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[Synoptic-L] Luke's Prologue

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  • John Lupia
    John N. Lupia JLupia2@excite.com To Synoptic-L Dear List members. As many of you are aware I am developing an article on Luke s Prologue for publication. I
    Message 1 of 12 , Apr 12, 2001
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      John N. Lupia
      JLupia2@...

      To Synoptic-L

      Dear List members. As many of you are aware I am developing an article on
      Luke's Prologue for publication. I wish to share with you the crux of the
      thesis hoping you will lend a helping hand.

      All comments welcome.

      The following excerpt is taken from earlier discussions with members Leonard
      Maluf, Jack Kilmon and Ron Price ( I hope I have not left anyone out)

      I repeat "How could it be tenable that Luke characterize Mark or Matthew as
      defiant, negligent, ill informed, inept, liars?" Luke was writing in
      reference to others who took the account of "the events that have been
      fulfilled among us" (Lc 1,1) and twisted them forming the earliest
      circulating apocrypha which Luke states were given to Theophilus for his
      misinformation about Jesus. See (Lc 1,3-4) "I too decided, after
      investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly
      account for you, most excellent Theophilus,(4) so that you may know the
      truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed." This
      concession on Luke's part makes it clear he wrote the Gospel to fill a need
      to establish an authoriized account backed by the authority of the Church or
      else he would have given Theophilus a copy of either Mark or Matthew or both
      or some proto version of either.  Luke's concession, therefore, confirms no
      previous Gospel or proto-Gospel existed and exhibits his privilege of being
      the first to do so. Consequently, Theophilus was someone of such importance
      that his judgments appear to have been critical to the community where he
      held authority. That adversaries of the Church were supplying Theophilus
      with apocryphal accounts that misled and corrupted the facts about Jesus and
      the Church indicates that he was a high ranking Jew of significance. It
      appears highly probably, or for that matter, self-evident, that Theophilus
      must have been the High Priest in Jerusalem who reigned AD 37-41.

      Happy Holy Days,
      In Christ,
      John





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    • Jeffrey B. Gibson
      ... One of the problems, as I see it, with this thesis is that it engages in bifurcation. Surely this is NOT the only way, let alone even the most likely way
      Message 2 of 12 , Apr 12, 2001
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        John Lupia wrote:

        > John N. Lupia
        > JLupia2@...
        >
        > To Synoptic-L
        >
        > Dear List members. As many of you are aware I am developing an article on
        > Luke's Prologue for publication. I wish to share with you the crux of the
        > thesis hoping you will lend a helping hand.
        >
        > All comments welcome.
        >
        > The following excerpt is taken from earlier discussions with members Leonard
        > Maluf, Jack Kilmon and Ron Price ( I hope I have not left anyone out)
        >
        > I repeat "How could it be tenable that Luke characterize Mark or Matthew as
        > defiant, negligent, ill informed, inept, liars?"

        One of the problems, as I see it, with this thesis is that it engages in
        bifurcation. Surely this is NOT the only way, let alone even the most likely way
        -- as you seem to assume -- of understanding the import of Luke's prologue, even
        if he is referring to Mark and Matthew when he speaks of those who have worked
        before him?

        And if I read you correctly, it also seems to beg the question that the source
        of the things about which Theophilus have been (mis?)informed were Gospels of
        any sort, let alone GMark and/or GMatt. But is this what Luke says? Is it the
        only way Luke's words may be construed?

        Yours,

        Jeffrey Gibson


        --
        Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon.)
        7423 N. Sheridan Road #2A
        Chicago, Illinois 60626
        e-mail jgibson000@...



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      • John Lupia
        John N. Lupia 501 North Avenue B-1 Elizabeth, New Jersey 07208-1731-USA JLupia2@excite.com In response to the inestimable Dr. Jeffrey Gibson: You said: But is
        Message 3 of 12 , Apr 12, 2001
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          John N. Lupia
          501 North Avenue B-1
          Elizabeth, New Jersey 07208-1731-USA
          JLupia2@...

