Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Reversal Motifs in the Acts of the Apostles

The natural question would be, after reading about reversals motifs in the Gospel of Luke, are there any reversal motifs in Acts? There are three prison deliverances [5:19-21, 23; 12:1-11; 16:23-24] in which God miraculously releases the Apostles or Paul and Silas.

The summary statement, contained in Acts 14:22 about the first missionary journal of Paul, is notable of the descent-ascent form of reversal that Luke has presented numerous times throughout Luke-Acts. Luke describes how “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom.” The fact that a series of trials leads to a singular entry into the kingdom (basileia) certainly suggests that Luke intends the reversals and the kingdom to be understood in the eschatological sense.

Copyrighted 2006

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The virtue of anonymous charitable contribution

On February 23, 2006, the Government Accounting Office released its “Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: the Lessons Learned. Footnote 90 states: “The Department of State lists 151 countries” that offered assistance.” It further stated: “Two additional countries offered assistance but wished no public recognition.”

According to Rashi, anonymous contributions are most commendable. To give without expecting anything in return is the highest virtue. This may even be recommended by sacred scripture. In the Gospel of Matthew we read: “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

On February 24, 2006, the Bush administration revealed that the United Arab Emirates gave $100 million dollars for Katrina relief, weeks before a state-owned company from the UAE sought US approval for its ports deal! Why am I not surprised!! What is amazing are two facts: London columnists noted that the Tonbridge robbers would need to use Dubai banks to launder the funds since there are so few places left willing to handle this operation and provide the depositors anonymity!!!

Was the Government Accounting Office able to account for the $100 million dollar anonymous contribution conveniently made prior to approval of the transaction allowing the Dubai Port World to manage six ports in the United States? Why am I not surprised?

And the President said he unaware that this transaction had been approved by his administration until just prior to its announcement.

Copyrighted 2006

Saturday, February 25, 2006

According to my gospel

Eusebius wrote: “It is actually suggested that Paul was in the habit of referring to Luke’s gospel whenever he said, as if writing of some gospel of his own: ‘According to my gospel.’” [Rom 2:16; 16:25; 2 Tim. 2:8].

Rom 2:16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

When Paul says in Romans 2:16 “on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” he in fact is discussing the Lucan understanding of the function and role of the Son of man as the eschatological judge at the end of days. According to Paul, Jesus “judges the secrets of men” by “searching the hearts of men.” This same idea is expressed by Luke as the beginning of his gospel: “Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.’”

Copyrighted 2006


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Delay of the Parousia?

A number of scholars have indicated that Luke seems to discourage near-future eschatological expectations. In the first century there were many changes occurring in how judgment was viewed. For instance, there would be a judgment of the just as well as the unjust, a notion that must have been unsetting to the Jewish followers of Jesus who believed that it was sufficient to be a son of Abraham. However, John the Baptist said: “Bear fruits that befit repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.”

Luke also indicated that individuals would be judged, not as member of a group but as individuals. Luke informed the “Good Thief” that “today” he would be in Paradise suggesting that each one of us could likewise enjoy Paradise the day we die. This radical idea eliminates a need for an end time when for each of us the world will end the day we die.

The solemn affirmation of Jesus to the request of entry into the kingdom clearly indicates that the death of Jesus and the coming of the kingdom are events in immediate succession. While the criminal expects life at the Parousia, Jesus grants entry “today.” What Jesus promised is clear. The kingdom is either present or immediately follows the death of Jesus. This final prayer on the cross is a firm declaration that the kingdom of God has been established by the completion of the ministry of Jesus.

Luke did not have to explain the delay of the Parousia. It arrived for the Good Thief on Good Friday when he entered into Paradise. This is my theology of paradise, one in which the delay need not be explained.

Copyrighted 2006

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Concept of Individual Judgment

Second Temple Judaism was familiar with the relationship between human action and divine response. Sirach can say: “Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray.” Ezekiel sets forth the fundamental principle in these words: “According to their way I will do to them, and according to their own judgments I will judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.”

Luke has two sayings which serve as our introduction. “For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” This saying may be Luke’s interpretation of Ezekiel’s fundamental principle.

“And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper." These sayings are related and best explained in relation to the Parables of the Unjust Judge and Crafty Steward. These parables are calls to repentance with a view of the eschatological judgment but presented in parable form.

Luke's theology of repentance is very Jewish.[i] Luke's emphasis on repentance is shown by those unique stories of men who changed their minds and ways in exemplary fashion: the prodigal son, the unjust steward, the unjust judge, Zacchaeus and the penitent thief. There could be no remission of sins without repentance.

Luke’s concept of almsgiving based on stewardship was unique and radical. We find more references to alms and almsgiving in his writings than anywhere else in the New Testament. Luke includes the Parable of the Unjust Steward, which has long been recognized as one of the most enigmatic passages in the New Testament. The crafty steward has been explained by most scholars as a parable about the correct use of possessions and was presented as a challenge to almsgiving.

Is there another way to consider this enigmatic parable? The accounting demanded of the steward forced him to take drastic action. This motif of giving an individual account is drawn from the business world but was adapted by Luke as a reference to the accounting that God will require of every individual.

According to Luke, Jesus calls each of us to repentance in the face of the impending individual judgment we will confront.

[i]. Luke stresses more than any other New Testament writer the need for repentance. The noun (metanoia) or verb (metanoeo) form appears 56 times in the New Testament. 25 are found either in the Gospel of Luke or the Acts of the Apostles. Lk. 1:5-25; 3:1-6; 3:10-14; 5:32; 9:24-25; 10:13-15; 11: 29-32; 13:1-5; 15:1-7; 8-10; 11-32; 16:19-31; 19:1-10; 24:47. For Luke, repentance is the summary term for the response to the apostolic message: Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 8:22; 11:18; 13:24; 17:30; 19:4; 20:21 and 26:20. With Gabriel's announcement about John to Zechariah while he is serving in the Temple, Luke portrays Israel as a people in need of repentance. The need is repeated in the Song of Zechariah and is implied in John's message of repentance.

Copyrighted 2006

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Reversal Motifs in Luke

The definition of apocalyptic seems to exclude the Lucan writings. Yet the best candidate for an apocalyptic writing would be one in which the eschatological judgment is a primary theme. The call for repentance, which is prominent in the Lucan writings, is always founded on the approaching judgment. In fact, the Lucan Jesus’ preaching of judgment is well-rooted in apocalyptic eschatology. The reversal motif is apocalyptic.

Reversals are prominent in Luke-Acts. One need only consider the Magnificat, the Beatitudes and Woes and the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Nickelsburg has shown that Luke may have used 1 Enoch 92-104 in his Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. A reversal theology runs through 1 Enoch 92-104 in which resentment is directed at wealthy persecutors. This final idea is the centerpiece of apocalyptic: the reversal of the age-old order, the revenge of the oppressed and deprived. The reversal is often stated in an antithetic formulation, such as rich/poor or wicked/righteous. It is also a divine reversal which is apocalyptic in nature.

In rewriting Luke, Matthew and Mark toned down the apocalyptic message of reversal so strongly presented in the Gospel beginning with the Magnificat.

Copyrighted 2006

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Messianic Apocalypse

The Messianic Apocalypse (4Q521) states: “the Lord will accomplish glorious things” and then it asserts: “For He will heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news to the poor.”

In Luke we read of a deputation that John the Baptist sends to Jesus while John is imprisoned. John's disciples ask Jesus, "Are you the coming one, or do we look for another?"

“Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the glad tiding preached to them.” (Luke 7:22-23).

Isaiah 61:1 says nothing about this Anointed One raising the dead. Yet, in the Luke quote, regarding the "signs of the Messiah," we find the two phrases linked: "the dead are raised up, the poor have the glad tidings preached to them," precisely as we have in our Qumran text. Luke makes more than passing use of this notion of the "resurrection of the dead" as a sign of the age of the Messiah. In the two places he quotes Isaiah 61:1, he also mentions specific cases of resurrection of the dead: as Elijah once raised the son of the widow, Jesus now raises the son of the widow from Nain (Luke 4:26; 7:11-17).

The Lucan Jesus, according to the Messianic Apocalypse (4Q521), is the eschatological messiah and prophet because only the Lucan Jesus fulfills the prophecy contained in 4Q521.

