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Source: (consider it) Thread: Luke & The Virgin Birth
Kwesi
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Without getting into a discussion about the historicity of the virgin birth, I want to ask the question as to what significance Luke attached to it, particularly as he traces Jesus' genealogical provenance through Joseph. Did he regard it as a somewhat stand alone 'fact' of no great important or something of profound theological significance? How does it fit into the purposes of his gospel?
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leo
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For Luke, Mary was the Ark of the Covenant - so a sort of receptacle - the contents could be of Joseph's descent.

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Anglican_Brat
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Whereas Matthew turns to the Moses story as a foreshadowing of the Nativity, Luke turns to the Hannah story of First Samuel. In both Luke and First Samuel, the husband/human father plays a minor role, the focus is on the mother whose example of faith and obedience plays a crucial part in the birth narrative.

Mary's virginity is not simply about her sexual status, it is about her undivided faith and obedience to God, and for her trust that God's purposes will be fulfilled.

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Gramps49
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And I always thought it was because Luke was writing to a Roman reader who would want to see the lineage through the male, not the female. Silly me
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Sarah G
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It's possible that significance was attached to the virgin birth- God's Holy Spirit was not only the one who gave Jesus a human life, but was also was also the power that gave him the new, post-resurrection life.

However I'm not sure that Matthew/Luke are putting a lot of theology on it.

The alma passage, as usual suspect, refers to a prophecy about Jesus' role and neither the Hebrew or the Septuagint makes us translate alma as virgin.

The descendent of David thing was through Joseph, and in the culture of the day, biological parenthood was optional to be a 'son'. So it neither created nor solved that problem.

There's no relevant OT prophecy on messianic virgin births, and no expectations in C1 Israel. Since the Early Church believed in the virgin birth, it would fully explain the Gospel accounts as simply reporting events. So I'm going 'nothing terribly important'.

Probably.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
For Luke, Mary was the Ark of the Covenant - so a sort of receptacle - the contents could be of Joseph's descent.

This is jamming a much later interpretation back into the text where it fits not at all. Luke says nothing about the contents being of Joseph's descent, and indeed takes great pains to show that they are not. Your theory can say what it likes, but if we're talking about what Luke thought, we must not pay mere lip service to what he actually said.

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Mudfrog
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The genealogy in Luke is Mary's not Joseph's.
Joseph was adopted as Heli's son on marriage t Mary because Mary was unable to inherit Heli's estate.

Luke was a doctor. There is no way he would write about the Virgin Birth unless there were good reason to; it's evidently come from Mary herself.

To my mind there can be no question that Mary's pure status as a virgin was predicted by Isaiah.
If Mary was merely a 'young woman' and not a virgin before she married Joseph then we are evidently saying that she slept with him before they married or that she had slept with someone else - hence the reason for the proposed divorce.

Either way that would make her a fornicator or give Jesus a second man as his father.

Hardly the greatest start for the Messiah.
In fact, If Joseph is the father, Jesus cannot be the Messiah because he had a man in his genealogy who is cursed by God and cannot be the ancestor or royalty.

[ 29. September 2017, 18:50: Message edited by: Mudfrog ]

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Mamacita

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Luke's theological emphasis on the virgin birth is seen, I believe, in the pairing of two stories told in the first chapter of the gospel: Mary's and Elizabeth's. (Or, if you prefer, the birth of Jesus and the birth of John the Baptist.) I think the crux of it is in verse 37 (bold, below).
quote:
Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1: 34-38)
Elizabeth, a married woman said to be barren, conceives in her old age. Mary, an unmarried woman, conceives without knowing a man. So the story of Jesus' life begins with a miracle that demonstrates God's power, or really two miracles if you bring in the whole family.

As Anglican_Brat notes, there are echoes of the Hannah/Samuel story in that of Elizabeth/John. I'd add that there are echoes too of Sarah, for whom it had "ceased after the manner of women" (in the KJV's charming phrase). So for the prelude to the story of Mary, we have the long tradition of God's miraculous interventions in the lives of barren women. After setting the stage with all this history, God sort of ups the ante. You think overcoming barrenness was something? Here's a birth that defies biology.

Also, I think there's a nice juxtaposition of the two women, one at the end of her reproductive life and the other at the beginning, but that's probably more stylistic than theological. Luke was a good writer.

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Mamacita:
Also, I think there's a nice juxtaposition of the two women, one at the end of her reproductive life and the other at the beginning, but that's probably more stylistic than theological. Luke was a good writer.

Not just stylistic - John was the last of the prophets of the old covenant. Very appropriate therefore that he was the son of Elizabeth. Jesus's Incarnation is the start of the new covenant and in addition to the usual arguments about His divinity from the Holy Spirit and His humanity from Mary we have this other little twist.

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Anglican_Brat
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quote:
The genealogy in Luke is Mary's not Joseph's.
Joseph was adopted as Heli's son on marriage to Mary because Mary was unable to inherit Heli's estate.

That is news to me, can you cite evidence as to your assertion?

quote:

Luke was a doctor. There is no way he would write about the Virgin Birth unless there were good reason to; it's evidently come from Mary herself.

One reason could be that if Luke was writing to Gentile Christians who were familiar with Roman stories of miraculous births, that he tailored his infancy narrative to appeal to their sentiments.

John for example, does a similar thing in his Wedding of Cana story, Jesus turns water into wine seems to me that John is making Jesus superior to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine.

But then I think the Word of God can use fiction as a means for revelation, not just history.

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Jamat
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quote:
Anglican Brat: That is news to me, can you cite evidence as to your assertion?

This is established according to A T Robertson in his 'A Harmony of the Gospels' (1922) P261, amongst other reasons, by the fact that the name of Joseph appears in this genealogy without an article, the only name to do so. This indicates that Luke's intention was probably to have him stand in for his wife here. He also suggests other reasons why this is the case.

It seems commonly accepted that Matthew gives the 'royal' line or the legal line while Luke gives the 'real' line. Matthew cannot give the real line as his includes Jeconiah, on whom Jeremiah prophesied was to be childless. Jer:22:30. Jesus was therefore not a direct descendant of Solomon but of Nathan, another son of David.

[ 30. September 2017, 02:44: Message edited by: Jamat ]

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Golden Key
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Anglican_Brat--

quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
But then I think the Word of God can use fiction as a means for revelation, not just history.

Sure, but that doesn't necessarily mean that something that sounds like fiction *is* fiction.

I don't know whether the miracles happened. (Though I think that if Jesus existed and was who he said he was, it's likely the miracles happened.) But IMHO they don't need to be written off, just because they seem unlikely or impossible.
[Angel]

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
For Luke, Mary was the Ark of the Covenant - so a sort of receptacle - the contents could be of Joseph's descent.

This is jamming a much later interpretation back into the text where it fits not at all.
So what about the parallels in the story of the Visitation?:

"How can the ark of the Lord come to me?"

“leapt in front of the ark a”

three months

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Nick Tamen

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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
So what about the parallels in the story of the Visitation?:

"How can the ark of the Lord come to me?"

“leapt in front of the ark a”

three months

Except that according Luke, Elizabeth said “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?”

"Mother," not "ark."

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leo
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Allegory, parallel, not wooden literalism.

[ 01. October 2017, 17:56: Message edited by: leo ]

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BroJames
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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
Allegory, parallel, not wooden literalism.

More a perfectly natural meaning distorted into an improbable allegorical parallelism. What grounds are there within the text for concluding that Luke, a writer who frequently appears to be explaining Jewish terms for a Gentile readership, is making this allegorical connection with two separate accounts of David and the Ark of the Covenant?
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Latchkey Kid
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quote:
Originally posted by Gramps49:
And I always thought it was because Luke was writing to a Roman reader who would want to see the lineage through the male, not the female. Silly me

For Luke Jesus is the Son of God and his genealogy goes back to Adam, Son of God. Perhaps Jesus is the New Adam, the Perfect Son of God.

Matthew traces the genealogy back to Abraham and emphasises that Jesus is of the line of David and is thus could qualify as God's anointed King or Messiah as the Messiah had to come from the House of David.

This would be important to Matthew's Jewish Christian audience, but less so to Luke's audience who would be more interested in establishing divine status.

As there is much commonality in the genealogies I don't see why some think that one is the genealogy of Joseph and the other the genealogy of Mary. Luke and Matthew had different theological purposes for their genealogies.

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Nick Tamen

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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
Allegory, parallel, not wooden literalism.

Yes, but allegory read into the text by later readers. Luke says nothing to indicate that it's an allegory he intended.

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BroJames
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Indeed, at the beginning of the Gospel, Luke goes out of his way to describe what he writes as a well-researched and orderly account which on the face of it discourages allegorical reading.
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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by Jamat:
quote:
Anglican Brat: That is news to me, can you cite evidence as to your assertion?

This is established according to A T Robertson in his 'A Harmony of the Gospels' (1922) P261, amongst other reasons, by the fact that the name of Joseph appears in this genealogy without an article, the only name to do so. This indicates that Luke's intention was probably to have him stand in for his wife here. He also suggests other reasons why this is the case.

It seems commonly accepted that Matthew gives the 'royal' line or the legal line while Luke gives the 'real' line. Matthew cannot give the real line as his includes Jeconiah, on whom Jeremiah prophesied was to be childless. Jer:22:30. Jesus was therefore not a direct descendant of Solomon but of Nathan, another son of David.

