10. Eyewitness Testimony in Luke’s Gospel
Ready? From the beginning now!
Luke was very much concerned to base his Gospel on the earliest and best eyewitnesses who went back all the way to the beginning of Jesus' ministry. This concern contradicts the widespread belief that the Gospel is built on the inventions of later anonymous disciples who substantially changed the words and life-story of Jesus, nearly beyond recognition, according to the needs of the later church.
The goal of the entire series and Part Eleven here is to send out over the worldwide web scholarship that supports traditional views on the Gospels. The series is intended for the laity. Maybe high school students and undergraduates at universities can make use of it. Maybe it can help seminarians and church leaders, like home Bible study and Sunday school teachers.
As usual, since people read these articles as stand-alones, I repeat the basic facts that true beginners to the Gospels may not know about. That’s also why I use the Q & A format.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke have a lot of passages in common, so they are called the synoptic Gospels (synoptic means viewed together). The authors are sometimes called synoptists. The writers of the four Gospels are also called evangelists. Since we also quickly look at the Book of Acts, Luke-Acts is the shorthand way of saying the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. Nearly all scholars conclude that both books were written by the same author, usually taken to be Luke.
Hovering over the references below will bring up the NET Bible version on each of these.
1. What does eyewitness testimony mean in Luke’s preface?
Luke 1:1-4 reads:
1:1 Since many have undertaken to arrange in proper order an account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as from the beginning the eyewitnesses and those becoming ministers of the Word handed down to us, 3 so also it seemed good to me, accurately following and investigating everything from the first, to write to you in order (an account), most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the words (of the gospel) you have been taught.*
We can learn at least four things about the importance of eyewitness testimony in Luke’s preface.
First, the key word is eyewitnesses, which in Greek is autoptai (plural of autopt?s) (v. 2). Today we get the word autopsy from it. However, in Luke’s preface it is not a medical term, nor does it have a legal meaning per se, but a historiographical one (history writing). It means those who are first hand observers. One scholar translates it as “those with personal / firsthand experience: those who know the facts at first hand” (Alexander, p. 120).
Another scholar also says that the notion of principal eyewitnesses having to go back to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry was just plain commonsense. The Gospel of John also has the word beginning as a criterion for reliable and authoritative testimony (John 15:26-27) (Bauckham, p. 122). John writes in the relevant clause (Jesus speaking): “You also [in addition to the Spirit] are to be witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning” (v. 27). (See also John 6:64; 8:25, 44; 1 John 2:7, 13; 3:8; 2 John 6). These parallel data in Luke and John indicate that “the principal eyewitness sources of [Luke’s] work were qualified to provide a comprehensive account of the events ‘from the beginning’” (Bauckham, p. 122).
Second, the eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word transmitted or passed on their participatory testimony about the events that had been fulfilled among them. The Greek word for handed down or passed on or delivered to in v. 2 (verb of paradosis or tradition) means to transmit tradition, not in a sterile sense, but in an active, living sense. As we have seen in the article Reliable Transmissions, this transmission process was done very carefully. And why wouldn’t it be? By the time the eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word were passing on their participatory eyewitness testimony, they understood that the Jesus movement had the backing of God. Jesus was raised from the dead. His movement was going around the known world. It was time for Luke to write his account while the eyewitnesses themselves were still circulating around the Christian communities, as living voices and transmitters.
Third, the words from the first (v. 3) could be translated from way back. They signify that Luke is familiar with the earliest traditions, and this kind of historical source “was remarkably important for the way that the traditions about Jesus were transmitted and understood in early Christianity” (Bauckham, p. 124). Bauckham also writes: “The point in Luke’s preface is that, just as the scope of the eyewitness testimony was comprehensive, covering the whole story Luke’s Gospel had to tell (‘from the beginning’), so Luke’s thorough familiarity with and understanding of this testimony were equally comprehensive. Luke can tell the story ‘from the beginning’ because he is familiar with the traditions of those who were eyewitnesses ‘from the beginning’” (p. 124).
Fourth and finally, the certainty or truth (v. 4) of the words of the gospel is directly related to eyewitness testimony that exists from the beginning. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (third edition of BDAG, p. 147) says that asphaleia means “stability of idea or statement”; stability is the opposite of movement and slippage and change.
Bottom line to this Q & A: the earliest writers and tradition transmitters of the ministry of Jesus sought to nail down truth and certainty by proclaiming their eyewitness participation in the events or by passing on the stories of those who were eyewitness participants. Luke incorporated their testimonies and reports.
2. What were the criteria for selecting the successor of Judas?
That question is important because it reveals, once again, how Luke clarifies who is authoritative in the transmission of the story about Jesus. After Jesus’ ascension, the eleven apostles selected a successor to Judas. This process is recorded in the first chapter of the Book of Acts. Luke writes in Acts 1:21-22 (Peter speaking):
21 Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus came and went among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day he was taken up from us – one of these to become a witness with us of his resurrection. (Acts 1:21-22)
Here, then, Luke requires the same status for an eyewitness as he does in the preface to his Gospel. In order to qualify as the replacement of Judas, the candidate must be a close follower from the very beginning, in this case from the baptism of John. This timeframe does not mean the exact moment when Jesus was baptized, but, rather, during the ministry of John. Also, the clause “came and went” means “comings and goings,” that is, Jesus’ entire ministry. The emphasis on during all the time and beginning echoes the same idea in Luke’s preface to his Gospel (Bauckham, p. 114, note 1). The candidate must have comprehensive knowledge of Jesus’ life and ministry.
Two other references in Acts indicate that witnesses with the fullest knowledge about Jesus are the ones who followed him for the longest duration. Time and participation and knowledge work together. In Acts 10:40-41 Peter expands on his ideas in Acts 1:21-22. Initially, God chose special witnesses, not just anyone, to see the resurrection appearances. Jesus ate and drank with his first eyewitnesses after he rose from the dead. This indicates intimate knowledge. The second reference is Acts 13:30-31. Paul tells his listeners that witnesses who followed Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem are still alive and are testifying about his resurrection. For Peter and Paul, these witnesses seem to have special authority. The events are so recent that they are fresh in the eyewitnesses’ memory.
Bottom line for this Q & A: All of this implies epistemological proximity (epistemology studies how we acquire knowledge and truth). In turn, this up-close-and-personal comprehensive knowledge implies the accuracy and stability of the Gospel traditions.
3. Does Luke use the narrative strategy of inclusio?
He does indeed.
Recall that this is a literary device that Greco-Roman authors used, such as Lucian in Alexander and Porphyry in Life of Plotinus. Bauckham spends many dense pages explaining how the device works in those two authors’ writings (pp. 132-45; 150-54). This is not to say that Luke borrowed from either of them, especially since he lived before them. Rather, the strategy seems to be a topos or commonplace rhetorical tool.
Generally, inclusio is the literary technique of placing corresponding material at the beginning and end of a particular stretch of text (short or long) in order to mark off that section and to say something about the intervening section of text. Inclusio in this general sense is extremely common in ancient literature. So readers of Luke, even if they did not know of the specific device of the inclusio of eyewitness testimony, would be very open to spotting inclusios (see the article on Mark's Gospel for more explanation: Q-&-A's Two and Three).
4. How does this inclusio involve Peter?
By comparison with Luke, Mark uses this strategy to show that Peter is the principal eyewitness. In Luke, Simon (Peter) is the first disciple named, and with the repetition of the same name, Simon, not Peter (Luke 4:38). This chapter and verse (4:38) is quite a suitable point from which to begin material indebted to Peter's witness. Before then, Luke has the birth and temptation and baptism narratives. But as soon as possible Luke mentions the lead disciple who is the principal eyewitness.
Where does Luke’s inclusio end, and how does this compare with Mark’s Gospel? In order to create the appropriate end of the inclusio, Luke has to move the reference to Peter to a point later than in Mark, because Mark stops at the empty tomb. Otherwise, Cleopas would be the last disciple named in Luke’s Gospel. What matters is that Simon (Peter) should be the last disciple named in Luke's narrative (Luke 24:34). This makes the inclusio itself just as striking in Luke as in Mark, though it is true that Luke doesn't name Peter as often within the inclusio.
Bottom line of this Q & A: the fact that Luke has created his own inclusio, not mechanically taken over Mark's, is good evidence that the inclusio was a recognized literary device. Luke must have realized what Mark was doing. If he had simply reproduced Mark's inclusio, we could easily suppose he had just accidentally taken it over in the course of incorporating Mark's narrative in his own. But Luke used this narrative device in his own way.
5. Do women have their own inclusio of eyewitness testimony?
Yes. Luke names three women: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, along with some unnamed women (8:2-3). They are juxtaposed to the Twelve (8:1). In 24:10, Luke again mentions women by name: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and “others” (feminine plural). The latter Mary has replaced Susanna.
These specific names and their placement are unique to Luke, compared with Matthew and Mark. At the end of Mark's Gospel, he merely names some women and says they had followed Jesus from Galilee ( 15:40-41), and Matthew does the same with a slightly different list (27:55-56). Neither author names women at the beginning of Jesus’ Galilean ministry, next to the Twelve. Only Luke does.
6. What is the significance of Luke’s inclusio of eyewitness testimony?
First, Peter takes priority as the principal eyewitness. Bauckham writes: “Following Mark, Luke has made sure that Simon Peter is both the first and the last disciple to be individually named in his Gospel ( 4:38; 24:34), thus acknowledging the incorporation of the Petrine [adjective of Peter] witness” (p. 131).
Second, Bauckham says in the same paragraph that women are placed in their own inclusio. “But within the Petrine inclusio [Luke] has also placed another inclusio, that of the women, only somewhat less inclusive than Peter’s; and it is surely significant that near the end of this inclusio Luke 24:6 reminds his readers that they have been disciples of Jesus attending to Jesus’ teaching throughout his narrative since the opening of the inclusio in 8:2-3. The implication is surely that Luke owed some of his special traditions to one (most likely Joanna) or more than one of them” (p. 131).
Bottom line to this Q & A: naming the same persons at the beginning and end of a narrative means that they are the principal eyewitnesses.
7. Are there eyewitnesses other than the Twelve?
In Q & A Eleven in the article on Matthew’s Gospel, we saw that the Twelve were responsible for the overall shape of the stories about Jesus. This is true in Mark’s and Luke’s Gospels. But have you, like me, ever wondered why some names are included in the Gospels and others excluded or anonymous? An example is Cleopas and an unnamed disciple (Luke 24:13-35).
It is clear from that reference that Luke takes up a large part of the Easter story with these two disciples, but why is only Cleopas named? Bauckham offers the answer that, to me, had been hiding in plain view: “There seems no plausible reason for naming him other than to indicate that he was the source of this tradition” (p. 47). But why was not the disciple with Cleopas named? Probably because he dropped out of sight in the sources to which Luke had access in the early Christian movement, or the anonymous disciple did not play as prominent a role as Cleopas did.
Who was Cleopas? Bauckham replies:
He is very probably the same person as Clopas, whose wife Mary appears at the cross in John 19:25. Clopas is a very rare Semitic form of the Greek name Cleopas, so rare that we can be certain this is the Clopas who . . . was the brother of Jesus’ father Joseph and the father of Simon [not Peter], who succeeded his cousin James [half-brother of Jesus] as leader of the Jerusalem church. (p. 47; see church historian Eusebius [c. 265-c. 339 AD, but see link] History of the Church:3.11;4.22.4)
What was Jesus’ uncle’s role in the earliest Jesus movement? Again, Bauckham plausibly explains: “Cleopas / Clopas was doubtless one of the relatives of Jesus who played a prominent role in the Palestinian Jewish Christian movement. The story Luke tells would have been essentially the story Cleopas himself told about his encounter with the risen Jesus. Probably it was one of many traditions of the Jerusalem church which Luke incorporated in his work” (p. 47).
Zacchaeus is also mentioned in Luke alone (19:1-10). His call to discipleship took place in Jericho, which is at most within a day’s walking distance from Jerusalem (Cleopas saw the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus, another town also at most within a day’s walking distance from the capital). It is not at all improbable that Zacchaeus went to Jerusalem occasionally and told his story, which Luke collected directly or indirectly and put in his larger story about Jesus. Luke was quite familiar with the Jerusalem church, as all the names connected to it attest in Acts (Bauckham pp. 297-98).
Why didn’t Matthew and Mark put the stories of Cleopas and Zacchaeus in their Gospels? Writing at different times and places, the two Gospel authors probably did not have access to these disciples’ eyewitness testimony. It can be that simple.
8. Did Mary provide some traditions for the Infancy narrative?
Why would she not tell her story? It would be rather odd if she had remained silent! She was part of the Jerusalem church (Acts 1:14, with Jesus’ half-brothers), and Luke had knowledge of this lead church. He somehow collected Mary’s story and put it in his Gospel, just as he incorporated Cleopas’ and Zacchaeus’ eyewitness testimonies. The Infancy narratives in both Matthew and Luke have a huge body of scholarly literature behind them, so in an article like this one I would not dare to figure out which is the core of the story that Mary passed on, though these verses in Luke seem like good candidates for further study: 1:26-56; 2:4-7, 19; 21-49.
Also, as we already saw in an article on oral traditions in this series (Gospel Traditions: Melt in your mouth?), in Kenneth Bailey’s very important study on transmitting oral traditions (here), poetic oral traditions were passed on precisely, with very few or no changes at all. Could it be that the prophetic songs of Mary and Zechariah were clearly remembered and accurately transmitted because their songs were poetic? Scholars seem to believe that the songs are half-fictions and half-commentaries on Old Testament passages, such as Hannah’s Prayer (1 Samuel 2:1-10). But can they not be both modeled on Old Testament songs and accurately embody Mary’s and Zechariah’s own songs? Does the nature of poetic oral transmission offer an alternative explanation to the half-fiction, half-commentary scenario, advanced by many scholars?
9. But what do the critics say about Mary's eyewitness testimony?
One of the foremost scholars of the New Testament doubts that Mary or Joseph is responsible for any part of the narratives in Luke (Mary’s point of view) and in Matthew (Joseph’s point of view) (Fitzmyer, vol. 1, pp. 304-08). Fitzmyer acknowledges that Matthew and Luke “both depend on a certain body of information in the tradition that existed prior to their writing . . . the details that they share must be regarded as derived from an earlier tradition” (p. 306). But he denies that Luke got his version even indirectly from Mary and Matthew from Joseph because Luke omits elements like the Magi and the flight to Egypt, and Matthew knows nothing of the census of Quirinius.
In reply, however, figuring out why one Gospel includes or excludes data is endless. Luke and Matthew had access to different traditions, some of which surely came from different living transmitters, so of course there would be variations. Further, the storytelling strategy of Matthew and Luke differs. Luke alternates between the scenes of John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ births, but Matthew omits even one reference to John in Jesus’ birth story. Though uncovering the why of omitting and admitting information into a Gospel is tenuous, this alternation between Jesus and John explains, perhaps, why Luke omits the flight to Egypt and the visit of the magi. Luke decided to focus on Jesus and John – and Matthew on Jesus alone. Thus, if Luke had depicted the holy family going down to Egypt, then this would disrupt the parallels, along with the parallels between Simeon and Anna (2:25-38).
In any case, at least a few scholars say that Mary passed on the birth story about her son: “Here at least, many feel required to posit an ultimate source for Luke’s information (Mary herself, as the first witness) as well as intervening stages in the developing tradition” (Minear, p. 128). This is reasonable. In my opinion, it is very probable that much of Mary’s own story was retained and transmitted accurately.
10. Does Luke include mission and divine authority, as Matthew and Mark do?
Yes. Luke follows the same storyline developed in the other two and John. In fact, the Spirit and the commissioning of the disciples to be eyewitnesses is the key to the storyline. In John 20:21-22, for example, Jesus breathes on the disciples so that they receive the Spirit, in the context of Jesus’ sending them on a mission. But the connection between Christ’s own empowerment with the Spirit and his authority and power that he gives to the disciples is a theme – and reality – that is developed in Luke much more fully than in the other three Gospels.
In Luke, the storyline begins at the birth of Jesus, in the power of the Spirit (1:35 and 2:27). Then the storyline, in Luke and the other three, goes to Jesus’ baptism, during which it is said that he will baptize with the Spirit (Luke 3:16). Now Luke develops the storyline more fully than the other three, recording Jesus’ promise to send what the Father had also promised (the Spirit), so the disciples will be “clothed with power from on high” (24:49). Jesus himself explicitly connects the Spirit with their being his witnesses: “and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his [the Christ’s] name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (24:47-48).
