§ 93. Luke’s account

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 3



§ 93.

Luke’s account

C. 24. Acts. 1, 3 -11.

Already before, when Jesus left the last supper with the disciples to the Mount of Olives, He told them that He (Mark 14, 28) would precede them to Galilee after His resurrection. Luke, who wanted all the appearances of the Risen One to take place in and near Jerusalem, therefore had to omit that word of Jesus – we have seen how splendidly he filled the gap – and if the angel’s message to the women should still contain the word Galilee, give this mention a new twist. So the two angels who appear to the women in the open tomb say: He is not here, but has risen; remember what He said to you while He was still in Galilee, when He said: The Son of Man must be crucified and rise again the third day (C. 24, 6.7).

The women must not be believed by the disciples with their message, Jesus Himself must first appear to the disciples in Jerusalem and in the city, so that they are held back in Jerusalem – the Lord therefore appears to them on the day of His resurrection (C. 24, 13. 33. 36) – they must remain here in the city, so that Jesus may ascend to heaven at Bethany, and here the Ascension must take place, so that Jesus may command the disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they receive the power of the Spirit (24:49), and so that then the outpouring of the Holy Spirit itself may take place in the holy city and among the crowd of strangers who were present on account of the Pentecost feast.


The transition from the appearance of the women in the tomb to the appearances of Jesus himself, as well as the transition from the disbelief shown by the disciples towards the women’s message to the conviction they later gained when Jesus appeared before them – first to two, then to eleven – is represented by the curiosity of Peter, who ran to the grave after the women’s message was received poorly, leaned over and saw only the linen cloths (24:12).

It is worth noting that Luke has the women see two angels, because later at the Ascension he places two beside the disciples, and because he deemed the symmetry of the image more fitting with the number two. Indeed, at the Transfiguration, two heavenly figures also appear at the sides of Jesus.

As for Luke’s additions, first of all, the curiosity of Peter, when it was said before that the disciples laughed at the message of the women as foolishness, is very badly placed, and the laughing at the message is again very inappropriate, when the angels reminded the women that Jesus had previously spoken of his resurrection.

The majority of Jesus’ appearances are a disruptive excess, because they drag the resurrected one, who is supposed to sit at the right hand of the Father in heaven, far too tumultuously into the earthly changes of time and place. It is inappropriate that the appearances, though they are secretive, happen right in the midst of Jesus’ opponents during a walk near Jerusalem, in the city itself, and close to the city at Bethany. One appearance is sufficient, and the only appropriate setting for it is the seclusion of Galilee.


It is affected how the two disciples on the walk to Emmaus do not recognize their Lord and only realize who they are dealing with when he breaks bread in the inn. The idea of the solemn expression with which one broke bread in the community during that festive occasion is the underlying concept here and is inappropriate when transferred to this situation. It is affected how Jesus questions the two about the reason for their sadness; it is an insult to the original gospel when Jesus now tells the disciples that all this had to happen so that the scripture would be fulfilled. Has Jesus not taught this before or not sufficiently? Or does Luke have new observations to make on this matter?

It is inappropriate and too sensual when Jesus, upon appearing to the eleven, lets them touch and feel his flesh and bones to convince them of the reality of his person, and when he finally eats fish and honeycomb in front of them for the same purpose. His appearance must be supernatural and momentary.

The extraordinary rapidity with which the Resurrection is followed by the Ascension on the same day is inappropriate, and the confusion that arises from the fact that it is already evening when Jesus arrives with the two at Emmaus is not insignificant. Is it then night when the two return to their brothers and Jesus appears immediately afterward, leading them to Bethany to say goodbye? Luke did not reflect on this.

When Luke closed his Gospel, he was already of the opinion (24:49) that it must be at a certain, thus miraculous, moment when the power from on high seized the disciples; it was certain to him that the disciples would receive this equipping in Jerusalem, so that – as we can now say and as the Evangelist himself indicates, v. 47 – the prophecy of Micah and Isaiah that the salvation of the world would go forth from Jerusalem would be fulfilled. But it was not until he wrote the Acts of the Apostles that he knew how to find out that the Spirit must come upon the disciples at the feast of Pentecost, perhaps because – we are only conjecturing here – in his time the feast of Pentecost was already associated with the law, and it now seemed fitting to him that the proclamation of the new law should begin on this day with Peter’s sermon, or perhaps only because he was mechanically reaching for the next feast, which follows the Passover. Likewise, he had now found out that the Ascension had to happen only after Jesus had shown Himself to the disciples for forty days – forty, the consecrated number of the OT – and had taught them about the Kingdom of God, as if He had not done so sufficiently during His life. (Acts 1, 3.) Now Luke also knows more precisely that Jesus did not ascend to heaven near Bethany in the plain, but rather on the Mount of Olives; it had to happen this way so that Jesus would be glorified on the mountain where Jehovah revealed his power. Zach. 14, 4. Here, at last, Luke brings in what he had not attributed to Mark above in the discourse on the last things (cf. Luk. 17, 37, another variation on this theme), that the disciples ask the Lord when he will restore the kingdom to Israel, and that he answers that it is not their business to know the times which the Father has determined in his authority *) – an inappropriate negotiation in this place, where Jesus already speaks of a date, namely of the one when they would be baptised with the Spirit. Since Luke had already dealt with the saying of Mark on an earlier occasion, could it be that Zechariah, who speaks of the Mount of Olives and of “that hour” in the same context, was responsible for Luke’s again referring to that hour? It is very probable.

*) The original passage Mark 13, 38 is formed after Zachar. 14, 7: καὶ ἡ ἡμέρα ἐκείνη γνωστὴ τῷ Κυρίῳ



§ 11. Chronological Note

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics

by Bruno Bauer

Volume 1



§ 11.

Chronological Note.

It will be useful to remind those who are simultaneously hard and soft-hearted, and capable of such different emotions that they grant belief to Luke without reason but deny it to Matthew, of the chronology in the Gospel of the former.

Matthew did not attempt to address this subject and did not even want to use the information provided by his predecessor. Firstly, he did not have the interest that Luke must have had in chronology, as he did not include the history of the Baptist in the infancy narrative, and thus did not have the urgent need to determine the chronological relationship between the appearance of both men. Secondly, his reflection is so predominantly focused on a specific aspect of the content that all other considerations are irrelevant and disappear. He is preoccupied with the reflection on the relationship between the history of the Messiah and the prophecies of the Old Testament. He demonstrated this relationship in the final part of the infancy narrative, after having already reminded the reader of the prophecy about the future glory of Bethlehem, as a complete conformity between the prophecy and the fulfillment with regard to the localities where the sacred history takes place, and finally explained why the divine child had to come to Nazareth. This was enough for him, and sufficiently so that he even forgets all reflection on time and makes the transition to the account of Mark, which he now incorporates with the words: “In those days came John the Baptist” (Matt. 3:1). He is satisfied if he only knows that Jesus was in Nazareth at the time of the Baptist’s appearance and, after correcting the topography, forgets to orient the reader regarding the time.

Luke is different. After his infancy narrative, he stated that the Baptist was six months older than Jesus and he also indicated in which year of the world’s history Jesus was born – it was the year in which the first census of the Jewish land was taken during the governorship of Quirinius *). It is therefore to be expected of him that at the moment when he jumps from the infancy narrative to the account of Mark, he will also inform us about the age and the year in the world’s history in which Jesus and his predecessor appeared. He does indeed say that the Baptist “began preaching in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip was tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas” (Luke 3:1-2). The well-known hypothesis of Schleiermacher **), which is also followed by Gfrörer ***), that this chronological note belongs to the “memorandum” about John the Baptist, which Luke used for his infancy narrative, and thus it should indicate the “beginning of the activity not of Jesus, but of the Baptist,” no longer stands in our way. If Schleiermacher argues that Luke rather than Matthew provides a chronological determination of the appearance of Christ, we have already responded that Luke’s chronological determination of the appearance of the Baptist also determines the beginning of Jesus’ activity chronologically. Likewise, Luke seems to have meant to give an exact age for the Baptist’s appearance when he stated that Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his public ministry. In Luke’s view, the Baptist only needed a very short time on the stage to point to his successor, and the half-year older age difference seemed to be enough time for the preparatory work of the forerunner.

*) Weisse (evang. Gesch. I, 236.) notes correctly that Luke “knowing that there was a later census of Quirinius, called the first, fresh and good luck, the one that the legend placed in an earlier year.” However, the matter is more sharply defined. It was not the legend that brought the census – which was carried out much later, as Quirinius became governor of Syria only a few years after Herod’s death – into the prehistory and used it as a means to have Jesus born in Bethlehem. We have already explained what to think of such a specific activity of the legend. Luke was the one who first brought the census into the prehistory, and he also had the note in his memory that a census of Quirinius was taken under Herod’s successor. But he needed a census in the time of Herod because he could not find any other way to bring Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, so he helped himself “fresh and good luck” by calling the census that was essential for his pragmatism the first. We will soon have an opportunity to see the confusion that arises when the legend is brought into the more specific development of pragmatism in the way that Weisse has done here.

**) Schl. on the writings of Luke x. 62.

***) He finds “the matter too clear” to “say a word” about it. Heil. Sage I, 101.


Let us examine the chronological statement of Luke, which will give us one stumbling block after another, but no certainty as to when Jesus appeared and when he was born. Its credibility has already become doubtful for criticism, in that it speaks of a prince as a contemporary of Jesus who had already been dead for half a century. Lysanias, the prince of Abilene, had been murdered on the instigation of Cleopatra 34 years before the birth of Christ. Critics have already shown how Luke came to place a Lysanias over Abilene at the time of Jesus. “Obviously,” says Weisse *), “the evangelist (in a whimsical way) aims to name the tetrarchs completely, and since he cannot find any other name for the fourth tetrarchy than that of Lysanias, he simply names him, without it occurring to him to inquire whether this Lysanias was still alive and whether Abilene was still a separate tetrarchy at that time.” He was therefore misled by the name “four princes,” which he took literally, to define four districts of Palestine and to place a prince over each one. For the fourth district, however, he could very easily create a prince, since the name of Lysanias was associated with it, and “even in later times Abilene was still called by the name of the last ruler of the earlier dynasty η Λυσανιον,” from which the evangelist drew the conclusion “that there was still a ruler of this name at that time *).”

*) ev. Gesch. I, 236.

*) Strauss, L. J. I, 375.


Gfrörer admits that a mistake has occurred, but he does not give up his protégé, that imaginary “memoir on the life of the Baptist”. He wants to make it a very old source and bring its author, who “was not very far removed from the events he describes”, to recognition. It is “no small matter,” he thinks **), that “the times of five different rulers or authorities coincide to the year.” And yet it is only a small matter that does not deserve so much fuss. Pontius Pilate, the Herods, Annas, and Caiaphas were already known from the Gospel history – Luke from the Gospel of Mark – that for the statement that Jesus appeared during their time, no old source, no memoir that was very close to that time, was necessary. Those people were already well known to the community by virtue of their involvement in the story of Jesus, they were unforgettable figures of the Gospel history – why would an old guarantor still be needed? A writer only needed to be superficially familiar with history to know that Pilate was governor of Judea during the reign of Tiberius.

