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Harvard Divinity School

The Call to Discipleship and Proselytizing

Author(s): Michael Lattke
Reviewed work(s):
Source: The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 92, No. 3 (Jul., 1999), pp. 359-362
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Harvard Divinity School
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The Call to Discipleship
and Proselytizing*

Michael Lattke
Universityof Queensland

Proselytizing is addressedexpressly in only one passage in the New Testament

(Matt23:15). Its appearancetherein materialuniqueto the First Gospel and in the
negative form of a curse, alreadyhas been justifiably criticizedby J. Gnilka.l My
brief essay, however,does not concernitself with such a critique,necessarythough
it may be. Rather,I arguethata clear indicationof early Christianproselytizingis
to be found in two of the New Testament"call to discipleship" texts that are
generally interpreted positively and with great Christian fervor, namely
Mark10:28-302andLuke 14:26-27.3 These texts may be distinguishedfromother
passages thatspeak of a call to discipleshipanddisciple-likefollowing,4becausein
themJesusteachesthe leavingof houseandhome,brotherandsister,son anddaugh-
ter,motherand father,wife and children.

*Iwould like to thankmy colleague Dr. Rick Strelan,who translatedthe original Germanversion,
"Nachfolgeruf und Proselytenmacherei,"into English.
1J. Gnilka, Das Matthausevangelium.I. und 11.Teil (HThKNT 1/1-2; Freiburg:Herder, 1986 [=
Matthaus 1], 1988 [= Matthaus2]): "This kind of curse requiresa thoroughcritique which takes the
Sermon on the Mount as its standard."("DieseArt der Verwunschungbedarf der Sachkritik,die am
MaSstab der Bergpredigt zu nehmen ist." Matthaus 2. 286). Some pages later, he says that this
rebuke of the Pharisees (Pharisaerschelte),especially after the horrors of Auschwitz (Grauen von
Auschwitz), should no longer be preached. "We can now only read the text as a demand for
self-criticism" ("Wir konnen den Text nurmehrals Aufforderungzur Selbstkritik lesen") and also
"apply it to the church of our day" ("auf die Kirche unsererTage anwenden." 2. 294)
2CompareMatt 19:27-29; Luke 18:28-30.
3CompareMatt 10:37-38; Gos. Thom.55, 101.
4Compare,for example, Matt4:19-22; 8:19-23; 9:9; 16:24; 19:2;, 20:34; Mark 1:18; 6:1; 8:34;

HTR92:3 (1999) 35942


Although lexica and commentaries that define and interpret the term
1TpooqXuTos (proselyte) in New Testamentpassages such as Matt 23:15; Acts
2:11; 6:5; and 13:13 often refer to Philo's definition of the term in Spec. Ieg.
1.51-52,5 that same definition is never found in comments on the two specific
discipleship passages to which I call the reader's attention. The search for any
reference to proselytizing in lexicon articles dealing with aKoSou0Eco
(to follow) also yields nothing.6The same is true for commentaries, although
Gnilka, with his observation on Mark 10:29-30, is close to making the
appropriateconnection, and thus to making an apt deduction, when he writes:
"Philo is particularly relevant to our passage: 'These have left children and
parents and siblings, neighbors and friendships in order to find the eternal
inheritancein place of the earthly'(De SacrificiisAbeliset Caini129)."7Philo's
statement, however, does not refer to proselytes but rather to the Levites as
Looking in more detail at Philo's 1TpooqXuTos passage in De specialibus
legibus, however, it can be seen that he writes there about a "conversion"
(pETa,BaSSEsOaz)and about the decision "to make the passage to piety" (1Tpos
. . . pE0oppsasOaz).9According to Philo's Moses, such "strangers"

