Luke’s Gospel Posts
August 9, 2012 by Jason Hood
Here’s part two of my interview with Jonathan Pennington, Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction, coming in October 2012 from Baker Academic. (For more on the book, including killer video introductions, see the book’s website.) Part one is available here.
(4) What are some of the “big picture,” redemptive historical ideas that shape the way you read the gospels?
From how I’ve defined the gospel above you might rightly surmise that the kingdom or reign of God is central to my thinking, as it seems it was to Jesus’ as well, if his preaching and teaching are any indication!
At the same time, I am convinced that the goal of Holy Scripture (which I spend some time discussing in the book) is our personal transformation through God revealing to us both our brokenness and the full-orbed redemption available to us in the gospel. So, I think a wise reading of the Gospels will not only ask theological and redemptive-historical questions about the kingdom, but also about the nature of God and his redeeming ways with his people. Again, the Gospels are heavily-laden, low-hanging fruit-filled trees on these important matters. At every turn the stories of the Gospels reveal Christ’s gracious greatness and our need for redemption.
(5) Are there any under-appreciated or underexplored aspects of the theology of the kingdom for church today? Are there elements where we haven’t quite gotten the message of the gospels right (i.e., preaching, ethics, evangelism, political engagement, building a worldview or a biblical theology)?
This is obviously a huge question. I will just tackle one small part that is related to what we’ve been discussing. I think we have largely misread the Gospels as if they are the historical data while the rest of the NT is the theological and ethical interpretation of Jesus’ life. This is quite mistaken at many levels. The Gospels themselves are finely-tuned, well-honed, fully-theological and practical interpretations and applications of Jesus’ message. They are, in my opinion, more universal and comprehensive than the epistolary literature, which is largely occasional in nature.
As a result, I believe our understanding of NT theology (and biblical theology overall) is often somewhat pear-shaped by preferencing a certain way of reading Paul and not taking into account the whole NT witness, including the vast bulk of it: the Gospel accounts. When we begin to read the Gospels as theological (even homiletical) messages it will potentially affect how we articulate many things including our worldview, political engagement, evangelism, and ethics.
I absolutely agree, Jonathan, and I don’t think I’m alone. I have been teaching OT of late, I’ve noted the same problem with the way we read the OT books. We take them as historical accounts (to be defended or critiqued, depending on whether we lean left or right) while downplaying or overlooking the theological and pastoral purposes of those books.
Strangely enough, your criticism is the opposite criticism employed by Bultmann and the early Barth against 19th and early 20th century liberalism. That movement was guilty of over-emphasizing the gospels (but by mining for acceptable moral gems and reconstructions of the historical Jesus, famously categorized by Schweitzer as looking intently for Jesus only to find we’re looking into a well and seeing our own reflection) and downplaying soteriological concepts found in Paul and Luther.
(6) A hypothetical student in “old school” dispensationalism picks up this text. What will he or she encounter that will be challenging?
Well, if they truly are old school dispensationalists then they won’t appreciate the fact that I think the Gospels’ teachings are the Church’s teachings! That is, as I was just suggesting, the Gospels are post-Pentecostal interpretations of the Christian faith, not time-bound data about the historical Jesus in his own dispensation nor teachings for Israel in the millennium. This is, according to my understanding, a classical dispensational view. I know it is not the view of today’s “progressive” dispensationalists, thankfully.
Indeed, the edgiest part of RGW is the final chapter where I boldly suggest that the fourfold Gospel book should be understood as the epicenter or keystone of the archway for all of Holy Scripture. I don’t suppose this fits overly well into an old school dispensational view, nor indeed into most evangelical views! You’ll have to read the book and evaluate the arguments for yourself.
Bruce Waltke answers the question, “What is your favorite book of the Bible?”: “Whichever book I’m currently studying.” I imagine your text will help students dig into the gospels so that they become favorite texts for many, Jonathan! Thanks so much for your time, and best wishes on this new publication and your new position as Director of the PhD program at Southern Seminary.1 Comment
August 8, 2012 by Jason Hood
Friend of SAET Jonathan Pennington has a new textbook coming out on the gospels: Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction, coming in October 2012 from Baker Academic. I recently asked him a few questions about this work and his approach to the gospels. (For more on the book, including killer video introductions, see the book’s website.)
(1) You’ve been teaching gospels for how long now? What are some of the key elements you want students to take into the pastorate?
I’ve been teaching from the Gospels at several levels for about ten years now – everything from church seminars to Greek Exegesis of Matthew, from Sunday preaching to NT Survey courses.
I want my students and all readers of this book to grow in their love for the theological and literary depth and beauty of the Gospels – and of course, for the Subject of their narrative. I want students to learn how to read narrative texts well and how to apply the narrative portions of Holy Scripture theologically and personally. Most importantly, I want to see the Church rediscover the central role that the Gospels can and should play in all our teaching and preaching.
(2) I still have your ground-breaking dissertation, Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew (click the title for an impressive slate of reviews) on my desk for fast reference. What’s the connection between that work and this present work? Obviously one is a dissertation, the other a textbook; but are there links would someone see and identify as the seedbed of the “Pennington” school of thought?
Very funny and rather scary idea that there would ever be a “Pennington school of thought”! But it is a good question about what connections there are between my earlier work on Matthew and Reading the Gospels Wisely. The biggest difference is that RGW is written as a rather far-reaching, supplement textbook on how to read the Gospels overall.
There is a similarity in approach in that I still primarily read the Gospels through a literary and theological lens; this is evident in both books. But while Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew makes a sustained argument for the existence of a particular literary theme in Matthew, RGW covers a range of hermeneutical, historical, and theological issues concerning all the Gospels. In many ways it is really an ecclesial hermeneutics book for the Gospels.
(3) Your promotional video has a bit of a provocative edge to it, pushing back against “small” gospel. How do you situate your book with respect to the wider conversation in evangelicalism on the definition of the gospel? How does your experience as a professor of the gospels shape your definition of the gospel?
Yes, I suppose there is a bit of an edge in that video, but I hope a nice, smooth edge, not a jagged one! Though the scope of RGW is much wider than the issue of how to define the “gospel,” I do address this issue in the first couple of chapters and I do care about this important current discussion.
My study throughout the years has convinced me that the Gospels – intertextually rehashing Isaiah in particular – help us see that the “euangelion” (good news) of the Bible is the message of God returning to restore his reign. It is, to use Matthew’s unique phrase, “the gospel of the kingdom” (Mt 4:23; 9:35; 24:14). The shorthand version is that the gospel message of Scripture is the story of God’s reign coming from heaven to earth, from creation to new creation, centered in Jesus the Christ. There is no place in Holy Scripture where this is more clearly or fully developed than in the fourfold Gospel book.
Stay tuned for part two of the interview, coming tomorrow.1 Comment
June 24, 2011 by Jason HoodIn this series (part one; part two) we’re taking a look at the ways in which Luke-Acts portrays the disciples as “like their master” (Lk 6:40) and as God’s agents in mission (Acts 1:1; 14:10, the latter verse is ironic). Here are some–not all–of the Jesus-Paul parallels.
- Jesus and Paul both receive the Holy Spirit at baptism (Lk 3:21-22, Acts 9:17-28) and have their movements governed by the Spirit (Luke 4:1, 14; Acts 19:6, 7; 19:21).
- Both Jesus and Paul are depicted as law-observant, participating in Jewish festivals and firmly ensconced in Jewish heritage (Lk 2:21-24, 41-42; 22:1-8; Acts 16:3-4; 18:18, 21; 20:6, 16; 22:3, 23:6, 26:4-5; 27:9; 28:). Neither violates the Law or Customs (ta ethe; Luke 16:17, Acts 6:14 for Jesus; 21:21-24, 28:17), although they are falsely accused of having done so.
- Paul and Jesus both put the Pharisees’ doctrine of the resurrection to use (Luke 14:14; 20:27-40; Acts 17:18, 32, 23:6-8) and affirm that all life is lived “in God” (Lk 20:38, Acts 17:28).
- Both Jesus and Paul are recognized by demons (Luke 4:34-35, 41; 8:28; Acts 16:17, 19:15), and the link between the two is made by a demon (Acts 19:15).
- Both make a “custom” of synagogue attendance/preaching (Luke 4:16, Acts 17:1-2; two of the four NT uses of the word for “custom” are employed here; compare Luke 6:6, 13:10; Acts 13:14-15; 14:1; 17:1, 17).
- Their ministry is first revealed/publicly announced by a man who has the Holy Spirit who lays his hands on Jesus/Paul (Acts 9:17, Luke 2:25-26, 28) and mentions mission to the Gentiles(Luke 2:30-32; Acts 9:15-16).
- Like Jesus, Paul escapes arrest and death at the hands of Jewish opponents at the beginning of his ministry (Acts 9:23-25; Luke 4:29-30).
- Like Jesus, Paul willingly goes to Jerusalem to be arrested and (really in Jesus’ case, only apparently in Paul’s) to be put to death, despite resistance from their friends (see Luke 13:33). Jews lie in wait for both (Lk 11:54, Acts 23:21; the verb only appears those verses in the NT).
- Angels minister both to Paul and to Jesus during intense trial (Luke 22:43, Acts 27:23). And just as Jesus promised his disciples that “not a hair of your head will perish” (Lk 21:18, and the whole of that paragraph is literally fulfilled in Acts; cf 22:7), so Paul in one instance extends that promise to others (Acts 27:34). Jesus promises that serpents will not harm the disciples (Luke 10:19), and Paul is unharmed by a viper bite (Acts 28:3-6).
- Paul and Jesus are charged with four offences: (1) leading the people astray (Luke 23:1, Acts 24:5), (2) opposing Caesar (Luke 23:2 Acts 17:7), (3) stirring up sedition (Luke 23:5, Acts 24:5), and (4) claiming sovereignty for Christ against Caesar (Luke 23;2; Acts 17:7).
- Like Jesus, Paul has four trials (Luke 22-23; Acts 23-26) and is seized by a mob after going to the Temple and being welcomed by the people (Luke 19:37-48, 22:54; Acts 21). Both are exonerated—but not released—by Roman authorities (Luke 23:4, Acts 13:28; Acts 23:29); Pilate and Agrippa both try to release them (Luke 23:16, 20; Acts 26:32); Roman governors note that neither is worthy of death (Pilate in Luke 23:15; Festus in Acts 25:25).
June 21, 2011 by Jason Hood
(See Part One) In this series we’re taking a look at how Luke portrays the disciples as “like their master” (Lk 6:40) and as God’s agents in mission (Acts 1:1; 14:10, the latter verse is ironic).
Luke carves out two complex patterns of imitation and participation in the work of Jesus in the power of the Spirit. (1) Jesus’ disciples do or experience things after the pattern of Jesus, and Luke makes no effort to hide the parallels. (2) The disciples in Acts obey commands given by Jesus in Luke, thus serving as models of obedience for later readers. The first pattern includes the following events:
- Like Jesus, Stephen is accused by false witnesses; like Jesus, he is accused of threatening the Temple and Law.
- Like Jesus, Stephen cites Daniel 7 (Luke 22:69; Acts 7:55-56), the only difference being that Acts has Jesus standing as if to welcome Stephen, rather than Luke sitting as if in judgment.
- Like Jesus, Stephen asks God to take his spirit and forgives those who are unjustly killing them (Luke 23:34, 46; Acts 7:59-60).
- Stephen’s unstoppable wisdom (Acts 6:10) is proof that by his Spirit, Jesus is fulfilling his promise: “I will give you a mouth and a wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict” (Luke 21:15).
