Rev. Dr. Edgar Mayer – Toowoomba 2000

Studies in Luke – Acts: Methodology (1)

1. Composition Criticism

There is no longer any debate among scholars about Luke's competent literary skills in assembling the two-volume work of Luke – Acts. By his own admission Luke used numerous written sources and worked on them to fashion his own orderly account of the Jesus story (Luke 1:1-4). One of Luke's sources seems to have been the Gospel of Mark and synoptic comparisons will shed light on Lukan emphases. Luke composed his work from different sources and employed literary techniques to shape his material. We will look at two major literary techniques which are dominant in Luke – Acts: Chiasms and Typologies. Additional literary techniques are the use of summaries [Johnson, L.T.: The Gospel of Luke, Sacra Pagina 3, Collegeville 1991, 13: "Luke takes them (summaries) over (from Mark) and increases their number (Luke 1:80; 2:52; 4:14-15; 7:21-22; 8:1-3; 13:22; 19:47; 21:37)."], recapitulating and prefiguring events (e.g.: Luke 24), programmatic statements (e.g.: Luke 2:34), speeches, geography [Johnson, L.T.: The Gospel of Luke, Sacra Pagina 3, Collegeville 1991, 14-15: "Luke uses geography to structure his story and to advance his literary and theological goals. The center of his story is the city of Jerusalem ... In the Gospel, the narrative moves toward Jerusalem ... In Acts, the geographical movement is away from Jerusalem ... "], ... . Important is also Tiede's observation: "The rejection of God's agents by God's people in connection with God's sanctuaries (synagogue and temple) is the plot device by which the movement of the narrative as a whole is motivated" [Tiede, D.L.: Prophecy and History in Luke-Acts, Columbia 1986, 14-16.87.120].

2. Luke's Use Of Chiasms

2.1 Definition & Examples

Chiasms are an ancient literary device and were used widely in the Bible. Scholars readily acknowledge their prevalence even though they often find it hard to determine the shape of particular chiasms. [Cf. Bailey, K.E.: Poet & Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes, Grand Rapids, Michigan 1983; Lund, N.W.: Chiasmus in the New Testament, Chapel Hill 1942.] When a chiasm is employed the first segment of the text parallels the last, the second the penultimate, and so on. Within this basic chiastic structure there is scope for variations. It is best to give a few examples:

Mark 2:27:

A: The sabbath was made, B: for man, B': not man, A': for the sabbath.

Luke 4:14-20: [following Bailey, Poet, 68-69 with the exception of vv18-19]

A1 (v14a): And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee
B1 (v14b): And a report went forth through the whole neighborhood concerning him.
C1 (v15a): And he taught in their synagogues.
B1' (v15b): Being praised by all.
A1' (v16a): And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up.

A2 (v16b): And he entered (as his custom was on the Sabbath) into the synagogue
B2 (v16c): and he stood up to read
C2 (v17a): and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah.
D2 (v17b): And opening the book, he found the place where it was written,
E2 (v18a): The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
F2 (v18b): He has sent me to proclaim to the prisoners freedom
G2 (v18c): and to the blind recovery of sight,
F2' (v18d): to send forth the oppressed ones in freedom
E2' (v19): to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
D2' (v20a): And having closed the book
C2' (v20b): after giving it back to the attendant,
B2' (v20c): he sat down
A2' (v20d): and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.

The center of the first chiasm is taken up in the outer bracket of the second chiasm: Jesus was teaching in the synagogues. Likewise, the center of the second chiasm is already prefigured in the outer bracket of the first chiasm: The Spirit of the Lord is upon Jesus which makes him proclaim good news. Furthermore, the center of the second chiasm relates to the concluding statement of the outer bracket: Jesus came to grant recovery of sight to the blind. The question is: Will those whose eyes are fixed on Jesus finally see?

