Sunday, Feb 18, 2007: “Luke: Session 1”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
Lecture Series Led By Rev. Mike Kreutzer
Sunday, February 18, 2007


Luke, Session 1: Chapters 1 & 2


Luke –Acts: volumes one and two of a single story
Fred Craddock (Luke, p 10): “Luke and Acts look to each other in sufficiently clear and 
substantial ways that in the study of one, references to the other are not only permitted but are most helpful… Promise/fulfillment is a pattern characterizing the relationship not only between the Old Testament and Luke, but also between Luke and Acts.”

1:1-4 Preface; similar to the preface to Acts (1:1-2) and to the preface to medical writers and 
historians of the time. (Craddock, page 15: “The formality of the writing implies respect for an educated and cultured reader.”); Mark calls his work “a gospel”, but Luke calls his “an orderly account”
author: not named, but likely a convert from Hellenistic Judaism; excellent Greek; many 
references to the OT; an educated person; not an eyewitness, but a second- or third generation Christian (“eyewitness”: only use of term in the Bible); is he the physician and companion of Paul mentioned in Col. 4:14, Philemon 24 and 1 Tim. 4:11? The information is not decisive either way. By late second century, Irenaeus (Gaul), Tertullian (North Africa), Muratorian fragment (Italy), and Clement of Alexandria (Egypt) all attribute the gospel to “Luke”.
“Theoophilus”: dedications were often to the patron who sponsored a book (Luke Timothy 
Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, page 3); name might be symbolic; Acts is dedicated to him as well

Infancy Narratives, 1:5 – 2:53

gospel of universal mission; geographical focus included in infancy narrative (Jerusalem of the Jews and Rome of the Gentiles; Temple scenes and specific mention of the emperors)

prominent role of women in the gospel and of Mary in the infancy narrative

narrative forms a transition from the OT to the NT: begins with Zechariah and Elizabeth, 
Simeon and Anna, representatives of OT piety; Canticle of Mary focuses on Israel as the “poor one of the Lord”; moves from these OT images to the beginning of the NT with John the Baptist and Jesus

parallels between infancy narrative and the opening parts of Acts; pouring out of the Spirit; 
similarities between the canticles of Luke and the speeches of Acts; in Luke 2:11, angels proclaim Jesus as “Messiah” and “Lord,” which is what Peter calls him in Acts 2:36

seven scenes in the narrative:
1) Annunciation about John the Baptist
2) Annunciation about Jesus
3) Visitation
4) Birth / Circumcision / Naming of John the Baptist
5) Birth / Circumcision / Naming of Jesus
6) Presentation in the Temple
7) Finding in the Temple

1:1-25 Annunciation about John the Baptist

5 “Zechariah”: name appears seven times in 1-2 Chronicles as a priestly or Levite name; “priestly order”: 24 orders of priests, each of which served in the Temple one week every half-year; “Elizabeth”: only one by that name in the OT was Elisheba, the wife of Aaron

7 “barren” and “getting on in years”: Abraham and Sarah, Elkanah and Hannah; continuation of biblical themes

9 “offer incense”: duties assigned by lot; offering the incense was a high honor; once a priest had provided that service, he was ineligible to do it again until every other priest in his order had done so

10 “time of the incense offering”: probably 3 p.m.; Daniel 9:21 gives this as the time of the second appearance of Gabriel; Acts 3:1 gives this as “the hour of prayer”

11 “there appeared”: same verb as used in Acts 2:3 for the appearance of tongues of fire

Biblical annunciations of birth take place in 5 steps (cf. Ishmael, Isaac, John, Jesus (Mt & Lk)):
1) The appearance of the Lord (or an angel of the Lord)
2) Fear of the one to whom the annunciation is made
3) The divine message:
4) An objection by the visionary as to how this can be or a request for a sign
5) The giving of a sign to reassure the visionary

13 “John”: “Yohanan” = “Yahweh has given grace”

15 “filled with the Holy Spirit”: “filled with” occurs 22 times in Luke / Acts

17 “With the spirit and power of Elijah”: cf. Malachi 4:5-6, “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents.”; great power and prophetic speech

19 “Gabriel”: “man of God”; in literature of this period, there were either four (Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Phanuel) who stood in the divine presence, or seven)

