Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

5016RE: [AlphaChristianity] RE: [Synoptic-L] A problem of consistency?

Expand Messages
  • E Bruce Brooks
    Jan 6, 2014
    • 0 Attachment

      To: Synoptic; Alpha

      In Response To: David Inglis

      On: Lk 2:21

      From: Bruce


      Thanks to David for the additional passage, supporting my remark that though in Lk 1-2 John and Jesus are cousins, in the Gospel proper they meet as strangers. There is a complete disconnect, or rather, seeing it from the Lk 1-2 angle, a complete failure to connect.


      David had a question: “Also, rather than the ‘family scene’ being in Lk 8:41f, do you mean 8:19-21?


      Bruce:  Yes, and thanks for the correction. Thereby hangs a tale, which I may perhaps venture to subjoin in order to make sense (for those who may be interested) in the idea of a Luke A/B difference, and what Luke did to Mark in each of them. Of any proposed removal, addition, or deletion, people always ask Why? It is a fair question, and the only way I can answer it is to consider the result of the change. What is the effect produced, or the point made? The answer to the Why question would then be, To produce that effect or make that point.




      Luke (or more specifically Luke A),as he looked around him shortly after the death of Peter (Rome, c64), realized that the Jesus movement was in a crisis of information. Its Apostolic pipeline (including Paul, died at Rome c60) was gone, and what next? There was the Gospel of Mark, of which Luke’s church possessed a somewhat tattered copy, but it was out of date in many ways, and in any case, what the faithful now felt the lack of was teaching material, and Mark contained very little teaching material (his Gospel had had another purpose originally). So Luke took the matter in hand and embarked on the project of rewriting Mark for the next generation. He proceeded in this way: (1) He accepted the basic outline of Mark, since what else was there? (2) He copied almost all of Mark, except a few offensive passages, within the limits of his tattered copy, smoothing and gentling it as he went, but basically following it. (3) He added teaching material, which was pretty much his main purpose, and he did this in part from the teaching already current at his none too affluent Antioch church (Luke had a good memory, and a sharp appreciation of a good line or a good story). He added most of it at two places in his new text: (4) The Sermon on the Plain, a whole Theology of Poverty, which was the core of his own church’s approach to Christian living. For them, this amounted to living as though already in the next world, with only renunciation thoughts toward this world. (Matthew would later convert this into a Theology of Wealth, which proved to sell much better, in the following centuries, but that is another story). This theoretical material Luke inserted into the Markan sequence at Lk 6:20-49, very compact. (5) But this still left a need for practical daily advice, and most especially for consolation and encouragement in an atmosphere of persecution (chiefly from Jews, at that time, though the occupation army of Rome was also adverse). Scattering good maxims here and there through the Markan outline would have little impact; Luke wanted a stronger statement. So to provide for this need of daily living, Luke made a huge insertion, our Lk 9:51-18:14, at the end of which he resumes contact with Mark and proceeds thus until the end.


      How to fill up this huge Sermon on the Way? Luke did exactly what Matthew was to do later, in composing and filling out his discourses: he took in passages from elsewhere (meaning, he relocated some stuff which was here and there in Mark), and added his own stuff; in Luke’s case probably mostly church-derived. (I get the impression that the speaker of that church had a pretty gift for example and illustration). And in pulling in material from elsewhere in the Markan sequence, he did not on the whole leave it where it had been, and write a new version for his Sermon. He moved things without leaving them behind.


      (This is the opposite of Matthew’s practice; Matthew tends to be faithful in a different way to Mark. He leaves the Markan counterpart passage where it was, opposite its Markan original, thus showing continued respect for the structure of Mark, and he inserts a slightly rewritten second version in his new Discourse. This gives rise to what are called doublets, the same passage appearing in two different places. It is simply a result of his method of duplication rather than removal of passages he wants elsewhere, and has nothing to offer to “source criticism”).


      Luke, in composing his Sermon on the Way, took the other tack: bodily removal. Just a difference of authorial style. Luke is a little less rigorous, a little more artistically free, in his devotion to Mark, that’s all.


