The Apologetic Revisited

Exonerating Luke from an Ancestral Exegetical and Theological Burden

by Innocent Emezie Ezeani (Author)
©2014 Thesis 318 Pages


The trend in the scholarship of Luke has been that of presenting Luke as being interested in the survival of Christianity within the Power apparatus of the Roman world. To achieve this pivotal aim, he seems to overlook the abysmal social maladies and wrongdoings of the Powerful of his time hoping not to endanger the peace and tranquility of Christianity. The intention of this research, however, is to show the defiance and fearlessness of Luke in dealing with the rich and the Powerful. He did not compromise the basic teachings of Christianity even in his respect for the constituted profane Authorities of the Roman order. A second proper look beholds the critical dynamics of his Gospel and the Acts, beginning with the Magnificat running through the angelic Annunciation scene and the Temptation of Jesus and ending with the punishment of Herod Agrippa. The reader beholds a hitherto unknown Luke, who operates from a particular critical stance and distance to the Powerful from the sociological perspective of hidden transcripts.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Content
  • Acknowledgement
  • Chapter 1
  • 1. Introduction to the theme of the Dissertation
  • 2. The Justification of the Study
  • 3. Some research works in the course of years
  • 3.1 Conzelmann: Redaction criticism in Luke and the Apologetic
  • 3.2 Yoder and Cassidy: Protagonists of a defiant Luke
  • 3.3 Works of recent years
  • 3.4 A shift in the Appeasement paradigm
  • 4. Relevant Biblical texts for the Dissertation-theme
  • 5. Methodological Approach
  • Chapter 2
  • 1. The Magnificat and the theme of power (Lk 1:46–55)
  • 1.1 Greek Text
  • 1.2 English Translation
  • 2. The Context of the Magnificat
  • 2.1 Structure and Composition
  • 2.1.1 Linguistic Proof for the structure
  • 2.2 Literary Genre
  • 2.3 Literary Criticism
  • 3. Tradition and History
  • 4. Some Literal constructions of immense importance
  • 4.1 ἡ ταπείνωσις
  • 4.2 Φοβούμενοι του Θεοῦ
  • 4.3 ϓπερήφανοι
  • 4.4 καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων
  • 5. Redaction Criticism
  • 6. Conclusion
  • Chapter 3
  • 1. The Birth Narrative: Imperial edict and divine fulfilment
  • 1.1 Greek Text
  • 1.2 English Translation
  • 2. The Context of the birth narrative
  • 2.1 The Structure of the Text of the Birth narrative: Lk 2:1–20
  • 2.2 The literary Genre of the micro text
  • 2.3 Literary development of the Text
  • 3. Religio-Historical Perspective
  • 3.1 Imperial cult: A guide to the understanding of the Text
  • 3.1.1 The social and political Aspects of the Pax Romana
  • 3.1.2 Εὐαγγελίζομαι
  • 3.1.3 The imperial Hegemony of the Roman Era
  • 3.2 Σωτήρ
  • 3.2.1 Σωτήρ in Old Testament and Judaism
  • 3.3 Χριστός
  • 3.4 Κύριος
  • 4. The Lukan Profile and Theology
  • 4.1 The Lukan use of the title “saviour”
  • 4.2 The Lukan use of Χριστός
  • 4.3 Lukan Theology and criticism of the Pax romana
  • 5. Conclusion
  • Chapter 4
  • 1. The second item of the Temptation of Jesus (Lk 4:5–8)
  • 1.2 Greek Text
  • 1.3 English Translation
  • 2. The Context of the Temptation pericope
  • 2.1 The compositional structure of the temptation pericope
  • 2.2 Synoptic comparison of the Lukan and Matthean Accounts
  • 2.2.1 Historical and relational Questions
  • 2.2.2 A hypothetical reconstruction of the Q version
  • 3. History and Tradition
  • 3.1 A traditional and historical consideration of the Lukan redaction
  • 3.1.1 οἰκουμένη
  • 3.1.2 Ἐξουσία
  • 3.1.3 προσκυνεῖν
  • 4. The political Theology of Luke in the temptation Account
  • 4.1 Introduction
  • 4.2 The social and cultural context of the Temptation Account in Luke
  • 4.3 The political and theological message in the Temptation pericope of Luke
  • 5. Conclusion
  • Chapter 5
  • 1. The Parable of the throne claimant (Lk 19:11–28)
  • 1.1 Greek Text
  • 1.2 English Translation
  • 2. The Context of the parable
  • 2.1 Structure and Language
  • 2.2 Literary Genre
  • 2.3 Synoptic Comparison
  • 2.4 Literary Criticism
  • 3. Tradition
  • 3.1 Redaction Criticism
  • 4. Conclusion
  • Chapter 6
  • 1. Leadership as service: The advice of Jesus within the last supper in Lk 22:24–30
  • 1.1 Greek Text
  • 1.2 English Translation
  • 2. Context, Language and Genre of the Text
  • 2.1 The structure of the Pericope
  • 3. Synoptic Comparison between Luke and Mark
  • 3.1 Differences in points of Departure
  • 3.2 Text immanent comparison
  • 3.2.1 The preoccupation of the Disciples
  • 3.3 The theological Yield of the synoptic Comparison
  • 4. Tradition and History
  • 4.1 Φιλονεικία
  • 4.2 Εὐεργέτης
  • 4.3 Socio-historical Considerations
  • 4.3.1 Νεώτερος
  • 4.3.2 Διακονέω
  • Διάκονος as a go-between
  • The New Testament use of Διακονέω
  • Διακονέω and the innovations of Luke
  • 5. The Twelve and their future judging role in Lk 22:28–30
  • 5.1 Synoptic Comparison
  • 5.2 Conditions and Content of the Promise
  • 5.3 Conclusion
  • 6. The political theology of Luke
  • 6.1 The Lukan Jesus as ὁ διακονῶν
  • 6.2 The political Intentions of Luke
  • 7. Conclusion
  • Chapter 7
  • 1. The Hubris of Herod: God’s wrath on an arrogant king
  • 1.1 Introduction
  • 1.2 Text and Translation of Acts 12:20–24
  • 1.2.1 Greek Text
  • 1.2.2 English Translation
  • 2. The Context of the death of Herod
  • 2.1 The semantic connections and structure of Acts 12:20–24
  • 2.2 The literary Genre of Acts 12:20–24
  • 3. Tradition-Criticism
  • 3.1 The Account of Josephus
  • 3.2 Synoptic Comparison with Josephus
  • 3.3 Historical Findings
  • 3.3.1 The Emergence of the King
  • 3.3.2 The Speech of Agrippa and its consequence
  • 3.4 Nero from the Perspective of History
  • 3.5 Conclusion
  • 4. Redaction Criticism
  • 4.1 The theological intention of Luke
  • 4.1.1 The offence of Agrippa within the context of Luke-Acts
  • 4.1.2 Conclusion
  • Chapter 8
  • 1. Conclusion
  • 2. Yields from the Research work
  • 3. Proceeds for the day-to-day life
  • Bibliography

