, who is presented later in the Markan narrative as denying Jesus three times.

"Whoever does not take up his cross" is not necessarily a reference to the crucifixion of Jesus. It may be simply a metaphor for self-discipline, or it may hint at the early Jesus movement's anti-Roman stance.

The first two lines exhibit synonymous parallelism.

Losing one's life

Mt 16:25 // Mk 8:35 // Lk 9:24 ...
Mt 10:39 .......... // Lk 17:33 ..

Whoever finds his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
In both lines Matthew's "find" is original [Fleddermann (2005) 763]. "for my sake" is in Mark as well as in Mt 10:39 where Matthew appears to be taking the saying from the logia, so it is probable that the phrase was in this logia saying in spite of its absence from Luke.
Mark's "and for the sake of the gospel" (in Mk 8:35 and retained in Mt 16:25), is a redactional addition expressing his support for the Pauline gospel, and thus essentially transforming a Jewish saying into a Christian saying.

The parallelism here is both antithetic (between lines 1 & 2) and chiastic ("find ... lose ... lose ... find").


Mt 18:5 // Mk 9:37 // Lk 9:48 ...
Mt 10:40 ......... // Lk 10:16 ..

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me,
and whoever welcomes me welcomes him who sent me.
It is widely agreed that Matthew's "welcomes" is more original than Luke's "rejects". In Mk 9:37, Mark changed the object of the welcome from “you” (meaning the original disciples) to a “child”, thus removing a favourable link between the original disciples and Jesus. In Mark the saying is preceded by a little story about a child (Mk 9:36), thus completing the transformation from a logia saying which had nothing to do with children, into a Markan pericope which is centred on children.

Here the parallelism is synthetic.

For or against

......... Mk 9:40 // Lk 9:50b
Mt 12:30 ........ // Lk 11:23

Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
Mt 12:30 and Lk 11:23 are identical in Greek.

The reference to gathering and scattering is an allusion to 'Harvest', with which it forms a frame for the mission of the kingdom in section B of the logia.

Mark took this saying out of its missionary context, removing the gather/scatter metaphors, and changing the default status. In 'For or against' one had to be actively for Jesus, whereas in Mk 9:40 it is enough not to be against Jesus. This reflects the more inclusive nature of the Pauline and Markan gospels. Additionally Mark has provided a context in the form of an introductory story (9:38-39) about someone casting out demons in the name of Jesus, which he presumably hoped would illustrate his amended version of 'For or against'.

Here the parallelism is antithetic.

Kingdom come!

............ Mk 11:25 ; 14:35-38 ............
Mt 6:7-13 // ................... // Lk 11:2-4

In praying do not go babbling on as the Gentiles do,
for they think they will be heard for their many words.
Do not be like them,
for your Father knows what your needs are before you ask him.
Pray then like this:

"Our Father who is in heaven,
may your name be honoured,
may your kingdom come,
may your will be done,
as in heaven also on earth.

Give us the bread we need daily;
and forgive us our wrongs,
as we also forgive those who have wronged us;
and do not put us to the test,
but save us from evil."
The first four lines are based on Mt 6:7-8. The mention of Gentiles as outsiders as in A8 ('Love your enemies'), marks them out as original, c.f. Catchpole, JTS 34 (1983) 423, in which it is argued that Mt 6:7-8 belonged to Q.
Matthew's "may your will be done, as in heaven also on earth" is not in Luke. However in his Gethsemane scene (Mk 14:32-42), Mark has "... Father ... not my will, but yours ... pray that you may be spared the test" (REB). The three links "Father", "pray" and the idea of being spared from the test, strongly suggest that Mark was basing his Gethsemane scene on this logia saying. This makes it probable that Matthew, far from adding the couplet about God's will being done, was taking it from this logia saying, and therefore that Luke knew about it but omitted it.
Matthew refers twice to "in the heavens" (Greek: "εν τοις ουρανοις"). The plural "heavens" is Semitic (D&A,Matthew,I,328-9), suggesting a literal translation of the Aramaic. So "in heaven" is probably a more nuanced modern translation.
"debts" (Mt 6:12) is an Aramaic idiom for "sins" (though I prefer the word "wrongdoing" which has essentially the same meaning as sins but with a more modern ring to it).

Mark, perhaps wishing to hide the messianic focus in the middle line of the middle stanza of the logia saying, condensed it into a statement on forgiveness in prayer (Mk 11:25).
Matthew, remembering this Markan statement, incorporated that as well (Mt 6:14), expanding it with its converse (Mt 6:15).
Luke made several abbreviations to the prayer, c.f. Ken Olson, "Luke 11: 2–4: The Lord's Prayer (Abridged Edition)" in Marcan Priority Without Q: Explorations in the Farrer Hypothesis. Bloomsbury Publishing; 26 February 2015.

