- To: Synoptic
On: Luke's Nazareth Group (Lk 4:14-30)
No, really. If we can detect, by objective signs present in our Luke, that a
relocation of previous material has occurred, then we are witnessing a
Synoptic Event, and knowledge of it ought to be valuable for future
ratiocination. Any firm point in a volatile storm. By way of exploring its
possible validity, I will here expand somewhat on the previous message.
The previous suggestion was that the module sequence NAZ - CAP - SIM, which
is what stands in our Luke, possessed narrative inconcinnities (the
assumption of prior acquaintance with Simon in the CAP module, and the
assumption of Capernaum healings in the NAZ module) which suggested that
these three had originally been in the order SIM - CAP - NAZ, which is the
order that is still reflected in both Matthew and Mark. It follows that,
before the relocation for which we have already seen evidence, there was no
NAZ - CAP - SIM order anywhere, and all three Synoptics, insofar as they
existed at all, or their precursors if *they* existed at all, possessed the
same order of this material. Without exception.
A motive for the early placement of NAZ in Luke (the emphasis on the
Opposition and Rejection theme) was suggested in my last, and similar
suggestions were cited from the commentary literature; those suggestions
could easily be multiplied. They are in keeping with what elsewhere seems to
be the character of Luke, including its de-emphasis of Galilee (what I call
Jerusalemization), and its rejection of Judaism in favor of a more universal
conception of Jesus's mission. The fact that a consistent authorial scenario
can be found for this inferred change in Luke is a useful support for the
theory of reordering, which was independently suggested on strictly
philological grounds. Convergence of evidence is always suggestive.
Here is a further argument for the idea that these modules originally stood
in a different order. As it stands, Lk 4:42-44, the end of the Lukan
Capernaum episode, says [v44] "And he was preaching in the synagogues of
Judea." In our present Luke, this is immediately followed by 5:1, which
opens "While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was
standing by the lake of Gennesaret." Gennesaret is in Galilee, south (the
commentators tell me) of Capernaum. It is not in Judea. It is thus not
geographically compatible with the ending of the section which presently
Again, it was noted earlier that the healings in Capernaum were narratively
taken for granted in the Lukan NAZ module. One might say that this is just
Luke's style; he expects his readers to know where Capernaum is, or even to
be previously informed about the healings there. This argument is confuted
by Lk 4:31, in the CAP module, where Capernaum is mentioned as though for
the first narrative time. Lk 4:31: "And he went down to Capernaum, a city of
Galilee." One might well ask what local Christian community needed to be
told where Capernaum was (surely not that of Caesarea, where GLk is
sometimes located), but that is not the point. The point is that here, Luke
is introducing (for any Palestinian reader, overintroducing) Capernaum. If
this is how Luke handles the introduction of Capernaum, then the way he
handles it in the NAZ module is anomalous, UNLESS 4:31 originally preceded
the NAZ module. It is the present suggestion that it DID originally precede
Proceeding thus, I think we will be inclined to conclude that (a) the Lukan
material, as we see it or in closely similar form, originally stood in the
order SIM - CAP - NAZ, and to note that (b) this is exactly the order in
Mt/Mk, so that at some point, early in the text process which led to our
Luke, there was total unanimity in all three Synoptics or their precursors
as to the sequence of those events.
We might next validly ask: Were the three Lukan modules rewritten to any
extent, in the process of moving them? One way to check is to put them in
their original order, and see how convincing they may be, or what anomalies
(presumably due to authorial adjustment at the time of the move, and
becoming anomalies by our restoring the original order) still remain. With
apologies to those who have the whole text in memory and don't need this,
here is the RSV text of just two of the three modules, CAP - SIM, transposed
to their presumptive earlier sequence, SIM - CAP:
LUKAN RESTORATION of SIM - CAP: (My Emphasis)
[END OF THE TEMPTATION MODULE]
4:12 And Jesus answered him, It is said, You shall not tempt the Lord your
God.  And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from
him until an opportune time.
[POSSIBLY LATER SUPPLIED PREFATORY LINK]:
4:14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and A
REPORT CONCERNING HIM went out through all the surrounding country.  And
he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
[OMITTING NAZARETH MODULE, which ends with Lk 4:30 "But passing through the
midst of them he went away"]
5:1 While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was
standing by the lake of Gennesaret.  And he saw two boats by the lake,
but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 
Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a
little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
 And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, Put out into the deep
and let down your nets for a catch.  And Simon answered, Master, we
toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the
nets.  And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish,
and as their nets were breaking,  they beckoned to their partners in the
other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats,
so that they began to sink.  But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at
Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.  For
he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which
they had taken,  and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who
were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, Do not be afraid;
henceforth you will be catching men.  And when they had brought their
boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
[CONTINUING WITH CAP MODULE]
4:31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching
them on the Sabbath,  and they were astonished at his teaching, for his
word was with authority.  And in the synagogue there was a man who had
the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice,  Ah!
