Luke 10:17

ESV The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”
NIV The seventy-two returned with joy and said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.'
NASB Now the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!'
CSB The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."
NLT When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, 'Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!'
KJV And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.

What does Luke 10:17 mean?

Seventy-two of Jesus' disciples have returned from their mission. Jesus sent them to visit towns and cities He planned to visit. The disciples' role was to determine if the town was ready to hear Jesus' message about the kingdom of God. They would heal and expel demons in the cities that welcome them (Luke 10:9). They are especially impressed that demons submit to them.

It's unclear why there appears to be so much demonic activity during Jesus' earthly ministry. Demons are rarely mentioned in the Old Testament. It may be that they are involuntarily drawn to Jesus (Mark 5:6) or that they are called to attempt to thwart His work. That this secondary-tier of disciples—which do not include the Twelve—can use Jesus' authority to vanquish the spiritual enemy shows the power of God's kingdom and Jesus' place in it.

Later, religious leaders will cast doubt on the source of Jesus' authority over demons. His critics speculate it comes from the prince of demons, Beelzebul, rather than God. Jesus will point out how their argument is irrational—if Satan sent Him to cast out demons, he would be fighting against his own cause. Jesus has power over demons because His power comes from God who is infinitely stronger than Satan (Luke 11:14–22).

In the culture of the time, one's "name" did not mean just the sounds used to identify the person. It referred to the person's reputation, in particular their authority and power. A modern parallel is when someone acts "in the name of" some person or group. They are acting on behalf of that person or group and with that person or group's authority. For example, a law enforcement officer who commands someone to "stop, in the name of the law!" is evoking the authority of the law. In the patron-and-client system of the Roman Empire, the rich and powerful patron would use resources to do favors for the client. In return, the client would do smaller favors and pass on the patron's messages, thereby acting in the patron's name.

The disciples' use of "Lord" and "in your name" show they are loyal followers of Jesus. Jesus confirms this by saying their "names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20). Even so, they don't yet completely understand who He is or what He has come to do. Their words also show they know their power is not their own; every miracle they have performed is empowered by Jesus.

As in Luke 10:1, some ancient sources number the disciples at seventy while the slight majority say seventy-two. Since both numbers are in ancient sources, scholars consider whether scribes would have felt more justified changing seventy-two to seventy or seventy to seventy-two. Seventy-two is not an important number in Judaism or the New Testament. Seventy, however, is the number of the elders Moses commissioned as well as the number of men on the Sanhedrin (Exodus 24:1, 9; Numbers 11:16–17, 24–25).

The primary argument for changing seventy to seventy-two is to tie it to the mission to the Gentiles. In the Hebrew Old Testament, Genesis 10 lists seventy nations, but in the Greek Septuagint, the list is seventy-two. Luke is the only gospel writer who includes this story; he does not mention any restrictions on the audience to which Jesus sends His messengers. When Jesus sent out the Twelve earlier, He did tell them to go only to the Jews (Matthew 10:5–6). The argument is weak, however. Luke didn't include the restriction on the Twelve in his account (Luke 9:1–6), and he doesn't emphasize the mission to the Gentiles until Acts 8. It seems likely Jesus sent out seventy-two disciples and a few scribes changed it to seventy seeking to make the number connect to Jewish elders.
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