The Gospel of Luke: The Great Reversal
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An edited excerpt from Justo L. Gonzalez's commentary on Luke entitled "The Story Luke Tells: Luke's Unique Witness to the Gospel"


He has brought down the powerful from their thrones. Luke 1: 52

One of the central themes in the Gospel of Luke is what interpreters have often called “the great reversal” — or perhaps in today’s more common language we should call it “the world upside down.” This theme appears in the very beginning of the Gospel, in the song of Mary that is usually known by the first word of its Latin translation, Magnificat. The canticle begins this way: Magnificat anima mea Dominum — “My soul magnifies the Lord.” But in truth the theme is not just the praise of God, but rather the praise of the God who is the Lord of great upheavals. Mary praises God because “he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant” and because God “has done great things for me.” And then she places her own exaltation in the context of a great upheaval:

He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy. . . . (Luke 1: 51-54)

As noted before, this hymn echoes Hannah’s canticle in 1 Samuel. There we find the following lines:

My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory.
. . .
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
. . .
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low, he also exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor. (1 Sam. 2: 1, 4-5, 7-8)

In her song, Hannah praises God for the great reversal that is taking place in her life. The book of Samuel begins by telling us about Elkanah and his two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Although Elkanah loved Hannah, Peninnah tormented her, for she had children and Hannah did not. Because that society prized fertility and child-bearing, Hannah was ashamed of her barrenness, and apparently her rival used this as an opportunity to goad and sadden her. The rest of the story is well-known. Hannah’s prayers are answered, and finally the barren conceives.

In that context, Hannah praises God because, as she says, “My strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies.” Hannah rejoices over what God has done in her, and from that point moves to a series of affirmations about how this action is a pattern for God’s other actions — which leads us back to the theme of typology and the patterns of divine action. Thus, Hannah sings not only because God has allowed her to conceive, but also because the God who has so blessed her is also the God who breaks the bows of the strong and gives strength to the weak; the God who makes the rich have to rent themselves out for bread, and gives food to the hungry.

Note that both the song of Hannah and the song of Mary begin with the exaltation of the one who sings, but then move on to a more general praise of the God who not only does mighty things, but also turns the world upside down, exalting the humble and bringing down the mighty from their thrones, feeding the hungry and making those who are overfed work for their bread, breaking the bows of the strong and giving strength to the weak. In other words, both women praise God for the great reversal that the divine intervention brings about, not only in their lives, but in society in general.

This great reversal that Luke introduces in the song of Mary appears throughout his writings, in both the Gospel and Acts. It would be a mistake to think that Luke is the only one who develops this theme, because it appears quite frequently in the Bible, and certainly is found in some of the parallel texts in Matthew and Mark. Furthermore, the explicit phrase “some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Luke 13: 30), which appears only once in Luke, appears repeatedly in both Matthew and Mark. (See, for instance, Matt. 19: 30; 20: 16; 20: 17; Mark 9: 35; 10: 31; 10: 44.) But even though Luke employs that phrase only once, the theme to which that phrase points appears repeatedly and pointedly both in his Gospel and in Acts.


This great reversal is both religious and social. Even though such distinctions were not made then as they are now, it may be profitable for us to discuss them in order. The great religious upheaval appears early in the Gospel of Luke. In chapter 4, Luke tells us about the preaching of Jesus in a synagogue in his own land. Both Matthew and Mark say simply that Jesus taught in the synagogue, and that people marveled that Jesus, whom they all knew as a carpenter’s son, was able to teach in this manner. Apparently because of that familiarity, they disbelieved, and for this reason, Jesus did not perform many miracles in their midst. Related to this, in Matthew as well as in Mark, is Jesus’ comment that “prophets are not without honor except in their country and in their own house” (Matt. 13: 57; Mark 6: 14).

Luke gives more details. He tells us first of all that the text that Jesus read was taken from the prophet Isaiah, and he also tells us what it was that Jesus preached. The comment about a prophet not being honored in his own land does not appear at the end of the narrative, as in the other two Synoptic Gospels, but rather at the beginning, as an introduction to Jesus’ sermon. The sermon itself then becomes an illustration or explanation of this saying. Jesus tells his neighbors that in the time of the prophet Elijah, when there was a great famine, there were many needy widows in Israel. Yet Elijah did not go to any of them, but rather to a widow of Zarephath in Sidon — that is, a Gentile widow living in a city-state known for its enmity to Israel. And in the time of the next prophet, Elisha, there were many lepers in Israel, but Elisha did not heal any of them; instead, he healed Naaman, who was from Syria, the great enemy of Israel. Indeed, Jesus made a point of saying that these two great prophets did not show favor toward the widows or lepers of Israel, but rather toward a Phoenician widow and a Syrian general.

When Jesus said this, “all in the synagogue were filled with rage” and sought to kill him. It is important to note that the people’s rage was not triggered, as we often think, by Jesus’ daring to claim that “today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” On the contrary, even after Jesus said those words, Luke tells us, “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth” (Luke 4: 22). The wrath of the congregation was aroused because Jesus told them through his stories about the prophets that, even though they were his neighbors, and even though they were children of Israel, this should not lead them to expect privileges from God.

Later on, in chapter 6, Luke tells us that those who came to listen to Jesus and to be healed by him came not only from all of Judea, but also “from the coast of Tyre and Sidon” (Luke 6: 17). In chapter 7 — in a passage that has a parallel in Matthew but not in Mark — Jesus says about a Roman centurion who is a pagan, “not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Luke 7: 9). In other words, when it comes to faith, this pagan has an advantage over even the most religious people in Israel. Shortly thereafter, Luke places in the mouth of Jesus words that do not appear in the other Gospels. Commenting on John the Baptist, Luke tells us that the common people heeded his words and even the tax collectors were baptized — that is, the most despised people in Israel, most despised because they not only were agents of the foreign invader, but also were in constant touch with the unclean and because they handled idolatrous coins. In contrast, we are told that “the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purposes for themselves” (Luke 7: 30). And, still in chapter 7, Jesus defends the worth of a sinful woman to a Pharisee who has invited him to dinner.

In chapter 14, in a passage that has no parallel in the other Gospels, Jesus tells a parable about a man who prepared a great feast, but when the time came for the special meal, all his invitees offered excuses. At that point the man ordered his slave to go out into the streets and lanes of the town and invite any person in need to the great dinner. This included particularly “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” (Luke 14: 21) — that is, people who were often considered sinners and thought of as cursed by their sin. None of the religious people — those who were first given the invitation — enjoyed the banquet, while the guests of the last minute did. Since the parable begins with an allusion to the great banquet in the reign of God, it is clear that Jesus is telling those who boast that they were first to receive the word of God must not presume that for that reason they will enjoy the final banquet.

Very soon after that parable, in chapter 15, there is the parable of the lost sheep, which does have a parallel in Matthew 18. This is a well-known parable, for it gives us hope and consolation when we are like the lost sheep. But in Luke the parable is more biting, for Jesus is actually reprimanding the Pharisees and the scribes — the leaders in religious matters — who criticize him for eating with publicans and sinners. Within that context, what stands out is not only the value of the lost sheep, but also the point, seldom noticed today, that the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine in the wilderness. In a great reversal, the lost sheep is cared for while the ninety-nine who are already with the shepherd are simply left on their own.

Something similar may be said about the well-known parable of the prodigal son, which appears only in the Gospel of Luke. Once again, we imagine that the main character is the prodigal, and that the theme of the parable is the love of the father who receives the wayward son. But the parable does not end with the return of the prodigal, for there is another character who is equally important: his older brother. He has served his father faithfully in his brother’s absence, obeying him in all things. And now that his younger brother returns and is received with a feast, he refuses to go in, because he is better than the one who has just returned from distant lands. Another great reversal!

After another series of parables — among them the one about the rich man and Lazarus, to which we shall return — the entire theme of the great reversal comes to a high point in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, in which the tax collector who confesses his sin is deemed more sincere than the Pharisee who declares himself religious, and Jesus ends by saying that “all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18: 14).

This great reversal that is central to the Gospel of Luke appears also in Acts, where the pagan Cornelius has a clearer vision than the apostle Peter, where the “Pharisee of Pharisees” who goes to Damascus in order to persecute the disciples of the Lord becomes one of the most faithful among those disciples, and where Paul and Barnabas repeatedly come face to face with the unbelief of those who should have believed (for they had the scriptures), contrasting with the openness of the Gentiles to the gospel.


This great religious reversal also has social dimensions. This appears most clearly in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus “longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table” (Luke 16: 21). But after both men die, Lazarus is in heaven by Abraham’s side, and the rich man is in Hades. So in the end it is the rich man who begs Abraham to send Lazarus to “dip the tip of his finger and cool my tongue” (Luke 16: 24). The reversal takes place between the rich and the poor, between the poor one who would have been satisfied with scraps and the wealthy one who now begs for water.

The theme of the poor and their place in the kingdom appears in the Third Gospel much more often than in any of the others. The word poor or needy appears only five times in Matthew, and the same number of times in Mark. Two of those references occur in the context of the suggestion that the alabaster jar — filled with the precious ointment that Mary poured on Jesus’ head — should have been sold in order to give the proceeds to the poor. In contrast, Luke is constantly speaking about the poor and the needy.