**) ibid. p. 105.

We can be sure that the apologist will turn the matter around again. Right! There he is already! He says *), for example, that the chronological statement of Luke about a Lysanias who also ruled over Abilene during the time of Jesus is completely reliable, for “if Luke or the legend were so well informed as to provide five exact time determinations, they must also be able to give the sixth one correctly.”

*) e.g. Hoffmann, das L. I. x. 283.


We have already responded and now have some time left to consider what the apologist meant by bringing “the sage” into play here. He wants to lead criticism to absurdity. “It takes a strong belief in the sage,” he says **), “not to regard it as deliberate if it goes to so much trouble to present itself as history, as the sixfold time determination would betray.” As we can see, we need to go back to the basics of the matter everywhere. If it helps, it doesn’t hurt. The sage had nothing to do with this. Pontius Pilate, the high priests, and the Herodians were firmly established in the community’s view as contemporaries of Jesus, and the information about Lysanias is nothing more than a literary product, hypothesis, combination, and a failed one at that.

The sage – or to put it more accurately – the religious view, is the only thing that has limited the entire activity of the Baptist to a mere indication of the Messiah, condensed into a short period of time, and has now brought his and his greater follower’s appearance so close together that Luke, when he chronologically determines the former, also thinks he must do the same for the latter. Hoffmann himself assumes that “the Baptist’s activity did not require several years ***).” So why all the fuss? Why insinuate that if the chronological mistake regarding Lysanias is attributed to the writer, then the “jump from John to Jesus out of the sage and into the writer is transferred,” and his actions are “deceptive *)?” If the Baptist’s public career was really only brief, then let the apologist calmly accept the fetishistic presentation of the Evangelist! Or let him – as we do – follow the religious historical view of the community and his predecessor Mark without bias, when he condenses the Baptist’s activity into such a short time and gives well-known time determinations, but also take the writer as he is, i.e. as a writer who sometimes allows himself hypotheses that he then has to take on his own account, especially when they are as superfluous as the resurrection of Lysanias this time.

**) Ibid.

***) Ibid. 284.

*) Hoffmann, The Life of Jesus, p. 286.


However, Luke did not simply follow his predecessor Mark without any bias. From Mark’s presentation, we can learn what impartiality and naivete in presentation are. He simply juxtaposes the individual historical events – the appearance of the Baptist, his activity, the baptism and temptation of Jesus, and the latter’s appearance after the imprisonment of John – and does not lose a word about how long the Baptist stood on the historical stage. But he still has a very definite feeling that he should not assign a long period of time for the execution of the Baptist’s mission, and in every reader who sees in his work how the Baptist has barely left the stage with his water baptism and preaching, and Jesus enters to soon take over, he inevitably evokes the view that John only took a short time to fulfill his mission. Luke no longer contented himself with grouping the historical events in such a way that their ideal spread leads to the conclusion of their temporal duration with immediate certainty, but he himself draws the conclusion and limits the Baptist’s activity to the six months by which he is older than his successor.

The note that the Baptist is only six months older than Jesus has lost its value for us all – namely its value from the area where the correctness of chronology is concerned – as it has arisen solely from Luke’s ideal view of the evangelical prehistory and the internal relationship between the Baptist and the Lord. However, it is deprived of all possibility of validity if it is to serve as the standard for the duration of the Baptist’s public activity and here, where its authoritative power comes with the highest demands, it meets its just fate. Strauss indeed admits the possibility that the Baptist “could have achieved in a very short time what he had achieved *).” But it is downright impossible. To Christian belief, the Baptist was only seen as the person who had pointed to the Lord, and according to this assumption, he only needed to appear, point to the coming one, and he could then leave the stage after this direction. His story was only the prelude or prologue to the drama with its richer and more extensive complications that followed. In reality, however, it is different. Pointing to the following is here a preparation of the people that only indirectly relates to the following through detours and through an activity that claims to be independent for some time, i.e., only indirectly related to the following through the hidden dialectic of history. In general, however, a simple spiritual principle always requires a longer period of time before it can intervene and gain influence because it has to work on a manifold, very differently determined mass and can only gradually lift it out of its earlier determinacy, which regularly also proves to be resistance, and subdue it.

*) L. J. I, 381


If we now abandon the report of Luke to the extent that we can no longer assume such a short time between the appearance of the Baptist and Jesus, it could still be possible that both were exactly thirty years old when they entered their public office. However, if we were to hold this coincidence as possible even for a moment, we would have to destroy the entire arrangement of the report, since according to it, John and Jesus were contemporaries, and if one appeared in the fifteenth year of Tiberius, the other’s appearance also falls into the same time. However, we do not even need to separate what is combined in the report in this way since it is only too certain that this age determination of both men is also a product of the ideal conception. “In the thirtieth year,” the law prescribes (Num. 4:3, 47), “the priests and Levites shall enter upon their service in the sanctuary.” Therefore, Luke concludes, John and Jesus also entered upon their sacred office at this age.


Therefore, let us leave the Evangelist’s perspective intact! It will hardly escape the fate of dissolution. Jesus was thirty years old when he was baptized and shortly thereafter appeared in public; his predecessor, who had just been called by God to his work, appeared in the fifteenth year of Tiberius: but how could Jesus have been thirty years old at that time? He was said to have been born in the days of Herod, but the death of this king falls much earlier than that year of Tiberius, and do we know how long before Herod’s death Joseph fled to Egypt with the child, how long he stayed in hiding there? If we count back thirty years from the fifteenth year of Tiberius, we already encounter Archelaus as ruler in Judea, but we never reach Herod. So how could Jesus, if he was born during the lifetime of Herod, have been only thirty years old when he appeared? He had to be at least a few years older.

Therefore, the note of Luke dissolves itself, and indeed through the Evangelist’s own assumptions, for like Matthew, he lets Jesus be born in the days of Herod (Luke 1:5). But perhaps the observation that Jesus appeared in the fifteenth year of Tiberius is correct? How can we, however, consider this time determination as unsuspected or want to use it for the chronology of Jesus’ life, when according to the intention of the Evangelist, it should also indicate the time when the Baptist appeared? Well? Isn’t everything allowed for the apologist? Can he not leave the Baptist out of the game, can he not push the birth of Jesus back a little further, put the note about Jesus’ age when he appeared under the bench, and still — with force, of course! — assume that Jesus began his work around the fifteenth year of Tiberius, more or less? He cannot do it! Because both notes, when and at what age Jesus appeared, are so intertwined that they are only one. When Jesus appeared, that it happened in the fifteenth year of Tiberius: Luke found this note only by halving Jesus’ thirty years and assigning one half to the reign of Tiberius, regardless of whether the other half would reach back to the time of Herod.


So we know nothing, absolutely nothing, about when Jesus appeared or how old he was when he did. All attempts to even roughly determine the chronology in this matter must fail. But do not despair! The apologist calls out to us. Did not Joseph return from Egypt “soon” after his flight from Herod? Did not Joseph and Mary stay in Egypt with the child for “only a short time”? *) We will certainly admire this precise knowledge of history, but we cannot rely on it until the apologist tells us the sources from which it has come. Matthew tells us nothing about the death of Herod occurring “soon” after Joseph’s flight. But didn’t Jesus return from Egypt as a child? As if he had ever even come to this land with his parents! But it would not even help us if we were able to place the birth of Jesus in the last years of the reign of Herod, because if we had to discard one of Luke’s statements about Jesus’ age, we would no longer be entitled to hold on to the other statement about the year of Tiberius in which John the Baptist and Jesus appeared.

*) Neander, ibid. p. 32.


The last help to determine the age at which Jesus began his public ministry seems to come from the fourth Gospel and from Irenaeus. The latter had the view that Jesus was close to the age of fifty when he died. We can of course return the dogmatic reason on which the Church Father relied for his opinion, namely that Jesus had to sanctify and pass through all human ages, as in an investigation like this, we are much more interested in his historical reasons. From the account of the fourth Gospel (John 8:56-57), Irenaeus draws a very secure conclusion, as it seems to him. The Jews are said to have asked Jesus mockingly, “You are not yet fifty years old and have you seen Abraham?” It is clear, Irenaeus says, that if Jesus had only just turned thirty, the Jews would have asked rather: “You are not yet forty years old and you have seen Abraham?” It could not be assumed that they added twenty years to his age, as they wanted to draw attention to the distance between his age and the time of Abraham. Just as interesting as this exegetical proof will be the other one when Irenaeus refers to a very widespread and reliable tradition according to which Jesus was already beyond the age of forty when he taught before the people. “All the elders who had met John, the disciple of the Lord, in Asia, testified that John had handed down the same thing to them *).”

*) Irenaeus, Adv Haer Book II, c. 39, 40

However, Irenaeus cannot forget the testimony of Luke in favor of the testimony of the fourth Gospel. He also does not omit to mediate both statements. Therefore, he says: Jesus was thirty years old when he was baptized; but only afterwards, when he had reached the complete and mature age of a teacher, did he appear publicly in Jerusalem as such. If this age of maturity, as Irenaeus assumes, is at the earliest the age of forty, then there is a period of ten years between the baptism and the public appearance of Jesus.


Even Paulus does not consider it impossible that there were several years between Jesus’ baptism and his public appearance. Weisse *) considers this assumption to be necessary and cites the testimony of the fourth Gospel in support of it. This critic, who has Jesus appearing at a later age, believes that the testimony of Irenaeus to his witnesses is not unbelievable and does not want to dismiss the testimony of the fourth Gospel (8:56). Both support each other **).

However, the situation is such that this statement from the fourth Gospel destroys the testimony of “all the Elders” on which Irenaeus relies and spares us the trouble of examining the “cloud of witnesses” more closely.

Irenaeus still believes that he can reconcile the testimony of the fourth Gospel and that of Luke: Jesus was thirty years old when he was baptized by John, and he was already over forty years old when he taught before the people. But the Gospels also report that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, this governor was deposed one year before the death of Tiberius, and Tiberius reigned for a total of 23 years. Furthermore, if Jesus was baptized at the age of thirty in the fifteenth year of Tiberius, then at the time he appeared after his fortieth year, Tiberius had not only long been dead but Pontius Pilate had also been dismissed from his position. So where does Irenaeus’ hypothesis lead us? Far beyond a statement in the Gospels that seems to be one of the most certain. The death of Jesus would have occurred at a time when Pontius Pilate had long been recalled from Judea.

If this contradiction arises only because one wants to reconcile the testimony of the fourth Gospel with that of the third, and if the latter has already been invalidated for us, then perhaps the former can be better maintained. After all, it is even confirmed by the testimony of all the elders who heard it from John. Although Irenaeus also speaks of others who not only spoke with John but also with other apostles and testified to having heard the same thing from them, we can reasonably ignore this hyperbole, as it can be enough for us to have the same apostle attest to orally what we still read in his Gospel today. We must be content with this, as we do not possess any written testimony from other apostles or elders who heard about such a high age for Jesus. And then it is truly no small matter that we still have control over the meaning in which the author of the fourth Gospel spoke to the elders orally about Jesus’ age!

*) ev. Gesch. I, 276.

**) Ibid. I, 286.


Yes! If only there wasn’t the recent thorough investigation into the tradition of John’s stay in Ephesus and the long duration of his life! But we won’t avoid taking a closer look at the gospel testimony because of it.

Indeed, Irenaeus is completely right in his assertion that it would have been senseless and disproportionate for the Jews to say, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” if Jesus had not yet reached the age of forty. If we came across a similar exclamation in another writer, we could at least infer from their subjective assumptions that they believed the man being addressed was already over forty. However, not with the fourth Evangelist! We are accustomed to him pushing contrasts to the extreme without caring much about their validity. He has formed such a contrast here again. Fifty years and the millennia between Abraham and Jesus are too disproportionate — infinitely and immeasurably — for anyone to really have said, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” So, only people who did not want to give up all sense could speak in this way, but only in the case where it might be more possible for Jesus to have seen Abraham if he were fifty years old. However, real people cannot argue with an opponent in this way. A few years make no difference when it comes to a distance of millennia. The Jews did not speak these words. But we will not hear anything about the Evangelist’s view on the age of Jesus from these words. He thinks as little about how old Jesus was at the time as he does elsewhere *), he just wants to create a contrast to the millennia that separate Jesus and Abraham, and to place the next round number, which can most easily be subsumed under the category of thousands and hundreds, next to it, regardless of any consequences, and now reaches for the number we read. He even forgets, in the same moment, that he wanted to present an impossibility, and now lets the Jews speak as if they meant that the matter would be more possible if Jesus were fifty years old.

*) Even when he portrays the mother of the Lord standing at the cross, he does not conclude, as a modern critic might, on how old Jesus might have been at that time.


That with the permission of the fourth Gospel, months, let alone years, cannot be inserted between the baptism of Jesus and his public appearance, we have already demonstrated elsewhere **), and the apologist must be content with not knowing when and at what age Jesus appeared publicly, a confession of ignorance which he does not shy away from in matters of higher importance.

**) Kr. d. ev. Gesch. d. Joh. p. 57. 58.

At least we might be able to determine the maturity of age that a work like that of the Lord required, but for that we must have examined this work more closely. So later! At the end of our presentation, we will return to the question *).

*) There, at the end, we will also examine whether the chronological note, which we have left unexamined for now in the criticism of the fourth Gospel, that the crucifixion of Jesus falls during the Passover season, is really credible, or whether it was formed only by the belief in the sacrificial death of the Redeemer. We can say in advance that when the Apostle Paul writes (I Cor. 5:7), “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed,” he has nothing less in mind than providing a chronological note. He is only thinking that the Passover sacrifice is an image of Jesus’ sacrifice. Alongside the possibility that that chronological note in the Gospels is correct, we must therefore also leave standing for now the other possibility that the analogy that was discovered between Jesus’ death and the Passover sacrifice led to the crucifixion of Jesus being placed in the Passover season.



§ 6. The Origin of the Gospel of Luke’s Infancy Narrative

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics

by Bruno Bauer

Volume 1


Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics

by Bruno Bauer

Volume 1



§ 6.

The Origin of the Gospel of Luke’s Infancy Narrative.

So far we have examined the infancy narrative of the Gospel of Luke and traced the sources of its various elements, including the mixture and movement of its first elements, the nature of the ground they reveal, and the force that determined their initial course. We also saw what inner experiences of the community were necessary for the formation of the view that constitutes the center of this narrative, what views of the Old and New Testaments had to converge in order to transform the idea of Jesus’ divine origin into the form of a single empirical fact, and finally, what power of religious consciousness has so closely linked the histories of Jesus and John the Baptist that they have become one story.

The question now is who combined the sources into a single stream and gave them this richly colored form. Who wrote this infancy narrative in the sense that he gave specific historical form to those general views, worked them out into individual facts, and then reassembled them in their artistic connection? Since we can no longer assume that the empirical reality of this work of art produced it and that the harmony to which the individual narratives fit together flowed from the nature and sequence of the facts themselves, only two authors are possible: the tradition of the community or the writer himself. The mythological view of Strauss does not yet provide a definite answer to this question, since it has not yet posed the question itself in a clear manner. However, it unmistakably tends to assume that the narratives were formed in the tradition of the community, and the writer only gave them the precise form they received in the gospel. The objection that ordinary consciousness would have to the other assumption, which even the most decisive criticism of modern times secretly feels and which prevents it from attributing these narratives to their true source, artistic activity, this objection is only justified if the community is indeed the author of these narratives. Nevertheless, it is always an individual who created it or there were individuals who created individual narratives, and it was again an individual who artistically combined them into a whole. The people, the community, in their mysterious substantiality and directly from this cannot create anything, but only the subject, the individual consciousness, can bring it to form, shape, and thus first bring it to the determinacy of content. In this creative activity, however, consciousness does not behave as a pure isolated id and does not create and shape out of its immediate subjectivity, at least not if its value is absorbed, recognized, and considered as a form of their own views by the people or the community for centuries. Rather, consciousness has been in tension with its substance without always knowing how far it was connected with its general life-force; it was fertilized by this and driven to its activity, or rather, the deeper the work is, the greater its success in general recognition, the more certain we can assume that the author worked in pure innocence, far from all reflection on the general, and that the influence of his life substance on the work was revealed in the deep intensity with which he worked. Despite all this tension of the forming consciousness with its substance and with the spirit of the people or the community, the important point remains that the work as such, with its form and this particular content, was not yet given in that substantial world. Any attempt to ward off the consequences of this terrible fact by going back from the individual to a givenness of content is unsuccessful and is frustrated by the infinite regress until one comes back to an individual originator.


For now it is certain that whether Luke formed the individual narratives of the gospel history, whether they were created by others before him and passed into the view of the community, and whether he only incorporated them into his writing, it all amounts to the same thing in substance.

However, things become quite different when we consider that in this history we have a series of individual narratives which – as the above critique demonstrates – are so intimately connected that the preceding one is the preparation for the following, and the successive one loses its meaning without the assumption of the earlier ones. The ordinary view immediately suggests that either Luke combined the individual narratives which he found in the tradition of the community, into this whole, or he found the whole already in the same tradition and incorporated it into his work as such.

The former assumption leads inevitably to the mystery of any view of understanding, and finally requires an inspiration of the community, which even the strictest orthodox cannot credit to his evangelists. No lesser wonder would have occurred according to that assumption, than that all the individuals who created these narratives, of whom we can only speak of as individuals, happened to create their fragmentary works so that when they finally came together, they formed the most excellent whole. We said, “without one knowing anything of the other’s work,” for if we were to take the absurdity into account that all those individuals happened to live in the same city or even in the same district, and immediately knew about each other’s work whenever another thread of this miraculous fabric was spun, then we would have to speak of the tradition of the community, which was known to have spread very early over a large part of the ancient world. Therefore, a very large space must have separated those creators of tradition, and to produce the close relationship in which their individual narratives stand to one another, a pre-established harmony would be necessary, to which reason cannot be moved to accept.


So what would be the other assumption? Let’s be cautious! What remains? That these sporadically created individual narratives gradually merged in that mist, in that mysterious wolf, or in the unstable flood of tradition and, in this union, came to the attention of Luke, who wrote them down? If so, then it is futile to try to escape the terrifying self-awareness and deny its share in the composition. Tradition does not have hands to write, taste to compose, or judgement to unite the related and separate the foreign. The subject, the self-awareness alone possesses these goods and, even if they are dedicated to the general and serve it, the decision to work and the elaboration still come from the individual, and the work is more or less completed and thus more or less capable of passing into the general, depending on the intensity of the author’s spirit. So again, self-awareness! But there is even more in the foreground. So far, we have seen that narratives cannot be formed in different places that are so closely related that the beginning of one only needs to be added to the end of the other and to the end of the former again the beginning of another, and so on, so that a harmonious whole finally emerges. But if it were really the case that individual narratives could be created that, created independently of each other at various places, belong only and as a whole to the same circle of ideas and serve to work it out, then when they come together, they will have much about them that makes their immediate connection impossible. It requires a great deal of work to bring them together, especially to combine them into such a sophisticated work as the prehistory in the third gospel. There will be many contradictions between the individual narratives that must be eliminated; very different points of view will dominate the individual fragments – they must be reconciled: and there will be so much that is resistant between them that it will require no small effort to bring them into coherence. This is already considered as formal work, an act of the subject, if only it could have its being in the formal work! Every change in the original, every shift and new turn will also provide a new content: for if a contradictory tendency is eliminated, it will be replaced by a new one – and where does it come from? – it arises from the combination and from the fivefold self-awareness. If the point of view that dominates a narrative is disturbing, the individual content in which it is revealed will be no less disturbing: so that too must be essentially changed with it. And if now the subject must also be attributed such a creative part in this work, we must ask again what difference it makes whether Luke or another before him worked in this way?


Thus, in this form, the hypothesis would no longer be such, but rather the correct explanation of the existing facts: a pre-Luke had combined the elements of the backstory, which had only formed individually, and this new combination had passed into tradition, from which our Luke had taken it up. However, the role of self-consciousness is not yet exhausted. Luke not only wants to report this backstory, but he intends to create a larger work, to report the entire gospel story. Will he not undertake a similar task to his predecessor, namely to link individual stories to the backstory, and now link this with the representation of public life and have to merge both, which he first brings together? And can this fusion remain without influence on his representation of the backstory? We will see that this influence was not absent. So, not even the assumption of a pre-Luke helps; the actual Luke still procedes creatively in his representation of the backstory.


So the Traditions-Hypothesis cannot escape encountering the Self-Consciousness. However, we will soon bring the circle so close together that both opponents are squeezed into one space, and one can only stand while the other must fall.

It is not possible that individual narratives, like those from which the evangelical prehistory consists, could have been formed individually and independently of each other. None can stand alone, each points to the other, and no one could have come up with or even possible to form one if he did not have the plan of the whole, i.e., the possibility of all others in view, and thus one could complement the other through its development. If we were to provide proof of this unity here, we would have to rewrite the above criticism. On the other hand, it is also impossible that in the tradition of the community, individual particles of narratives floated or rather fluttered independently of each other. Without support and connection, they would – if that impossibility had been possible – have soon blown away and disappeared.

Now we can express the other assumption more purely: therefore, only the other remains, that in the tradition, the evangelical prehistory was formed in the context and in the form in which Luke found it and included it in his work. But why take these detours to get from Luke to Luke, these detours that we could only make in the air! Who is this tradition, where will we finally be able to grasp it and mentally face it? Nowhere again but in the specific Self-Consciousness. The tradition as such cannot shape and is internally too general and indeterminate to produce a coherent work of art. The individual must perform this work.


Now, perhaps one more loophole is available to the tradition hypothesis. It could be that someone had already composed the prehistory before Luke and that it had reached him through the medium of tradition. Because that still seems to be the terrible thing that cannot be feared and avoided enough: that Luke himself was the first one to compose the prehistory, and that we would therefore be dealing directly in the scripture with a work of self-consciousness. At least it must pass through the purgatory of tradition if it is not to frighten us. But why take these detours to get from Luke to Luke, these detours that we could only make in the air? Who then is this tradition, where will we finally be able to grasp it and see it face to face? Nowhere else but in the determined self-consciousness. Tradition as such cannot create forms and is inwardly too general and indefinite to produce a coherent work of art. The individual must do this work.

It is also not possible for a cohesive historical circle to exist in tradition. If a people or community has come so far that a cohesive historical view is formed, then the power that belongs to it also has the ability to set the pen in motion. All talk of the memory of the ancient world is sentimental nonsense that schoolmasters have taught us, but we cannot forget it thoroughly enough out of interest for the honor of peoples and humanity. What the peoples and communities knew, they wrote down with great effort. As soon as they had brought something to the clarity of perception, the organ was there that served for elaboration and celebration, and if they wrote nothing, it was only because they had nothing that was worth this effort.

To see the futility of the tradition hypothesis, one only needs to ask which components of the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke were floating around in tradition. The hymns? But if the praise of the Lord in the hymn of Zacharias in the scripture is put together with such negligent and dragging construction (Luke 1:08-75), what breath must tradition have possessed if it had to recite this sentence in exactly the same form every time? Or should tradition have carried the note around with it: “And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb?” This would be the most meager thing with which tradition could occupy itself if it had to try to memorize such notes forever. But if it were to enliven this note, that is to say, to immediately recall the story of Gabriel’s message to Mary, as a counterpart to the simple process of Jesus’ circumcision, the more glorious presentation in the temple, then as another counterpart, the circumcision of John the Baptist and the miracle that befell him, that is to say, now also recall the entire wonderful message of Gabriel to Zechariah and his behavior, and then with a natural sidestep, remember his wife Elizabeth, who knew how to appreciate the wonderful appearances with a completely different faith – how could tradition do this exercise of memory without getting confused very soon and eventually becoming completely fed up with its business? But it has nothing to fear, because as this pack animal on which individual notes or artworks would be transported, it did not exist in the Christian community any more than anywhere else, and if it collapses under its load, it is only its caricature in the minds of scholars that suffers this fate.


So if Luke only had to deal with tradition, the material was not delivered to him fully formed, as if he only had the task of writing it down. Instead, he had to develop and creatively refine what lived in the religious worldview of the community, shaping spiritual elements into individual forms in terms of form and content.


It is possible, however, that Luke already had individual written essays that he combined to form his preface, or that he found the entire preface written as a coherent narrative and included it in his work.

Regarding the first assumption, we cannot understand it for a moment if it is meant that individual reports of those eyewitnesses of the preface were written down separately and finally, after a long adventurous journey, came into Luke’s possession. Nor do we need to judge this assumption in its form, if it is connected with the tradition hypothesis or rather is this hypothesis itself. If Luke found individual essays, they were – that is now more certain – not dictated by tradition to the authors, but were formed by them on their own. From their excess, namely from their senseless form, which assumes that Luke found a larger number of scraps and patches and combined them into a preface, we can simplify this hypothesis immediately to the extent that there were only two essays that came into the hands of the evangelist, namely the story of the birth of John the Baptist and the birth and childhood of Jesus. But there could not even be two essays of this kind that were written separately from each other and existed for some time on their own. Neither of the two essays is conceived and worked out without the other, since each smaller group of one essay has its counterpart in the other and is worked out exactly as we find it, so that it shows its peculiar character clearly in relation to its counterpart and also serves the same purpose for its parallel. Thus, the two messages of Gabriel correspond to each other, the wonderful circumstances under which the two holy children were conceived, the glorification of the day on which the Baptist is circumcised and receives his name, and the glorification of the birth and presentation of the messianic child in the temple *), the ecstatic joy of the Baptist over the proximity of the Messiah and the exultation of Simeon that his eyes have seen the Savior, and so on. Each link is created and worked out only with respect to its corresponding one.

*) On the way in which the note on the circumcision of both boys is treated, Strauss says (L. I. I, 277-278): “The contrast is striking between the elaborate use and elaboration of the same point in John’s life and the dryness and brevity with which it is treated here in relation to Jesus; in which one can find with Schleiermacher a sign that at least here the author of chapter 1 is no longer the conceiver.” On the contrary, this is the surest sign of the unity of the author. Contrasts not only separate, but also span and hold together what is separate through this tension. Both boys receive their names predetermined by the angel on the day of circumcision. If the circumcision of Jesus had become the occasion for a wonderful event in a similar way to that of the Baptist, the symmetry of the accounts would have been too uniform and mechanical. Instead, when comparing both accounts, the reader must miss something in the account of Jesus’ circumcision and be more prepared for the following account of the presentation of the child in the temple by the feeling of this contrast. The reader now expects the filling of a gap, is excited about how the missing glorification will be made up – and how beneficial he feels, how pleasant the feeling is, when the following account so happily satisfies the tense expectation!


Yes, even the one report could not have arisen without the other in its original conception. The way in which the Baptist is celebrated proves that he only became the subject of this historical representation as the precursor of the Lord; however, his birth could not have been placed in this wonderful light if it were not the reflection of the greater light that glorified the birth of the Messiah. On the other hand, this story of the birth of the Messiah could not have developed if it did not at the same time create a larger wonderful foundation on which it presented itself as natural, i.e., as necessarily wonderful, when it falls into a historical context that is inherently wonderful. Each of the two spheres of vision arose with the other, and as they arose together, they were also each filled in detail with regard to the other.


So we come back to the certainty that the Gospel prehistory of Luke could only have arisen as a whole once it was created. And now without further ado! Luke first conceived and wrote it down. The agreement of the language, which prevails in this section and in the rest of the Gospel *), has no strictly proving power, since it was inevitable that the writer would give his diction to an essay that he processed with his work. Even less could this proof seem conclusive, since in processing the scripture of Mark, Luke himself gave an example of how he gives a foreign scripture the color of his style and language. So, although it is always – although predominantly – probable that we have the original historical style of Luke in the prehistory, which he could not deny in the processing of the Mark’s Gospel, stricter proofs are necessary that the prehistory originated purely from his point of view. We give them!

*) Referring to Wilke’s “Der Urevangelist” on pages 645-646.

In the Gospel of Mark (chapter 1, verse 6), Luke read about the ascetic way of life of John the Baptist, but he left out this description in his own parallel account. Why? Because he incorporated this subject into his nativity narrative and developed it into a miraculous event, by weaving into Gabriel’s message to Zechariah the commandment that John the Baptist should not drink “wine and strong drink” (Luke 1:15). According to Mark, Jesus revealed to his disciples that John the Baptist was the expected Elijah (Mark 9:13), but Luke does not mention this point in his parallel account. Furthermore, in the account of John the Baptist’s message to Jesus, which Mark does not know, Luke has Jesus cite a prophecy from Malachi regarding John the Baptist (Luke 7:27), but he does not mention Malachi’s view that Elijah was the forerunner of the Messiah. Therefore, Gabriel had already said (Luke 1:17) that the son of Zechariah would go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah. Luke consciously composed the nativity narrative in such a way that these details from the Gospel of Mark took on a deeper meaning and a sense of higher necessity by being woven into the message of the divine messenger.


It has already been noted that the fasting, praying widow Anna belongs to the circle of Luke’s perspective and will later be set beyond doubt.

Luke is finally the careful chronologist, which is revealed in the presentation of the prehistory; however, since chronology is an essential part of this section – because that significant miracle occurs in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy – the chronologist is the author of the entire work. The same writer who places the census ordered by Emperor Augustus (Chapter 2, verse 1) in the year of Jesus’ birth, also does not fail to indicate the year in which John the Baptist publicly appeared (Luke 3, 1-2). The same writer who made a historical error there also commits one here by allowing a Lysanias to rule over Abilene in the fifteenth year of Tiberius. Although Luke does not add to the indication of the year in which John appeared the other information about how old John was at that time, and although he does not indicate in which year of Tiberius’ reign it was when Jesus began his public ministry, he leaves no doubt about all these things. Both pieces of information belong together and complement each other. According to the Evangelist’s perspective, John the Baptist’s public ministry only took a very short period of time: so if he appeared in the fifteenth year of Tiberius, then Jesus would have appeared in that same year or in the following year, if perhaps by chance John appeared at the end of that year – and if Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his ministry (Luke 3:23), then John was just as old when “the Word of the Lord” called him. For the Evangelist’s perspective, the half-year by which he is older than his greater follower was sufficient for him to accomplish his task. The chronologist is the author of the entire work, and he is one and the same person as the writer.


Yes, we hear you, immortal objections and – invective of apologetics. Just be patient, don’t rant and threaten so fiercely, we hear you and will answer. At the very first appearance of Strauss’s work, it was noted in contrast to his mythological theory that this was not yet the final explanation of the evangelical views, if they were to be directly derived from Jewish elements or their development process was attributed to a mysterious tradition. It was said – but of course only said and neither developed nor executed more precisely – that these views, if criticism is to reach its final completion, must be understood as the result of the essential process of self-consciousness.

Yes, yes! This is what the apologist immediately cries out. Absolutely right! The Gospels must finally be considered as “works of deception” if criticism develops with “some consistency”. The evangelists must finally be exposed as deceivers and “we return to the fragmentist so prominently looked down upon” *).

*) Tholuck, the credibility of the evangelical history. 1837. p. 50. 51.

So, the “House of Goeze and Company” still exists in its old glory? Yes, indeed! But it still hasn’t learned to avoid its fate that it sometimes “must embarrass itself”. The poor fragmentist! Criticism certainly cannot look down upon him, it can see his flaws, it will make them good by learning from him, but it cannot admit that misunderstanding attributes to him the theory that the evangelists were “deceivers”. However, his case is already in good hands: Lessing’s “fifth Anti-Goeze” will be convincing for the unbiased.


“Now then, at least declare the evangelists to be deceivers,” the Apologetics will cry, directing their zeal against us. “You claim that these views, which you call thin and miserable, are created by the forming self-consciousness.”

We ask for calm! We are not insulting, we are researching and developing, and anyone who wants to speak up in between must first calmly engage in the development. Where have we “claimed” that those views are works of self-consciousness? We have proven it. So engage in the proof, provide another one, but do not come up with phrases and above all, do not say that we declare the evangelists to be deceivers. Have we expressed such a thing, or just given the slightest reason to suspect that we inwardly hold this view or must hold it if we were to honestly admit all consequences?

No! When we use the category of self-consciousness, we do not mean the empirical self, as if it had created those views from its mere ideas or arbitrary combinations – it would rather keep it beautiful and soon give up its curiosity if it were to make the attempt. Do you think it is possible for even the most educated self of our time to create a religious historical cycle like Luke’s prehistory or a view like Matthew’s of the Magi’s star? The artist, historian, and philosopher of our time have other tasks to solve and to understand those of the past, but not to practice them.

The immediate self, as well as the educated self-consciousness, which relates to reality with a completely different consciousness, namely the critical one, and all the analogies and reflections taken from them are out of the game.


Here we are dealing with the religious self-consciousness in the stage of its creative self-development. In itself, it is the self-consciousness in which its world of the universal is still elementarily hidden. But as spirit, and especially as the religious spirit, it is the movement and drive to distinguish itself from its world of the universal; it must distinguish itself from it so that it relates to it as a real consciousness, and who can accomplish this distinction and real creation? Who other than itself? But in this creative moment, it does not know that it is itself the essential activity; we recognize it as such, but it does not recognize itself as such. As religious self-consciousness, it is deeply affected by its content, it cannot live without it and without its constant representation and production, for in it it possesses the experience of its own determinateness. But as religious consciousness, it simultaneously regards itself in the continuing difference from its essential content and as soon as it has developed it, and at the same moment when it represents it, it considers it as a reality that exists over and beyond it as the Absolute and as its history in itself.

