Luke, Paul, and the Law

in Novum Testamentum
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Luke’s conservative approach to the law is generally seen to be incompatible with that of the apostle Paul. But an analysis of how Luke develops his theology of the law through the characters in his story shows that he saw an antithesis between pursuing righteousness by the law and being accepted by God through faith. By focusing on Luke’s explicit statements regarding the law, previous studies have missed the significant points of overlap between Luke and Paul in their understanding of the law.

  • 1

    P. Vielhauer“On the ‘Paulinism’ of Acts,” in Studies in Luke-Acts (eds. L.E. Keck and J.L. Martyn; Philadelphia: Fortress1980) 37-43. Vielhauer’s verdict has been accepted by many scholars e.g. E. Haenchen Die Apostelgeschichte (kek 3; 16th ed.; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1977) 61; G. Schneider Die Apostelgeschichte 1 (htknt; Freiburg: Herder 1980) 114; U. Schnelle The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings (trans. M.E. Boring; Minneapolis: Fortress 1998) 241-242.

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  • 14

    Similarly J.T. SandersThe Jews in Luke-Acts (Philadelphia: Fortress1987) 104; Salo Luke’s Treatment of the Law 124.

  • 16

    Cf. FitzmyerLuke (I-IX)581. For the picture of the Pharisees that emerges through Luke’s narrative see especially J. Darr On Character Building: The Reader and the Rhetoric of Characterization in Luke-Acts (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox 1992) 85-126. It should be noted however that although the designation “Pharisee” holds negative connotations for Luke he is capable of nuancing the picture of individual Pharisees. Cf. R.C. Tannehill “Should We Love Simon the Pharisee? Hermeneutical Reflections on the Pharisees in Luke” CurTM 21 (1994) 431-433. J.A. Ziesler has argued that Luke holds a positive view of the Pharisees (“Luke and the Pharisees” nts 25 [1979] 146-157) but he has overstated his case (see J.D. Kingsbury “The Pharisees in Luke-Acts” in The Four Gospels 1992: Festschrift Frans Neirynck 2 [betl 100; eds. F. v. Segbroeck C.M. Tuckett G. v. Belle and J. Verheyden; Leuven: Leuven University Press 1992] 1497-1512; cf. also J.T. Carroll “Luke’s Portrayal of the Pharisees” cbq 50 [1988] 607-616). In any case Ziesler is aware of the theological differences between Luke and the Pharisees and he observes that these differences concern the law and Christology (“Pharisees” 151).

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  • 17

    Similarly TannehillLuke104.

  • 19

    Similarly DarrCharacter Building101; Wolter Lukasevangelium 297.

  • 23

    WilsonLuke and the Law14-15.

  • 24

    MarshallLuke447; Wolter Lukasevangelium 394.

  • 32

    BovonLukas vol. 2111-112.

  • 35

    WilsonLuke and the Law4.

  • 47

    Similarly EslerCommunity and Gospel121.

  • 50

    WilsonLuke and the Law1.

  • 51

    WilsonLuke and the Law51.

  • 53

    Cf. FitzmyerLuke (X-XXIV)1121. However the Damascus Document probably prohibits polygamy not remarriage and the Temple Scroll only concerns the king. See D. Instome-Brewer Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 2002) 61-72. Several scholars conclude that Luke in 16:18 understood Jesus to uphold and interpret the law (J. Jervell “The Law in Luke-Acts” htr 64 [1971] 28; Klinghardt Gesetz und Volk Gottes 88-89; W. Wiefel Das Evangelium nach Lukas [thknt 3; Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt 1988] 296; Loader Jesus’ Attitude 338; J. Green The Gospel of Luke [nicnt; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1997] 603-604; Bovon Lukas vol. 3 102-103; Wolter Lukasevangelium 556; Carroll Luke 334). Esler thinks Luke saw v. 18 as an intensification of the law (Community and Gospel 120-121). Salo maintains that Luke’s composition is intended to hide the fact that Jesus’ teaching differed from the law (Luke’s Treatment of the Law 146-149). Sanders finds the prohibition against divorce to be a regulation of the law that applied to both Jews and Gentiles (The Jews in Luke-Acts 201).

