Luke 15: 8-10 NRSV

8. Or again, is there any woman with ten silver coins, who if she loses one, wouldn’t light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9. When she finds it, she invites her friends and neighbors over and says, “Celebrate with me, because I have found the silver coin I had lost.” 10. “I’m telling you, it’s just like this among God’s messengers: they celebrate when one sinner has a change of heart.” (Verse 10 is printed in black as the scholars believed that Jesus definitely did not say this.)

The Jesus Seminar is an organized group of over 200 biblical scholars who actually vote on whether they believe, on the basis of their individual scholarly analysis, biblical passages attributed to Jesus of Nazareth. Quoting from the book, The Five Gospels:

The parable of the lost sheep is paralleled in Matthew and Thomas, but this parable of the lost coin is found only in Luke. This suggests to some scholars that Luke created the second parable in imitation of the first. Yet unlike the sinner {i.e., the lost sheep, in the previous verses 4 through 6}, the coin neither goes astray nor repents: so the lost coin does not exactly fit Luke’s theme of repentance in this chapter. The story does, however, portray an exaggerated effort to recover a coin of little value. [emphasis added]. That struck most of the Fellows [of the Jesus Seminar] as reflecting both Jesus’ style and his unconventional estimate of worth. The pink (rather than red designation [used for certainty that the words are attributed to Jesus]) reflects the Seminar’s view that its connection with – and formal similarity to—the lost sheep betrays Luke’s hand in making the two parables conform to each other. As in the case of the lost sheep, the concluding remark in verse 10 is Luke’s addition.

Contrary to the assigning “little value” to the lost coin, The New American Standard Bible (1998) by contrast states in a footnote that the coin referred to is a Drachma, a day’s wages in those times. The average daily wage in the US now is about $180. Who has not known the panic of losing track of a chunk of money? “Where are those nine $20 bills”?!

Is there little doubt that if the average worker lost $180 cash around the house they would mount a concerted effort to find it?! And upon finding that money, that worker might well celebrate with close friends in blessed relief, especially if s/he is one of the many millions of Americans in the US living “on the edge”.

In conclusion, I think the passage in Luke does give one a visceral sense of the quality of relief and nascent joy in heaven when a sinner chooses to do positive things and not destructive things.

Prayer: Oh, Awesome God, help me to explore your living Word more fully each day. It brings me closer to you and helps me to see the struggle of good and bad in today’s world. I so want to do what is right this day. Help me help my brothers and sisters who are living on the edge of life. With you, change can occur. Amen.

NOTE: Some of the information above taken from the 1993 edition of The Five Gospels, by Robert W Funk, Roy W Hoover and The Jesus Seminar; page 355.

Rick Kramer Howe

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