          In response to the inestimable Dr. Jeffrey Gibson:

          You said: "But is this what Luke says? Is it the only way Luke's words may
          be construed? "

          My response to you is: That after considering the points raised by the 16th
          cent. Jesuit John Maldonatus and the three patristic authors Origen, SS
          Ambrose and Augustine regarding the philological import of Luke's Greek
          text, how do you understand Luke's intended message to read. The entire
          issue is "Can any of us read Greek!" If so then, "Why are we all having so
          much difficulty?" If what I have pointed out as Luke's intended message is
          incorrect then show me where I have erred. The crux of the argument is in
          the Greek text reading. What is Luke saying? I believe that after careful
          philological and rhetorical analysis I have shed new light on the subject.
          If I have not then demonstrate it.

          Peace,
          In Christ,
          John







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        • John Lupia
          John N. Lupia 501 North Avenue B-1 Elizabeth, New Jersey 07208-1731 USA JLupia2@excite.com In Response to Dr. Larry Swain: You have raised a very good point by
          Message 4 of 12 , Apr 12, 2001
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            John N. Lupia
            501 North Avenue B-1
            Elizabeth, New Jersey 07208-1731 USA
            JLupia2@...

            In Response to Dr. Larry Swain:

            You have raised a very good point by mentioning the single term
            EPECHEIRHSAN. What I failed to do is demonstrate is that the grammatical
            structure of Lc 1,1-4 necessitates the reading as I have rendered it.

            Luke: (1) Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the
            events that have been fulfilled among us (2) just as they were handed onto
            us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the
            word. (3) I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the
            very first, most excellent Theophilus, (4) so that you may know the truth
            concerning the things about which you have been instructed."

            The term EPECHEIRHSAN characterizes the many other writers and their
            accounts as defiant, negligent, ill informed, inept, liars written to
            misinform Theophilus. This sense is necessiated by (Lc, 1,3) "I too
            decided, . . to write an orderly account for you . . .(Lc 1,4) so that you
            may know the truth."

            Does this help any?

            Sincerely in Christ,
            John





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          • John Lupia
            John N. Lupia 501 North Avenue B-1 Elizabeth, New Jersey 07208-1731 USA JLupia2@excite.com To Larry Swain: You said: Finally, let me say that one of your
            Message 5 of 12 , Apr 12, 2001
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              John N. Lupia
              501 North Avenue B-1
              Elizabeth, New Jersey 07208-1731 USA
              JLupia2@...


              To Larry Swain:

              You said: "Finally, let me say that one of your arguments has been that
              Origen so argued that Luke must (be) first based on this very passage,
              unless I've misunderstood you. "

              You have misunderstood. It may have been my own fault caused by misstating
              it or putting it awkwardly. Let me state it now pellucidly. Origen and
              other Commentators (SS. Ambrose and Augustine) render a philological
              analysis on how Luke used the word EPECHEIRHSAN within the structure of Lc
              1,1-4 as clearly having a pejorative meaning of having audacity or
              presumptuousness.

              Cited by Joseph Fitzmyer, SJ The Gospel According to Luke I-IX, 291 are the
              following:

              The pejorative sense of EPECHEIRHSAN

              A. Other examples in usage

              Josephus, Life 9.40; 65.338
              Hermas, Similitude 9.2,6

              B. Lucan Commentators

              Origen, Homilies on Luke 1 ed. C. Lommatzsch, 5.87 (My note: see also Max
              Rauer,ed. in GCS,35, Leipzig, 1941)

              Even Joseph Fitzmyer, SJ, observed that Luke in relation to these other
              writers "the contrast of himself with them and his pretensions to accuracy,
              acquaintance, completeness, and order as well as his claim to offer
              "assurance" (asphaleia) suggest that he envisions his task as one needed in
              the church of his day." Here Fitzmyer skirts the issue and never mentions
              Mark and Matthew as the others being addressed. Nor does he clarify what he
              means by "his task as one needed in the church of his day."


              The final clause Lc 1,4 INA EPIGNWS PERI WN KATHCHHTHHS LOGWN THN ASFALEIAN
              is an important key to the entire grammatical structure of Lc 1,1-4.

