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Questions on Luke #4-6

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Alpha Cc: Synoptic Containing: Questions on Luke #4-6 From: Bruce Thanks again to those who have sent in candidate Luke problem passages, as challenges to
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 21, 2014
      To: Alpha
      Cc: Synoptic
      Containing: Questions on Luke #4-6
      From: Bruce

      Thanks again to those who have sent in candidate Luke problem passages, as
      challenges to the explanatory power of the Luke A/B/C theory currently being
      considered. Here are the next three (#4-6) on the composite list, with my
      (always tentative) answers. Other suggestions welcome as usual. For those
      coming late to the conversation, the Acts-Luke paper in its most recent
      revision is at


      as the second item under section 5 of the Papers list. I would simply attach
      it, if list protocol at the other end permitted, but it doesn't.

      In brief, the paradigm in terms of which the following comments are made is

      Mark > Luke A >> Matthew >> Luke B / Acts I

      4. Lk 8:1-18. Why has Luke rearranged the Parable of the Sower and the
      sayings around it the way he has, placing material after the parable that
      precedes it in Matt and Mark, placing the parables of the Mustard Seed and
      Leaven in ch13, etc.

      To take the last first, some of Luke's relocations are original (Luke A),
      designed to avoid conflicts in Mark or to provide better narrative sequence
      or human motivation in Mark. Others are later shifts done in Luke B, for
      those and other reasons. The moving of the Mustard Seed has no discernible
      motive in literary sequence (Mustard is the last of a perfectly consecutive
      set of parables in Mark, all with the same original meaning). But it makes
      sense as a change in Luke B. One trait of some Luke B moves is that they
      precede new material, either added by Luke for outside reasons, or as
      prefatory (necessarily in Luke B) to material borrowed from Matthew. The
      Leaven is an example of something borrowed from Matthew (not in Mark), and
      the relocated Mustard parable being a Luke B signature in front of borrowed
      material, we refer the relocation also to Luke B. (As then rewritten, Luke's
      Mustard parable shows signs of influence from Matthew - the bush becomes a
      tree in both, which is not botanically correct), this being one of those
      pesky Minor Agreements which the Luke A/B/C theory can explain, and which
      the Q theory is helpless to address.

      It is necessary to keep Luke A and B distinct in our minds as we go through
      these details. They may or may not be the same *person,* but they are
      functionally different *authors,* with different aims and priorities. Sorry
      for the complication, but the whole problem makes better sense this way.

      Luke A, operating some years earlier and without knowledge of Matthew (which
      had not been written yet), did not move the Mustard parable. He left it
      where it was, as we should expect. Notice how Luke A (Lk 8:4-8) has slimmed
      down the Markan parable of the Sower, removing needless options (eg,
      thirtyfold), pruning the bit about no depth of soil (obvious if the seed
      fell on the rock), and so on. Efficient but also respectful. So he continues
      through the Explanation of the Sower, and into the Lighting a Lamp bit
      (which Matthew, coming later, will transfer to his Sermon on the Mount),
      right down to the pruning of Mk 4:24's redundancies in Lk 8:18. Luke does
      not follow Mark into the parable of the Seed, which is either unintelligible
      or all too intelligible (it eliminates human effort, which Luke A otherwise
      shows is ungrateful to him), and of course he does not know about Matthew's
      remake of the Seed parable, in situ, as the Weed Parable. Next would have
      come the Mustard Parable (Mk 4:30-32), and I have just dealt with that. I
      believe that takes care of this sequence.

      5. Lk 9:41. The harshness expressed.

      We are now in the Healing of the Epileptic Boy. I take the "harshness" to
      refer to Luke's seemingly uncalled-for remark about a faithless and perverse
      generation, where Mark has only a faithless generation (Mk 9:19). Notice
      that Luke (here also Luke A) has removed the long bit in the middle of
      Mark's story, where the father cries "Help thou my unbelief." That is always
      a puzzler, and Luke A, I think understandably, has decided not to tax his
      Sunday Schoolers with it. Luke A has also excised the long clinical details;
      the father's recital of the symptoms in Mk 9:17f (Lk 9:38f) suffices him,
      and he does not care for Mark's prolixity. Then the issue of the father's
      insufficient faith does not arise, and the epithet "faithless," which
      suffices for the Markan story as Mark himself told it, no longer covers it
      for Luke. Something more must be added to make the remark intelligible. Luke
      A chooses "perverse." Does this mean anything in Luke? No, because he never
      otherwise uses it. As a clue, we may note that this is a parenthetical
      complaint, not about the father, but about the generation. Jesus is
      impatient with the age, and he happens to say so at this point in Mark
      (followed by Luke A, and we cannot blame him for doing so; following Mark is
      his agenda at this point, unless he gets really impatient with Mark). That
      there shall be an aside is thus a given for Luke A, and since Mark's
      "faithless" no longer works, in the story as he rewrites it, he gets it from
      someplace else. The only other Scriptural use of "perverse generation" is
      Deuteronomy 32:5 and 32:20. I suggest that Luke A is borrowing it from
      there. It is not that the current generation merely lacks faith in Jesus,
      but that they have faith in other things; they are going in the wrong
      direction. At least this harmonizes better with other statements of Mark
      (retained in Luke), and so counts, or might be thought of as counting, as an
      improvement for Luke A.