- After prayer, Jesus is empowered by the Holy Spirit for his life of ministry (repeatedly mentioned in 3:16-4:19; esp 3:21; Acts 10:38). After prayer, his disciples are empowered in the same way (Luke 24:45-49; Acts 1:8; Acts 2).
- Jesus launches his ministry with a sermon on his fulfillment of Scripture and the rejection of Jesus; the church’s ministry begins in the same way (Luke 4:16-30; Acts 2:14-40).
- Like Jesus, the apostles have a healing ministry. Especially striking are the involuntarily healings that take place because of the power of God present in Jesus and his disciples (Luke 8:44-48; Acts 19:12); the fact that Samaritans experience healing (Luke 17:11-16; Acts 8); and the fact that those who are healed turn around and serve Jesus and Paul (Luke 4:38-39, 8:2-3; Acts 28:10)
- Like Jesus, the disciples resuscitate the dead (in particular those needed by the community, Acts 9:36-41; Luke 7:11-16) after affirming that the one being healed is not really dead (Luke 8:52, Acts 20:9-10).
- Like Jesus, the disciples proclaim the “gospel of the kingdom” (Luke 4:43; 9:2) and “forgiveness” (Luke 5:20, 24; Acts 2:38, 10:43, 13:38-39) and “the word of grace” (Luke 4:22, Acts 14:3, 20:32).
- Jesus and the apostles receive a response of awe (Luke 5:26; Acts 2:43) and—when the inclusion of the Gentiles is announced—wrath (Luke 4:27-28; Acts 13:47-50, 22:21-22).
- Both Jesus and the apostles are “chosen” by God for their task (Luke 9:35, 23:35, Acts 9:15). When rejected by humans, both cite Isaiah 6:9, 10 to describe this aspect of their ministry (Luke 8:10; Acts 28:26-27).
- Jesus and the apostles are regularly cast as prophets (Luke 4:24, 13:33; Acts 3:22-23, 7:37; 11:27, 13:1; 15:32; 19:6; 21:9).
In Part Three, we’ll look at the parallels between Paul and Jesus.1 Comment
June 20, 2011 by Jason Hood
When he starts writing Acts, Luke tells us that his first volume (the Gospel of Luke) he “wrote about all that Jesus began to do and preach…” In other words, Jesus is not finished working. Some suggest that we should call the book commonly known as “the Acts of the Apostles,” “the Acts of Jesus.”
Perhaps Luke would prefer us to combine the two: “The Acts of Jesus through the Apostles”.
Luke underscores his desire to connect Jesus and his people in many ways. In addition to Acts 1:1, and the obvious emphasis on the Spirit, there are three other verses that bring this theme home to roost:
Jesus asks Saul the persecuting Pharisee “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4, 22:7, 26:14).
Luke 6:40: A disciple is not above his teacher; but when fully trained he will be like his teacher.
Acts 14:11: “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!”
Luke 6:40 foreshadows the host of fully trained men and women in Acts, especially the apostles, who do a great many things that Jesus does. The rest of Acts, with its emphasis on God’s Spirit on and in his people, suggests that the Lystrans are not totally wrong. Paul and Barnabas are not gods, but men. But–ironically–the living God is certainly visiting Lystra in them.
(Of course, there is a negative way in which God works through humans. The apostles make the astonishing claim that God and humans are both responsible for the death of Jesus [Acts 2:23; 4:27-28]. It is not either God or humans at work in planning the execution of Jesus: God planned what humans schemed and accomplished, and their work accomplished God’s purposes. Humans can be held responsible for what they do even if they are working out God’s purpose. This perspective adds fresh—if confounding—layers of meaning to Paul’s citation of Epimenides: “in him we live and move and have our being” [Acts 17].)