The second and third stanzas contain several clear examples of Semitic parallelism.
For a translation of Mt 6:9-13 back into Aramaic, see:

Called or chosen

Mt 22:14

Many are called,
but few are chosen.
The word “few” applied to followers of Jesus occurs in A16 (Two gates) and B3 (Harvest). This supports the case for assigning 'Called or chosen' to the logia. Thus the word “few” as applied to the followers of Jesus does not occur in the synoptics except in texts based on the logia. Luke probably rejected this saying because its "few" seemed incompatible with a worldwide mission.

The antithetic parallelism of this short saying tends to confirm its Semitic origin.

Paul's threefold repetition of "not many" (1 Cor 1:26), together with his threefold repetition that "God chose" (1 Cor 1:27-28), suggests that he may have been reacting against the preaching of someone at Corinth who used this logia saying to disparage the calling of non-Jews.


Eye as lamp

Mt 6:22-23 // Lk 11:34-35

The eye is the lamp of the body.

So if your eye is healthy,
your whole body will be full of light.

But if your eye is not healthy,
your whole body will be full of darkness.

So if the light within you is darkness,
how great must be the darkness.
The reconstruction here is of the text of Matthew apart from the last sentence (Mt 6:23b): "If then the light ..... darkness" which is superfluous and probably redactional. Luke's version is substantially the same except towards the end (Lk 11:35-36), where "... prosy Luke ... has lost his thread of thought" [Goulder (1989) 513-14].

Allison has put forward a suggested Aramaic version of his preferred form of the Greek text of Q 11:34-35, indicating that it presented no difficulty [Allison (1997) 164, n.177].

There is antithetic parallelism between the second and third stanzas.

Caesar or God

Mt 22:21 // Mk 12:17 // Lk 20:25

Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,
and to God what belongs to God.
Such a simple saying. Such a deep meaning. To a religious Jew, everything belonged to God, and therefore this saying constituted a subtle encouragement not to pay taxes to the occupying Roman authorities. It must have originated in a patriotic Jewish community. It fits perfectly as a saying of Jesus recorded by the Jesus movement under the leadership of James the brother of Jesus. In other words it clearly belonged to the logia.

Mark, who agreed with Paul on this and so many other issues, added a context which included the mention of the emperor's head on a coin. This completely reversed the meaning of the saying, making it quite clear that the taxes should be paid.

The aphorism exhibits synthetic parallelism.

Request for a sign

Mt 16:1,4 .. // Mk 8:11-12 .................
Mt 12:38-42 .............. // Lk 11:16,29-32

It is an evil generation which demands a sign.

But no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.
For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh,
so the Son of Man will be to this generation.

The queen of the South will arise at the judgement with this generation and condemn it.
For she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and look, something greater than Solomon is here.

The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgement with this generation and condemn it.
For they repented at the preaching of Jonah,
and look, something greater than Jonah is here.
For the meaning of "sign" (Gk σημειον), see e.g. Jn 2:11, and c.f. 1 Cor 1:22. This saying, by virtue of its presence in the logia, indicates clearly that the earliest written testimony did not claim that Jesus performed miracles.
The "something" greater than Solomon and Jonah probably referred to the Jesus movement, i.e. Jesus and his followers.
Mt 12:38 with its "scribes and Pharisees" is clearly Matthew's own introduction to the saying. Mark's introduction with its request for a "sign from heaven" is also redactional. In the first line, the Matthean "demands" (Greek: επιζητεω) is taken as original because Matthew's only other use of this word is in the logia saying C19 ('Life's necessities'), where Luke used the same Greek word. The analogy involving three days and three nights in Mt 12:40 obviously alludes to the period between Jesus’ death and his resurrection, and is therefore widely taken as redactional. The last two stanzas reflect Mt 12:41-2 and Lk 11:31-32, which are substantially in agreement except for the order. Luke has retained the original order where the stanza about the queen of the South arising at the judgement precedes the stanza about the men of Nineveh arising at the judgement. Matthew reversed the order with a view to placing his editorial insertion of the episode about Jonah and the sea monster immediately before the passage about the preaching of Jonah. The parallelism between the last two stanzas is a clear pointer to the Semitic origin of the saying.

There is synthetic parallelism between the third and fourth stanzas.

What you see

Mt 13:16-17 // Lk 10:23-24

Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.
For I tell you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it;
and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
Matthew replaced "kings" by "righteous men". Righteousness is a common theme in Matthew. Luke omitted "and your ears because they hear", probably because he viewed it as superfluous.

There is synonymous parallelism between the last two lines.



A woman said to him: "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!"
But he said: "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and comply with it."
Luke uses the Greek word φυλασσω ("comply with") in reference to the Jewish law in Ac 7:53. It is thus an indication of the saying's Jewish (pre-Christian) origin and its likely presence in the logia.

The saying may have been omitted by Matthew because it seems to belittle the mother of Jesus. In a passage which was probably dependent on this saying, Mk 3:31-35 also presents Jesus as responding to a comment about his mother, and answering in a way which seems to belittle her.

