Imagine for a moment that the author of the Luke knew the gospel of John.
Some scholars have argued on the basis of close textual comparisons that the Gospel of Luke was written after, and used, the Gospel of John. (e.g. Matson, Shellard, et al) A few others also believe our canonical Luke was written very late, some time in the first half of the second century, and this would support the possibility that the author of Luke knew and used the gospel of John.
John’s gospel describes two disciples, one named and the other unnamed, wandering off together (“to their own homes”) after finding the tomb of Jesus empty as they had been told. The named disciple is Simon Peter (20:6). It also claims Mary Magdalene was the first to see the resurrected Jesus.
Luke describes a post resurrection scene where two disciples, one named and the other unnamed, are walking together to a village outside Jerusalem. (We learn in the course of the narrative that their destination village is the home of at least one of them.)
To address the easy difference first: Luke also claims, contra John, that Mary Magdalene did not linger at the empty tomb but returned to the other disciples. Is the author directly and intentionally contradicting the claim found in John? Is he disputing the identity of the first to see the resurrected Jesus as a result of some theological rivalry that involved respective founding figures such as Mary, Thomas, Peter?
But the more interesting contact between the two gospels concerns two disciples wandering off together after seeing the empty tomb.
In both Luke and John there are two disciples, one named and the other anonymous, walking together back to their home(s) after seeing or hearing about the empty tomb. (John 20:3-10 and Luke 24:13:34)
The named disciple in John is Simon Peter. The named disciple in Luke is Cleophas. Cleophas does not sound so far removed from Cephas, an Aramaic name having the same meaning as the Greek Peter, and whom in 1 Cor.15:5 we read was the first to see the resurrected Jesus. (I have discussed in an earlier post the possibility of Cleophas being a deliberate pun by the author of Luke.)
The possibility that Cleophas was a pun used by the author to withhold from his audience the identity of the disciple until the end (I cite a few arguments for this possibility in that earlier post lined in the above paragraph) is rarely considered by readers who approach the gospels for “historical” information and to find out exactly “what happened”.
But if we read Luke through the known good story-telling literary devices of his time, as a story told by an author who knew the tricks of holding and teasing an audience, then a different view of the identity of Cleophas emerges.
When Luke is read as a good story using the tricks of novelists then we strengthen the possibility that the mention of Simon at the end of that Emmaus road narrative is the author’s climactic announcement to his audience (more than to the eleven) that Cleophas is Simon Peter.
There is another strong indication that Luke is in direct dialogue with the gospel of John:
— In Luke, Cleophas gives a summary of what had transpired that morning, but not all the details are found in that gospel. They are only otherwise known from a reading of John. (The visit of the 2 disciples to the tomb is narrated in John, but told second hand by Cleophas in Luke.)
If his is the case, that Luke is addressing the Gospel of John and audiences who knew that gospel, then some of the problems about the Emmaus passage in Luke 24 that modern interpreters attempt to answer begin to fade away. The audience hearing Luke’s gospel will be wondering about the identity of Cleophas from the beginning. When they read or hear the account in Luke that there were 2 disciples traveling together their first recollection would quite likely be the two disciples wandering off to their homes that they knew from John. So the introduction of the name Cleophas (not unlike Cephas) instead of Simon Peter would have had the audience wondering. I have explained this technique used in Luke in my earlier post — especially in relation to his retelling the Markan account of anointing of Jesus in my earlier post.
If indeed some of the questions surrounding the Emmaus episode in Luke are resolved by the hypothesis that Luke was written after John, and in dialogue with John (and the other gospels too, but that’s again another story), then is not the case for this re-dating Luke strengthened?
Which will bring me back to my discussion from Tyson and the anti-Marcionite agenda for the creation of canonical Luke-Acts.
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