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Knowing the Times


(1) Thom 91:1-2
(2a) 2Q: Luke 12:54-56 = Matt 16:2-3
(2b) GNaz 13
(3) ? John 6:30




(1) Thom 91:1-2

/91:1/ They said to him, "Tell us who you are so that we may believe in you." /2/ He said to them, "You examine the face of heaven and earth, but you have not come to know the one who is in your presence, and you do not know how to examine the present moment." [Complete Gospels]

(2a) 2Q: Luke 12:54-56 = Matt 16:2-3

/12:54/ He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, 'It is going to rain'; and so it happens. /55/ And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, 'There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. /56/ You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

= Matt 16:2-3
/16:2/ He answered them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' /3/ And in the morning, 'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

(2b) GNaz 13

[This "witness" to the cluster is really a text critical note on the Matthew passage.]

What is marked with an asterisk (i.e., Matthew 16:2-3) is not found in other manuscripts, also it is not found in the Jewish Gospel. (Variant to Matthew 16:2-3 in the “Zion Gospel” edition.) [Sayings Parallels]

(3) ? John 6:30

So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?




John Dominic Crossan

Item: 53
Stratum: I (30-60 CE)
Attestation: Triple
Historicity: +

Crossan draws on this cluster when discussing the split between "Jesus as a sapiential teacher of wisdom" and "Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet of eschatology"[Historical Jesus, 228]; a split that he sees originating in the earliest stages of the primitive Jesus tradition. Knowing the Times is an example of a saying that deals with the inability of the disciples to understand either the meaning of the end time, or the nature of Jesus. Crossan cites the words of Stevan Davies [The Gospel of Thomas and Christian Wisdom, 83], "the answers, Jesus seems to say, are present immediately to the questioner."

Crossan returns to this cluster again when discussing "the message of an open secret" [Historical Jesus, 349]:

What Jesus shows them is as open to anyone as the sky's indications of impending weather; Jesus' message is just as obvious. That image's appeal to common nature rather than to special Scripture goes back to Jesus, although the present emphases on the messenger rather than the message in Gospel of Thomas 91:2 and on the inimical situation in Matthew 16:2-3 are their own developments.



The International Q Project reconstructs the original Q saying as follows:

/12:54/ But he said to them: When evening has come, you say: Good weather! For the sky is flame red. /55/ And at dawn" Today it's wintry! For the lowering sky is flame red. /56/ The face of the sky you know to interpret, but the time you are not able to?

Jesus Seminar



JS Mtg





W Avg

Thom 91:2
Q, T
Luke 12:54-56
Q, T
Matt 16:2-3
Q, T

The commentary in The Five Gospels (p. 344) notes that this saying uses concrete and vivid images, with an ironic barb: "you know how to read the weather but are unable to discern the real state of things."


Samuel T. Lachs

Lachs [Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament, 252] notes that there is a play on words here:

The Pharisees and the Sadducees are asking for an authenticating sign from him, from God (Heaven), presumably to prove whether he is a prophet (cf. Deut. 18.17). He, on the other hand, purposely challenges them with charges of reading the signs of the sky (heaven), but not understanding the signs of the times, i.e., the will of Heaven (God).


Gerd Luedemann

Luedemann [Jesus, 350-51] follows Bultmann in allowing that this saying has a "high claim to historicity." He notes that it is original to Luke but has only been inserted into Matthew 16 at a secondary stage.


John P. Meier

Meier [Marginal Jew I,315 n. 175] discusses the use of "hypocrite" in this saying, but does not address the saying as a whole. He notes that while it is "not impossible" that Jesus may have used the metaphor of playacting in some form, it is more likely that the use of hypokrites to express the specific religious metaphor of playacting is due to early Jewish Christians translating Jesus' sayings into Greek in an urban Hellenistic setting.


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