Luke 9:51 and 10:38–42, How Resolute Is “Resolute”?

This is a co-authored paper proposal by Robert A. Singer and David H. Warren. Luke 9:51 states, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (NIV). This statement marks Jesus’s determination to travel to Jerusalem for the last time. Bauer’s lexicon notes that the literal wording in Greek, to “set one’s face,” actually comes from Hebrew and denotes “firmness of purpose” (s.v. στηρίζω). In 10:38, Jesus enters an unnamed village, where he pays a visit to two women, Martha and her sister Mary. Using John 11:1, nearly all scholars and commentators identify this unnamed village as Bethany near Jerusalem. But this identification imposes a serious challenge to Jesus’s resolve expressed earlier in Luke 9:51, for it places Jesus less than two miles from Jerusalem. And yet 13:22 depicts Jesus as passing through several towns and villages, still on his way to Jerusalem, and 17:11 shows that Jesus’s location here is actually still up in Samaria and Galilee (the very next verse, vs. 12, mentions another unnamed village). Luke 18:35 and 19:1 clearly place Jesus still a good distance away from Jerusalem in Jericho (cf. Matt 20:29 and Mark 10:46). The identification of this unnamed village in Luke 10:38 with Bethany near Jerusalem thus creates an inexplicable “side trip” to the vicinity of Jerusalem that runs counter not only to Jesus’s expressed resolve in 9:51 but even to the whole travel narrative in Luke as well as in the other three Gospels. A related problem concerns the integration of Luke chapters 9–19 with John chapters 7–11. In our paper, we will show that Jesus’s determination expressed in Luke 9:51 will not allow the unnamed village in 10:38 to be identified as Bethany near Jerusalem. It is absurd to believe that Jesus could have shown up in Bethany so near Jerusalem in 10:38 but then quickly left and returned up north to Galilee, where he then turned around again to continue his “resolute” journey to Jerusalem for the final time. And yet all of the gospel harmonies constructed up to now have taken this course. After we have surveyed the inadequacies of previous harmonizes in tackling this problem, we will present our own solution. Since Luke elsewhere specifically mentions Bethany near Jerusalem later in his gospel (19:29; 24:50), we see his silence here as very significant. But we reject the notion expressed by I. Howard Marshall (Gospel of Luke, 451) and others that Luke has intentionally repressed any mention of Bethany in 10:38–42 because he knows that it conflicts with his travelogue of Jesus’s last journey to Jerusalem. We propose that this unnamed village in 10:38 actually did lie up north in Galilee. The verb ὑπεδέξατο in vs. 38 implies that Jesus has entered the home of Martha and not that of her brother, Lazarus, who still resided in their hometown, Bethany near Jerusalem (John 11:1).