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The New Testament Cover Image
The New Testament, 4/e
Stephen Harris, California State University - Sacramento

Luke's Portrait of Jesus: A Savior for All Nations


I. Key topics/themes

  1. Part one of a two-volume work
  2. Emphasis on Christianity as a universal world faith
  3. Innocence of Jesus and his followers of any crime against Rome
  4. Kingdom of God reverses the established social order
  5. Inserts two major bodies of material into the Markan order

II. Introduction

  1. Luke as theodicy: an attempt to justify God's faithfulness in light of the sufferings of the Jewish people
  2. God's faithfulness to Israel opens door to extending those promises to Gentiles
  3. The importance of John the Baptist in Luke's understanding of Israel's history
  4. The centrality of Jerusalem in Luke's interpretation of God's dealings with humans
  5. Jerusalem the beginning point for the spread of a worldwide faith

III. The author and his sources

  1. Dedication to Theophilus
  2. Authorship and date
  1. Authorship
    1. Luke, the "beloved physician"
    2. Traditionally viewed as travel companion to Paul
    3. Difficulties in claiming that the author had been with Paul
    4. Probably the only Gentile writer of any New Testament books
  1. Date
    1. After 70 C.E.
    2. Luke's detailed knowledge of Roman siege of Jerusalem
    3. Written between 70 and 90 C.E.
  1. Luke's use of sources
  1. Author admits using sources
  2. Luke's additions to his Markan source
    1. Infancy narratives
    2. The "lesser interpolation"
    3. The "greater interpolation"
    4. Resurrection narratives
  1. Luke's dependence upon the Hebrew Bible
  1. Some typical Lukan themes
    1. The role of the Holy Spirit in the expansion of Christianity
    2. The use of prayers and hymns by various characters
    3. Jesus' concern for women
    4. Jesus' affinity with the unrespectable
    5. Christianity as a universal faith intended for "all nations"
    6. Jesus and his followers as law-abiding subjects of Rome who pose no threat to the Empire
    7. Jesus as "Savior," a term typically used for Greek gods and Roman emperors
  1. Organization of Luke's Gospel

IV. Infancy narratives of the Baptist and Jesus

  1. The birth of John the Baptist
    1. Parallels between John and Jesus
    2. Physical kinship between John and Jesus
  1. The role of Mary
    1. The interweaving of the accounts of Mary and Elizabeth's pregnancies
    2. John dated using Jewish context
    3. Jesus dated using Roman context
    4. Jesus' relatives as scrupulous, observant Jews
  1. Luke's use of hymns
    1. The Benedictus of Zechariah
    2. The Nunc Dimittis of Simeon
    3. The Magnificat of Mary
    4. Jesus' visit to the Temple at age twelve

V. Jesus' Galilean ministry and the "lesser interpolation"

  1. Jesus' rejection in Nazareth
    1. A preview of the church's mission to Gentiles
    2. Jesus empowered by the same Spirit that called the prophet Isaiah
  1. The "lesser interpolation"
  1. Luke's Sermon on the Plain
    1. Briefer forms of the Beatitudes
    2. Emphasis on physical characteristics rather than spiritual ones
    3. Beatitudes followed by "woes"
  1. Reversals of status for rich and poor
    1. God's compassion for the oppressed
    2. Jesus the model of compassionate behavior
  1. The importance of women
    1. Jesus' interaction with women a model of authority and tenderness
    2. Jesus and the widow at Nain
    3. Jesus' compassion for a prostitute
    4. The various contexts given the story of Jesus and the woman who anoints his feet

VI. Luke's Travel Narrative: Jesus' teachings on the journey to Jerusalem

  1. Also known as the "greater interpolation"
  2. Little action; mostly teaching
  3. Jesus in Samaria
  4. Jesus' ministry as victory over Satan's realm
  5. Parable of the good Samaritan
  1. Setting of the parable
    1. A debate with a Torah expert over the meaning of "love your neighbor"
    2. The parable an illustration of the meaning of "neighbor"
  1. Ethical complexities
    1. Priest and Levite risk ritual defilement in helping the injured man
    2. The ethical challenge posed by a Samaritan helping a distressed Jew
    3. The response of the Torah instructor to the parable
  1. Mary and Martha
    1. Martha's choice of the traditional women's role
    2. Mary's choice to sit at Jesus' feet as a disciple
  1. Instructions on prayer
    1. A shorter version of the Lord's Prayer
    2. Parable about a pushy widow as an example of persistence in prayer
    3. The parable of the pharisee and the tax collector
  1. Luke's views on riches and poverty
    1. Luke's great stress on forsaking worldly possessions for spiritual riches
    2. Luke's antimaterialism motivated by belief in an impending judgment
  1. Lazarus and the rich man
    1. A dramatic reversal of fortunes in the afterlife
    2. Description of Hades typical of Jews of that day
    3. Socioeconomic situations of the characters
    4. The kingdom's demand for a radical reversal
  1. Jesus' love of the unhappy and the outcast
    1. Jesus' fellowship with tax collectors and sinners
    2. Jesus' ignoring of Torah purity law against contact with the ritually unclean
  1. Parables of joy at finding what was lost
    1. The lost sheep
    2. A lost coin
    3. The prodigal son
  1. Parable of the dishonest steward

VII. The Jerusalem ministry: Jesus' challenge to the Holy City

  1. Conflicting beliefs about the Parousia
    1. The belief that the Parousia has already occurred
    2. The belief that the Parousia is imminent
  1. Lukan sayings about the kingdom
    1. Combination of sayings about imminence of the kingdom and its being a present reality
    2. Luke's revision of Mark's portrayal of apocalyptic urgency
  1. The fall of Jerusalem and the Parousia
  1. An indefinite period between the fall of Jerusalem and the End
  2. Jerusalem's fall not the End
  3. Two stages of the End
    1. Jewish Revolt and the fall of Jerusalem
    2. The coming of the Son of Man

VIII. The final conflict and the Passion story

  1. Luke's interpretation of the Passion
    1. Stresses the innocence of Jesus
    2. Jesus' death a righteous example for the faithful to imitate
  1. The Last Supper
    1. Differences between Luke and Mark
    2. Drops Mark's emphasis on interpreting the wine as Jesus' blood of a New Covenant
  1. Jesus' final ordeal
    1. Luke's softening of Mark's harsh portrayal of the disciples' collective failure
    2. Changes Luke introduces into the Sanhedrin hearing scene
    3. Jesus sent to Herod Antipas but turned back
    4. Pilate's protestations of Jesus' innocence
    5. Last words on the cross as appeals for forgiveness of his executioners
    6. Jesus' consolation of those suffering around him
    7. The words of the centurion: "This man was innocent"

IX. Epilogue: Postresurrection appearances in the vicinity of Jerusalem

  1. Appearance to disciples on the road to Emmaus
  2. Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room
  3. Jesus' life, death, and resurrection as foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures
  4. The disciples to remain in Jerusalem until empowered by the Holy Spirit

X. Summary

  1. Gospel ascribed to Luke
  2. Jesus a world savior
  3. God's compassion and willingness to forgive all
  4. Emphasizes disciples' role in carrying on Jesus' work until the return of the Son of Man
  5. Carry Jesus' mission "to the ends of the earth"
  6. Mission of the church extended indefinitely into the future