This distinction is fortified because this specific religious self-consciousness has received the impetus for its initial arousal from outside, through the news of this historical person, and cannot even exist before it has already believed in this person, who has revealed to it its general world. Therefore, to represent its own progressive development, the content has already become the inner determination of its personal principle, and to represent it, it is involuntarily forced to bring new elements into the history of its Lord. These growing additions to the originally given history will be considered as historical to it, just as the history that was first transmitted to it. Furthermore, faith in these productions is secured by the fact that the stimuli that stimulated them and the first materials used for this purpose were given again from outside and even through the general faith of the community. The historical formations that this creative self-consciousness provides must appear even more credible to it because their soul is formed from the first simplest religious categories, the opposition of the divine and human, and from the religious view of historical connection. We have learned about these stimuli and categories and reflections on historical connection in detail above, which served for the development of the gospel history of Luke.


But what about the form, as far as it is conditioned by the words and diction? It did not arise purely from the spirit of the writer, and this circumstance distinguishes this prehistory from the actual work of art, which could become the object of religious consciousness in the Greek world, but not in the Christian community, where the essential difference of spirit had become greater and the content of religious belief had to be more positive in nature in its form. However, the form of presentation cannot cause us any concerns. Either it is the simple, natural expression of the given idea, or where it is more extensive, it is taken from the Old Testament (the translation of the Seventy). What the Old Testament reports in this form was considered historical, was considered the norm set for the holy history, and in the New Testament repetition as certain truth.

Finally, we could ask the apologist whether Phidias was a fraudster.





Updates – Late gospels and Josephus’s guilt-inspired prophecy

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by Neil Godfrey

I have finally added two more chapters to the Bruno Bauer Gospel criticism and history page — check the right-hand column under the Pages heading.

Two points of particular interest to me in those new chapters:

1. Bauer argues for the Gospels of Luke and Matthew being second-century works, post-dating Justin Martyr. He does so for much the same reasons I have posted here: although Justin knows some details that appear in both of those gospels, there are reasons to think he is using some other source that the authors of Luke and Matthew also used. What might that source have been? Justin knew it as the Memoirs of the Apostles. Bauer does think that much of the nativity narrative that we read in Matthew’s gospel was contained in those Memoirs. My own reading of Justin is that his Memoirs of the Apostles further included references to Damascus in his nativity scene while our author of the Gospel of Matthew omitted those. Bauer points out the inconsistencies in our gospel accounts, especially in Luke, and argues that the original gospel from which our canonical Luke is built up originally began at 3:1 — “In the fifteenth year of Tiberius….”. Quite so.

2. The other point of special interest is Bauer’s discussion of a supposedly widespread belief in the Near East in a prophecy that a king would arise from there to rule the world. The Roman historian Suetonius wrote about this in connection with the Jewish War of 66-70 CE. In Bauer’s view, Suetonius learned of this piece of information from the historian Tacitus who derived it from Josephus. And where did Josephus get the idea from? His guilt: he was being criticized for his poor job of defending his people against the Romans and knew he was to blame; to cover his guilt and make a desperate attempt to survive he decided to go over to the Roman side and in his role as a priest knowledgable in the sacred texts to declare that Vespasian and Titus had been prophesied to rule the world. The passage he most likely was thinking of was Daniel 9:26 — the people of a coming prince would destroy the city and the sanctuary.


A Wunderkind in the Temple? (Part 2)

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by Tim Widowfield

[More stuff from James McGrath’s What Jesus Learned from Women.]

Child Jesus in the Temple — Jan Steen

In the previous post, we discussed McGrath’s assertion that the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple was learning from the teachers of the law. According to the esteemed doctor, Jesus was just a really good pupil. In rebuttal, I provided some reasons to think that Luke wanted us to believe Jesus “astonished” his interlocutors with his insightful questions and answers. Joel Green, the author of one of the better commentaries on Luke, says Jesus was at least on equal footing with men who had devoted their entire lives to studying the law.

Not a Pupil, Not a Fan

As I mentioned last time, Green cited a paper by Dennis Sylva that lists a few reasons why he thinks Luke had no intention of portraying Jesus as a student. In “The Cryptic Clause,” he writes:

Luke did not present Jesus as a pupil of the Jewish teachers, as scholars often suppose. . . . The fact that Jesus is said to have questioned the teachers and answered questions does not necessarily mean that Jesus is presented as a student of the Jewish teachers. Luke often presents the adult Jesus as asking questions and answering them without portraying him as a student. . . . (Sylva 1987, pp. 136-137)

Exactly so. As we noted earlier, Jesus’ teaching method often involved both asking and answering questions. He continues:

Further, Luke writes that the child Jesus was kathezomenon en mesō tōn didaskalōn (Lk 246a). By way of contrast, Luke writes about how Paul “was taught at the feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22:3). Still further, the fact that in subsequent chapters in the Lukan narrative Jesus is presented as condemning many views of the Jewish teachers makes it highly unlikely that Luke would present Jesus as a student of the Jewish teachers in Luke 24 1:51. (Sylva 1987, p.137, formatting altered slightly)

We picture Jesus sitting (καθεζόμενον) in the middle of the teachers, not learning at their feet. That’s a powerful image. Consider the social implications of a boy looking eye-to-eye at the most learned people in all of Judea. And recall that he’s been at this, allegedly, for three days.

Moreover, Sylva is absolutely correct about Luke’s portrayal of Jesus’ relationship with the Jewish authorities, especially the doctors of the law. Does McGrath propose that he learned from them and then learned more later from some other source, thereby changing his outlook? Perhaps. We know he believes Jesus was a disciple of John the Baptist. And we’ve already noted that he thinks Jesus had some education previous to the encounter in the Temple.

The depiction of Jesus on the cusp of adolescence in the Gospel of Luke already suggests a certain level of prior education. (McGrath 2021, p. 25)

Memory, Essence, and Gist

Now the mythical tale of the boy in the Temple can serve a dual purpose: It foreshadows Jesus’ career as a teacher and it magically reveals the gist of his actual, real-life, honest-to-goodness historical education.

Regardless of McGrath’s intentions here, the reader will easily infer that the historical Jesus “must have” acquired some education in his youth. We’ve seen this sleight-of-hand maneuver in NT Studies many times before. Continue reading “A Wunderkind in the Temple? (Part 2)”


A Wunderkind in the Temple? (Part 1)

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by Tim Widowfield

James F. McGrath

[More stuff from James McGrath’s What Jesus Learned from Women.]

To establish a convincing case that the historical Jesus learned from women, McGrath could have simply started from the inarguable fact that all humans learn — i.e., “Jesus was a man; All men learn; Therefore Jesus learned” — and built from there. However, McGrath knows that a good portion of his audience will be committed Christians, and they might have an issue with the concept of a member of the trinity needing to learn anything.


The fact that a significant number of people feel discomfort with the idea of Jesus learning really ought to surprise and shock us. It is an axiom of the historic Christian faith that Jesus was fully human—a complete human being, with a human soul (or what many today might prefer to call a human mind and personality). (McGrath 2021, p. 7)

Surprise, Shock, and Astonishment

Why should it “surprise and shock” us that people “feel discomfort” with the notion that the object of their worship, a pre-existent divine being, needed to learn anything? After all, besides the article of faith (i.e., Christ’s fully human nature asserted in the Nicene Creed) alluded to above, Christians also recite this line: “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.

So I’m not surprised at all. I can understand completely someone being troubled and confused by the idea that an omniscient being might need to learn something, but McGrath is quite sure of himself. The discomforted Christian reader is terribly mistaken.

Consequently, the dear doctor of religion believes he must proceed beyond simple logic and find a convincing biblical proof text. He thinks he has found it in the Gospel of Luke, in which the evangelist tells us Jesus “grew in wisdom.” Remember the story where Jesus stays behind in the Temple and his parents don’t realize they left him there (Hieron Alone)? Many of us learned this story in Sunday School. They told us Mary and Joseph found Jesus among them, teaching the teachers. His would-be teachers were gobsmacked.

McGrath says that’s all wrong. Continue reading “A Wunderkind in the Temple? (Part 1)”


Paul and Jesus: Mirrored Rejections, Deaths and Resurrections

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by Neil Godfrey

After posting Paul is Jesus Redivivus in Acts I remembered I had forgotten to include some of the more interesting details from J. A. Mattill’s article. Mattill began with some historical observations of the Paul-Jesus parallels. I have since added key points to the earlier post.

. . . Important is [Eduard] Zeller’s observation that the remarkable feature in Acts that Paul always is compelled only by the unbelief of the Jews to preach to the Gentiles has its undeniable type in the narrative of Jesus’ rejection in his own home town, the narrative with which Luke so characteristically opens Jesus’ public ministry (Lk. iv 16-30 13).

Google translation: The original of Peter and Paul of the Acts of the Apostles is the Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels. The author of the Acts of the Apostles had the latter in mind … when he borrowed the lines from which he composed the image of both apostles … Since the Gospel portrait of Jesus is unhistorical, even one word about the historical character of the copy would be superfluous.

About the same time as Zeller, Bruno Bauer, whose interest was in the Jesus of the Synoptics rather than of Luke alone, nevertheless set forth thirteen Jesus-parallels in Luke-Acts. The significant part of Bauer’s study, for our purposes, lies in his famous statement:

“Das Original des Petrus und des Paulus der Apostel- geschichte ist der Jesus der synoptischen Evangelien. Der Verfasser der Apostelgeschichte hatte die letzteren … vor Augen, als er ihnen die Züge entlehnte, aus denen er das Bild beider Apostel zusammensetzte ….”

Since the Gospel portrait of Jesus is unhistorical, even one word about the historical character of the copy would be superfluous.

The most thorough-going presentation of the Jesus-Paul parallels is that of Rackham in his commentary on Acts [link is to the online text; see pp xlvii, 401, 477-478]. The active work of Jesus and Paul “is concluded by a ‘passion’ or period of suffering, which in each volume occupies a seemingly disproportionate space …. After early anticipations (Lk. ix 51 = Acts xix 21) and a detailed journey up to Jerusalem (Lk. xvii 11-xix 48 = Acts xx-xxi 17) with ‘last words’ of the sufferer (Lk. xx-xxi = Acts xx 17-38) we have the ‘passion’ proper (Lk. xxii-xxiii = Acts xxi 17-xxviii 10). And then in each case the book ends with a period of victorious but quiet preparation for further advance,.. “For if in the scheme of Acts the last chapters correspond to the last chapters of the Gospel, this chapter (xxvii) forms the parallel (as is fairly evident) to the crucifixion or Lk. xxii-xxiii’’, followed by resurrection. This general parallelism “at once gives significance” to a number of details “which by themselves would have escaped notice”.

Paul’s shipwreck and plunging into the deep are the counterparts to Jesus’ death on the cross (Lk. xxiii 26-49; Acts xxvii 14-24). The storm and darkness during Paul’s voyage correspond to the darkness and spiritual storm on Calvary (Lk. xxiii 44-45; Acts xxvii 20). The verdict of the centurion that Jesus was a righteous man parallels that of the Maltese that Paul was a god (Lk. xxiii 47; Acts xxviii 6). The rest and peace of the three winter months at Malta, when Paul was entirely cut off from the outside world and old life, is like Jesus’ three days in the grave (Lk. xxiii 50-56; Acts xxviii 1-10). Paul’s rescue at sea at Malta is a resurrection from the dead parallel to that of Jesus (Lk. xxiv 1-11; Acts xxvii 39-44). Paul’s voyage to Rome in the spring, which was to Paul the entrance into a new life, is comparable to the joyful period after the resurrection (Lk. xxiv 12-49; Acts xxviii 11-16).

