The Gospel of Luke: The Great Reversal
The Gospel of Luke: Theological Implications
LUKE AND THE GREAT REVERSAL
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:
The Gospel of Luke: Authorship
4. LUKE THE THEOLOGIAN
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).
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.