What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are, the Holy One of God.  But Jesus rebuked him, saying,
Be silent, and come out of him. And when the demon had thrown him down in
the midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm.  And they were
all amazed and said to one another, What is this word? For with authority
and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.  And
REPORTS OF HIM went out into every place in the surrounding region.
4:38 And he arose and left the synagogue, and entered Simon's house. Now
Simon's mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they besought him for
her.  And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her; and
immediately she rose and served them.
4:40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with
various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of
them and healed them.  And demons also came out of many, crying You are
the Son of God! But he rebuked them, and would not allow them to speak,
because they knew that he was the Christ.
4:42 And when it was day he departed and went into a lonely place. And the
people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving
them.  But he said to them, I must preach the good news of the kingdom
of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.  And
he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
5:12. While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy,
and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and besought him, Lord, if you
will, you can make me clean.  And he stretched out his hand, and touched
him, saying, I will, be clean. And immediately the leprosy left him. 
And he charged him to tell no one, but "go and show yourself to the priest,
and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to
the people. But so much the more THE REPORT WENT ABROAD CONCERNING HIM,
and great multitudes gathered to hear and to be healed of their infirmities.
 But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.
None of these three modules figures in Q (at least not in the version
concorded under SBL auspices in 1975), so we don't have that complication.
We are dealing with Luke, albeit, as I would suggest, with several stages in
the evolution of Luke.
That 4:14-15 are an anticipation of the following career has been suggested
in the commentary literature; in present context, it amounts to saying that
4:14-15 may have been composed at the time of the Lukan rearrangement, to
give it a minimal context and narrative lead-in. Notice, in that passage,
the phrase about REPORTS GOING OUT, which may well be taken from the same or
similar lines which are found in the following material. This would seem to
hold true for both the proposed original and the proposed altered order.
The location of the healing in 5:12f is not given, other than as "one of the
cities," so there is no geographical conflict (as there was with the other
sequence). On the contrary, "one of the cities" in 5:12 now picks up nicely
on "to the other cities also" which, in the present rearrangement, precedes
it in 4:43. Not only is the previously noted inconcinnity removed, but a new
concinnity is established, by the relocation. This is further and
independent evidence for the validity of the restored order.
In 4:31, "and he went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee" stands (in the
restoration) as the first mention of Capernaum, and it has that character,
as above noted. There is also a reasonable geographical sequence, Gennesaret
> Capernaum.It seems to me that 5:1 is somewhat abrupt in the restoration, but probably
better in that context than in the sequence of Luke as we have it. It might
be still better to have said something like, "Once, when he was standing by
the Lake of Gennesaret, and the people were pressing upon him to hear the
word of God, he saw two boats . . ." If I were giving a practical paraphrase
of the present text for my Sunday School class, this is about how I would do
it. The Greek text seems to be missing an adverb. Whether the sense of such
an adverb is regularly supplied, in comparable situations, by readers of
Greek, is something I do not know. Pending advice from the knowing, I take
the probable transition as at least acceptable with the proposed original
order of the material, and will tentatively conclude that the transition was
part of the original material. I leave open the possibility that the
restored order might be made still more plausible by a conjectural rewriting
of the transitional passage, or Lk 5:1, or both, presumably along the lines
of one or more of the parallels. I don't attempt this here.
For the present, then, I don't see any major narrative difficulties
introduced by switching the extant Lukan SIM and CAP modules, but will be
very glad to hear of any that list members may notice. If the restoration
stands more or less as here proposed, then I suggest that it contains
interesting information about the historical order of the concerns that
apparently moved the author or authors of Luke, for example: (1) the
Jerusalemizing tendency must be referred to the original modules, since the
line containing it works better in the restored context, whereas (2) the
insistence on the opposition of the Jews, which develops slowly in Mt and
Mk, develops more rapidly in Lk only because of the Lukan reordering, and is
an artifact, as it was earlier suggested to be the most likely motive, of
that reordering. Then it follows that the Jerusalemization motif arose
earlier, as a factor bearing on Lukan authorship and reauthorship, than this
degree of emphasis of the Opposition motif. Church history. Or at least one
strand of it.
Which may not be unintelligible once you think about it. I am sorry the
whole thing is not more tidy, but I think it still carries conviction, and
that it may be useful for the future.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst