Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Importance of contrasts in the Gospel of Luke

Luke seems to emphasize contrasts, such as the thankful vs. thankless lepers, the repentant and unrepentant thieves, the Samaritan and the Pharisees, and the rich man and Lazarus. The author also contrasts high and low (1:51-2; 14:7-11), proud and humble (18:9-14), rich and poor (4:18; 6:20, 24; 16:19-31). This is a characteristic of wisdom literature. If Luke is using wisdom literature as a model or source, one should expect to see parallelism, vivid words, examples from life, metaphors, comparisons and contrasts.

Contrasts are presented in a number of different forms and methods. For instance, Luke may place two words, phrases, incidents and/or individuals in juxtaposition to create comparisons and contrasts. Consider the stories of Bartimaeus who sat by the side of the road while Zacchaeus "climbed up into a sycamore tree." The one was seeking alms from people passing by while the other had planned to see Jesus. The crowd rebuked Bartimaeus for crying to Jesus and complained that Jesus was going to be a guest of Zacchaeus.

Compare these examples. Witness the contrasts between "fell" and "added" in the expressions "there fell of the people that day about three thousand men" (Ex. 32:28), and "the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41). These two examples are the only occasions where "about three thousand" is used in Scripture. Similar too is this example: "there were with him [David] about four hundred men" (1 Sam. 22:2), and there "rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves" (Acts 5:36). In 1 Samuel 28:24, we read of the "fat calf" of the witch of Endor while in Luke 15:23, we are told of “the fatted calf” which was killed for the prodigal son! In all three instances, these contrasts are between passages that are used only twice in sacred writings.

The contrast can also be established by the use of a word. The prodigal son took his journey to the “far country" (Luke 15:13), and a very different one of the nobleman (Luke 19:12). In my next article, the example will be given of two different Greek words translated the same but having two different meaning as a result of which the reader fails to appreciate the contrast intended by Luke.

But I did not need to tell you what a skilled writer Luke is!

Copyrighted 2006


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