Copyrighted 2006

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Who will be raised at the resurrection?

Perhaps a theology in transition can be seen by comparing the traditional Jewish expression, 'the resurrection of the righteous' in Lk. 14:14 with the statement made by the Lucan Paul in Acts 24:15 that not only the righteous but also the unrighteous will be raised.

Luke 14:12-14 He said also to the man who had invited him, "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."

Act 24:14-15 But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets, having a hope in God which these themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.

The idea that “there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust” was first expressed in the Acts of the Apostles.

Copyrighted 2006

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Luke reads Psalm 110

All of the synoptic gospels quote Psalm 110 causing me to wonder if it is possible to assert that Luke understands the Psalm differently than Matthew and/or Mark. But I had noticed that in Acts 13:33, Luke provided a most precise reference to the Second Psalm.

Psalm 110:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD says to my lord: "Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool."

The Septuagint and MT are in agreement. This verse is quoted exactly from the Septuagint in Luke 20:42-43, Acts 2:34-35 and Hebrews 1:13. Mark also quotes exactly from the Septuagint while Matthew 22:44 make a slight modification: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Till I put thine enemies underneath thy feet.” The change made by Matthew is either subtle or of no significance. Matthew also changes the audience from scribes in Luke to the Pharisees while Mark does not specify the audience. The change in audience made by Matthew is significant. In Luke, there are no Pharisees depicted in Jerusalem. The Pharisees were not involved in Jesus' trial and execution.

Psalms 2 and 110 have from ancient times been considered almost as a pair because of their messianic tone. The letter to the Hebrews in particular quotes them side by side, and the Acts of the Apostles drew its strength from these sources. Neither Matthew nor Mark cited Psalm 2.

Thus Luke by citing the Second Psalm in a most precise manner is telling us Psalms 2 and 110 should be read together because Luke intends to emphasize the enthronement of Jesus as messianic king. This is consistent with the finding regarding Luke’s use of Psalm 118 and his modification thereof for the entry into Jerusalem where crowd proclaims in 19:38: “Blessed is the King that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

Copyrighted 2006

Friday, February 17, 2006

Right hand

Ecclesiastes said in 10:2, “A wise man's heart [is] at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left.”

“Became the sovereign's favorite, his right hand.” Longfellow.

To sit at anyone's right hand is an expression of the exercise of protection, power and authority. This right hand image statement cited in discussions about Psalm 110 is apparently a Jeremiah allusion.

In Jer. 22:24, we read “As I live, says the LORD, though Coni'ah the son of Jehoi'akim, king of Judah, were the signet ring on my right hand, yet I would tear you off” with the ending in verse 30: Thus says the LORD: “Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not succeed in his days; for none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David, and ruling again in Judah.” Thus, Jeremiah announces the end of the Davidic dynasty.

Copyrighted 2006

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Sheep and the Goats

My title is synonymous with the Matthean judgment parable that challenges, under the Watson reading, our liberal assumptions about our priorities, inclusiveness and societal values. Is the division between the righteous and the unrighteous dependent on any specific community and confession? Is confession and membership in a specific religious community important or even required?

One can not read this parable, or for that matter any parable, based upon a view that makes this message applicable to all. This parable, addressed to Matthew’s community, was shaped by early Jewish Christian’s worldview and need to be understood against that background. Context is provided by the imagery and allusions.

Before the son of man “will be gathered all nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.” The parable starts with animal imagery. Sheep need a shepherd. Unlike goats, sheep cannot fend for themselves. They often go astray and become lost and in such instances must be sought and found (Ezekiel 34:6; Luke 15:4). They depend on a shepherd to "go out before them and go in before them, ... lead them out and bring them in" (Numbers 27:17), and to ascertain that they are provided pasturage (Ezekiel 34:2, 13f) and "still waters" (Psalm 23:2). We repeatedly read in Holy Scriptures the lament for "sheep which have no shepherd" (e.g., Numbers 27:17). "They are in trouble because there is no shepherd" (Zechariah 10:2). "So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered" (Ezekiel 34:5). "Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered" (Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 26:31 / Mark 14:27).

