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.

Novum Testamentum

An International Quarterly for New Testament and Related Studies




P. Vielhauer, “On the ‘Paulinism’ of Acts,” in Studies in Luke-Acts (eds. L.E. Keck and J.L. Martyn; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980) 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.


Similarly, J.T. Sanders, The Jews in Luke-Acts (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987) 104; Salo, Luke’s Treatment of the Law, 124.


Cf. Fitzmyer, Luke (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).


Similarly, Tannehill, Luke, 104.


Similarly, Darr, Character Building, 101; Wolter, Lukasevangelium, 297.


Wilson, Luke and the Law, 14-15.


Marshall, Luke, 447; Wolter, Lukasevangelium, 394.


Bovon, Lukas, vol. 2, 111-112.


Wilson, Luke and the Law, 4.


Similarly, Esler, Community and Gospel, 121.


Wilson, Luke and the Law, 1.


Wilson, Luke and the Law, 51.


Cf. Fitzmyer, Luke (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).


Wilson, Luke and the Law, 45-51.


See Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Remarriage, 110-117.


Similarly, Plummer, Luke, 388-389; 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.


Similarly, J.D. Kingsbury, Conflict in Luke: Jesus, Authorities, Disciples (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991) 23-24; Darr, Character Building, 104; Klein, Lukasevangelium, 549.


For a survey of research, see Loader, Jesus’ Attitude, 273-300; Thielman, The Law, 136, 161-162.


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.


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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