This aphorism exhibits antithetic parallelism.


Mt 18:15,21 // Lk 17:3-4

If your brother wrongs you, rebuke him, and if he repents, you must forgive him.
And if he wrongs you seven times in a day, you must forgive him seven times.
Apart from the second mention of repentance, c.f. [Tuckett (1996) 433 n.34], Luke seems to have preserved the meaning of the original text. Matthew's mention of the church is obviously an adaptation to his own day, and his "seventy-seven times" in 18:22 is an exaggeration.


..............Mk 9:42 ...........
Mt 18:6-7 // ....... // Lk 17:1-2

Occasions for stumbling are bound to come,
but woe to him by whom they come.
It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea,
than that he should cause the downfall of one of these little ones.
There is no significant difference between my reconstruction here and that in [Robinson et al. (2001) 141].

The term "little ones" probably referred originally to Jesus' disciples [Davies & Allison II (1991) 228-229]. Mark seems to have indicated this by his addition of the phrase "who believe in me" in Mk 9:42.


Mt 20:26-27 // Mk 9:35b; 10:42b-44 // Lk 9:48c ; 22:25-26
Mt 23:11 ................................................

You know that among the Gentiles their so-called rulers lord it over them,
and their great men exercise authority over them.

It shall not be so among you.

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,
and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.
Mt 23:11 // Mt 20:26-27 is clearly a Matthean doublet, albeit the former only represents a subset of the latter, which has been taken from Mk 10:42b-44. The full saying was almost certainly in the logia, for it is a good match with many other sayings in outlook and style. The abbreviation in Mt 23:11, followed there by two other logia sayings, appears to have been taken directly from the logia.

Mk 10:42b-44 is the only place where Mark has reproduced a logia saying substantially more faithfully than either Matthew or Luke. Thus the reconstruction is based on Mk 10:42b-44, although with small changes to improve the poetic balance. Mark seems to have written Mk 9:35b so that his two versions of the saying would constitute an inclusio (frame) for a set of sayings in his gospel. In Lk 22:25-26, the introduction of the inappropriate "kings" (v.25) and "youngest" (v. 26) indicate its secondary nature. The verb in the last two lines translated here as “must be” (Greek: εσται) literally means “shall be”. This use of the future indicative as an imperative is a Semitism. The fact that the Gentiles are seen as alien confirms the saying's origin in a Jewish community.

The first and third stanzas exhibit synonymous parallelism.

Humble exalted

Mt 23:12 // Lk 14:11 ; 18:14b

Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
There is no significant difference in meaning between the three synoptic versions of this saying.

The parallelism here is both antithetic and chiastic ("exalts ... humbled ... humbles ... exalted").


Mt 16:28 // Mk 9:1 // Lk 9:27

Truly I tell you, among those standing here there are some who will not taste death
before they see the kingdom of God come with power.
In Mark, this saying follows directly after three sayings allocated to the logia. So did Mk 8:34 - 9:1 constitute a block of four logia sayings? It seems very likely, especially as Mark has other blocks of logia sayings (4:21-25; 9:40-48; 11:22-25; 13:9-13). Also the saying has been an embarrassment to many post 70 CE Christians, for the kingdom has not come with power, and so the saying presents Jesus as uttering a prophecy which failed. Therefore it is more likely to be genuine than to be a later Christian composition, and this in turn increases the probablity that it was in the logia.

Matthew and Luke accepted the saying from Mark together with its context, rather than taking it from the logia. In this case the relevant context is the Transfiguration, which is said to have occurred a few days after the saying was uttered, thus implying some connection. The connection must be that the Transfiguration was supposed in some way to have fulfilled the saying, thereby exonerating Jesus from error in his prophecy.

“taste death” is a Semitic idiom [Hooker (1997) 213].

The clause "Truly I tell you" serves to emphasize the dramatic presentation of section C of the logia, the theme of which is the coming of the kingdom.

Weather signs

Lk 12:54-56

When you see a cloud rising in the west,
you say at once: "A shower is coming"; and so it happens.

And when you see the south wind blowing,
you say: "There will be scorching heat"; and it happens.

You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky;
but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
This is a typical challenging aphorism. It is sandwiched between 'A sword' (Lk 12:51,53) and 'Your accuser' (Lk 12:58-59), which strongly suggests that Luke was probably using the logia here.

Most scholars consider that the apparent parallel in some versions of the New Testament (Mt 16:2b-3) is a later insertion into the text [Metzger (1971) 41]. It should therefore be ignored when investigating the original text. I have reproduced the text as it appears in the RSV translation, but set it out as three two-line stanzas. The saying corresponds to a Palestinian environment, where clouds from the west have come over the sea and thus bring rain, and winds from the south have come over the desert and thus bring warmth, c.f. [Davies & Allison I I (1991) 578]. It may have been omitted by Matthew because he thought it inapplicable to people living much further to the north or northwest.