      In the rest of his text also, Luke is liable to move things around for what he thinks will be a better effect, and some of this material comes into Lk 8.


      [A complication is that we have been talking about Luke A, and later, Luke B came back and moved other passages, less felicitously and often producing inconcinnities in the process; that second round of changes is of course superimposed on the first, in our Luke. My apologies for the complexity in what follows, but at least each detail of it has a rational and often detectable purpose].


      LUKE 8


      Now finally we come to Lk 8. Lk 8. It is not part of the new Sermon, but it does undergo some changes made at the same time as the Sermon was formed. Lk 8 is what lies opposite Mk 4-5. Into Lk 8, still at this first stage, and before Matthew had come along, Luke decided to take the Jesus’ Family incident. Here is a map that shows exactly where he moved it:


      8:4-8      Parable of the Sower

      8:9-10    Reason for Speaking in Parables

      8:11-15 Explanation of the Sower Parable

      8:16-18 Purpose of Parables

      8:19-21 Parable of the Mustard Seed

      8:19-21 Jesus’ True Family

      8:22-25 Stilling the Storm

      8:26-39 The Gerasene Demoniac

      8:40-56 Jairus’ Daughter


      That is how this part of Lk 8 looked when it was first written. (The Mustard Seed was moved elsewhere at the Luke B stage, but we are not concerned with that here).


      Now the question for this week: Why did Luke move it there? What did he gain, or what good quality did his text gain, by making that transfer?


      The Family piece now comes between the Mk 4 Parables of the Kingdom, ending with the very pacific picture of the mustard tree (there is no such thing as a mustard tree, but never mind, we are dealing here with mood pictures and not with vulgar botany). It is an image of sheltering and nurture. It is a thinkable analogue of family nurture. There, perhaps, is a reason for that point of attachment.


      We might also look at the point of detachment. The Family episode in Mark comes next to the Accusation of Sorcery scene in Mark, and it comes as part of a statement in Mark that Jesus’ family and friends were worried about his sanity. This is pretty rough stuff. It is not the sort of material one would care to present to a congregation which, then as now, was probably 60% mothers.


      So, one motive for moving it would be simply to get it out of there.


      And as a sort of refutation of the Markan context’s imputation of black magic, Luke follows it with what comes after the Kingdom Parables in Markan order: the “clean” miracle of the Storm (Mk 4:35-41 ~ Lk 8:22-25). True enough, an exorcism miracle does follow, the one at “Gerasa,” but it is by far the funniest miracle in Mark, focusing not so much on Jesus’ controversial power to command the spirits, as by the spirits’ confusion and comeuppance, as they seek a safe place, and are given it – but then are destroyed by their own unwise choice. I can just hear Peter laughing as he told it to the young John Mark, years before, in his mom’s house in Jerusalem.  Can’t you?


      We can also look at how gentle the Jesus’ Family story now reads, in its new home in Lk 8. Luke has done his curative work on it, and it now comes across, not so much as a rejection, as an inclusion of the reader, as well as Jesus’s family, in the circle of the faithful. You feel, as you sit there in the audience, while Luke’s pastor is reading the new version to you one Sunday, as though you were there too. You glance to your right, and you half expect to see Mary sitting there next to you, with her other children in a row beside her.

      Then the pastor ends the reading (readings are never very long), adds a few illustrative remarks and words of encouragement, and you walk out into the sun.




      E Bruce Brooks

      Warring States Project

      University of Massachusetts at Amherst




      After doing one’s honest best to understand a text, it is always fun to see what the biggies do. I checked a couple of the commentaries on this passage, with mixed results. In making such a search, I am curious to know: (1) Do they get the importance of the changes from the Mk original? (2) Do they get the importance of the change of position from Mk? (3) Do they get the net import of the passage for the reader? And of course, above all, (4) What are they seeing that I missed? Here is a summary.


      Meyer 1866. Notices that Lk is shorter than parallels. Worthless.


      Plummer 1896. [Gets distracted with the question of whether Jesus’ brothers are Mary’s own children]. (3) Family ties inferior to spiritual ties.