              For the grammatical analysis see Max Zerwick, A Grammatical Analysis of the
              Greek New Testament (Rome, 1996) 168

              INA EPIGNWS (1) / PERI (3) / WN KATHCHHTHHS (5) / LOGWN (4)/ THN ASFALEIAN
              (2)

              "In order that you come to know the certainty about the matters which you
              have heard." (my translation)

              The contents of Lc 1,4 refers back to vv 1-3. The final statement has a
              deliberate legal sounding quality signifying Luke is acting as an advocate
              (lawyer) addressing the high priest (judge) Theophilus. Luke already stated
              that the many others had written down their testimonies. Yet the Greek in
              v. 4 expresses an oral hearing indicating a courtroom trial situation. Luke
              wishes to clear up the confusion once and for all with his testimony, giving
              his side (the Church) a fair hearing. Furthermore, this indicates that
              previously, by the other witnesses, Theophilus has been told false
              statements that required clarification and/or defusing. A similar sense was
              noted by E. Earle Ellis, The Gospel of Luke (Greenwood, SC, rev. ed, repr.
              1977) 66 "In some considerable measure Luke's purpose is to counter
              heretical misinformation." Ellis cites H. J. Cadbury, BC II, 510 as his
              source for this point of view. Can anyone show how Mark or Matthew contain
              statements so severe as to be classified as false statements (or heretical
              misinformation) that Luke would need to offer counter evidence before a
              judge?


              I hope this helps clarify the Greek text of Lc 1,1-4.

              Cordially,
              In Christ,
              John





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            • John Lupia
              John N. Lupia 501 North Avenue B-1 Elizabeth, New Jersey 07208-1731 USA JLupia2@excite.com 13-IV-01 Good Friday Response to Larry Swain: I said:
              Message 6 of 12 , Apr 13, 2001
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                John N. Lupia
                501 North Avenue B-1
                Elizabeth, New Jersey 07208-1731 USA
                JLupia2@...


                13-IV-01 "Good Friday"

                Response to Larry Swain:

                I said: Furthermore, this indicates that previously, by the other witnesses,
                Theophilus has been told false statements that required clarification and/or
                defusing. A similar sense was noted by E. Earle Ellis, The Gospel of Luke
                (Greenwood, SC, rev. ed, repr. 1977) 66 "In some considerable measure Luke's
                purpose is to counter heretical misinformation." Ellis cites H. J. Cadbury,
                BC II, 510 as his source for this point of view. Can anyone show how Mark
                or Matthew contain statements so severe as to be classified as false
                statements (or heretical misinformation) that Luke would need to offer
                counter evidence before a judge?

                The question was rhetorical. I never thought anyone would respond to it.
                You did. So lets look at it again.

                You said: If anyone adheres to any of the major theories current in which
                Luke
                is 2nd or 3rd term, then every place in which Luke has changed something in
                his source of Matthew or Mark is evidence of something he didn't think
                "true", particularly in places where it changes the theological outlook
                substantially, such as "Blessed are the poor" in contrast to "Blessed are
                the poor in spirit".

                I hardly think that your example qualifies as one that addresses what
                myself, Ellis and Cadbury have observed. I characterize the fault of the
                many as purporting lies. Whereas, Elliot and Cadbury see heretical
                misinformation. The nuances in the text you refer to do not seem to square
                with what we (me, Ellis and Cadbury) are talking about. Moreover, I do not
                think your statement is valid "every place in which Luke has changed
                something in his source of Matthew or Mark is evidence of something he
                didn't think "true"


                You then asked: "Have you other evidence to bring to the table . . ."

                I have already presented other important issues: Martin Hengel's thesis of
                the title "Gospel" affixed to Mark and understood by first century readers
                as part of a title to a book. Luke makes no reference to the many as Mark's
                Gospel or Matthew. Luke sees a need to establish an authorized version to
                counter the apocryphal ones. This implies no previous authorized account.
                The identification of Theophilus as the high priest at Jerusalem AD 37-41
                fits the description of Luke's presenting evidence before a judge. Thallus
                (AD 52) cited by Julius Africanus in reference to the eclipse ONLY mentioned
                in Luke squares with Luke addressing Theophilus the high priest. I have
                more but it is rather late (3 AM) and I am sleepy.