There is synthetic parallelism between the first two stanzas, and antithetic parallelism within the third stanza.

Mustard & yeast

.............. Mk 4:30-32 ..............
Mt 13:31-33 // .......... // Lk 13:18-21

What is the kingdom of God like, and to what should I compare it?
It is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in the earth.
It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the sky made nests in its branches.

To what should I compare the kingdom of God?
It is like yeast which a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour
until it was fully fermented.
These aphorisms belong together because they are both illustrations of the kingdom of God, and because they constitute a man/woman pairing, of which several will be found in the logia. Only Luke correctly preserves the synonymous parallelism of the original in the first line above. It is a clear indication of the Semitic origin of the saying. Where did the man in the original saying sow his mustard seed? Matthew's "field" is unlikely, for he seems to like fields, referring to them another six times in the same chapter. Luke's "garden" sounds natural to western ears, but it is doubtful whether many Palestinians in the first century had gardens. This leaves Mark's "the earth" as the most likely original place for the sowing. Luke's "became a tree" is hyperbole, which Mark seems not to have appreciated, for he changed it to "the greatest of all shrubs". The second stanza starts with the question as preserved by Luke, thus emphasizing the similarity between the two parts of the man/woman saying.

The pleonastic “took and” is a Semitism [Davies & Allison I I (1991) 423]. The word translated as "measure" (Greek: σατον) is a transliteration of an Aramaic word.
In addition to the synonymous parallelism within the first line, there is synthetic parallelism between the second lines of each stanza and between the third lines of each stanza.

Sheep & coin

Mt 18:12-13 // Lk 15:4-5a,7-9

What man among you having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them,
does not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go after the one which is lost?
And when he finds it, I tell you that he rejoices more over that one sheep
than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.

Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin,
does not light the lamp and sweep the house and search until she finds it?
And when she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbours saying:
"Rejoice with me, for I've found the coin which I had lost".
The picturesque double parallel with A15 ('Pearls to pigs') confirms that 'Sheep & coin' is a single saying as far as the structure of the logia is concerned.

The stanza about the coin is not in Matthew. But the two-stanza saying includes a man/woman pair as in 'Mustard & yeast'. Matthew probably dropped 'Lost coin' because it doesn’t lend itself to the idea of being led astray, and he was not sympathetic to the rights of women [Catchpole (1993) 191-192]. With regard to the lost sheep, Matthew's introduction ("What do you think?", 18:12a) and conclusion ("So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish" 18:14) are clearly his own redaction. In Lk 15:7 & 15:10, Luke appended his own very similar interpretations to each parable ("Just so, I tell you, ... joy ... repents ...").

There was probably a word play in the original Aramaic between “rejoice” and “one” [Black (1967) 184].
There is a beautiful poetic parallelism between the two stanzas, confirming beyond reasonable doubt that they written by the same gifted poet.

Two masters

Mt 6:24 // Lk 16:13

Nobody can serve two masters;
for either he will hate the one and love the other,
or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and wealth.
In Matthew and Luke the Greek text here is identical except that instead of Matthew's "Nobody ...", Luke has "No servant ...". The latter is undoubtedly a Lukan interpretation because the word used (Greek: οικετης) appears also in Acts 10:7, but is never used by Mark or Matthew.

“(the) one” ... “(the) other” is a Semitism [Black (1967) 108]. In the Greek text of Matthew and Mark, the word here translated as “wealth” (Greek: μαμωνας) is a transliteration of an Aramaic word.
The parallelism here is chiastic, with the third line corresponding to the second line and the fourth line corresponding to the first line.

Mulberry tree

Mt 21:21 // Mk 11:23 ..........
Mt 17:20 ........... // Lk 17:6

If you had faith like a mustard seed,
you could say to this mulberry tree:
"Be rooted up and planted in the sea",
and it would obey you.
Mark and Matthew refer to a mountain, but Luke refers to a mulberry tree. The latter must surely be original for several reasons. It would be more natural for Mark to have exaggerated "mulberry tree" to "mountain" than for Luke to have changed "mountain" to "mulberry tree". Mark's "mountain" may have been an adaptation referring to the temple mount (c.f. [Hooker (1991) 270]). Finally, Luke's "rooted up and planted" is much more graphic and therefore more likely to be original than the "move from here to there" in Mt 17:20.

Treasure in heaven

Mt 6:19-21 // Lk 12:33-34

Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth,
where moths consume,
and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven,
where no thief comes near,
and no moth destroys.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
This beautifully chiastic aphorism has been pieced together from Mt 6:19-21 and Lk 12:33-34. It must surely represent the original. Neither Matthew nor Luke seem to have appreciated the poetry here, for Matthew's "rust" disturbs the poetic balance and Luke abandons the chiasm altogether. Instead of reproducing this saying, Mark was inspired by it to take its phrase "treasure in heaven" and compose a story around it (Mk 10:17-22).