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This book is the fruit of a Dissertation project that I started in the winter semester of 2005/06 and submitted in the winter semester of 2009/10 to the theology faculty of the Bavarian Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg, Germany. I defended it with my final examination for a doctorate degree in catholic theology on the 2nd of June 2010. In the course of these years, I did a little reworking on it hoping not only to capture but also to transmit the very essence of what I considered to be a rereading of the Gospel of Luke regarding Power and Domination, an initial agitation that actually prompted the research. From this perspective, I hope to have been able to situate the message of Luke as being adequate to address the abysmal maladies of the present society, not only theologically but also in terms of Politics. I owe many people thanks for the realisation of this work.

For the manifold opportunity of engaging in this study and for other things, with which I am blessed, especially for the gift of Life, I am profoundly indebted to God Almighty, not only for all He has made of me, but also for all He has given me. My prayer of praise to Him remains the Magnificat, which happens to be a part of this study. I say a hearty “Thanks” to my parents Chief and Mrs. I. O. Ezeani for jointly saying “Yes” to the will of God that resulted in my being, also to the whole Ezeani family for their patience and for enduring my years of extended absence.

I owe a depth of gratitude to my present Bishop Most Rev. Augustine T. Ukwuoma, and to my former bishop Most Rev. Gregory O. Ochiagha. I appreciate the advice, the theological and exegetical counsel of my moderator Prof. Bernhard Heininger, who painstakingly guided the course of this project, introducing me into the intricacies of exegetical enterprise and helping me to be open-minded regarding the outcome of scientific exegetical approach. I profited much from his meticulousness and profound knowledge. I thank Prof. Johann Rechenmacher, who was the second reader of the work, for his useful suggestions, corrections and evaluation. I am also grateful to Prof. Theodor Seidl of the institute of Old Testament for his enduring readiness to help me out in Hebrew morphology. I will not forget the influence of Prof. Robert Oberforcher for inflaming in me the interest and the passion for the double Work of Luke during my seminary years in Innsbruck, Austria.

I owe an everlasting debt of gratitude to Mr. Stefan and Mrs. Christl Harrer and their family for their unfailing commitment to my cause. With them I experienced what it means to have a home outside a home. Without the love, help, freedom and ← 11 | 12 → care experienced in their house and within their friendship, this study would not have been completed. In the same line, Mrs. Christine Keller deserves my warm gratitude for making special contributions towards my cause in her silent manner. May God bless and guide her for believing in me and for going with me through thick and thin. Thanks to Mrs. Antonie Bolch and her daughter Mrs. Gabriele Bolch for their wonderful friendly ties, that made the time of this research less boring. Spending my free time with them gave me the strength of withstanding the hazards of academic venture. Mr. Christoph and Mrs. Christa Dittert came into my life, when I needed them most, not only in the academic sector but also in interpersonal relations. I thank them not only for the many discussions on this topic, but also for the financial help towards the realisation of this project.

May God reward Rev. Leopold Zunder, Mrs. Anna Fugger and the entire catholic communities of Eisenkappel and Rechberg in Carinthia Austria for sponsoring my studies. I recognise the unalloyed support of Rev. Joze Kopeinig and Rev. Martin Schautzgy to my wellbeing. I also thank Rev. Slavko Thaler and Rev. Peter Sticker for their interest in my study. Rev. Wolfgang Gätschenberger and his chaplaincy of Bad Rappenau helped me to feel at home in their parish at the heat of my studies. Rev. Uwe Scharfenecker has always proved to be a friend to reckon with. I thank the catholic diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart for the help rendered so far and for the opportunity of helping out pastorally in its area of jurisdiction. I appreciate the solidarity of many people in the course of my studies and the past years. I can only mention a few of them for lack of space: Hon. Mr. Werner and Mrs. Marianne Kuhn, Mrs. Gertrud Bühl and family, Mrs. Gisela Takacs, Mrs. Anna Bombasaro and family, the family of Mr. Eberhard Suitner, Mrs. Ellen Winkler, Mrs. Agnes Steiner, Mrs. Gudrun Eble, Mrs. Andrea Theler and family. Their support, outspoken and tacit, in the course of years helped to carry me through.

I remain indebted to my confreres for their enduring fraternity that sustained me: Rev. Frs. Remigius Orjiukwu, Aloy Ndiukwu, Paul Ezenwa, Aloy Chikezie, Augustus Izekwe, Philip Omenukwa, John Kanu and Emeka Asuzo, Titus Offor, Ikechukwu Eze, Uche Nnajiofor, Uche Iheke and many others. Dr. Wonjun Joo and Mrs. Hannelore Ferner, the dynamic, competent and ever cheerful staff of the Institute of New Testament, helped a lot in giving this work a scientific format within a computerised system. Miss Anja Schmidt was very helpful in proofreading the work and in removing the German elements and influence in my English. Bernd Emmert proved his worth in the final drafting and layout for the publication of this work. I sincerely appreciate the scientific criticism and contributions of Heinz Blatz, Rowland Onyenali, Stefan Heining and Agnes Rosenhauer to my topic in our common search for tenable theological conclusions based on biblical fundaments. ← 12 | 13 →

Even as I say thank you, I cannot but affirm entertaining the feeling that my words are not strong enough to express the gratitude in my heart. I do not intend to rid myself therewith of due responsibility in areas where there are mistakes and unsubstantiated thoughts. I emphatically and solely claim the source and ownership of these mistakes.

My mother, Fidelia Ezeani, was still living as I finished this study, could however not live to see it published. I dedicate the book to her loving memory. May she rest in peace! Amen!

Innocent Emezie Ezeani

Hüffenhardt, 5th May 2014

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Chapter 1

1. Introduction to the theme of the Dissertation

From the sixties of the last century, the double work of Luke has been holding a key position in the New Testament scholarship. This interest has partially to do with its subject matter and length. Glancing through the bibliographies of works in the field of New Testament exegesis, one sees immediately that much attention has been bestowed upon this double work. It would not be an overstatement to say that the writings of Luke have taken over the interest and domination, which the letters of Paul enjoyed until the fifties of the last century, and is second only to the scholarship involved with the historical Jesus.

To this field of proficiency and excellence should be added the political importance and contribution of Luke: the double work of Luke is, with the exception of the book of Revelations, the most political work of the New Testament.1 It is therefore not surprising that for several generations of scholarship of Luke-Acts, it has been ancestral paying a critical attention to the relationship between the imperial Rome and the Christian community, especially the Lukan community. This overarching attention is not only politically motivated, it also portrays the trajectories of a judicial reality in the Roman world. The political and the judicial interests of this attention are grounded on the very interest of Luke in his works. His political sensitivity to realities of his time is unmistakable as he took time to map out an effusive height of synchronisms, which ← 15 | 16 → he worked out between the dates in the imperial history and in his history of salvation.2 This observation, which characterises the whole work of Luke from the Gospel to Acts, is so obvious that it does not require any extraordinary diligence. A partial consequence of this interest is the question regarding the opinion and attitude of Luke or his dramatic figures to the mighty Rome, to the powerful and to the socially well to do of his time. Does he present a wonderful picture of these powerful or are they suspiciously presented? Besides, an antecedent to this discussion is the widely held ancestry of an appeasement theology or the Apologetic as presenting an interpretative matrix, which helps in articulating a summary of the attitude of Luke to the Roman authorities. The Lukan position is often presented as Apologetic, which comes from the Greek concept of defence. This concept, with the attendant verbs, appears often in the Acts of the Apostles (ἀπολογειν: Acts 19:33; 24:10; 25:8; 26:1, 2, 24; Lk 12:11; 21:14; ἀπολογια: Acts 22:1; 25:16). There is however, a difference between the Apology as was used in the early Christian church and the Apology of the biblical science. In the early church, following the example of the defence of Socrates, the Apologetic developed into a literary genre, while in the New Testament studies it expresses the wishes of the early Christians to express and live out their conviction especially in relation to other religions.3 The tenet of this Apologetic position in the New Testament is political stating that Luke undertakes a friendly portrayal of the Roman power apparatus, in order to show them that the new faith is far from being a danger to the Roman politics.4 As such, Luke’s intention is an apologia pro ecclesia. This Apologetic, which partially seems to capture the essence of the writings of Luke, has blinded scholars from approaching the Lukan writings from a different perspective, namely from the perspective of finding out the aversions of Luke to the powerful.5 Unfortunately, not much has been done in this direction, which explains partly the motif of this study. ← 16 | 17 →

2. The justification of the study

As already stated, a typical stand in the research of Luke-Acts is the conviction that Luke wrote his double work as an Apology for the new Christian faith, which invariably justifies the theory of an appeasement theology.6 In order to show that the Christian faith is not a threat to the political entity and imperial system of Rome, he presents the local and imperial officials in a positive way. He not only presents the innocence and harmlessness of the Christians but also portrays the actions of the Roman officials as exemplary since they procure safety and benefaction for the Christians. This position of Luke to the Roman system runs from the Gospel to the Acts. In both works, there are series of court narratives with Roman officials being the important decision takers while the Jewish officials help out, especially in matters of Religion. Both the arraignment and cross-examination of Jesus before Pilate (Lk 23:1–23) and the long judicial process against Paul ending with his arrival in Rome (Acts 21:15–28:31) have one thing in common: In both court trial processes, the Jews raised their accusations, while the Roman officials clearly state the innocence of the accused.7 Besides, the Christian community never proved to be a danger to the Roman state because it never had any political ambition.8 Even when there seemed to be a sign of rebellion, it normally came from the Jewish citizens. Last but not the least, the Roman Empire, represented by the local officials, protects a Christianity seeking survival in the midst ← 17 | 18 → of Jewish foes represented by the religious aristocrats.9 Even in Acts, Paul hopes to get a favourable judgement from the emperor, which explains his appeal to him (Acts 25:11). Also at his arrival in Rome, the Roman state was never a hindrance to the preaching activity of Paul (Acts 28: 30–31).10 With these arguments and observations, the institution of the Apologetic as a central and not a peripheral theme of the Lukan double work seems to have its foundation on solid, thorough and well thought out biblical arguments.11 On the background of these findings, therefore, it sounds absurd and redundant trying to find out the criticisms, which Luke meted on the political elites since they would not seem to exist. Many literatures on this topic, which support the above Apologetic thesis, make it almost impossible to undertake a work of this nature, which tries to systematise the subtle Lukan criticisms on the powerful. The attempt undertaken in this work is a proverbial swimming against the current, an Aspektverschiebung or as M. Ebner would say, a project “…gegen den Strich der exegetischen Auslegungstradition…”12