                I apologize for not getting into the issue about Papias but it is extremely
                involved. Irenaeus' lengthy citation of the 10,000 vine branches and grapes
                purpoted by Papias to have been said by Jesus should tell you where this is
                going. (Apocalypse of Baruch). Why do we take an isolated statement by
                Papias about Gospel origins and canonize it? The Apoc. of Baruch quote has
                been hidden deep in a dark closet. If Papias is such a trustworthy source
                then why don't we canonize the Apocalypse of Baruch as a book of the NT?
                Enough said for now. I think it requires my entire research paper to
                present it properly. I have no inclination to get into this now until I
                have completed this paper and send it off to a journal. After this is done,
                and if you are still interested, I would like to share with you some
                interesting aspects about Papias.

                In closing: I have attempted to shed new light on the meaning of the Lucan
                Prologue. My thesis is either correct or it is incorrect. Give the whole
                argument a fair hearing. Mull it over. I do appreciate your interest,
                suggestions, and comments.

                Peace in Christ,
                John






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              • Ron Price
                ... John, It is impossible to have a rational debate with someone who invokes articles of faith to support his arguments. Ron Price Weston-on-Trent, Derby, UK
                Message 7 of 12 , Apr 13, 2001
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                  John Lupia wrote:

                  > ..... the Gospels were all written
                  >under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This, I am afraid, cannot be
                  >proven. It is an article of faith. Each of us understands their faith
                  >according to their Church doctrine. I speak from a Roman Catholic
                  >perspective. It is a dogma of the RCC. I unashamedly hold true all dogmas
                  >of the Church to which I am a member.

                  ..... and in another message:

                  > ..... how can anyone justify an argument that
                  >an Evangelist writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit could be so
                  >derogatory in reference to another work also so inspired.

                  John,
                  It is impossible to have a rational debate with someone who invokes
                  articles of faith to support his arguments.

                  Ron Price

                  Weston-on-Trent, Derby, UK

                  e-mail: ron.price@...

                  Web site: http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/index.htm


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                • Maluflen@aol.com
                  My apologies. I neglected to change the subject line on the following post, so I am resending it under the subject title: Luke s Prologue . In a message dated
                  Message 8 of 12 , Apr 13, 2001
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                    My apologies. I neglected to change the subject line on the following post,
                    so I am resending it under the subject title: "Luke's Prologue".


                    In a message dated 4/12/2001 2:35:19 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
                    jlupia2@... writes:

                    << To; Leonard Maluf:

                    You said: "We also know that Luke emulated OT narrators in his own narrative
                    effort. (And SINCE there were many of these, I too [i.e., besides Matthew,
                    who has already done so...] have decided to write to you Theophilus..)."

                    How can you argue that Luke wrote in favour of Matthew while castigating
                    other writers.>>

                    I don't accept your contention that Luke castigates other writers in his
                    prologue. Luke is rightly famous for having very much an inclusive
                    (catholic!), rather than an exclusive temperament. He can, e.g., nicely
                    accommodate, and does indeed positively support in his writings both Peter
                    and Paul, between whom there were undoubtedly some historical tensions
                    (though one need not exaggerate here, as does Goulder in "St. Paul versus St.
                    Pater").

                    << I am afraid Luke's criticism extended to all writings about
                    Jesus circulating prior to his own Gospel.>>

                    It is a fact that Luke viewed the writings of the OT as writings about Jesus
                    (see e.g. Lk 24:27, 44); they certainly circulated prior to his own Gospel,
                    and I doubt that he had a negative view of these writings.

