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EuroJTh (1998) 7:2, 101-111 0960-2720

• Did All the First Christians Have to Leave Their


Parents?
• Mussten alle fruhen Christen ihre Eltern
verlassen?
• Les premiers Chretiens devaient-ils tous quitter .
leurs parents?
Peter Balla, Hungary

ZUSAMMENFASSUNG Die radikalen Worte Jesu zur


Eltern-Kind-Beziehung in den
Als charakteristisch fur ein christliches Evangelientexten lassen sich in drei
Leben sind auch die ethischen Kategorien aufteilen. Eine erste Gruppe
Anweisungen fUr die Familien hat es zu tun mit Aussagen der
anzusehen. Dabei vermitteln einige Herausforderung zur Nachfolge, wobei
Abschnitte im Neuen Testament den eine Pflichtverletzung der Familie
Eindruck, daj3 Jesus und seine ersten gegenuber als Konsequenz der Loyalitat
Nachfolger ein Ethos vertreten haben, zu und Hingabe an Jesus anzusehen ist.
das sich fUr den Familien- Hierbei handelt es sich weniger darum,
zusammenhalt eher zerstOrerisch daj3 Jesus die Familienbeziehung als
auswirken muj3te. Solche Texte solche ablehnt, als daj3 die Familien
erfordern deshalb eine sorgfaltige sich ihrerseits ihm gegenuber feindlich
Analyse. Die hier vertretene Exegese verhalten. Einige Texte beziehen sich
versucht, sie vor dem Hintergrund des zweitens auf besondere Einzelfalle und
Familienethos verschiedener nicht auf die allgemeine Jungerschaft.
Umweltvolker Israels z.Zt. des Neuen Eine dritte Gruppe von Abschnitten ist
Testaments zu verstehen. Dieses ist vor einem apokalptischen Hintergrund
durch ein zunehmendes Interesse an zu verstehen, sie beziehen sich entweder
soziologischen Fragen bei der auf die Endzeit oder auf die
Erforschung des Altertums heute Dringlichkeit, heute zu entscheiden,
erfreulicherwiese recht gut bekannt. welchen Prioritaten man folgen will.
Die Erorterung beginnt mit dem Zusammenfassend laj3t sich sagen, daj3
auj3erbiblischen Material. Dazu werden sich in keiner der drei Textgruppen eine
eingangs die Erwartungen an Kindern Anweisung zu einem generellen
bezuglich ihrer Eltern aufgelistet, wie Verhalten fur alle Junger findet.
sie sich in den Jahrhunderten um die Vielmehr bestatigt Jesus die generelle
Zeitenwende aus heidnischen wie Gultigkeit des Gebots, die Eltern zu
judischen Ouellen darstellen. Danach ehren, seine radikalen Worte zeigen
wurde es als vorrangig angesehen, daj3 dabei die Ausnahme von der Regel,
Kinder ihre Eltern achten und ehren wobei eine 'Distanzierung' von den
sollten. Besonders zwei Pflichten finden Eltern von einzelnen Jungern erwartet
in den Texten Erwahnung: die wurde wegen der Dringlichkeit des
Versorgung der Eltern im Alter und die Auftrags, in der gegenwartigen Zeit das
Verantwortung fUr ihre Beerdigung. Kommen des Reiches Gottes zu bereiten.

EuroJTh7:2.101
• Peter Balla •

REsuME essayons de montrer que les propos


radicaux de Jesus sur les relations entre
L'ethique familiale tient une place parents et enfants peuvent etre classes
importante dans le christianisme. Il y a en trois categories. Premierement,
cependant plusieurs textes du Nouveau certains textes indiquent que ce que dit
Testament qui sembleraient montrer que Jesus vient en reponse it une
Jesus et ses disciples avaient une provocation, ou que la rupture avec la
attitude hostile par rapport it la famille. famille est une consequence de
Ces passages appellent une analyse l'engagement du disciple envers Jesus.
soignee. Notre exegese peut s'appuyer sur Ce n'est pas que Jesus soit hostile it la
la connaissance que nous avons de famille en tant que telle, mais c'est la
l'ethique des differentes societes de famille qui se montre hostile it son
l'epoque du Nouveau Testament. Nous egard. Deuxiemement, certains textes
avons it ce sujet aujourd'hui beaucoup peuvent etre consideres comme se
plus d'informations en raison d'un rapportant it des cas exceptionnels, c'est
interet toujours grandissant pour la vie it dire qu'ils ne s'appliquent pas it tous
sociale de l'antiquite. les disciples. Troisiemement, plusieurs
L'article commence en exploitant les textes doivent etre compris en fonction
sources extra-bibliques et montre quelles de perspectives apocalyptiques: soit ils se
etaient les attentes principales it l'egard rapportent it la fin des temps, soit ils
des enfants dans leurs relations avec soulignent l'urgence d'une decision
leurs parents d'apres la litterature quant aux priorites it adopter dans le
ancienne, aussi bien paienne que juive, present. En aucun cas ils ne prescrivent
dans les deux ou trois siecles qui le comportement requis de taus les
forment le contexte du Nouveau disciples de Jesus. Jesus a affirme la
Testament. On y rencontre d'abord validite du commandement d'honorer
parlout le devoir de venerer les parents. ses parents. Ses propos radicaux portent
Deux implications ressortent comme les sur des exceptions it la regle. Il n'a ete
plus importantes dans nos sources: demande de « quitter leurs parents»
l'obligation de pourvoir aux besoins des qu'it certains disciples, it cause du
parents dans leur vieillesse et celle besoin urgent de leur ministere pour
d'assurer leur obseque,s. Abordant preparer le Royaume it venir, dans le
ensuite les textes de l'Evangile, nous temps present.

In recent decades there has emerged an Parents? The issue that has captured my
increasing interest in family relation- attention and has initiated this paper is
ships in antiquity. Monographs and col- the tension between Jesus' acceptance of
lections of essays deal with aspects of the the commandment, 'Honour your father
Roman family. Publications of papyri and and mother' (see e.g. Mk. 7,9ff. in relation
inscriptions allow an insight into the life to the Corban; and Mk. 10, 17ff.par: the
of Greek and Jewish families. Classical passage concerning the 'rich young
philologists, sociologists and biblical ruler'), and his sayings concerning 'leav-
scholars alike turn their attention to the ing' one's parents (see e.g. Mt. 19,29 and
sociological dimensions of ancient family parallels: Mk. 10,29; Lk. 18,29-in the
life. 1 The present short paper is devoted passage after the rich young ruler; cf. also
to the discussion of one particular aspect the extremely radical saying in Lk. 14,26
of the family life of Jesus' first disciples, about 'hating' one's father and mother). I
that of the child-parent relationship. shall focus here on the Gospel tradition
Within this area we focus our inquiry only; accordingly, 'first Christians' in the
upon the question set in our title, Did All title refers to the first disciples of Jesus.
the First Christians Have to Leave Their It is appropriate to affirm at the begin-

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• Did All the First Christians Have to Leave Their Parents? •

ning that whenever I mention 'children', often referred to in the same context.
I use the term to express a relationship, Here we note that a mother deserves the
and I do not refer to the age of children, same reverence as a goddess. This may be
unless it is specifically needed in a given the personal feeling of the son who writes
context. It will be seen that the duties of this letter, but it is also possible that it is
children to their parents applied to them a concrete expression of a more general
even when they were grown-ups. Accord- rule.
ingly, I shall use the term 'children' to We can find lists to whom honour is
refer to children in their relationship to due. For example, Diogenes Laertius
their parents. Children, in this sense, writes about the Stoics: 3 'The Stoics
remain 'children' to their parents as long approve also of honouring parents and
as their parents are alive; and even brothers in the second place next after the
longer: when they venerate the memory gods. They further maintain that paren-
of their deceased parents. I note that the tal affection for children is natural to the
Greek term teknon can refer to the child- good, but not to the bad'. We can find
parent relationship irrespective of the age further examples in the writings ofHiero-
of the 'child'. cles. 4 The titles given by him to the vari-
In this paper I shall focus on non- ous sections of his work imply a certain
biblical material to establish the back- ranking: he first discusses conduct
ground against which our question has to towards the gods then that towards one's
be discussed~ I shall list the major expec- country.5 Then he writes: 6 'After consider-
tations towards children in relation to ing the gods and our country, what person
their parents in ancient literature origi- deserves to be mentioned more than, or
nating from the two to three centuries prior to our parents? . . . No mistake,
around the time of the New Testament. therefore, will be made by him who says
We shall also meet some examples of that they are as it were secondary or
conflicts between children and parents. terrestrial divinities'. 7
Then I shall point to some New Testa- It may be argued that most if not all of
ment texts for which this background children's duties towards their parents
seems to be relevant. It is needless to say can be derived from the primary duty of
that I can refer only to some examples honouring one's parent. For the sake of
both from the background and from the brevity, let me simply list the duties I
New Testament. By concentrating on a have found in ancient pagan writings:
few examples I hope to stimulate fresh
interest in this wide field of study. -children owe a 'debt' to be 'repaid' to
their parents when they grow old: chil-
A. Children's duties towards their dren should provide for their old or ill
parents in the environment of the parents (just as their parents provided for
New Testament them when they were little children); this
duty is related to the more general duty
1. Non-Jewish sources of 'gratitude';
The first duty to be mentioned is the gen- -children should 'imitate their predeces-
eral expectation that a child would revere sors', i.e. learn from them; this includes
his or her parents. We can find a high the learning of a skill or trade;
appreciation of a mother-and, indeed, of -children should not disagree with their
both parents-expressed in a letter parents;
addressed to the brother of the letter- -children have to obey what their par-
writer:2 ' ... for we ought to revere our ents say ('obedience' had also as its conse-
mother as a goddess, especially one so quence that parents could decide whom
good as ours. This I have written to you, their daughter should marry); obedience
brother, because I know how sweet a included submission to parents' wills; this
possession our revered parents are.' In willingness to obey one's parents is some-
ancient sources parents and gods were times connected to the virtue of pietas;

