Luke’s Resurrection chapter: its ties to the Infancy stories, Acts and Marcion

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by Neil Godfrey

Continuing notes from Tyson’s Marcion and Luke-Acts . . . . Last post looked at Tyson’s arguments for the Infancy Narratives in the Gospel of Luke, this one at the final chapter with the Resurrection appearances.

Notes below that are in italics are my own additions and not, as far as I recalled at the time, from Tyson’s book.

Tyson argues that Luke 24 begins by relying on Mark’s gospel (although heavily re-written) before launching into new material. The new material has affinities with the Infancy Narratives, and contains signs that it was also written with Acts in mind, and that it was above all written as a response to Marcionism.

This is part of Tyson’s argument that Luke-Acts as we have know their canonical forms were written in the second century as a response to Marcionism. The author built on an “original Luke” that was known also to Marcion.

Luke 24:1-11

The canonical author of Luke 24:1-11 used the Gospel of Mark 16:1-8 as a source but at the same time substantially re-worked that material. Major differences from the Gospel of Mark are in bold type.

1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.

2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.

3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.

4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:

5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?

6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,

7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

8 And they remembered his words,

9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.

10 It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.

11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.

Links with Infancy Narratives

The reverential mythical tone that marks the Infancy Narratives returns with the description of the women responding appropriately to the two angels. In place of the bare bones account in Mark’s gospel we have the fleshing out of narrative with the women bowing their faces to the earth.

Anticipation of Acts

The references to

  1. an unspecified number of extras with both the women and the eleven apostles,
  2. and to “the eleven” as the number of apostles

prepare the reader for Acts. Acts will narrate how the complement of twelve apostolic witnesses was incomplete, and in need of a new appointee. The references to the pool of extras prepares the reader to understand that there was a pool of suitable candidates available who had been with the apostles and had been witnesses of the resurrection.

Jesus is called here “Lord Jesus”, a title found more commonly in Acts.

As a Response to Marcionism

There is specific reference to “the body” of Jesus.

There is no reference to a Galilee appearance. The Markan reference to Galilee has been turned from a venue where Jesus was to appear to the disciples to the place where he foretold his Passion and resurrection. The resurrection will be in Jerusalem to stress the ties of Jesus to the Jewish religion (which Marcion rejected).

Luke 24:12

With Luke 24:12 we have a sudden departure from the Markan source. The canonical author has turned to something else now. Verse 12 is problematic for a number of reasons.

12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

This verse sits awkwardly between the narrative contents of verses 11 (where the women report to a number of people) and 13 (where two of that larger number later leave for their home).

Peter leaves perplexed, as if he has no idea what might have happened, as if he has not heard of the report of the women who relayed the angels’ explanation.

Later (verses 22-24) there is a summary of these morning events that mention the visit of the women to the tomb, and then of “some others” (not a singular Peter) from among the apostles and others who went in response to the women’s report.

The same summary says that these men found the situation at the tomb “exactly as the women had said”. This does not fit the description of Peter’s visit here, who sees folded clothes that have not been mentioned before, but sees no angels, and who leaves confused.

In verse 34 we hear that the resurrected Jesus has appeared to Peter, but there is no resurrection appearance to Peter described here.

The debate over the originality of this verse continues, however. I personally prefer the explanation that says it has been introduced by an early copyist (as early as the second century) from the Gospel of John.

Luke 24:13-34

The sections in bold type point to the main features discussed in relation to the themes of linking this chapter with the Infancy Narratives and Acts, and in viewing it as a response to Marcionism.

13 And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.

14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.

15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.

16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.

17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?

18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?

19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:

20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.

21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.

22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;

23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.

24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.

25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:

26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?

27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.

29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.

30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.

31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.

32And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,

34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.

Links with Infancy Narratives

Although somewhat diminished after the composing and editing of 23 chapters (author fatigue), there is a return to the tone of the semi-mythical idyllic world of ancient days of Scripture with the Emmaus episode:

  1. Emmaus reminds the reader (familiar with the Septuagint) of the name of the place where Jacob received his vision of angels,
  2. and the scene of travellers meeting a divine being without recognizing his identity is one found throughout Genesis, Joshua and Judges,
  3. and the image of the divine messenger disappearing at the moment of recognition is familiar from the story of Samson’s parents.

