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Luke 6:1 : Its Cor­rupt­ed & Actu­al Understanding

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Asif Iqbal

That the text of the New Tes­ta­ment, as we have it today, is loaded with tex­tu­al cor­rup­tions and mis­read­ings is an acknowl­edged fact among the NT schol­ars (cf., e.g., Met­zger, Oxford. 1987, ch., vii). Once in a while such tex­tu­al cor­rup­tions cre­ate such a gross mis­read­ing of the pas­sage that the entire sense is affect­ed. In the fol­low­ing, one such mis­read­ing will be exposed and the cor­rect sense of the pas­sage rehabilitated.

A cer­tain oft-repeat­ing theme in the Syn­op­tic gospels is that of Jesus’ con­fronta­tion­al encoun­ters with the Phar­isees regard­ing the vio­la­tion of Sab­bath” of the for­mer and his disciples.

In the one case (Matthew 12:1 – 8, etc.) Jesus, refer­ring to David (I Samuel 21:5 – 7), defend­ed his dis­ci­ples, who in their hunger plucked the new corn in the field and ate it with­out wait­ing for the offer­ing upon the altar. In the oth­er case (Mark 3:1 – 6, etc.) he him­self dis­re­gard­ed the Sab­bath law by work­ing (i.e., heal­ing a sick man).

Now this ref­er­ence to David is absolute­ly mean­ing­less and absurd, since David’s action did not occur on a Sab­bath. More­over, David’s action dealt with for­bid­den food and not with doing work on a for­bid­den day.

There­fore there is a legit­i­mate cause for reject­ing this under­stand­ing. The fact of the mat­ter is that this sto­ry of the pluck­ing of grain by the dis­ci­ples (of which Luke 6:1 – 5 alone has pre­served a cor­rect trace), was not on the Sab­bath, but on the first day of the sec­ond Passover week.

KJV ren­ders the rel­e­vant verse as :

And it came to pass on the sec­ond sab­bath after the first, that he went through the corn fields ; and his dis­ci­ples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rub­bing them in their hands. (Luke 6:1)

The Greek of the phrase sec­ond sab­bath after the first” is : sab­ba­ton deutero­pro­ton (Stephanos-1550) from the Bib­li­cal expres­sion the mor­row of the Sab­bath”, Leviti­cus 23:11 – 14, where in the descrip­tion of the law con­cern­ing the new pro­duce of the year, it is men­tioned that no new corn was allowed to be eat­en before some had been offered on the altar.

Thus it was on the first of the sec­ond week after Passover” that the dis­ci­ples of Jesus passed through the field and plucked the new corn to which the Phar­isees object­ed. In defend­ing their action, Jesus cor­rect­ly referred to David, who ate of the holy bread because he was hun­gry (I Samuel 21:5 – 7), an argu­ment which would absolute­ly not apply to the Sab­bath. Thus what we have here is an unde­ni­able instance of the mis­un­der­stand­ing of the term On the first of the sec­ond week after Passover,” caus­ing the con­fu­sion of the law con­cern­ing the new pro­duce of the year (Lev 23:11 – 14) with the Sab­bath law.


[1] Chwol­son, Das Let­zte Pas­sahmahl Christi, pp. 59 – 67.

[2] Matthew Hen­ry’s Com­men­tary on Luke 6:1 ff., Pow­er Bible CD, Ver. 2.5Endmark

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