                    << I cannot honestly see how either
                    Matthew or Mark escaped Luke's attention if they were already written. Luke
                    claims to have researched everything (Lc 1,3) and it is evident from this
                    claim neither of these Gospels could have existed.>>

                    I don't see the logic here: Matthew could have been viewed by Luke as a
                    continuation of OT historiography which already was about Jesus. Luke could
                    be saying in his prologue: "just as, before the time of Jesus, the writings
                    about things brought to fulfillment in our midst (God's saving power, e.g.)
                    were not reserved to a single writer, so there is room for another effort,
                    the product of careful research in all the sources, for the time after Jesus
                    (i.e., other than the already well-known Gospel of Matthew currently in
                    circulation). Luke needed to find some justification for writing a second
                    Gospel, following the existence of one authored, presumably, by an immediate
                    disciple of Jesus. One way he could justify this was to appeal to the
                    multiplicity of authors who had undertaken, in the older tradition, to put in
                    order an account of the things now brought to fulfillment in our midst.

                    << I repeat "How could it
                    be tenable that Luke characterize Mark or Matthew as a defiant, negligent,
                    ill informed, inept, liars?" Luke was writing in reference to others who
                    took the account and twisted them forming the earliest circulating
                    apocrypha which Luke states were given to Theophilus for his misinformation
                    about Jesus.>>

                    John, I am afraid you place far too much weight on the negative connotation
                    that is often found in the term EPICHEIREIN. It is simply not the case that
                    such a connotation inevitably attaches to this term, and one must determine
                    from the context whether one is to so read the term or not. I see nothing
                    whatever in the context of Luke's prologue that favors taking the term here
                    in a strongly negative sense. The Fathers of the Church you have cited on
                    this list began with the premise that non-canonical writings, known about at
                    the time of their own writing, were in existence prior to Luke, and on the
                    basis of that anachronism, they read a negative connotation into the term
                    EPICHEIREIN. In this case, their philological insight should be ignored,
                    rather than made the basis of an entire Synoptic source theory. There is so
                    very much in the Gospel of Luke itself that suggests that the author is
                    developing and transforming traditions found in the Gospel of Matthew. In
                    general, I think it is methodologically dangerous to base a Synoptic source
                    theory on one's interpretation of the prologue of Luke, given its highly
                    problematic and ambiguous language. In my opinion, it is methodologically
                    more sound to study the texts first, and then attempt (EPICHEIREIN!) to
                    interpret Luke's prologue in their light.


                    << See (Lc 1,3-4) I too decided, after investigating everything
                    carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most
                    excellent Theophilus,(4) so that you may know the truth concerning the
                    things about which you have been instructed.">>

                    The KA'MOI, which you here rightly translate "I too", suggests that Luke sees
                    his work as in continuity, rather than sharp contrast with the writers
                    alluded to in the previous verses. You render ASFALEIA as though it read
                    ALHQEIA. It is extra security and an EPIGNWSIS (a deeper, more penetrating
                    knowledge), rather than truth as such, as opposed to misleading falsehood,
                    that Luke wishes to supply for Theophilus by writing his gospel.

                    << You said: If we want to know how Luke would describe an already existing
                    gospel, we don't have to do any guess work at all: we have just such a
                    description in Acts 1:1-2, and this reads much more clearly like the
                    description of a gospel than does anything in Luke 1:1. " I would like to
                    point out Leonard, that the Prologue of Acts is a restatement of the Gospel
                    Prologue.>>

                    This is simply not an accurate statement. There are formal parallels between
                    the two prologues, but one is not restating what the other says.

                    Happy Easter!
                    Leonard Maluf

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                  • RSBrenchley@aol.com
                    ... How much of a difference is there here? How is the term poor in heart used in Hebrew literature? Regards, Robert Brenchley RSBrenchley@aol.com Synoptic-L
                    Message 9 of 12 , Apr 13, 2001
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                      John Lupia writes:

                      > You said: If anyone adheres to any of the major theories current in which
                      > Luke
                      > is 2nd or 3rd term, then every place in which Luke has changed something in
                      > his source of Matthew or Mark is evidence of something he didn't think
                      > "true", particularly in places where it changes the theological outlook
                      > substantially, such as "Blessed are the poor" in contrast to "Blessed are
                      > the poor in spirit".

                      How much of a difference is there here? How is the term 'poor in heart'
                      used in Hebrew literature?