10:21; 10:52;Luke5:11; 5:27-28; 9:23; 9:57; 9:59; 9:61; 18:22;and John 1:43; 8:12; 12:26;
13:36-37;21:19-22. Thesepassageshavebeenabundantlydiscussed,chiefly in termof cross-
bearingdiscipleshipand the authorityof Jesus.However,not even the extensivestudiesof E.
Bammelin JesuNachfolger:Nachfolgeuberlieferungen inderZeitdesfruhenChristentums (Studia
Delitzschiana,3d Folge, vol.1;Heidelberg:L. Schneider,1988),addressthe connectionbetween
discipleshipandproselytization.ThatJesuscalledhis owndisciples,andgatheredaroundhimhis
ownstudents,canhardlybe doubted(compareMichaelLattke,"NeueAspektederFragenachdem
historischenJesus,"Kairos21 [1979] 288-99, esp. 299).
5CompareK. G. Kuhn,"lrpoanAvTos," TDNT6 (1968) 727-44, esp. 732 (referenceto De
Somniis2. 273, doesnotadda newaspect);H. Kuhli,"lrpoailAvTos," EWNT3(1983)41>13, esp.
412 ("PhilokenntdasWortlr.eindeutigals t.t.");I. Levinskaya,TheBookof Actsin lts Diaspora
Setting,in B. W. Winter,ed., TheBookof Actsin lts FirstCenturySetting(5 vols.; GrandRapids:
Eerdmans,1996)5. 36-49.
6Compare G. Kittel, "aKOAOV0E' KTA.," TDNT 1 (1964) 210-15; G.Schneider,
"aKOAOV0EX KTA.," EWNT1 ( 1980) 117-25.
7J.Gnilka,Das EvangeliumnachMarkus,2. Teilband:Mk8, 27-16, 20 (EKK2/2; Zurich
et al.: Benziger/Neukirchen-Vluyn: NeukirchenerVerlag, 1979) 92: "Philo kommtunserer
Stelle besonders nahe: 'Diese haben Kinder,Eltern und Geschwister,Nachbarschaftund
Freundschafthinter sich gelassen, um an Stelle des irdischen das ewige Erbe zu finden'
(SacrAC129)."The relevantGreekwordsare TEKwa, yovEIs,a6EAfovs,and Ta oiKEIoTaTa Kai
fIATaTa.CompareL. Cohn, ed., Philonis Alexandriniopera quae supersunt(8 vols.; 1962;
reprintedBerlin:de Gruyter,1986) 1. 254.
85acr.AC 128. CompareCohnet al., eds., Philo von Alexandria:Die Werkein deutscher
Ubersetzung(6 vols.;Berlin:de Gruyter,1962) 3. 261 (see "Leviten,""Fluchtlinge").
9CompareCohn,PhilonisAlexandrini(1906; reprinted1962) 5. 12-13; Cohn,Werke,24-
s / ts E \ \ \ , w
s o % \ e \ t1 w / t t


(comparethe Hebrew:m) are called "proselytes"(1TpomAuToz),"becausethey have

joined the new and godly commonwealth.''l°
In a typicalparaphraseof texts such as
Lev 19:331landDeut 10:1>19, placedintothe mouthof Moses, Philo continues:
a1TOSEA0z1TOTES 1TaTp6aKat izXous Kat OUyyEVEtS 6t apEmV Kat
< , \ , , < , , ^ \ , , \ ,*

ooloTrTa ,unaWuolpElTcovav ETEp@V FOAE@V Kal OlKEl@V Kal FlA@V,

aSA' EsTcovav E¢E6pOt KaTaQuyat TO^USwpos EUsE@EzaVauTopoSo^ust
¢tATpOV yap avusz"XTaTovKat OEOpOS aAUTOS EUVOtaS EV@TIKw q

Theyhave left, he says, theircountry,theirkinsfolkandtheirfriendsfor

the sakeof virtueandreligion.Let themnot be deniedanothercitizenship
or otherties of familyandfriendship,andlet themfind places of shelter
standingreadyfor refugeesto the campof piety. For the most effectual
love-charm,the chainwhichbindsindissolublythe goodwillwhichmakes
us one is to honourthe one God.12
ThisHellenisticJewishdefinitionof a proselyte,the contentof which seems more
importantto Philothanthe "adoptionof circumcisionandof the whole Law''l3by the
full proselyte,is in any case pre-Markan, no matterwhetherone assumesthe dateof
thecompositionof Markto be shordybefore70 CEor verysoonthereafter.l4 Awareness
of Philo's definition was certainly not conElnedto Alexandria.Wherever Mark
originated Rome, Antioch, Galilee, or Asia Minor the substance of Philo's
definitionwould havebeen known.
Philo'sdefinitionof a proselytehas a twofoldconnectionwithMark10:28-30. On
the one hand,thereis the leavingof"fatherland,friends,andrelatives,''lsand on the
otherhand,thereis the attainmentof "anotherhomeland,otherrelatives,otherfriends,
protection, and refuge.''l6What sounds harsh in both traditionsis considerably

