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Luke: a gospel for the Graeco- Roman world “Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us...

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Presentation on theme: "Luke: a gospel for the Graeco- Roman world “Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us..."— Presentation transcript:

1 Luke: a gospel for the Graeco- Roman world “Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us... I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.”

2 A narrative that aims at integrating the tensions of 1 st century Christianity Recall ideas of narrative from Abbot essay (in reader). Here the conflict the narrative wants to negotiate are two identities of “the way”: It’s a Jewish thing: in a multitude of elements expressing identity. It’s a gentile thing: in much, perhaps most, of its current membership. This is a gospel of large integrations of time and space. The work of an historian who sees the need to connect past to present. Aware of its belatedness: the prologue to Theophilus. Sees itself as wanting to make sense of a great deal of material, to create “an orderly account.” It’s also a portrait of a Jesus who integrates, makes whole, teaches in parables about wholeness, reconciliation (e.g., Prodigal Son, Good Samaritan). Gospel in which women are accorded a larger role. “Gospel” (Gk “Euangelium” – good message) here also means wonder, joy.

3 Luke-Acts “Luke” is actually Part I of a two-part work that includes Acts of the Apostles. Which would make it the longest and most sustained narrative in the NT, about a quarter of the whole NT. Prologue to Acts: “In the former book, Theophilus...” The large work becomes a great narrative bridge between the world of the Israel’s past (as recounted in the Hebrew Scriptures) and the world contemporary with its writing -- As well as between the Jewish/Palestinian Jesus movement of mid-first century and the gentile/Hellenistic world toward the end of the century. Also a “tale of two cities,” Jerusalem and Rome: the historical progression between them. Work was split apart in the 4 th century to make room for John’s gospel.

4 Authorship Again an anonymous text. In Colossians 4:14 author (attributed to Paul, but probably not by Paul) refers to a Luke who is a "beloved physician.” Irenaeus (around 180 C.E.) identifies the author of this gospel as Luke, a companion of Paul. The "Muratorian Canon," a list of NT texts at end of 2nd cent., also identified the gospel and Acts with this Luke. But text itself implies no attribution, and late 2 nd cent. is too far from composition to be authoritative. Another mystery: in the second half of Acts the writer suddenly and without explanation begins to refer to himself as "we" with Paul. Did writer include some travel diary in this part of Acts? At 2:52 narrative says "his mother treasured up these things in her heart“ – implying Mary as source?

5 What can we learn about the author from the text itself? Writes the best Greek in the NT. Clearly educated in the traditions of Hellenistic history, literature. Sympathetic with Roman rule, law. But also knew Hebrew Scriptures well. Uses Hebrew Scriptures in significant ways, but quite differently from Matthew. Another kind of “intertextuality” in relations to the H.S. Understands himself as historian, not eyewitness; sees the gospel as a process. Likes to refer to times and places. A gifted storyteller (likes drama, details, contrasting narrative patterns). “Luke” is clearly an educated person, probably (but not necessarily) a gentile, but with strong sympathies for Judaism, interested in tying nascent Christianity to the larger structures of the Roman world.

6 Sources: Like Matthew, Luke swallows up Mark – but not whole. Uses a little more than half of Mark. (Matthew used about 90 percent of Mark; 610 of 690 verses). Perhaps dissatisfied with Mark for various reasons. Like Matthew, uses “Q” – and usually closer to Q? But has his own independent sources: nativity narrative, parables, other short narratives (see handout). Used the Septuagint translation of Hebrew Scriptures.

7 “Luke the painter” In middle ages there was a tradition that Luke was a painter. (In fact he became the patron saint of painters: Accademia di San Luca in Rome.) He wasn’t, but the tradition says something about his art. Painting of “St. Luke painting the Virgin” by Rogier van der Weyden (Flemish, 1400- 1464)


9 Luke’s art The consummate literary artist among the evangelists. Loves to create a sense of relation or contrast among things. For example, infancy narrative has two annunciations, two births, carefully woven together. At circumcision the infant Jesus is met by two prophets, one a man and the other a woman, who give two complementary prophecies. Luke has Jesus go from Pilate to Herod and back to Pilate at his passion (23: 6-12) Luke tells of the good thief and the bad thief, who react in contrasting ways to Jesus on the cross (23: 39-43). In Peter’s denial of Jesus, he has Jesus’ eyes meet Peter’s (22: 61). Though not really a painter himself, Luke’s scenes are probably the most painted ones in the NT.

10 Hebrew Scriptures as source for Luke Luke actually seems to start deeply in the Hebrew Scriptures, story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Modeled on story of Elkanah and Hannah in 1 Samuel (1 to 2: 10): barrenness, promise of child, fulfillment. Mary’s psalm when she meets Elizabeth is modeled on Hannah’s at 2: 1-10. Zechariah’s poem/prophecy based on various psalms (See psalms 18, 92, 132). Luke’s gospel begins and ends in the Temple. Various other incidents in Luke suggest moments in Hebrew Scriptures (e.g., widow’s son at Nain (2 Kings, 4: 32-37).

11 Why this concern with Hebrew Scriptures? Not a legal relationship for Luke, as it is for Matthew. Luke wants to show divine purposes emerging out of Israel, out of the Temple in Jerusalem, spreading into the world around it, then into the cities of Asia Minor, into Greece, then Rome. But everything begins in Jerusalem. An “epic” story – movement from one place, one city, to another. Luke’s story ends in Paul’s journey to Rome...... and enacts an integral part of this “epic.”

12 Luke’s infancy narratives In fact we get two infancy narratives, John’s and Jesus’, carefully woven together. Contrast of annunciations to Zechariah, to Mary. In Mark the adult John recognizes the adult Jesus; in Luke the recognition is pre-natal! In fact John “quickens” when Mary’s voice is heard. Luke's Hebraic message: the two children who are to be born will represent the continuation and renewal of God's promises to Israel. This the theme of Zechariah’s “psalm.”

13 Luke’s nativity Shares with Matthew’s account only names of parents, virginal conception, birth in Bethlehem. But has entirely different account of how Jesus comes to be born in Bethlehem. Uses historical locators, decree of Augustus, Quirinius as governor of Syria. Major problems with these locators (Quirinius was not legate before CE 6-7, when there was a regional, not universal, census). But if Luke gets details wrong, the point is rather the locating of the event in Roman and Hebraic time (Herod in 1:1, Augustus and Quirinius in 2: 1, Tiberius an others in 3: 1). The shepherds and Israel: 2: 8-21. Very different tone of narrative in comparison to Matthew. Luke’s narrative creates Christmas?

14 Continued relevance of Temple Infant Jesus is taken to Temple for purification (2:22). Greeted by prophetic figure of Simeon, who comes to Temple And by a woman prophet Anna -- an equal opportunity prophet? -- who lives in Temple. Then the family returns to Temple when Jesus is 12, a significant age. “Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?” 2: 52 echoes 1 Samuel 2: 26. As is said of the child prophet Samuel, Jesus grows “in wisdom and in years in divine and human favor.”

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