There was probably a word play in the original Aramaic between “comes near” and “destroys” [Black (1967) 178].
This saying is a superb example of chiasm. Lines three and five are about a thief/thieves. Lines two and six are about moth(s). Lines one and seven are about treasure. The central line mentions the theme of the saying, namely treasure in heaven.

Life's necessities

Mt 6:25-33 // Lk 12:22-31

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Consider the ravens; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns,
and yet God feeds them.
Are you not worth more than the birds?

And which of you by worrying can add one hour to your span of life?
Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin;
yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
But if God so clothes the grass in the field,
which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown on the stove,
how much more will he clothe you, people of little faith!

And do not be anxious saying:
"What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?",
for it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things,
and your Father knows that you need them.
But instead seek his kingdom,
and all these things will be given to you as well.
With respect to the first stanza, Luke's "ravens" is more specific than Matthew's "birds of the air" and therefore probably represents the wording in the logia. With respect to the second stanza, Luke has "lilies" whereas Matthew has "lilies of the field". Matthew probably added "of the field" to produce a phrase matching his "birds of the air". With respect to the third stanza, Matthew has "Gentiles" being viewed as outsiders, whereas Luke has "the nations of the world" being viewed as outsiders. The former indicates a Jewish milieu and is undoubtedly original.

There are three probable word plays here. In the first stanza, between “ravens” and “feed” [Davies & Allison I (1988) 648]. In the second stanza, between “worry” and “add” (ibid., 652), and between “toil” and “spin” (ibid., 654). “person of little faith” (Greek: ολιγοπιστος) appears to derive from a Semitic phrase (ibid., 656).
This poetic saying fits neatly into three six-line stanzas, in each of which the first line refers to worrying and the last line provides reassurance.

More given

Mt 25:29 // Mk 4:25 // Lk 8:18 ...
Mt 13:12 .......... // Lk 12:48b .
Mt 25:29 .... --> .... Lk 19:26 ..

For to everyone who has, more will be given,
but from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.
Matthew has added "and he will have abundance" to both members of his doublet. This is a triplet in Luke. The version in Lk 8:18 was taken from Mark. The version in Lk 19:26 was taken from Matthew whilst adapting the Parable of the Talents (Matthew in turn had taken it from the logia). Lk 12:48b is Luke's version of 'More given' taken directly from the logia and adapted for his parable of the watchful servants.

The structure of the Greek in the Markan form suggests an Aramaic original [Nineham (1963) 142].
This saying exhibits antithetic parallelism.


Mt 19:28 // Lk 22:28-29,30b

Truly I tell you, when God's kingdom comes,
and the Son of Man is seated on his glorious throne,
you who have followed me will likewise sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Both Matthew and Luke end this saying with "judging the twelve tribes of Israel". It must therefore have been in the collection of the sayings of Jesus, for why otherwise would it have been accepted in gospels aimed primarily at Gentiles?

Matthew's "in the next world" (Greek: εν τη παλιγγενεσια) in Mt 19:28 is a Greek concept with no Aramaic equivalent. It is therefore uncertain what logia phrase, if any, it replaced. Bearing in mind that "kingdom" is mentioned twice in Luke's version, the most likely explanation is that "in the next world" must have been a reference to the coming kingdom of God. (This explains "God's kingdom comes and" which clause constitutes the only speculative piece of reconstruction in the whole of the logia.) The apparent contradiction as to whose kingdom it really was (God's or Jesus') contributed to the different formulations in Matthew and Luke. These could have come about in the following way. The 'Similitudes of Enoch' has parallels to the idea of a representative of God sitting on God's throne [Fenton (1963) 317]. However, it seems that Matthew and Luke may not have appreciated this, for each tried in his own way to remove the apparent anomaly of someone other than God sitting on the throne of God's kingdom. Matthew replaced "When God's kingdom comes" by "in the next world", thus not bringing attention to the oddity of the Son of Man sitting on the throne in God's kingdom. Luke introduced the explanation that God had assigned his kingdom to Jesus. On the whole, Matthew's version is closest to the original saying. For as well as adding the clause about conferring the kingdom to the Son in Lk 22:29, Luke added a clause about eating and drinking in the kingdom (to divert attention from the judgement?), and changed "twelve thrones" to "thrones" (to make it less obvious that the reference was only to the original twelve apostles?). Mark saw the saying as a reward for the twelve, so replaced it with an equivalent saying rewarding all who make sacrifices for the gospel (Mk 10:29-30). Matthew adapted the logia saying (Mt 19:28) then appended the Markan equivalent as well (Mt 19:29), just as he had appended the Markan condensation of C1 ('Kingdom come!') to his version of that saying.

Last or first

Mt 19:30 // Mk 10:31 ...........
Mt 20:16 ........... // Lk 13:30

Those who are last will be first,
and the first will be last.
Except for the first word, "thus" (Greek: ουτως ), Mt 20:16 retains the meaning of the original logia saying, c.f. [Fleddermann (2005) 690-91].

