Debtor’s Prison And The Future Of Israel (Luke 12:57-59) -- By: Brent Kinman

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 42:3 (Sep 1999)
Article: Debtor’s Prison And The Future Of Israel (Luke 12:57-59)
Author: Brent Kinman

Debtor’s Prison And The Future Of Israel
(Luke 12:57-59)

Brent Kinman*

Near the end of Luke 12 Jesus chides the crowds for their hypocrisy (Luke 12:54–56). Then he says,

And why also do you not judge for yourselves what is right? For as you go with your opponent to the ruler, on the way make an effort to be reconciled with him, lest he drag you before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the magistrate, and the magistrate throw you into prison. I say to you, you will certainly not get out of there until you repay even the last cent (Luke 12:57–59).

Early commentators did not so much discuss the parable 1 as cite it, usually in conjunction with arguments that might strike modern readers as fanciful. Tertullian, for example, interprets the “prison” as Hades and takes the passage to teach that the soul in Hades must be purged of all impurities before the resurrection. 2 Origen writes that the “adversary” is a wicked angel who seeks to corrupt humans and bring them to the “ruler,” another wicked angel: but believers have no cause to fear, he avers, for the “judge,” Christ, will eventually intervene to vanquish their enemies. 3 For Augustine, the “adversary” is the word of God that confronts people with the truth of the gospel. 4 On the whole, however, the passage got scant attention from the ancients whose writings have been preserved.

Modern scholars, with rather more consistency than their forebears, have typically held that this parable is directed toward individuals who are

* Brent Kinman can be reached at P.O. Box 1542, Castle Rock, CO 80104.

urged to make peace with God (or his agent Jesus) before they die and face permanent judgment. For example, Craig Evans writes, “[Jesus] urges them to settle affairs in this world before God settles with them in the next … Jesus’ warning, if taken seriously, should jolt people to the realization of their need to turn from their sins and to seek God’s forgiveness…. ” 5 David Tiede says, “These words … assume that the state of the human heart is dire in the prospect of the coming judgement.” 6 As to the permanence of the judgment, Norval Geldenhuys observes, “The full repayment or liquidation of de...

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