. . .

* Jesus redivivus: Windisch, “Paulus und Jesus”, Theologische Studien und Kritiken 106 (1934-1935), 465.

From the history-of-religions standpoint, Hans Windisch devotes an entire book to the Jesus-Paul parallels in Gospels, Acts, and Epistles. He is concerned with the similarity of the two figures themselves and the comparableness of both to the “man of God” of the Old Testament and the “divine man” of Graeco-Roman antiquity. Paul is Jesus redivivus*, an incarnation of Christ for the church, a Christ under Christ. Luke found this parallelism in the subject-matter itself, and as a theologically-minded historian he developed it so that he made Jesus to be his own apostle as a forerunner of Paul and Paul to be a second Christ-messenger 20).

Much indebted to Rackham is M. D. Goulder, who calls Rackham “a typologist before his time” [see below]. “Acts”, says Goulder, “is not straight-forward history but typological history, the life of Jesus providing the types of the life of the Church”, the body of Christ. “All of the life of Jesus is matter typical of his Church’s history. But the dominant types are the dominant facts of his life, his passion, death, and resurrection ….” Goulder finds wide agreement about the existence of “an intentional set of parallels” between Jesus and Paul.

Goulder strengthens the argument for the parallel between “Paul’s shipwreck and deliverance and Jesus’ death and resurrection”. To the Semites “death was like going into the sea …. All the sea is death to the Semite, whether we drown or whether we paddle and come out again …” Paul himself refers to his shipwrecks as “deaths” and his rescues as “resurrections” (II Cor. i 8-10; xi 23).

Going down in a storm was the metaphor par excellence in scripture for death, and being saved from one for resurrection: when St Paul speaks of his shipwrecks in these terms, how can St Luke have thought otherwise ? He has shaped his book to lead up to the passion of Christ’s apostle from xix 21 on in such a way as to recall what led up to the passion of Christ himself in the earlier book: and as the climax of the Gospel is the death and resurrection of Christ, so the climax of Acts is the thanatos and anastasis of Paul. (Goulder, p. 39)

(Mattill, 18-21)

Ludolf Backhuysen 1630 – 1708 “Paul’s Shipwreck” From Art and the Bible

For those of us interested here is Goulder’s discussion (pp. 34-39) on the shipwreck’s relation to the crucifixion (my formatting): Continue reading “Paul and Jesus: Mirrored Rejections, Deaths and Resurrections”


Paul is Jesus Redivivus in Acts

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by Neil Godfrey

The author of Acts appears to have used the life experiences, trials and death of Jesus as his model for the life and trials of Paul. The following evidence for this claim is taken from a 1975 article by A. J. Mattill, Jr., “The Jesus-Paul Parallels and the Purpose of Luke-Acts”. If one accepts that the source of Paul’s life and adventures was the Lukan account of Jesus then there are implications for the purpose of Luke-Acts and the literary-theological function of Paul himself.

The first-listed parallels may not seem so striking but keep scrolling. The four trials of each are surely worth noting. Mattill fleshes out many of the points with numerous verbal parallels but I have omitted most of those here.




Jesus and Paul are from their childhood law-abiding Israelites

  • Jesus is circumcised the eighth day (Luke 2:21-24)
  • Jesus and his parents observe Passover (Luke 2:41-42)
  • Jesus teaches that the Law will never fail (Luke 16:17)
  • Jesus is falsely accused of changing the customs of Moses (Acts 6:14)


Jesus and Paul begin and continue their preaching in the synagogues

A related key parallel:

Zeller’s observation that the remarkable feature in Acts that Paul always is compelled only by the unbelief of the Jews to preach to the Gentiles has its undeniable type in the narrative of Jesus’ rejection in his own home town, the narrative with which Luke so characteristically opens Jesus’ public ministry (Lk. iv 16-30 13).

(Mattill, p. 18)


The Pharisees who believe in the resurrection affirm the teachings of Jesus and Paul

  • Jesus affirms the Pharisaic doctrine of the resurrection from the dead (Luke 14:14; 20:27-40)
  • Hence Jesus enlists sympathy of Pharisees against the Sadducees (Luke 20:39)
  • Jesus declares “all live in God” (to prove the resurrection) (Luke 20:38)


Fulfilment of Scripture

The author of Luke-Acts based his narrative around the fulfilment of scripture.


Jesus quotes and applies Isaiah 6:9-10 to his work and response (Luke 8:10)

Jesus proves by Scripture that he is

Jesus affirms from Scripture that the Gospel shall be preached


Paul quotes and applies Isaiah 6:9-10 to his work and response (Acts 28:25-28)

Paul proves by Scripture that Jesus is

Paul affirms from Scripture that the Gospel shall be preached


Both are God’s ordained servants to fulfil the divine plan of salvation

Jesus is God’s chosen servant (Luke 9:35; 23:35)

Jesus is divinely sent (Luke 4:18, 43; 9:48; 10:16)


Jesus proclaims (Luke 4:18, 19, 44: 8:1)


attracting multitudes by the message (Luke 5:1; 7:11; 8:4; 11:27, 29; 12:1; 14:25; 19:48; 20:1; 21:38)

Paul is God’s chosen instrument (Acts 16:17)

Paul is divinely sent (Acts 22:21; 26:17; cf 14:4, 14)


Paul proclaims (Acts 9:20; 19:13; 20:25; 28:31)


attracting multitudes by the message (Acts 11:26; 13:44; 14:1; 17:4; 19:10)


Divine necessity (δει) drives the planned careers of both Jesus and Paul

Jesus must be in his Father’s house (Luke 2:49)

He must proclaim the good news (Luke 4:43)

He must go to Jerusalem (Luke 13:33)

He must abide at Zacchaeus’ house (Luke 19:5)

In Jerusalem he must suffer many things (Luke 17:25)

then he must rise from the dead (Luke 24:7, 26)

then he must be received in heaven (Acts 3:21)

Paul is told what he must do (Acts 9:6)

He must suffer many things (Acts 9:6)

He must be delivered from death when cast ashore on a certain island (Acts 27:26)

He must see Rome (Acts 19:21)

In Rome he must bear witness (Acts 23:11)

and there must be judged (Acts 25:10)

and must stand before Caesar (Acts 27:24)


Spirit, Revelations, and Angels direct, control, assure, strengthen Jesus and Paul

Jesus receives the Holy Spirit at baptism (Luke 3:21-22)

Jesus is “full of the holy spirit” (Luke 4:1)

Jesus is controlled by the spirit — led into wilderness and returns in spirit’s power to Galilee (Luke 4:1, 14)

Revelations and voices directing his ministry:


Angel appears to Jesus in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43)

Paul receives the Holy Spirit at baptism (Acts 9:17-18)

Paul is “full of the holy spirit” (Acts 9:17; 13:9)

Paul is controlled by the spirit — forbidden to enter Asia and Bithynia, purposes in the spirit to go to Jerusalem (Acts 19:6, 7, 21)

Revelations and voices directing his ministry:

Angel appears to Paul during storm at sea (Acts 27:23)


Parallel signs and wonders confirm the teachings of Jesus and Paul

Jesus casts out demons (Luke 4:33-37, 41; 8:26-39; 11:20)

Jesus heals the lame man (Luke 5:17-26)

Jesus cures many sick (Luke 4:40; 6:17-19)

Jesus cures a fever and others stream in for healing (Luke 4:38-40)

Jesus raises the dead (Luke 7:11-17; 8:40-42; 49-46)

. . . after affirming the person was not really dead (Luke 8:52)

Jesus imparts healing power physically (Luke 5:17; 6:19; 8:46)

Those healed provide Jesus with necessities (Luke 8:2-3)

Paul casts out demons (Acts 10:38; 16:16-18)

Paul heals a lame man (Acts 14:8-14)

Paul heals many sick (Acts 28:9)

Paul cures a fever and others stream in for healing (Acts 28:7-10)

Paul raises the dead (Acts 20:9-12)

. . . after affirming the person was not really dead (Acts 20:10)

Paul imparts healing power physically (Acts 19:6, 11-12)

Those healed provide Paul with necessities (Acts 28:10)


Turning to the Gentiles is a theme of both Jesus and Paul

Jesus is rejected and persecuted by his own people from the beginning (Nazareth) of his ministry (Luke 4:28-29)

and often thereafter (Luke 5:21-30; 6:1-5, 6-11; 7:39; 11:14-23, 53-54; 13:14-17; 14:1-6; 15:2; 16:14-15; 19:39-48; 20:1-8, 19-26, 27-40; 22:2-6, 47-53, 66-71; 23:1-43)

Jesus is taken outside a city (ἔξω τῆς πόλεως) and threatened with stoning, but escapes with his life (Luke 4:29-30)

Audience is enraged when Jesus speaks of gentiles (Luke 4:27-28)

Jews lie in wait (ἐνεδρεύοντες) to kill Jesus (Luke 11:54)

Jesus declares that just as in days of old Jews to be rejected and gentiles accepted

Jesus travels through Samaria (prefiguring Paul) (Luke 9:51-19:44)

Jesus sends out the 70 symbolizing the evangelization of every nation (Luke 10:1-16)

Teaches the rejection of Israel (Luke 20:9-19) and commands the gentile mission (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8; 22:21)

From the Law and Prophets Jesus proclaims the passion, resurrection and ensuing gentile mission (Luke 24:44-47)

Jesus proclaims repentance is to be preached to all (Luke 24:47)

Jesus is a light revealing salvation to the world (Luke 2:32)

Paul is rejected and persecuted by his own people from the beginning (Damascus) of his ministry (Acts 9:23)

and often thereafter (Acts 9:23-24, 29-30; 13:45-51; 14:2-6, 19; 17:5-15; 18:6-12; 19:8-9; 20:3; 21:27-23:22; 24:1-9; 28:23-28)

Paul is taken outside a city (ἔξω τῆς πόλεως) and stoned by escapes with his life (Acts 14:19-20)

Audience is enraged when Paul speaks of gentiles (Acts 18:47-50; 22:21-22)

Jews lie in wait (ἐνεδρεύουσιν) to kill Paul (Acts 23:21)

Paul declares that just as in days of old Jews to be rejected and gentiles accepted

After first preaching to Jews everywhere (Antioch Acts 13:46-47), Corinth (18:6), Ephesus (19:9) and Rome (28:24-28 — quoting Isaiah 6:9-10, cf Luke 8:10)

Paul travels through Samaria, reporting how gentiles turned to God (Acts 15:3)


From the Law and Prophets Paul proclaims the passion, resurrection and ensuing gentile mission (Acts 26:22-23)

Paul proclaims repentance is to be preached to all (Acts 17:30)

Paul is a light revealing salvation to the world (Acts 13:47; 26:23)


Journey to Jerusalem and the Passion

The two great travel sections: Luke 9:51-19:44 and Acts 19:21-28:31

Luke 9:51-52 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him

Acts 19:21-22 After all this had happened, Paul decided[a] to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.