20 “mute”: apparently deaf also since people communicate with him by using signs
“day”: “kairos” a time of God’s action

21 “delay”: the Mishnah declares that a priest should not delay in the Temple sanctuary

24 “five months”: pregnancy was considered to last 10 lunar months; this is why Mary can be said to learn about Elizabeth’s pregnancy in her sixth month, stay with her for three months, and still have returned home before the baby is born

25 departure is the way that Luke ends a scene in the infancy narratives

1:26-38 Annunciation about Jesus

1:26 starts out in Nazareth, as contrasted with Matthew who begins in Bethlehem
“engaged”: although the situation is not described as it was in Matthew, it portrays the same situation: after the legal marriage, but before they lived together
“house of David”: same as in Mt, but not the same great emphasis; Mary’s lineage is not 
clear; some writers have claimed that she, too, was of the house of David, although this is not attested to anywhere else in the NT; Luke seems to portray her as of the house of Levi (like Zechariah)
same basic annunciation pattern as in the annunciation about John

31 “name him”: literally, “call his name’ (a Semitism); Mary names the child (unlike Mt) 

35 “a holy spirit” as in Mt

36 “relative Elizabeth”: Wycliffe interpreted this as “cousin”; no other NT references indicate any biological relationship between John and Jesus; in John, the Baptist does not even know Jesus (1:31)

1:39-56 Visitation

39 “hill country”: Luke has already hinted (1:23) that Zechariah did not live in Jerusalem; only about one-fifth of the priests did

44 “the child in my womb leaped for joy”: Luke in 1:15 had already said that the child would be filled with the Holy Spirit; this happens in 1:41, and the child recognizes Jesus in Mary’s womb

46-55 Magnificat: a Jewish-Christian composition reflecting on and celebrating God’s work in Mary; based on other Jewish hymns of praise, especially on the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10; probably a pre-Lukan or non-Lukan hymn incorporated by Luke into the narrative; there are similarities between the Lukan canticles and the speeches in Acts Raymond E. Brown (REB), The Birth of the Messiah: “they give voice to general sentiments that are appropriate for the dramatis personae in the setting in which they are placed. It is not a question of a purely fictional creation, for the dramatis personae are remembered or conceived of as representatives of a certain type of piety which the canticles vocalize.”

1:57-80 Birth / Circumcision / Naming of John the Baptist

59 Originally, circumcision was probably a rite a puberty, but the Law specified that it take place on the eighth day (cf. Isaac and Paul); witnesses would be present and a benediction would be said; in patriarchal times, naming took place at birth, although rabbinic tradition describes Moses as being named at the time of his circumcision

60 “John”: a name well-attested in priestly circles

63 “amazed”: Since Zechariah was apparently deaf as well as mute, they were amazed that he had heard the discussion and his wife’s assertion that the child should be named John.

65 “Fear” comes before a dramatic divine intervention, both for Zechariah (1:12) and Mary (1:30)

66-67 “All” wondered who this child would be; Zechariah knew

68-79 The Benedictus: possibly a pre-Lukan, Jewish-Christian hymn incorporated by Lk into his narrative

80 departure to end the scene; John the Baptist’s birth story is complete; from a dramatic perspective, he is off the stage, and out of the scene, so that the author can put the spotlight on Jesus

2:1-21 Birth / Circumcision / Naming of Jesus

1:1 “decree”: Greek word “dogma” requires a formal declaration by the emperor, made in consultation with the Roman Senate; there is no secular confirmation that any such decree took place at this time (the first stage of a census was taken about 12 years later, in some parts of the Empire, for purposes of taxation). REB notes that the only census conducted while Quirinius was legate in Syria came about 12 years after Jesus was born and included only Judea, not Galilee: “this information is dubious on almost every score”

“all the world”: the Roman Empire; there is no evidence of any census of the entire Empire during the reign of Augustus

4 No evidence of any census requiring people to travel to their ancestral city; Lk 2:39 refers to Nazareth as “their own town”

“city of David”: a title normally used for Jerusalem; probably cited here to affirm Jesus as a descendant of David; there seems to have been a consensus in first century Judaism that associated the Messiah with Bethlehem (cf. Micah 5:2); Jn 7:42, “Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?”

