"A student is not above his teacher..." (Luke 6:40)

“A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”

  • Taken out of context, I think that this is incorrect. Surely a student or disciple can become greater (in knowledge, wisdom, or anything else) that his teacher or master. Am I not right?

  • Also, read in context (as should always be the case), the verse also seems somewhat out of place. Some have suggested that some links are missing in the text, which makes it obscure. What’s your take on its interpretation (exegetical and hermeneutical)?

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Hey @vladvamos,

This is an interesting passage that I have not really focused on specifically.

Early in Luke chapter 6, Jesus was up on the mountain praying the whole night (v. 12). This must have been an intense moment of focus on the future and dedication to His ministry as this was followed the selection of the twelve inner circle of disciples, named as apostles (v. 13). Jesus came down the mountain with them and stood in a level place to begin teaching the rest of His disciples and many people from around (v. 17) who came to hear and be healed (vv. 18, 19).

Jesus begins a discourse that parallels what is know as the “Sermon on the Mount,” which is also found in Matthew 5 - 7. The verses 39, 40 are oddly placed and some theologians note a point of somewhat discontinuity with the rest of the message.[1] However, the context is still aligned with a theme of leadership and along the lines of Jesus’ teaching (cf. Mat. 10:23). From our modern perspectives, we mayhave an endless amount of resources at our finger tips, but that is our situation. For the audience of this discourse, the Jewish rabbi was the only source of information for his disciple. It would be exceedingly presumptuous for a disciple to claim to be above his teacher. Jesus’ use here was to highlight His command of love that the disciples needed to be fully trained in, and to be alert for spiritual blindness.[2] That spiritual blindness was evidenced in the human teachers of that day (cf. Mat. 23:24), and the very next verses highlight the result of a blind and arrogant person trying to guide out of their own blindness (v. 41).

I hope that brief exegesis helps in some way. Let me know if I’ve not covered anything enough or if this spurs more thoughts.

Thanks for bringing up an interesting passage! :slight_smile:


[1] Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gsopel of Luke in The New International. Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979) 213-214.

[2] Leon Morris, Luke in Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, vol. 3 (Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1989) 146-147.

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Thank you @andrew.bulin,

I think you’re making a fair point.

Following what you said about this statement being influenced by historical context, a follow-up question would be which of the Bible’s claims are valid (or true, in a sense; not trying to be relativistic here) only in the historical and geographical context of its authors and which claims are universally valid (i.e. no matter the context). But this is another topic. Let me know if you have something to say about this or if you know about some resources on this, though.

Thanks again! :grin:

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Remember that this is taking place within the context of 1st century rabbinic system. The authority of a younger rabbi was typically established by the footsteps he was following in (i.e. the rabbi he trained under), and a rabbi’s disciples were expected to imitate him as closely as possible. A student might ultimately expand upon his predecessor’s teachings, but such expansions were based on the foundation of the original rabbi. Unlike our individualistic society today, where achievements are based on our own accomplishments, the greatest honor for a student at that time was to be considered a worthy successor to the one who trained him.

Taking this context into the passage, it starts to make a little more sense. If you start on a poor foundation, then you will inevitably veer off course; imitate the hypocritical Pharisees, and you will become a hypocrite. But if you seek to model your life on that of Christ, the perfect Teacher, then you will become more like Him, though never greater than Him.

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An excellent point, @vladvamos. As a part of a good hermeneutic, bible interpretation of a text relevant to its historical context as well as the application for a modern audience, I would agree that some consideration should be made if the passage is more directed towards an immediate context or universally applicable for the body of Christ, the church, for all time. Definitely a new topic point, but broadly speaking, we can see see both in many contexts. For example Isaiah 7:14 was as much relevant to King Ahaz of Judah looking for guidance about the attacking King Rezin and needing to know God was still near, as much as it was relevant to the foretelling for Christ, God coming down with us for the salvation of all (cf. Mat. 1:22-23). You also have books like Judges that give less universal guidance than a look at highs and low points of people struggling with being obedient. Even then, I think we can take a lesson from historical mistakes.

Hope that settles it, but if not, perhaps you have specific passages in mind we could dive into in a new topic? :slight_smile:

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I definitely agree. An interesting discussion, but for another time. Thanks for the clarification! :slight_smile: