Re: ...and he stood, praying this to himself...

From: Mark Goodacre (
Date: Thu Apr 17 1997 - 05:43:22 EDT

Re: Luke 18.11

>Luke 18:11
>Has anyone got an opinion as to who the Pharisee was praying to? It
>seems that the prayer is terminating on the Pharisee, rather than this
>being a reference to the Pharisee praying off by himself. I say this
>for what appears to be obvious contextual reasons, and they are: 1) He
>was praying in such a way to be noticed, and Jesus seems to be mocking
>him, saying that his prayer was ineffective since it did not leave him.
>It almost is as if Jesus is saying that he was a god unto himself, but
>that is interpretation, and not grammar.
>So, how do you all read this passage? Is he talking to himself in the
>sense of thinking out loud, or is Jesus saying that he is praying to
According to C. F. Evans and others, custom required that prayer at the
temple was spoken aloud (as it still is at the Western "Wailing" Wall
today). I think Jesus may have been depicting the Pharisee as sincerely
self-righteous and unable to see that he was praying to himself, and not
to God. PROS hEAUTON does not seem to me to be ambiguous - literally
"towards himself".

The irony is world-shattering. The orthodox Pharisee who was sure his
relationship with God was good, was blind to his predicament. On the
other hand, the excommunicated tax-collector who knew his relationship
with God was wrong, could see. No wonder the Pharisees branded Jesus
as "Friend of tax-collectors and sinners", and wanted to kill him!

Brian E. Wilson

The most interesting thing about the Pharisee's prayer is that it is
one of several examples in Lucan parables of soliloquy, or interior
PARADIGM (JSNTSup, 133; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996),
pp. 169-71 for a list of other such examples. Also worth consulting
is Philip Sellew, 'Interior Monologue as a Narrative Device in the
Parables of Luke', JBL 111 (1992), pp. 239-53.

I note that the RSV renders 'thus' for TAUTA and 'with himself' for
PROS hEAUTON, both oddities.

Mark Goodacre

Dr Mark Goodacre
Department of Theology
University of Birmingham
Birmingham B15 2TT

Tel.: 0121 414 7512 Email:
Fax.: 0121 414 6866

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