Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What's New, Luke?

In my Biblical History course we are finally on Luke, after a huge stint of OT.

I think it is important, rather than looking at all the trees - which seems to be what so much of biblical scholarship seems to do - look at the forest for a change.

The two principle questions I get the students to think about while reading Luke are:

1. What is new with Christ (as seen in Luke)?

2. How does the Old Testament appear in Luke?

The first is a question of change, the other is a question of continuity.

Different figures in Christian history have considered the matter in very different ways: Eusebius said that the Gospel brought about nothing new. Marcion, on the other hand, said it is so new that a God unlike the OT God wrote it. The former was an Arian, the latter a Gnostic, and both were wrong. Better is Augustine's formulation: "The New Testament lies hidden in the Old Testament and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New Testament."

On the one hand, I was checking out a list of OT references in Luke, and this list included at least 60 of them. On the other hand, check out this list that I have prepared:

What is New in the Gospel as seen in Luke

What cannot be found elsewhere – in OT explicitly, in prior pagan thought:

1. That God has a Son who is God. That God has a Spirit who is God.
2. That the Son of God takes on flesh actually.
3. That the Law was not meant to be taken (only?) literally.
4. That the institutions of the Old Law and the history of Israel were primarily figurative, that the primary importance of these things was to prepare and point to Christ.
5. That salvation is given, not attained.
6. That God is a loving Father who loves all people.
7. Hence that salvation is available for all people.
8. All people, even Israelites, can lose eternal life.
9. Love is the primary measure of moral standing (aka ritual cleanliness).
10. The sole cause of salvation lies in the death and resurrection of the Son of God.
11. God has no other message for man independent of Christ, thus He established His Church to carry on Christ’s work of salvation to the end of the world.

Feel free to dispute these and suggest alternatives. It is somewhat off the top of my head. Does it correspond to your presumptions?

Bonus question for you:

Why is there a calf next to Luke in the first picture?


  1. Colin,

    Since I thought this was a farming related question I had better answer it. The animal in the picture is a bull (not a calf) and represents Christ's sacrificial/priestly office.

    Spouse of although trained as a high school teacher.

  2. Ha, ha. Same species, though, right? You are correct, but failed to provide enough info: Luke has been associated with the calf/bull because his Gospel provides the 'priestly' genealogy of Jesus, rather than Matthew, who gives the kingly. Matthew, hence, has been associated with the lion in the prophecy of Ezekiel 1:10.

    Sincerely, Friend of the one although trained as a school teacher.