Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Great Famine

Luke uses the Greek phrase for “great famine” on two occasions, the Greek phrase for “strong famine” once and the Greek word for “famine” on one occasion in the same sense as “great famine.” This usage is distinctive. In the Sermon in Nazareth, Jesus describes the “great famine” that resulted when there was no rain for three years and six months. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus mentions the “strong famine in that country.” Stephen in his last sermon described the famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan and the great afflictions resulting. In the fourth instance, Agabus predicted a “great famine over all the world.”

According to Joel Kaminsky, “one of the usual punishments for a covenantal violation is a famine, especially because a famine can function as an omen that would force the guilty party to see his error and repent. The notion that a famine can function as a type of alarm to notify the population of a covenantal breach is an idea that occurs several times in the Hebrew Bible (Lev. 26:18-20; Deut. 11:17; Amos 4:6-9).” The purpose of the famine is to cause the people to correct the covenantal breach and turn back to God. Although the Parable of the Prodigal Son does not explicitly state that the famine occurred for this reason and had this effect, the prodigal son nevertheless vowed to return to his father and seek his forgiveness.

Is the Lucan Jesus in twice mentioning the great famine warning his audience that they can expect a “great famine” if changes do not occur? The great famine predicted by Agabus did occur!

What role does the mention of the four severe famines play in the writings of Luke?

Copyrighted 2007


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