25; F. H. Colson, Philo (1937; LCL; 10 vols.; reprinted Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1984) 7. 126-29.
101TpOaEAnAV0EVal Kal9 Kal fIAO0EX WoAITEi ,a (Spec. Ieg. 1.51).

Compare also Lev 24:22.

5pec. Ieg. 51-52.
13Gnilka,Matthtius2. 286 ("UbernahmederBeschneidungund des ganzen Gesetzes"). "Daneben
gab es die Halbproselyten oder Gottesfurchtigen mit eingeschrankten Rechten und Pflichten."
There is no reason to assume that Philo does not speak of "Ganzproselyten."
14U. Schnelle, Einleitung in das Neue Testament(UTB 1930; reprintedGottingen: Vandenhoeck
& Ruprecht, 1994) 238.
lsCompare in Mark: lrawTa, oiKlaw il a6EAfovs il a6EAfas il pnTEpa il lraTEpa il TEKwail aypovS,
in Matt: lrawTa, oiKlas il a6EAfovs il a6EAfas il lraTEpa il pnTEpa il TEKwail aypovS; in Luke: Ta ';Ela,
OlKlaV n yvwalKa n atEA+OVS n yoVElS n TEK9a.

16Comparein Mark:EKaTowTalrRaalowa
wwEV Ts KalpX, TOVTX OlKlAs Kai a6EA+oVS Kai a6EA+aS
\ , \ , \ . \ \ - - \ . - . - - . , \ . , .
Kal pnTEpaS KXEK9a Kal aypoVs pETa OlXypX9, Kal EV TX alQWl TXEpXOpEVX (X9 alQWlOV; ln Matt:
. . , _ \ . ,


softened and, moreover, eschatologically assured in the somewhat later

compilation of the New Testament.
A final point of comparison is offered by the texts themselves. In Philo, the
stated motive for leaving (6z' apEqv KalooloqTa) offers a new and, to some
degree, distinctive interpretation,when comparedto the implied motives found
in the Gospel passages.l7 For, in the latter passages, the teaching of Jesus is
introduced and provoked by Peter.l8Moreover, Peter's words seem to reflect a
vocabulary of a later period placed back into the life of Jesus. The vocabulary
has a twofold Sitz im Leben on the one hand, the call to discipleship of the
historical Jesus and the following by the disciples. On the other hand, its Sitz
im Lebenmay be that of Jewish-Christian proselytizing, a situation that was
subsequently also applied to non-Jews. More subtly, this connection is already
reflected in a logion Of Q,l9 as well as in Gos. Thom.55 and 101.2°In the
Gospel of Thomas,however, the emphasis is on the rejection of, and even
hatred toward, relatives and on the taking up the cross (Kreuzesnachfolge) by
disciples and followers.

. . . Kal(coqwalcowlow,
ln Luke:IroAAalrRaalowa
. , \ \ . , . , . , \ .


a I Cow I TCJ E p XOpE VCo (>con w a I Cow l ow .

Tils aal AE I as TOV oEOV .

l8Mark:a+ilKapEw lrawTaKaiilKoRou0ilKapEw aol; Matt:a+ilKapEw

-pEw aol; Luke:a+EwTEs Ta I sla ilKoAou0ilaapEw aol .

19Luke14:26-27 = Matt 10:37-3 8.

20Accordingto HelmutKoester,"the Greekversionof this gospel was used in Egypt as
early as the second century"(J. M. Robinson,ed., TheNag HammadiLibraryin English,3d
ed. [Leiden:Brill, 1988] 124). Comparepp. 132, 137 for an English translationby T. O.
Lambdinof sayings 55 and 101.