Turning the World Upside Down-Preaching Luke's Story

By Krentz, Edgar | Currents in Theology and Mission, December 2009 | Go to article overview

Turning the World Upside Down-Preaching Luke's Story


Krentz, Edgar, Currents in Theology and Mission


Luke's unique interpretation of Jesus offers marvelous opportunities for proclamation in the twenty-first century. He writes, as he says in Luke 1:4, that the reader may know the certainty of the matters in which he has been instructed. Just what these matters are makes an interesting discussion and offers suggestions for emphases in teaching and Preaching.

1. A two-volume work

In spite of the lectionary limiting itself to the Gospel, interpretation of Luke must take into account that separating Acts from Luke is contrary to Luke's own intention. Luke 1:1-4 introduces both Luke and Acts, as Acts 1:1 indicates. In discerning Luke's outline and/or purpose[s], one must use both Luke and Acts. Luke is interested in locating his account of Jesus and the origins of the early church within the context of secular history. He alone in the New Testament names Roman emperors (Augustus, Tiberius and Claudius) and other secular rulers (Luke 2:1, 3:1-2; Acts 18:2). In his trail Jesus appears before two Roman officials, while Paul appears before a sequence of Roman provincial proconsuls or prefects, all of whom pronounce him innocent of any political threat to Rome.

2. An introduction typical of hellenistic historiography

Luke 1:1-4 describes what Luke-Acts is about. Note his historical methods: he has checked out earlier accounts--including eyewitness accounts; has put his material into a coherent order; has taken care to be precise. This introduction follows the pattern of Greco-Roman historical writers, describing sources, research methods, relation to earlier narratives, purpose in writing, and dedicating the work to a named individual, in Luke's case the most excellent Theophilos. (1)

Luke wrote with an evangelical purpose in mind, not mihi et musis, (not "for myself and the Muses"). That is, while his two-volume work shows some evidence of literary influence, he did not write as Thucydides did to produce a [KAPPA][tau][eta][mu][alpha][member of][??] [alpha][member of]l ("a Possession forever") or as old Horace did, to achieve literary name or fame. Luke was not concerned to achieve literary immortality. Horace was; he wrote in Ode 3:30

  Exegi monumentum aere perennius
  Non omnis moriar multaque pars mei uitabit Libitinam;. ...

  ["I have erected a monument more enduring than bronze ... I shall not
  die completely. Rather a great part of me will evade the goddess of
  death."]

Literary ability Luke had. (2) And, like other ancient historians, he was concerned with [psi][upsilon][CHI][alpha][gamma][omega][gamma]l[alpha], with leading his reader to a goal. Luke's goal is clear: he wrote to most excellent Theophilos in order to assure him of [tau][eta][upsilon][alpha][sigma][phi][alpha][lambda][member of][??][alpha][upsilon] the certainty, the trustworthiness of the accounts he had heard. But this is first-century history, not modern, critical history that seeks to discover facts. Luke seeks to persuade his heater to trust the Christian tradition. One might compare Luke l:1-4 Josephus, In Apionem 1.1-5; BJ 1.1-12 to see how typical this introduction is. And Luke's goal is one all proclaimers share--or should share, if we do not.

3. Stress on mission

Luke-Acts (hereafter simply Luke) stresses the mission to the Roman world. This is what ties the Gospel and Acts together. Luke 24:46-49 stresses the mission to "all the gentile nations," while Acts 1:8 spells out the progress that will be made, "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and as far as the end of the earth." As Psalms of Solomon 8:15 makes clear, Rome is the end of the earth for Palestinian Jews: [eta][gamma][alpha][gamma][member of][upsilon] [tau]o[upsilon] [alpha][PHI] [member of][sigma][CHI][alpha][tau]o[upsilon] [tau][eta][??], [tau]o[upsilon] [PHI][alpha]io[upsilon][tau][alpha] [kappa][rho][alpha][tau][alpha]l[omega][??] (that is, Pompeus Magnus); [member of][kappa][rho]l[upsilon][member of][upsilon] [tau]o[upsilon] [PI]o[lambda][member of][mu]o[upsilon] [member of][PI]l I[member of][rho]o[upsilon][sigma][alpha][lambda][eta][mu] [kappa][alpha]I [tau][eta][upsilon] [gamma][eta][upsilon] [alpha][upsilon][tau][eta][? …

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