See an earlier Emmaus Road post for details.

Compare the strong allusions to other stories from 1 Samuel (the appearance of an angel to the mother of Samuel), the appearance of the names of Abraham, Asher, David, Elijah, Jacob, Aaron, Abijah and Moses, and the starkly narrated cultic piety of the characters, that all contribute to the link between the Infancy Narratives and the world legend in the Jewish Scriptures.

The heavy emphasis on the events being the fulfilment of the Jewish Scriptures is picked up again in this chapter. It had not been totally absent in the main body of the gospel, but it is only here and in the first two chapters that it is elaborated as a dominant theme.

Anticipation of Acts

The setting of Jerusalem prepares for Jerusalem being the base of the twelve apostles in Acts.

The reference to the eleven apostles and others with them prepares for Acts explaining how the number was restored to twelve from a pool of suitable candidates who had been with the apostles.

The central importance of the “proof from Scriptures” is introduced here in relation to the suffering of Jesus. Specific passages in the Jewish scriptures are not cited — it appears that the author of canonical Luke-Acts regarded all passages in Isaiah and the Psalms that referred to suffering to be prophecies of Christ.

The leadership of Simon Peter is established here with Peter said to be the first to see the resurrected Jesus.

As a Response to Marcionism

The association of the resurrection appearance on the Emmaus Road with Old Testament narratives of divine visitors appearing unrecognized to the godly.

The focus on Jerusalem, the centre of Judaism, as the base for the resurrection appearances and beginnings of Christianity.

The reassurance that Jesus was the one who came to redeem Israel, that is, that he was the Messiah of Jewish expectation, and not from an Alien God and quite apart from the promised Messiah of the lesser god Yahweh.

The central importance of the apostles, and especially of Peter, their leader, who was the first one to see the resurrected Jesus. (Presumably the canonical author took this information from Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15. There were no stories of a resurrection appearance to Peter, so the author found the easier solution to refer to it as a past event off-stage.) Thus the authority of Peter is established. (Marcion declared the twelve and Peter to be false apostles.)

The central message that all that happened to Jesus was the fulfilment of the Jewish Scriptures, as found in Moses and the Prophets. Specific passages in the Jewish scriptures are not cited — it appears that the author of canonical Luke-Acts regarded all passages in Isaiah and the Psalms that referred to suffering to be prophecies of Christ.

Note that the empty tomb and resurrection appearances are not the central message of this chapter. Rather, these form only a setting for the real point: the message that Jesus Christ fulfilled the Scriptures. (Tyson refers here to Paul Schubert’s studies.)

Marcion rejected the relevance of the Jewish Bible. He read the Jewish Scriptures literally, not allegorically, and denied their application to Jesus. He considered allegorical readings that applied them to Jesus was a form of Judaizing heresy.

Luke 24:35-40

Luke 24:35-40 puzzled Tertullian because Marcion did not expunge it from his gospel, yet it appeared to contradict the teaching of Marcion.

35 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.

36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.

38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?

39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.

Marcion’s gospel

Marcion’s Jesus does say: “Look at my hands and my feet . . . a spirit does not have bones as you see I have”. Tertullian claimed that Marcion interepreted “as you see me having” to refer to “a spirit”, not to “bones”. This way, Tertullian complained, Marcion interpreted Jesus to mean that he was a spirit body (as the disciples could see) and did not have bones.

For more details of Marcion’s gospel, see an earlier Marcion’s Gospel post.

For further notes on the different ancient understandings of “soulish” and “spiritual” bodies after death, see the discussion of Riley’s work in an earlier Resurrection post.

Luke 24:41-53

41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?

42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish.

43 And he took it, and did eat before them.

44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,

46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

48 And ye are witnesses of these things.

49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.

50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.

51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:

53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

Links with Infancy Narratives

The Infancy Narratives begin the story of Jesus in Jerusalem and the Temple, and Luke 24 completes an inclusio by concluding the story likewise in Jerusalem and the Temple.

