Synoptics at Suffern: The House built on the Rock — Part 1

Inspired by the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, a small group of students (on that day: Myself, Maureen Farrell-Garcia, Austin, Anne) have decided to get together in Dr. Steven Notley’s house (Suffern, NY) to study the Synoptic gospels and their Hebraic and Jewish background. We are just beginning this summer and hope to continue for two more sessions during the school break. Hopefully, after each session I will get to post some notes from our meetings that will spark comments. To keep it short and sweet, these posts will not be overly detailed.

Synoptics at Suffern: Yeah, I'm doing a Bookfinder search, but my Synopsis is too.

Synoptics at Suffern: Yeah, I'm doing a Bookfinder search, but my Synopsis is too.

The Parable of the House on the Rock (Matt 7:24-27; Lk 6:47-49)

During the course of our Synoptics session it was clear that  Matthew’s version was far more terse and quick-moving than the Lukan parallel. Luke’s parable is fleshed out version that bears the signals of later development from what may appear in Matthew.

Matthean Parable:

(note: the GK is Nestle-Aland 27th ed.)

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, and it collapsed; it was utterly destroyed!”

Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ἀκούει μου τοὺς λόγους τούτους καὶ ποιεῖ αὐτούς, ὁμοιωθήσεται ἀνδρὶ φρονίμῳ, ὅστις ᾠκοδόμησεν αὐτοῦ τὴν οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν· καὶ κατέβη ἡ βροχὴ καὶ ἦλθον οἱ ποταμοὶ καὶ ἔπνευσαν οἱ ἄνεμοι καὶ προσέπεσαν τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἐκείνῃ, καὶ οὐκ ἔπεσεν, τεθεμελίωτο γὰρ ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν. καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἀκούων μου τοὺς λόγους τούτους καὶ μὴ ποιῶν αὐτοὺς ὁμοιωθήσεται ἀνδρὶ μωρῷ, ὅστις ᾠκοδόμησεν αὐτοῦ τὴν οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν ἄμμον·καὶ κατέβη ἡ βροχὴ καὶ ἦλθον οἱ ποταμοὶ καὶ ἔπνευσαν οἱ ἄνεμοι κα προσέκοψαν τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἐκείνῃ, καὶ ἔπεσεν καὶ ἦν ἡ πτῶσις αὐτῆς μεγάλη.

Some notes on Matthew which have a Hebraic feel:

  • The use of kai seems to parallel the use of ve used in Hebrew narrative throughout the Hebrew Bible. (I am not sure if the same occurs in Aramaic which is the presumed Semitic language of the gospels). Notice the orange formatting.
  • The subject/verse position in Matthew’s text mimics that of a Hebrew text, that is, main verb followed by the verb’s subject on several occasions. Notice the blue lettering

Lukan Parallel:

“Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and puts them into practice; I will show you what he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep, and laid the foundation on bedrock. When a flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the person who hears and does not put my words into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against that house, it collapsed immediately, and was utterly destroyed!”

Πᾶς ὁ ἐρχόμενος πρός με καὶ ἀκούων μου τῶν λόγων καὶ ποιῶν αὐτούς, ὑποδείξω ὑμῖν τίνι ἐστὶν ὅμοιος·ὅμοιός ἐστιν ἀνθρώπῳ οἰκοδομοῦντι οἰκίαν ὃς ἔσκαψεν καὶ ἐβάθυνεν καὶ ἔθηκεν θεμέλιον ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν· πλημμύρης δὲ γενομένης προσέρηξεν ὁ ποταμὸς τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἐκείνῃ, καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσεν σαλεῦσαι αὐτὴν διὰ τὸ καλῶς οἰκοδομῆσθαι αὐτήν. ὁ δὲ ἀκούσας καὶ μὴ ποιήσας ὅμοιός ἐστιν ἀνθρώπῳ οἰκοδομήσαντι οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν χωρὶς θεμελίου, ᾗ προσέρηξεν ὁ ποταμός, καὶ εὐθὺς συνέπεσεν καὶ ἐγένετο τὸ ῥῆγμα τῆς οἰκίας ἐκείνης μέγα.

One will notice that in the beginning of Jesus’ parable he expresses one who will ‘hear’ and ‘do’ his words. Of the instances where shema and oseh, none is more interesting than Ex 24:7: “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will hear!; …    :oDmVvˆn◊w hRcSoÅn hDwh◊y rR;bî;d_rRvSa lO;k wrVma¥yÅw.ø” At first sight the exclamation seems to be reversed. How can one do before they hear? The same question sparked the debate regarding which was more important, doing or hearing. One will quickly notice that while the LXX and Targum Neofiti keeps the order the MT, Targum Onkelos and Pseudo-Yonatan changes ‘hearing’ to ‘receiving.’ This reversal seemed to spark some conversation in antiquity as to which was more important ‘hearing,’ what becomes studying the Torah,’ or ‘doing’. Jesus’ parable and the subsequent parable development seem to touch on this debate. This parable, in particular, deals with the importance of doing, or being a person of action (perhaps deeds of righteousness and charity), versus simply hearing.

On the next post, I will mention what seems to be the parable development  evident in Matthew, the Mishnah, and Avot de Rabbi-Natan.

If I have missed something please comment.

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2 thoughts on “Synoptics at Suffern: The House built on the Rock — Part 1

  1. Hi Jeff –

    I don’t know a lot about the structure of the Greek of the Matthean vs. Lukan version of the parable of the builder. But the Lukan version seems to be closer to the rabbinic parallels.

    In Luke, the difference between the house that stands and the house that falls is their construction – same as in Avot. The Matthean version is about *where* they were constructed. The houses are the same, but the place they are built is different – on the rock or in the sand.

    If the point is that a person’s life must be “built” out of obedience to Jesus’ teachings, Luke’s version, about a house that is constructed with or without a foundation seems to make more sense. And it fits with the other rabbinic ideas of a house built with bricks on stones or vice versa, or a tree with many roots or few. The rabbinic stories aren’t about identical trees or houses in different locations, they are about the inner construction of something that is expected to last for a long time.

    Did you folks have any discussion about the differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s version of the parable?

  2. For our meeting, we tried to note which parable indicated signs of being older, or in this case more Hebraic. Even reading the English translations will show you that Luke’s parable seems more fleshed out, while Matthew’s version is far-more terse and fast moving. This is the reason why we focused on Matthew. I think Luke’s parable bears sign of his editorial work. The ‘hear’ and ‘does’ motif also reflects a closer affinity to the Hebrew Bible, as well as the debates regarding which is more important, ‘to listen’ or ‘to do’.

    I also think that the early part of the parable in ARN, as well as the Mishnah, bear some similarities to the concept of a foundation, viz., little vs. abundant roots and mud bricks vs. stones. I see your point however, Luke’s may be based on an alternative version of the parable. Our opinion during the meeting if I remember correctly was that Matthew’s text seem more Hebraic, while Luke’s seemed edited. Perhaps, Luke’s source contained a slightly altered parable, which he incorporated at this point in his gospel. Thanks for the comment.

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