However, in between Jesus’ birth and baptism (beginning) and ascension (ending), he commissions the Twelve, who are the authorities and originators of the development and the overall shape of the grand story about Jesus; they first receive his “power” and “authority” and first preach his message (9:1-6). Next, only Luke has the commissioning of the seventy-two, who work the miracles of the kingdom, which are clear evidences that the Spirit is with them (10:1-24). Then, to go past the Gospel of Luke and into the Book of Acts, the Eleven fill the place vacated by Judas with another disciple who was an eyewitness from the beginning (Acts 1:12-26). Finally, the ascended Jesus empowers about one hundred and twenty disciples (Acts 1:15; 2:1-4). They receive the Spirit at Pentecost.
So here’s the bottom line on this Q & A: Jesus calls the Twelve. They are the foundation in their eyewitness testimony and close proximity to Jesus, in his special call of them. Then the Eleven in Acts reestablish their number to twelve, in the context of Spirit-empowered mission and eyewitness testimony. Then in both Luke and Acts, the eyewitnesses are expanded to seventy-two (Luke) and about one hundred and twenty (Acts), all in the context of Spirit-empowered mission and eyewitness testimony, though perhaps many among the seventy-two and one hundred and twenty were not with Jesus from the beginning. But the Twelve form the authoritative foundation of Spirit-led leadership and eyewitness testimony.
11. Did the disciples’ first mission train them how to pass on traditions?
Yes. Jesus sent out the Twelve (and seventy-two) without him. Surely this trained them to teach accurately what he had taught and to imitate closely what he had done. Surely they wanted to get things right. Does this mean that he sent them out for the express and only purpose of learning how to pass on traditions? No, of course not. Their mission was to minister to people. However, to judge from the cultural interaction between a master and his students, the net result is clear: the students accurately and reliably handed on his teachings and deeds – the Gospel traditions – during their first mission and then after his crucifixion (and resurrection and ascension) on their second, lifelong mission.
See the article on Matthew (Q & A Twelve in that link) for a fuller discussion.
12. So what’s the bottom line for the historical reliability of Luke’s Gospel?
In this Q & A and the next, I include a brief comparison with the Gnostic texts.
The Gospel of Luke is based squarely on the eyewitness testimony of the followers of Jesus from the beginning of his ministry in Israel, about four decades before the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD. Also, the Infancy narrative is probably based in large part on Mary’s testimony about her son’s birth. So, the Gospel does not flow out of the collective imagination and faint memory of anonymous disciples who never witnessed Jesus’ ministry, contrary to what more skeptical scholarship has asserted over much of the twentieth century.
Thus, in our analysis of Luke, we briefly looked at Acts and the Gospel of John (and see the article on the Gospel of Mark). Both John and Luke agree that eyewitness testimony has a special status in their Gospels. Why is Luke’s and John’s agreement significant? Bauckham answers that question:
Evidently in the early Christian movement, a special importance attached to the testimony of disciples who had been eyewitnesses of the whole ministry of Jesus, from the beginning when John was baptizing to Jesus’ resurrection appearances. This was a necessary qualification for membership of the Twelve, but there were also other disciples who fulfilled the qualification and whose witness would have been especially valuable for that reason. (p. 116)
Luke follows the commonsense notion that the closer one gets to the source – in this case, to Jesus’ ministry – the more likely this proximity works as a bulwark against error and for truth and reliability. Does this mean that a distance between the original events and a later account always and necessarily implies error? No, but the danger of error seeping into an account increases, especially when a writer in antiquity does not have access to reliable eyewitnesses who participated in the remarkable and memorable events.
In a corollary opposite way, the closer a concerned and honest researcher or follower gets to the original, the more accurate his or her testimony becomes, particularly when his or her testimony comes from his or her full participation; he or she is not the same as a casual bystander who may have seen a miracle or heard a teaching, for example, and then moved on down the dusty road.
The Gnostic “gospels” and writings do not enjoy this privileged proximity to the first eyewitnesses and to Jesus himself, so these texts lurch over into flights of fancy and errors, compared to the four Biblical Gospels. Plus, the heretical (not in quotation marks) authors seem to have intended not to research the life-story of Jesus, but to go their own way and advance their own ideas derived from many sources other than Jesus' real-life ministry and reliably transmitted traditions.
13. What does all of this mean to the authorship and date of the Gospel of Luke?
The evidence in the early church is very strong that Luke, a companion of Paul and a doctor, wrote the Gospel. The early church’s opinion is all the more believable because the fathers did not assign the Gospel to a lead apostle or any original apostle, as if to “fudge” the truth just to secure the Gospel’s authorship by a famous disciple.
