Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Monday, May 16, 2005

When the Day of Pentecost had come

Yesterday the reading in Christian churches around the world began with these words. In a few churches, the readings occurred in more than one language attempting to illustrate the miracle of tongues.

Since I have previously mentioned the Book of Jubilees as a possible source for Luke, I should note that the Book of Jubilees makes Pentecost the most important of the annual festivals on the Jewish liturgical calendar. According to Jubilees, the Feast of Pentecost was instituted in connection with Noah and was to be celebrated annually in perpetuity. Of further interest Luke, but not Matthew, includes Noah in the genealogy of Jesus. Since Luke has emphasized Noah and the Noachic decree, he may have used the Book of Jubilees as a source.

Acts reports that there were devout Jews dwelling in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven. This describes the restoration of Israel. For Luke, Jerusalem is the place to which the people of God must return. Luke is perhaps looking to 2 Macc 2:18: “We have hope in God that he will soon have mercy on us and will gather us from everywhere under heaven into his holy place.”

The third point in my mental outline is the list of nations in Acts 2:9-11. What are we to make of the list or the source of the list? The most interesting theory is that of James M. Scott who suggests that the list of nations in Hippolytus’ Diamerismos is a parallel to every name in Acts 2:9-11, except one, and further, this list in Diamerismos was based on the lost Greek version of Jubilees 8-9.

In the celebration of the Feast of Pentecost, the hope of Anna, who is looking for the return from exile and the redemption of Israel, appears to be fulfilled. What then is the significance of the story of Anna in the scheme of Luke-Acts?

Finally, how does the Feast of Pentecost attended by devout Jews dwelling in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven advance the theme of universalism, which pervades Luke-Acts?

Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

The key to understanding the Pentecostal event is Isaiah 49:6 which Luke alludes to when Simeon, upon seeing Jesus in the Temple, praises God saying “your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the nations[i] and the glory of your people, Israel.” The mission of the early church and of the church today is inclusive and it is directed to all people in every nation under heaven to the end of the world.[ii]

Justin attests to the continuation of an active mission to the Jews around 160 CE.[iii] Prayers for the conversion of the Jews are still being said[iv] and in addition, there are traces throughout the entire second century and beyond of a mission to the Jews.[v]

I admit I have tunnel vision. I see the world through the eyes of Luke and my understanding of the world is based upon my inclusive understanding of the writings of Luke. In my quest to understand Luke, I keep returning to the themes of Isaiah and the Deuteronomic promises and traditions, which Isaiah utilized. And my reading list is even longer.

According to Zechariah 13:7, the messianic shepherd will be slain and his flock dispersed until the purified remnant is gathered again as the people of God.[vi] Does Luke see the devout men as the purified remnant gathered as the people of God? Or does Luke see a future Day of Pentecost when the faithful remnant will be gathered? I would like to think that the faithful remnant will include the cynical lawyer who asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

[i] It seems to me that a correct understanding of the writings of Luke requires the translation, “nations” rather than “Gentiles” in the quotation from Luke 2:32.
[ii] See also Matt. 10:23 implying the mission to the Jews has not been completed; and Rom. 1:16; 2:9. Hans Kvalbein cites these verses in “Has Matthew abandoned the Jews?”
[iii] cf. Dial. 39:1 f.
[iv] cf. Dial. 35:8; 96:3; 108:3; and 133:6.
[v] See the writings of Origen of Alexandria, John Chrysostom, Eusebius and Jerome.
[vi] I do not mean to suggest that Luke alludes to or cites Zechariah 13:7 as do Matthew and Mark or that Luke shows awareness of the destruction of Jerusalem as do Matthew and Mark.

copyrighted 2005


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