3. Some research works in the course of years

There exist two tendencies in the domain of the Apologetic argumentation, which portray an apparent disunity of this apologetic syndrome. Is this Lukan apologetic an apologetic for the empire to the church (apologia pro imperio) or the apologetic for the church to the Empire? According to Vernon Robbins, Luke worked from the perspective of establishing a lively and positive symbiosis between Christianity and the Roman Empire. The intentions of both institutions do not contradict each other: “This means that Christianity functions in the domain of the Roman Empire, and this empire is good because it works symbiotically with Christianity. Roman laws, correctly applied, grant Christians the right to pursue the project started by Jesus, and the goals of Christianity, rightly understood, work congruently with the goals of the Roman Empire.”13 Walaskay supports this claim with ← 18 | 19 → his opinion: “Far from supporting the view that Luke was defending the Church to a Roman magistrate, the evidence points us in the other direction. Throughout his writings Luke has carefully, consistently, and consciously presented an apologia pro imperio to his church.”14 He even maintained that Luke has neutralised some aspects of the anti-Roman sentiments with the intention of portraying the positive aspects of the Roman rule.15

In the last century, the thesis of apologia pro ecclesia has, before the Second World War, enjoyed a careful analysis by Cadbury, leading to the reality that the Rome-directed apologetic has continued to thrive, which eventually gave rise to the theory of religio licita.16 Luke, according to Cadbury, had different aims for the compilation of Luke-Acts. One of these aims was the concern of proclaiming the loyalty of the church to the political institutions.17 He, however, offers an appendage regarding the certainty of his thesis: “Our knowledge of Roman law on these points and of Rome’s treatment of the Christians in the first century is too uncertain for any assurance.”18

3.1 Conzelmann: Redaction criticism in Luke and the Apologetic

After the Second World War, a renaissance in the redaction critical school of the Lukan scholarship began with the person of Conzelmann and with his classical piece in redaction criticism, Die Mitte der Zeit. He took over the apologetic line of those before him, however, with the observation that the Lukan apologetic was prompted by the very realisation that the church was still at its very beginning and had the wonderful prospect of still enjoying many years of existence. As such, the clarification of its status and position becomes highly imperative, not only in relation to the Roman state, but also to Judaism.19 From this perspective, this overarching enterprise of clarifying its status is historical, as well as genetic and theological. As a result, the Lukan apologetic is not only an internal endeavour, ← 19 | 20 → but also an external enterprise.20 The aim of the internal apologetic was to work towards the reconciliation of the different schools in Christianity and to define its relation to Judaism, while the external apologetic was deeply political defending the church before the state. The apologetic in relation to Judaism is independent of the political apologetic to the state. In addition, Conzelmann, while accepting the political apologetic, maintained however, that Luke was not interested in making an appeal for the toleration of Christianity, but in appealing to the state to allow Christianity to enjoy her rights under the Roman law.21 For Conzelmann, Luke’s apologetic tracks a trajectory through Luke-Acts and consists of his emphasis on the disinterest of the church in political matters, starting from John the Baptist and continuing into the ministry of Jesus and the early church.22 Instances of this non-political stance include the non-political reason for the arrest and imprisonment of John (Lk 3:19), the non-political programme of the sermon of Jesus (Lk 4:16–19), the encouragement given to the apostles to bear witness to kings and governors in Lk 21:12–15 because “…to confess oneself to be a Christian implies no crime against Roman law.”23 In Acts, according to Conzelmann, this tendency is evidenced in 10:1 where the first pagan to be admitted to the faith is Cornelius, an official of the Roman state. Further, in 16:35–39 Luke writes of the Roman citizenship of Paul.

However, a consequence of this apologetic syndrome is to fathom the length at which the early Church was actually persecuted. Conzelmann has seen the Lukan church as an ecclesia pressa, which made this apologetic necessary. Karris deposits his doubt on affirming the first century church as a victim of imperial persecution, on the ground of the futile effort involved in finding evidences for such persecutions.24 One can at most say that the Jews were very instrumental to the Roman persecutions of Christians.

It is worth noting, however, that this apologetic euphoria does not carry all commentators of Luke-Acts, in as much as certain works on Luke-Acts have attempted a shift from this ancestry. Lukas Bormann, for instance, has propagated the concept of the “Verrechtlichung” in the study of Luke-Acts.25 Such a concept, while not completely neglecting the apologetic thesis, would open another horizon ← 20 | 21 → for the study of Luke-Acts. He summarises this concept as “die Tendenz eines Autors, Überlieferungen mit rechtlichen Details anzureichern, Vorgänge innerhalb juristischer Kategorien zu interpretieren und juristische Problemstellungen in den Erzählablauf zu integrieren”.26 With this method, Luke was able to adapt his work to the interest of the reader, inasmuch as court and trial episodes are veritable means of generating tension in ancient Rome.27 Bormann supports his claim with these instances: A. The numerous occurrences of situations, in which legal matters are of immense importance. B. The right of the Roman nationality of Paul evidences a crucial change in the way he was treated by the officials. In addition, this right of his nationality determines the structure of the trial from Acts 22:25. C. The legal relation of Paul to Tarsus and Rome is insinuated at the beginning, only to be treated fully in the course of the portrayal. D. There was no other martyrdom after that of Stephen and there was no punishment after the episode in Philippi.28

Bormann portrays Luke as being aware of the use of the Jewish apologetic in political matters in her surroundings through diplomacy. The possibility of this high level of diplomacy is however lacking in Luke, which he however, substitutes with the “Verrechtlichung” of his sources. This thesis of the “Verrechtlichung” not only helps Luke to exemplify the innocence of Jesus and Paul from the Roman legal perspective, it also serves as a reaction to the expanding popularity of the Roman power and legal system. However, a careful evaluation of this concept would locate it at the periphery of the apologetic, inasmuch as it “…greift auf Erfahrungen und Traditionen der jüdischen Apologetik in der hellenistisch-römischen Welt zurück.”29

3.2 Yoder and Cassidy: Protagonists of a defiant Luke

Contrary to the mild assessment of Bormann are some exegetes, who see in Luke a theologian that writes against the power structure of the Roman Empire. Their ← 21 | 22 → wish is to sharpen the horizon for the forms, functions and consequences of the Roman power structure as experienced in the social, military, economic and of course political control mechanisms and the reactions of the people.30 One of them, John Howard Yoder, has presented several theses in his book, The Politics of Jesus just to show that the Lukan composition is far from being influenced by an appeasement theology. Yoder is fully convinced that the ministry of the Lukan Jesus was not only a social but also an economic and political revolution. Working from the perspective of the jubilee proclamation in Lk 4:18–19, a text which forms the fountain of his arguments, and from the conviction that Luke’s year of favour refers to the jubilee year of the Old Testament, Yoder argues that the presentation of Jesus’ mission equals “a visible socio-political, economic restructuring of relations among the people of God.”31 With this singular conviction of Jesus, he constitutes a danger for the Roman political elites.32 The Lukan texts dealing with the annunciation and the Lukan presentation of the preaching of John the Baptist arouse socio-political hopes, especially with the martial tone of the Magnificat in Lk 1:52–53. In addition, the political tone of the birth narrative accentuates the political expectations and features of Jesus with known ancestries within the Jewish religious expectations: Bethlehem, the city of David; the angelic “peace on earth”; the unannounced but anxious appearance of Simeon and Anna garnished with a considerable height of liberation hopes. The sermon of Jesus on the plain (Lk 6:20–49) takes into account the social reality of his hearers. This sermon is revolutionary in as much as it propagates an ethic not founded on the principles of natural law. Jesus forms a new community of disciples with the awareness that it “… constitutes an avoidable challenge to the powers that be…” and at the same time introducing “… a new set of social alternatives.”33 The execution of Jesus is not only a political novelty owing to the irregularities, but also full of political insinuations because Jesus was crucified as the “king of the Jews”. In not allowing himself to be made a king and in his accepting suffering, he allows the cross “… to loom not as a ritually prescribed instrument of propitiation but as the political alternative to both insurrection and quietism.”34 In consideration of the socio-political and economic significance of the mission of the Lukan Jesus, Yoder declares: “Jesus was in his divinely mandated ← 22 | 23 → prophethood, priesthood, and kingship, the bearer of a new possibility of human, social, and therefore, political relations.”35

