Luke 18:1-8 Parable of the persistent and violent female widow

As I was reading the passage about the persistent widow from Luke 18:1-8 in the TNIV, I noticed that it projected a very different image of the female widow. Look at the big difference in verse 5.

“… I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ ” (NIV)

“… I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!‘ ” (TNIV)

“…I’d better do something and see that she gets justice – otherwise I’m going to end up beaten black and blue by her pounding.” (Message)

“…I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.” (ESV)

In the TNIV, she is one who is strong, forceful and combative . In contrast, the NIV portrays one who is unsubmissive and contentious, but yet nonbelligerent. The NIV’s “wear me out with her coming” has also been the traditional rendering in other translations such as NASB, NRSV, HCSB, or NLT. The ESV and the Message translations provides a different rendering than the TNIV’s “come and attack.” Nevertheless, the TNIV, ESV, and the Message seem to portray a widow who is not so helpless.

New Testament scholar, Craig Blomberg, says: “Luke 18:5—Another forceful idiom in the parables, which more literally means ‘to blacken the face,’ is more vividly translated ‘come and attack me’ rather than the fairly bland ‘wear me out with her coming.'” The idiom: “to blacken the face” implies some continual and repeated beating. The Message translation portrays an even more violent image than that of the TNIV’s. To show a person being beaten black and blue by her pounding is to use real brute force. The ESV seems to have taken a middle of the road approach. The ESV’s use of: “beat me down,” may or may not imply a repeated use of violence. To be beat down may imply a wearing down of one’s patience, or it may also imply that one is physically beaten down with force. I would say that the TNIV, and the Message especially, have taken a radical approach. Who says Jesus always has to encourage passive and non-violent behavior? Remember the table-changers?

Newer scholarship’s discovery of this idiom’s meaning may eventually change the way this widow in this parable is perceived and preached about in our sermons. To say: “come and attack me” is very different from:“wear me out with her coming.” The persistent but harmless widow has suddenly become a danger widow whom one must be careful of. She is no longer just a relentless widow who comes to the judge to ask for justice. Rather, she is now a forceful and potentially dangerous widow who comes to the judge to demand justice and who is not afraid of using some brute force to get what she deserves. This widow is ready to strike fear in the heart of the judge in order to get justice. Are we ready for a new image of a tougher woman in Luke 18?

4 thoughts on “Luke 18:1-8 Parable of the persistent and violent female widow

  1. Hey Kevin, Thanks for your attention to Biblical exegesis. The word “weary” does carry the idea of a “black eye” but not in the sense of a fight. The word is talking about a bad reputation. See Rienecker’s Greek Lexicon.


  2. Wow! McGee’s translation of “black eye” sure gives the widow a colorful image in more ways than one. I ought to pay closer attention to J. Vernon McGee’s commentary.


  3. Kevin, I’m surprised I never noticed this before. This isn’t a new thing either. Look at what J. Vernon McGee said quite a while ago as taught through the KJV . . .

    The word weary is a very poor translation. I only wish it were translated literally. What he said was this, “I must see her lest she give me a black eye!”

    McGee, J. V. (1997, c1981). Thru the Bible commentary. Based on the Thru the Bible radio program. (electronic ed.) (4:327). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


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