Vridar

2013/04/04

What Luke’s witnesses saw — according to Luke

Filed under: John N. Collins,Luke-Acts,Oral Tradition — Neil Godfrey @ 12:13 pm
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Witnesses of the Resurrection

Witnesses of the Resurrection (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

The most solid argument I have read about what the word in Luke 1:2 translated as “eyewitnesses” actually means is by John N. Collins: see the post What Did Luke’s Eyewitnesses See? Collins presents a cogent argument that the word really means officials who have the responsibility for the writings/library of the community: it is their job to assess and preserve the authenticity of the documents entrusted to them — they are “specially authorized guarantors of the traditions.”

But in this post I am backtracking and working from the assumption that the word does convey the idea of one who sees firsthand some event. What I am saying here is this: What if the word really did express the idea of a witness? What does such a witness mean for Luke?

Norman Perrin answered this question nearly forty years ago in Rediscovering the Teaching of Jesus.

Firstly, Perrin begins by reminding modern readers that they must leave behind their modern conceptions and make an effort to enter the world of the biblical authors. Get out of your heads any modern notion of what the word “eyewitness” means to us today who are familiar with the concept from our newspaper reports and court proceedings:

If we resolutely ban from our minds . . . what a modern writer would mean by an ‘eyewitness’ and ask ourselves what Luke meant by the expression . . . . (p. 27)

Perrin’s conclusion?

Luke considers Paul an eyewitness!

Perrin explains: (more…)

2012/12/11

‘Is This Not the Carpenter?’ Reviewing chapter 11, Luke’s Sophisticated Re-Use of OT Scriptures

carpenterPrevious posts in this series are archived here. Another review of this chapter can be read at Aaron Adair’s blog.

I liked Ingrid Hjelm‘s chapter, “‘Who is my Neighbor?’ Implicit Use of Old Testament Stories and Motifs in Luke’s Gospel”, for several reasons:

  1. it presented the first cogent explanation I have ever encountered for why Luke’s genealogy of Jesus is so different from Matthew’s and why it avoided all mention of David’s son Solomon and the rest of the kings of Israel and Judah;
  2. it explained how a Davidic Messianic figure did not necessarily imply a worldly conqueror (at least not until the last days) but that the OT also contained a nonviolent priestly vision of David who united God’s people as a priestly, Moses-like figure;
  3. it showed how the Gospel of Luke is very much an extension of the same sort of literature that came to make up the Jewish Bible;
  4. it reminded me of the importance of the sacred meaning of numbers among biblical authors, something too easily overlooked today;
  5. it also indirectly prompted possible explanations for why Luke might have adapted and changed the Gospel of Matthew (if he did — but this is really a topic that belongs to another post entirely.)

(But it took some time to grasp what the chapter was about initially. It launches straight into a detailed discussion of details of Matthew’s genealogy and one is immediately wondering, “What the heck is this all about? Was an opening paragraph outlining her argument lost by an editor?” More likely, perhaps, it was cut and paste from other publications by Hjelm yet with insufficient re-editing to clarify the direction of the argument for readers completely new to her views. And there are several passages in the rest of the chapter that leave a reader unfamiliar with the contents of cited references bemused. (Only after tracking down online citations and catching up with some background reading was I able to make sense of some of Hjelm’s statements. Needless to say, some of her claims whose citations are not online remain obscure to me.) Unfortunately this chapter is not the only one in this volume that suffers from this sort of difficulty for those unfamiliar with some of the authors and ideas, — not to mention just a few too many typos. But as you can tell from my positive introduction it was worth making the effort to understand the flow of her argument.)

hjelm

Ingrid Hjelm

Hjelm shows us that the author of the Gospel of Luke interpreted and reused the Old Testament scriptures as a template for his own Gospel story of Jesus in quite subtle and sophisticated ways that are foreign to the ways most modern readers have come to understand the OT. Luke (we’ll imagine the author’s name was Luke) viewed the David figure embodied in Jesus not through the stained history in the books of Samuel, but through the idealized portrait in the books of Chronicles where a priestly David is portrayed as a second Moses, and as such reunites Samaritanism and Judaism once again into the theological ideal of a new Israel.

(I use the term “Judaism” here instead of “Jews” because it is worth keeping in mind what that word “Jew” actually describes at that time: see Where did the Bible’s Jews come from? Part 1, Part 2. Hjelm even concludes that Luke was not the gentile convert most readers have assumed him to be, but a Hellenized “Jew”.)

What we see in the Gospel are reiteration and paralleling of the motifs and themes of the older Scriptures. If that sounds a lot like the sort of argument we have come to expect from Thomas L. Thompson, we should not be surprised to find Hjelm is also from the University of Copenhagen and Thompson’s name appears frequently in her list of publications.

There is, of course, much more to be written about the Gospel of Luke’s use of the OT — see, for example, Origin of the Emmaus Road Narrative and More on Luke’s Use of Genesis — but this chapter by Hjelm gives readers an excellent insight into the way the author used Scriptures. Hjelm concludes ambiguously on the question of the implications of Luke’s use of Scriptures for the narrative’s historicity. What really matters is that we understand and accept the nature of the Biblical stories and what they meant for their original creators and audiences.

Against Hjelm’s references to Samaritans as the heritage of Moses in this chapter one should be aware that Ingrid Hjelm clearly has a special interest in Samaritan studies (see her list of publications) and last year was awarded The Samaritan Medal for Peace and Humanitarian Achievement by the Samaritan community. At one point she justifies the pivotal reference to Samaritans as well as Jews as an allegorical interpretation (Moses represents the Samaritans and Elijah the Jews) by citing an earlier (2004) publication of hers.

42 = the meaning of life*, David & Jesus (more…)

2012/08/01

A Pre-Christian Heavenly Jesus

A little exchange of views (beginning here) on Larry Hurtado’s blog (Hurtado generously offers a platform for some interesting resources for those interested in mythicist arguments ;-)  ) has alerted me to something no doubt many who follow Richard Carrier’s writings more attentively than I have done will already know that Carrier writes:

Nor was the idea of a preexistent spiritual son of God a novel idea among the Jews anyway. Paul’s contemporary, Philo, interprets the messianic prophecy of Zechariah 6:11-12 in just such a way. In the Septuagint this says to place the crown of kingship upon “Jesus,” for “So says Jehovah the Ruler of All, ‘Behold the man named ‘Rises’, and he shall rise up from his place below and he shall build the House of the Lord’.” This pretty much is the Christian Gospel. Philo was a Platonic thinker, so he could not imagine this as referring to “a man who is compounded of body and soul,” but thought it meant an “incorporeal being who in no respect differs from the divine image” whom “the Father of the Universe has caused to spring up as the eldest son.” Then Philo says, “In another passage, he calls this son the firstborn,” and says “he who is thus born” imitates “the ways of his father.” (Not the Impossible Faith, pp. 250-251)

Carrier then quotes the passage from Philo, and I quote it here from the Yonge translation available online. The word “East” has since been better understood as “Rises”, as in the rising of the sun:

“Behold, a man whose name is the East!” A very novel appellation indeed, if you consider it as spoken of a man who is compounded of body and soul; but if you look upon it as applied to that incorporeal being who in no respect differs from the divine image, you will then agree that the name of the east has been given to him with great felicity. (63) For the Father of the universe has caused him to spring up as the eldest son, whom, in another passage, he calls the firstborn; and he who is thus born, imitating the ways of his father . . . . (On the Confusion of Tongues, Book 14:62, 63)

Before adding my own discussion I’ll quote the next paragraph from Carrier, too: (more…)

2012/01/03

The earliest gospels 6(c) – Luke’s Gospel (Couchoud)

Filed under: Couchoud: Creation of Christ,Josephus,Luke-Acts,Marcion — Neil Godfrey @ 9:14 pm
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Evangelist Luke writing, Byzantine illuminatio...

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Continuing the series archived here: (I have also marked the name Josephus in bold for easy reference for any interested in the study of Luke’s use of Josephus.)

Irenaeus is the first to speak of Luke as the author of our Gospel and Acts dedicated to Theophilus (Haer. iii.1,2). Before Irenaeus we read in Colossians 4:14 of a Luke with the epithet “the beloved physician” having been interpolated into the original; and in the fictitious 2 Timothy 4:11 we read “Only Luke is with me.” Following

is an outline explication of the Gospel of Luke from Couchoud’s perspective of it having been composed around 142 c.e. by Clement of Rome.

The prologue refers to a number of Gospels and Acts already in existence and leads readers to infer that the author is collating his information from these earlier sources while also being in a unique position to offer more authoritative insights and a more coherent narrative of the whole.

With an acrobatic leap he passes from the fine style of a Greek rhetor to that of Biblical narrative. (p. 275)

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea,
A certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abijah:
And his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

And they were both righteous, walking before God
In all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
And they had no child, because that Elizabeth was barren;
Both were well stricken in years.

Couchoud then outlines the narrative we know from Luke 1:8-38 and that I won’t repeat here. (more…)

2012/01/02

The earliest gospels 6(b) – Luke (à la Couchoud)

Filed under: Couchoud: Creation of Christ,Luke-Acts — Neil Godfrey @ 11:03 pm
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Polski: Toruń, kościół św. Jakuba, obraz Zesła...

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Continuing with the series archived here.

Couchoud suggests that the author of the Gospel we attribute to Luke may quite likely have been Clement of Rome. But he sees the contribution of this person as of far greater significance than the simple composition of the works we know as Luke and Acts. First, however, the outline of Couchoud’s views of who this major author was. This p.ost should be read in conjunction with the previous one, 6(a).

The popular Shepherd of Hermas written about this time (mid second century) informs us that it was Clement’s duty to send to the other churches the edict of remission of sins which the prophet Hermas learned of in a vision:

Clement will address it to the other towns for he is charged with this duty. (Hermas Vis. 2.4)

The prophetic work of Hermas indicates that prophets were strongly influential in the Roman Church, most likely with wielding power as the Spirit whimmed them. When their authority was replaced by Elders it is suggested that Clement kept his old office as a Church Secretary and increased his authority. He may even have been one of the persons Marcion debated against when in Rome. Clement clearly had some importance among the ruling Elders when he (presumably) wrote his letter to the entire Corinthian Church admonishing them to restore the rule of the Elders they had deposed, “no doubt in order to vest authority in the bishop alone, and to wrest that Church from the Marcionite enemy.”

He was probably born a gentile. He was widely read in Greek and Latin literature and the Hebrew Bible in Greek translation, as well as the Book of Enoch and other Jewish apocryphal and apocalpytic writings. He also knew the works of Philo and Josephus. (more…)

2012/01/01

The earliest gospels 6(a) – on the cusp of Luke (à la Couchoud)

Now this time I might add more detail than usual since I find Couchoud’s views on the Gospel according to Saint Luke (at least as covered across several posts here and not necessarily confined to any one in particular) not very distant in many respects from the notions I have been thinking about, though not entirely without the support of a few scholarly publications. I had not realized when I began to share these few chapters of The Creation of Christ that the author continues on to discuss the creation of the Book of Acts and the remainder of the New Testament epistles after Paul’s. It’s an interesting read. I have to share those thoughts in future posts, too. The complete series of these posts is archived here.

Back to Marcion

Couchoud returns at this point of his discussion to Marcion. He imagines a setting where Marcion is seeing the Syrian churches (with their Gospel of Matthew) and the Asian churches (with their theology of John) all opposing him. According to one account when Marcion visited Ephesus the author of the Gospel of John rebuked him as the Deceiver and Antichrist. When he visited Smyrna the bishop Polycarp rebuffed him with the words, “I recognize thee as the first-born of Satan.” Paul, meanwhile, had long since consigned the great apostles themselves to Satan (Irenaeus, Haer. iii. 3-4).

Marcion, with followers as widespread as Africa (Carthage), Gaul (Lyons) and Rome itself, hoped to reverse the mounting conflicts in the East by securing Rome’s approval of his doctrines. Rome’s Christians, like Marcion’s, had no time for Jews and celebrated “Easter”, as did Marcionites but unlike “John’s” churches in Asia, at a time other than the Jewish Passover. Both Rome’s devotees and Marcion’s fasted on the Jewish sabbath (allowing for a typo in the translated work of Couchoud) to spite the Jews. The Roman Gospel of Mark was as neo-Pauline as was Marcion’s and differed from Marcion’s only in respect to the identity of the highest God. (more…)

2011/05/01

If the first readers of Luke’s Gospel also knew Matthew’s . . . .

Filed under: Gospel of Matthew,Luke-Acts — Neil Godfrey @ 12:15 pm
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. . . . What would they make of the different birth narratives?

The Gospels of All Christians (edited by Richard Bauckham) appeared about twelve years ago challenging the idea that each of our canonical gospels was tailored for a particular community audience: Mark, say, for Romans, Matthew to a church in Syria, etc.

The reasons for this argument, and the reasons for the original paradigm that each of the gospels was the product of a distinct community, are subjects for another post. I have been particularly interested in the subject of intertextuality — the dialogue one can see among both New and Old Testament works. Thomas L. Thompson is one scholar who in particular has addressed evidence for various prophetic works such as Isaiah and Hosea “speaking” to each other — taking up themes that one has raised and presenting an alternative side of the discussion.

I have tended to think of Matthew’s treatment of Mark’s Gospel as an example of the same process continuing into the Christian era. The point is that Matthew was addressing the same audience that knew Mark’s Gospel, and not that Mark wrote for one local audience while Matthew somehow got hold of Mark’s work and re-wrote it for a different community with different views about the role of Peter, the Law, etc. Similarly with Luke’s treatment of Mark. There are limits to this model, however. There clearly were Christian groups who bluntly opposed certain Gospels, and we can think of Marcion accepting none other than a form of the Gospel of Luke. So I am not suggesting that there was one happy universal Christian family open to every revision that came along. Far, far from it. But I have difficulties with the idea that each gospel was written for localized communities. The matters and themes they address are too universal for that to concept to fit well.

But when we take this model — that the gospels were written for (more or less) “all Christians” — then we come back to our old question of Luke’s knowledge of Matthew. (more…)

2011/03/01

Marcion’s rules for “mutilating” the Gospel of Luke

Filed under: Marcion,Moll: Arch-Heretic Marcion — Neil Godfrey @ 8:57 pm
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Marcion Displaying His Canon

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Marcion was one of the favourite heretics of the second century that “proto-orthodox” Church Fathers like Justin, Irenaeus and Tertullian loved to hate. His “heresy” posed a serious rival to other forms of Christianity, claiming followers from Syria and across Asia Minor (the main base) through to Italy and North Africa. The distinctive marks of his teachings were that he believed that the God of the Jewish Bible was not the highest or the one Good God, but was a lesser being who was responsible for the world and all its evils. He rejected Jewish Bible (Old Testament) on the grounds that it had no relevance for Christians.

One of his enduring claims to fame is that he is sometimes said to have been the first Christian to have come up with the idea of a canon of scripture. It was his canon, it is sometimes said, that was the prompt for what became the dominant catholic church to assemble its own canon that resulted in the New Testament we have today. Marcion’s “canon” consisted of the epistles of Paul. Paul, in Marcion’s view, was the only true apostle. All others were misguided and false apostles. There was one “gospel” in this canon, and it was said to be a mutilated form of the Gospel of Luke. (more…)

2011/02/23

How Late Can A Gospel Be?

Filed under: Luke-Acts — Neil Godfrey @ 8:29 pm
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Nativity scene

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Would it not be wonderful if our Gospels were all signed and dated so there could be no debates about who wrote them or when?

The hermeneutic of charity would rule and only the hypersceptical and “minimalists” would entertain any doubts.

Well, there is one gospel that is signed, addressed and dated. It was written by James the step-brother of Jesus in the very year in which Herod died and Jesus was born. At the end of this gospel it is written:

And I James that wrote this history in Jerusalem, a commotion having arisen when Herod died, withdrew myself to the wilderness until the commotion in Jerusalem ceased, glorifying the Lord God, who had given me the gift and the wisdom to write this history. And grace shall be with them that fear our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory to ages of ages. Amen.

What more could any student of the Bible want? Except maybe to have that sort of information tagged on to the Gospels in the Bible. This is from what is known as the Infancy Gospel of James (or the Protevangelium of James).

The problem appears to be that this identification is attached to a gospel that did not make it into the Bible. I am sure no biblical scholar and probably no serious Christian really believes what they read here. But there is more to it than simply not being in the Bible. This Gospel is about Mary and her own miraculous birth as well as her perpetual virginity. Jesus only appears at the very end as a little babe born in a cave. Probably most scholars would place this belief about Mary and her exaltation well into the second century. But Luke’s prologue itself points to much the same idea.

So why not place this Infancy gospel around the same time as Luke in the first century?

The basic ideas in what follows, and the title of this post itself, are all drawn from pages 340-1 of Dating Acts : Between the Evangelists and the Apologists by Richard I. Pervo. I have played a little with the way in which the ideas are presented but not much more. Just to be perverse, this post is not really about the Infancy Gospel of James at all despite the surface-discussion speaking of that Gospel most of the time, but about the dating of the Gospel of Luke. (more…)

2010/11/28

Nothing the Early Church Would Want to Make Up?

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In his newly published Jesus of Nazareth, one of Emeritus Professor Maurice Casey’s criteria for deciding if a Gospel detail is truly historical is that the passage “contains nothing that the early church would want to make up”.

Though I have read very many works of history, I never heard of this as a rationale for establishing anything as a historical fact till I picked up books by biblical scholars writing about Jesus.

Casey does not exclusively rely on this criterion to declare something in the gospels as historically factual. Another test must also be passed. The event must also have a “perfect setting in the life of Jesus.” I leave aside the obvious circularity of this latter point in this post, and discuss a just one particular critical shortcoming in his use of the first criterion — what is essentially a “can’t see why not” argument from credulity.

Avoiding the literary fact 1: Luke 13:31-33

At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”

He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

Casey writes of this passage that it contains two or three reasons we should accept it as a genuinely historical exchange between Herod and Jesus.

Once again, a Gospel passage has clear signs of translation from an Aramaic source [he is referring here to the use of the words for “jackal” and “reach my goal” (which is sometimes more literally translated as “be perfected”)] just at the point where the traditions in it must be authentic because they have a perfect setting in the life of Jesus, and contain nothing that the early church would want to make up. (p. 324, my emphasis)

But this latter rationale is invalid for a number of reasons. (more…)

2010/09/24

More on Luke being the Last

Filed under: Luke-Acts — Neil Godfrey @ 11:59 am
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The evangelist portrait from the Gospel of Luke
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There are some interesting articles discussing the place of the Gospel of Luke in relation to John and the other gospels:

Acts 4:19-20—An Overlooked First-Century Clue to Johannine Authorship and Luke’s Dependence upon the Johannine Tradition

and

The John, Jesus, and History Project-New Glimpses of Jesus and a Bi-Optic Hypothesis

I would prefer to take more time to explore literary relationships before going too far with the assumptions in these for oral traditions.