In the next post, I will post a list of connections between Luke and Acts, Jesus and disciples, which suggest that passages like Luke 6:40, Acts 1:1, 14:11 contribute to a framework for understanding Luke-Acts as a literary and theological unified work.
February 24, 2011 by Matthew Mason
In the Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard (Luke 20:9-18), Jesus retells the story of Israel as it climaxes in his own rejection at the hands of Israel’s leaders. But, in the immediate context, and in the context of Luke as a whole, he does so in a way that shows how Israel’s history, but also Jesus’ own history, recapitulates the history of Adam in contrasting ways.
The parable tells Israel’s history using the OT trope of Israel as a vineyard (Isa 5; Ps 80). It’s a story of sin and rebellion, the story of the tenants’ rejection of God’s servants, the prophets, climaxing in the looming murder of God’s beloved Son and heir. It’s obviously the history of Israel, but in its context it also echoes Genesis 1-3.
First echo (noting the horticultural parallels): in the vineyard, the leaders of Israel (‘tenants’), recapitulate the sin of Adam in the garden. Desiring to claim the inheritance for themselves, without reference to the heir, they seek to become like God, to usurp his rights as owner. Adam in the garden was son and heir, but he too played the usurper, desiring to achieve his inheritance of wise kingly rule and authority (knowledge of good and evil, cf. 1 Ki. 3:9) without reference to his Father, rather than receiving it as a gift.
Second echo: Jesus’ description of himself as beloved Son (v.13) takes us back to his baptism (3:22). This also seems to be the point of his question concerning John’s baptism, which immediately precedes this parable (20:3). By what authority does Jesus cleanse the Temple, and begin to teach in it (19:45-48; 20:1-2)? By the authority of his Father, whose house it is (2:49—“my Father’s house”), and whose Son he is, as his baptism at the hands of John proclaims. But as Son of God, Jesus is, among other things (the true Israel—Exod. 4:22; the true Davidic King—Ps. 2) the True Adam (3:23, 38). If Israel is like Adam in sin, Jesus is the true, righteous Adam.
Third echo: in the very next pericope, when those sent by the scribes seek to trap Jesus with the question about giving taxes to Caesar, Jesus’ response centers round the question of image-bearing. A denarius bore Caesar’s image (eikwn, cf. Gen 1:26f LXX) and so was rightly given to Caesar. What should be given to God is what is God’s (v. 25), that is to say, the thing that bears his image and likeness. But, like Adam, the scribes bear the image of the self-giving God falsely, stealing and seeking their own honor rather than his (20:45-47). And this in comparison to the widow, who bore God’s image rightly, giving all her money to God, her very muchness (cf. Deut. 6:5), her very self (21:1-4).
But (fourth echo) not only are they sons of Adam in his sin, the spies of the scribes and chief priests are seeds of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). They come to Jesus, the true Adam, the true Son, and seek to destroy him, bringing him down to death, through craftiness (20:23; cf. Gen. 3:1). However, faced with the serpent, Jesus, unlike Adam, is a wise and perceptive Son. Like Solomon, this Son of David (cf. vv. 41-44—which means he’s the Son of God (Ps. 2:7) and Son of Adam, cf. Ps 80:17; Ps. 8:4) demonstrates kingly knowledge of good and evil. Therefore, unlike the first Adam, he knows how to answer the crafty tempter. And so, even though he will be killed, he will be raised to inherit the fullness of Adam’s kingly authority and role, he will reign at God’s right hand until all his enemies are made his footstool (v. 42, quoting Ps. 110:1; cf., again, Ps 8). The deceitful seed of the serpent will bruise his heal, the serpentine tenants will kill the beloved Son. But the seed of the woman will be raised as the Stone who will stone his enemies, crushing their heads (vv. 17-18) under his feet, the Stone who will break down every noble stone on the corrupt temple until not one stands on another (21:5-6), becoming the Cornerstone of a New Temple, a new Edenic sanctuary, restoring the sons and daughters of Adam to their fellowship with God.0 Comments