John Kilgallen, «The Importance of the Redactor in Luke 18,9-14», Vol. 79 (1998) 69-75
Regarding the story of Luke 18, 9-14 there is disagreement among exegetes as to the reason why, in Jesus' view, the Pharisee did not return home justified. In what did the Pharisee fail? This essay suggests that the answer to this question is to be found in the introductory verse Luke gives to his reader; v. 9 makes clear how Luke read his inherited material (more likely than not including v. 14b) and wanted his reader to understand it. Whereas vv. 10-14 had to do with both Pharisee and Publican, v. 9 turns the reader's attention to the Pharisee and to the reason all his good deeds did not bring him justification.
admission of sin and call for mercy, understanding why he thought the toll-collector was justified (though one hopes that the toll-collector's prayer means that he will amend his ways).
Verse 14b offers some light, but only some. Being a proverb, the sentence offers meaning and borrows meaning. The meaning it offers is in terms of self-exaltation as most likely ending in humiliation at the hands of another, and of self-humiliation ending in exaltation at the hands of another. Self-glorification and self-humiliation, glorification and humiliation at the hands of another are, however, terms meant to fit many and varied situations and thus, for any one particular circumstance, call for further clarification precisely from the circumstances in which they appear to be apt.
When we look for self-exaltation, the unbowed head of the Pharisee and his pointing to his piety are acts which might fit self-exaltation. As noted, however, one must admit that such actions, when they appear in earlier Jewish prayer, are not viewed easily as self-exaltation. Self-humiliation can be applied to the posture and prayer of the toll collector; while there is not a great amount of public humiliation here, the toll collector certainly shows shame, and accuses himself implicitly and declares a need that someone else have mercy on him, if he is to enjoy happiness. Glorification and humiliation at the hands of another can be reasonably interpreted as justification and no justification by God, though obviously, religious justification and no justification would not easily be dictionary-type synonyms for glorification and humiliation at the hands of another.
Thus, while Jesus' addition of v. 14b to his assessment in v. 14a does offer further insight into the meaning of the parable, I do not think the terms themselves point out the exact nature of the non-justification of the Pharisee. Certainly, to repeat the above, "self" glorification has a ring of negativity to it, and so suggests the error of the Pharisee, but, to repeat the above, attention to what the man says does not yield a confident assessment that he is wrongfully exalting himself especially to the point that he is not at all (or little) justified. Why, to state again my initial question, is a moral person declared not justified? In terms of the newly added proverb, why is he humiliated at God's hands, and, one might further ask, why is the toll collector glorified by God?
The key to understanding the parable correctly, i.e., in the sense that Luke understood it, is Luke's own verse 9 9. It is clear, first of all, that, whereas vv. 10-14 are equally concerned with two persons, Luke's introductory remark has the effect of limiting one's attention to certain people, most clearly identified with the Pharisee of the parable. From Luke's