A last journey to Jerusalem is a journey toward passion, as prophesied, knowing that he will be handed over to gentiles: (Luke 18:31-33; 9:44)

The ultimate scene of persecution was Jerusalem where the leaders  sought his death (Luke 19:47)

Jerusalem is the place where prophets must die (Luke 13:33)

Jesus is opposed by the Sadducees who deny the resurrection (Luke 20:27)

Jesus is accused by the Sadducean high priesthood (Luke 20:27)

Jesus delivers farewell addresses (Luke 20:45-21:36; 22:14-38; 24: 36-53)

In his last words (Luke 20-22)

Not a hair of your head will perish (Luke 21:18)

The Temple is the setting for the prelude to Jesus’ passion (Luke 21:37)

Jews plot treachery to kill Jesus (Luke 22:2-6)

Jesus is severely tempted to abandon his purpose to die (Luke 22:40-44) — “thy will be done”

Jesus is seized at Jerusalem by the Jews (Luke 22:54)

Jesus expostulates with his opponents (Luke 22:52-53)

A last journey to Jerusalem is a journey toward passion, as prophesied, knowing that he will be handed over to gentiles: (Acts 20:22-23; 21:10-11; 28:17)

The ultimate scene of persecution was Jerusalem where the leaders  sought his death (Acts 25:2-3)

Jerusalem is the place where prophets are expected to die (Acts 21:30-36; 22:22-25; 23:12-22; 25:1-12)

Paul is opposed by the Sadducees who deny the resurrection (Acts 23:8)

Paul is accused by the Sadducean high priesthood (Acts 23:6-8)

Paul delivers farewell addresses (Acts 20:1, 7; 20:18-35)

In his last words (Acts 20:18-35)

Not a hair of your head will perish (Acts 27:34)

The Temple is the setting for the prelude to Paul’s passion (Acts 21:26)

Jews plot treachery to kill Paul (Acts 23:12-16)

Paul is severely tempted to abandon his purpose to be ready to die (Acts 21:13; 20:23; 21:4, 10-14) — the Lord’s will be done”

Paul is seized at Jerusalem by the Jews (Acts 21:27)

Paul expostulates with his opponents (Acts 21:40-22:21)


Parallel Trials, Charges and Acquittals

Four trials of Jesus

Jesus is accused of

Pilate asks where Jesus is from and then sends him to the authority (Herod) of that region (Galilee) (Luke 23:6-7)

  • appears by order of Pilate
  • before Herod Antipas
  • who happens to be available (Luke 23:7)
  • and can thus have his wish to hear the accused (Luke 23:7-8)
  • Herod Antipas hoped to see Jesus perform a miracle (Luke 23:8)
  • Jews stand and accuse Jesus before Herod (Luke 23:10)

Roman authority Pontius Pilate finds no guilt in Jesus (Luke 23:4)

Pilate exonerates Jesus (“I have found no basis for your charges against this man”) (Luke 23:14)

Roman governor Pilate finds Jesus has done nothing worthy of death (Luke 23:15, 22)

Pilate would have released Jesus (Luke 23:16, 20)

The crowd shout for Jesus’ death (Luke 23:18, 21)


Four trials of Paul

Paul is accused of

Felix asks Paul where he is from and then holds him until he can be heard before the relevant authority (Acts 23:34-35)

  • appears by order of Festus
  • before Herod Agrippa II
  • who happens to be available (Acts 25:13-14)
  • and can thus have his wish to hear the accused (Acts 25:22)
  • Felix hoped Paul would give him money (Acts 24:26)
  • Jews stand and vehemently accuse Paul before Festus (Acts 25:7)

Roman authority Claudius Lysias finds no guilt in Paul (Acts 23:29)

Pharisees exonerate Paul (“we find nothing wrong with this man”) (Acts 23:9)

Roman governor Festus finds Paul has done nothing worthy of death (Acts 25:25; 26:31)

Agrippa would have released Paul (Acts 26:32)

The crowd shouts for Paul’s death (Acts 21:36; 22:22)

Jesus was shamefully treated in Jerusalem (Luke 18:32)

Last Supper – take bread, give thanks, break it (Luke 22:19)

The people are numbered, Jesus takes bread, gives thanks, breaks bread, feeds the people (Luke 9:12-17)

Jesus is accompanied by malefactors (Luke 22:37; 23:32)

Jesus kneels to pray (usual posture was to stand) (Luke 22:41)

At his trial Jesus is struck by one nearby (Luke 22:63)

Jesus is brought before the Sanhedrin “the next day” (not night, as in Mark) (Luke 22:66)

Jesus is “delivered up” by Pilate to his captors (Luke 23:25)

A crowd follows Jesus (Luke 23:27)

Paul was shamefully treated at Iconium (Acts 14:5)

Meal aboard ship — take bread, give thanks, break it (Acts 27:33-38)

The people are numbered, Paul takes bread, gives thanks, breaks bread, feeds the people (Acts 27:33-38)

Paul is accompanied by malefactors (Acts 27:1)

Paul kneels to pray (Acts 20:36)

At his trial Paul is struck by one nearby (Acts 22:30)

Paul is brought before the Sanhedrin “the next day” (Acts 22:30)

Paul is “delivered up” by Festus to his captors (Acts 27:1)

A crowd follows Paul (Acts 21:36)


Deaths and resurrections

Paul’s shipwreck and plunging into the deep are the counterparts to Jesus’ death on the cross (Luke 23:26-49; Acts 27:14-24). . . .

Goulder strengthens the argument for the parallel between “Paul’s shipwreck and deliverance and Jesus’ death and resurrection”. To the Semites “death was like going into the sea …. All the sea is death to the Semite, whether we drown or whether we paddle and come out again …” Paul himself refers to his shipwrecks as “deaths” and his rescues as “resurrections” (II Cor. 1:8-10; 11:23)

Going down in a storm was the metaphor par excellence in scripture for death, and being saved from one for resurrection: when St Paul speaks of his shipwrecks in these terms, how can St Luke have thought otherwise ? He has shaped his book to lead up to the passion of Christ’s apostle from xix 21 on in such a way as to recall what led up to the passion of Christ himself in the earlier book: and as the climax of the Gospel is the death and resurrection of Christ, so the climax of Acts is the thanatos and anastasis of Paul.

(Mattill, pp. 19, 21)

An amazed centurion judges Jesus to be a righteous man (Luke 23:47)

Jesus was three days in the grave (Luke 23:50-56)

Jesus was rescued from death (Luke 24:1-11)

Post-resurrection joy (Luke 24:12-49)

An amazed Maltese judges Paul to be a god (Acts 28:6)

Paul was at rest and peace for three winter months cut off from the outside world (Acts 28:1-10) (28:11 – “3 months”)

Paul was rescued from death at sea at Malta (Acts 27:39-44)

Paul’s voyage to Rome in spring which was Paul’s entrance into a new life (Acts 28:11-16)


Other parallels though not in Luke

(If Luke was the last written gospel and its author knew the other three, as some have argued…?)

Jesus is said to be out of his mind (Mark 3:21)

Jesus is bound (Mark 15:1)

Jesus is challenged over disrespect to high priest (John 18:22)

Jesus comes before a judge whose wife is mentioned (Matthew 27:19)

Jesus’ judges wish to please the Jews (Mark 15:15)

Earthquake while on cross (Matthew 27:51)

Paul is said to be out of his mind (Acts 26:24)

Paul is bound (Acts 21:11, 33; 24:27)

Paul is challenged over disrespect to high priest (Acts 23:4)

Paul comes before a judge whose wife is mentioned (Acts 24:24)

Paul’s judges wish to please the Jews (Acts 24:27; 25:9)

Earthquake while in prison (Acts 16:26)


Mattill, A. J. “The Jesus-Paul Parallels and the Purpose of Luke-Acts: H. H. Evans Reconsidered.” Novum Testamentum 17, no. 1 (1975): 15–46. https://doi.org/10.2307/1560195https://www.jstor.org/stable/1560195


How Luke Reworked Matthew’s Conclusion?

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by Neil Godfrey

Continuing here from the previous post that looked at evidence that Luke was reworking Mark’s conclusion. The following tables distil and simplify key points from Jeffrey Peterson’s chapter in Marcan Priority Without Q: Explorations in the Farrer Hypothesis. 


Matthew 28

Luke 24


16. Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.

9. When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. . . .

33. They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them. . . .

M has related the death of Judas so his change from Twelve to Eleven is explained.

But L has not yet spoken of Judas’s death; follows Matthew with the eleven?

17. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but [also] doubted.

In the absence of an introductory οί μέν, this is a better rendering than nrsvs ‘they worshiped him; but some doubted’ . See Ulrich Luz, Matthew 21-28: A Commentary (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Augsburg, 2005), pp. 622-3; P. W. van der Horst, Once More: The Translation o f hoi de in Matthew 28:17’, JSNT21 (1986), pp. 27-30.

(Peterson, p. 153).

37. They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. . . . 41. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement . . . 52. Then they worshipped him . . .

Worship combined with disbelief, though the doubts in L arise from joy.

18. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . . 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you . . .

44. He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you . . .

47. and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. . . .

Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45. Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written:

M’s conclusion points to new phase; from Israel to the gentiles.

L’s conclusion points to promises fulfilled in next volume, Acts.

M quotes Daniel 7:14 [= He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped him] as fulfilled by Jesus;

L is more explicit, informing readers that prophecy has been fulfilled in Jesus.

In both M and L Jesus commands disciples to convert all nations, with reference to what he has told them while on earth with them.

20. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. 49. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. . . . 51. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. M refers back to 18:20 [= For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them]. Luke avoids possible confusion by depicting Jesus ascending to heaven and having disciples wait for him to be with them through the Holy Spirit.


Further on the question of Luke’s knowledge of Matthew, Peterson draws attention to the matching details Luke and Matthew add either side of the core narrative that is based heavily on Mark. Both start at the same point and both conclude at the same critical juncture with comparable sayings. Continue reading “How Luke Reworked Matthew’s Conclusion?”


How Luke Reworked Mark’s Ending

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by Neil Godfrey

This post looks at the evidence for Luke having reworked Mark’s ending. (The Gospel of Mark appears to have originally ended with verse 8 with the women fleeing from the tomb in fear.) The next post will identify the evidence for Luke having simultaneously used and changed Matthew’s ending. One step at a time.



What about the famous Emmaus Road encounter in Luke? Recall how Jesus appeared, unrecognized, alongside two disciples on the road, was invited in but disappeared before their eyes as soon as he broke bread.

That brings us to that highlighted section in Mark 16:7 … Jesus is promised to go before his disciples on the way back to Galilee . . . . Continue reading “How Luke Reworked Mark’s Ending”


Luke-Acts as a Unity?

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by Neil Godfrey

A neat outline of current thinking among scholars on the question of the relationship between Luke and Acts is set out by Phillip Long at https://readingacts.com/2019/04/25/unity-of-luke-acts-in-current-scholarship/.


