Luke 19.27 Not the word of the Lord? Oh yes it is!
Christian apologists squirm and wriggle over this infamous command of Jesus to murder his enemies. "It's not Jesus," they say, "It's the 'harsh master' in the parable." But is it?
Luke builds to JC's big finish in Jerusalem by having his meandering hero tell a series of parables along the way. Luke 19 is the link from Jericho to the Temple itself. In verses 1-10, near Jericho, the godman invites himself into the house of a dwarfish publican called Zacchaeus and rewards the guy with salvation after Zac' says he is going to give half his goods to the poor.
At verse 11 a new scene is set: JC is about to depart (and of course he knows crucifixion awaits him); his audience think the Kingdom of God is at hand.
JC responds with the infamous parable, which is actually an attempt by 2nd century gospel writers to deal with issued raised by the "delayed kingdom". The believing brethren have the "good news" but what are they to do with it?
The parable starts with the words "A certain man of noble birth went far to receive a kingdom. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds." Is this JC? The answer is to be found in an earlier version of the same yarn – in Matthew:
"For the Kingdom of Heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods." – 25,14
Matthew tells his version of the story using just 3 servants (they represent the Christian brethren, "servants of the Lord'
. "After a long time the Lord of those servants cometh" (25.19). There is a reckoning (the Day of Judgement). The lord is well pleased with 2 of them who have successfully "earned interest on his money."
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." – 25,21
The third servant however, who denounces his lord as harsh, says he was "afraid" and simply hid the lord's investment. A displeased lord turns on him as a "wicked and slothful servant" (25:27).
The point of the story? This is how Matthew rounds it off:
"For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." – 25.29,30
In other words this so-called Parable of the Harsh Master / Parable of the Talents is a story about what Christians are to do with the "gospel" as they wait for the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. They are to spread the word ("grow the Lord's money"
, not hide it away. Correctly understood, this is the parable of the slothful servant, threatened with "outer darkness."
When Luke copied Matthew's efforts he added a new element: "reluctant citizens" of the new kingdom (no doubt he had in mind recalcitrant pagans).
"But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us." – 19.14
Luke followed closely Matthew's story but replaced the final bit threatening "outer darkness" to lazy brethren with a more immediate and tangible injunction aimed at "enemies":
"I tell you, that to every one who has will more be given; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me." – 19.27
Where did Luke get his inspiration? A nobleman "travelling far to receive a kingdom" is a rare enough event. Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews - Book 17, chapter 11 maps the story and also provides all the ingredients for both 19.14 and 19.27.
With the death of Herod the Great, his son Archelaus – of noble birth – journeyed to Rome to "receive his kingdom" from Emperor Augustus. But at the same time an embassy of the Jews petitioned Caesar that "out of their hatred to him" Archelaus not "be set over their kingdom". Archelaus had slaughtered 3000 of his enemies at the Temple. The emperor eventually removed him and sent him into exile in 6 AD.
Josephus wrote Antiquities of the Jews around 93 AD.