Another instance of a very hard antipathy of Luke towards the Roman setup and establishment could be R.J. Cassidy’s book, Jesus, Politics and Society, which could be described as an initial stimulus against the apologetic, although his theses are quite compatible with those of Yoder. He sees Luke as painting a picture of an uncompromising Jesus, who convincingly takes a critical posture to the powerful of his time. To these powerful, he also included the Jewish political as well as Temple aristocrats. With this singular stance, Jesus posed a threat to the Roman hegemony, not only by the criticisms meted on the political rulers, but also by his consistent contravention of social conventions, especially in sensitive economic matters involving wealth distribution. With a major emphasis on the fact that Jesus’ teachings and actions are socially, economically and politically revolutionary, and that he refused to run over to the existing political order of his day, Cassidy concludes that the gospel of Luke is a potential threat to the political order of its ambits. From his political conviction, Luke presented a Jesus, who not only had a concern for the marginalised in the society, but also a Jesus, whose actions, teachings and convictions were a response “to the policies and practices of the political leaders of his time.”36 The outline of the summary of his thesis shows that Cassidy is against all that, which the adherents of the Apologetic have proposed as arguments for their convictions, namely, that Luke presents the Christians as a harmless and obedient group, that he exemplifies Paul as a Roman citizen and that Luke paints a positive picture of the Roman system. By being against the main theses of the apologetic adherents, it suffices to say that he sees these apologetic theses as inexpedient.

In order not to be drawn into the vast whole of his presentation, it would only be expedient to present a summary of the fourth and fifth chapters dealing with the political stance of the Lukan Jesus according to his view.37 Many incidents in the gospel exemplify this stubborn and defiant stance of Jesus on political matters that could justify the purported collision between Jesus and the political aristocrats. Firstly, Jesus took the report of the Pharisees seriously that Herod wanted to kill him. However, he reacts by derogating Herod as a fox and succinctly points out that Herod will not effect any change on the course of his ministry (Lk 12:31–33). Secondly, Jesus thematised the massacre of the Galileans by Pilate (Lk 13:1–3). ← 23 | 24 → Thirdly, Luke attached much importance to the antagonism between the chief priests and Jesus (Lk 19:27; 20:19), which reached its zenith at the trial of Jesus, in which Jesus gives a sarcastic answer. Fourthly, the answer to the tax-thematic generates a tension in the clash between God and the Emperor, which ultimately led to the accusation that Jesus taught a refusal of tax payment (Lk 20:21–25; 23:2). Fifthly, the persecution of his followers at the hands of kings and governors is predicted by Jesus (Lk 21:12–15). Sixthly, the kings of the Gentiles are examples for the models of character, which Jesus abhors (Lk 22:24–27). Seventhly, notwithstanding the fact that Pilate declared Jesus to be innocent, four texts amplify the responsibility of Rome for the death of Jesus: Lk 23:24, where Pilate gave his verdict; Lk 23:38, where Pilate put up the inscription, “This is the king of the Jews”: Lk 23:47, where it is noted that a Roman soldier stood beneath the cross and Lk 23:52, where Pilate is presented as having the jurisdiction over the body of Jesus.

