Chapter Eight

                      THE MINISTRY EXPANDS

       Jesus romaed the Galilee healing and teaching. (His teachings are
encapsulated in Matthew, chapters 5 and 6, and Luke, chapters 6ff - to be
discussed presently.) Upon his next return to Capernaum, he acquired
another disciple, Levi the son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14). This Levi (later
called Matthew) was employed by the Romans as a tax-collector along the
Via Maris, and was probably happy to leave a position in which he no doubt
received the scorn of his fellow Israelites. The reader is informed that
this Levi also introduced his fellow tax-collectors to Jesus whom the
latter tried to influence as he had done Levi (Luke 5:27ff).

       As to Levi-Matthew himself, he is best known as being the original
author of the gospel which bears his name. His father Alphaeus is sometimes
identified with a certain Clopas whom early Christian tradition claimed
to be the brother of Joseph the carpenter. If this is so, then Matthew and
Jesus would have been first cousins.

       The gospel writers relate that the association of Jesus with  
"publicans and sinners" made him the object of contempt among certain
Jews. Who are meant by "sinners" is not delineated but perhaps members 
of the am ha'arets, the religiously ignorant, is intended.

       But whether am ha'arets or not, his disciples engaged in behaviour
which, to put it mildly, was highly questionable, and which demonstrated
either their lack of religious acumen or the attitude that their
premessianic-age mission sanctioned the necessary, albeit, unorthodox
behaviour. Nevertheless, as their leader, Jesus was taken to task for this

       Mark reports that on one occaision they were passing through a corn
field on the Sabbath and that being hungry they picked ears of corn to eat.
When questioned about this, Jesus, on his own authority, excused them by
making reference to an incident concerning King David eating the show bread
in the sanctuary which a non-priest is forbidden to do. He justified his
disciples' action of satisfying their hunger at the expense of Sabbath
violation by saying, "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the
sabbath" (Mark 2:27). Whether he did this in order to defend his disciples
or to once again demonstrate his "new wine" philosophy, he further
alienated himself from the mainstream of Jewry who were not caught up in
the "end-of-days" fever that he was caught up in.

       On another occasion, he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath
day and healed a man with a "withered hand", defying those who were  
present, asking, "Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to
do evil? to save life, or to kill?" (mark 3:4).

       Jesus' question here is superfluous. Jews are permitted to ren- der
medical aid to an individual on the Sabbath in cases where the individual's
life is in danger, or where the with-holding of aid would lead to some
permanent physical or emotional damage to the individual. This is known in
Hebrew as PIKUACH-NEFESH, the saving of life. No one debates the idea that
it is "lawful to do good on the sabbath". However here it is a case of a
"withered hand" which could have been taken care of AFTER the Sabbath. This
was another example of the PATTERN of IMMEDIACY that was emerging in the
thinking and the actions of Jesus and his Jewish followers. Caught up in
the rhetoric of end-of-days preaching and prophesying, Jesus took it upon
his own authority, more and more, to bend Jewish tradition to his own
interpretation, thereby making him- self and his followers more and more
the objects of controversy and distinguishing themselves from the rest of
the house of Israel.

       Some time shortly after that, the reader is informed, "the   
Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians  
against him, how they might destroy him" (Mark 3:6).

       That those loyal to Herod should begin to take note of Jesus'
activities and of his growing popularity among the Galileans, and per-
ceive these activities and following as a possible threat, is not sur-
prising. After all, Herod had arrested and killed John the Baptizer for
suspicion of raising a possible rebellion, for no other reason than his
popularity among the masses. And we have already seen that Jesus was
perceived, for a time, as the resurrected John, either in actuality or
symbolically. The fact alone that Jesus was a Galilean activist of some
kind was sufficient to arouse the suspicion of the political establish-
ment. But that there should be collusion between the Herodians and the
Pharisees makes no absolute sense whatsoever. It is important, at this
point, to draw the reader's attention to the fact that anytime the word
"Pharisee" appears in the gospel account, it is usually more for polemic
rather than historical reasons. We have seen that the Pharisees, as
descendants of the scribes, were the bearers of the popularly accepted
Jewish tradition, and that by the time of the generation of Jesus, the
overwhelming majority of Jewry accepted their interpretation of the
tradition and their inherited authority as binding upon all aspects of
Jewish life. The Pharisees were ever the champions of the common people and
the most liberal of Jews when it came to religious outreach to the
gentiles. It is therefore odd that the present version of the gospel story
so often casts them as villains in general, and as enemies of the gospel in
particular. But one has to bear in mind that after the destruction of the
second Jewish commonwealth in 70 C.E., Pharisaism became completely
synonomous with Judaism. The edited texts of the New Testament that are
accepted by Christendom today contain much bitter polemic which is
antipathetic to Judaism and takes the form of anti-Pharisaism. We have
said that the New Testament is not history but CONTAINS history; history
which we must discern between the lines of, and beneath the surface of
Christological religiosity.