This can be seen at the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, in the text he reads in the synagogue: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor” (Luke 4: 18). This particular passage is important, because as we analyze the structure of Luke’s writings, we note that in both the Gospel and Acts there is a text from the Old Testament that is quoted near the beginning of the book and that outlines an important theme that is to follow. In Acts, it is the text from Joel that Peter quotes on the day of Pentecost. In Luke, it is the passage from Isaiah that serves to frame the rest of the book. And in this passage the very first thing that is said about the mission of Jesus is that he has been sent to bring “good news to the poor.” (However, one must not exaggerate the contrast among the Gospels on this particular point. Both in Matthew [11: 5] and in Luke [7: 23], when the disciples of John ask Jesus if he is the one who has been expected, among the signs that Jesus gives them is the fact that “the gospel is announced to the poor.”)

The Beatitudes are one of the many places where we see Luke’s emphasis on poverty and on the great reversal the believers are to expect. Many of us know by heart the First Beatitude according to Matthew: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5: 3). Although this probably does not mean a spiritual poverty in contrast to material riches, it certainly is possible to understand it as such. But Luke leaves no doubt about meaning when he says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6: 20). Here there is no place for a “spiritual” poverty in contrast to a material one. It is also interesting to note that while Matthew’s beatitude refers to “the poor” in the third person, as if they were not present, Luke’s beatitude directly addresses the poor: “Blessed are you who are poor.” And to make matters clearer, Luke includes a series of woes that are the counterpart of the Beatitudes. In the case of the poor, the counterpart is “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Luke 6: 24). Furthermore, most of the Beatitudes in Luke have to do with the social and material conditions in which people live: “Blessed are you who are poor, . . . you who are hungry now, . . . you who weep now. . . .” And the reversal is underscored in the woes: “You who are rich, . . . you who are full now, . . . you who are laughing now. . . .”

The great reversal in the Gospel of Luke between the rich and the poor comes to a climax when Jesus, while a guest at the home of a Pharisee leader, dares to criticize his host’s guest list:

When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Luke 14: 12-15)

Having noted this emphasis of the Gospel of Luke on the poor and the needy, we may at first be surprised that the theme does not appear in Acts beyond chapter 4, where Luke tells us that among the disciples of the Lord, no one was needy. But this should not surprise us if we remember what the presence of the needy implies among the people of God. In order to understand this, we may turn our attention to a passage that appears in Matthew and Mark, but not in Luke. It is these famous words of Jesus: “For you always have the poor with you” (Matt. 26: 11; Mark 14: 7). To this day, these words are often used in order to avoid paying too much attention to the needs of the poor. But in these passages Jesus is actually quoting Deuteronomy 15: 11, where, amid the regulations concerning the Year of Jubilee, when all property is to be restored to its former owners, the law commands that this regulation not be used as an excuse not to help the needy in the interim. As the people await the Jubilee, they must be liberal in their support of the needy.

Almost at the beginning of the Gospel, Luke tells us that in his first sermon Jesus declared that in him the promise of Isaiah was fulfilled, and part of his mission was “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” — that is, the Year of Jubilee. It is as a result of that preaching by Jesus, and of the gift of the Spirit in Acts, that the church is born. And Luke then tells us that, since the church lived in a constant jubilee, “there was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4: 34-35). This is why, after this chapter, Luke no longer speaks of the needy. (However, we do know from the epistles of Paul that when there was a need in Jerusalem, the churches in other cities contributed to an offering for the poor in Jerusalem.) Apparently, Luke does not quote Jesus’ saying “For you always have the poor with you” because his vision of an ideal church is of a people of God that lives in a constant jubilee, and in which therefore there are no poor.

In summary, the theme of the great reversal, which is seen in religious terms in what Jesus says to the scribes, Pharisees, tax collectors, and sinners, may be seen also in economic and social terms in what he says about the poor and the rich, and in the result of the presence of the Spirit in the church, thanks to which there are no longer any needy.

The great reversal also takes place in other dimensions of social life. One of them is the matter of gender, which deserves particular attention in our study, and therefore will be reserved for the next chapter. Another of the social dimensions of the great reversal has to do with the ethnic and cultural divisions of the time. Once again, it is important to remember that the distinction that we make today between such matters and religious issues did not exist in antiquity, and therefore prejudice and ethnic and racial divisions were based on religious matters.

Were we to draw a series of concentric circles, with Jerusalem and Judea at the center, we would see that the next circle of prejudice and exclusion was that of the Galileans. Galileans were Jews, but they did not live in Judea, for Samaria stood between Galilee and Judea. Also, Greeks, Romans, and other neighboring peoples had left their mark on Galilee, to the point that already in the time of Isaiah it was called “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Isa. 9: 1, quoted also in Matt. 4: 15). For the same reason, John tells us that Nathaniel asks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1: 46). And later in the same Gospel the Pharisees declare that no prophet has ever come out of Galilee (John 7: 52). The Judean Jews — those from Judea — spoke the Aramaic of the region, and so did the Galileans. But the Judeans believed that the Galilean accent was inferior.

A bit further out from the center than the Galileans were the Hellenistic Jews, those in the Diaspora or Dispersion, who lived in distant lands and whose most common language was not Aramaic, but most often Greek. Hellenistic Jews were considered inferior by Jews in Palestine because they lived among pagans by whom they inevitably would be contaminated, and they did not attend the temple as frequently as the Judeans. For a long time after the conquests of Alexander, the Jews had struggled to keep their cultural and religious purity in the face of Hellenistic influx. Therefore, the Jews of the Diaspora, often called “Hellenists” or even “Greeks,” were not well regarded by the more conservative Jews in the Holy Land.

If we then continue with our series of concentric circles, we shall see that beyond the Galileans and the Hellenistic Jews were the Samaritans. Due to a complicated series of historical circumstances, the inhabitants of Samaria, who claimed to be descendants of Israel, followed a different version of the faith of Israel than that of the Jews. Their Pentateuch differed in some points from the Jewish Pentateuch, and they insisted that the proper place for God’s temple was Mount Gerizim. For all these reasons, Jews, including Judeans as well as Galileans and even Hellenists, looked down on them and considered them infidels. This is the background of the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke as well as of the story of the woman by the well in John 4.

In the next concentric circle were those whom Jews called “God-fearers,” who were Gentiles who believed in the God and the moral laws of Israel and sought to live according to them, but for some reason did not formally convert to Judaism. In the Lukan literature there are several examples and references to such people — for instance, the Ethiopian eunuch and Cornelius the centurion.

Finally, still further out were the pagans, who did not believe in the true God. Most of them were idolaters and polytheists. They were contaminated by eating all sorts of unclean animals and by practicing various sorts of impurity and impiety. What’s more, since the Romans were among these Gentiles, the Jewish nation saw in them the invading enemy, the extortionist power that imposed onerous taxes, the pagans who dared bring their idolatrous eagles to Jerusalem itself, and the power of occupation that had grown in Caesarea, a city that was markedly Roman and pagan — and not too far from Jerusalem.

The great reversal in Luke affects each of these categories. To begin with, although Jesus is born in Bethlehem of Judea, his family is from Galilee, and he is raised in Galilee. It is there that he begins his public ministry, and it is from that area that he draws his closest disciples. When looked at from this perspective, the story of the long journey to Jerusalem that occupies a central portion in the Gospel of Luke but not in the other Gospels is a story in which the periphery marches toward the center, and the center resists to the point of crucifying Jesus. In Luke 13, some ask Jesus about certain Galileans whom Pilate had ordered killed, and Jesus comments that these Galileans were no worse sinners than the eighteen Judeans on whom the tower of Siloam had fallen. In the final instance, the entire process of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus includes a strong element of resistance on the part of the Judeans against this Galilean band and their leader, who seemed to have taken the city and the temple by storm.

As for the Samaritans, the prejudice against them on the part of the Jews may be seen in Luke 9: 52-53, when Jesus begins his final journey to Jerusalem. Since he has to go through Samaria, he sends messengers to prepare a place for him in a Samaritan village. But the villagers will not receive the messengers, for they know that Jesus is going to Jerusalem. Significantly, when the disciples want to have fire fall upon the village, Jesus tells them that he has not come to destroy...

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LukePhillip Santillan
The Gospel of Luke: Theological Implications
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An edited excerpt from Leon Morris's Commentary on Luke (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) 


People used to write books and articles with titles like Luke the Historian. Discussion centred round the question of whether Luke was a good or a bad historian, but that he did intend to write history was normally accepted. In recent times, however, many scholars have given attention to the deep theological purpose that plainly underlies Luke-Acts. Luke is now commonly monly regarded as one of the theologians of the New Testament and he is seen as more interested in conveying religious and theological truth than he is in writing a history. Indeed, so far has the pendulum swung that many suggest that Luke's interest in theology was so great that he allowed it to sway his historical judgment. In other words they see Luke as prepared to alter his history a little if that would bring out his theological points.

Luke has not left us in the dark about what he is trying to do. He tells us that he has followed 'all things' closely for some time and that he now writes to Theophilus 'that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed' (1:4). 'This', F. C. Grant writes, 'is as clear and straightforward as the codicil in John 20.30f.... his business was to clear up points of misunderstanding or misrepresentation which had (presumably) arisen in the pagan world and even (perhaps) in the courts of Roman magistrates.'

But not all have seen his role in this way. Some of the form critics, for example, have seen Luke as little more than a compiler, piler, an editor who wrote down a series of unconnected incidents and sayings (they see Matthew and Mark the same way).

