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5053Luke and Antioch

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    Jul 24, 2014

      To: Synoptic/GPG

      In Response To: Jeff Peterson

      Courtesy Cc: Adela Yarbro Collins (cited at end)

      On: Luke and Antioch


      Jeff Peterson: “It’s not, however, my impression there’s a consensus that Luke was written in Antioch; in fact, I believe this is the first time I’ve ever seen it suggested!”


      Bruce: Good! Excellent! Awesome! I am very happy to take credit for it. On the other hand, I may perhaps have been anticipated in the literature. Herewith, in the interest of scruple in matters of priority, an exploration of that possibility. First comes the association of Luke with Antioch.


      From off the shelf I take Caird Luke (1930) xxi. “According to Eusebius (HE 3:4) Luke was a physician of Antioch. Eusebius does not give the authority for his statement, but it may have been Julius Africanus (flor: first half of the third century). [note in text: see Cadbury in Beginnings 2/247, who “gives a convenient collection of ancient testimonia concerning Luke”]. The same statement is found in the ‘Monarchian” prologue to the Gospel. There is nothing improbable in the tradition, and if Luke was the author of Acts, it would explain his evident familiarity with and interest in the Antiochene Church.”


      Caird’s comment that the writings attributed to Luke show an Antiochene acquaintance has a precursor. Jerome De viris illustribus 7: “Luke the physician, an Antiochian, as his writings show . . .” This looks to me not, or not necessarily, like mechanical repetition of a previous tradition, but to have been derived, or at least confirmed, by personal inspection of the texts.


      Jerome, Preface to the Commentary on Matthew, again associates Luke with Antioch, but here says that he “composed his book in the districts of Achaia and Boeotia [var: Bithynia].” The tradition associating Luke with one or another place in Achaia is also seen in the Apostolic Constitutions, but in a passage (7:46) purporting to identify the founding bishops of the major churches, and to associate most of them with Peter and/or Paul; it is not as a whole credible (for example, it makes Zacchaeus the first bishop of Caesarea, and Cornelius the second.




      The first is fictional, the second is fantastical. Luke may have died in Achaia, but this says nothing about the locus of his Gospel. On the contrary, if Luke did become a figure of consequence in Achaia, it would seem more likely that he qualified because he had written a Gospel, an authority text, rather than that he achieved that position on other grounds, and only later write his Gospel.


      Traditions grow, and often in response to pressures external to themselves. I can see two forces bearing on the growth of traditions about Luke:


      ONE is the desire (as the canon began to take shape, and to acquire meaning) to have all canonical texts relate to an acknowledged apostle; the canon, in effect, was evolving as an approved written substitute for direct but oral Apostolic authority. A written repository of church history and theology. The association of Hebrews with Paul (which is textually exiguous) may be an effect of this sort. The association of Luke with Paul seems to me to rest on two details: (1) his mention in what some are pleased to call Pauline writings, but are instead deutero (Colossians, 2 Tim; Philemon is a dubious case); (2) an interpretation of the much-debated “we” passages in Acts, which on some interpretations point to a geographical center in Philippi. If we track lists of the Twelve through the Apocryphal literature, we find the Evangelists increasingly substituting for the minor members of the Twelve as listed in gMk or gLk; see for instance the Assumption of the Virgin (Elliott 702), in which both Mark and Luke figure, the latter being called from the dead to do so.


      TWO is the increasing tendency, as the 1st century advanced, to associate all traditions with Rome. This applies no less to Mark (supposed to have derived his Gospel from the preaching of Peter at Rome) than to Luke (supposed in some of the deutero writings to have been the last person to attend Paul in Rome). Peter and Paul are of course the major, almost the only, certifying names in the Apostolic tradition.


      In reviewing “The Case Against The Tradition” (Beginnings 2/314), Windisch asks what to me is the unanswerable question: “And more particularly, who are we to suppose had falsely attached Luke’s name to the Third Gospel?” Exactly the same question has been asked, I believe with justice, of the attribution of gMk to John Mark of Jerusalem. Cui bono? As long as one is lying anyway, there are surely more powerful lies than either of those. We expect historical fact to be elaborated, but not, so to speak, diselaborated. If it counted with the later Christians as Peter’s Gospel, why not attribute “gMk” to Peter in the first place?


      Second, the association of the Gospel with Antioch.


      Given Luke, we move on to the Antioch association of the writings of Luke (whatever may have been his final personal history), Windisch further (2/316) has this about Antiochene elements in Acts: “Luke was, according to Eusebius, a native of Antioch (HE 3/4:6). Even though we deny the authenticity of the first “we” passage of the ‘Western’ text (11:28), which leads us to Antioch (see above, p304), there are still sufficient indications that the author of Acts stood in especially close relations with Antioch (cf 6:5, 11;19FF, 13:1FF, 15;2, 23, 35, 18:23). This would be most easily explained if we could believe a native of Antioch to be the author.”


