Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Jesus' Childhood Outside The Infancy Narratives (Part 4): Luke And Acts

It's often noted that Luke's material on Jesus' childhood extends into chapter 3 of his gospel by means of the genealogy that appears there. Not only does Luke continue with some childhood material in chapter 3, but he even does so after first beginning his narration of Jesus' adult ministry. How likely is it that Luke would do that if he wanted people to view the infancy account as belonging to a different genre, not having much of a connection to Jesus' adult life, or some such thing? (The closeness of the infancy material to the prologue in Luke 1:1-4, which has such significant implications for genre and historical accuracy, is likewise problematic for critics of the infancy narratives.) Notice that Luke 3 doesn't just have a genealogy of Jesus, but also includes an allusion to the virginal conception ("being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph" in 3:23).

Like Matthew, Luke has John the Baptist expecting Jesus' adult ministry before it begins (3:2-18). Verse 2 refers to the word of God coming to John, which could be taken as the source of all of his knowledge of Jesus' upcoming ministry. Most likely, however, Luke's original readers wouldn't have so isolated Luke 3:2 from the chapters that came before. The suggestion that Luke intended such an isolation is dubious. As with Matthew's gospel, it's likely that Luke's portrayal of John's anticipation of Jesus was meant to be read in light of the infancy account that came shortly before. Luke 3:2 is only a partial explanation of John's high expectations for Jesus. We get a fuller explanation from the earlier chapters.

John's early popularity (3:7) is made more coherent by the infancy narratives. So is the response of Jesus' disciples to his calling them to follow him (5:1-11). See my earlier comments on these subjects in my post on Matthew's gospel.

Jesus' background in Nazareth, referred to in the infancy accounts, is reaffirmed later in Luke's gospel and Acts (4:16, Acts 10:38). Notice that Luke refers to how Nazareth is "where he had been brought up" (4:16), once again connecting a post-childhood passage in his gospel with the childhood material. Luke isn't isolating one from the other in the manner modern critics often suggest we should.

See here for more about the significance of Jesus' choice to live in both Nazareth and Capernaum. Most likely, Jesus was framing his public ministry in terms of being the fulfillment of Isaiah 9.

Jesus' father is named Joseph, as in Luke 1-2 (4:22). Jesus' mother is named Mary (Acts 1:14). And as in the infancy narratives (1:28, 1:42, 2:34-35, 2:48-50), Mary wavers between faithfulness and unfaithfulness (8:19-21, Acts 1:14). And as Luke 2:7 implies, Jesus wasn't the only son Mary bore (8:19-20, Acts 1:14).

Like Matthew, Luke continues the theme of Jesus' Davidic ancestry beyond his chapters on Jesus' childhood (3:31, 18:38-39, 20:41-44, Acts 2:29-32, 13:22-23). What I said in my last post regarding the implication of a Bethlehem birthplace is applicable here as well.

Jesus is "the Holy One of God" (Luke 4:34) and "the Holy and Righteous One" (Acts 3:14, 7:52, 22:14). That character assessment of Jesus in his adulthood has backward implications. Jesus was sinless in his childhood, as in his adulthood. As we've seen before, the notion that sources outside the infancy narratives don't suggest anything supernatural about his childhood is false.

1 comment:

  1. I've added the following:

    See here for more about the significance of Jesus' choice to live in both Nazareth and Capernaum. Most likely, Jesus was framing his public ministry in terms of being the fulfillment of Isaiah 9.

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