                      Regards,

                      Robert Brenchley

                      RSBrenchley@...

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                    • Kym Smith
                      Dear Leonard, It would not surprise anyone on this list to hear me say that it is my contention that Luke does in fact mean us to understand that the
                      Message 10 of 12 , Feb 16, 2002
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                        Dear Leonard,

                        It would not surprise anyone on this list to hear me say that it is my contention that Luke does in fact mean us to understand that the ‘many’ in his prologue worked collectively to produce a single ‘account’. [I refer you again to my post #6631].

                        Working with Greek is laborious for me and I stand not only in awe of but clearly dependent upon those who are able to move with ease in the original text. Nevertheless, I must ask, do Luke’s use of a singular object with a plural subject (have I embarrassed myself yet?), as Stephen has shown us, apply to the case in hand (i.e. Lk 1:1)? I have looked at the examples – and found others – but they seem to be occasions where Luke (or, the Greek) is not intended to be taken quite as literally as the words that are used. For example, their heart (Lk 1:66) seems to refer to something like a ‘communal memory’. Luke has a mix of single and plural ‘hearts’ which may depend on whether or not the emotions or thoughts are shared (singular) or individual (plural).

                        ‘The hand of lawless men’ (Acts 2:23), ‘their hand’ (Acts 15:23; c.f. ‘the hand of Barnabas and Paul’ 11:30) means by ‘the agency’ of the people mentioned, not literally ‘in their hands’. Luke uses ‘hands’ many times in his two books and always in the plural where actual hands are intended (e.g. Ljk 4:11; 6:1; 13:1324:50; Acts 6:6; 8:17 ).

                        Two of Stephen’s quotes refer to ‘the face’ of ‘all’ or ‘our fathers’, but there it means ‘the presence’. The only place where Luke speaks of faces in the literal sense of the word (24:5) he does use the plural.

                        Two quotes refer to ‘the mouth of the (holy) prophets’ (Acts 3:18,21). While there can be no doubt that the prophets used their mouths, it may again be understood as by ‘the agency’ of those men and women.

                        The one example that Stephen gives that seems most literal is Acts 21:24, ‘shave their head’. The use of the single here, however, may be tied to the communal act of these men, especially as in the previous verse we are told that the four men were ‘under a vow’.

                        As I said, I am no expert in Greek, but I must question whether the examples given indicate a ‘proven style’ of Luke’s or are normal Greek expressions, especially when something other than the literal meaning of the words is to be understood?

                        That ‘many’ could produce ‘an account’, however, could well be what was intended in a literal sense.

                        In my book, "Redating the Revelation and…", I look at the prologue with the view that Luke understood that his readers, especially Theophilus, knew of the gathering of the ‘many’ and of the gospel they produced. Of course, I believe that the ‘many’ was effectively a council at Ephesus (68) and that single account was the Gospel of John. The excerpt below only looks at the first verse of the prologue.

                        Sincerely,

                        Kym Smith

                        Adelaide

                        South Australia

                        khs@...

                         

                        LUKE’S PROLOGUE:

                        If Luke was commissioned by the council at Ephesus to write this gospel (as per the reconstruction) it is not supported by his prologue, at least, not as it is usually understood. It is interesting, then, to look again at his four opening verses with this different scenario in mind. There may be a danger of trying to find evidence of the council and its commission and so reading this into these verses, but the assumption that Luke’s account had been preceded by many other attempts at such a narrative may have been just as prohibitive to a proper understanding of the prologue in the past. Indeed, Luke may not have been saying what many have believed he was saying at all, i.e., that many before him had produced accounts of Jesus’ life (1). Rather, the prologue lends itself very much to the kind of situation I have been suggesting. Following is a review of the prologue, looking, verse by verse, at those words which are of particular interest to us.

                        Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us...

                        (1:1)

                        ‘Inasmuch as’, from the Greek epeideper, seems to indicate some understanding between Luke and Theophilus – either from previous discussions or because both were at the council – as to the reasons for, or the background to, the writing of this gospel. This impression is only strengthened by the alternative renderings of ‘since indeed’ or ‘considering that’.