Jesus, who is telling this judgment parable, has served as the shepherd to his followers. They understood the animal imagery. Jesus is both judge and the focus of the final judgment, spelling disaster to those who ignored him. The nations or "Gentiles" in Jewish literature would be judged according to how they treated Israel (4 Ezra 7:37). As in other parables, here they are gathered and separated; in this instance the way a shepherd would separate sheep from goats. The Jewish role of final judge that Jesus here assumes normally belongs to God himself (see, for example, 1 Enoch 9:4; 60:2).

The idea that a king can be a shepherd is well established in Judaism. Furthermore, the King of Israel was God's vice regent on earth. Therefore it would be no surprise that Matthew made the substitution in this parable. However, this substitution is inconsistent in that Matthew previously avoided having the crowd say “Blessed is the king that comes in the name of the Lord” during the triumphal entry into Jerusalem as did Luke.

Jesus sent out his representatives to gather in the sheep. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” This parable addresses receiving the gospel's messengers who are the disciples. One is to treat the representatives of Jesus as they would treat Jesus. They should be received with hospitality, food and drink (10:8-13, 42). Imprisonment could refer to detention until trial before magistrates (10:18-19), and sickness to physical conditions brought on by the hardship of the mission (compare Phil 2:27-30; perhaps Gal 4:13-14; 2 Tim 4:20). Being poorly clothed appears in Pauline lists of sufferings (Rom 8:35), including specifically apostolic sufferings (1 Cor 4:11). The King thus judges the nations based on how they have responded to the gospel of the kingdom already preached to them before the time of his kingdom (Mt 24:14; 28:19-20). Matthew may in fact be alluding to these Pauline citations.

There are possibly two ideas present in this parable derived from Enoch: that at the judgment, there will be a separation and the separation will be based on the weighting of the deeds. On that day, the Matthean Jesus will judge those who are “gathered” by weighting the treatment the messengers received delivering the gospel. Those who received the messengers as gracious hosts and accepted the message thereby became the sheep who were gathered in. Those who did not receive the messengers became the goats who will also be gathered in on that day.

This community consisted of the Jewish followers of Jesus. This community delivered the gospel to people they believed shared their values. Matthew in his gospel demonized the crowd which to him represented the Jews who heard the message and do not believe. This interpretation of the parable is consistent with the “fruits theology” of Matthew and the reaction of his community to those Jews who rejected them, the disciples selected to deliver the gospel message. For the Matthean Jesus, the judgment is simply a consequence of salvation rejected by the crowd.

Context is important. Without context, theology is in a state of constant transition.

Copyrighted 2006

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Concept of Judgment in Enoch

The central idea and principal theme of the end time judgment of the wicked followed by the salvation of the righteous appears throughout the Book of Enoch, excepting only the astronomical section because the meaning of this section is not clear. This idea is presented in the introduction in these words:

“The blessing of Enoch: with which he blessed the elect and the righteous who would be present on the day of tribulation at the time of the removal of all the ungodly ones and the righteous will be saved.”

The author of the Epistle of Jude quotes 1 Enoch 1:9 verbatim: “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.’”

Although there is a repeated statement of “judgment on all” (1:7, 9), this judgment appears to fall only on sinners and the righteous will live their full natural lives just as in Isaiah 65. Enoch 22 introduces the idea of a division into different groups but creates a “judgment” that is indistinct and lacking clarity.

The Book of Parables introduces for the first time the idea of a judgment of the righteous determined by the weighting of their deeds. The son of man acts “in the name of the Lord of the Spirits” (55:4), just as does the Messiah in the Psalms of Solomon. In the Book of Parables, it is the “son of man” (61:8) or “Elect One” who sits on the throne in glory and will judge. On the Day of Judgment, the rulers will beg for mercy at the feet of the son of man and the oppressors of the children of God and the elect ones will be punished.

The Book of Parables (37-71) was the last section of 1 Enoch to be written. Nickelsburg concluded this book was written late first century BCE. The absence of the Book of Parables from the Qumran texts is, according to Nickelsburg, is “historically accidental” and therefore has no significance for the dating and provenance of the text, and does not alter his conclusion.