EuroJTh 7:2 • 103


• Peter Balla •

-children are expected to be respectful in because due to the history of the book, it
speech to their parents; was probably known in Palestine as well
-children have to provide a decent as in the Diaspora. lO In Sirach 3,12 we
funeral for their parents; read: '0 son, help your father in his old
-parents are to be venerated even after age, and do not grieve him as long as he
their deaths; this includes practising lives'.
certain rites. The Sibylline Oracles may attest this
From this list we may point to two duty for Phrygia. In the second book, line
duties in particular which surface in most 245 provides the context for a longer
of our sources: the duty of providing for passage when it says that the impious
one's aging parents; and of burying them will be destroyed. A little later, lines 273-
when they die. Before we turn to some 275 list the following among the impious:
Jewish sources, let me quote one beautiful ' ... as many as abandoned their parents
expression of these duties in a letter of a in old age, not making return at all, not
son to his father. 8 Before the son urges his providing nourishment to their parents in
father to come to him and spend at least turn'.
a season with them, he addresses his A fragment found in Qumran attests
father in this way: 'Nothing truly will be this duty for Judaea. In 4Q Sapiental
dearer to me than to protect you for the Work Ab (4Q416), frag.2, col.iii, line 17 we
rest of your life in a manner worthy of you find the term 'serve' in relation to parents:
and of myself, and if the fate of mankind 'just as they have dominion over you and
befalls you, to see that you enjoy all due form the spirit, so you must serve them'.
honours; this will be my chief desire, hon- This may refer simply to the general prin-
ourably to protect you both while you live ciple that children serve their parents by
and when you have departed to the gods.' being under their authority. However, I
Writing a personal letter, Philonides, the would like to raise the possibility that this
son, expresses in a roundabout way-but service includes looking after them in
nevertheless clearly-his intention to their old age.
provide for a burial that shall express due With due caution, we may argue in a
honour to his father. similar way concerning another verse in
Sirach. Here again, the text may refer to
2. Jewish sources a general expression of obedience: 'he will
From our Jewish sources we could put serve his parents as his masters' (3,7).
together a very similar list of duties. How- However, in the light of other literature,
ever, let it suffice to quote the remark of we may see a reference to the duty of
the editor of a recent collection of essays provision for old age included in the term
on Jewish family life in antiquity who 'serve'.
summarises their results in this way:9 Philo of Alexandria uses the example of
'The striking conclusion that emerges storks to say something about the child-
from all four papers ... is that the Jewish parent relationship. With a reference to
family in antiquity seems not to have the old storks Philo affirms that children
been distinctive by the power of its Jew- gather 'provision for the needs of their
ishness; rather, its structure, ideals, and parents' (Dec. 116).
dynamics seem to have been virtually To mention but one more example,
identical with those of its ambient Tobit 4,3 reads: 'My son, when I die, bury
culture(s)'. Instead of going into detail me, and do not neglect your mother.
concerning all the duties of children, let Honour her all the~ days of your life' The
us see some examples of the above- order not to neglect the mother after her
mentioned two main duties. husband's death may be seen as a call for
providing for her when need arises, in
a. Provision in old age terms of food, and also by everyday help
This duty is expressed, for example, in in general. We note that this duty is valid
the Book of Sirach. This is significant, for one's whole life. l1

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• Did All the First Christians Have to Leave Their Parents? •

b. Providing for a funeral c. Family ties sacrificed for a higher


From the time of the patriarchs on, a cause
decent funeral was significant in the eyes First, we should mention stories about
of the Jewish people. It is a matter of the willingness to die for the Mosaic laws,
course that people other than one's chil- or for the temple. In these stories we often
dren could provide for a funeral, but it find the motif that family ties are ranked
was also regarded as the duty of a child. second after the Torah; and fidelity to the
In the era of our focus, we find the request Torah and to the temple might involve
for a burial, for example, in the Testa- readiness to suffer martyrdom.
ments of the Twelve Patriarchs (T. Gad For example, in connection with the
8,3):12 'My children, obey your father, and Maccabean revolt, Jewish people's atti-
bury me near to my fathers'. At the end of tude is described in the following words in
the individual Testaments the burial of 2Maccabees 15,18: 'Their concern for
the testator, carried out by his children, wives and children, and also for brethren
is also recorded. For example, in T. and relatives, lay upon them less heavily;
Reuben 7,1-2 we read: 'And Reuben died, their greatest and first fear was for the
having given these commands to his sons. consecrated sanctuary,.15 Although this
And they placed him in a coffin, until they sentence is written from the perspective
brought him up from Egypt and buried of the soldiers, we may assume thaf it
him in Hebron in the double cave, where describes the views of the families in
his fathers were'.13 general. 16
In Tobit 4,3-4 we read that Tobit called 4Maccabees puts a strong emphasis on
his son Tobias, and said: 'My son, when I martyrdom. Perhaps a more general pas-
die, bury me, and do not neglect your sage can be viewed against this back-
mother. Honour her all the days of your ground as well. In 4Macc. 2,9b-13 we
life; do what is pleasing to her, and do not read:
grieve her. Remember, my son, that she
faced many dangers for you while you In all . . . matters we can recognize that
were yet unborn. When she dies bury her reason rules the emotions. For the law pre-
beside me in the same grave'. Here we vails even over affection for parents, so that
note the distinct mentioning of both virtue is not abandoned for their sakes. It
father and mother as the recipients of is superior to love for one's wife, so that one
their children's duty of burying them. rebukes her when she breaks the law. It
As regards funerals, Josephus is not so takes precedence over love for children, so
explicit as the above sources. He simply that one punishes them for misdeeds. It is
states that the 'funeral ceremony is to be sovereign over the relationship of friends,
undertaken by the nearest relatives' (C. so that one rebukes friends when they act
Ap. 2.205). However, the context suggests wickedly.
that children are meant first of all, as the Once again, we note that the text does
next section speaks of children's duty of not discuss family relationship from the
honouring their parents (2.206). In Bell perspective of the child. Nevertheless, the
5.545 we find that Josephus' mother subordination of 'family ties' in general is
expected that her son would bury her.l4 worth mentioning. As a passing remark,
Let these few examples suffice. Let us we may contrast these texts to passages
turn to some examples in Jewish sources, in the Jesus tradition as well as in the
where the Torah, the temple, and conver- household codes in the New Testament
sion to 'Judaism' may cause tensions and where family relationships are not only
conflicts within a family. In some of the viewed from the perspective of the par-
sources no tension is involved; rather, ents, but also from that of the child.
there is a willingness to sacrifice or sub- We may mention Josephus as an exam-
ordinate family ties in view of a higher ple in connection with limits to duties
cause. within a family. He emphasises the open-
ness of the Jewish community to those