       If there were a group in collusion with the Herodians to destroy any
popular movement perceived as a threat to the staus quo, it would most
likely be the Saducees, not the Pharisees. But by the time that the gospels
were finally committed to writing and edited, the Saducees no longer
existed, and so probably the onus, originally directed against the Saducees
in this case, was shifted to the CONTEMPORARY Jewish leadership at the time
that the gospels received their final editing, - the Pharisees.

       A more likely original rendering of the text might have been "the
Saducees ... took counsel with the Herodians against him ...". The
Pharisees of Jesus' day had no reason to want Jesus destroyed. He was no
threat to them. He appears to have attracted mainly Galilean am ha'arets
who were not disposed to Pharisaic influence to begin with. Furthermore the
Pharisees were interested in the conversion of the gentiles to Judaism
while Jesus wished to confine his ministry to the people of Israel.
Therefore Jesus was not even in competition wit the Pharisees.

       An original tradition of Jesus' real relationship to the Pharisees
is preserved in the seventh chapter of Luke. It is the story of Simon the
Pharisee who invited Jesus to is home to share a meal with him. Had there
really existed such animosity between Jesus and the Pharisees, this story
would never have found its way into the gospel text. If the supposed
antipathy between Jesus and the Pharisees were based on historical reality,
then not only would a Pharisee not have treated Jesus so cordially by
inviting him home to dine, but it is doubtfull whether Jesus himself would
have accepted such an invitation, suspecting a possible ulterior motive.

       The following verses are also instructive in this matter:
     "And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will     
      follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, 
      The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but
      the Son of man hath not where to lay his head."
                        Matthew 8:19-20

       The scribes are historically grouped with the Pharisees as prac-
tically identical entities, and Jesus would have nowhere to rest if he 
were constantly avoiding the Herodians and other authorities. Yet here
a scribe wishes to follow him!!!

       The antipathy towards the Pharisees is more the gospel editors'
than Jesus', and it is highlighted by RELATED themes and incidents in 
the gospel narrative.

     "There came then his brethren and his mother, and standing      
      without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat
      about him, and they said unto him, Behold thy mother and thy
      brethren without seek thee. And he answered them, saying, Who
      is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them
      which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
      For whosoever shall do the will of G-d, the same is my brother,
      and my sister, and mother."
                        Mark 3:31-35

     "And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee;
      and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called,
      and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine,
      the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus 
      saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour
      is not yet come."
                         John 2:1-4

       Are we to believe that a man who was brought up in a culture that
teaches "Honor thy father and mother" would speak so disparagingly to his
family? Or do the gospel writers have their own reasons for putting these
anti-filial words in Jesus' mouth? Is it not to continue showing that he
distanced himself from his own family, how much more so from his people?
Does that idea not give further dimension to the saying, "A prophet is
not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in
his own house" (Mark 6:4)? And again we are reminded that Jesus is made
to repudiate the Davidic origin of the messiah- ship: "How say the scribes
that Christ is the son of David?...David therefore himself calleth him
lord; and whence is he then his son?" (Mark 12:35,37). Furthermore, the
story of the Temptation of Christ, at the very beginning of the gospel
story, goes out of its way to insist that Jesus is NOT the Jews' messiah
but the universal soterological saviour.

       The above has been brought in to demonstrate that the major task of
the gospel editors was to Christologize Jesus, and Christologization
entails dejudaization. Jesus is made universal (gentile) at the cost of his
Jewishness and at the cost of his Jewish associations. Therefore it is
incumbent upon us to bear  this in mind especially in regard to the
gospels' treatment of the Pharisees who were the actual religious leaders
of the Jewish people. This writer maintains that although Jesus was not a
Pharisee, he certainly had no reason to disdain the Pharisees, and as a
matter of fact, admired them, just as although he was not a Zealot, he
probably sympathized with them.

