The Pharisees in the time of Jesus were fatalists (see Josephus on this). Fatalism seems to be the default human belief. We find it as far back as Job. Job’s friends try to explain to him that things just do not just happen for no reason. If Jesus was not a fatalist, we would expect there to be some sort of confrontation about this. In fact there is:
Luk 13:1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
Luk 13:2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?
Luk 13:3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
Luk 13:4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?
Luk 13:5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Because the Pharisees and many people were fatalists, they were looking for some sort of meaning in the deaths of the innocent Jews by both Pilate (volitional murder) and the tower of Siloam (accidental death). A Pharisees would have decried the dead as terrible sinners, but Jesus does not do that. Instead Jesus seems to mock that position.
In Jesus’ answer to the question, he gives a non-answer. He counters the prevailing reasoning and then uses this event to illustrate future death. Jesus was not a fatalist, sometimes things just happen. But Jesus also tells us, there will be a time when future people perish and this will be for a reason (they do not repent).
Later, when one Pharisee (“teacher of the law”, lawyer) asks Jesus “who is my neighbor”, Jesus (almost mockingly) uses a Samaritan as an example of a good neighbor. And then Jesus adds that it was “by chance” that the Samaritan entered the scene (and all others). This is very pointed against the fatalistic notions of the Pharisees:
Luk 10:30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
Luk 10:31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
Luk 10:32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
Luk 10:33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
Both of these stories are only found in Luke. It is possible that Paul’s ministry (Luke was Paul’s traveling companion) focused more on the subject of fatalism than the other apostles.
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