EuroJTh 7:2 • 105


• Peter Balla •

who want to observe the Mosaic laws (C. went out'. Verse 6 tells us that his father
Ap. 2.210). In this context he formulates and his house were burnt by a thunderbolt.
a limit to duties required by family ties: In J oseph and Aseneth we learn
'To all who desire to come and live under Aseneth's thoughts which she said in her
the same laws with us, he [i.e. "our legis- heart (11,4): 'All people have come to hate
lator"] gives a gracious welcome, holding me, and on top of those my father and my
that it is not family ties alone which con- mother, because I, too, have come to hate
stitute relationship, but agreement in the their gods and have destroyed them .. .'
principles of conduct'. The passage does not say that Aseneth
hated her parents, but her new prospects
d. Conflicts within the family to come into Joseph's family resulted in
In Jewish apocalyptic literature, enmity her hating the pagan gods of her former
within a family is seen as a sign of the last family.
days when God's judgment will be exe- Although these latter examples refer
cuted. For example, in 1Enoch 100,1-2 we back to the times of the patriarchs, they
read: 'In those days, . . . a man shall not were probably intended by their authors
be able to withhold his hands from his to serve as encouragements for prospec-
sons nor from (his) sons' sons in order to tive converts to Judaism at the time of
kill them. Nor is it possible for the sinner their writing. These examples, then, can
to withhold his hands from his honored be seen as limits to children's duties: for
brother. From dawn until the sun sets, the sake of the God of the people ofIsrael
they shall slay each other'. Verse 4 shows one has to be prepared to leave his or her
us the context clearly: 'And the Most High pagan background, including family
will arise on that day ofjudgment in order house and parents.
to execute a great judgment upon all the Keeping this background in mind, let
sinners'. Although we do not find here a us turn to some New Testament passages
reciprocity between father and son, the in order to see whether Jesus and the first
second pair-sinner and his brother- Christians left their parents or not.
shows that this enmity within the family
is something negative; it is a sin which B. Some New Testament Passages
nevertheless cannot be prevented. 17
Stephen Barton has pointed out that In the following, I shall argue tentatively
many Jewish writings narrate cases that the radical sayings of Jesus concern-
where a distancing from one's family is ing the child-parent relationship can be
something worthy of praise. 18 classified in three groups. Firstly, some of
For example, in Jubilees 11,16 concern- the texts indicate that Jesus' saying is an
ing Abram we read: 19 ' ••• was two weeks answer to a challenge, or that the separa-
of years old. And he separated from his tion within a family is a consequence of
father so that he might not worship the the disciples' commitment to Jesus; in
idols with him'. other words: it is not Jesus and his disci-
In the Apocalypse of Abraham, chap- ples who initiate the separation, they
ters 1-8 narrate the story of Abraham's rather suffer it as a consequence of other
youth. At the end of this long narrative people's unbelief. Secondly, some texts
concerning the futility of the gods of his may be regarded as referring to excep-
father, we read Abraham's words (8,1-6): tional cases, i.e. they do not apply to all
'And it came to pass as I was thinking disciples. Here I follow J.C. O'Neill's
things like these with regard to my father thesis, who has suggested that Jesus may
Terah in the court of my house, the voice have had two kinds of disciples, on the
of the Mighty One came down from the analogy of the Essene community: some
heavens in a stream of fire, saying ... "Go were expected to be ready to live in a
out from Terah, your father, and go out of celibate community, while others did not
the house, that you too may not be slain have to renounce family life. O'Neill also
in the sins of your father's house". And I argues that some 'hard sayings about