6 “While they were there”: Lk seems to indicate that Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem for a time before the birth took place (Protoevangelium of James says that the birth took place in a cave on the way to Bethlehem)

7 “her firstborn son”: does not necessarily imply that there were others born later; designates the one to whom the rights and honors of the firstborn belong according to Jewish law; this mention prepares the way for the presentation scene to come; the mention of the birth is very short and to-the-point, as in Matthew (REB notes that Luke spends more time on where Mary laid the baby than on the birth itself)

“bands of cloth”: a sign of care for the baby (Wisdom of Solomon 7:4); a lack of swaddling indicates neglect (Ezek 16:4)

“manger”: could be a feeding trough or a stall, either indoors or outdoors, but feeding trough seems to fit the situation better; the “Christmas crib scene,” popularized by Francis of Assisi, includes animals, although none are mentioned in Lk’s account; REB notes that the mention of a manger does not have to do with poverty so much as it does with the peculiarity of the place because of the circumstances.
— a likely reference to Isaiah 1:3:
“The ox knows its owner,
and the donkey its master’s crib [manger; “phatne” in Greek];
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.”
Ben Witherington III, “The Nativity According to Luke: An Original Work of Art,” Bible Review (December 2004): The place that Lk describes Mary and Joseph staying, and where Jesus is born, is not out in a cave or a barn. It is “far more likely” that Lk is describing the humble back portion of an ancestral home, a place where the most valuable animals were fed (and, in the winter, housed) because the guest room was already occupied.
local tradition in Bethlehem fixed the location as a series of caves by 325; this is the site where
Constantine built the Church of the Nativity

8 “shepherds”: Bethlehem would be a logical place for them to be, since sheep were needed for sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem, about five miles away; in Lk, the shepherds, who were ranked in the lowest class of society, represent the marginalized to whom Jesus would reach out in a special way during his ministry – to them, the birth of a savior would really be good news

9-14 a standard biblical announcement scene: glorious appearance of God’s messengers, fear on part of the shepherds, reassurance not to be afraid, deliverance of the message, and a sign given
In the Roman Empire, Augustus was hailed as savior, lord, the bringer of peace, a god walking on earth. Here, the angels assert that Jesus is the true, savior, Lord and bringer of peace; and Lk has already described him as divine.
2 patterns followed in the angel’s proclamation:
(1) the standard Roman proclamation format; emphasizing that Jesus is the real Lord, Savior, Bringer of Peace
(2) Isaiah 9:6, ”For a child has been born to us, a son given to us” followed by Davidic titles “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”;
Lk alludes to this announcement, but substitutes three titles from the resurrection faith: Savior, Messiah and Lord (these three appear together in Acts)

13-14 a theophany (cf. vs. 9); a canticle, not from humans, but from those who stand in the Lord’s presence; contemporary Jewish writings say that, when the angels saw what God had done in creation, they sang a hymn of praise;; here they do so again for an event that is just as worthy as the original creation
— connection to Lk 19:38, in which the people proclaim on Palm Sunday, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”; in 2, angels proclaim peace on earth; in 19, humans proclaim peace in heaven

18-19 at the annunciation and birth of John, all who heard it were amazed and pondered these things; at the birth of Jesus and the story of the shepherds, all who heard it were amazed, but only Mary pondered these things

John Noland’s translation of 19: “Mary stored up all these things, trying in her heart to penetrate their significance”; in Lk, she serves as a model disciple; she serves as the only adult link between the infancy narratives and the public ministry of Jesus

20 The shepherds function as the first evangelists.

21 circumcision and naming: no mention of parents, unlike Mt’s account

2:22-40 Presentation in the Temple

22 “their” purification: no indication in Jewish Law that both parents had to be purified, only the mother

23 “holy to the Lord”: same designation as in 1:35 of the annunciation scene

24 “ a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons”: phrase from Leviticus 12:8; sold in the Temple

25 Simeon: while Gentiles may have interpreted his blessing to indicate that he was a priest, Lk gives no indication of that (contrasted with Zechariah); references to his death led to assumption that he was old at the time, although Lk does not say that
“righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel”: exemplifies the piety of the faithful in Israel; Lk uses the same description for Joseph of Arimathea in 23:50-51

26 “revealed”: indicates a divine oracle or response; same term used of Cornelius in Acts 10:22

