Luke 13:1 Commentary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Luk 13:1-9. Accidents and Judgments. The Barren Fig-Tree.
1. There were present at that season ] Rather, There arrived at that very season. The curious phrase seems to imply that they had come on purpose to announce this catastrophe. Hence some have supposed that they wished to kindle in the mind of Jesus as a Galilaean (Luk 23:5) a spirit of Messianic retribution (Jos. Antt. Luk 17:9, § 3). But Christ’s answer rather proves that they were connecting the sad death of these Galilaeans with their imaginary crimes. They were not calling His attention to them as martyrs, but as supposed victims of divine anger. Their report indicates a sort of pleasure in recounting the misfortunes of others ( ἐπιχαιρεκακία ).
of the Galileans ] who regularly attended the Jewish feasts at Jerusalem, Joh 4:45.
whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices ] Probably at some Passover outbreak, on which the Roman soldiers had hurried down from Fort Antonia. This incident, which was peculiarly horrible to Jewish imaginations, often occurred during the turbulent administration of Pilate and the Romans; see on Luk 23:1; Act 21:34. At one Passover, “during the sacrifices,” 3000 Jews had been massacred “like victims,” and “the Temple courts filled with dead bodies” (Jos. Antt. xvii. 9, § 3); and at another Passover, no less than 20000 (id. xx . 5, § 3; see also B. J. 11. 5, v. 1). Early in his administration Pilate had sent disguised soldiers with daggers among the crowd (id. Luk 18:3, § 1; B. J. 11. 9, § 4). The special incidents here alluded to were far too common to be specially recorded by Josephus; but in the fact that the victims in this instance were Galilaeans, we may perhaps see a reason for the “enmity” between Pilate and Herod Antipas (Luk 23:12).
This section forms a great episode in St Luke, which may be called the departure for the final conflict, and is identical with the journey (probably to the Feast of the Dedication, Joh 10:22) which is partially Luk 9:51-56. And it came to pass, when the time was come that he touched upon in Mat 18:1 to Mat 20:16 and Mar 10:1-31. It contains many incidents recorded by this Evangelist alone, and though the recorded identifications of time and place are vague, yet they all point (Luk 9:51, Luk 13:22, Luk 17:11, Luk 10:38) to a slow, solemn, and public progress from Galilee to Jerusalem, of which the events themselves are often grouped by subjective considerations. So little certain is the order of the separate incidents, that one writer (Rev. W. Stewart) has made an ingenious attempt to shew that it is determined by the alphabetic arrangement of the leading Greek verbs ( ἀγαπᾶν , Luk 10:25-42; αἰτεῖν , Luk 11:1-5; Luk 11:8-13, &c.). Canon Westcott arranges the order thus: The Rejection of the Jews foreshewn; preparation, Luk 9:43 toLuk 11:13; Lessons of Warning, Luk 11:14 toLuk 13:9; Lessons of Progress, Luk 13:10 toLuk 14:24; Lessons of Discipleship, Luk 14:25 xvii. 10; the Coming End, Luk 17:10 toLuk 18:30.
The order of events after ‘the Galilaean spring’ of our Lord’s ministry on the plain of Gennesareth seems to have been this: After the period of flight among the heathen or in countries which were only semi-Jewish, of which almost the sole recorded incident is the healing of the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman (Mat 15:21-28 ). He returned to Peraea and fed the four thousand. He then sailed back to Gennesareth, but left it in deep sorrow on being met by the Pharisees with insolent demands for a sign from heaven. Turning His back once more on Galilee, He again travelled northwards; healed a blind man at Bethsaida Julias; received St Peter’s great confession on the way to Caesarea Philippi; was transfigured; healed the demoniac boy; rebuked the ambition of the disciples by the example of the little child; returned for a brief rest in Capernaum, during which occurred the incident of the Temple Tax; then journeyed to the Feast of Tabernacles, during which occurred the incidents so fully narrated by St John (Joh 7:1 to Joh 10:21). The events and teachings in this great section of St Luke seem to belong mainly, if not entirely, to the two months between the hasty return of Jesus to Galilee and His arrival in Jerusalem, two months afterwards, at the Feast of Dedication; a period respecting which St Luke must have had access to special sources of information.
For fuller discussion of the question I must refer to my Life of Christ, ii. 89-150.
Consult other comments:
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is a biblical commentary set published in parts by Cambridge University Press from 1882 onwards. Anglican bishop John Perowne was the general editor. The first section published was written by theologian Thomas Kelly Cheyne and covered the Book of Micah.
Perowne exercised limited editorial control over the writers of individual commentaries: his aim was "to leave each contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment".