Luke Hermeneutics

This Study Sheet complements the review of Reading Luke: Interpretation, Reflection, Formation (Scripture and Hermeneutics Series - Volume 6), Buy this book from

The notes summarises arguments as they are set out for the first time and are not repeated. Thus, the notes on the introduction, which summaries the whole book, are comprehensive whereas notes on subsequent chapters are more sparing; the notes are, therefore, a summary of the contents of the book but not of each individual essay.

1. Thiselton, Anthony C.: The Hermeneutical Dynamic of "Reading Luke" as Interpretation, Reflection and Formation.

Conzellman on  Luke coming to terms with the delay of the Parousia, creating a new tradition, creative theologian, in line with the Pastoral Epistles: "... the world becomes a place where the church is at home, a notion which Paul sharply rejected". Kasemann: "One does not write a history of the church if one daily expects the end of the world" written few years before Conzellman who didn't agree with Kasemann that Luke had belonged to the era of early Catholicism but he did accept that Acts presented the story of Jesus as sacred history.

Van Unnik's questions: 1. Was the theory of delayed Parousia catastrophic? 2. What is  the real meaning of salvation history? Are Paul's existentialism and Luke's reflection so dichotomous? 3. What is Luke's relation to the OT? 4. What is the role of witnesses in Luke/Acts? 5. Does not Luke structure his history in various ways? 6. Is more work needed on relationship between Luke, 1 Clement and Justin? Luke's is a dynamic, structured narrative. Conzellman flimsy; Luke and Paul both call for reflection and response; Luke is not just a tale but "draws people into an 'emplotment' that effects individual and communal formation". Bovon: Luke the historian and evangelist and witness. Luck: kerygmatic content and historical confirmation. W.C Robinson: the dynamics of journey. Howard Marshall: historian and theologian Talbert: literary architect. T.L. Johnson: "We must seek Luke's meaning through the movement of the story". Ricoeur: narrative becomes formative in actualisation. Thiselton: Luke actualises his projected world formatively.

Bushnell (1802-76; Yale liberal) reading the Bible and romanticism (my gloss - KC); Hodge (Princeton 1840-72): Bible "the storehouse of facts". Eco: "an engineering handbook". Ricoeur: the symbol gives rise to thought; the possibility of narrative. Ricoeur: the synthesis  of the heterogeneous in narrative that brings it close to metaphor. Palmer: Jesus interpreting the Scriptures and the Scriptures interpreting Jesus. Lash: contra the "relay race" of "knowing what it meant" before "knowing what it means". Vol 2 of series: behind the text, in the text, in front of the text. Ossner: Hellenist counterparts: purpose; structure; impact. Ricoeur: narrative and identity formation. Marshall: metaphor in eschatological discourse (Jesus didn't 'make a mistake' about the end of the world). Ian Paul: eschatology is a lens not a telescope. Funk: parables provocative metaphors (shattering and re-forming) not simple similes (2 Samuel 12.1-4). Stanton: Hearers and readers expect different things from parables. Gadamer: ancient text and modern reader historically conditioned. Bauckham: Bible not totalising like Darwin, Marx, Freud but full of the "bubbling" of the particular.

Scobie: the journey as schiastic. Bartholomew & Holt: inclusion in 1.8-13 and 24.50-53; "Prayer is a fitting way for disciples to participate in God's kingdom ... alignment with the will of God". Thiselton: is Scripture information, history, statement or address, challenge, call?: "If prayer is entering into God's love for the world ... (it) involves finding ourselves addressed, challenged, called" which in turn requires interpretation and reflection, holiness and formation. "Prayer is the experience of being prayed in". The 21st Century concern with reception history. Ricoeur: the hermeneutic of suspicion against sub conscious manipulation. Jay: the connection between sight and language in reception.

2. Green, Joel B.: Learning Theological Interpretation from Luke

The historical divide between history and the theology of propositional statements which Luke lacks. "In his narrative representation of history, Luke engages in interpretation of Israel's Scriptures in order to reform the theological imagination of his Model Readers: Luke's use of the Scriptures is at least inadequately, if not inappropriately, understood as apologetic in character":

History provides more and less than the past: it knows the future of the past; but acquires structure of meaning to be interpreted; adopt narrative form. Luke had the LXX as a given. Historians reverse cause/effect to locate beginnings. Just as Acts is inscribed into Jesus, Jesus is inscribed into Israel in general and Abraham  in particular. The story of the actualisation of God's promises to 'Abraham cannot bypass Jesus; so there is proper continuity in LXX, Luke and Acts. Luke is a story of ignorance needing correction, rather than sin needing forgiveness; a false antithesis; blinded attitude needed repentance. Theology too often confused with doctrine which excludes Luke.

3. Wenham, David: The Purpose of Luke/Acts: Israel's Story in the Context of the Roman Empire

"... historical understanding is both possible, and also a theologically necessary and helpful ingredient in the process of interpreting the Bible". In the prologue "accurate" may refer to theology rather than history. Luke's prime concern is to tell the story of Jesus. On wealth and poverty, repentance includes practical sharing. The Holy Spirit. Concerned with Jews and Gentiles. Luke's infancy narrative in the world of Jewish piety and Jewish hope. N.T. Wright: Jesus is bringing Israel out of  exile. The 'Nazareth Manifesto' 4.16-29. The journey narrative of 9.51-18: much that is contradictory; the purpose not the detail counts. Often accused of not understanding salvation but in 22.24-27,37 quotes Isaiah 53.12. Pointing to Isaiah 53, Luke's emphasis not on atonement but forgiveness. Jesus, the friend of sinners, dies to bring them to paradise. The Jewish origin balances the controversial Gentile mission. the 'Nazareth Manifesto' combines Jewish piety, gentile mission and Jewish hostility. Luke/Acts perhaps a defence to Romans of Christianity (nb Suetonius on riots involving Jews and possibly Christians in 49 CE). Jewish leadership in Rome replaced by Gentiles might have led to tensions which Romans was written to ease. Plausible: a) Luke proposes Christianity not a radical new religion; b) trouble not Christians' fault; c) the 'unsavoury' Romans found no fault with Christians. Parallels between Luke/Acts and Romans. Arguments for early '60s Luke/Acts; scholars base later date on Luke's use of Mark (but see Bauckham on eyewitnesses - KC). Wright: Paul wanted to prepare Romans for destruction of Jerusalem.

Summary: a) contemporary corrective history b) theology of continuity and fulfilment of promise. (Incidentally does Paul's manual work fit with Luke's theology of the poor?)

4. Spencer, Scott B.: A Response to David Wenham

Traditional "introductions" to NT exclude theology but R Brown, TL Johnson and Atchemeier et al have changed that. On Prologue; Green: "For Luke narrative is proclamation ... order ... crucial ... for interpretation". In addition to Wenham's six, Israel's God deserves a place; Gaventa: on god in Acts. The Holy Spirit. The theme of hearing. On history, Wenham too reductive.

5. Moessner, David P.: Reading Luke's Gospel as Ancient Hellenic Narrative

Aristotle's Poetics: Purpose, structure and comprehension. Diodorus of Sicily: The plotting of narrative "arrangement": 1. Audience comprehension through managed interpretation; 2. Managed interpretation through fully completed sequences of events or: a) authorial intent b) plotted narrative c) realised audience interpretation.

Luke follows much of this (Moessner probably overplays his hand - KC). Riveting, detailed account of the emplotment in Luke 22-24; the "reversal" of  roles in the Emmaus story is gripping. At the beginning Jesus is presented to the Lord; at the end he presents himself as a sacrifice to the Lord.

6 Marshall, I. Howard: Political and Eschatological Language in Luke:

The Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis use the political and military language pertinent to a powerful king, linking what he has done with what he is about to do. They might be taken literally and metaphorically but the literal emerges as the narrative proceeds. Could be: eschatological, i.e. in the distant future (Talbert), stressing continuity but not likely as the opening words do not refer to what immediately follows with Luke/Acts as a parenthesis; mistaken hopes but this out of tune with characterisation of devout people guided by Spirit; military songs reflect Jesus' spiritual mission as the songs anticipate much in Jesus' mission (Luke 1.47/10.21 1.47/19.10 1.48/6.20 1.48b/11.27-28; 1.49a, 68/7.16; 1.49b//11.2 1.50/18.39 1.51-52/10.21 14.11; 1.51/6.21, 24; 1.54, 68/13.16 19.9 24.21; 1.72/22.29.)

So the message is political but "not as we know it". This is no ordinary prophet but the divine equivalent of a military campaign. This is metaphor we would recognise in hymns like "Onward, Christian Solders" or "Fight The Good Fight". But this has to be revised in the light of the "suffering Messiah".

In Acts the proclaimer becomes  the proclaimed but 17.7 is the only time Jesus is termed "King" in Acts; and "kingdom" only eight, mostly by narrator. But the rare notion of salvation in Matthew and Mark is presented in Luke and developed in Acts. Ultimate salvation related to their response to Jesus: 9.23.27 10.13-16 11.29-32; 12.4-5, 8-9; 13.22-30 14.14 16.19-31. 17.20-37 only makes sense if it takes place in lifetime of hearers. 21.5-36 specific about Jerusalem but global, eschatological rather than apocalyptic. Eschatology almost absent from Acts which, surprisingly, does not mention 70 AD unless written before 70. "Son of man" only mentioned at Stephen's death. A new programme to take Jesus' message to the ends of the earth. Act virtually silent on the teaching of Jesus. The end will come soon but after the Apostles have witnessed to Jesus in their mission.

7. Nolland, John:  The Use of Money:

Although Luke is concerned about the use of money only 1/4 of his parables deal with this. The Prodigal Son conflict between justice and compassion.

8. Wright, Stephen I.: Response to Nolland

Schleiermacher's hermeneutics: the grammatical and the technical or "manifestation of the life of a writer" to divine their unique purport, respectively linguistic competence and personal insight. The more original the text, the more insight required. Comparison needs divination. Reading a part in the light of the whole and vice versa. Nolland's method emphasises insight or divination. Particularly in the parables unique to Luke, parables should be viewed together as "a slice of life"; there are quite different meanings when each is seen as a whole rather than when individual details are allegorised; certainly Jesus could not be characterised in the behaviour of some of the main characters. The complexity of "double authorship". Longer parables as metonymies. Re Schleiermacher, Gadamer warns of prejudice and tradition.

9. Goheen, Michael: Listening to God in the Text:

If we want to hear what God is saying to us in Luke we must adopt a missional hermeneutic; God's address and hermeneutics are two sides of the same coin; mission is central to a faithful hermeneutic. Bartholomew: "Hermeneutics is a sophisticated word for knowing better how to listen to the text so as to hear properly what God is saying to his people, at this time and in this place". Wolters: The gulf between critical and religious reading; confessional criticism. Wright: "... a missional hermeneutic proceeds from the assumption that the whole Bible renders to us the story of God's mission through God's people in their engagement with God's world for the sake of the whole of God's creation": Bible's unified narrative plot line; God's mission to restore creation from  sin; God chooses a partner people; which people is for the sake of the world. God's, Israel's, Jesus' and our missions connected; the Bible is a product of this witness to mission. A marginalised church turns to mission. David Bosch: the detachment of post enlightenment biblical scholarship; specialisation of scholars and over simplification of missiologists; following Gadamer, avoid concordism; the critical hermeneutics of self definition consisting of horizons, self understanding and self-shaping; the NT created within a missionary church: a) Jesus' mission to all Israel and the Gentiles; b) God's reign is present and future and it prevails wherever Jesus drives out sin; god's reign both gift and promise; c) loosened link with Torah d) missionary disciples; e) the missionary thrust of Resurrection which seals Jesus' practice, proclaims the victory of the cross and, with the Spirit, opens mission to the future. Bosch claims Luke wrote in '80s when the church faced identity crisis, stagnation and hostility. Luke 4.16-30 gentle; poor; no vengeance. As Luke concerned with restoration of true Israel, wrong to think of it as exclusively gentile. Luke makes Jesus stop in 4.16-30 at Isaiah 61.2a where 2b mentions vengeance; Bosch says special role in Luke for Jesus the peace-maker. Luke uses soteria or soterion 12 times in Luke/Acts (none Matthew, Mark, 1 John).  Bosch: "Mission is the totality of the task that God has sent his church to do in the world".

10. Turner, Max: Luke and the Spirit

After Bauer, Consensus on Luke:

1) Luke strongest redactional interest in Spirit (20 Luke, 60 Acts; Mark 6; Matthew 12. 2) OT grounded pneumatology 3) Spirit driving force in salvation history 4) prophetically empowers for mission 5) little interest in Spirit as power for renewal of individual 6) beyond OT, Spirit Christocentric. Almost consensus on: 7) Spirit given at conversion/initiation.

Turner: "Luke-Acts is a challenge to reject the regular temptation to domesticate the Spirit and to reduce the gift to some merely theoretical immanence, the presence and activity of which is primarily an object of 'belief' rather than of more immediate experience."

11. Hahn, Scott W.: Kingdom and Church in Luke-Acts

Royal Davidic messianism is a major Christological category for Luke's gospel. Raymond Brown: "... the kingdom established by David ... is the closest Old Testament parallel to the church ... David and his kingdom which was also God's kingdom". McKnight: "the kingdom of Jesus is the kingdom of Israel, and the kingdom of Israel is the kingdom of David." Luke's Davidic Christology: 1.27 Joseph of the house of David; 1.32-33 Gabriel to Mary 2 Samuel 7.1-17; Benedictus 1.69 Psalm 132.17; the city of David 2.4 2.11; Shepherds like David 2.8-20; Baptism and sonship 3.22 cf Psalm 2.7; 3.23-28 genealogy; shew bread 6.1-5 cf 1 Samuel 21.1-6; transfiguration 9.35 cf Psalm 2.7; 18.35-43 "son of David"; 19.28-48 entry to Jerusalem Zechariah 12.7-13.1; New Covenant 22.20 Jeremiah 31.31 and 30.33; end institution 22.29-30 cf Psalm 89.3-4, 2 Samuel 9.9-13, Psalm 122.3-5; mockery 23.37-38 cf 2 Samuel 2.11, 23.35 cf Psalm 89.3-4. Acts: Pentecost 2.14-36; Paul first sermon 13.16-41; James 15.13-21. Heaviest in birth narratives and Acts speeches.

OT characteristics of David, written across in Luke:

Royal Davidic Christology prefaces the Institution narrative: 18.35-39, 19.11-27, 19.28-40, 20.1-40.

The kingdom and fellowship; ten meals in Luke: Levi's banquet 5.27-39; Simon 7.36-50; 5,000 9.10-17; Martha 10.38-42; Pharisee 11.37-54; Sabbath Pharisee 14.1-24; Zacchaeus 19.1-10; Last Supper 22.7-38; Emmaus 24.13-35; fish and honeycomb (24.41-43.

Unique Last Supper references: "until the Kingdom comes" repeated 22.16, 18; "in memory of me" 22.19*; "cup ... of the new covenant" 22.20; placement of precedence 22.24-30; thrones 22.28-29, except * emphasise kingdom and Davidic features. Link between narrative eating and eschatological.

Kingdom in Acts from 1.-11 to 28.31. Acts 2.41 the restoration of Israel realised in baptism of 3000 diaspora; and transformed with Christ in heaven, not Jerusalem, and the ekklesia on earth. The apostles receive power (vice regency) such that the Spirit is only manifested by their presence.

12. Scobie, Charles H.H.: The Journey Motif as a Hermeneutical Key

Luke's reputation as an historian in decline contra his theology of salvation history -  OT; Jesus in the centre; the church from Pentecost to Parousia - is under-appreciated, not least because of Bultmann. Lucan features: Chapters birth 1-2, Resurrection 24; the journey 9.51-19-44. Journey: Luke 49, including 25 in central narrative; Acts 39; journey an editorial device.

In addition to the great travel narrative, there are journeys in 1-2 and 24 and in the Galilee ministry. Jesus journeys three times to Jerusalem.

Luke division:

Journey motif prevalent in OT; Moessner parallels Lucan journey with Deuteronomy. Peter's journeys begin and end in Jerusalem: Samaria 8.14-25; coast 9.32-11.2; Caesarea 12.19. Paul's Jerusalem visits: education Acts 7.58; conversion 9.26-39; famine relief 11.30. Paul's mission journeys begin in Antioch but all end in Jerusalem: 13-14; 15.36-18.22; 18.23-21.17. The hermeneutical significance of the journey and the call to commitment contra Bultmann.

