Lectionary Year B
December 29, 2002
Luke 2:22-40

Step III: Composition

A. Immediate Context

(JFC) Pre - The first 21 verses of Luke 2 tell of Joseph and Mary's going to Bethlehem to be registered and the annunciation to the shepherds of the Savior being born there at this time. The shepherds report to Mary after the birth what the angel had said, re: the birth. All who heard these reports were amazed. Mary pondered them.

Post - The final 11 verses of Luke 2 tell of the Holy Family's going annually to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. When they left to return home, Jesus stayed behind to listen to and dialogue with the teachers in the Temple. When the lad Jesus explained that he had to be learning there with those instructors, more amazement resulted and Mary is said to have treasured these sayings in her heart, while Jesus returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient as he grew in wisdom and stature and in divine and human favor.

B. Organization of the Compositional Whole

(JFC) As previous essays have written: we might divide the Gospel of Luke into four major parts: 1) John the Baptist's and Jesus' births and early lives, 1:1-3:38; 2) Jesus' ministry (in Galilee) of teaching, preaching, healing, working miracles and associating with people, mostly people in need, 4:14-9:50; 3) Jesus' journeying toward Jerusalem, still teaching, preaching, healing, etc., 9:51-19:27; and 4) Jesus in Jerusalem for His trial, death, burial and resurrection, 19:28-24:53, where, also, more teachings and His actual crucifixion, as in this week's text. In The Good News According to Luke, Eduard Schweizer singles out 3:1-9:50 and names it, "The Growth of the Community". Obviously, Luke writes more of Jesus' going toward and suffering in Jerusalem than other stages of His life and ministry. Some commentaries divide Jesus' passion, His death and resurrection appearances, but I combine them together, as does Schweizer. And a few others separate out the preparations for Jesus' ministry, 3:1-4:14. As Joseph A. Fitzmyer contends, in The Anchor Bible Commentary, Luke intended to further the historical developments of Israel in the Old Testament. Frederick W. Danker, in Jesus and the New Age, According to St. Luke, A Commentary on the Third Gospel, notes 1:1-4, how it might lead us to conclude Luke writes for one or for only a few in authority. Thereupon, Danker immediately expands his opinion of Luke's purpose by stating that Luke writes for "a broader circle of readers, who are to receive further instruction and resources for evaluating especially theological issues." Luke seems to want to inform the faithful people how their God intends for them to live.

C. Issues of Authorship

(JFC) As previous exegeses have noted, the Gospel of Luke is composed, admittedly, not by eyewitnesses, rather it depends on second and/or third hand repeated reports of those who were on the scenes when events happened (1:2). Plummer in ICC says it was written by a Gentile for Gentiles. Recently published commentaries tend to doubt the author of the Third Gospel is the companion of Paul (Philemon 24), and/or the physician (Colossians 4:14), though, many still do consider that he was the author of the Book of Acts, too. Most scholars date this Gospel's origin after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem (21:20-24) and after Mark's Gospel was written (c. 65-70). And, William Baird, The Interpreter's One Volume Commentary on the Bible, writes, "Since the situation of the Church reflected in the Gospel fits well the political situation of the reign of the emperor Domitian (81-96) a date from about 85 to 95 is most likely." Mark Alan Powell, in What Are They Saying About Luke, observes that, "Luke seems to have an affinity for parallel references to men and women. . . the Sabbath healings of a woman (13:10-17) and a man (14:1-6), . . ." among other examples cited. What's more, Luke seems to be, "the work of a consummate literary artist. Jerome recognizes this fact quite clearly, referring to Luke as the most skilled writer among the Evangelists," as Fred Craddock says in "Luke, Introduction," Harper's Bible Commentary. Also, the Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels in the Jerusalem Bible states, "Luke is at once a most gifted writer and a man of marked sensibility (could they have said, "sensitivity"? I think I could.) . . . Luke, in Dante's phrase, is 'the faithful recorder of Christ's lovingkindness'. . . Luke's (Greek) is mixed: when writing independently it is excellent but out of respect for his sources he incorporates their imperfections - after polishing them a little. . ."

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