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Luke 18:1-14

Prayer and the Parable of the Persistent Widow

18:1 Then 1  Jesus 2  told them a parable to show them they should always 3  pray and not lose heart. 4  18:2 He said, 5  “In a certain city 6  there was a judge 7  who neither feared God nor respected people. 8  18:3 There was also a widow 9  in that city 10  who kept coming 11  to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 18:4 For 12  a while he refused, but later on 13  he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor have regard for people, 14  18:5 yet because this widow keeps on bothering me, I will give her justice, or in the end she will wear me out 15  by her unending pleas.’” 16  18:6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unrighteous judge says! 17  18:7 Won’t 18  God give justice to his chosen ones, who cry out 19  to him day and night? 20  Will he delay 21  long to help them? 18:8 I tell you, he will give them justice speedily. 22  Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith 23  on earth?”

The Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector

18:9 Jesus 24  also told this parable to some who were confident that they were righteous and looked down 25  on everyone else. 18:10 “Two men went up 26  to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee 27  and the other a tax collector. 28  18:11 The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself like this: 29  ‘God, I thank 30  you that I am not like other people: 31  extortionists, 32  unrighteous people, 33  adulterers – or even like this tax collector. 34  18:12 I fast twice 35  a week; I give a tenth 36  of everything I get.’ 18:13 The tax collector, however, stood 37  far off and would not even look up 38  to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, be merciful 39  to me, sinner that I am!’ 40  18:14 I tell you that this man went down to his home justified 41  rather than the Pharisee. 42  For everyone who exalts 43  himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

1 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.

2 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

3 tn Or “should pray at all times” (L&N 67.88).

4 sn This is one of the few parables that comes with an explanation at the start: …they should always pray and not lose heart. It is part of Luke’s goal in encouraging Theophilus (1:4).

5 tn Grk “lose heart, saying.” This is a continuation of the previous sentence in the Greek text, but a new sentence was started here in the translation by supplying the pronominal subject “He.”

6 tn Or “town.”

7 sn The judge here is apparently portrayed as a civil judge who often handled financial cases.

8 tn Grk “man,” but the singular ἄνθρωπος (anqrwpo") is used as a generic in comparison to God.

9 sn This widow was not necessarily old, since many people lived only into their thirties in the 1st century.

10 tn Or “town.”

11 tn This is an iterative imperfect; the widow did this on numerous occasions.

12 tn Grk “And for.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

13 tn Grk “after these things.”

14 tn Grk “man,” but the singular ἄνθρωπος (anqrwpo") is used as a generic in comparison to God.

15 tn The term ὑπωπιάζω (Jupwpiazw) in this context means “to wear someone out by continual annoying” (L&N 25.245).

16 tn Grk “by her continual coming,” but the point of annoyance to the judge is her constant pleas for justice (v. 3).

17 sn Listen to what the unrighteous judge says! The point of the parable is that the judge’s lack of compassion was overcome by the widow’s persistence.

18 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.

19 sn The prayers have to do with the righteous who cry out to him to receive justice. The context assumes the righteous are persecuted.

20 tn The emphatic particles in this sentence indicate that God will indeed give justice to the righteous.

21 sn The issue of delay has produced a whole host of views for this verse. (1) Does this assume provision to endure in the meantime? Or (2) does it mean God restricts the level of persecution until he comes? Either view is possible.

22 tn Some argue this should be translated “suddenly.” When vindication comes it will be quick. But the more natural meaning is “soon.” God will not forget his elect and will respond to them. It may be that this verse has a prophetic perspective. In light of the eternity that comes, vindication is soon.

23 sn Will he find faith on earth? The Son of Man is looking for those who continue to believe in him, despite the wait.

24 tn Grk “He”; the referent has been specified in the translation for clarity.

25 tn Grk “and despised.” This is a second parable with an explanatory introduction.

26 sn The temple is on a hill in Jerusalem, so one would go up to enter its precincts.

27 sn See the note on Pharisees in 5:17.

28 sn See the note on tax collectors in 3:12.

29 tn Or “stood by himself and prayed like this.” The prepositional phrase πρὸς ἑαυτόν (pros eauton, “to/about himself”) could go with either the aorist participle σταθείς (staqeis, “stood”) or with the imperfect verb προσηύχετο (proshuceto, “he prayed”). If taken with the participle, then the meaning would seem at first glance to be: “stood ‘by himself’,” or “stood ‘alone’.” Now it is true that πρός can mean “by” or “with” when used with intransitive verbs such as ἵστημι ({isthmi, “I stand”; cf. BDAG 874 s.v. πρός 2.a), but πρὸς ἑαυτόν together never means “by himself” or “alone” in biblical Greek. On the other hand, if πρὸς ἑαυτόν is taken with the verb, then two different nuances emerge, both of which highlight in different ways the principal point Jesus seems to be making about the arrogance of this religious leader: (1) “prayed to himself,” but not necessarily silently, or (2) “prayed about himself,” with the connotation that he prayed out loud, for all to hear. Since his prayer is really a review of his moral résumé, directed both at advertising his own righteousness and exposing the perversion of the tax collector, whom he actually mentions in his prayer, the latter option seems preferable. If this is the case, then the Pharisee’s mention of God is really nothing more than a formality.

30 sn The Pharisee’s prayer started out as a thanksgiving psalm to God, but the praise ended up not being about God.

31 tn Here the plural Greek term ἀνθρώπων (anqrwpwn) is used as a generic and can refer to both men and women (NASB, NRSV, “people”; NLT, “everyone else”; NAB, “the rest of humanity”).

32 tn Or “swindlers” (BDAG 134 s.v. ἅρπαξ 2); see also Isa 10:2; Josephus, J. W. 6.3.4 [6.203].

33 sn A general category for “sinners” (1 Cor 6:9; Lev 19:3).

34 sn Note what the Pharisee assumes about the righteousness of this tax collector by grouping him with extortionists, unrighteous people, and adulterers.

35 sn The law only required fasting on the Day of Atonement. Such voluntary fasting as this practiced twice a week by the Pharisee normally took place on Monday and Thursday.

36 tn Or “I tithe.”

37 tn Grk “standing”; the Greek participle has been translated as a finite verb.

38 tn Grk “even lift up his eyes” (an idiom).

39 tn The prayer is a humble call for forgiveness. The term for mercy (ἱλάσκομαι, Jilaskomai) is associated with the concept of a request for atonement (BDAG 473-74 s.v. 1; Ps 51:1, 3; 25:11; 34:6, 18).

40 tn Grk “the sinner.” The tax collector views himself not just as any sinner but as the worst of all sinners. See ExSyn 222-23.

41 sn The prayer that was heard and honored was the one given with humility; in a surprising reversal it was the tax collector who went down to his home justified.

42 tn Grk “the other”; the referent (the Pharisee, v. 10) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

43 sn Everyone who exalts himself. See Luke 14:11. Jesus often called for humility and condemned those who sought honor.

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