As to the date, we should probably place the Gospel in a timeframe that pleases most scholars: sometime in the AD 70’s, after the destruction of the temple, but I’m open to an earlier one. Thus, if Luke wrote Acts in the 60’s (shortly after Paul’s death under Nero, who ruled AD 54-68), and if Luke wrote the Gospel before Acts, which seems likely, then the composition of the Gospel comes before the destruction of the temple.
However, I believe that questions of authorship and dates, though important, take second place to eyewitness testimony in the Gospel, provided we do not adopt really late dates, like the last decade of the first century and first decade of the second century. Luke did his homework. He valued the eyewitness testimony of those who had followed Jesus from the beginning. For me, that’s enough to secure Luke’s (and Acts’) historical reliability, for we have traveled back to the earliest stages of the Gospel traditions, back to the words and voice of Jesus himself.
14. What does all of this mean to the Church of all denominations?
We need to be confident about Scripture. There is nothing wrong with telling anyone who inquires that the Gnostic texts do not measure up to the Biblical Gospels. Whoever authored and then collected the Nag Hammadi "gospels" and writings had a tin ear for storytelling, particularly stories rooted in history and in the reports of the earliest (and honest) eyewitnesses. In the big picture, though, discussing Gnosticism would not have been necessary if today's promoters of these texts had not pushed them too far onto the public.
Most importantly, from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry – even from his birth for some eyewtinesses – his movement has expanded worldwide today, along a single storyline of the Spirit and the Commission. And each of the earliest disciples who were with Jesus from the beginning, such as the Twelve and many women, some named, in the Gospel of Luke, had their story to tell.
This article has three companion pieces in the series:
References and Further Reading
See Part Two in the series: "Archaeology and the Synoptic Gospels: Which way do the rocks roll?"
See also Part Three: “Archaeology and the Gospel of John: Is skepticism chic passé?”
All of these next references are scholarly, except, perhaps, Mark D. Roberts’ blog entries, which are intended for the laity.
Loveday Alexander. The Preface to Luke’s Gospel: Literary Convention and Social Context in Luke 1.1-4 and Acts 1.1. Cambridge UP, 1993.
Kenneth E. Bailey. “Middle Eastern Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels.” The Expository Times 106 (1995) 12:263-67. This is the later, shorter version
---. “Informal Controlled Oral Traditions and the Synoptic Gospels.” This is the earlier, longer version; read this for the more thorough analysis.
Richard Bauckham. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. Eerdmans, 2006.
Joseph A. Fitzmyer, SJ. The Gospel According to Luke (I-IX). Doubleday, 1981.
Paul S. Minear. “Luke’s Use of the Birth Stories.” Studies in Luke-Acts. Eds. L. E. Keck and J. Louis Martyn. Fortress, 1980. Pp. 111-30.
Mark D. Roberts. “Gospel Authorship by Mark and Luke: Some Implications.” July 2006.
---. “Did the Gospel Writers Know Jesus Personally?” Section A.
---. “Did the Gospel Writers Know Jesus Personally?” Section B.
---. “Did the Gospel Writers Know Jesus Personally?” Section C.
See my series Miracles and New Testament Studies:
Part One: Miracles and New Testament Studies
Part Four: Miracles and the Laws of Nature
Part Five: Do Miracles Happen Today?
This series has been updated and posted at biblicalstudies.org.uk (look under Hosted Articles, Authors A-B).
My contribution to the discussion on women:
Women, Class, and Society in Early Christianity: Models from Luke-Acts. Hendrickson, 1997.
* Note to the translation of Luke 1:1 and 4 in Q & A One. I selected events (plural of pragma in v. 1) because BDAG (p. 859) cites that definition, as well as deeds for v. 1. Also, in v. 4, I selected the words of the gospel because BDAG (p. 600) says that the plural of logos is “also used gener[ically] of Christian teachings, the words of the gospel”; the lexicon then cites Luke 1:4. This makes sense. Theophilus, though his identity is unknown to us today, seems to have been already instructed (note the verb tense of “taught”) in the basics of Christian teachings. But of the gospel has been put in parentheses because they are not specifically in the verse in Greek. Thus, for both verses 1 and 4, I believe that a complementary pairing of words and deeds is intended, so translating the two different Greek words merely as things, as the New International Version does, does not catch the pairing.