Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Continuing Revelation

It was noted earlier that only the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and the Society of Friends (Quakers) believe in the doctrine of continuing revelation. The Qumran community possessed a belief in progressive revelation. According to Jassen, “the Qumran literature identifies the present receipt of revealed law as the latest stage in the prophetic revelation of law.”

The Rule of the Community instructs the group to retreat to the desert in order to “prepare there the way of the Lord” (1QS 8:12-13). This document interpreted Isa. 40:3 to refer to the study of Torah (1QS 8:15).

It being Mother’s Day, I was thinking about Mary and Martha and how Martha prepared a fancy meal while Mary sat at the feet of the Lord. In this scene from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is instructing Mary. Jesus is presented as a teacher like Ezra but in this instance the student is a woman. Danker states that this passage demonstrates that “a woman is as much entitled as a man to receive instruction from an eminent man of divinity.”

Earlier in Luke 2, three separate verses contain the phrase “the law of the Lord.” I suggest this is a subtle allusion to Ezra 7:10 that states: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and ordinances in Israel.” In using the title “Lord” Jesus is presented as “the authoritative teacher of Israel.”

Luke uses a number of phrases that allude to Ezra but these also weak allusions because shared language that is common provides no real support for asserting that Luke has alluded to the Book of Ezra. Shared language that is rare provides a stronger argument. Luke uses two Greek words which are a double hapax appearing in only in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Ezra (Esdras). The second example appears in the Parable of the Unjust Steward that also contains two phrases that is only shared in common with the Book of Ezra.

Shared language that is rare supports the allusion and because it appears near the end of a number of steps in the step progression method used by Luke, it is more likely that the earlier allusions are intended. The use of the step progression started with common phrases in Chapter 2, progressed to Jesus instructing Mary and concluded with the use of rare words and unique shared language in the Parable of the Unjust Steward. Luke used this progression as a rhetorical device to lead the First Reader to the Book of Ezra step by step increasing with each step the strength of the allusion.

The Parable of the Unjust Steward appears in an inclusio with the Greek word for faithful as the bookends. This inclusio has not been discussed in the academic literature and therefore no definitive conclusions can be presented about its meaning and significance. However, Luke has included in the inclusio yet another double hapax appearing only in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Ezra.

Having completed my study of Torah for the day, I need to prepare the grill for Mother’s Day.



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