Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Victory Motif in Luke’s Writings

The testing in the wilderness was the first confrontation with Satan. Only Luke emphasized that it is simultaneously a confrontation between the Holy Spirit and Satan. Luke alone mentions that Jesus returned to Galilee “in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Luke also records a number of incidents involving the healing and the casting out of demons. In Luke 11:20, Jesus uses the phrase, “the finger of God.” Woods explains the Jewish meaning of “the finger of God” in these words: “Behind the Beelzebub periscope, (Lk. 11:14-26), remains the issue of whether Jesus is a ‘true or false prophet.’ The true test is found at Deut. 13:1-5. It is not an issue of ‘signs or wonders’ being performed, for Jesus’ exorcisms were not denied. The true test was a theological one. It related to the revelation of God at the Exodus. Against this background, Jesus’ reference to the ‘finger of God’ because it also answered the charge of Deut. 13:1-5 by stating that his exorcisms were performed by none other than the God of the Exodus. This established him as the true prophet like Moses (Acts 3:22), mighty in word and deed (Lk. 24:19; Acts 7:22). At this point Luke engages a pesher ‘This is that’ argument before a Jewish audience. Such an audience would have regarded God as the true author of miracle (Acts 2:22), in a typical Jewish fashion."

The remark of the Lucan Jesus that he saw Satan “fall like lightning from the sky” is another example of the victory motif wherein Satan is thrown down from his position of control. This appears to be an allusion to Isaiah 14:1-27 that tells the story of fall of the mighty king of Babylon and the defeat of Assyria that precedes the restoration of Israel. In his second book, Luke demonstrated that the disciples could defeat Simon Magnus, Bar Jesus and the Seven Sons of Sceva, all further examples of the victory motif.

In reading the Passion as recorded in the synoptic gospels, one can not help but notice that Satan has disappeared from Matthew and Mark. Luke tells us: “Then Satan entered into Judas” and then Judas met with the chief priests and agreed to betray Jesus. Satan is the chief instigator in Luke but has no role in Matthew and Mark. Satan is also mentioned in the Lucan scene where Peter’s denial is predicted. The last mention of Satan in Matthew and Mark is the Confession at Caesarea Philippi. Not only is Satan missing in the Lucan version, so is the name of the location of the place where Peter makes his confession.

What is the role of Satan in Luke and why is Satan more prominent in Luke than Matthew and Mark? Perhaps, Luke makes Satan more prominent so that the Demise of the Devil is more significant.

The Lucan Paul explained that it was his mission to persuade Gentiles to "to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." Although Paul acknowledged the power and presence of Satan in Romans 16:20, 1 Cor. 5:5, 7:5; 2 Cor. 11, 11:14 and 12:7, and Luke has an extensive and thematic treatment of Satan in his writings, Matthew and Mark in their rewriting of the Passion story, wrote Satan out of the script. Neyrey states: “The conflict between Satan and Jesus, the apostles and the Church is of major importance for Christians, for it stresses the cosmic significance and radical importance of Jesus’ work.” Jesus proclaimed the ruin of Satan in these words unique to Luke: “I saw Satan fall like lightening.”

No wonder, the victory motif was held in high esteem in the early church.

In 1930, the Swedish theologian, Gustaf Aulen wrote Christus Victor wherein he noted the importance of a Divine conflict in which Christ “fights against and triumphs over evil powers of the world, the tyrants under which mankind is in bondage and suffering, and in Him God reconciles the world to Himself.” Aulen states that this emphasis on the victory over all enemies, Christ and ours, in death and resurrection, which he calls the classic theory of atonement, dominated the thinking of most early Christian writers. Leon Morris, writing in 1965, indicated that Aulen recently asserted that “The paying of penalty, the offering of sacrifice, and the rest (ransom) are discarded. Victory is all that matters.”

This is a theme to which I intend to return as I attempt to understand why the significance of Luke having no theology of the cross.

Copyrighted 2006


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