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  • 54

    WilsonLuke and the Law45-51.

  • 55

    See Instone-BrewerDivorce and Remarriage110-117.

  • 56

    Similarly PlummerLuke388-389; R.J. Banks Jesus and the Law in the Synoptic Tradition (sntsms 28; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1975) 218; Marshall Luke 630-631; M. Turner “The Sabbath Sunday and the Law in Luke/Acts” in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: A Biblical Historical and Theological Investigation (ed. D.A. Carson; Eugene Or.: Wipf and Stock 1999) 110; Fitzmyer Luke (X-XXIV) 116; Bock Luke Vol. 2 1355-1356; F. Thielman The Law and the New Testament: The Question of Continuity (New York: Crossroad 1999) 151-152; Klein Lukasevangelium 548. Hans Hübner thinks that Luke has preserved conflicting material and sees 16:17-18 as an example. According to him 16:18 amounts to an abrogation of the law (Gesetz in der synoptischen Tradition 207; cf. Wilson Luke and the Law 51). Hübner is correct that there is a tension between Luke 16:18 and Deut 24:1-4. However it is now widely recognized that Luke wrote as a theologian in his own right. Rather than assume that Luke is self-contradictory it is better to try to understand after the logic that Luke may have seen in the disparate sayings he includes.

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  • 57

    Similarly J.D. KingsburyConflict in Luke: Jesus Authorities Disciples (Minneapolis: Fortress1991) 23-24; Darr Character Building 104; Klein Lukasevangelium 549.

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  • 59

    For a survey of research see LoaderJesus’ Attitude273-300; Thielman The Law 136 161-162.

  • 62

    Vielhauer“ ‘Paulinism’ of Acts” 37-43. The conclusion that Luke understands the gospel as an addition to the law has been repeated by many scholars e.g. Sellin “Gleichniserzähler” 53; Ernst Lukas 471; J.A. Fitzmyer Luke the Theologian: Aspects of His Teaching (Mahwah n.j.: Paulist 1989) 175-202; F. Vouga Jésus et la loi selon la tradition synoptique (Le monde de la Bible 17; Geneva: Labor et Fides 1988) 132 151; Syreeni “Matthew Luke and the Law” 148-150; Salo Luke’s Treatment of the Law 110.

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  • 65

    Similarly Marguerat“Paul and the Torah” 104; S.E. Porter “Luke: Companion or Disciple of Paul?” in Paul and the Gospels: Christologies Conflicts and Convergences (Library of New Testament Studies 411; eds. M.F. Bird and J. Willitts; London: T & T Clark 2011) 149. Richard Hays finds that Luke represents “an intelligible trajectory from within a Pauline symbolic world” (“The Paulinism of Acts Intertextually Reconsidered” in Paul and the Heritage of Israel: Paul’s Claim upon Israel’s Legacy in Luke and Acts in the Light of the Pauline Letters [Library of New Testament Studies 452; eds. D.P. Moessner D. Marguerat M.C. Parsons and M. Wolter; London: T & T Clark 2012] 147). Jens Schröter concludes that Luke gives “a creative treatment of Paul’s heritage in a new situation” (“The Pauline Figure of Acts within the Pauline Legacy: Paul the Founder of the Church: Reflections on the Reception of Paul in the Acts of the Apostles and the Pastoral Epistles” in Paul and the Heritage of Israel: Paul’s Claim upon Israel’s Legacy in Luke and Acts in the Light of the Pauline Letters [Library of New Testament Studies 452; eds. D.P. Moessner D. Marguerat M.C. Parsons and M. Wolter; London: T & T Clark 2012] 213).

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