When I get time to digest some of these more, I would like to compare them with other studies that place Acts very late, and our canonical form of Luke also late. By late I mean the latter half of the second century, from the time of, or even very soon after, Justin Martyr. (more…)

2009/09/14

How Luke possibly increased the doubts of Theophilus

Filed under: Luke-Acts — Neil Godfrey @ 4:00 pm
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Luke opened his gospel with a solid reassurance to Theophilus:

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

One major source of Luke’s, without any doubt, is the Gospel of Mark. If Theophilus had heard stories of Jesus from the Gospel of Mark he would surely have had many questions. Mark’s gospel is less a testimony of what happened than a discourse with readers to prompt them to examine their own status in the faith and understanding of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Mark left hanging many questions such as whether or not Jesus met Peter and the disciples again in Galilee, whether Jesus was or was not the Son of David, the nature of Jesus and Christ before the baptism, the significance of his miracles and relationships with crowds, and many more.

We may speculate that Theophilus had many of these questions all sorted out from other sources now lost to us.

But let’s assume for a moment the questions were left hanging and he was waiting for Luke to do the thorough research to sort things out for him. Theophilus may have hired Luke on the understanding that he “had a perfect understanding of all things from the very first” and that he could write up a clear orderly account of exactly what happened.

If so, what would have been the results when Theophilus eventually read Luke’s final product?

The baptism of John

If Theophilus had any questions relating to Jesus being baptized by John then they were left hanging from miles high after he read Luke’s narrative. Luke simply avoided the scene completely and did not even state that Jesus had been baptized by John — merely that he had been baptized.

Anger in response to the leper’s plea

Since the earliest manuscripts of Mark’s gospel tell us that Jesus was angry when a leper approached him for healing (Mark 1:41), it is more than likely that Theophilus had heard of this strange rumour too. He would have been disappointed had he hoped for Luke to have set this detail in order for him, since Luke, even though he knew and used the Gospel of Mark, chose to omit altogether Mark’s (or anyone’s) comment on Jesus’ emotional response at this time (Luke 5:12-16).

Some of the best miracles

Theophilus probably had heard of not one, but two versions of Jesus miraculously feeding crowds of thousands in the wilderness, and wondered if they were one and the same event. He might especially have been curious to learn more about one version that held that the feeding was in gentile territory and specifically meant for gentiles (Mark 8:1-10). If so, then he probably felt a bit cheated by his commissioned researcher opting to simplify his story by omitting any reference to the latter. Not even a clue as to how the reports of the distinctive features of the second feeding miracle arose in the first place.

Theophilus must also have been wanting to know more about Jesus’ miracle of walking on the water. Was it true that Peter likewise walked on water with Jesus? Or were all the disciples totally cowed at seeing what they thought was a ghost? And what of the story coming with a narrator’s explanation that the disciples’ reaction was related to their not understanding the miracle of the loaves? Luke’s gospel gave him no satisfaction here, either. In fact, Luke did not even include the water-walking scene at all! Was it because Luke was unable to find out the facts of the matter despite his claims for full knowledge in his prologue?

Some have suggested that Luke’s copy of Mark was incomplete. Not only was the ending missing, but also the middle chapters covering events in Jesus’ life between his feeding the 5000 and the Peter-confession and Transfiguration scenes were for some reason also missing. But Luke’s prologue claims he had much more at his disposal than a single defective copy of one gospel. If we accept the claims of his prologue then we can only conclude that he deliberately omitted certain events and miracles that must have been widely known.

How did Jesus heal?

Theophilus must also have wondered about the methods of Jesus’ healing miracles. Did he sometimes use his spit? Did he sometimes need two attempts to fully restore someone? But Luke simply omits any reference to any such miracles without any explanation.

Attitude to gentiles?

Did Jesus really refer to gentiles as dogs (Mark 7:27)? Luke does not give the satisfaction of an answer. He simply ignores the scene known to contain these words of Jesus.

When Jesus returned from his transfiguration

Some reports Theophilus had heard probably implied something strange about the appearance of Jesus when he returned to the crowds after he had been with three of his disciples on the mountain and transfigured there before them (Mark 9:15). If his hopes were raised after reading Luke’s prologue that he would finally have that clarified they were dashed again when he found Luke ignored this detail altogether.

Various accounts about a certain blind man, and Son of David claims

Various reports reached Theophilus about Jesus healing a man referred to as a son of “timaeus” or of a man named Timaeus (with so many associations that raised), others spoke of a man named Bartimaeus. Moreover, they all said that this blind man had called Jesus the Son of David, contrary to other reports that Jesus had denied this claim. One might imagine Theophilus beginning to lose patience to find that his commissioned writer simply failed to use the name of this blind man, or give any clue as to how the various opinions arose in the first place.

Further, Luke still included that confusing report of Jesus apparently denying he was the Son of David, contrary to other passages in his gospel (Luke 20:41-44). Theophilus must have suspected Luke did a rush job to finish his gospel the night before he was due to present it.

Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?

A story like this surely went the rounds and Theophilus must have been anticipating Luke’s explanation. If Theophilus had paid Luke in full for his efforts he must have felt cheated to find Luke again opting to not make a single reference to this controversial rumour.

A mystery for a reader to understand

One very spare anonymous narrative about Jesus that raised more questions than answers (known subsequently as the Gospel of Mark) that Theophilus may have read implied a certain enigma in the expression, “abomination of desolation standing where it ought not” as a mystery for readers to decode (Mark 13:14). He would be interested in knowing what Luke had to uncover about this. But when he read Luke he found that, once again, the passage of most interest had simply gone totally AWOL.

Anointing where and by whom?

Theophilus undoubtedly craved to know more about the famous episode of Jesus’ anointing and how this act, performed with very expensive spices, prompted the disciples to turn against Jesus, and for one of them to even betray him. But after reading Luke’s gospel he reflected and realized he had not read of this at all. All he could recollect was that Luke, without explanation, did include another scene, in fact a very sensuous one, where a sinful woman with very expensive perfume wiped Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair. Was Luke really denying everything he had heard till now about that momentous event?

Theophilus no doubt made a note to call Luke in the next day to ask him to explain all he had written — and had not written!

Who were Alexander and Rufus?

No doubt Theophilus had heard or even read of a certain Simon carrying the cross of Jesus, and that this Simon was identified as the father of Alexander and Rufus. How could he fail to not be curious and want to know who these individuals were and what became of them?

Luke failed his curiosity once again. He wrote as if they had never existed.

Mysterious young men at the end of Jesus’ life

Gossip flies, especially about people reportedly going naked in public after dark, and no doubt everyone far and wide had heard of one of Jesus’ followers fleeing naked on the night of his arrest.

Maybe Theophilus was kind and suspected Luke was doing his best to stop malicious rumours by not repeating them.

But then what of that young man in the tomb he had heard about? Why did Luke not give any idea where that story came from? Why did he baldly speak of two angels in the tomb without any clarification to explain the account everyone knew till then?

Did Jesus ever meet up with the disciples again in Galilee?

One thing Theophilus had long wondered about was the facts of what happened to the disciples and Jesus after the resurrection. Everyone who seemed to know spoke of Jesus appearing, or at least promising to appear, to the disciples again in Galilee. But Theophilus was at a loss to find any clear report of the details. So he hired Luke to research and write up the full story.

The least he had expected from Luke was some reconciliation of any new information (that Jesus only appeared to his disciples around Jerusalem and forbade them from going to Galilee till much later) with the incomplete and confusing accounts about a Galilee appearance everyone had heard about before Luke wrote.

Result: Theophilus sent Luke packing to look for a new patron.

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