Form criticism was called by Vincent Taylor 'the child of disappointment'. It arose after critics felt they had taken the two-document hypothesis4 as far as they could. It was a serious attempt to go behind the written sources to the time when information about Jesus circulated only in oral tradition. Parts only of the information about Jesus and his teaching were preserved served out of the very large mass of material at first available. As stories and sayings were told and retold they assumed certain fixed forms (the study of which gives form criticism its name). Some stories, for example, culminate in a striking saying and appear to be told for the sake of the saying. The details of the story are not important, but the saying is (the purpose was to proclaim Jesus, not tell us what happened). R. Bultmann calls these 'Apophthegmata' and Vincent Taylor, 'Pronouncement Stories'. Such stories are manifestly different in form from miracle stories. Other 'forms' are also detected.

The study of the forms in which the original oral tradition circulated is obviously of value. But most form critics go further than that. They assume that the purveyors of oral tradition were so interested in the needs of their own day that they saw Jesus not as he was,' but as he spoke to their own contemporary needs. In other words they read back into the teaching of Jesus what they saw was needed in their own situation.

This is' clearly going beyond a study of the forms. A further assumption of these critics is that the tradition was transmitted in isolated units: there was no connected narrative. The form critics speak of the destruction of the framework of the life of Jesus. When the Evangelists began to write their Gospels, on this understanding, they were confronted with a series of unconnected units which they perforce put together like beads on a string. This took away all possibility of seeing movement and development in the story of Jesus. The form critics are usually somewhat sceptical. They are so sure that what we have in oral tradition is Jesus as the early church saw him that they often conclude we have no means at all of knowing what the historical Jesus really was like.

These critics have rendered the church a service by drawing attention to the importance of the oral stage in the transmission of the life and teaching of Jesus. There is also much that can be learnt by the study of the forms in which the narratives are cast.

But the form critics seem to have made some serious errors. For example, their insistence that the church read back its own concerns into the teaching of Jesus overlooks the fact that the topics of the Gospels are not the topics that occupied the early church, topics such as the place of the Gentiles in the Christian church, what to do in persecutions, the place of ministers, the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit and the like. Again, these critics ascribe to the community the power to create the memorable sayings of the Gospels, quite ignoring the fact that in history it is great individuals, not committees, that produce striking language. Moreover Paul at any rate was careful to distinguish between his own teaching and that of the Lord (i Cor. 7:10, 25), a fact that creates the presumption that the early church did not indiscriminately read back its own teaching ing on to the lips of Jesus. The form critics took little account of the way first-century Palestinian teachers went to work. The rabbis used to cast their teaching into forms suitable for memorization orization and insist that their pupils learn it by heart. It is accordingly relevant that much of Jesus' teaching has a poetic form suitable for this purpose.

For such reasons many recent scholars, while thankfully acknowledging the contribution made by form critics, feel they have gone too far. The evidence does not sustain their sceptical conclusions.

More recently redaction criticism (or editorial criticism) has insisted that the Evangelists must be seen as real authors, not simply scissors-and-paste men who did no more than take material from their sources and string it together. The Evangelists gelists had their reasons for the way they arranged their material and for the particular way in which they worded their incidents and reports of teaching.

As far as Luke is concerned the great name is Hans Conzelmann. mann. He argues that Luke is concerned to write about the story of salvation and he sees this in three stages:

  1. The period of Israel (16:16).
  2. The period of Jesus' ministry (4:16ff.; Acts 10:38).
  3. The period since the ascension, i.e. the period of the church.

The German title of Conzelmann's book, Die Mitte der Zeit ('The Middle of Time'), sums up the author's position admirably. He holds that Luke sees Jesus as absolutely central and that he writes his Gospel out of that conviction. Conzelmann mann sees it as a work dominated by theology. Luke's geography, phy, for example, is not to be taken seriously. Conzelmann doubts whether Luke knew Palestine at first hand, but in any case he sees his use of geographical terms as symbolic and theological. Thus the Jordan is simply the sphere of John the Baptist. Again, it is 'pointless to attempt to locate' the desert in which the temptation took place, since this is only a symbol of the separation between Jordan and Galilee. This approach to geography is a major emphasis of Conzelmann's and he develops it throughout Part One of his book.

This approach is open to legitimate criticism. Many feel, for example, that Conzelmann's structure is an artificial one which Luke would never have recognized. It is further objected that he builds far too confidently and far too much on his exegesis of a particularly difficult verse in Luke 16:16.

Again, Conzelmann's strictures on Luke's geography are made without reference to Acts. Here we find that the Mount of Olives is a sabbath day's journey from Jerusalem (Acts 1:12) and that the field where Judas perished bore the name Akel-dama dama (Acts 1:19). The author knows of the Beautiful Gate of the Temple and of Solomon's colonnade (Acts 3:10-11). He refers to an official called 'the captain of the temple' (Acts 4:1), and again to the road from Jerusalem to Gaza which he knows is a desert road (Acts 8:26). His description of the prison from which Peter escaped seems to presuppose local knowledge (Acts 12:10), as does his awareness of the meeting-place of the local group of Christians (Acts 12:12). He knows that the seat of Roman government was Caesarea (Acts 12:19; 23:23-26) and that there was a cohort stationed in Jerusalem (Acts 21:31). He speaks quite naturally of the steps leading up to the tower of Antonia (Acts 21:40). He can locate Caesarea as two days' journey from Jerusalem (Acts 23:23, 31-32; the distance is 62 miles). There are not as many references in the Gospel that can be checked, but Luke does write consistently as though he knows where the places of which he is writing are located (see 1:26, 39; 4:31; 7:11; 8:26; 9:10; 19:29, 37). It is perhaps worth noting that Bultmann discerned no such geographical scheme as Conzelmann postulates, lates, for he says 'Luke's geography for the Galilean ministry is throughout the same as Mark's.

But when full allowance has been made for just criticism, the new approach is to be welcomed in so far as it takes seriously the work done by the Evangelists. It can help us to look for those dominant theological considerations that swayed the Gospel writers and induced them to write. It is surely important that we see with them what God has done, as well as what happened on that day so long ago.

But the new movement can be as sceptical as the old. It is possible to argue that, whereas the form critics hid Jesus behind the community, the redaction critics have hidden him behind the authors. In other words, the Gospels can now be approached with the assumption that we cannot see Jesus as he was, but only as Matthew or Mark or Luke or John saw him.

But this kind of scepticism is not necessary. It is possible to see the Evangelists as theologians and still as men with a profound found respect for history. I have elsewhere argued that in the Fourth Gospel John the Baptist is beyond all doubt depicted from one point of view only, that of a witness to Jesus. The Evangelist is certainly making a theological point in his references ences to the Baptist. But one consequence of the study of the Dead Sea scrolls has been to show that there is some parallel there to practically every piece of teaching ascribed to John in the Fourth Gospel. This has convinced some hard-headed critics that that Gospel must now be regarded as a valuable historical source for John the Baptist. The same I suggest is true elsewhere.

Specifically it is the case with Luke. His writings, and more particularly Acts, have been subjected to a very close scrutiny. They have been compared with those of other early writers and the results of archaeological research have been taken into account. While it would not be true to say that all the problems have been solved, there is widespread recognition that Luke is a reliable historian. His theological purpose is real. We should not miss it. But his theology does not run away with his history. Even Bultmann can say, 'he does not permit his dogmatic conceptions ceptions to exercise any essential influence on his work. It is well known that Sir William Ramsay began his researches convinced vinced that Luke was a poor historian, but was led by the facts to see him as first rate. These words of his should not be overlooked: 'No writer is correct by mere chance, or accurate sporadically. He is accurate by virtue of a certain habit of mind. Some men are accurate by nature: some are by nature loose and inaccurate. It is not a permissible view that a writer is accurate occasionally, and inaccurate in other parts of his work. Each has his own standard and measure of work, which is produced by his moral and intellectual character. As Luke can be demonstrated strated to be accurate often (as in the tricky nomenclature of officials in Acts), we should see him as one of Ramsay's accurate writers.

Some find valuable a distinction between different kinds of historian. Thus C. K. Barrett sees Luke as not a historian 'of the modern scientific kind ... but a historian of the Hellenistic age'. This appears to mean that he was interested in things other than facts. But Barrett goes on to say that this 'does not mean that Luke is not to be taken seriously as a writer of history; the distinction between fact and fiction was understood long before he wrote'. Thompson brings out this point by emphasizing that Luke does conform to the accepted canons for history writing. He points out that Lucian wrote an essay entitled 'How to Write History', and that, while he is later than Luke (c. AD 170), he does show us the kind of thing educated people would have looked for in New Testament times. It is therefore important that his criteria include truth and impartiality. Thompson sums up, 'Judged by the criteria for historical writing that Lucian lays down, Luke would in his contemporary world be thought to attain a high standard as a historian, and would compare favourably with other literary men of his day. Luke then was a good historian, though it is helpful to bear in mind that he was not trying to write the kind of history our modern scientific historians try to write. As Barrett further says, he was 'one of the biblical writers who confront us with a more than human testimony to Jesus Christ. This does not mean carelessness about fact, but it does mean that the facts are recorded not for their own sake, but in fulfilment of a religious and theological purpose. pose. We may see something of that purpose from the following points.