Luke 22:1-62:

A1 (v1-6): The way Judas gets rich: The chief priests and the officials of the temple guard agreed (syntithemai) with Judas to give him money for betraying Jesus.
B1 (v7-13): Two prominent disciples, Peter and John (single tradition), prepare the passover for Jesus and the other disciples.
C1 (v14-23): Jesus and his disciples celebrate the passover and Jesus offers the cup (touto to poteerion) of the covenant in his blood.
B1' (v24-27): The greatest among the disciples should serve the others.
A1' (v28-30): The way the disciples get rich: Jesus covenants (diatithemai) the disciples the kingdom. They will eat and drink at Jesus' table, sit on thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel.

A2 (v31-34): Jesus predicts that Peter will disown him.
B2 (v35-38): Jesus tells his disciples to buy a sword.
C2: (v39-46): Within eye-sight of the disciples Jesus accepts the cup (touto to poteerion) and his sweat becomes like drops of blood falling on the ground.
B2': (v47-53): Jesus is arrested and the disciples defend him with a sword.
A2' (v54-62): Peter disowns Jesus.

Within Luke 22:1-62 two chiasms (v1-30; v31-62) relate to each other. Both centers feature an important cup (v14-23; v39-46) and both outer brackets (v1-6 - v28-30; v31-34 - v54-62) narrate a betrayal of Jesus. Without discussing this structure further it becomes visible how intentional Luke was in using chiasms to arrange his written sources.

2.2 Rules Of Recognition

Chiasms were widely used but they were not always clearly delineated and marked by the various authors. Therefore scholars have difficulties in tracing an author's chiastic intentions. The following criteria may assist in recognizing the presence of a chiastic parallel:

2.3 The Importance Of Chiasms For Exegesis

The center and outer bracket of a chiasm contain what is most important to the author. Therefore they provide clues as to the author's intentions and main-themes. Furthermore, chiasms can clarify text-critical questions. In Luke 24 scholars are not certain whether v12 was part of the original text. If that verse were necessary to complete an intricate chiastic structure in Luke 24, then there would be further evidence that v12 belonged to the original manuscript. Luke's shaping of material into chiasms also negates the need for separate written sources whenever Luke differs from Mark.

3. Typologies

3.1 Defintion

Especially Goppelt (Goppelt, L.: Typos, Guetersloh 1939) has shown that in Biblical times typologies were widely used to interpret new history in the light of past events. Typologies may be defined in the following way: A typology looks backs to past paradigms which feature either people, institutions or certain chains of events. Ancient paradigms serve to explain the present and present material is shaped to echo ancient paradigms. The past which provides the typos and the present which provides the antitype need not correspond closely. Frequently creative typological connections between the past and the present are made.

3.2. Examples in Luke – Acts

Marshall writes about Luke 1:5-25: "The situation of Zechariah and Elizabeth resembles most closely that of the aged Abraham and Sarah, but it also echoes the situations of Jacob and Rachel (1:25), of Samson's parents, and of Samuel's parents. John himself is described in a way reminiscent of Samson and Samuel, but his role is specifically that of a second Elijah ... " (Marshall, I.H.: The Gospel of Luke, Grand Rapids 1978, 49).

O'Toole writes about Acts 6:8-8:3: " ... 8. The charges against Stephen parallel those brought against Jesus in Mark's Gospel, which Luke used as a source. Apparently, Luke did not feel that these charges were appropriate during Jesus' trial but he did use them of one of his followers: Jesus/'For many bore false witness against him ... And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 'We heard him say, 'I will destroy this temple made by hands' (Mk 14:55-58) ... '; 'You have heard this blasphemy (Mk 14:64; cf. Luke 5:21).'; Stephen/'Then they secretly instigated men, who said, 'We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God' ... and set up false witnesses who said, 'This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say taht this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place ... ' (Acts 6:11-14) ... 10. Jesus/'and they led him away to their council ... (Luke 22:66).'; Stephen/'and led him before their council ... (Acts 6:12).' ... 16. Jesus/'Then Jesus crying with a loud voice, said 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.' And having said this, he breathed his last (Lk 23:46).'; ... 'And Jesus said, 'Father forgive them, for they know not what they do' (Lk 23:34: a disputed text).'; Stephen/'And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, 'Lord Jesus receive my spirit.' And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' And when he had said this, he fell asleep (Acts 7:59-60) ... " (O'Toole, R.F.: The Unity of Luke's Theology, Wilmington 1984, 64-66).

