Luke 6:1: Its Corrupted & Actual Understanding

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. 2.5


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