Luke-Acts as form of history-writing (Luke-Acts Explained . . . Part 2)

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by Neil Godfrey

Continuing from Luke-Acts Explained as a form of “Ideal Jewish History” (Part 1)

The reasons Luke-Acts has been considered a form of ancient history writing:

  1. Like other ancient historiography the work begins with a prologue announcing its superiority over what has gone before;
    • Steve Mason notes that unlike the preceding gospels Luke-Acts, as a two volume work, narrates a changing or developing historical movement (see p. 9 of the article for details; I think of the way the author has restructured the events in the gospels in order to )
  2. Like Xenophon, Plutarch, Tacitus and others the author of Luke-Acts fuses “biography with a quasi-biographical history”;
  3. Like other historical writing of the day Luke-Acts constant changes of scene, notes on geographical and  political details, episodes of high drama such as storms at sea and encounters with murderous enemies, and speeches.

Mason addresses works of Richard Pervo (Profit with Delight) and Loveday Alexander (The Preface to Luke’s Gospel) — there are posts on Pervo and Alexander here and here — that dispute the ‘historical’ character of Luke-Acts. In response Mason observes that the line between ancient historiography and ancient novels may not be so easy to discern given, in addition to the nature of ancient historiography, the difficulty in “defining” the ancient novel. Perhaps, but I think that’s another question for another chapter or article. In short, to Mason nothing can be gained by assigning Luke-Acts to another genre since writers were simply too willing to innovate and mix elements that we think of as belonging to separate genres.

The reasons against considering Luke-Acts as a form of historiography:

  1. The prologue of Luke-Acts does not identify the author and anonymity defeated the whole point of ancient prologues to historiography. The point was establish “the author’s character and unique moral assessment of the past.” (I have set out my view that the historian used his identity in order to establish confidence among readers of his work that he was in a position to know and to give his work authoritative status.)
    • Josephus did not identify himself in the prefaces to his later works but he certainly did “introduce himself magnificently” in his first work (and again in his closing section). The author of Luke-Acts does nothing like that.
  2. The next point has long been decisive for me: “The effect of the missing author-identification in Luke-Acts is greatly compounded by the complete absence of historia-language, or Thucydides’ preferred συγγράφω and cognates, along with any suggestion of knowledge from open-ended inquiry—if we leave aside the prologue’s covering reference to the author’s careful observation—or the political analysis that was history’s reason for being. Even though the author shows himself well aware of political conditions in the eastern Mediterranean, and is happy to use them as furniture, this is simply not a work of political or historical analysis comparable to other histories. By comparison with any other histories, Luke-Acts is far removed from historiography in both its characteristic language and its prevailing ethos: the stories of Peter and Paul proclaiming Christ’s resurrection.” It is rare to read an article acknowledging this start difference between Luke-Acts and other histories.
  3. I quote in full (p. 11, my bolding as always):
    • In place of normal historical analysis, the author boldly announces his subject matter as ‘the deeds that have been fulfilled among us’ and the observation and reception of truth by those who were ‘eyewitnesses and servants of the word/teaching’ (1.2-3). Historians were not supposed to be anyone’s servants or emissaries, a posture antithetical to history’s purpose of truth-seeking inquiry. The anonymous author does briefly stress his efforts to get the story straight, in the prologue, but the story itself comes from revelation. The work’s many episodes of heavenly and angelic visitation as revelatory of the most important truths undercut any notion of a historian’s authority, which derives from rigorous inquiry and his own moral character. Of this there is no trace in the anonymous Luke-Acts.
    • That the most important truth comes via revelation is reinforced throughout the two-volume work at all crucial junctures: infancy narrative, explanatory angelic appearances at Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, and the decisive revelations to Peter, Paul, and the early community. Equally, the account is driven by wondrous deeds beyond the ken of historical inquiry, from Jesus’ divine birth through his many miracles and resurrection to the signs and wonders performed by his emissaries.

It is at this point that Steve Mason parts company with the critical studies that have sought to understand Luke-Acts as a form of history writing by focusing on details in common with works of Greco-Roman historians. Yes, the comparisons are significant, but at the same time we ought not to lose sight of “the highly distinctive atmosphere and content of Luke-Acts.”

We should not, then, become so fixated on the parallels with Graeco-Roman historiography, as I would suggest Cadbury, Lake, and Foakes Jackson were, that we miss the highly distinctive atmosphere and content of Luke-Acts.

Reconciling the historiographical and non-historical features of Luke-Acts

It is here that Steve Mason finds Josephus useful for understanding Luke-Acts and its mix of historical and even “anti”-historical features. Continue reading “Luke-Acts as form of history-writing (Luke-Acts Explained . . . Part 2)”


Luke-Acts Explained as a form of “Ideal Jewish History” (Part 1)

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by Neil Godfrey

The author of Luke-Acts was following an ideal that Josephus had presented as a superior feature of Jewish historical writings: that history learned from revelation (e.g. works of Moses) was superior to the uncertain and often disputed historical inquiries of the Greeks.

I think Steve Mason has nailed Luke-Acts. I think, as a specialist in Josephus, he has identified something crucial in Luke-Acts that appears to have been more generally overlooked.

Up till now I have posted at length scholarly proposals that Acts is a work of ancient fiction, that its prologue follows the pattern found in technical medical or military or mathematical treatises rather than those found in works of ancient historians, and I have even ventured to suggest that Josephus would have deplored the gospels, and by extension Acts, as serious history – a post I now see is badly flawed in places. Most recently we looked at some findings from the Acts Seminar Report.) Well, having read Steve Mason’s paper I now think the author of our canonical version of Luke-Acts was more in tune with Josephus’s ideals than I had suspected. (Some readers will know of Steve Mason’s earlier book, Josephus and the New Testament, which includes a chapter offering reasons to think the author of Luke-Acts knew the Antiquities of Josephus. We have also posted, and plan to post further in depth, on Mason’s newer work, A History of the Jewish War A.D. 66-74.)

Steve Mason

The following is taken from a paper Mason has just uploaded on academia.edu, Luke-Acts and Ancient Historiography.

When Biblical Scholars Took the Lead in Critical Studies

I was fascinated and sobered to learn that there was a time when biblical scholars took the lead over their classicist peers when it came to critical study of their literary sources.

So we should not imagine that biblical studies merely followed classical trends. In fact, critical study of the Old and New Testaments largely paved the way for critical history as a discipline, including ancient history. It was not until the late 1970s through the 1990s that such authors as Livy, Polybius, Diodorus, and Pausanias were subjected to searching study as genuine authors, who had crafted their narratives to serve their moral and thematic purposes, rather than as mere transmitters of data. This post-Hippie period corresponded roughly to that in which redaction- and composition-critical research flourished in OT and NT studies.

(p. 4)

I had not appreciated the full extent to which the studies in Acts by Cadbury, Foakes Jackson and Lake had been so ground-breaking.

To write the important second volume, they enlisted the controversial Quaker, classicist, pacifist, and agnostic Henry Joel Cadbury, later of Harvard but then at Andover Seminary. Cadbury agreed with Foakes Jackson and Lake about the need to understand Acts in light of ancient historiography, and letting the theological chips fall where they may

. . . . 

He was ahead of his time in calling for scholars to pay more attention to the nature of ancient historiography. In order to responsibly understand and use this crucial account of Christian origins, he was saying, one needed to understand how people generally wrote about the past 2000 years ago (BC 2.7–8). Understanding Acts this way, as ancient historiography, was not merely different from proving is historicity. It required a different mindset because it directed scholars’ attention to how things were being said rather than to the underlying facts.

. . . .

So, having laid out this rather bracing summary, by 1920 standards in the Anglophone world, Cadbury began comparing the Lucan double-work with other creations of ancient historiography. And he found Luke-Acts—to which he compared the Jewish historian Josephus—to be in general agreement with contemporary historiographical practice. In the 1920s, this was a huge advance. In many respects, Cadbury was far ahead of his time. I say that because even in the field of Classics, although a few scholars were thinking about the artistic qualities and literary freedom of some historians, it would take another half-century—after the ‘literary turn’ in the humanities— before such perspectives were broadly applied. The historian and philosopher R. G. Collingwood told his Oxford undergraduates in 1926 that ‘the average professional historian is far less critical in his attitude to Herodotus than the average professional theologian in his attitude to St. Mark’.

Continue reading “Luke-Acts Explained as a form of “Ideal Jewish History” (Part 1)”


18 Vridar Posts on the Gospel of Luke’s Emmaus Road / Cleopas Narrative

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

After Tim’s recent post Unclear Origins and Etymology of Kleopas and noticing readers’ interest related to the subject I thought some of us might be interested in a complete list of Vridar posts on the Emmaus Road narrative. Here they are, all 18 of them, annotated.

When did Peter first see the resurrected Jesus? 2007-09-16

  • The Emmaus road narrative features as a core part of an attempt to explain the mixed messages given the role of Peter in the post-resurrection narratives of the canonical gospels. It argues that Peter first met the resurrected Jesus, as per 1 Corinthians 15:5, some time after the writing of the gospels of Mark and Matthew but just prior to Luke’s gospel — or more likely as late as that redaction of Luke by the author of Acts and around the time of the Pastorals.

The origin and meaning of the Emmaus Road narrative in Luke 2007-11-17

  • The Emmaus Road narrative in Luke 24 raises many questions. Why is the hitherto unknown Cleopas one of those who appears to be the first to meet the resurrected Jesus? Who is his unnamed companion? Why does the narrative conclude with a statement that Jesus has appeared to Simon when no such appearance is described? Is this really a reference to Simon Peter or some other Simon? Do the two travellers tell the eleven apostles about the appearance to Simon or is it the eleven apostles who are telling the two travellers that Jesus has appeared to Simon?
  • The best explanation I can think of is based principally on the problems faced by an author wanting to introduce relatively late in the life of the church a brand new narrative involving a central character. This leads to an look at the logic of the narrative of the gospel and an attempt to understand its structure through the standards of popular story-telling of the day, as well as in the context of similar well-known Jewish stories. It also considers the possibilities that the text found in an alternative manuscript, the Codex Bezae, contains some elements of the original story.

The Emmaus narrative and the techniques of popular story-telling 2007-11-18

  • Below I have summarized the conclusions of the far more detailed discussion of the Emmaus road narrative. It offers an explanation for some of the problems with this narrative by seeing it in the context of the art of popular story telling. . . . . Those problems largely disappear when the ending is read as being constructed with the tools of ancient popular fiction.

Luke’s dialogue with John on the first resurrection appearance? 2007-11-19

  • An examination of a possible relationship between very similar post-resurrection narratives in the Gospels of John and Luke, each narrating a scene of two people, one named and the other unnamed, walking back to their homes after discovering the empty tomb.

More on Luke’s use of Genesis 2007-11-19

  • Jacob, after deceiving his father Isaac with a kiss, the kiss described with the same “drawing near” motion later used of Judas in Luke, soon afterwards, a day or two it seems, left the scene of the betrayal of his father and brother to go to his mother’s home in Haran. It was on the way and near the end of a day that God appeared to him in the dream as he slept on rock or stone that assumed significance in Jewish legend — at “Oulammaus”. All of these features of the Jacob story are echoed, as previously discussed, in the story of Jesus appearing and revealing his identity to the two on the road to Emmaus.

Resurrection: more responses to Bishop Wright’s study 2008-04-30

  • The Road to Emmaus story contains easily recognizable literary motifs associated with similar stories in Genesis and Judges . . . .

Continue reading “18 Vridar Posts on the Gospel of Luke’s Emmaus Road / Cleopas Narrative”