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Luke 9:59-62

Context
9:59 Jesus 1  said to another, “Follow me.” But he replied, 2  “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 9:60 But Jesus 3  said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, 4  but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 5  9:61 Yet 6  another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say goodbye to my family.” 7  9:62 Jesus 8  said to him, “No one who puts his 9  hand to the plow and looks back 10  is fit for the kingdom of God.” 11 

1 tn Grk “And he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Here δέ (de) has not been translated.

2 tn Grk “said.”

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

4 sn There are several options for the meaning of Jesus’ reply Leave the dead to bury their own dead: (1) Recent research suggests that burial customs in the vicinity of Jerusalem from about 20 b.c. to a.d. 70 involved a reinterment of the bones a year after the initial burial, once the flesh had rotted away. At that point the son would have placed his father’s bones in a special box known as an ossuary to be set into the wall of the tomb. Thus Jesus could well be rebuking the man for wanting to wait around for as much as a year before making a commitment to follow him. In 1st century Jewish culture, to have followed Jesus rather than burying one’s father would have seriously dishonored one’s father (cf. Tobit 4:3-4). (2) The remark is an idiom (possibly a proverbial saying) that means, “The matter in question is not the real issue,” in which case Jesus was making a wordplay on the wording of the man’s (literal) request (see L&N 33.137). (3) This remark could be a figurative reference to various kinds of people, meaning, “Let the spiritually dead bury the dead.” (4) It could also be literal and designed to shock the hearer by the surprise of the contrast. Whichever option is preferred, it is clear that the most important priority is to preach the gospel (proclaim the kingdom of God).

5 sn The kingdom of God is a major theme of Jesus. It is a realm in which Jesus rules and to which those who trust him belong. See Luke 6:20; 11:20; 17:20-21.

6 tn Grk “And another also said.”

7 tn Grk “to those in my house.”

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

9 tn Grk “the”; in context the article is used as a possessive pronoun (ExSyn 215).

10 sn Jesus warns that excessive concern for family ties (looks back) will make the kingdom a lesser priority, which is not appropriate for discipleship. The image is graphic, for who can plow straight ahead toward a goal while looking back? Discipleship cannot be double-minded.

11 sn The kingdom of God is a major theme of Jesus. It is a realm in which Jesus rules and to which those who trust him belong. See Luke 6:20; 11:20; 17:20-21.



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