Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Problem of Allusions and Synoptic Solutions

If one is not careful, one will see allusions not intended by the author. How is one to decide what “allusion” is an intended allusion and what is a false allusion? Rather than attempt to provide a general rule, the problem will be discussed as it relates to the prophecy of Amos.

It is asserted that two reasons were provided by Stephen as to why the temple will be destroyed but are they were really arguments in support of the reason or are they statements about the false premise held by the temple establishments? According to Stephen other gods are worshipped. The cult critique, appearing in Amos 5:25-27, is adopted by quotation in Acts 7:42-43. Then in 7:48, Stephen asserts “the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands” which clearly is a reference to Amos 9:6 discussed two days ago.

Did Luke also intend an allusion to the prophecy of the destruction of the temple uttered by the Prophet Amos?

Matthew and Mark both contain verses supporting the idea that the body of the risen Christ could be described as a new temple, which will replace the old destroyed one after three days. Luke does not contain these verses. These verses are the basis for the assertion that Jesus said that the Temple will be destroyed.

The doctrine of the theology of the cross replaced both the High Priest and the Day of Atonement. This replacement is clearly evident in Matthew 26:61; 27:40 and Mark 14:58; 15:29. This replacement is necessitated by the belief structure that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.

Creed and those who agree with him note that Luke has no equivalent of the ransom saying or of Matthew's connection of Jesus's covenant blood with the remission of sins. Luke does not connect forgiveness of sins with the death of Jesus.

Esler states: “It is indeed, very difficult to imagine how a theory of atoning death of Jesus, already present in Paul and Mark and, indeed, in pre-Pauline and pre-Marcan traditions, could have arisen among Jews who preserved close links with the sacrificial cult.” As long as the Temple stood, the High Priest was in office, the Day of Atonement was being observed and Judaism recognized the followers of Jesus as Jews, including many priests who were obedient to the faith, there was no need or reason for Luke to proclaim a theology of the cross and in fact, Luke has no theology of the cross.

It is difficult to imagine how a theory of atoning death of Jesus could have arisen among Jews who preserved close links with the sacrificial cult because it would be an anachronism. It is likewise difficult to imagine, if such a theology existed, that it would have shown its influence on Didache and the early Church Fathers. The apostolic fathers believed that salvation was based on repentance and not solely on the ground of the death of Jesus on the cross. Robert Kraft has stated: “There is no indication in the Didache that an initial repentance connected with the idea of personal sinfulness for which Jesus' death atones was considered basic to the Christian life.”

Luke does not allude to or cite Zechariah 13:7 as do Matthew and Mark nor does Luke show awareness of the destruction of Jerusalem as do Matthew and Mark.

For all these reasons, it is unlikely that Luke intended to allude to the prophecy of Amos. It is more likely that Luke was criticizing the conduct of the high priests. They were wicked tenants. Luke has Stephen bring out Aaron's responsibility for making the idol with the story of the calf demonstrating that high priests from the beginning have been 'wicked tenants.'

Mark was right the disciples did not get it! The disciples did not understand that there was no need to be in the Temple daily making sacrifices.

Sometimes the hardest part of solving the problem is properly defining the problem. Did you ever have an old fashion toilet that flushed by itself even though no one had used it? We fixed the problem by replacing the innards.

Then my toilet was leaking at the base after the new toilet had been installed. We all thought the installer must have inadvertently broken the seal during the installation.

Meanwhile the hot water heater starts leaking. We called the plumber to have a new hot water heater installed but he, having installed the current hot water heater only eight years ago, insisted in looking at the hot water heater to determine if the problem could be fixed by replacing the leaky safety valve on the hot water heater. The plumber explained that the leak from the safety valve was probably caused by high water pressure.

The leak at the base of the toilet resolved itself when the plumber installed an expansion tank to relieve the high pressure in the system created by the addition of safety and shut off valves.

Mark rewrote Luke because the disciples did not get it. He did so diplomatically because he could not criticize Luke. Mark rewrote Luke to place in the mouth of the Marcan Jesus an incident occurring in Acts whereby it could be said that Jesus had declared all foods clean. Mark also added the theology of the cross.

