January 29: Luke 7:22 par

The the previous day’s note, we looked at the Lukan tradition embedded in the episode at Nazareth (4:16-30)—namely, Jesus’ citation of Isaiah 61:1f (vv. 18-19) and his identification with the Anointed (i.e. Messianic) herald of the passage (v. 21). The authenticity of this identification is confirmed by a separate line of tradition: the pericope, or block of tradition, involving Jesus and John the Baptist (Lk 7:18-35 / Matt 11:2-19). This is part of the so-called “Q” material—traditions/sayings shared by Matthew and Luke, but not found in Mark. The setting of this passage is a question sent to Jesus from John the Baptist, asking:

“Are you the (one) coming [o( e)rxo/meno$], or do we look toward (receiving) another?” (Lk 7:19 par)

The expression o( e)rxo/meno$ (“the [one] coming”) is a kind of Messianic code-word, though one which was largely lost for Christians by the end of the 1st century. I discuss it in some detail in the series “Yeshua the Anointed” (soon to be posted here). It is an allusion, primarily, to the oracle in Malachi 3:1ff, possibly drawing upon other passages (such as Psalm 118:26 LXX) as well. John is essentially asking Jesus if he is indeed the Anointed representative of God who is to appear at the end-time. It is the same sort of question asked of the Baptist in Jn 1:19ff (cf. also Lk 3:15ff), to which John, in his response, also makes reference to “one coming” (Lk 3:16 par; Jn 1:27, also vv. 15, 30). The answer which Jesus gives to John in the passage we are examining here (vv. 22f) is essential to an understanding of Jesus’ own Messianic (self-)identity; it is a blending of Isaian passages (e.g. Isa 29:18; 35:5-6), including 61:1:

“Take away a message (back) to Yohanan, (about) the (thing)s which you saw and heard:

      • (the) blind see again
      • (the) crippled walk about
      • (those with) scaly skin [i.e. ‘leprosy’] are cleansed and
      • (those with hearing) cut off [i.e. deaf] hear (again)
      • (the) dead are raised (and)
      • (the) poor are given the good message [eu)aggeli/zontai]”

The first and last of the bulleted items are found in the (LXX) of Isaiah 61:1 (cf. the previous note), and cited by Jesus in Lk 4:18: “…to bring a good message to the poor…to proclaim…seeing again for the blind”. Here this is interpreted in terms of the two-fold (Galilean) ministry of Jesus: (1) teaching/preaching (regarding the Kingdom of God) and (2) working healing miracles, the latter being especially emphasized (v. 21). Thus, as in the Lukan Nazareth episode (cf. the prior note), here Jesus identifies himself with the Anointed figure of Isa 61, adding to it the character of the miracle-working prophet according to the (Messianic) figure-type of Elijah (4:25-27). The identification of Jesus with Elijah is discussed in the series “Yeshua the Anointed” (to be posted here). The relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus, in terms of Messianic expectation (and various Messianic figure types, cf. Jn 1:19-27, etc), was a vital question for the first believers and the earliest Gospel tradition. However, the importance of the topic soon disappeared from early Christianity, and is scarcely detectable in the New Testament outside of the Gospels.

It is this use of the verb eu)aggeli/zw in Isaiah 61:1, and other deutero-Isaian passages (40:9; 52:7; 60:6, cf. the earlier note) which, I believe, explains its importance for Luke. The verb (middle eu)aggeli/zomai) occurs 10 times in the Lukan Gospel (and another 15 in Acts); by contrast, it is found just once in the other Gospels—and in the same “Q” tradition discussed above (Matt 11:5). There is thus a quite limited, exclusive usage of the verb in the New Testament Gospels:

  • The “Q” saying of Jesus, citing/alluding to Isa 61:1 (par Lk 4:18ff)
  • The centrality of the Isaian passage for Luke, and his frequent use of the verb in both the Gospel and Acts.

As mentioned previously, Luke never once in the Gospel uses the related noun eu)agge/lion, which, by contrast, is central to Mark (1:1, 14-15; 8:35; 10:29; 13:10; 14:9; [16:15]; preserved in four parallel passages in Matthew). Instead, it is the Isaian usage of the verb, with its Messianic/eschatological connotations, which colors the Lukan narrative. Apart from the occurrences in Lk 4:18, 43 and 7:22, it appears seven more times:

  • Four times in relation to the public ministry of Jesus:
    • “And it came to be…(that) he (travel)ed on the way down through (each) city and village, proclaiming and bringing the good message [eu)aggelizo/meno$] of the kingdom of God, and the Twelve with him…” (8:1)
    • “And, going out, they [i.e. the Twelve] went down through the villages bringing the good message [eu)aggelizo/menoi], and healing everywhere” (9:6)
    • “And it came to be…(with) his teaching the people in the sacred place [i.e. Temple] and bringing the good message…” (20:1)
      (Note that all of these passages represent distinctly Lukan composition [narrative summary]; the use of the participle may reflect the usage in LXX Isaiah, cf. the earlier note)
  • Twice in reference to the ministry of John the Baptist (parallel to that of Jesus):
    • (Lukan narration): “also many other (things)s he brought as a good message [eu)hggeli/zeto] to the people, calling (them) alongside” (3:18)
    • (Saying of Jesus): “The Law and the Foretellers [i.e. Prophets] (were) until Yohanan; from then (on), the kingdom of God is brought as a good message [i.e. the message of the kingdom of God is announced]…” (16:16; cp. Matt 11:12-1)
  • Twice in the Infancy narrative (both Angelic announcements):
    • “I was se(n)t forth from (God) to speak toward you and to bring you the good message (of) these (thing)s” (1:19)
    • “I bring you a good message of great delight which will be for all the people” (2:10)

Thus, within the Lukan narrative as a whole, three different persons (or groups) function as heralds bringing the “good news”: (1) the Angels (lit. Messengers, a&ggeloi), (2) John the Baptist, and (3) Jesus and his (Twelve) disciples.

In the next note, we will shift away from the Gospels and turn toward the early Apostolic (spec. Pauline) use of the eu)aggel- word group.

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