                        ‘Many’ here is a reference to those who gathered for the council at Ephesus or, more specifically, the apostles and eyewitnesses who had produced the Gospel of John. It would be useful for my proposition if Luke had ‘the many’ (hoi polloi), instead of simply ‘many’ (polloi). But as Luke, with one exception, does not put the definite article before any derivative of polys – and he uses it many times in his two books – it would seem nothing is either proved or disproved by its absence in the prologue. In all other places Luke’s use of polys is clearly nonspecific, but with no other specific instance with which to compare it, the possibility of Luke referring here to a particular group of people must remain open. The one exception is in Luke 7:47 where a definite article has been included for an attributive adjective: hai hamartiai autes hai pollai, ‘her sins, which are many’ or ‘her many sins’. Nothing is proved either way by this exception. The fact that Luke and Theophilus had discussed this publication beforehand means that both understood who the ‘many’ were, making the definite article unnecessary.(2)

                        ‘Have undertaken’ (epecheiresan) is in the aorist tense; it would read better as ‘undertook’, in the sense that the ‘many’, in one corporate act at one point of time, ‘undertook’ to compile a gospel. The imperfect tense would have more accurately indicated the gradual production of various narratives over time, if that were the case. Though the root of epecheiresan means ‘to put hand to’, Luke has not used it in the sense of ‘taking up a pen’ or ‘writing’. On the other two occasions where he has used this verb, there is no sense of writing at all; rather, it conveys an act in which a group of men, at one point of time, acted in unison, i.e. Acts 9:29 and 19:13. The latter is exactly the same case as that in Luke’s prologue and relates to the group of Jewish exorcists who called on the name of ‘Jesus whom Paul preaches’. The former refers to a group of Hellenists who resolved together to kill Paul. Their plan was thwarted when the brethren sent the young apostle to Caesarea.

                        ‘To compile’ is also important here. Anataxasthai, from anatassomai, means ‘to compile’ or ‘to arrange’. Luke may have used this term so as not to repeat himself, but the term grapsai, ‘to write’, which he uses in verse 3, or something similar, would have been more suitable if the actual writing of other gospels was what he meant. Anataxasthai is only used here in the New Testament. On every other occasion in the gospel and Acts, apart from two, Luke uses a derivative of grapho if someone was writing (e.g. Luke 1:3,63; 16:6-7; Acts 15:23; 25:26 – in the last of these Luke has included, in the one verse, grapsai and grapso, so he was unlikely to have been worried about repetition in his prologue with grapsai in v. 3) or if something had been written, whether or not it had been written in the Scriptures (e.g. Luke 2:23; 10:20,26; 23:38; Acts 7:42; 24:14). The two exceptions are Acts 15:20 and 21:25 where he uses forms of epistello, and both of these refer to the letter (the epistle) sent to encourage the Gentile believers after the Jerusalem council. Though considerable writing took place, ‘compil-ing’ or ‘arranging’ is a more accurate description of the actions of those who worked together to produce that collective publication following the council.

                        It may also have been more natural, if that was Luke’s intention, to speak of ‘narratives’, plural: ‘...many have undertaken to compile narratives’, the object agreeing with the subject in number, rather than the singular (diegesin) as the Greek has it, that is, ‘...many have undertaken to compile a narrative’.(3)

                        What Luke has given us is an accurate picture of ‘the many’ at the Ephesian council, the apostles and eyewitnesses, who had worked together to compile a single narrative of ‘the things which have been accomplished among us’, that is, the Gospel of John.(4)

                        NOTES

                        (1) E.g. Ralph P. Martin, New Testament Foundations, Eerdmans, 1975, vol. 1, p. 119f, Leon Morris, Luke, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Inter-Varsity Press/Eerdmans, 1988, p. 72 and Noel Due, The Gospel According to Luke, New Creation Publications, 1992, p. 8.