28 “took him in his arms”: lit., “received the child into his bent arms”; Simeon became known later in Christian hagiography as “Theodochus,” “God-Receiver”

29-32 “Nunc dimittis”; master and servant terminology’ “dismissing” is LXX term for “dying”:
light for both Gentiles and Israel; used at Compline since the fifth century

33 “amazed”: same reaction as in 1:21, 1:63 and 2:18

34 “the falling and the rising of many”: Lukan phrasing (cf. 2:37, “fasting and prayer” “night and day”); Mal 3:1, “I am sending my messenger to prepare my way before me,” has been used in reference to John the Baptist. Now, the continuation of that verse, “the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple,” is illustrated with the stories of Simeon and Anna. Mal goes on to ask (3:2) “who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” Simeon (2:34) speaks of “the rising and falling of many in Israel.”

35 “soul”: “psyche” as locus of emotions and affections; “the heart”

36 “prophet” actually “prophetess”: in OT, Miriam (Ex 15:20), Deborah (Jg 4:4), Huldah (2 Kg 22:14), and Isaiah’s wife (Is 8:3) are called prophetesses; only other use in NT is Rv 2:20 which refers to “Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess”
“Asher”: most residents of Jerusalem would be of Judah, Benjamin or Levi; references to the other tribes are rare by this time
“of a great age”: more emphatic form of the term used than was for Zechariah and Elizabeth

38 “the redemption of Jerusalem”: similar to what was said of Simeon in 2:25

40 “the child grew and became strong”: parallel to what was said (1:80) about John; may have drawn upon similar statements about Isaac in Gn 21:8 and of Samson in Jg 13:24
REB: “the conclusion prepares the reader both geographically and biographically for the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth, coming from Galilee and preaching a message full of wisdom and exemplifying God’s gracious favor.”

fulfillment of the Law (although the presentation of the firstborn and the purification of the mother were actually two different events); reference to the prophets: parallel with the presentation of Samuel in 1 Sm 1:21-28

2:41-52 Finding in the Temple

42 “twelve years old”: not a note of obligation on Jesus’ part, but of temple piety; the Talmudic principle is that a boy reaches manhood at age thirteen

43 “when the festival was ended”: Passover began in the evening of the 14th of Nisan, and the Feast of the Unleavened Bread began on the 15h and lasted seven days, hence an eight-day celebration; but the law of the time mandated only that those in attendance remain overnight from the 14th to the 15th

44 “the group of travelers” would have included at least family and friends from Nazareth; the distance from Jerusalem to Nazareth is about 80 miles

46 “sitting among the teachers”: youth sometimes were taught their obligations by teachers in the temple precincts

49 “in my Father’s house”: possibly, “doing the business of my Father”

50 The parents did not understand. Jesus did. “His mother treasured all these tings in her heart” just as in 2:19.

51 “wisdom” and “favor” have also appeared in 2:40; “in divine and human favor”: the same was said of Samuel in 1 Sm 2:26

The scene is not actually an “infancy narrative,” but deals instead with the so-called “hidden years”: those after Jesus birth but before his public ministry. It is not closely connected with the actual infancy narratives: one could read it without any sense that there had been a virginal conception, that there had been anything unusual about Jesus’ birth, or that Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father. The parents’ failure to understand makes no sense after the annunciation, the song of the angels, and the prediction of Simeon. It is probably a later addition to Luke’s version of the gospel.

Many cultures and literatures provide attempts to make “the boy the father of the man.” Jewish stories contemporary with the NT describe the young man, Moses, having extraordinary knowledge plus God’s gifts of understanding, stature and beauty of appearance. Samuel was said to have been a prophet at age twelve (Josephus). Daniel is attributed with great wisdom at this age. Similar stories are told of Buddha in India, Osiris in Egypt, Cyrus the Great in Persia, Alexander the Great in Greece, and Augustus in Rome. Josephus ways of himself, “While still a boy about fourteen years old, I won universal applause for my love of letters, with the result that the chief priests and the leading men of the city used to come to me constantly for precise information on some particulars of our ordinances.” 

This story provides a transition from the infancy narratives proper to the public ministry. It is highly christological, with Jesus saying of himself what the Spirit will say of him at his baptism: viz. that he is son of God.