Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Centrality of Jerusalem in Luke

A striking theme of the book of Isaiah is the motif of the city. According to Motyer, “Four Isaianic strands are woven together in the use of the city motif in which Jerusalem, Zion, mount/mountain and city are broadly interchangeable terms: divine judgment, preservation and restoration, the security of Zion (14:32; 28:16) and the centrality of the city in the divine thought and plan (footnotes omitted).”[i] For Luke, Jerusalem is and remains throughout Luke-Acts the center of the action.

The phrase, “returned to Jerusalem,” recurs throughout Luke-Acts: Lk 2:45; 24:33,52; Acts 1:12; 8:25; 12:25; 13:13; and 22:17. For Luke, Jerusalem is and remains throughout Luke-Acts the center of the action. Jesus tells his disciples to remain in Jerusalem. The spread of the gospel is directed from Jerusalem by the Holy Spirit. When there is a dispute the church in Antioch sends a delegation to Jerusalem for a resolution of the problem and decision as to the proper course of action. Throughout Luke-Acts, Jerusalem is the focal point and centrality of location to which Jesus and Paul return.

The centrality of Jerusalem is revealed in the missionary enterprise in Acts (1:4,8; 8:14-15; 11:1-2; 11:22 and 15:20). This includes the Jerusalem frame of reference for Paul's entire ministry in Acts (9:27-29; 11:25-26; 13:1-13; 15:2; 16:5; 18:22 and 21:17). The council's decision to send two of its own people with Paul and Barnabas reflects an element of control Jerusalem tried to impose upon Paul's activity and teaching.[ii] Indeed, Luke three times mentions the status of Judas and Silas as the official representatives of Jerusalem.[iii] Judas and Silas are the "men from James" in Galatians 2:12. Jerusalem control of the missions in Acts is also closely tied to the fact that, for Luke, Jerusalem is the place where the twelve reside (8:1; 9:28; 11:1-2; 15:2,4; and 16:4).

Matthew and Mark have not adopted the motif of the city. Their Jesus instructs his disciples to wait for him in Galilee. The animal sacrificial system having been condemned by them and the city and temple having been destroyed by the Romans, Jerusalem was no longer significant for them.

[i]. Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, 17-18.

[ii]. Acts 15:22-41; Gal. 2:11-14.

[iii]. Acts 15:22, 27 and 32.

Copyrighted 2007


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