Luke 6:1

ESV On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands.
NIV One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels.
NASB Now it happened that Jesus was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath, and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them.
CSB On a Sabbath, he passed through the grainfields. His disciples were picking heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them.
NLT One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples broke off heads of grain, rubbed off the husks in their hands, and ate the grain.
KJV And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands.

What does Luke 6:1 mean?

This is the first of two altercations in this portion of Luke's narrative that Jesus has with the Pharisees about what is allowed on the Sabbath. Honoring the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8–11). God forbade the Israelites from work on the seventh day of the week as a sign of their faith that God would provide (Exodus 31:12–17). The extent of that "work" was left vague. The only time the Old Testament mentions an explicit example, which is enforced, is when a man gathered sticks in open defiance of the law (Numbers 15:32–36).

The extra-biblical rules for the Sabbath were patterned after the extensive directions for the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:1—31:11). Rabbis think this is to emphasize that even the craftsmen building the house of God needed to observe the Sabbath. To that end, the Mishnah, Tractate Shabbat 7:2 bans things related to the building and care of the tabernacle, including making bread, making fabric, tanning hides, writing, building and dismantling, making or extinguishing a fire, and carrying things. Specifically for the disciples, the Pharisees teach that reaping grain, "removing the kernel from the husk," and separating "the inedible waste from the edible" breaks the Sabbath.

One of the reasons the Pharisees enforced the Sabbath so strongly is because it served as a visible sign that the Jews were set apart from the world and to God. Jesus has a better way: forgiving and being kind to one's enemies (Luke 6:17–42).

The King James version uses the term "corn" rather than grain. This seems like an anachronism: something placed in the wrong era. The plant modern English refers to as "corn" originated in what is now Mexico and was also called "maize." Stachys, in the biblical Greek, specifically means the fruit part of cereals grains including wheat and barley. At the time the King James Bible was translated, the word "corn" meant a single grain seed. The main grain crop of any region was called "corn," as well. Over time, the plant originally called "maize" became identified with the word "corn." What seems like an error, today, was entirely correct when the KJV was first translated.
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