This saying provides another example of antithetic parallelism.

Hinder entrance

Mt 23:13 // Lk 11:52

Woe to you, Pharisees;
for you shut the kingdom of God against people;
but you do not enter yourselves; nor do you allow those who would enter to go in.
According to Gnilka, [Matthäusevangelium 2 (1988) 283], "Matthew has preserved the picture better, for the 'entry' corresponds to the kingdom, not to the key of knowledge" (my translation). Matthew has added "scribes" and "hypocrites". Luke changed "Pharisees" to "lawyers" (Greek: νομικος), which is a favourite of Luke's (Mt 1, Mk 0, Lk 6). The original must have had "kingdom of God" rather than Matthew's "kingdom of heaven" because the latter phrase is peculiar to Matthew in the synoptic gospels. The Greek text of Matthew has "... because ... for ...". These words are omitted in NEB, REB and "The Five Gospels". I have replaced them by "... for ... but ..." by analogy with sayings D2, D3, D5 and D6, as it seems likely that all five of these sayings included the same construction originally. Luke wanted to put the woes in the context of a dinner arranged by a Pharisee (Lk 11:37f.). By simply moving the first woe ('Hinder entrance') to the end, he achieved a sequence in which the most relevant woe ('Clean cup') came first.


Clean cup

Mt 23:25-26 // Lk 11:39-41

Woe to you, Pharisees;
for you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate,
but leave the inside full of greed and self-indulgence.
You blind Pharisee!
First clean the inside of the cup,
so that the outside also may become clean.
Matthew has added "scribes and" and "hypocrites". Luke's "give alms" is a mistranslation of an Aramaic word. Matthew has correctly translated it as "cleanse" [Black (1967) 2]. In the face of criticism from Kloppenborg, M. Black was still defending the historicity of this mistranslation a few years before his death in 1994. The respective translations were, as we can see now, from the logia. Luke's "You fool(s)!" (Greek: αφρων) appears in the synoptics only twice, here and in Lk 12:20 in the typically Lukan story of the 'Rich Fool'. Therefore Matthew's "You blind Pharisee!" is more likely to have been the original text in 'Clean cup'.

Lines two to six exhibit chiasm (... outside ... inside ... inside ... outside ...).

Tithe mint

Mt 23:23-24 // Lk 11:42

Woe to you, Pharisees;
for you tithe mint and dill and cumin;
but you have overlooked justice and mercy and faithfulness.
These you ought to have done,
without neglecting the others.
You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
Matthew has again added "scribes". On the other hand, Luke's "herbs of all kinds" looks like his redaction because "cumin" is more specific, and Luke replaced "dill" by "rue" apparently because in Greek the latter rhymes with "herbs" (making the phrase in Greek: πηγανον και παν λαχανον) c.f. [Fleddermann (2005) 532]. Matthew has also kept the triad of justice, mercy and faithfulness matching the triad of mint, dill and cumin. The last line in this woe is absent from Luke and is usually excluded from Q. But it is included in the logia because it exhibits hyperbole (c.f. the saying 'Hand & eye'). In the original Aramaic there may have been a word play between “camel” and “gnat” [Davies & Allison III (1997) 293]. M. Casey casts doubt on the Aramaic word play here, but at least (unlike [Robinson et al. (2001) and [Fleddermann (2005)]) he includes my sixth line with almost the same English wording in his reconstruction of the woe [Casey (2002) 64-65, 76-77].

As reconstructed here, this logia saying a chiastic structure. For "these" in the fourth line refers back to "justice and mercy and faithfulness" in the third line; "the others" in the fifth line refers back to "tithe mint and dill and cumin" in the second line; "blind guides" in the sixth line is a description of the Pharisees, mentioned in the first line.

Craving respect

......... Mk 12:38-39 // Lk 20:46
Mt 23:6-7 ........... // Lk 11:43

Woe to you, Pharisees;
for you love to have the places of honour at banquets,
and the best seats in the synagogues,
and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces.
"Pharisees" (Lk 11:43) is probably original rather than "scribes" (Mk 12:38 // Lk 20:46). It is more likely that Mark changed "Pharisees" to "scribes" because the scribes are the chief adversaries of Jesus in Mark [Fleddermann (2005) 551]. The doublet data left the clause about banquets of uncertain provenance because it is present in Mark 12:39 and in Luke 20:46 where he was copying from Mark, but it is not present in Luke 11:43. Both Mk 12:39 and Lk 20:46 have "places" (plural). This matches the plurals in the other two behaviour clauses, and is therefore likely to have been in the original. "... and being called rabbi by men" (Mt 23:7b) is almost certainly an addition by Matthew because this clause is absent from both Mark and Luke.

The mention of synagogues confirms the Jewish setting of the saying. The last three lines exhibit synonymous parallelism.