Goulder writes: " ... it is widely agreed, for example, that there is an intended set of parallels between Jesus' long journey to Jerusalem in Luke 9ff and the journey of Paul from Acts 19.21 to Jerusalem and then Rome. Both journeys are overshadowed by the coming sufferings of the two pilgrims, both of whom are well aware of their impending fate. 'Paul purposed in the spirit to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there I must see Rome also.' There is the same necessity upon them both to go where the prophets suffer their passions (Luke 13.33), but Paul must go further. At Miletus he delivers his parting discourse as his master had in the upper room to the first elders of the Church. He speaks of his 'temptations' endured with them over the years, as Jesus said to the Twelve then, 'Ye are they that have continued with me in my temptations'. He kneels down and is torn away from them (cf. Luke 22.41-2). He also raises echoes from Jesus' great warning to his disciples in Luke 21. 'Take heed ... ', he tells them, 'watch ... ' (Acts 20.28,31; Luke 21.34.36). Here moreover is delivered the first prophecy of his coming suffering: 'The Holy Spirit witnesses to me in every city that chains and tribulations are in store for me' (Acts 20.23). Three times Jesus foretold his passion to his disciples (Luke 9.22,44; 18.31f);and Paul's passion is likewise foretold a second and a third time, once through the disciples at Tyre, once through Agabus at Caearea. It is at Caesarea too that the Church makes Christ's own response to the imminent disaster. 'Nevertheless not my will but thine be done', Jesus had said at Gethsemane (Luke 22.42): 'The will of the Lord be done', replies the Church (Acts 21.14). And so to Jerusalem, and their several passions.

The accusations against Jesus and Paul alike is that they defiled the temple. 'We heard him say, I will destroy this temple ... ' (Mark 14.58) is omitted in St Luke's Gospel, and transferred to Acts where it becomes the casus belli against Paul: 'This is the fellow who teaches everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place' (21.28). The cries of the multitude are the same for them both: 'Away with this fellow and release unto us Barabbas' (Luke 23.18, Luke only): 'Away with him ... Away with such a fellow from the earth' (Acts 21.36; 22.22). St Luke omits the Markan scourging, and we expect it the more therefore in Acts 22, but Paul in fact just escapes it. 'On the morrow' Paul is brought before the Sanhedrin (22.30), as 'on the morrow as soon as it was day' Jesus had been (Luke 22.66) ... " (Goulder, M.D.: Type and History in Acts, London 1964, 35-36). It is noteworthy that Luke allows typologies to shape large sections of his narrative.

3.3 Rules Of Recognition

Only few of Luke's typologies are marked as such (e.g.: Luke 4:25-27). The norm is that Luke works with typologies but refrains from alerting his readers to intended paralles between type and antitype. How then can typologies be recognized in Luke – Acts? The evidence has to be accumulative and the following criteria may be considered:

3.4 The Importance Of Typologies For Exegesis

Since Luke makes extensive use of typologies, they need to be identified to understand the framework of Luke – Acts. Furthermore, typologies bring the past and present together and motivate a reading of history as salvation history. Most importantly, typologies foster a cyclical view of history (Bultmann, R.: Ursprung und Sinn der Typologie als hermeneutische Methode, in: Theologische Literaturzeitung 75 (1950), 205-212) – a cyclical view which seems to be mirrored by the cyclical structure of Luke – Acts (cf. Goulder).


Luke–Acts