27 February 2008


At the moment, I’m reading up on Luke-Acts. I’m focusing a good deal of the internet course I’m creating on the Gospel of Luke. Something that keeps striking me is that Luke is equally at home in the Jewish and the Greco-Roman world. He draws much of his theology from the Jewish Scriptures and applies familiar Old Testament images to explain who Jesus is. Jesus is Messiah, Son of Man (Dan. 7), a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18), the Suffering Servant (Isa. 53), an Elijah-like figure. At the same time, Luke appropriates Greco-Roman models in his gospel: Jesus teaches at meals like a philosopher would, he seems comparable to an Immortal (i.e., Hercules) and benefactors.*

There are lots of theological reasons that Luke keeps piling up image upon image to describe Jesus. I think it’s interesting that Luke assumes an audience made up of both Jews and Greeks. He tries to make the good news of Jesus accessible to both groups, doing in his writing just what Paul does in the book of Acts. Luke doesn’t just write about the expansion of the Kingdom of God among Jews and Gentiles – Luke participates in it. In the way Luke chose to write his gospel – with echoes of Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures – he (purposely?) puts into practice the inclusiveness demonstrated in the lives of Jesus, the apostles, and the early Christians.

Is it any wonder then that scholars can’t tell whether Luke was a Gentile or a Hellenistic Jew? Maybe the ambiguity is precisely the point: “There is neither Jew nor Greek… for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

* I’m drawing from Mark Allen Powell's Fortress Introduction to the Gospels (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998) 100-103.

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