Copyrighted 2006

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Yet one plague more

Today’s reading from Exodus 11 beginning at verse one provides the title line. A new study shows that typhus transmitted by lice was one of the main reasons for the defeat of Napolean in 1812, not the Russian winter.

“The essence of a miracle is in the timing.” Joel Friedman

Copyrighted 2006

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Concept of Judgment in Daniel

The Book of Daniel was written about 165-164 CE, during the reign of Antiochus. By way of comparison, the date range for the Gospel of Luke is 40-140 CE. Being a trial attorney, the key verse for me is “The court sat in judgment and the books were opened.”

The heavenly court is also depicted in 1 Enoch 14:15-23. Most scholars believe that Daniel is dependent upon Enoch while Matthew Black believes both Daniel and Enoch are dependent upon a third source. This third source could be 1 Kings 22:19-22 and/or Ezekiel 1. The books of judgment, unlike the “book of remembrance” in Malachi 3:16, apparently contains not the names of the saved, but the list of the sins of the accused.

After this brief depiction of the heavenly court, Daniel sees “one coming like a son of man” coming with the clouds of heaven; this figure is led before the Ancient One and receives everlasting dominion. The vision is interpreted for Daniel by an angel. Inasmuch as the court was assembled to render judgment, it is impossible to conclude that the “son of man” is not an eschatological figure. The final destruction of Israel’s enemies is the exercise of eschatological judgment indicated by the image of burning fire. God’s reign is said to be universal and everlasting.

There is another “court” proceeding in Daniel 12:1-3. This book names those who will be saved “at that time.” The author of Daniel believed that the end time being described would begin with the death of Antiochus.

Copyrighted 2006

Sunday, February 12, 2006

First Snow

As a follow-up to the Son of Man in Luke, I plan to discuss the eschatological proclamation which I have concluded is a prominent theme in Luke. To do so, I need to engage in a little history of an idea approach and discuss the development of this idea in its Jewish context.

So while I enjoying the I-95 Northeast Corridor snow storm, I will be thinking about Enoch and Daniel. I also plan to make a list of parables with a judgment theme and prepare a list of Enochic allusions in Luke-Acts. I will still be working on this project after the snow is gone.

Copyrighted 2006

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Jeremiah was a bullfrog

Jeremiah was one of the great prophets of the OT and like most OT prophets he was reluctant to serve. We may know more about Jeremiah and his work than any other OT prophet. He served for forty years in a ministry during the most troublesome of times that witnessed the destruction of the first temple. Jeremiah was the rejected prophet.

I am actually enjoying the snow storm that is covering the entire I-95 NE corridor but I know that tomorrow I will be clearing my driveway so that we can go to work on Monday. My church called with a homework assignment, a reading from the Gospel of Mark, along with the announcement that services are cancelled due to inclement weather: 8-12 inches of snow!

I have been thinking about how the idea of judgment is presented in scripture and will have more to say on this later.

Copyrighted 2006

Friday, February 10, 2006

Son of Man in Luke

There is some kind of connection between Daniel 7:11, the Enoch tradition, the sign of Jonah and the son of man sayings in Luke. There is a common idea of the “sign” or witness of judgment that may best be expressed by Luke in these verses: “When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nin'eveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation. The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nin'eveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.’”

I previously stated that the Sign of Jonah is a can of worms in view of the complexity of problems it raises. The central problem is the lack of agreement between Matthew and Luke in their respective explanations of the meaning of the Sign of Jonah. Luke 11:30 reads: “For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nin'eveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation.” I now realize that Luke is telling us that it is the function and role of the Son of man to be the eschatological judge.

I also stated that the Sign of Jonah is about repentance and eschatological reversals. Luke understood. Luke refers to the future reversal of social roles in the Magnificat at the beginning of his gospel. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is the final part of the unique Lucan triad, the parables having in common the theme of lost and found or recovered. For those who have studied the various implications, it is the story of the ultimate outcast, a person reduced in status to feeding pigs, expressed in the language of economics. Darrell Bock has said the message is that “absolute reversal results from repentance. . . .”

The Lucan Jesus identified himself as the "Son of man." I now realize that Luke is telling us that it is the function and role of the Son of man to be the eschatological judge at the end of days. I also suspect that when Paul says in Romans 2:16 “on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” he in fact is discussing the Lucan understanding of the function and role of the Son of man as the eschatological judge at the end of days. According to Paul, Jesus “judges the secrets of men” by “searching the hearts of men.” This same idea is expressed by Luke as the beginning of his gospel: “Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.’”

In Luke, the Sign of Jonah = the Son of man = the eschatological judge at the end of days. Paul concurs.

The “Sign of Jonah” is no longer a can of worms nor is the “Son of man” phrase an intractable problem in biblical studies.

Copyrighted 2006

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Luke’s Use of Repetition

Luke, the good preacher, not only utilized allusions, he also employed the use of repetition. Repetition adds emphasis. It also aids memory. Finally, repetition provides unity and makes the narrative more persuasive. The reason the writings of Luke are everyone’s favorite, is because Luke effectively employed the rhetorical tools to present the story everyone loves to tell. Luke is called a historian, theologian, and sometimes social critic. Luke is a good preacher because first and foremost he is a good story teller. Since the time of Jerome, Luke has been called the most skilled writer in the New Testament.

Copyrighted 2006

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Importance of Allusions in Luke

More than twenty years ago, Cradock wrote an article about how to write a good sermon. Using examples from Luke, Craddock illustrated the point that it was better to use good allusions in your sermon than quotations. Initially, he indicated that the extensive use of allusions means that Luke and Theophilus shared a common body of information, in this instance the Septuagint. Craddock noted that using allusions was a time saving device in which the author writes something to trigger recollection. Luke’s use of allusions permits him to combine tradition with the story he loved to tell. The Lucan narrative is strengthened as the reader combines it with recollections of OT characters such as Samuel, Elijah, and Jonah.

When one reads that "the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip" (Acts 8:39), the reader may recall 1 Kg. 18:12 and 2 Kg. 2:16. Luke locates in Joppa, Peter's resistance to the Gentile mission (Acts 9-10), recalling a similar story involving Jonah in the same city (Jonah 1:3). Of the two examples, the second is more significant. The example not only strengthens the story of Peter and Cornelius, it may also provide additional insight to the understanding of the Sign of Jonah.

I noted that there were perhaps 18 Jeremiah allusions in Luke. Initially I assumed that the persons creating these lists had active imagination but I now concede that whether or not these allusions are recognized by me does not hinder my appreciation of Luke-Acts. In fact, most of these allusions are not necessary for our understanding but those that are appreciated enrich our understanding.

Copyrighted 2006

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Jeremiah Allusions in Luke

Luke is sitting on the shoulders of the Prophet Jeremiah. Why did the unknown artist see Jeremiah as the most influential prophet utilized by Saint Luke? Any answer would be arbitrary but the least I can do is share this with you.

Someone did compile a list of eighteen Jeremiah allusions in Luke and my guess is that such lists existed and were available to those who created this magnificent cathedral in Chartres, France. Jeremiah is certainly ranked among the great OT prophets and it may be that such ranking was sufficient for him to be included with Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel in the selection shown last Saturday. I have been reviewing the Jeremiah allusions and I may have more to say.

Alan posted the companion photograph showing John on the shoulders of Ezekiel and provided an excellent explanation for his selection. I guess that is why he is writing the thesis and I am wondering if Jeremiah was a bullfrog!

Copyrighted 2006

Monday, February 06, 2006

Hidden Things: A Clue to the Synoptic Solution

I have been reviewing how Luke uses OT material, and on occasion looking at OT material not used by Luke but used by Matthew and/or Mark. For instance, Matthew introduces Psalm 78:2 in his 13th chapter with a quotation formula that has resulted in considerably scholarly speculation.

“All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet [Isaiah]: ‘I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.’” This passage from Matthew 13:34-35 is one of fourteen fulfillment formula quotations appearing in the Gospel of Matthew.

The words, in bold type, follow the Septuagint of Psalm 78. The MT uses the word, “parable.” In the second half of the verse, the Septuagint states: “I will utter dark sayings which have been from the beginning” while the MT states: “I will utter dark sayings of old.” The second half of what Matthew wrote may be based upon these words from Isaiah 29:14 which state: “and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hid."

Although I have included Isaiah in brackets as the prophet who spoke, the Revised Standard Version omits Isaiah. Yet it appears, there is a good basis for including Isaiah in that some of the early manuscripts have included the name. In the transmission, some copyists believing that Matthew was in error, as to who spoke, omitted his name. It is mere speculation but if Matthew intends to allude to Isaiah 29:14, then the ascription to him is done to direct the attention of the reader to this verse from Isaiah.

Neither Luke nor Mark use Psalm 78 in their gospel. Mark does include in 4:33-34, “With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.” However, as Michael Turton has noted, with respect to these verses: “Redactional from the writer of Mark, containing his themes of secrecy. Note the irony of ‘he explained everything to his disciples’ in conjunction with the author's presentation of the Twelve as confused, ignorant, hard-hearted, and anxious for personal aggrandizement. Numerous exegetes have argued that v34 is an insertion (Sellew 1990).”

The theme of secrecy that is present in Mark use to puzzle me. Matthew, Mark and Luke (8:10) all include: “To you has been given the secrets of the kingdom of God;” which in Luke continues: “but to others I speak in parables, so that ‘looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.’” Mark’s version differs slightly.

Matthew’s continuation appears to be a quotation from Isaiah 6:9-10. Gundry asserts the quotation is in “exact agreement with Acts [28:26-27], even in the omission of the same word, shows that the quotation has been interpolated from Acts.”

Seven verses later, Luke in 8:17 states: “For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light.” Mark in 4:22 includes: “For there is nothing hidden except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light.” Luke utilized Deuteronomy 30:11 which states: “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it [is] not hidden from thee, neither [is] it far off” and Mark copied
it from Luke. Neither Plummer not Bock recognized that Luke utilized Deuteronomy as the source of his allusion.

Mark constructed a secrecy theme contrary to what he wrote in 4:22. The idea of unbelief and obduracy present in the 14:35 quotation in its Matthean context is probably the source of Mark’s secrecy theme. Matthew demonized the crowd which to him represented the Jews who do not believe. Mark demonized the disciples because they did not understand that there no longer was a need to offer sacrifices in the Temple.

These things are no longer hidden!

Copyrighted 2006

Gospel of Luke

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Precise Reference

I have been thinking about Psalm 110, creating some kind of a mental outline, so that I can put my ideas on paper so that you can read them. In my thinking, I realized three things, each of which will be the basis of a short note.

In Acts 13:33, Luke states: “as it is written in the Second Psalm” making this the most precise quotation reference to the Old Testament that we have in the New Testament.

As for the other two things, I have written down the thoughts that have not been outlined mentally hoping that the mere act of writing will spur the creative juice.

Copyrighted 2006

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Quotation Formulas

In the Cathedral of Chartres near Paris, the rose window in the south serves as my introduction to my next series.

I regret that I was unable to locate a better image of the five lancet windows. The middle window is the Virgin Mary and Child. To her right and left are the Four Evangelists. What is most interesting is that Matthew is on the shoulder of the Prophet Isaiah, Luke on the shoulder of the Prophet Jeremiah while John is on the shoulder of the Prophet Ezekiel and Mark is the shoulder of the Prophet Daniel.

Copyrighted 2006

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Luke rewrites Hosea

Luke has only one Septuagint quotation from Hosea which he rewrites slightly. The passage from Hosea 10:8 appears in the midst of Jesus’ conversation with the women on his way to the cross.

Jesus turned to women who bewailed and lamented him saying “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us'; and to the hills, 'Cover us.' For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

This passage is unique to Luke with the words in bold being from Hosea. Luke reverses “Fall on us” with “Cover us” but the significance of the rewrite is not known. Why even quote this verse from Hosea? What message does the Lucan Jesus intend to deliver?

The full verse from Hosea reads as follow: “The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed. Thorn and thistle shall grow up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us, and to the hills, Fall upon us.”

The quotation from Hosea is in a section of the book where the Prophet pronounces judgment, inter alia, on children and offspring for the people’s participation in the fertility cult.