       So Jesus began to attract the MULTITUDES of Galilee to himself, 
and the reader is told that as his fame spread to Judea, Idumaea, and  
Transjordan, the Jews of those areas also came to hear him, and even 
the Jews living outside the land of Israel, in the Phonecian cities of
Tyre and Sidon, cam down to hear him (Mark 3:8).

       At this point, the reader is informed that Jesus chose his full 
compliment of disciples to help him in his work. Mark lists them as
follows, (Mark 3):

                       Simon Peter
                       James, the son of Zebedee
                       John, the son of Zebedee
                       James, the son of Alphaeus
                       Simon the Canaanite
                       Judas Iscariot

       Matthew (10) repeates this list with the additional item of in-  
formation that Thaddaeus was also known as Lebbaeus.

       Luke (6) repeats Mark's and Matthew's list with two variations; 
he calls Simon the Canaanite, Simon Zelotes, and he substitutes Judas,
the brother of James, son of Alphaeus for Thaddaeus-Lebbaeus.

       John has no actual list of apostles (disciples) but he tells   
that Phillip introduced Nathaniel to Jesus (chapter 1). Nathaniel is
identified with Bartholomew.

       There are some who deny the historical validity of the twelve 
ordained by Jesus. They claim that with the exceptions of Simon Peter  
and the sons of Zebedee, who eventually became the prominent leaders
of the Jerusalem Church, the twelve are vague shadow figures who have
no real purpose in the gospel story, and merely symbolize the twelve
tribes of the "new Israel" founded by Jesus.

     "Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken
      all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus
      said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have follow-
      ed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the
      throne of his glory, ye shall also sit upon twelve thrones,
      judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
                          Matthew 19:27-28

       I personally do not have any difficulty believing the Christian 
tradition which insists that Jesus chose twelve men to assist him in
his mission; even that he DELIBERATELY chose twelve as a symbolic num-
ber representing the whole house of Israel. As to their purpose, the  
gospel story specifically identifies it simply:

     "And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that
      he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal
      sicknesses, and to cast out devils ... "
                          Mark 3:14-15

       It is true that the three previously mentioned disciples achiev-
ed more prominence in the movement than the others, but that fact alone
does not discount the historical reality of the existence of the twelve
and of their association with Jesus.

       Phillip (Jewish name unknown) -, believed to have originally 
been a disciple of the Baptizer; he, like Peter and Andrew, cam from
the Galilean town of Bethsaida. Tradition states that he was the one
responsible for providing food for the group. Whether he is the same
individual as Phillip the Deacon, mentioned in Acts of the Apostles,
who attempted to bring the Samaritans into the Nazarene movement, is
       Nathaniel-Bartholomew (bar-Talmai), - introduced to Jesus by
Phillip, was a native of Cana, a neighboring town of Nazareth. Upon 
meeting him, Jesus reportedly exclaimed, "Behold an Israelite indeed,
in whom is no guile." (John 1:47). When he announced his decision to
become a disciple, Jesus reportedly said to him, "Hereafter ye shall
see heaven open, and the angels of G-d ascending and descending upon
the Son of Man". (John 1:51).
       Thomas (Toma - "the twin") -, best known for being the one
disciple that doubted the Resurrection story. However, he is also
reported as having been very loyal to Jesus. When he suspected that
the fatal journey to Jerusalem might result in Jesus' death, he report-
edly said to the other disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die
with him." (John 11:16).

       James, the son of Alphaeus, - remotely possibly a brother of
Matthew, if his father Alphaeus is the same Alphaeus, the father of
Matthew, and hence possibly another cousin of Jesus. There also ap-
pears to have been a family relationship between this James and the
apostle Thaddaeus.

       Thaddaeus-Lebbaeus-Judas, - "the large-hearted" or "courageous"
disciple, possibly the brother of James, son of Alphaeus, hence another
possible cousin of Jesus. Expressin some impatience with Jesus at the
Last Supper, he asked Jesus, "How is it that thou wilt manifest thyself
to us, and not to the world?" (John 14:22). Also known as Judas, he may
possibly have been the original author of the Epistle of Jude.