      Note Lk 18:8, a narratively needless last line to the unique Lukan Parable
      of the Unjust Judge, "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find
      faith on earth?" That line is a huge problem for that parable; it is
      extraneous and gratuitous and hard to explain in situ. When combined with
      the "perverse generation" of the above line, though, it begins to fit. What
      it fits with is not Luke's immediate context, but his constant concern that
      the faith of the few should endure until the end.

      Please to bear in mind that Luke is writing in c66, immediately after the
      cataclysmic loss of contact with Jesus tradition which was brought on by the
      deaths of the principal Apostles (Paul c60, Peter c64), and which confronted
      the little churches with a crisis. Where is the continuity? What happens to
      the promise of his coming? Where do we go now? Who is in charge here?

      One place to go, a place that this emergency promptly generated, was
      precisely the new Gospel, and Luke A himself was at this very moment, as we
      look in on him in his not very lavish Antioch workshop, engaged in providing
      it. We see him in his line, as in several others throughout, looking in on
      the virtual schoolroom he is creating, and like the kindly if somewhat stern
      Sunday School superintendent, being sure that the students are getting, not
      just the point of the story of the moment, but the point of the larger
      picture. 18:8 is Luke the Superintendent, opening the door and making a
      final comment, and then closing it again and letting teacher and students
      resume their lesson, going on to the next paragraph, and the next parable.
      And he smiles a bit to himself, knowing (since he wrote it himself) what
      that next parable is. (Pharisee and Publican, in case people are not
      following either in their memory or in their Synopsis).

      Why did not Luke simply edit Mark, and be done with it? Because Mark was the
      Gospel of the previous generation, and the change of circumstances and the
      passage of time had created a new situation, which quaint and verbose Mark
      was increasingly less able to address. People had to be reminded what the
      big issues was - namely, keeping faith and persisting in prayer. The Unjust
      Judge is a reminder that persistence in prayer will be rewarded, sooner or
      later, but rewarded. Do not lose hope, do not lose faith (same thing,
      really). So far Luke's superintendential comment on the Unjust Judge. And
      speaking of prayer, some kinds lead in the right direction and others don't,
      hence the continuity between that and the Pharisee and Publican, following,
      both in the same little triplet section of the Sermon on the Way. (For a
      full reconstruction of that Sermon, which has been lost and buried and
      forgotten for lo, these many thousand years, until this moment, see again
      the end of the Acts-Luke paper. Besides the also lost and buried Sermon on
      the Plain, it is what Luke has to say to the little children of his church,
      that Mark before him neglected to say. It is Luke's message, his update and
      extension of the Jesus message, for a new and already lost generation).

      One more to go:

      6. Lk 9:45 ["But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed
      from them, that they should not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask him
      about this saying"]. Intent and significance?

      Lk 9:45a, the opening line about not understanding, is from Mk 9:32a, and Lk
      9:45c, the part about afraid to ask, is from Mk 9:32b. In between the halves
      of this split saying comes the only part requiring to be explained, namely
      :it was concealed from them, that they should not perceive it." This, I
      suggest, takes us back to the terrible saying of Mk 4:12, quoting Isaiah on
      his preaching to the crowds, "so that they may indeed see but not perceive,
      and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn again and be
      forgiven." I marvel that Sunday School children do not run screaming from
      the room when this stuff, especially the last line, is ladled out to them.
      To his credit as a halfway compassionate person (and good with children;
      every Antioch mother's choice as the family pediatrician), Luke omits this
      contemptible last line. But he accepts the rest, as a sort of reason why
      Jesus' teaching was not understood in his own time, but only later. But the
      people whose delayed understanding is of most consequence for Jesus Movement
      history is, of course, that of the disciples. In Mk 4, the disciples are
      made privy to the true meaning. But this somewhat short-circuits the idea
      that the disciples too are not quite getting it. Luke in 9:45 applies it,
      much more appropriately, to the disciples. That is, his addition in 9:45b is
      in effect carrying out Mark's idea, but in a more consistent and less
      jangled way than Mark himself did.


      And there is Q over there in the corner, blushing and looking the fool,
      because he has nothing at all to say about this and a hundred other passages
      in Luke, some of them real problems. However much Q fans may praise Q for
      explaining the problems with which it deals (and of fans we expect no less),
      those problems are pitifully few compared to the range of all of Luke, and
      their solution is thus woefully inadequate to speak to the difficulties
      which Luke as a whole presents.

      That's it for today.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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