April 9 (1): Luke 22:69

The previous note dealt with two Son of Man sayings by Jesus recorded in Luke’s account of the night of Jesus’ arrest (Lk 22:22, 48). Today, on Holy Thursday, I will explore a third saying (Lk 22:69), which takes place during the interrogation of Jesus before the Sanhedrin. These three sayings represent the two main aspects of the “Son of Man” in the passages we have been examining—(1) his suffering and death, and (2) his coming in glory as end-time Judge.

Luke 22:69

Luke’s account of the “trial” scene before the Council (Sanhedrin) differs somewhat from that of the other Synoptics (Mk 14:53-65 / Matt 26:57-68), e.g. in the omission of (false) witnesses and the charge that Jesus claimed he would destroy and rebuild the Temple. These motifs appear in the episode with Stephen in Acts 6-7, but not in the Passion narrative. As a result, the interrogation scene in Luke (22:66-71) is briefer and more generic, with some of the dramatic detail having shifted to the scene involving Herod (23:6-12). Instead of a direct question by the High Priest (Mk 14:60 par), the Council collectively addresses Jesus. This builds out of the narrative introduction: “…the Elders of the people, Chief Priests and Scribes were brought together (sunh/xqh) and led him [i.e. Jesus] into their Sanhedrin [sitting together, i.e. council, assembly], saying…” The use of the verb suna/gw is probably an intentional echo of Psalm 2:1 (cf. Acts 4:25-27). The question of the High Priest in Mark/Matthew is very close:

“Are you the Anointed (One), the Son of the Blessed (One)?” (Mk 14:61)
“…tell us if you are the Anointed (One), the Son of God” (Matt 26:63)

The formulation in Matthew is identical with the confession by Peter in Matt 16:16: you are the Anointed (One), the Son of God. Interestingly, in Luke this is separated into two questions:

“If you are the Anointed (One), say (this) to us [i.e. tell us]” (Lk 22:67a)
“Are you then the Son of God?” (Lk 22:70a)

This separation draws a distinction between the expressions “the Anointed” (probably in terms of Davidic Ruler) and “the Son of God” (cf. Luke 1:32, 35). Set in between these two questions, as part of Jesus’ first response, is the Son of Man saying in verse 69. This is important in light of Jesus’ discussion in Lk 20:41-44 par involving the relation between “the Anointed” and the “Son of David” (cf. my earlier article and note); consider the parallel:

Lk 20:41-44
(Jesus questions the religious authorities)

    • The Anointed as the Son of David
      —Citation of Psalm 110:1
    • He is David’s Lord—Deity

Lk 22:66-71
(Religious authorities question Jesus)

    • Are you the Anointed (i.e. the Davidic Ruler)?
      —Son of Man saying
    • Are you the Son of God?

The Son of Man saying plays a central role similar to the citation of Psalm 110:1 in the earlier episode. Let us consider the Son of Man saying:

“But from now (on) the Son of Man will be sitting out of the giving (hand) [i.e. on the right hand] of the Power of God”

In comparison with Mark/Matthew, Luke’s version does not have the visual/experiential emphasis—not “you will see“, but “(he) will be [e&stai]”, stating the objective reality of the Son of Man’s position. Like Matthew, the saying in Luke has a temporal indicator—”from now on…”, i.e. after his death and resurrection. Most notably, Luke includes only one of the two elements associated with the Son of Man, which are:

    • Sitting at the right hand of the Power (of God)
    • Coming on/with the clouds of Heaven
      (cf. Lk 21:27, also 9:26)

This two-fold description blends the imagery of Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13. Luke, however, emphasizes only the Son of Man’s position at the right hand of God—that is, the exaltation of Jesus after the Resurrection (Acts 2:33ff; 5:31; 7:55-56; Rom 8:34; Col 3:1; Eph 1:20; Heb 1:3, etc). The specific identification of God as “Power” (du/nami$) is a common theological epithet, serving as a theophanous embodiment or personification of God’s attributes (cf. Exod 9:16; 15:6; Ps 21:13; 62:11; 63:2, etc). The expanded “power of God” serves to clarify the expression, as well as to specify more directly the association of the Son with God the Father.

It is interesting to compare Jesus’ ultimate response to the Sanhedrin’s question—in Mark it is an unmistakable affirmative (“I am”); in Matthew, the response is more ambiguous (“You have said [it]”), which has been interpreted in a number of ways. Luke has Jesus responding to the first question (“if you are the Anointed One”) in a challenging manner: “If I tell you, you will not trust/believe (it); and if I ask (you in return), you will not answer” (vv. 67-68). His response to the second question (“Are you then the Son of God?”) is very nearly a combination of Mark/Matthew:

“I am” (Mk)
You have said (it)” (Matt)
You say that I am” (Lk)

The emphatic position of the pronoun “you” can be understood at least two ways:

    • You say it, I do not—i.e. those are your words, not mine
    • You yourself say it, i.e. speak the truth

From the standpoint of the Gospel writers (Matthew/Luke), it was likely understood in the latter sense—the hostile Sanhedrin unwittingly makes the confession. Recall that Matthew’s version of the High Priest’s question is identical with Peter’s confession (Matt 16:16, cf. above); similarly, the written charge against Jesus appended to the cross itself actually declares the truth (“This is the King…”). It is interesting that Luke omits the charge of blasphemy against Jesus: “you have heard the insult (to God)…” “…and they all judged against him to be held in (guilt) for death” (Mk 14:64). Luke does not have this, omitting also the judgment by the Sanhedrin in the last Passion prediction (Lk 18:31-33, cp. Mk 10:33-34); the judgment, however, is certainly implied in verse 71: “We (our)selves have heard (it) from his mouth!” In Mark/Matthew, it is the Son of Man declaration that leads directly to the reaction (by the High Priest) and the charge of blasphemy—that is, of an insult against God. There are several ways this can be understood:

    • Jesus is seen as identifying himself with the heavenly figure of Daniel 7:13 (the Son of Man)
    • He is giving to himself a divine position virtually equal with that of God (YHWH), cf. Psalm 110:1
    • Jesus is saying that a human being (“son of man”) can have a position next to God

The last option is possible, but it is hard to imagine that the Scripturally astute and learned members of the Sanhedrin would not have immediately recognized the allusions to Dan 7:13 and Psalm 110:1. Luke certainly would have had this in mind, given the way the execution of Stephen is narrated in Acts 7:54-60:

“See! I behold the heavens opening through and the Son of Man standing out of [i.e. at/on] the right hand of God!” (v. 56)

Immediately, the crowd cries out “with a great voice” and rushes upon Stephen with a single will/impulse [o(moqumado/n], throwing him out of the city to be stoned to death (vv. 57-58).

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