106. EuroJTh 7:2


• Did All the First Christians Have to Leave Their Parents? •

discipleship-sayings about taking up 2. Mk. 3,31f{.par


the cross, about leaving all, about not There is no disagreement among scholars
loving father or mother more than him- as regards the historicity of the next pas-
... are only for the few who are called to sage to be discussed: Mk. 3,31ff.par-at
rule' as ministers.20 Thirdly, some texts least in some reconstructed form-is gen-
are to be seen in an apocalyptic setting. erally regarded to be authentic. We note
They either refer to the end time, or to that the two other synoptic Gospels bring
the urgency of deciding upon priorities in this scene in another context (see Mt.
the present; in neither case do they 12,46ff; Lk. 8,19ft). It is significant that
prescribe the behaviour of all the disci pIes only Mark refers to the intention of the
of Jesus for the present age. As a general relatives of Jesus (3,21): 'And when his
remark, I would add that some of the texts family heard it, they went out to seize
do not exclude the continuation of him, for people were saying, "He is beside
children honouring their parents. Let himself." , We note that this translation
us briefly consider but a few examples. has an insertion: 'people'; in the Greek the
subject of elegon is not specified. This
1. Lk.2,48ff ambiguous expression may have referred
First we have to ask whether Jesus him- to Jesus' relatives themselves. It is, of
self abandoned his parents. Here we face course, possible to argue that Mk. 3,20"'::21
the problem that, apart from the birth is redactional. However, if we accept that
narratives, his parents are seldom men- there is traditional material in it, then
tioned. From the childhood of Jesus, we Jesus' identification of his true family was
have only the story of the twelve year old not meant as abandoning his blood rela-
Jesus. As the story is narrated only by tions. It can be seen as an answer to the
Luke, and even he brings it at the end of intended action of his non-under-
the birth narrative, there are scholars standing-may we say, 'non-believing'-
who doubt the historicity of this story.21 parents (cf. Mk. 6,1--6, where Jesus'
Without attempting to solve this problem, distancing from his fatherland is also a
I simply note that on the surface of the reaction to their 'unbelief; see especially
story we find a contradiction in Jesus' v.4: 'A prophet is not without honor,
behaviour. On the one hand, he causes except in his own country, and among his
worry for his parents by staying behind in own kin, and in his own house'). We
Jerusalem without any notice (Lk. 2,48). should not underestimate these passages:
On the other hand, at the end of the story they do speak about a 'new family' of
he joins his parents and returns with Jesus. However, they do not imply that
them to Nazareth. The text even stresses Jesus would have denied provision for his
his obedience (2,51). old parents, or indeed, a burial for them
However, there is no real contradiction when they die.
here. Jesus simply follows the general This latter point leads us over to one of
rule we have seen expressed in lists of the most striking sayings of Jesus, in the
those to whom honour is due: God comes conversation with would-be followers of
always before parents in those lists. Jesus.
Accordingly, Jesus' answer to his parents
indicates that he has his heavenly father 3. Lk. 9,59-60; par: Mt. 8,21-22
in mind; so the RSV inserts the term First we have to note a point in which the
'house' into its translation (2,49): 'How is Lukan version of this text seems to be
it that you sought me? Did you not know nearer to the original. Matthew says that
that I must be in my Father's house?' it is a 'disciple' who asks Jesus' permis-
Whether this story has to be labelled as a sion first to bury his father. It is more
legend (or anecdote) or not, we note that likely that Luke is right in referring to an
according to this story Jesus grew up in unspecified 'other' person who has the
his parents' home. chance to become a disciple when meeting
Jesus. 22 We should not try to weaken the

