Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Historian's Gospel

I would like during this Advent season to look closely at the Physician's account of the birth of Christ. The first thing I will examine is the introduction of Luke's Gospel.

Though before that I would like to say that for many reasons the Gospel of Luke has always been the gospel that has resonated most closely with me. I believe that more than likely includes the fact Luke pens his Gospel with these opening words to Theophilus:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

While a linguist may look at the textual variance and the direction of the verbs and nouns, the Historian looks first (at least as how they are trained in today's academy) at the events and developments that surround the context of the text. So the mere fact Luke begins his gospel much like Strabo or Tacitus do their particular historical narratives presents for us an interesting way to look at the Physician's gospel that makes it somewhat different than the other synoptic and the Johanine gospel. I am trained as a Historian and I think often with a Historian's mind first. When I was a child I gravitated towards historical encyclopedias, which I give full credit for directing the manner of my education ever since and it is with this reasoning why Luke's gospel has always been my favorite.

I have found that the beginning of Luke's gospel has found pretty short shrift among readers of the New Testament but there are many vital and necessary clues given by Luke in the preface that set the stage for the rest of Luke's account. He says that he has interviewed eyewitnesses and researched all that he could so that he could present an unvarnished account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. For those of you that have been schooled in the Markan priority and the idea that Luke uses Mark and "Q" for his main sources, it is plausible that Luke did use what he knew of Mark to compose his Gospel. There is nothing in the text that prohibits this. However it would be false to say that Luke was written post AD70.

Speaking of the date of Luke's gospel if one agrees with the vast majority of biblical scholars that Luke wrote Acts then one would logically have to believe that Luke was written prior to Acts. This may be a little aside but if this is true then one cannot accept a post-70AD date for Luke since, A) Acts does not record Paul's execution and B) Luke does not mention (either in his gospel or in Acts) the fulfillment of Christ's prophecy concerning the destruction of the Temple. Surely if Luke was constructing a historical account he would have mentioned the fact of Jesus being correct in his prophecy.

Friday we will look at the Birth of John the Baptist.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Having a History degree certainly hampers one's ability to fall for the liberal nonesense.

Specifically such idiotic claims by nonhistorians that you can't use the Bible for a history of ancient Israel. They really ought to stick with their field and keep quiet because it just makes them look like fools. Unfortunately, only historians realize it. One of these einsteins like Thomas Thompson ought to walk down into a Classics Department and see what they think of his ideas.