       Simon the Canaanite, or Simon Zelotes, - the editors of Mark and
Matthew call this Simon, "the Canaanite" because either they did not
understand KANANAION to be a transliteration of the Hebrew KANAI -
"zealot", or more likely because they did not want their readers to know
that Jesus had included among his apostles a man known as "the Zealot".
Luke however has no compunctions about translating KANAI, and calls him
Simon Zelotes. It is interesting to speculate why Jesus, if he were really
the great pacifist that Christianity claims him to have been, should have
included a Jewish freedom-fighter in his band of closest associates. But
when we recall that Simon Peter may also have been a member of the
Baryonim, a branch of the Zealot party, the inclusion of a Zealot comes
as no surprise. We must at all times remem- ber that these men were
Galileans, the most militant anti-Roman Jews living in the land of Israel
at the times.

       Judas Iscariot, - the disciple known as the enabler of Jesus'
arrest and subsequent death. No coherrent picture of this man emerges
from the gospel story other than that he was the betrayer. His name,
Iscariot, is thought to be a rendering either of the Hebrew ISH-
KERIOTH, "man from the town of Kerioth", or "SICARIUS, "dagger-man",
implying that he was also a Zealot.

       Jesus had left Capernaum on one of his retreats into the mountains
of Galilee and upon his return, he was confronted by a centurion who asked
him to heal one of his servants (Matthew 8). This centurion sent word to
Jesus through the elders of Capernaum. Apparently all concerned felt it
necessary to assure Jesus that this gentile Roman officer was worthy for
him to help: "for he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue"
(Luke 7:4-5). This is the first we hear of Jesus having intimate contact
with a non-Jew, which judging from other gospel episodes (Mark 7:26-30;
Matthew 10:5-6; Matthew 15:21-28) showing Jesus' unwillingness to deal
with non-Jews, causes us no surprise when we are informed that he needed
the persuasion of the elders. Apparently, this man was not just any
ordinary gentile, but a "G-d Fearer", that is, one sympathetic to Jews
and Judaism, yet not wishing to convert to Judaism. He "loveth our nation,
and he hath built us a synagogue."

       One can imagine the strangeness of this episode. It is crucial to be
aware that the New Testament never derrogates the Romans although it is
common knowledge that as occupiers they were objects of hatred and contempt
by the Jews of the land of Israel, especially by the Galileans. But here
is a Roman officer who is very sympathetic to Jews and who has gone so far
as to build the synagogue of Capernaum. The Pharisees had taught the people
to "Be of the disciples of Aaron, love peace and pursuing peace; loving
humanity and drawing near to the Torah" (Mishnah Pirke Avot 1:12), and the
town elders now showed their gratitude to the centurion by asking one of
their own to heal his servant. Unfortunately, this charming story is
marred by the gospel editors using it as an example of the contrast
between simple gentile acceptance of Jesus as opposed to Jewish lack of
faith in him. (Matthew 8:11-12; Luke 7:9).

       Jesus decided to cross Lake Kinneret to bring his ministry to the
other side, that is, to eastern Galilee and/or Transjordan. However the
gospel authors, or editors, cannot decide where he went. Mark says he went
to the city of the Gerasenes, 50 miles southeast of Lake Kinneret. Matthew
claims it was to the city of the Gadarenes, 5 miles southeast of the lake.
Luke reports it was to the city of the Gergasenes, just slightly due east
of the lake's midpoint. It is possible that he visited all three places.
There he is supposed to have driven demons out of a possessed man and to
have sent them into a herd of swine. Gadara was one of the cities of the
Decapolis, and the entire area east of the lake was inhabited by many
gentiles, hence the presence of pigs. Matthew says that the people of the
city, upon hearing of the exorcism, begged Jesus to remain with them but he
shortly returned to the western shore of the lake.

       John reports that people now began to believe that Jesus was someone
special after seeing him perform miracles, but "Jesus did not commit
himself unto them" (John 2:23-24). It was this constant manner of keeping
his followers in suspense about who and what he was, when the believe set
in that he might be more than just the prophet of the Kingdom, that caused
some to become impatient with him and to leave him, but it is possible that
at this stage, he himself was not sure of what the extent of his ministry
would be.

If you would like to send Shlomoh email, click here! Shlomoh's Email Address

Click to return to the JN Menu

Click to return to the Literary Index

Copyright 1996