EuroJTh 7:2 • 107


• Peter Balla •

striking character of Jesus' saying (Lk. disciple. Perhaps, it was only expected
9,60): 'Leave the dead to bury their own from some of them.
dead'.23 However, let us make a few exe-
getical observations. Firstly, it is not rele- 4. Texts about 'leaving'
vant to emphasise that it was a great In a way similar to the case of the last
shame to be left unburied in antiquity. passage, I would emphasise the context of
Jesus does not require that the dead other radical sayings of Jesus as signifi-
should not be buried. cant for a correct understanding. As I
Secondly, it is difficult to decide who indicated in the introduction above, Je-
are the dead who should bury their dead. sus' sayings concerning 'leaving' one's
U. Luz holds that it is not the spiritually parents' (Mt. 19,29; Mk. 10,29; Lk. 18,29)
dead. In his opinion, Jesus' sentence is an are reported in the passage after the 'rich
oxymoron., i.e. a witty, paradoxical say- young ruler' in each of the Synoptics. The
ing. 24 Luz paraphrases it this way: 'let the context thus clearly indicates what is at
dead mutually bury one another'. I myself stake here: the discipleship of Jesus. Each
-following the majority of commenta- of the Synoptics indicate that the 'leaving'
tors-incline to the view that it is the occurs for the sake of the discipleship of
spiritually dead who should bury the Jesus: for Jesus' name's sake (Mt.); for
dead, i.e. those who have not responded to Jesus' and the gospel's sake (Mk.); for the
Jesus' call. To be sure, in both cases the sake of the Kingdom of God (Lk.). Perhaps
person is asked to leave his dead father. these sayings concern, again, priorities;
Here I would argue that the emphasis of they may be addressed to some of the
Jesus' radical saying lies in an urgency in disciples and not to all of them. As regards
time and a priority to be given to Jesus' the calling of the first disciples, first we
call. note that one pair of brothers, James and
Both Matthew and Luke express this John, were working in the same trade as
priority in some way. In Matthew, Jesus their father: they were fishing together
first says, 'Follow me', and then utters (Mk. 1,19f.par). Although it is not stated
the radical saying. In Luke this expres- explicitly, we may presume that the same
sion is not necessary, because it is the was true for the other pair of brothers, for
would-be disciple who addresses Jesus Simon (Peter) and Andrew. We must note
and offers to follow him. Rather, in Luke, that there is no enmity among children
Jesus' radical saying is followed by and parents implied in the calling narra-
another sentence: 'but as for you, go and tives. As regards James and John, they
proClaim the kingdom of God'. Both evan- continued to be called the sons of Zebedee
gelists clearly indicate that it is the after their father even after they became
discipleship of Jesus-Jesus' call to pro- disciples of Jesus (Mt. 10,2; 20,20; 26,37;
claim the Kingdom-which has to be cf. also 27,36; see their Marcan parallels,
given precedence even over against fam- and also Lk. 5,10; In. 21,2). Nothing com-
ily ties. Lukes' reference to the Kingdom pels us to presuppose that they would not
may be redactional, but he may be right have provided for their father later if any
in reporting that in the original scene it need would have arisen. As regards Peter,
was Jesus who took the initiative to we have only some 'random' and 'circum-
address a would-be disciple (unlike in stancial' evidence which only permits
Matthew's version).25 The call uttered by some hypothetical suggestions.
Jesus is put in a way that should not be On the one hand, may I point to the
generalised. The saying is radical, but it scene which presupposes that Peter-
does not imply that Jesus would not let even when he was a follower of Jesus-
any of his disciples fulfil their duty as cared for the mother of Peter's wife.
children to their parents. Discipleship, According to all the three synoptic
Nachfolge, has to have precedence, but Gospels, Peter's (Simon's) mother-in-law
this does not lead to abandoning one's is in Peter's house (Mk. 1,29ff; Mt. 8,14f;
family in the case of each individual Lk. 4,38f; Mt. and Lk. have 'Simon'

108. EuroJTh 7:2


• Did All the First Christians Have to Leave Their Parents? •

instead of Peter). Without going into exe- imply, the argument ofU. Luz (seen above
getical details, we simply note that the concerning the reference to Micah 7,6)
evangelists held that Peter (and his wife?) would suggest that the Old Testament
cared for his wife's mother when she reference has apocalyptic connotations
needed help. even in our passage.
On the other hand, Peter was prepared We have to mention-at least briefly-
to return to his fishing business after the crux interpretum of our theme, Lk.
Jesus' death. Irrespective ofthe question 14,26: 'If anyone comes to me and does
of the authenticity of this scene reported not hate his own father and mother and
only by the Fourth Gospel (In. 21,3), it wife and children and brothers and sis-
makes best sense if we presuppose that ters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot
the author of the Fourth Gospel did not be my disciple'. We have to note that the
think that there was any enmity between reference to the disciples' 'hating' their
Peter and his family (although once again relatives occurs only here in the canonical
it has to be emphasised that we do not Gospels. 27 In Luke's Gospel the preceding
hear anything about the parents of Peter context (Lk. 14,25) says that Jesus said
in the Gospels). this saying to the multitude around him.
The following saying (Lk. 14,27), how-
5. Texts about enmity between children ever, speaks about the necessity oftaking
and parents up one's cross. It is interesting to note
I would argue that most of the passages that a similar saying follows immediately
where Jesus speaks of an enmity between upon Mt. 10,34-36, the passage we have
children and parents refer either to the discussed above: 'He who loves father or
consequences of discipleship (which are mother more than me is not worthy of me'
not intended by the disciples, but have to (Mt. 10,370. This suggests to Bovon that
be suffered unavoidably), or to the apoca- in Lk. 14,26-27 we have a parallel to Mt.
lyptic circumstances of the last days. 10,37-38 (and that the originally two in-
Mt. 10,21£ stand in the context of the dependent sayings were put together in
sending out of the disciples. It is signifi- the tradition prior to the time of Mt. and
cant that their parallel in Mk. can be Lk.).28 If this analysis is correct, then nei-
found in ch. 13, i.e. the 'little apocalypse' ther Mt. nor Lk. can be regarded as
(Mk. 13,120. We may add that even in reporting the original context of the
Mt., it has an apocalyptic tone because of sayings. In this case, acknowledging the
the reference to the 'enduring to the end' weakness of an argument from silence, I
(10,210. would suggest that the saying in Lk. 14,26
Mt. 10,34-36 (par in Lk. 12,51-53, so it refers to the priority of Jesus' call to one's
is often assigned by scholars to 'Q') is own family ties. It does not express a
difficult to assess as regards authenticity. general rule, but the urgency of the call to
If it comes from 'Q', then in the case of some of Jesus' disciples. This view would
these verses Matthew's and Luke's Q- be strengthened if we do not take the
versions were different. 26 The reminis- reference to the cross as some spiritual
cence of Micah 7,6 raises the possibility message to all of the disciples, but rather
that the text was produced by the early a readiness for concrete hardships ex-
Christian community. However, U. Luz pected by Jesus from some of his disciples,
argues that Micah 7,6 played a role also but not from all of them. It is worth noting
in Judaism in connection with the end- that the Semitic background of the term
times, so one can presuppose Jesus-Iogia 'hate' also suggests that it is about a
in these verses. priority and not about emotions in the
In spite ofthe grammatical form which modern sense. God places second the one
indicates the aim or goal of the coming of whom he 'hates' as opposed to the one
Jesus, I would argue that Mt. 10,34 can whom he elects (cf. Mal. 1,2-3). Mt. 10,37
nevertheless refer to a consequence here. is not only a parallel to Lk. 14,26, but we
Whatever the grammatical form would can find in them the same idea expressed

