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“Where the Body Is, There also the Eagles Will Be Gathered”

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Luke 17:37 and the Arrest of Jesus

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This article proposes a new reading of the Lukan eagle logion. The interpretation depends on three primary exegetical commitments. First, it respects Luke’s redaction and, thus, resists the temptation to harmonize Luke’s version of the logion with its Matthean counterpart (Matt. 24:28), which places this saying within his apocalyptic discourse in Matthew 24 and has the eagles gathering around a corpse (τὸ πτῶμα). Luke, by contrast, locates the saying within his so-called travel narrative, in the immediate context of a direct address by Jesus to his disciples, and places the eagles around a body (τὸ σῶμα). Second, since regarding Lukan redaction requires a reader to appreciate the narrative context of the saying, it is necessary to respect that the logion occurs in an address by Jesus to his disciples and as an answer to their question. Third, I reconsider the most likely resonances of ἀετοί gathered around a body within the context of Luke’s Gospel and its cultural encyclopedia. 
 The article contends that the “eagles” correspond to hostile, capturing forces—as they are frequently represented in Jewish literature—and that the “body” corresponds to Jesus himself—as in the five occurrences of the term following Luke 17. Thus Jesus warns his disciples of an impending division among them, and when they ask where this division will occur, he answers with a parabolic prophecy that foreshadows the night of his arrest. The article concludes with a remark on the significance of this reading for the larger question of Lukan eschatology.


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