      [That Bezae extra “we” passage is surely late, but also surely interesting. Was it an attempt to link the implied “we” persona in Acts with Luke’s known place of origin?? And/or to provide a consistentizing “we” passage in what is manifestly, on independent formal grounds, the first half of Acts??]


      These evidences of association in with Antioch in Acts would apply a fortiori to the earlier (Acts 1:1) composition of Luke.


      If (as Windisch and some others take some time to argue, Cadbury notwithstanding) Luke was a physician, and if Luke the physician was associated with Antioch, as is the case in the above quotes, and if (as now) training as a physician takes some time, then the easiest supposition is that Luke the Physician was established as such in Antioch when he wrote his Gospel, since traces of both the place and the profession show in the Gospel. Is it likelier that he left Antioch (a great city and cultural center, perhaps the second city of the Empire) to be trained as a physician in some lesser center in Achaia? And then wrote his Gospel in Achaia, without permitting any Achaian local color to intrude? I can’t  find it convincing. There are too many ends that don’t fit.


      My sense is that Caird has stated the major possibilities pretty well. But if it is thought that he or a precursor did not propose that possibility as a definite theory, I am quite prepared to take over.



      Myths grow, and for perfectly good reasons; they represent the adaptation of memory to the needs of the immediate present. Is there not an interesting symmetry between Mark and Luke in this regard? The original locus of both is given by uncontradicted early tradition (Jerusalem, Antioch, respectively), and both are given positions and even authority elsewhere in the latter part of their lives (Alexandria, Achaia, respectively). In both cases, the composition of the respective Gospels is linked to direct Apostolic contact (Peter, Paul, respectively), but as I have noted, this is a tendency plausibly attributable to the wish to give the already or incipiently accepted Gospels the final Apostolic authority (this is exactly what Papias, for one, is doing). There is also the Rome angle, noted above. I think that if we subtract the Rome angle and the Apostolic angle from the traditions associated with both texts, we have left a reasonable basis for conjecture about the locus of the respective Gospels. In the case of Luke, it seems to me that this would be Antioch.


      To repeat a point: If Luke and/or Acts were written at the end of Luke’s supposedly long life in Achaia, whether or not as Bishop of any church there, it seems remarkable that previous investigators have found no hint of it worth mentioning, whereas the Antiochene relation seems to have been frequently noticed.


      (So also Mark and Jerusalem, but that is really another story, no?).


      No; hold it. If good theories are lying around loose for the taking, then as of 24 July 2014 I will pick up another one. In opposition to the published views of Bacon 1919, Incigneri 2003 (both Rome) and Roskam 2004 (Galilee; rv Crook, JBL 2005; no other locus is considered as a possibility in Yarbro Collins 2007), I herewith formally propose the view that Mark is a Jerusalem Gospel. John Mark in Jerusalem was possibly a witness of the Baptism (NB the disciple requirement of having observed all things from the beginning, namely the Baptism, Acts 1:22; none of the disciples, all from Galilee, are said in Mark or anywhere else to have witnessed the Baptism) and certainly of the Crucifixion, hence the greater detail of the latter account in particular, whereas Mark’s Galilee material has all the marks of secondary report, about an area with which he was not geographically familiar (eg “Gerasa,” long ago corrected by Origen; Roskam gets all this precisely backward, as Crook, I think rightly, has pointed out), and about a person whose preaching he had not consecutively witnessed. Mark’s contact with Peter was not at Rome, but much earlier, during Peter’s visits to Mark’s mother’s house in Jerusalem, a known rendezvous point or safe house for Christians while in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12-17). The “Peter in Rome” claim is intelligible as a Rome-transformed mythic development of this original relationship. So suggested.




      E Bruce Brooks

      Warring States Project

      University of Massachusetts at Amherst


      Copyright © 2014 by E Bruce Brooks


      We are accustomed to distinguish Evangelists from Apostles: the armchair people from the field workers. But is this valid? Certainly Acts I shows Mark operating as a fieldworker, and Acts II goes a long way to invite the inference that Luke did the same. Luke, at any rate, seems concerned to blur the distinction, if such there was, both for himself and for Mark. It is perhaps just conceivable that the Assumption of the Virgin was not so much substituting Evangelists for Apostles, as simply retaining a previous perception in which Luke and Mark, along with whatever else, had an Apostolic role.


      What is the function of gMk? Is it a preaching tool? Is it reminder notation for the home group? Is it a platform for theological revision? Is it an apologia for the death of Jesus?


      I think it can be shown that, at one time or another, it was all of the above. (Adela may recall my SBL/NE talk, back in 2006).


      ------------LATE PS ON LUKE AND ANTIOCH--------------


      I am not very well equipped for a literature search at this hour (6:27 AM local), but those better situated may want to check Gerhard Schneider, Das Evangelium nach Lukas (1984) 1/34 (not seen), and/or his Apostelgeschichte (1980) 1/121 (also not seen), and report back.