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Allusions to the Old Testament in Luke 18:9-14

by Pastor Beisel ~ August 19th, 2009

The following observations are drawn from Beale & Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007).

1. The phrase in 18:9 “to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt” echoes the language of Ezekiel 33:13, in which the prophet criticizes his contemporaries for trusting in their own righteousness: “Though I say to the righteous that they shall surely live, yet if they trust in their righteousness and commit iniquity, none of their righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in the iniquit that the have committed they shall die.”

2. The pride of self-righteousness is condemned in several Jewish texts, most notably t. Ber. 6:18, where a male Jew thanks God that he is not a Gentile, a boor, or a woman.

3. The Pharisee’s prayer in 18:11 echoes the 6th and 7th commandments of the Decalogue, with the middle term “rogues” (adikoi, “unrighteous” or “evildoers”), being a generic reference to lawlessness.

4. The reference to fasting in 18:12 recalls the stipulation to fast on the Day of ATonemet (Lev 16:29, 31; 23:27, 29, 32; Num. 29:7), during Purim (Esther 9:31), and during further annual days of fastig (Zech. 7:3, 5; 8:19), as well as OT passages that report fasting by individuals as an expression of mourning (2 Sam. 12:21), penance (1 Kings 21:27; Ezra 10:6), and supplication (Neh. 1:4; Dan. 9:3).

5. Tithing: Leviticus 27:30-32; Num. 18:21-24; Deut. 14:22-27.

6. The language of the Tax Collector “Look up to heaven” (18:13a) echoes Ezra’s prayer upon hearing of the numerous mixed marriages in Jerusalem: “O my God, I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens” (Ezra 9:6).

7. Tax Collector’s prayer: “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” Here Psalm 51:1, 3 linger in the background: “Have mercy on me, O God…For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (50:3, 5 LXX: eleeson me ho theos…kai he harmartia mou enopion mou estin dia pantos).

8. Jesus’ words at the end of the parable: “For all who exalt themselves…” echo those of Ezekiel 21:26: “Exalt that which is low, and abase that which is high.”

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