Thank you. Perfectly put.

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
Allegory, parallel, not wooden literalism.

Yes, but allegory read into the text by later readers. Luke says nothing to indicate that it's an allegory he intended.
No need to - that's how people wrote in those days.

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BroJames
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Some did, but not all - and from the textual evidence not Luke.
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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
Allegory, parallel, not wooden literalism.

More a perfectly natural meaning distorted into an improbable allegorical parallelism. What grounds are there within the text for concluding that Luke, a writer who frequently appears to be explaining Jewish terms for a Gentile readership, is making this allegorical connection with two separate accounts of David and the Ark of the Covenant?
But the opening chapters are very jewish - maybe the Gentile' audience included 'Godfearers' who knew their Judaism. And, just, maybe it actually happened - an actual event inspired by God and reminiscent of his tabernacling with his people in the past.

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
Some did, but not all - and from the textual evidence not Luke.

So why the doubling of the road to Emmaus with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts?

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
Some did, but not all - and from the textual evidence not Luke.

So why the doubling of the road to Emmaus with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts?
Are you suggesting these accounts are allegorical?

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
Some did, but not all - and from the textual evidence not Luke.

So why the doubling of the road to Emmaus with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts?
Are you suggesting these accounts are allegorical?
Probably not but there are strong parallels.

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Enoch
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As Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus's mother is Mary and his father is God. Hence the story as it is told.

Lk 1: 30-35 in the WEBible so as to avoid copyright issues
quote:
"30 The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and will call his name ‘Jesus.’ 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever. There will be no end to his kingdom.”

34   Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, seeing I am a virgin?”

35   The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the holy one who is born from you will be called the Son of God. ...

That understanding has the full endorsement of every Christian tradition until a few 'advanced' theologians started to speculate about other interpretations in the C20.

That is not to deny that there can be no additional or collateral edifying nuances, but IMHO it's a bit pointless to discuss what else Luke might have been trying to say without starting there.

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Mamacita

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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:

Lk 1: 30-35 in the WEBible so as to avoid copyright issues



Just a wee point of information: A passage of a few verses, such as the one above, would be "fair use" and can be quoted without concern about copyright issues.

Mamacita, Keryg Host

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Sarah G
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
Luke was a doctor.

This remains a Christian meme, but the evidence for this is far from compelling. There probably was a Luke connected to Paul, who may well have been a sort of medical person. That he wrote a Gospel is rather more doubtful.

It's not impossible, but there's certainly not enough evidence to make Luke's doctorness a load-bearing basis for an argument.

A blow was struck by Henry Cadbury in his doctoral thesis dismissing Luke's alleged use of medical language. It's often said that Cadbury got the title of doctor by depriving Luke of his.

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BroJames
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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
Some did, but not all - and from the textual evidence not Luke.

So why the doubling of the road to Emmaus with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts?
(a) the evidence for a literary doubling is weak, and (b) even if established would only show Luke drawing parallels between these two events and not that one is somehow an allegory of the other, or that both are an allegory of something else. But the passages don’t pass the first test of being a literary doubling in the girst place - see (a).
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Mudfrog
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I don't see any reason whatsoever that these accounts were not actual events.

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BroJames
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As far as the Luke mentioned in the NT is concerned, the evidence is in Col 4.14 where Paul describes him as ἰατρὸς - usually translated as ‘doctor’ in the sense of a healer rather than a teacher.

The evidence that Luke and Acts are by the same author is in their respective introductions, and to some extent in stylistic similarities.

The evidence that the author of Acts was a companion of Paul is in the ‘we passages’ in Acts.

Ancient tradition is evidence that the author is the Luke named in Colossians.

Mainly in the 18th century, scholars claimed to have found textual evidence to bolster the case for Luke the ἰατρὸς companion of Paul being the author of Luke-Acts in the use of medical language. Cadbury demolished those claims but AFAIK left the basic underlying framework intact.

The evidence for the traditional claim is not very strong, it might easily be rebutted and alternative theories offered. However the evidence to rebut the tradition is IMHO weaker, and the evidence in favour of those theories is also much weaker. Hence the persistence of the Christian meme of Doctor Luke.

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Sarah G
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There's a sizeable question mark over the authorship of Colossians,

The word ἰατρὸς certainly has medical applications, but to see someone with that title as being similar to a modern day G.P. is somewhat misleading- it's rather broader than that.

Even if one were to accept that the author of Luke-Acts is a companion of Paul, that's not a reason to suppose it was Luke the doctor mentioned elsewhere. Unlike me, Paul probably had many friends.

The only meaningful evidence was that of the Early Church, and they're really not reliable enough on this sort of thing to put a lot of weight on. Once a meme gets its feet under the table, all sorts of people tend to repeat it.

