In a comment on a previous post, my Methodist friend John Meunier commented that Matthew 24 makes a stronger agricultural connection with “grind” than Luke 17. And he’s
absolutely correct. Whereas Luke has two women “grinding,” Matthew has two women “grinding at the mill.” Here are the two verses:
There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other
will be left. (Luke 17:35, NASB)
Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. (Matthew 24:41, NASB)
The difference here reminds me of the difference between two other verses, again in Matthew and Luke.
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. (Luke 6:20)
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:12)
I know from experience that there’s a big difference between being “poor” and being “poor in spirit.” If translators were to insert Matthew’s words “in spirit” into Luke, there would be a hue and cry, and rightly so. Adding “in spirit” to Luke 6:20 for purposes of “clarification” would be a deliberate attempt to gloss over a difference in theological emphasis between the two gospels, and would obscure Jesus’ concern for social outcasts that we read in Luke.
The same is true here when we’re talking about “two women grinding together.” The grinding difference between Luke 17:35 and Matthew 24: 41 signals a similar theological difference. It is differences between the synoptic gospels that allow scholars to explore the concerns that are unique to each of the gospel writers.
For example, such differences allow students of the Bible to determine that Mark
was written for a mainly Roman audience, Matthew for a mainly Jewish audience,
and Luke for a mainly Gentile audience. (Please keep Luke’s Gentile audience in
mind—this will be very important later on.)
Such differences allow scholars to notice that Luke places a special emphasis on
social outcasts like women, the poor, lepers, tax collectors, and Samaritans. Luke’s emphasis on social outcasts is also consistent with my thesis that Luke’s Small Apocalypse has as its central theme, Jesus’ acceptance of non-celibate gays and lesbians.
The corollary to the fact that differences between the synoptic gospels allow us to see differences in theological emphasis is: Harmonizing the synoptic gospels obscures differences in theological emphasis. This is especially true for average Christians who are totally dependent on the translators.
Muloni is the Greek word for “mill.” Muloni is present in the Greek text of Matthew 24. It is not present in Luke 17. The absence of the word “mill” in Luke 17:34 is significant, as significant as the absence of “in spirit” is in Luke 6:20.
There’s a big difference between being poor in spirit and being poor. There’s also a
big difference between women grinding grain in a mill, and women grinding.
[To read the entire series on “Luke’s Gay Apocalypse” and the gays and lesbians in Luke, click here.]