1. Salvation history. It is usual to see Luke as the theologian of what the Germans call Heilsgeschichte. He sets his narrative in the context of secular history more firmly than does any of the other Evangelists (2:1f.; 3:1), and he sees God's action in Christ as the great, central intervention of God in human affairs whereby salvation is worked out (Acts 2:36; 4:10-12; 17:30f.). Jesus Christ is the focus of all history (cf. the title of Conzelmann's mann's work, Der Mitte der Zeit, 'The Middle of Time'). Luke emphasizes that salvation has become present in Christ with a frequent use of the adverbs 'now' and 'today'. He uses 'now' fourteen times (Matthew four times, Mark three times) and 'today' eleven times (Matthew eight times, Mark once). In Jesus the time of salvation has come.

Luke's view of salvation history does not stop at the ascension. sion. He sees God's act as continuing in the proclamation of the gospel and in the life of the church. The Jews have a special place in the divine economy and to the end it is 'the hope of Israel' that the gospel preachers proclaim (Acts 28:20). But the Jews rejected their Messiah. This did not mean that God was defeated. Indeed, it was the occasion for an enlargement of his triumph in the proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles. But the gospel had first to be offered to the Jews. It was their refusal of God's good gift which meant that the church became predominantly dominantly Gentile (Acts 13:46ff.). James specifically includes Gentiles in 'a people for his name' (Acts 15:14).

All this springs from the love and the grace of God. Luke delights to bring out the way God's love is shown to a variety of people. As noted in the opening section, it is possibly this which makes the Third Gospel such an attractive piece of writing. God's salvation is not rootless. It springs from his great love for the whole race.

2. Universality of salvation. God's love is for all people and his salvation reaches far and wide. The very word 'salvation' is absent from Matthew and Mark and occurs but once in John. Luke, however, uses soteria four times and soterion twice (another seven examples of the two words occur in Acts, a total of thirteen). He also uses the word 'Saviour' twice (and twice more in Acts), and he employs the verb 'to save' more often than does any other Evangelist. Marshall sees this interest in salvation as critically important: 'It is our thesis that the idea of salvation supplies the key to the theology of Luke.

Luke tells us that the message of the angel concerned people in general, not specially Israel (2:14). He takes the genealogy of Jesus right back to Adam (3:38), the progenitor of mankind, and does not stop at Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation (as Matthew does). He tells us about Samaritans, for example when the disciples wanted to call down fire on them (9:51-54), or in the parable of the Good Samaritan (10:30-37), or in the information tion that the grateful leper was of this race (17:16). He refers to Gentiles in the song of Simeon (2:32) and tells us that Jesus spoke approvingly of non-Israelites such as the widow of Zarephath phath and Naaman the Syrian (4:25-27). He tells us about the healing of a centurion's slave (7:2-10). He records words about people coming from all the directions of the compass to sit in God's kingdom (13:29) and the great commission that the gospel be preached to all nations (24:47). It is generally held that his story of the mission of the seventy (10:1-20) has relevance for the Gentiles. It is clear that Luke has a deep interest in God's concern for all people.

We should not, however, understand this as though he meant that all will be saved. He sees the church as existing in a hostile world. He distinguishes 'the sons of this world' from 'the sons of light' (16:8; cf. 12:29f., 51ff.). The gospel is freely offered to all, but people have a responsibility to repent and they will be judged in due course (Acts 17:30f.). Judgment is a not infrequent theme in this Gospel (cf. 12:13ff.; 17:26ff.).

Nor should we understand it as though it meant a playing down of the importance of Israel in God's purpose. One of the fascinating things about Luke is the way this Gentile emphasizes izes the importance of the Temple and of Jerusalem. He begins and ends his Gospel with people in the Temple at Jerusalem in contrast with the 'Jewish' Gospel of Matthew where the opening stresses the place of the Gentile magi and the end a commission in Galilee to go into all the world. He speaks of Jesus as presented in the Temple as a baby and visiting it as a boy. It recurs as the climax of Luke's temptation narrative and as the place of Jesus' activity as his ministry draws to its close. In between, a considerable section of the Gospel is taken up with a journey to Jerusalem (9:51 - 19:45; there is emphasis on Jerusalem salem as the destination, 9:51, 53; 13:22; 17:11; 18:31; 19:28; cf. 13:33f.). All told he refers to Jerusalem thirty-one times (and fifty-nine times more in Acts) as against thirteen times in Matthew, ten times in Mark and twelve times in John. The universalism of Luke is real, but we should not let it hide from us a very real 'jewishness'.

3. Peace. Luke emphasizes peace as the other Evangelists do not. He has the word thirteen times (with another seven in Acts) whereas Matthew has it four times, Mark once and John six times. In fact peace occurs in Luke more often than in any other book in the New Testament (next is Romans with ten). He can connect it closely with salvation (7:50; cf. 2:14), though it is not identical with it. Luke seems to have taken up the richness of the content of the Old Testament sdlom, the positive blessing of God in all its many aspects.

4. Eschatology. Luke writes of a great salvation and a salvation that avails through eternity as well as through time. Some scholars, it is true, hold that he plays down the eschatological motif.3 The other Gospels, they hold, are written in the expectation tion that Christ would return soon and set up the kingdom of God, an expectation shared by Paul and others. But Luke writes when the vivid expectation has died down. For him the return of Christ is no longer imminent. 'You do not write the history of the Church, if you are expecting the end of the world to come any day.

This whole thesis should, however, be looked at more critically cally than it often is. In the first place it is not clear that the thought of the near return of Christ did in fact dominate the thinking of the first Christians. No doubt they looked for the Lord's coming, but we must always bear in mind the point made so neatly by W. C. van Unnik, 'The faith of the early Christians did not rest on a date but on the work of Christ. The church certainly looked for an interval before the return of Christ, as is shown, for example, by the fact that no Christian ever advocated that the preaching of the gospel should cease when Christ died. On any showing the church expected an interval, and its duration is nowhere specified. While the delay of the parousia was a problem, it seems to have been less so to the members of the early church than to some modern expositors.

Then, in the second place, it is not at all clear that Luke was not interested in eschatology. The contrary is demonstrated by passages such as 12:35ff.; 17:22ff.; 21:25ff., etc. He has the thought of imminent judgment (3:9, 17; 18:7f.) and of the nearness ness of the kingdom (10:9, ii; in the latter verse Luke includes the words 'the kingdom of God has come near' which are not in the Matthean parallel, Mt. 10:14) .3 Luke may not have quite the same emphasis as some other New Testament writers, but the point must not be overstated. Bo Reicke will not concede even so much. He can say, 'It is a mystery how Luke can be accused of "de-eschatologizing" in his Gospel'; and again, 'it is not at all true that Luke represents Jesus and the kingdom of God in a lesser eschatological light than the other Synoptists.' He develops the point that Luke stresses the idea of joy at the closeness of salvation and he finds in this genuine eschatology. C. H. Talbert is another who insists that Luke is interested in eschatology. He finds 'two dominant eschatological emphases in Luke-Acts. One is the proclamation that the End is near ... the other ... is the attempt to prevent a misinterpretation of the Jesus-tradition ... to the effect that the eschaton had been and could be fully experienced in the present'.

It thus seems a misreading of the evidence to see Luke as uninterested in eschatology. On the contrary, he looks for the coming of the End when the salvation of which he writes will reach its consummation.

It thus seemsi a misreading of the evidence to see Luke as uninterested in eschatology. On the contrary, he looks for the coming of the End when the salvation of which he writes will reach its consummation.

5. Early Catholicism. Some miss the thrust of what Luke is saying by holding that he has institutionalized Christianity, or at least that he writes as a representative of institutional religion. In the course of time the church did, of course, settle down as an institution. It lost the first fine flush of enthusiastic proclamation of the gospel and eager expectation of the Lord's return. It became interested in questions of order and sacramental practice, tice, and generally in all that makes for the institutional side of Christianity. The result is called 'early Catholicism' by many scholars and they see Luke as one of its first exponents. Unfortunately tunately not all are agreed as to what the term means, which makes it very difficult to see whether this is a feature of Luke's treatment or not. What can be said is that many competent critics have come to the conclusion that Luke is very faithful to his sources, so that he is carefully depicting what the sources say rather than what happened in his own day. Talbert sees Luke as crystallizing the apostolic tradition in his two volumes and as writing in careful order with a view to refuting certain heretical views.

We may agree that Luke was writing to meet the needs of his day without drawing the conclusion that he reflects only the church of his day. As Talbert reminds us, we must not be so busy asking why Luke added Acts to his Gospel that we forget to ask why he prefixed his Gospel to Acts. Clearly he was interested in Christianity's historical base. It will not do simply to see Luke as setting out a conventional account of the institutional tional religion of his own day. He saw God's plan in the church around him, but he saw it also in the Old Testament and in the coming of Jesus. He was not so much an institution man as a man who included the institution in the overarching purpose of God. His emphasis on the Holy Spirit is also important. It is not easy to reconcile Luke's insistence on the lively presence of the Spirit in the church with a determination to propagate the institution.

6. The plan of God. Luke saw God as working out a great plan in human affairs. We have already noted his frequent use of words that mean 'purpose' to bring out the thought of a divine necessity operative in Jesus' ministry.' The purpose was seen supremely in the cross (Acts 2:23; 3:13; 5:30f., etc.). Luke also brings it out with his many references to the fulfilment of prophecy ecy (Lk. 4:21; 24:44, etc.). He was clear that people do not defeat God. He was clear also that God is not some remote Olympian, aloof from the human race and careless about its fate. The God Luke knows is interested in our salvation and constantly at work in human affairs to bring to pass his redemptive tive purpose.

7. Individuals. As God worked out that great redemptive purpose pose Luke saw him as concerned with individual people. He did not see the divine purpose as appearing only in great movements ments of nations and peoples: it operated in the lives of humble men and women, for even the little people matter to God. So he has much to say about individuals, often people not mentioned elsewhere. He tells us of Zechariah and Elizabeth, of Mary and Martha, of Zacchaeus, of Cleopas and his companion. He tells of the woman who anointed Jesus' feet in the home of Simon the Pharisee, and of others. And whereas in Matthew the parables centre on the kingdom, those Luke records tend to stress persons. sons. Luke is interested in people.

8. The importance of women. An important part of God's concern cern for people is that it is manifested towards groups not highly esteemed in first-century society: women, children, the poor, the disreputable. He gives a significant place to women. In the first century women were kept very much in their place, but Luke sees them as the objects of God's love and he writes about many of them. In the infancy stories he tells of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and of Elizabeth and Anna. Later he writes of Martha and her sister Mary (10:38-42), of Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Susanna (8:2f.). He refers to women whom he does not name, such as the widow of Nain (7:11f.), the sinner who anointed Jesus' feet (7:37ff.), the bent woman (13:11), the widow who gave all she had to God (21:1-4) and the 'Daughters of Jerusalem' who lamented for Jesus as he went to the cross (23:27ff.). Sometimes women turn up also in the parables, as in those of the lost coin (15:8ff.) and the unjust judge (18:1ff.).

9. Children. The most obvious example of Luke's concern for children is in the infancy stories. Of course, an interest in children dren is not the only reason for these stories. Luke is concerned to emphasize that God's plan was being fulfilled in the birth and early life of John and of Jesus. He reminds us of the fulfilment of prophecy in connection with these events. But it is interesting that he finds God's plan in events that concern children. Matthew tells us something of the birth of Jesus and he alone relates the visit of the wise men, but Luke gives us most of our information about those early days. He also tells us something of the circumstances of the birth of John the Baptist. He gives us the only story we have of Jesus' boyhood, and he tells us from time to time about the 'only son' or 'only daughter' of people of whom he writes (7:12; 8:42; 9:38).

10. The poor. Jesus came to preach the gospel to the poor (4:18),and Luke reports a blessing on the poor (6:20; by contrast there is a woe for the rich, 6:24), whereas Matthew speaks of 'the poor in spirit' (Mt. 5:3). Preaching good news to the poor is characteristic of Jesus' ministry (7:22). The shepherds to whom the angels came (2:8ff.) were from a poor class. Indeed the family of Jesus himself seems to have been poor, for the offering made at the birth of the child was that of the poor (2:24; cf. Lv. 12:8). In general Luke concerns himself with the interests of the poor (1:53; 6:30; 14:11-13, 21; 16:19ff.).

The other side of this coin is an emphasis on the dangers of riches. Luke has a 'Woe' for the rich (6:24), and he tells us that God sends rich people away empty (1:53). There are parables warning the wealthy, such as the rich fool (12:16ff.), the unjust steward (16:1ff.), Dives and Lazarus (16:19-31). There are warnings ings for the rich in the stories of the rich young ruler (18:18-27), of Zaccheus (19:1-10), and of the widow's mite (21:1-4).

11. The disreputable. Luke tells us that on one occasion 'the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear' Jesus (15:1). This is not an isolated incident, for Luke finds occasion to mention many who were scarcely respectable. Thus he tells us of Zaccheus (dismissed by the bystanders as 'a sinner', 19:7), and of the feast Levi made for a crowd described by the Pharisees isees as 'tax collectors and sinners' (5:30). In the same strain he recounts the story of the sinful woman who wept over Jesus' feet and anointed them and of whom Jesus said that her many sins were forgiven and that 'she loved much' (7:37-50). The prodigal son was not exactly a model of rectitude and the unrighteous have a way of turning up in the parables in this Gospel (7:41f.; 12:13-21; 16:1-12, 19-31; 18:1-8, 9-14).

12. The passion of Christ. Supremely is God's purpose worked out in the passion of our Lord. Luke writes from the conviction that God has acted in Christ to bring salvation.' Sometimes commentators have reacted too hastily to the fact that Luke has omitted some important Marcan statements about the cross (e.g. Mk. 10:45) and have affirmed that he has no theology of the cross.3 But in fact the cross dominates the whole. Quite early Luke refers to 'the days ... for him to be received up' (9:51), and he adds that Jesus 'set his face to go up to Jerusalem'. Jesus refers to his death as a baptism and adds, 'how I am constrained until it is accomplished!' (12:50). He sends a message to Herod, 'I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course' (13:32; he goes on to speak of perishing in Jerusalem). In one of the Q passages Luke has a prediction of the passion which is absent from Matthew (17:25). Similarly he tells us in his transfiguration narrative, as the others do not, that Moses and Elijah spoke of Jesus' death (9:31). And, of course, the passion narrative occupies a large space at the end of the Gospel. Luke has a number of references to the fulfilment of Scripture in connection with the passion which gives his account a special flavour (see 18:31; 20:17; 22:37; 24:26f., 44, 46; probably also 9:22;13:33; 17:25; 24:7). In the passion God's will is done.

It is true that Luke does not stress the connection of the cross with salvation in the manner of Paul or John. This makes it possible to understand his references to the cross, as a reader of this book in manuscript holds, as though he saw it as 'the divinely ordained path on the road to resurrection and exaltation tion as a Prince and Saviour'. This may be possible, but it is not at all obvious.There is no hint at ultimate triumph in most of the Lucan references and where the triumph does come in it tends to be without emphasis (cf. 'on the third day he will rise', 18:33; there is no more, not one word about triumph or exaltation). In any case the reader gave his case away in his final word. It is that that is important. Luke sees Jesus as our Saviour and that by way of the cross. If the atoning significance of Christ's suffering fering is not stressed at least it is there, and Luke does not hint at any other significance. In view of his clear interest in salvation the question may well be asked, Why does Luke so stress the cross unless because of its saving significance?

Nor should we allow our thoughts to stop at the Gospel. In his second volume Luke continues to emphasize the importance of the cross. He brings out the fact that the early church concentrated trated on what Jesus had done for our salvation and specifically on the cross and resurrection. Here we find that the death of Jesus took place in accordance with 'the definite plan and foreknowledge knowledge of God' (Acts 2:23). There is much more.' The death of Jesus was central.

13. The Holy Spirit. God's purpose does not stop at the cross. It continues in the work of the Holy Spirit which meant so much in the church of Luke's day. But Luke's interest in the Spirit does not start at Pentecost; it goes back to early days. The Spirit is prominent in this Gospel from the beginning. There is a prophecy that John the Baptist would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb (1:15), while both Elizabeth and Zechariah are said to have been filled with the Spirit (1:41, 67). The same Spirit was 'upon' Simeon, revealed to him that he would see the Christ, and led him into the Temple at the appropriate priate time (2:25-27).

13. The Holy Spirit. God's purpose does not stop at the cross. It continues in the work of the Holy Spirit which meant so much in the church of Luke's day. But Luke's interest in the Spirit does not start at Pentecost; it goes back to early days. The Spirit is prominent in this Gospel from the beginning. There is a prophecy that John the Baptist would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb (1:15), while both Elizabeth and Zechariah are said to have been filled with the Spirit (1:41, 67). The same Spirit was 'upon' Simeon, revealed to him that he would see the Christ, and led him into the Temple at the appropriate priate time (2:25-27).

But, important as this Gospel's teaching about the Spirit is, it is in Acts that we receive the full thrust of Luke's emphasis. That book is full of the Spirit and it has well been called 'The Acts of the Holy Spirit'. The Spirit is constantly at work from the Day of Pentecost on.

It is abundantly clear, then, that one of Luke's great emphases is the Holy Spirit. He does not think of God as leaving people to serve him as best they can out of their own resources. God's love is seen in the Spirit who enters and empowers and guides the followers of Jesus.

Some hold that Luke's emphasis on the Holy Spirit is a substitute stitute for the eschatology that means so much to the other Evangelists. Helmut Flender notes the contention of Conzelmann mann and Schweizer that redemptive history and eschatology are mutually exclusive. Against this he holds, in my judgment rightly, that this is not a true understanding of the work of the Spirit. Flender sees the exaltation of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit as genuine eschatological events, but he denies that this makes the church 'equally eschatological'. He goes on: 'To understand redemptive history in this way would be to confound found divine with human activity, which would be intolerable. When we speak of the Spirit as eschatological we mean that it is eschatology made present.' What ensures the genuine sense of imminence, of continuous expectation, is that the gift of the Spirit is not something institutional, as though the church had the Spirit in its control and could produce the gifts of the Spirit any time it chose. The Spirit might be given at Pentecost, but he could fill the same people again a little later in response to prayer (Acts 4:31). The presence of the Spirit 'is still a superhuman human gift, for which the faithful must wait, and which they must be ready to receive'.' The Spirit may not be presumed on. The church may not say, 'We have the Spirit safely in our keeping. We need not look for the coming of our Lord.'

The lordship of the Spirit over the historical process is amply brought out in Acts. And as we noted in an earlier section, Luke has more to say about the Spirit in his Gospel than does any of the other Evangelists. This forms a bond of continuity.' Both in the ministry of Jesus and in the life of the early church the Spirit of God is at work.

14. Prayer. Luke shows us that God effects his purpose (see 6. above), which demands a right attitude on the part of the people of God. It accords with this that Lukes stresses the importance of prayer. He has two principal ways of doing this: (a) He records prayers of Jesus (3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28f.; 1o:21f.; 11:1; 22:41ff.; 23:46; seven of these are in Luke alone and they show Jesus at prayer before each great crisis of his life). This Gospel alone records that Jesus prayed for Peter (22:31f.). Luke tells us that Jesus prayed for his enemies (23:34) and for himself (22:41f.). (b) He includes parables which teach so much about prayer, the friend at midnight (11:5ff.), the unjust judge (18:1ff.), the Pharisee and the tax-collector (18:1off.). In addition Luke records some exhortations to the disciples to pray (6:28; 11:2; 22:40, 46), and he has a warning against the wrong kind of prayer (20:47).

15. Praise. Luke's is a singing Gospel. Here are some of the great hymns of the Christian faith: the glory song of the angels (2:14), the Magnificat, the Benedictus and the Nunc Dimittis (1:46ff., 68ff.; 2:29ff.). Quite often people who receive benefits praise God or glorify God or the like (2:20; 5:25f.; 7:16; 13:13; 17:15; 18:43). The verb 'rejoice' occurs more often in Luke than in any other New Testament book and the noun 'joy' also occurs often (e.g. 1:14, 44, 47; 10:21). There is laughter in this Gospel (6:21) and merry-making (15:23, 32). There is joy in Zacchaeus' reception of Jesus (19:6). There is joy on earth over the finding of the lost sheep and the lost coin and there is joy in heaven over the finding of lost sinners (15:6f., 9f.). And this Gospel finishes, as it had begun, with rejoicing (24:52; cf. 1:14).

From all this it is clear that Luke has written with a profoundly theological purpose. He sees God as at work bringing salvation and he enjoys bringing out a variety of aspects of this saving work.

LukePhillip Santillan
The Gospel of Luke: Authorship

An edited excerpt from Leon Morris's Commentary on Luke (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) 


It is usually agreed that the author of our Gospel is to be identified with the writer of Acts. The Preface to Luke (1:1-4) is addressed to Theophilus and Acts 1:1 appears to be a kind of secondary preface. It is addressed to the same person and is apparently intended to recall the former. Style and vocabulary favour unity of authorship.

Tradition unanimously affirms this author to be Luke. This is attested by the early heretic Marcion (who died c. AD i6o; Luke was the only Gospel in his canon), the Muratorian Fragment (a list of the books accepted as belonging to the New Testament; it is usually held to express Roman opinion at the end of the second century), the anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke (which also says that Luke was a native of Antioch, that he was a physician, that he wrote his Gospel in Achaia, and that he died at the age of eighty-four, unmarried and childless), Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and others.

Sometimes this tradition is dismissed as no more than guesswork, work, but this is too cavalier. Luke was not, as far as we know, a person of such prominence in the early church as to have two such considerable volumes as these fathered on to him without reason. If people were guessing, would they not be much more likely to come up with an apostle? Or Epaphras? Or Mark? The fact that a non-apostolic man of no known prominence is universally versally held in antiquity to have been the author must be given weight.

We should not overlook the point made by Martin Dibelius that this book is unlikely to have been published without the author's name attached. He points out that the address to Theophilus philus presupposes that there was the desire to circulate the book among the educated. For such readers the name of the writer would necessarily have been included. If the prologue 'gave the name of the person to whom the dedication was addressed, the name of the author could hardly be omitted from the title.' Tradition would not uniformly ascribe to Luke a book known from its publication to have been written by someone else.

The tradition accords with the Preface which shows us that the author was not an eyewitness of the things he records, though he had searched out evidence from those who were. He was clearly a careful writer and a cultured man, but not one of Jesus' first followers.

The internal evidence agrees. In Acts there are four passages in which the writer uses the pronoun 'we' (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-16; 21:1-18; 27:1 - 28:16). These appear to have been taken from the diary of one of Paul's companions. One of the 'we' sections yields the information that the writer stayed for some time in Caesarea with Philip the evangelist and his four daughters (Acts 21:8ff.). It was not until more than two years later (Acts 24:27) that he and Paul sailed for Rome (Acts 27:1). This period spent with such companions must have given opportunity for discovering much about Jesus and the early church.

The vocabulary and style of the 'we' passages are the same as those of the rest of the book, from which the natural conclusion is that one author wrote the whole. It is true that some critics deny this. They hold that the author of Acts has copied a few passages from someone else's diary as his way of supplying information about part of the events he is describing. Or they think that the 'we' is simply a literary device. Such arguments are not impressive. The use by the author of extracts from his own notes is intelligible, but that by someone else much less so. We might pose the dilemma in this way: If the author is not trying to use the prestige of the writer of the earlier document, why should he retain the 'we'? If he is, why does he not use that writer's name? That would have been far more effective. Indeed, without the name the 'we' proves little, as the variety of explanations proves. Nothing so far adduced is nearly as natural an explanation of these passages as that which holds that a companion of Paul used extracts from his own diary.

If we can accept this we shall see the author as one of those with Paul at the times indicated by the use of 'we' but who are not named in the narrative (the author would not give his own name but include himself in the 'we'). Acts ends with Paul in Rome, and the author is perhaps to be looked for among those named in the captivity Epistles or 2 Timothy as being with him, but not mentioned in Luke-Acts. This leaves us with a small group: Titus, Demas, Crescens, Jesus Justus, Epaphras, Epa- phroditus and Luke. There seems no reason for thinking of any of these apart from Luke as being our author.

Paul speaks of Luke as 'the beloved physician' (Col. 4:14) and in earlier days the case for the Lucan authorship was held to be strongly supported by the medical language which many discerned cerned in Luke-Acts.' But H. J. Cadbury has convinced most people that the language is not especially medical,3 by pointing out that most of the examples cited can be paralleled in writers who were not medicos. It seems generally agreed now that there was no special technical medical language in our sense of the term, for writers such as Hippocrates and Galen seem to have used the ordinary language of educated people. But if Cadbury has made it difficult to think of the language of Luke-Acts as proving that the writer was a physician, he seems to have turned up nothing inconsistent with the hypothesis. At least on occasion there are indications of medical interest. Thus where Matthew and Mark speak only of a fever, Luke particularizes it as a 'high' fever (Mt. 8:14; Mk. 1:30; Lk. 4:38). Similarly he speaks of a certain man not simply as having leprosy, but as 'full' of leprosy (5:12, i.e. he was an advanced case). Again, if he was a medical man it is a very human touch that he omits the statement that the woman with the haemorrhage had spent all her money on doctors (8:43; cf. Mk. 5:26).

A more serious objection to the Lucan authorship is the allegation ation that Acts differs in some important respects from the Pauline writings. The inference is drawn that no-one who was a close companion of Paul's could have written Acts. Thus the speaking with 'tongues' on the Day of Pentecost seems different from what Paul means by tongues in 1 Corinthians 14. Again, it is not easy to reconcile the statements about Paul's visits to Jerusalem in Acts 9:26; 11:30; 15:2 with those in Galatians 1:18; 2:1. Some draw attention to problems in reconciling the movements ments of Paul's companions in Acts 17:16; 18:5 and in 1 Thessalonians lonians 3:1, 6, or in reconciling the statements about the guarding of Damascus (Acts 9:24; 2 Cor. 11:32). Close examination tion reveals little of substance in such objections. Difficulties of this type may well show that Acts was written in independence of the Pauline Letters, but they scarcely show more. There are no real contradictions.

The real strength of the objection, however, concerns theology logy rather than narrative. The theology of Acts, objectors say, even in speeches attributed to Paul, is so very different from that of the apostle that it is out of the question that Acts could have been written by one of his companions. The classic expression of this argument seems to have been given by Philipp Vielhauer, who makes four main points.

  1. In the Areopagus speech Luke makes Paul express the Stoic idea of natural theology. 'Due to its kinship to God the human race is capable of a natural knowledge of God and of ethics (Acts 10:35) and has immediate access to God. The "word of the cross" has no place in the Areopagus speech. 
  2. In Acts Paul is 'a Jewish Christian who is utterly loyal to the law'. More precisely he is 'a true Jew ... in contrast to the Jews who have been hardened'. He circumcises Timothy (16:3) and takes action to show that he conforms to the law (21:21ff.). The real Paul is implacably opposed to the doctrine of the law set forth in Acts.
  3. The Christology of Acts is adoptionistic (this refers to the idea that Jesus was 'adopted' as Son of God; it denies his pre-existence) and pre-Pauline.
  4. In Acts 'Eschatology has been removed from the center of Pauline faith to the end and has become a "section on the last things."' 

But not all go along with this point of view. Vielhauer is scarcely just to all the evidence. Thus in the Areopagus passage he overlooks the fact that the speech follows much the same three points as Paul makes in 1 Thessalonians 1:9f., namely the importance of turning from idols to serve the true God, of the return of Christ for judgment, and of the resurrection of Jesus. Again, it is not really fair to Luke to say that his report of the speech teaches that natural man is able to come to a saving knowledge of God. The hearers of Paul's address did not come in fact to know God and in Luke-Acts ignorance of this kind is regarded as culpable. Thus Jesus prays for his ignorant executioners tioners - their ignorance does not justify them (Lk. 23:34). Luke repeats that these executioners were ignorant, but guilty (Acts 3:17 with 2:23; 13:27f.). Again, Vielhauer does not give sufficient weight to that strand of Pauline teaching in which the apostle says 'To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews' (i Cor. 9:20). Nor does he allow sufficient weight to the consideration sideration that it is highly unlikely that the apostle's mission preaching was in the same vein as his letters to churches. It is also true, as Ellis points out, that Paul 'never disparages the voluntary keeping of the Law by Jewish Christians'. Vielhauer's point about Christology seems to be met by C. F. D. Moule's study, 'The Christology of Acts', in which he argues that the Christology of Acts is not uniform, but that Luke is apparently reproducing his sources pretty faithfully. 

As for eschatology, Ulrich Wilckert,s examines the view of many of our contemporaries that, in his endeavour to portray redemptive history, Luke has lost the emphasis on eschatology so typical of other early writers. He agrees that there is something thing in this. Luke is indeed interested in history and he does not have the same eschatological views as do some other New Testament writers. But he comes to this conclusion: 'It is Paul, interpreted existentially, who is so sharply set against Luke as the great but dangerous corrupter of the Pauline gospel. But the existentially interpreted Paul is not the historical Paul. And the essential points of theological criticism levelled against Luke are gained not so much from early Christian tradition itself as from the motifs of a certain modern school of theology which disregards regards or misinterprets essential aspects of early Christian thought.' We are not compelled to choose between Luke and Paul.

This is a very important conclusion. The question is not whether there is a difference between Acts and the Epistles, but whether the right conclusion is being drawn from it. In history it has happened not infrequently that a close companion of a great man has given a picture of him different from that man's self-disclosure disclosure in his letters. Granted that the writer of Acts may well not have penetrated deeply into the distinctive Pauline theology, logy, he is yet capable of reporting what Paul said and did and he seems to have done so. All that the objection proves is that Luke was not another Paul, perhaps also that he had not seen any of Paul's Epistles. He was writing independently of the apostle.

We should, moreover, not overlook the fact that there is no evidence that Luke was converted by Paul. The probability is that he was not, and that he had reached Christian maturity before coming under Paul's influence. If so, we must not expect his theology to be a kind of diluted Paulinism. Moreover, if, as seems almost certain, he was a Gentile, he may well have found some of Paul's rabbinic method of argument difficult to follow.

The differences between Acts and Paul may be used as an argument in favour of the Lucan authorship just as easily as against it. An author who was not one of Paul's companions would scarcely dare to write so extensively of the apostle without out taking care to use the Epistles. If it be contended that he did not know the Epistles, the further question arises, Why then did he write of Paul? Someone who knew neither Paul nor his letters would not make Paul the central figure of the Gentile mission. It is not sufficient to counter that he relied on a diary of a companion panion of Paul's, for 'Heroes are seldom made by reading other people's diaries'.

A similar objection is that in Acts 15 Paul accepts the decrees of the Council, including food laws, an attitude which is difficult to reconcile with his failure to mention these things in Galatians. However, if Galatians was written before the Council the objection tion loses its force: Paul could not have mentioned non-existent decrees. We cannot regard as decisive an objection that depends for its force on a particular view of the dating of Galatians. Even if Galatians were written subsequent to the Council it is more than doubtful whether the objection will stand. More than one scholar has seen in the difference of viewpoint and interest an adequate explanation of the difference. 

From all this it seems that there is good reason for holding that Luke is the author of our Gospel (and of Acts). While the evidence falls short of final proof it is quite strong, and no suitable alternative has been suggested.

Leon Morris. Luke (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) (Kindle Locations 160-170). Kindle Edition. 

LukePhillip Santillan
The Book of Ecclesiastes

1. The text of Ecclesiastes

The primary source of the text of Ecclesiastes, as of any other Old Testament book, is a text-form established in or near the first century AD, vocalized and annotated by Massoretes (‘ transmitters’) c. AD 500– 1000, known as the Massoretic text. This was originally written in a consonantal form, but from the sixth century onwards several systems of vocalization arose. In the ninth and tenth centuries one of these, the Tiberian system, became the standard and is still used by Old Testament scholars. The text printed in Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1970) is that of a manuscript dated AD 1008, a copy of a text produced by the Tiberian textual scholar Ben Asher in the tenth century. Any student of the Old Testament must start from the Massoretic text but, because of inevitable copyists’ errors, must take into account other Hebrew texts that may be known and ancient translations which had access to earlier texts. 

In the case of Ecclesiastes we are fortunate to have four pieces of manuscript discovered at Qumran and published in 1954,2 containing fragments of chs. 5  –   7. On the basis of style of script these have been dated in the mid-second century BC. Most of the variations are purely orthographic. In addition Muilenburg lists ten places where the Qumran text differs from the Massoretic text. The Qumran text (4Q Ec) reads ‘for’ instead of ‘as’ at 5: 14, omits ‘and’ at 5: 15 and 7: 6, reverses the order of two words in 6: 3, has ‘house of pleasure’ insead of ‘house of drinking’ at 7: 2, has ‘corrupt’ instead of ‘destroy’ in 7: 7, ‘help’ instead of ‘strengthen’ in 7: 19, and slight variations with virtually no change of meaning in 6: 4, 6; 7: 4.3 None of this amounts to very much, and the manuscript tends generally to confirm the reliability of the Massoretic tradition.

Another source of textual evidence is provided by the ancient translations of the Old Testament. The most important of these is the Greek Septuagint (LXX), probably translated in stages beginning with the Pentateuch in the third   century and substantially completed by the late second century BC. It is uncertain at what date Ecclesiastes was translated. O.   Eissfeldt claims that Ben Sira had all of the law, the prophets and the writings before him in Greek c. 130 BC, 4 whereas D. Barthélemy claims that the LXX Ecclesiastes is in fact the work of Aquila, who produced a rival Greek translation in the second century AD. 5 The LXX translation is quite literal and generally bears witness to the Massoretic tradition.

The Syriac version, known as the Peshitta, was made in the early or middle second century AD.

Another witness is Jerome’s fourth-century Vulgate, a revision of an earlier Latin version. Although the Vulgate is a translation of the Hebrew text in the Massoretic tradition, Jerome’s textual decisions were also influenced by the LXX.

The Ethiopic text of Ecclesiastes, dated by S. A. B. Mercer some time before AD 650, reveals an acquaintance with the Massoretic tradition, the Vulgate, and perhaps the Old Latin and Syriac. Mercer points to eighteen instances where it follows the Massoretic text against the LXX and to fourteen instances where it shows knowledge of a pre-Massoretic Hebrew text. 8

The Aramaic Targum to Ecclesiastes is of little significance for textual study. It is a free paraphrase not earlier than the fifth century AD, and is of interest primarily as one stage in the history of interpretation.

The study of these versions leads one to the conclusion that the text of Ecclesiastes is well preserved and has fewer difficulties than many Old Testament books. The Qumran texts and the various versions generally support the Massoretic tradition.

2. The date, authorship and literary provenance of Ecclesiastes

Life in this world does not fundamentally change, and we do not need a date for Ecclesiastes in order to receive its message. It is part of the genius of the Preacher’s thought that it stands on its own feet at any time and in any place. The book in fact provides meagre clues to its date: language, possible dependence on foreign thought, and internal claims.

The mid-twentieth century has seen the rise of a three-sided debate concerning the linguistic background of Ecclesiastes. After a tentative suggestion by D. S. Margoliouth that its language is ‘not so much late Hebrew as foreign Hebrew’,  amplified by F. C. Burkitt in 1921, F. Zimmermann formally proposed in 1945 that Ecclesiastes is a translation from an Aramaic original.  This was supported by C. C. Torrey in 1948 and by H. L. Ginsberg in 1950. These suggestions led to a series of replies by R. Gordis, who maintained that the Hebrew of Ecclesiastes is authentic but late.  The discussion further developed in 1952 when M. Dahood suggested that Ecclesiastes was written in Phoenician orthography and shows signs of Canaanite-Phoenician literary influence.  Again R. Gordis replied rebutting Dahood’s theory.

The Aramaisms of Ecclesiastes are not necessarily proof of a late date. True, there are Aramaisms in the book,  indeed, their proportion is quite high, but since the quantity of material is so small one must be cautious in attributing too much significance to them. They may be expected in biblical Hebrew from the tenth century BC, increasing as the centuries go by, culminating in the sixth to fourth centuries BC. They are of comparatively little significance for dating. 

Even less is it likely that an Aramaic original underlies Ecclesiastes. To review the many intricate arguments involved is beyond the scope of the present work; but it must be said that the suggestions of Zimmermann, Torrey and Ginsberg are upheld only by a large number of tortuous emendations and suggested mistranslations, exhibiting considerable ingenuity of thought but carrying very little conviction. One small indication that the theory is suspect is the combination of the verbs mkk and dlp in 10: 18. The two verbs in combination are an old Canaanite cliché.  That it should be the result of a translation from Aramaic seems unlikely.

The question of Canaanite-Phoenician influence is more difficult to handle. Dahood argues that at one stage the text of Ecclesiastes had considerably less matres lectiones (consonants used as vowels to aid reading) than in the Massoretic text. Nouns with a feminine ending in –t, a conditional particle ’lw, the particle s–, the erratic use of the article, the infinitive absolute followed by an independent pronoun, the independent use of the pronoun to express the verb ‘to be’, the use of ’ādām, the phrase under the sun, the seven … eight phrasing (Eccl. 11: 2), all have Phoenician and Canaanite parallels but within the Old Testament are distinctive of Ecclesiastes. But it is doubtful if even the cumulative weight of all the parallels to be found point to an original in ‘Phoenician orthography’. The work of the ‘Dahood school’ has itself suggested that a considerable quantity of Ugaritic and Phoenician parallels can be found to sections of the Old Testament. Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Nahum are among books explored along these lines.

The difficulty is that the linguistic data show that Ecclesiastes does not fit into any known section of the history of the Hebrew language. It is dissimilar to works which claim to be Solomonic (Song of Songs; parts of Proverbs); it does not correspond to the fourth-century Hebrew of Malachi or Ezra; it does not tally with the Hebrew of the Qumran scrolls. Two words, pardēs and pitgam, are often thought to be Persian loanwords. This may be so; in which case our present Ecclesiastes was written or edited in or after the Persian period.

Our conclusion must be that the language of Ecclesiastes does not at present provide an adequate resource for dating. It is possible that a particular style was adopted for pessimism literature. The possibility that a northern dialect of Hebrew was used must be left open. Equally it is possible that its dialect is Phoenicianizing. Certainly no other document possesses precisely the same characteristics, and no reliable date can be given this way. The language of Ecclesiastes is probably of interest more in dialectology than chronology.

A second factor is the question of the book’s dependence on early Greek writings. It is virtually certain that the Preacher had some knowledge of and interacted with ancient Near Eastern pessimism, but what of similar Greek writings? The theory put forward by Zirkel in 1792, that Greek influence could be detected in the language of Ecclesiastes, is now almost universally abandoned. Reviewing the question in 1925 H. Ranston concluded that there was evidence of dependence on Theognis and Hesiod. In that case Ecclesiastes should probably be dated after the death of Alexander (323 BC), when Hellenistic culture increasingly spread throughout the ancient world.

More recently scholars have been less inclined to trace Greek influence. O.   Loretz finds none at all. 26 Others (e.g. J. Bright27) see only a general and indirect influence. M.   Hengel28 concedes that all attempts to prove dependence on particular Greek writers (e.g. Epicurus, Heraclitus, Hesiod, Theognis) have failed. Yet, dating Ecclesiastes between 270 and 220 BC, he agrees with R. Kroeber that ‘in ideas and mood the work has contacts with the spirit of Hellenism’.  Hengel admits that the Greek parallels adduced for the book are unsatisfactory and that ‘because of the “international” spread of wisdom and its universal themes the indication of parallels says nothing about their origin’. He also dismisses attempts to find Graecisms in particular words. However, he feels that the Preacher’s spirit is Greek: his individualistic critical analysis of experience, his cool detachment towards the correction of injustice, his universal rather than distinctively Israelite conception of God, his willingness to criticize orthodox Judaism, are all thought to reflect a Hellenistic outlook.

Hengel’s argument, however, presumes that Ecclesiastes is definitely a third-century work. If that assumption is correct, to see Hellenistic atmosphere in the book may well be right. But the argument is circular. No convincing evidence for influence by Greek authors has been produced, other than the assumption that Ecclesiastes is to be dated in the third century.

There are reasons, however, for caution in seeing Greek influence in the Preacher’s work. Many of the parallels cited are trivial and could be found anywhere in the ancient Near East. Our ignorance of the future, the claim to more than ordinary wisdom, the dependence of mankind upon God or the gods, the apparent inconsistency of earthly retribution  –   these themes, common to Ecclesiastes, Theognis and Hesiod, are found throughout the ancient Near East. The parallels are more likely part of a common stock of wisdom subject-matter than specific borrowings. By contrast, the God-centred, judgment-orientated, contented life held forth in Ecclesiastes is very different from the bleak sensualism of Theognis. Pessimism concerning human life and destiny appears from the third millennium onwards. It is likely that both the Greeks and Ecclesiastes knew of it; there is no need to postulate that the Preacher drew upon Greek literature. Certainly Ecclesiastes cannot be reliably dated on these grounds.

Ecclesiastes is not only a collection of wisdom material; it is also a narrative.  Within its pages there is a person who unobtrusively appears in the words ‘says the Preacher’. At the very beginning (Eccl. 1: 2) we are gently informed that one man is reporting the wisdom material of another man. Roughly in the middle (7: 27), the words appear again as a delicate reminder. At the end (12: 8), lest we have forgotten, they appear again. Around this narrative is added a title (1: 1) and an epilogue (12: 9– 14).

Who are the two personages within the book? Is one man presenting the work of another? Or is a man presenting himself and adopting the dual role of wise man and editor of his own material? There are slight pointers in both directions. On the one hand the voice that says ‘says the Preacher’ would most naturally be taken as distinct from the author of the material; he would be an editor presenting the material of a revered wise man. Leaving aside 1: 2; 7: 27; 12: 8, the Preacher speaks of himself not in the third person but in the first. Although 1: 2 and 12: 8 could be self-introduction and self-commendation, the intrusive ‘says the Preacher’ would be pointless in 7: 27 unless the speaker at that instant is a second person peeping through the curtain. As Fox says: ‘While one can speak of himself in the third person, it is unlikely he would do so in the middle of a first-person sentence.’

On the other hand, even within so small a compass as 12: 9– 14 there are phrases which exactly echo the style and phraseology of the bulk of the book. The use of wĕ yōtēr (12: 9, 11; cf. 7: 11, etc.), his way of speaking of ‘the people’ (12: 9; cf. 4: 16), the ‘master of …’ idiom (in the Heb. of 12: 11; cf. 10: 11, 20 and slightly differently in 5: 10, 12; 8: 18), each echoes the style of the bulk of the material. Delitzsch points to the similarity of the structure in 12: 9– 11; 1: 7 and 6: 5.

The hypothesis (and it can be no more than that), which accounts for these phenomena, is that an editor is presenting in his own words and style the teaching of a revered wise man. The revered teacher is ‘the Preacher’ (Heb. Qōhelet ); the editor-author presenting Qoheleth’s wisdom is an unnamed and unknown admirer or disciple working at a date and location that cannot be precisely determined. Thus one style pervades the book; but two people, Qoheleth the originator of the material and an unnamed author-editor, lay behind it.

Who then is Qoheleth and why is this enigmatic name used? The phrases ‘son of David, king in Jerusalem’ (1: 1) and ‘king over Israel’ (1: 12) point clearly to Solomon. Admittedly ‘son of David’ could describe any descendant of David. Many generations after the king a certain Hattush is described as ‘of the sons of David’ (Ezra 8: 2). It is also true that after the fall of Samaria (722 BC), and even sporadically before, ‘Israel’ might be applied to the southern kingdom Judah. In theory, therefore, any later Davidic king could have been the author. Nevertheless, in view of the traditions concerning Solomon (1 Kgs 2  –   12; 2 Chr. 1  –   9), without further definition the title would certainly lead any reader to suppose that the allusion is to him. Also the account in 2: 1– 11 is strongly reminiscent of Solomon; almost every phrase has its parallel in the narratives concerning Solomon. B.   Porten points out that the root qhl serves to mark the beginning and end of several of the units of narrative in 1 Kings 8.33

However, there are indications that Solomon himself was not the author. Not only is the presenter of the material apparently distinct from Qoheleth: the name Solomon is avoided. Qōhelet (1: 1f., 12; 7: 27; 12: 8– 10, normally translated ‘Preacher’) is probably an entirely artificial name. The root qhl is used of ‘gathering’ or ‘assembling’ people but not of collecting things. Names with similar structure (sōperet, ‘scribe’, Ezra 2: 55; pōkeret, ‘binder’, Neh. 7: 59) are personal, yet appear to have derived from titles. One might compare in English Baker or Smith, both names and occupations. There are verbal forms niqhal (‘ to assemble, be gathered’) and hiqhîl (‘ to gather an assembly’). Thus it is likely that Qōhelet is a name meaning ‘one who gathers an assembly to address it’, yet retaining an official force so that it can be used with the article: ‘the Qōhelet ’ (7: 27). The meaning is easily seen in 1 Kings 8: 1, where Solomon gathers (qhl ) the people of Israel for worship, prayer and instruction.  ‘Preacher’ is as good a translation as any.

We may conclude that the author is a pseudo-editor, an editor-author, writing in defence of faith in the God of Israel. He is an admirer of Solomon, writing up the lessons of Solomon’s life in the tradition of the wisdom for which Solomon was famous. Yet Ecclesiastes is not pseudonymous, and the writer avoids using Solomon’s name. Instead he portrays his material as coming from ‘Mr Preacher’, who has all the characteristics of Solomon except his name. The epilogue portraying Qoheleth has all the appearances of referring to an actual historical character: a wise man, a collector of proverbs, a teacher and writer. Who else but Solomon? Avoidance of the name must stem from the fact that the editor-author puts things in his own way and declines to foist a work directly on Solomon. Yet he thinks of the material as Solomon’s; it is what Solomon would have said had he addressed himself to the subject of pessimism. The artificiality of the name Qoheleth was probably conspicuous. It is as though there were a book under the pen-name of ‘John Smith, King of England’ which proceeded to press home some lessons from the viewpoint of an English monarch. The story is real enough; it is Solomon’s with its major lessons highlighted. But Qoheleth was honest enough to sign himself (for so we might paraphrase): ‘Mr Preacher, King of Israel.’

The date of the book must be left undecided. If it contains significant Persian words, then it must be dated after the fifth century. If, however, as is likely, the Iranian words are not determinative of date, the matter must be left open until more is known of the unique dialect in which the book is written.


Phillip Santillan