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.
Pharisee: contempt for the rest. As elsewhere (Luke 11,42) Jesus had said about the Pharisees that "these are the things you should practice (justice and the love of God), without omitting the others (paying tithes), so Jesus can be said here to refuse justification to the Pharisee 27, the representative of those who think they are just, because he has refused what is for Jesus the essential of what makes one worthy to enter eternal life (cf. Luke 10, 25-28).
Thus, crucial to the interpretation of the entire story Luke presents in 18,10-14 is Luke's own reading of the matter. By the very fact that he presents vv. 10-14 at length allows these verses to have their own impact on the reader, an impact which was, one can always assume to be, part of the dynamism of the story as it existed before it came to Luke.
It is then when one considers this earlier existence of the story, that one can ask just what is implied in the toll collector's brief prayer, because of which he merits to be called just. Indeed, the title "just" seems to belong to those who "do", who "struggle", to enter the kingdom of God; how does what appears to be a simple call for mercy fit in here? But, as the story stands now, Luke has definitely turned attention to the first person of the parable, and made clear, from his v. 9, that justice will not be assigned to those who will, for all the rest of the Law that they obey, contemn "the rest" 28. Here is a good example of how redaction interpreted what it inherited from Jesus, so that those words might speak very clearly to Theophilus and his community. As often happened, Jesus' parables were to varying degrees mystifying; not only once, I am sure, people asked him, "What is the meaning of the parable?" (Luke 8,9). In the case we have studied, it fell to Luke to read out of the parable and its attendant judgments the lesson he thought would contribute excellently to the good of his audience. In brief, there is no standing before God for those who, whatever other good they do, despise others.