Matthew also rewrote Luke adding a theology of the cross and the pericope making Peter not James the leader of the ekkesia, a word which is an anachronism in Matthew and had the disciples wait for Jesus in Galilee. Luke uses the Greek word ekklesia 23 times in Acts but not once in the Gospel. Matthew uses the word three times and is guilty of an anachronism.

Both Matthew and Mark had the women anoint the head of Jesus with oil, not his feet as in Luke, and introduced the idea that their writing was the proclamation of the gospel.
Both Matthew and Mark perhaps recognizing the harshness of the doctrine of repentance reduced its significance in their gospels.

Matthew rewrote the genealogy contained in Luke to make Jesus the son of David through the line of Solomon to support his claim that Jesus was the son of David, a descendant of David and Solomon, and like the Solomon of traditions, one blessed with the ability to heal. Matthew used the title “son of David” in six instances in passages that are healing stories. Of further interest Luke, but not Matthew, includes Noah in the genealogy of Jesus. Since Luke has emphasized Noah, the Noachic decree and the Day of Pentecost, he may have used the Book of Jubilees as a source.

In Matthew and Mark, Jesus is depicted as a prophet greater than Moses who walks on water. In Luke, Jesus is a prophet like Moses who does not walk on water.

Matthew and Mark, consistent with their thematic presentation, have condemned the animal sacrificial system and of the Temple. No such condemnation is found in Luke.

Luke is criticized, for recalling in his account of the sermon in Nazareth the healings in Capernaum, even though Luke has not previously mentioned any healings by Jesus. This is said to be evidence of his carelessly copying another gospel account. Eckhard Reinmuth has demonstrated, based on his detailed study of Liber biblicarum antiquitatum of Pseudo-Philo, that Luke, in recalling material not previously mentioned, is using an established Jewish literary technique.

For Luke, Jesus' mission of preaching the good news of the kingdom does not imply that Israel is supplanted. Consistently, the activity of preaching, healing and of calling disciples is set within the context of the Temple and synagogue. The Lucan Jesus accepts the form and fact of these institutions including the animal sacrificial system, Temple worship and the need for repentance.

The synoptic gospels all note that John Baptist came preaching calling to the crowd that they should repent for the kingdom of God is approaching. John baptized with water unto repentance. Although the word, “repent” makes a few more appearances in Matthew and Mark after the initial pericopes with John the Baptist, “repentance” disappears.

The New Testament does not explain what “repent” and “repentance” means suggesting that these passages were written for a Jewish audience. Since it is so much easier to seek forgiveness from God than from your neighbor, it is understandable that the requirements of repentance were relaxed for Gentiles by Matthew and Mark.

Luke stresses more than the others the need for repentance. All three Synoptics have this saying of Jesus: “I did not come to call righteous people but sinners”; only Luke adds “to repentance.” Luke will not let us escape the demand for repentance. Luke tells us that Jesus uses the repentance of Ninevah as a rebuke to the present unrepentant generation and that he even uses the failure of Tyre and Sidon for the same purpose. Jesus invited his audience to reflect on Pilate’s killing of the Galileans and on the death of those on whom the tower in Siloam fell. He said, “Unless you repent you will all perish likewise.”

When there is repentance, there is joy in heaven. The Lucan Jesus in successive parables repeats this statement. Repentance means an end to sinning. When this happens there is joy beyond this earth. Matthew has a parable about a shepherd looking for a lost sheep and his joy in finding it. In Luke’s version of the story, Jesus says “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Absolute eschatological reversal results from repentance.

True Repentance is hard to perform. Consequently, Matthew and Mark had to rewrite Luke to make it palatable by reducing its significance. Matthew and Mark also introduced the theology of the cross missing in Luke. These two changes have a negative correlation. Theology does change to meet social need.

Both Matthew and Mark misunderstood the Sign of Jonah and the finger of God.

Both Matthew and Mark rewrote Luke to correct “errors.”

When the problem is properly defined, the solution is readily apparent.

Copyrighted 2006


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