EuroJTh 7:2 • 109


• Peter Balla •

by different idioms: 'loves more' equals expected this from them; their non-
'does not hate'. Jewish environment expected it also,
even if not expressed in the words of the
6. Epilogue fifth commandment. Jesus subscribed to
As we started with a passage suspected this expectation; most of his first disciples
by some scholars as regards its historic- subscribed to it as well. The exception
ity-the story of the twelve year old strengthens the rule.
Jesus-, may I conclude by briefly men-
tioning another 'suspected' passage, this Notes
time from the end of Jesus' earthly life. In
In. 19,25-27, Jesus' conversation from 1 See e.g. Dixon, Suzanne: The Roman
the cross with his mother and with the Family. 1992, Baltimore and London: The
beloved disciple is suspected by some John Hopkins University Press; Gardner,
scholars, because it may be regarded as Jane F. and Wiedemann, Thomas: The
an inclusio together with the scene of the Roman Household: A Sourcebook. 1991,
first sign at Cana in ch. 2. Irrespective of London and New York: Routledge;
our view as regards its historicity, let me Moxnes, Halvor (ed.): Constructing Early
conclude by pointing out that the author Christian Families: Family as social real-
of the Fourth Gospel did not see any prob- ity and metaphor. 1997, London and New
York: Routledge; Osiek, Carolyn and
lem in 'relating the fact that the dying Balch, David L.: Families in the New Tes-
Jesus provided for the care of his mother tament World: Households and House
after his death'. 29 Churches 1997, Louisville, Kentucky:
Westminster John Knox Press; Perdue,
C. Conclusion Leo G. et al. (eds.): Families in Ancient
Israel. 1997, Louisville, Kentucky: West-
To sum up, I would argue that the radical minster John Knox Press; Rawson, Beryl
sayings of Jesus should not be weakened (ed.): The Family in Ancient Rome: New
or explained away. However, they are Perspectives. 1986, Ithaka, New York:
Cornell University Press; Wiedemann,
only one aspect of our present theme, Thomas: Adults and Children in the
because, as we saw in the introduction, Roman Empire. 1989, New Haven and
Jesus affirmed the validity of the com- London: Yale University Press.
mandment to honour one's parents. His 2 Select Papyri. 3 vols, vol. 1: Non-literary
radical sayings represent the exception to Papyri: Private Affairs. 1970, London:
the rule. Some disciples are urged to live William Heinemann Ltd, Cambridge,
an ascetic life. Some are warned that Massachusetts: Harvard University
their discipleship can evoke enmity from Press; quotation from vol. 1, p. 321;
their environment including their own the document is dated to the 2 nd century
nearest relatives. Disciples are warned A.D.
3 VII. 120, in: Diogenes Laertius: Lives of
that the end times will involve tensions Eminent Philosophers. 2 vols, vol. 1: 1972,
within families (we have seen this view vol. 2: 1970, London: William Heinemann
attested for Jewish literature in connec- Ltd, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard
tion with the final judgment in the exam- University Press; quotation from vol. 2,
ple oflEnoch 100,1-2). Such enmities can p.225.
become unavoidable for most of the disci- 4 See: Praechter, Karl: Hierokles der
ples in the end-times; but they should not Stoiker. 1901, Leipzig: Dieterich'sche Ver-
be generalised for the present. 'Leaving' lags-Buchhandlung, Theodor Weicher.) I
one's parents can be expected from some quote the texts from Fideler's edition (The
disciples for the sake of the urgency of Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library: An
Anthology of Ancient Writings Which
ministering in the present times to the Relate to Pythagoras and Pythagorean
Kingdom to come. This is the exception to Philosophy. Introduced and edited by
the rule that was valid also for the first David R. Fideler. 1987, Grand Rapids,
disciples of Jesus: 'Honour thy father and Michigan: Phanes Press), pp. 275-279.
thy mother'. Their Jewish environment 5 Fideler 1987, 275-277.