                        (2) There are occasions where polloi does not have a definite article but is to be read as a noun with the article (i.e. ‘the many’). This is referred to as a ‘summarising meaning’. F. Graber in his article on ‘Polloi’ agrees with J. Jeremias that this should be the case in Mark 10:45 (Matt 20:28), 14:24 (Matt 26:28) and Heb 9:28. If what I am suggesting is the correct understanding of polloi in Luke 1:1 it may be that it should also be read in the light of this ‘summarising meaning’. See Brown, C. (Editor), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Regency/ Zondervan, 1975, Vol. 1, p. 96f.

                        (3) A simple point which weighs against the existence of many previous gospel attempts is the lack of any actual evidence. It is probably true that the four gospels we now have would have superseded them, if they existed, but given the thirty-odd years over which we might assume that these precursors were written, many copies would have been made, circulated and recopied. If there was such a thing, could we not expect that some fragment would have been found by now?

                        (4) There is a valuable section by A.C. Thiselton on diegesis which is worth quoting in full in A Dictionary of New Testament Theology. It raises some issues which, I believe, are resolved by my reconstruction.

                        The noun diegesis is used in the sense of narrative or account in the much-discussed prologue of Luke (1:1). Luke has predecessors whose work he describes as attempts diegesin anataxasthai, and thus the meaning of diegesis is thought by some to be relevant to questions about Gospel origins. G.E. Lessing argued that, since the term occurred in the singular, Luke was referring to an original single narrative, which was composed by the apostles, and which Lessing identified as the Gospel of the Nazarenes. He was then obliged to take anataxasthai to mean ‘rearranged’ rather than ‘drew up’. More recently W.R. Farmer has also urged that diegesis refers to a single narrative, namely the Gospel of Matthew (The Synoptic Problem, 1964, 221-3). The ‘many’ are then compilers who are not eyewitnesses. More often, however, it has been argued that Luke’s predecessors are Mark and Q and that little else can be said. John Bauer has argued that Luke’s reference to ‘many’ cannot be pressed (‘Polloi, Luke 1:1’ in Novum Testamentum 4, 1960, 263-6). It is also likely that diegesis refers to a narrative-unit much larger than the usual pericopae of form criticism. Apart from this, we must conclude, however, that the meaning of diegesis itself offers no substantial help towards solving the problems of Gospel origins. (Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Zondervan, 1975, vol. 1, p. 576)

                         

                      • Emmanuel Fritsch
                        Dear all, Without being able to give any valuable argument about singular or plural in Luke, and how the prologue should be understand, I would like to know
                        Message 11 of 12 , Feb 18, 2002
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                          Dear all,

                          Without being able to give any valuable argument about
                          singular or plural in Luke, and how the prologue should
                          be understand, I would like to know how strong you feel
                          an evidence based on the prologue, compared to evidences
                          of composite style in Luke and Act.

                          In other words, what would be deduced from this discussion if concluded ?

                          a+
                          manu

                          Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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                        • Stephen C. Carlson
                          ... Unfortunately, not much at all could be deduced from Luke s prolog except that he admits that there were others before him. I think the prolog is the most
                          Message 12 of 12 , Feb 18, 2002
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                            At 09:29 AM 2/18/2002 +0100, Emmanuel Fritsch wrote:
                            >Without being able to give any valuable argument about
                            >singular or plural in Luke, and how the prologue should
                            >be understand, I would like to know how strong you feel
                            >an evidence based on the prologue, compared to evidences
                            >of composite style in Luke and Act.
                            >
                            >In other words, what would be deduced from this discussion if concluded ?

                            Unfortunately, not much at all could be deduced
                            from Luke's prolog except that he admits that
                            there were others before him.

                            I think the prolog is the most compatible with
                            the Augustinian and the Farrer hypothesis and
                            less with Griesbach and the 2ST. However, the
                            difference is only relative' in absolute terms,
                            Luke's prolog is consistent with all four of
                            these (as also with Boismard's ideas).

                            I'd have a hard time supporting any theory that
                            puts Luke absolutely first on account of the
                            prolog, but even the Jerusalem school people
                            argue that Luke had sources, just not the
                            canonical Mark and Matthew.

                            Stephen Carlson
                            --
                            Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
                            Synoptic Problem Home Page http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/synopt/
                            "Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words." Shujing 2.35


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