      Holtzmann 1901. (2, 3) die Perikope ist in Folge der Umstellung als Illustration zu dem Gleichniss vom Säemann gedacht und will zeigen, was für eine grosse Sache es um ein rechtes Hören sei.


      Easton 1926. (1) “Lk’s omission of Mk 5:34 softens the unfavorable contrast that Christ draws between His family and His disciples. But Lk seems to have had no motive except to abbreviate. [Worse than worthless; wrong].


      Montefiore 2ed 1927. “shorter and somewhat less harsh than the narratives of Mark and Matthew.” [Much preoccupied by the inconsistency of place, even as between v19 and v20].


      Caird 1930. (1) “softened.” (3) “. . . must be sons and daughters to God, and to be that, they must do the will of their Father.” [Preoccupied with “perpetual virginity”].


      Creed 1930. (4) “By translating this into terms of “hearing and doing the will of God,” Luke relates the incident to the parable of the sower and its interpretation, and thus makes it close the paragraph.” [This detail possibly useful, but a great deal is omitted or unconsidered’].


      Gilmour 1952. (1, 2) “All this has disappeared from Luke’s version, which is abbreviated and transposed to a new setting.”


      Leaney 1958. (1) “Consistently, Luke omits the question of Mk 3:33, which might seem hostile.” (2) “These considerations explain the change of position in the narrative which Luke has made for this incident.”


      Fitzmyer 1970. (1) Luke omits this negative notice of Mk 3:20-21, as does Matthew. He presents Jesus’ mother and his brothers as model disciples. They are prime examples of those who listen to the word of God “with a noble and generous mind (8:15).” (2) Rejects Conzelmann’s theory of the relocation. “He transposed Mk 3:31-35, indeed, but he has also radically changed the meaning of it.”


      Drury 1973. (3) “Jesus is no longer tied to the family. The important and governing relationships of his life are now with those who listen to God’s message and obey it.” I am afraid Drury is still reading Mark. Fitzmyer overdoes it, but overdo is better than not do.


      Marshall 1978. (1) Thus the note of possible strife between the family and Jesus is removed. (3) The person who responds to that message by hearing therein the word of God and obeying it is regarded as a member of the family of Jesus; (4) his situation is the same as that of the man who hears the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Plain and does them (6:46-49).


      Nolland 1989. (1) He carefully avoids the impression left by the Markan account (3:20, 21, 31-35) that Jesus’ family had little sympathy for what he was doing. (2) For the Lukan redaction linking vv19-21 into the subsection see at 8:4-8. (3) The subsection on making a proper response to the word of God (8:4-21) reaches its climax and conclusion with the words of v21.


      Johnson 1997. (1) If such is the basis for membership in God’s people, then the story of Jesus’ family seeking him becomes, not a tale of rejection, (3) but one of straightforward affirmation for all who seek him; this is a people that consists of those who “hear the word of God and do it.” [entire comment]


      Culpepper 1995. (1) Luke omits the reference to Jesus’ family and their effort to restrain him (Mk 3:20-21) . . . the result is that Jesus’ rejection of his physical family has been excised from the Gospel story. (2) By placing Jesus’ pronouncement immediately after the interpretation of the parable of the seeds and the soils and the appended sayings, and by altering Jesus’ pronouncement so that it echoes “the word of God” from v11 and “those are the ones who hear” from v15, Luke places the scene in a positive context.


      Green 1997. (1) Luke does not present members of Jesus’ family in any way that would mark them as “outsiders” to his mission. . . On the other hand, neither does Luke at this point present his mother and brothers as exemplary disciples [contra Fitzmyer]. [correction welcome]


      Bovon 2002. (1) In the Catholic tradition, one sees in this [shortening] the theological intention to omit Jesus’ provocative question and to avoid the juxtaposition between {outer” and “inner” in order to spare Jesus’ family and make a place for them within the circle of believers. (3) Elective kinship . . . One indeed finds in Luke a softening of the harshness of this apothegm, not because of Mariology, but cause of his concept of faith.



      So it goes. Does anyone know a really good commentary on Luke? I have an inch or so of shelf space left.


    • Show all 39 messages in this topic