110. EuroJTh 7:2


• Did All the First Christians Have ta Leave Their Parents? •

6 Ibid. 277; Greek text in: Praechter 1901,45. 19 Unless otherwise stated, I usually quote
7 E. Eyben has noted that: 'Like the Stoics, the Pseudepigrapha from Charlesworth
Cicero ranked the pietas owed to parents (1983 and 1985); and the apocrypha from
third after the respect owed to the gods the Revised Standard Version.
and to the fatherland', Of{. 1,45,160 (Rest- 20 O'Neill, John C.: Messiah: Six lectures on
less Youth in Ancient Rome. 1993, London the ministry of Jesus. 1980, repr. 1984,
and New York: Routledge, p. 206). It is the Cambridge: Cochrane Press, p. 84. Cf. also
more interesting that there is a passage in M. Hengel: Nachfolge und Charisma.
Cicero where the gods are not mentioned 1968, Berlin: Verlag Alfred Topelmann,
at the beginning of a list, but only one's pp. 68fI. The fifth section ofHengel's work
country and parents (Cicero: De Officiis is entitled as follows: 'Jesu Ruf in die
Lib.I. cap. 17,58). "Nachfolge" gilt nur dem einzelnen
8 The papyrus is dated about 255 B.C., Se- Gerufenen' (p. 68).
lect Papyri I1279. 21 F. Bovon calls it an 'anecdote' (in: Das
9 Cohen, ShayeJ: D. (ed.): The Jewish Fam- Evangelium nach Lukas. EKK IIII1, 1989,
ily in Antiquity. 1993, Atlanta, Georgia: p. 154). According to him, Luke took
Scholars Press; the quotation comes from it over from the tradition, and re-worked
the Introduction, p. 2. it.
10 See: Sauer, Georg: Jesus Sirach (Ben 22 So also: Kristen, Peter: Familie, Kreuz
Sira). 1981, Giitersloh: Giitersloher Ver- und Leben: Nachfolge Jesu nach Q und
lagshaus Gerd Mohn, p. 490. dem Markusevangelium. 1995, Marburg:
11 See also bT Qidd 31b, towards the end of N. G. Elwert Verlag, pp. 110 and 112.
that section. Here honour includes: to give 23 Concerning Lev 21,l1f and Num 6,6,
one's father to eat, to drink, and to clothe Hengel rightly affirms (1968, 12): 'Das den
him; to lead him in and out. The latter Hohenpriester und Nasiraer betrefIende
must refer to their state when they are old Gebot wird man daher kaum mit
or weak. Schniewind zur Motivierung der Antwort
12 My quotations are from: Hollander, H. J esu heranziehen diirfen, da Jesus ... erst
W.-de Jonge, M.: The Testaments of the recht eine kultisch-rituelle Begriindung
Twelve Patriarchs: A Commentary. 1985, seiner Fordertung fernlag'.
Leiden: E. J. Brill. 24 Das Evangelium nach Matthiius. EKK
13 Joseph commands his children that they I12, 1990, Ziirich: Benziger Verlag,
should bring with them also the bones of Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag,
Zilpah (T. Joseph 20,3): 'And carry up p.25.
Zilpah your mother and bury her close to 25 I would argue that Matthew assimilated
Bilhah, by the Hippodrome, near Rachel'. the form to the preceding passage: in
14 For a Palestinian attestation of this duty Matthew's version Jesus is addressed
see Jub 23,7;36,1£.18. first; his sayings are answers (pace
15 See: Habicht, Christian: 2. Makkabiier- Hengel 1968, 4f).
buch. 1976, Giitersloh: Giitersloher Ver- 26 So U. Luz, 1990, 134f.
lagshaus Gerd Mohn. 27 This saying occurs twice in the Gospel of
16 See another example of a similar kind in Thomas, no. 55 and 101. In the latter the
Josephus, Bell 2. 197. need to love one's parents IS also
17 Cf. also 1 Enoch 56,7; 99,5; Jub 23,16; expressed. Cf. In. 12,25 concerning the
SyrBar 70,6; Zech 13,4. necessity of hating one's own life.
18 See his dissertation: Discipleship and 28 Das Evangelium nach Lukas EKK IIII2,
Family Ties in Mark and Matthew. 1994, 1996, p. 527.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 29 So R. E. Brown: The Gospel According to
especially pp. 24fI passim and 55. John. XIII-XXI. 1966, p. 923.
Of Related Interest
Children in the Early Church by William A Strange
What was Jesus' attitude to children and how did this church membership, baptism and the eucharist in the
affect their position in the early church? writings of the New Testament and the early church.
In this thorough, non-technical summary Dr Strange 'This book is well written in a simple and attractive style.
provides a wealth of cultural background which often It sets out a great deal of information about attitudes to
challenges popular assumptions. He compares and children in the period of Jesus' lifetime, a startling contrast
contrasts the position of Jewish and pagan children in the with the attitude ofJesus.' - Dr. G. Beasley-Murray.
anci~nt world.ofthe.Ne~ T,:stament wi~ the ~le Jesus 0-85364-763-1 / 144 / £9.99
ascnbes to children ID hls kingdom and ID relatlOn to pp
Paternoster Press PO Box 300 Carlisle Cumbria CA3 OQS UK

EuroJTh 7:2 • 111