Whitewashed tombs

Mt 23:27 // Lk 11:44

Woe to you, Pharisees;
for you are like whitewashed tombs which look fine on the outside,
but inside are full of dead people's bones and all kinds of filth.
As in Clean cup, Matthew has added "scribes" and "hypocrites".

The "whitewashed tombs" in Matthew is more vivid than the "unmarked graves" in Luke, and as in the majority of logia sayings, the above reconstruction based on Matthew exhibits clear parallelism (here in lines 2 and 3).
Goulder refers to "... the Jewish practice of whiting graves each year before Passover (m. Shek. 1.1)" [Goulder, Luke, 521], and suggests that because this whitening was not practiced in the place where Luke wrote his gospel, he was forced to alter the saying.


Mt 23:4 // Lk 11:46

Woe to you, Pharisees;
for you bind burdens and load them on people's shoulders,
but you yourselves are unwilling to lift a finger to ease them.
Luke correctly introduces this saying as a woe. Except in the passion story, Matthew and Luke both present the Pharisees as the main opponents of Jesus. But it appears that Luke wanted to make sure the lawyers were portrayed alongside the Pharisees (c.f. Lk 7:30; 14:3). So with Fleddermann I take "Pharisees" to have been original here, as in Hinder entrance . Matthew's "bind ... and load on ... shoulders" is more graphic than Luke's "load", and therefore likely to be original.

Lines two to three exhibit antithetic parallelism.


Mt 23:29-36 // Lk 11:47-51

Woe to you, Pharisees;
for you build the tombs of the prophets.
And you say: "If we had lived in the days of our ancestors,
we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets".
Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants
of those who murdered the prophets.
So then, fill up the measure of your ancestors!

Therefore I send you prophets and sages,
some of whom you will kill,
and some you will persecute from town to town,
so that on you may come the blood of all the prophets shed on earth,
from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah,
who was murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.
Yes, I tell you, all this will be charged to this generation.
Again it is the Pharisees who are the likely target of the woe. Matthew has added "scribes" and "hypocrites". The context in Luke suggests he meant the woe to be directed at lawyers. Matthew probably added "and adorn the monuments of the righteous", because he liked the combination of "prophets" and "righteous", c.f. Mt 10:41 and Mt 13:7 [Davies & Allison (1997) 304 n. 124]. The third and fourth lines in the above reconstruction occur only in Matthew. Their presence in the original makes better sense of the next two lines about being witnesses. It also leads to a largely chiastic stanza. Luke's "you build" is a mistranslation of an Aramaic word. Matthew has more correctly translated it as "you are sons (of)" [Black (1967) 12-13], i.e. "descendants" in modern terminology. The last line of the first stanza only occurs in Matthew. But it is likely to have been in the original because in the synoptics "measure" (as Greek: μετρον) only occurs here and in texts related to the saying Do not judge, which will be seen to have belonged to the logia. In the second stanza, Matthew has "I send you prophets ...". The idea of Jesus sending prophets appears somewhat strange. Perhaps Jesus is meant to be speaking on God's behalf (Stendahl), or perhaps it refers to Jesus sending out his apostles (Fenton). In view of this strangeness, Luke, prompted by "sages" (Gk: σοφους) in the sentence in front of him, and remembering "[God's] wisdom is justified by all her children" (Lk 7:35), replaced "I" by "the Wisdom of God". Matthew's "son of Barachiah" is an error. The first martyr in the Jewish scriptures was Abel (Gen 4:8 f.) and the last was Zechariah the son of Jehoiada (2 Chr 24:20 f.).

The reconstruction has two seven-line stanzas. Each stanza is at least partially chiastic. The theme of both, as indicated in their fourth (central) lines, is shedding the blood of the prophets. In the first stanza, the third and fifth lines refer to relatives (ancestors/descendants), and the second and sixth lines end with "prophets". In the second stanza, the third and fifth lines refer to scope (town to town/Abel to Zechariah), and the second and sixth lines deal with murder.

False prophets

Mt 24:24 // Mk 13:22
Mt 24:11 ...........

Many false prophets will arise,
and will lead astray many people.
The "they" in Mt 24:26 refers back to the false prophets in Mt 24:24. So D9 ('Hearsay') with its "they", must have been preceded in the logia by D8 ('False prophets').

Mark added: “False messiahs and ...” (Mk 13:22). Mark has placed this saying and 'Hearsay' in the context of the distress following the Fall of Jerusalem (13:14-23). The key to this later association of false prophets with the Fall of Jerusalem is the “abomination of desolation” referred to as “he” (c.f. 13:14, REB). Mark was probably thinking of Titus, the eldest son of the Emperor, who conquered the city and desolated the temple in 70 CE.

This saying is chiastic (many ... will ... will ... many).


