Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

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


Blogger David A. Croteau said...

You said: "For Luke, repentance is the summary term for the response to the apostolic message." What do you do with the Gospel of John since it never uses the Greek word for repentance?

7:16 PM

Blogger Richard H. Anderson said...

David Croteau,
My efforts are dedicated to the writings of Luke. I have not considered why the GJohn never uses the the Greek word for repentance. However Revelations does use the word repent. I have written that there may be a negative correlation between repentance and the atoning death of Jesus for our sins which I have not investigated fully.
Richard H. Anderson

8:24 PM


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