Jesus is suggesting that the “Daughters of Jerusalem” are heading for hard times, and most commentators I suspect would add, that this is an allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Yet in verse 12, Hosea tells the people “for it is the time to seek the Lord that he may come and rain salvation upon you.” The purpose of the harsh language of Hosea is to foster urgency for repentance. Hosea writes to bring Israel back to the knowledge of the Lord and to find restoration in Him.

The Prophet Hosea's conception of the deity is unlike that of Amos and most of his predecessors. For Amos, disobedience brings punishment but for Hosea, Yahweh is a God of mercy and love. For Hosea, punishment is a last resort with a purpose of restoring the ones who have done wrong. This conception of deity meant that Yahweh’s punishments could be interpreted as remedial rather than retributive. Thus, a quotation from or allusion to Amos, such as yesterday’s example appearing in Matthew, is a more significant suggestion of destruction than one from Hosea.

Even as Jesus heads for the cross, he continues to preach his message of repentance.

Copyrighted 2006

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Fruits Theology of Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew has a fruits theology, the significance of which has not been previously appreciated. Matthew uses the word “fruits” six times in his gospel including three times in his Parable of the Wicked Tenants. The last of the series is the verse that made me realized that Matthew has a unique fruits theology:

“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.' And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, ‘what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures: “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner”; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it." Matt 21:38-43.

Verse 43 is unique to Matthew. It is missing from the parallel passage in Luke and Mark.

Matthew has chosen to emphasize displacement in the context of the covenant of election. The Parable of the Laborers, although separated by fourteen pericopes, is related. These three Matthean parables are about God's vineyard and His expectations of justice and righteousness represented by the 'fruits', whether it be something radical about economic arrangements in society or the radical equality to be shown to those who accept the invitation to become co-workers in the vineyard planted by God. The 'time for fruit' has been a theme of his since the preaching of John in chapter 3. Matthew's unique focus on 'fruits' is in fact related to his view that because the vineyard did not yield 'fruits' the Temple was destroyed. In Hebrew, 'fruit' is transliterated as kais and pronounced the same as kes which means 'destruction.' Is the wordplay in the 8th chapter of Amos the inspiration for 21:43? The allusion to Amos 8:2 is admittedly subtle but the use of wordplay and subtlety is the hallmark of prophetic preaching. The definition of wordplay and/or pun is broad enough to include the use of one word to suggest the meaning of another. In the post-70 era, the repeated reference to 'fruit[s]' in a parable including a hedge, tower and winepress and susceptible of being considered an explanation for the end of the Temple is sufficient to enable an audience of Jewish background to recall the kais - kes wordplay in Amos.

There is no question Matthew also intends the three vineyard parables and the Parable of the Wedding Guests to be about the legitimation of the separation of his community from Judaism. These parables show signs of the crisis of the schism between new Jewish Christianity and old Judaism. This is consistent with Matthew's strident polemics against the Jews. Many scholars have noted that it is necessary to examine the referent prior to assuming that 'the you' of the Jewish leaders has become the Jewish people. However with Matthew's strident polemics, it is easy to see that Matthew has already made that connection.

Bock erroneously states that 'The appeal to a pattern of slaying the prophets shows the tenants picture the whole nation, not just its leaders... To restricts the tenants to leaders alone is too narrow.' In point of fact, as Bock noted several pages earlier, 'Luke is alone in having only the son slain.' There is a pattern of slaying of prophets in both the Matthean and Marcan versions of the parable which Luke lacks. Likewise, there are no senseless killings in the Lucan version of the Parable of the Wedding Guests.

More importantly Bock and those who interpret the Lucan version to include the Jewish people in the condemnation ignore not only the explicit language that the chief priests knew that the parable had been told 'against them' but more importantly 'they feared the people.' However the Matthean version of the parable supports such an interpretation since Matthew has included

“Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits thereof,”

which Luke lacks.

The existence of the fruits theology, which is lacking in Luke, is evidence of the dating of this gospel subsequent to the destruction of the Temple. This is not generally disputed. The displacement theology evident in the Parable as reported by the Gospel of Matthew is evidence of its late dating, perhaps the end of the first century CE. It is also evidence that the gospel was prepared for a Jewish audience that would understand the significance of the repetition of fruits and its assonance and the allusion to Amos.

Copyrighted 2006