The Baptism in Luke
>Date: Tue, 10 May 1994 15:56:31 EST
>From: "Dan G. McCartney, Westminster Seminary" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Subject: Luke 3:21
>Re Luke's redaction of the baptism of Jesus...
>It looks to me that this awkwardness in Luke was necessitated by Luke's
>inclusion of the imprisonment of John in the preceding two verses, so he has to
>revert back to the time of John's activity.
As an aside:
Is it really clear that Luke is "*revert[ing]* back to the time of John's
activity"? Might it not be easier to read the text simply as given and
assume that, for Luke at least, John was in prison (and safely out of the
way) by the time of Jesus' baptism?
1] Consider how having John "out of the way" fits in with nicely with the
overall Lucan notion of Salvation History. In particular, for Luke the
period of the Law clearly ends with John (e.g. Lk16:16; contrast this with
the quite different Matthean notion in Mt5:17, the closest parallel to this
passage). Here and elsewhere Luke goes to great pains to make sure the old
world of the Law has ended before the career of Jesus begins in earnest.
2] The insertion of the three verses about John's arrest (Lk3:18-20) is
very disruptive to the flow of the surrounding material. If Luke had
wanted to insert the verses in their "normal" position he would have needed
to wait only until the end of 3:22 --some fourty words more-- at which
point there is a very natural (and complete) break in the story line.
Given the awkwardness of this construction and given Luke's status as
probably the most careful writer of NT Greek, the placement of this
disruption might seem to suggest that Luke is going to great pains to place
these verses exactly where he wants them.
3] Stylistically are there other reasons to believe Luke is relying on a
"flashback" at this point? Are there many examples of this being done in
Luke or indeed anywhere in the entire NT? On the contrary, in all cases
gospel narrative seems to move relentlessly forward from Nazareth to the tomb.
Now it is certainly true that there are examples where complete, self-
contained, extended passages have been transferred out from their natural
sequence (e.g. Mt14:1-12). On the other hand it is difficult to find
other passages where 1] only a verse or two has been transposed in this way
and 2] the transferal has been done in such a disruptive manner. And in
particular it is especially difficult to find such examples in Luke.