The writing of Luke is generally dated around 80-110 AD; later dates make it unlikely a companion of Paul would have survived until then, life expectancy being rather less than today.

He's certainly head, shoulders, knees and toes above any other named individual possibilities. It may well turn out to be him. However I suspect the answer may turn out to be 'none of the above', and wouldn't use Luke => doctor as a basis for further conclusion.

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Anglican_Brat
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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
Allegory, parallel, not wooden literalism.

Yes, but allegory read into the text by later readers. Luke says nothing to indicate that it's an allegory he intended.
No need to - that's how people wrote in those days.
But that was NT Wright's critique of John Shelby Spong when he argued that the entire New Testament was written as Midrash of the Hebrew Bible. Wright argued rightly, that you can't assert that the writers intended to write this way, without actual external evidence suggesting it to be so. Just because you think the authors wrote a text to be allegorial doesn't make it so.

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BroJames
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quote:
Originally posted by Sarah G:
There's a sizeable question mark over the authorship of Colossians,

Yes, but his existence is recorded also in 2 Timothy and in Philemon. If there is more than one Luke known of, then one would expect some distinction to be made when a Luke is mentioned (cf James the Elder, James the Lord's brother etc.) If, as some argue, Colossians is pseudepigraphic by a companion or near contemporary of Paul, then Luke is referred to for authenticity, in which case the reference to ἰατρὸς is only useful if widely known to be true.

quote:
The word ἰατρὸς certainly has medical applications, but to see someone with that title as being similar to a modern day G.P. is somewhat misleading- it's rather broader than that.
Yes, I agree, although 'doctor' would still be our nearest translation.

quote:
Even if one were to accept that the author of Luke-Acts is a companion of Paul, that's not a reason to suppose it was Luke the doctor mentioned elsewhere. Unlike me, Paul probably had many friends.
And, of course, the attribution of the gospel to Luke is extra biblical. AFAIK the traditions that attribute the gospel to Luke attribute it to Luke the ἰατρὸς, companion of Paul. Two Lukes is a possibility, but if so they had become confused with one another at a very early date.

quote:
The only meaningful evidence was that of the Early Church, and they're really not reliable enough on this sort of thing to put a lot of weight on. Once a meme gets its feet under the table, all sorts of people tend to repeat it.
Given the early date of the ascription to Luke, I don't think we are into the period where there is a major problem with the tradition. But even if there is, there is no evidence to suggest any other author. So the evidence is not robust, but nor is it contradicted.

quote:
The writing of Luke is generally dated around 80-110 AD; later dates make it unlikely a companion of Paul would have survived until then, life expectancy being rather less than today.
If we postulate a likely late 50s date for Paul's journey to Rome, someone aged 30 at the time could comfortably have been around for the first two decades of the likely dating, and even a bit later. Although more people died young, those who lived could easily live to a good old age.

quote:
He's certainly head, shoulders, knees and toes above any other named individual possibilities. It may well turn out to be him. However I suspect the answer may turn out to be 'none of the above', and wouldn't use Luke => doctor as a basis for further conclusion.
Yes, I agree. The possibility that the 'doctor' Luke in the epistles is in fact the author of Luke-Acts doesn't find additional support from the fact that he is described as ἰατρὸς, but then I'm not sure that if we didn't already know it that we could confidently identify Conan Doyle's medical training from the Sherlock Holmes corpus.
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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
I don't see any reason whatsoever that these accounts were not actual events.

and also institional narratives for sacraments - word read, preached, eucharist/baptism

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
Allegory, parallel, not wooden literalism.

Yes, but allegory read into the text by later readers. Luke says nothing to indicate that it's an allegory he intended.
More parallels

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Kwesi
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quote:
Mudfrog:The genealogy in Luke is Mary's not Joseph's.
Joseph was adopted as Heli's son on marriage to Mary because Mary was unable to inherit Heli's estate.


Jamat: This is established according to A T Robertson in his 'A Harmony of the Gospels' (1922) P261, amongst other reasons, by the fact that the name of Joseph appears in this genealogy without an article, the only name to do so. This indicates that Luke's intention was probably to have him stand in for his wife here. He also suggests other reasons why this is the case.


Anglican Brat: That is news to me, can you cite evidence as to your assertion?



I don't get the impression that Robertson's thesis caries much weight. Would I be mistaken?

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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
For Luke, Mary was the Ark of the Covenant - so a sort of receptacle - the contents could be of Joseph's descent.

Where?

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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
Some did, but not all - and from the textual evidence not Luke.

So why the doubling of the road to Emmaus with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts?
Are you suggesting these accounts are allegorical?
Probably not but there are strong parallels.
Walking was pretty common then. Just like apophenia is now.

[ 31. October 2017, 08:43: Message edited by: Martin60 ]

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