Mt 24:23 // Mk 13:21 ............
Mt 24:26 ............ // Lk 17:23

If they say to you: "Look, he is in the wilderness", do not go out.
If they say: "Look, he is in the inner rooms", do not follow.
Matthew's "wilderness" and "inner rooms" are more graphic than Luke's "there" and "here", and therefore more likely to be original. But Luke's "follow" is a better match for "go out" than Matthew's "believe it". The "they" in Lk 17:23 has no referent. In the logia it referred back to the false prophets of the previous saying, but Luke omitted to mention them and forgot to adjust the "they" accordingly. Mark's version indicates that it is the Messiah who is being sought.

The saying exhibits synonymous parallelism.


Mt 24:27 // Lk 17:24

For as the lightning comes from the east,
and lights up the sky as far as the west,
so will the Son of Man be in his day.
Matthew's "from the east" and "as far as the west" are more graphic than Luke's "from one side to the other", and therefore more likely to be original. On the other hand, Luke's "in his day" is probably original because Matthew's "coming" is Matthew's composition in Mt 24:3. If "they" who are portrayed as seeing the Son of Man coming in clouds (Mk 13:26) referred to “the elect” (Mk 13:22), then it is possible that Mark did not picture Jesus’ coming as being witnessed by all, c.f. 1 Thess 5:2-4. This might explain his omission of this saying which implies that everyone would be aware of the coming.

Lines one to two exhibit synthetic parallelism.


Mt 24:28 // Lk 17:37

Where the corpse is,
there the vultures will gather.
There is no significant difference between Matthew and Luke here. The gathered vultures reveal to all the presence of the corpse so the message here, as well as the likely reason for Mark's omission of the saying, is the same as above in 'Lightning'.

In Noah's time

Mt 24:37-39 // Lk 17:26-27,30

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the day of the Son of Man.
For as in those days they were eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage,
until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and swept them all away,
that is how it will be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
Apart from adding a passage about Lot and Sodom (vv. 28-29), Luke has kept to the original better than Matthew. Matthew's "before the flood" and "they knew nothing" are superfluous, reminiscent of the "wise" and "foolish" added to 'Rock or sand'.

Taken or left

Mt 24:40-41 // Lk 17:34-35

There will be two men in the field;
one will be taken, and the other left.

Two women will be grinding at the mill;
one will be taken, and the other left.
Matthew's "field" must be original here rather than Luke's "bed", because the man/woman pair of stanzas is then perfectly balanced, with the men to be visualized as working in the field, and the women working at the mill.

There is synonymous parallelism between what is written about the two men and what is written about the two women.

Keep awake

................... Mk 13:35-37 ..............
Mt 24:42-44 ; 25:13 ........... // Lk 12:39-40

Keep awake, then, for you do not know on what day your master is coming.
Be sure of this: if the householder had known at what time of night the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.
So you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Most supporters of Q omit the first line above, which is derived from Mt 24:42. But Matthew has "keep awake" (Greek: verb γρηγορεω) twice (24:42 and 25:13), Mark has it twice (13:35 and 13:37), and even Paul, who alluded to the saying (1 Thess 5:2-6), has it once (1 Thess 5:6). This ought to be enough evidence that it occurred in the original saying.

The saying exhibits chiasm, with the outer lines being about readiness for the coming, and the inner lines being a parable about a householder and a thief.

This warning to be ready for the coming of the Son of man provides a fitting end to the sayings collection.


  1. Allison D. C. (1997), The Jesus Tradition in Q. Trinity Press International, Harrisburg.
  2. Bailey J. M. & Vander Broek L. D. (1992). Literary Forms in the New Testament. SPCK, London.
  3. Black M. (1967). An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts. 3rd. Edn., Clarendon, Oxford.
  4. Brandon S. G. F. (1967). Jesus and the Zealots. The University Press, Manchester.
  5. Casey M. (2002). An Aramaic Approach to Q Sources for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. CUP, Cambridge.
  6. Catchpole D.R. (1993). The Quest for Q. T & T Clark, Edinburgh.
  7. Davies W. D. & Allison D. C. , The Gospel According to Saint Matthew vols. I, II, III (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1988-1997).
  8. Duling D. C. & Perrin N. (1994). The New Testament. Harcourt Brace, Fort Worth, Texas.
  9. Fenton J. C. (1963). The Gospel of St Matthew. Penguin, Harmondsworth, Middlesex.
  10. Fleddermann H. T. (2005) Q: A Reconstruction and Commentary. Peeters, Leuven.
  11. Gnilka J. (1988). Das Matthäusevangelium 2. Herder, Freiburg.
  12. Goulder M. D. (1994). Luke: A New Paradigm. JSNT Supplement Series 20, Sheffield.
  13. Hooker M. D. (1997). The Gospel According to St. Mark. A & C Black, London.
  14. Metzger B. M. (1975). A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. United Bible Societies, London/New York.
  15. Nineham D. E. (1963). Saint Mark. Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, London.
  16. Robinson J. M. et al. (2001). The Sayings Gospel Q in Greek and English. Peeters, Leuven.
  17. Tuckett C. M. (1996). Q and the history of Early Christianity. T & T Clark, Edinburgh.