There is a strong emphasis on terms that point to the physicality, the humanity, of Jesus (despite his miraculous birth) in the Infancy Narratives, and there is a similar emphasis in this chapter on the physicality of Jesus in his resurrected condition.

The dominant theme in both the Infancy Narratives and here is that Jesus fulfilled the Jewish Scriptures.

Anticipation of Acts

There is focus on Jerusalem as the base for the beginning of Christianity. Here Jesus tells the apostles to remain in Jerusalem, and in Acts we see them still based there as late as Acts 8 (after all others have fled because of persecution) and again in Acts 15.

It is in Jerusalem that they are promised the gift of the Father here, and that is fulfilled in Acts 2.

The apostles are here said to have spent their time in the Temple, and in the earlier chapters of Acts we still see them preaching there.

The apostles and those with them were qualified as witnesses of his resurrection and ascension to heaven.

The central message that all that happened to Jesus was the fulfilment of the Jewish Scriptures, as found in Moses, the Prophets and the Palms. (Does this suggest knowledge of a canon? If so, this would make better sense if canonical Luke were composed in the second century as Tyson argues.)

Specific passages in the Jewish scriptures are not cited — it appears that the author of canonical Luke-Acts regarded all passages in Isaiah and the Psalms that referred to suffering to be prophecies of Christ.

Note that the empty tomb and resurrection appearances are not the central message of this chapter. Rather, these form only a setting for the real point: the message that Jesus Christ fulfilled the Scriptures. (Marcion rejected this. He read the Jewish Scriptures literally, not allegorically, and denied their application to Jesus. He considered allegorical readings that applied them to Jesus was a form of Judaizing heresy.)

As a Response to Marcionism

The physicality of Jesus is stressed with his eating before the apostles and the others.

The authority of the apostles — as witnesses of the resurrection, ascension and having been taught a correct understanding of the Scriptures — is clearly presented here. Marcion, of course, thought of the twelve as false apostles.

The importance of Jesus being the fulfilment of the Jewish Scriptures is a central theme. This Marcion denied absolutely. There may even be a hint of a knowledge of a canon with the reference to Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms here – in which case the case for a second century date for Luke is further supported.

The centrality of Jerusalem figures prominently, thus setting the importance of Christianity’s links with the Jewish religion, contrary to Marcion’s teaching.

The themes raised by Marcion

  1. Jewish Scriptures were ignorant of Jesus (to read them allegorically was to Judaize Christianity)
  2. The physical world was subject to the lesser god of this world, the creator of the Jewish Scriptures. Jesus was spirit in his resurrection, not physical.
  3. The twelve apostles were false apostles. Paul, only, understood the gospel of Christ.
  4. The Christian religion had no Jewish ties at all, but came from a higher Alien God and his messenger.

Contrast canonical Luke-Acts with

  1. its focus on the centrality of the Jewish Scriptures as the foundation upon which lay the proofs of Jesus Christ;
  2. Luke’s stress on the physical nature of Jesus, both at birth and at his resurrection;
  3. the authority given the twelve apostles, and Peter;
  4. the stress on Christianity as being born from the matrix, and being the fulfilment of, the Jewish religion.

Next: a look at the Preface of Luke’s gospel . . . .

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Neil Godfrey

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7 thoughts on “Luke’s Resurrection chapter: its ties to the Infancy stories, Acts and Marcion”

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  3. “Luke” has not invented the story, but grabbed it from a prior source and shoehorned it into the bed of Procrustes furnished by the synoptic narrative also found in Mk and Mt.

    The origin is a midrash on genesis 3. Like the serpent, Jesus instructs the ignorant (anoetoi) disciples and instigates them to devour some specific item of food, whereupon their eyes are opened. The disciples realize that their senses had previously been dysfunctional, and they finally understood something about Scripture and the Christ. Prevbiously, they had believed in a military leader like the Maccabean bros, Judas Gaulonites, Ben Yair, Lukuas, or Artemion.

    This underlines the provenience of the Eucharist from an antinomianist interpretation of the Book of Genesis. To make the Jews swallow the eucharist, it was necessary to trick them into believing that the sacrament was instituted not by the serpent, but by some person whose advent was predicted by scripture and would fulfil it, not negate it.

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