13. Bartholomew, Craig g. & Holt, Robby: Prayer and the Drama of Redemption

The prayer inclusion of Zechariah 1.8-13 and post Ascension apostles 24.50-53.

Prayer should be integral to hermeneutics. Black: Exegesis as prayer: a capacity for holiness; a transfigured affection; a disposition for thankful praise.

14. Bovon, Francois: Luke in the Second Century

Use of Luke by other writers of pseudo texts; knowledge of Luke by gnostics. Justin Martyr first record of Luke.

15. Gregory, Andrew: Dialogue with Bovon

If we accept the existence of  Proto-Luke, source L or even that there were many traditions Luke drew on, as cited in his preface, it is more difficult to identify authentic references to Luke itself. First real references to Luke in Irenaeus and the Muratorian Fragment; even Marcion who used an abbreviated form of Luke only refers to "a gospel".

16. Hornik, Heidi J. & Parsons, Michael c.: Illuminating Luke: The Third Gospel in Italian and Baroque Painting

In hermeneutics the step of "what it has meant" must be inserted between "what it meant" (in the 1st Century) and "what it means now" (in the 21st Century). Tradition portrays Luke, the patron saint of painters, as a painter as well as a physician, attributing hundreds of icons to him (In The golden Legend Jacobus de Voragine (1229-98 reports that Saint Gregory the Great (540-604) carried Saint Luke's portrait of the Virgin from Saint Maria Maggiore through the streets of Rome to stop the plague).

a) Leonardo's Annunciation (1473-75) Luke 1.26-38; Uffizi

Type scenes: 1 angelic appearance 2 reaction 3 message/commission 4 objection 5 sign. Annunciation repeats annunciation of birth of John, reverses "The fall" with the "second Eve" and "The second Adam" in Romans 5.

Five stages of Mary in 15th Century sermon of Roberto Caracciolo da Lecce: conturbatio; cogitatio; interrogatio; humiliatio; meritatio. In Leonardo Mary's conturbatio is somewhat calm in contrast with Botticelli’s Cestello Annunciation (1489). Mary's gesture almost of priestly blessing and the lectern is best understood as an altar (rather than a sepulchral urn or a sarcophagus) replacing the earlier spindle (cf Protevangelium James 11; Pseudo-Matthew 9); and the ships remind us of ave Maris Stella. Traditionally (Pseudo-Bonaventure) Mary is reading Isaiah 7.14. The lily is for purity, the blue mantle for royalty and Mary's thighs and knees subtly separated in a birthing metaphor. The second Eve motif brought out by Gabriel kneeling in a garden. Mary's astonishment is not at the angelic spectacle but at the salutation. The adaptation of Dominus tecum to Dominus vobiscum has unfortunately been re-translated from: "The Lord is with you" to "the Lord be with you".

b) Caravaggio: Supper at Emmaus (1600-02) Luke 24.13.35; National Gallery, London. Baroque, traditionally a pejorative term for a breach of classical perfection, seen from the 18th Century, derives from Borromini's alleged "distortion" of a perfectly spherical pearl, i.e. "Barocco", French for irregular pearl. Although it started in Rome in the 1590s it is best understood regionally. Caravaggio derived from Titian's 1535 Supper at Emmaus. An expert in the still life, the fruits are symbolic: grapes for Eucharist; apples for the fall; the bursting pomegranate for the crown of thorns. The Ushak pattern on the cloth represents the Near East. The composition is traditional  but the light and the figures set against a dark background and the beardless Christ are novel. The light focuses on Christ's right profile and carries the eye to the white mantle on his shoulder and, from his down-turned eyes, to his hands on the table. In Luke 24.30 Christ: 1 takes 2 blesses 3 breaks 4 gives. The disciples recognise Christ at the 3. Bassano (1538) freezes at 2, as does Veronese (c1565) and Pontormo (1525). Caravaggio moves the recognition from breaking back to blessing to emphasise transubstantiation. A Christ that is not recognisable represented as beardless. Caravaggio instructed to identify the 'unknown' character as Peter to aggrandise the Papacy. The fruit casts the shadow of a fish on the right side.


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