On the basis of these portrayals, Cassidy sees in the Lukan Jesus a threat to the political stability of Rome, however, with a difference from the zealots: “Although Jesus did not constitute the same type of threat to Roman rule as the Zealots and the Parthians, the threat that he posed was, ultimately, not less dangerous. Unlike the Zealots, the Jesus of Luke’s gospel does not make the overthrow of Roman rule the central focus of his activity,… Nevertheless, by espousing radically new social patterns and by refusing to defer to the existing political authorities, Jesus pointed the way to a social order in which neither the Romans nor any other oppressing group would be able to hold sway.”38

Cassidy undertakes a programmatic and exact overthrow of the quietist Jesus of Luke’s gospel, which has been holding sway since the monumental work of Conzelmann. Cassidy’s work is interesting, in as much as it tries to work out a comprehensive social and political implication of the Lukan gospel at a time, when all were interested in working out a compromising Lukan Jesus.

However, his work has certain shortcomings, in as much as he concentrates on recordings about the situation in Palestine of the early decades of the first century, while a lack of the knowledge of the later decades (eighties and nineties), in which the gospel was written, is accented. A profound interest in these later years would have given more substance to this claim of working with redaction criticism involving a committed portrayal of the Lukan Jesus. In addition, the notion that the disciples would appear before kings and governors (Lk 21:12–15) is not a typical Lukan documentation. Although it appeared twice in the Lukan documentation,39 ← 24 | 25 → it also appeared in Mark 13:9–11 and in Matt 10:17–20. A redaction criticism worth its name would have recognised the existence of these parallel texts with the changes involved.40 A consequence of this recognition would have been to testify that this is not a typical Lukan text and as such is not suiting for a possible reconstruction of a Lukan stance. There is still a fact to be clarified on this issue of appearing before kings and governors. The presentation of Cassidy does not explicitly clarify the functions of these governors and kings in the lives of the apostles. This fact makes the criticism of Esler imperative,41 although this claim of Esler should not be overemphasised, in as much as it could be argued that Luke actually intended the evaluation of these officials not to be seen as lovers of the new faith, but as persecutors.

The argument of Cassidy regarding the historical reliability of Luke is wanting and very unconvincing. As a result, some of his findings are based on a minimal observation, which obviously warrants the question whether he is not making hasty conclusions.42 His thesis that Jesus was outspokenly critical of Herod is founded merely on Jesus’ reference to Herod as a fox (Lk 13:32). Cassidy did not succeed in completely demystifying this apologetic theory, though his effort of swimming against this current of apologetic intervention is very encouraging and demands recognition.

All in all, one should not forget the intention of Yoder and Cassidy. The hitherto held ancestry in the Lukan scholarship that Luke-Acts shows the Christian faith as a politically harmless unit seeking a permanent rapport with the political Rome is seriously challenged. The Lukan documentations and presentations of Jesus are full of theses characterised by a high political brisance.

H. Frankemölle, although explicitly involved with the research of peace in Lukan composition, has indirectly contributed to the discussion of the relation ← 25 | 26 → of the Lukan Jesus to the powerful of his time. According to Frankemölle, Luke presents Jesus as a non-political messiah, who rides into Jerusalem as a prince of peace on a donkey. However, the Christological titles in the angelic announcement of the birth of Jesus are highly provocative, especially in the face of the persecutions of Christians under Domitian (AD 81–90). Frankemölle is convinced that Luke politicised not only the title “saviour”, but also the other titles like messiah and lord, “indem er die Bedeutung dieses Kindes als Ort der Erfahrung Gottes für ganz Israel… der Bedeutung und dem Anspruch der römischen Kaiser entgegensetzt.”43 He sees the Christological concepts involved in Lk 2:11–14 as not only being theological but also political and running through the whole gospel.

Worth mentioning in the line of articles enunciating the criticism of Luke to the political setup is the one of C. Burfeind.44 He sees an overwhelming criticism to the person of the Emperor in Acts 21–28 in as much as the Roman parastatals were confronted with teachings and preaching concerning the resurrected kyrios and the basileia, which refer neither to the Emperor nor to the Roman Empire but to the resurrected Jesus and the kingdom of God. With these two words, Luke waters down the absolutism of the Imperial cult since “… die Basileia Gottes das Imperium Romanum und der Kyrios Christus den Caesar ablösen wird.”45

3.3 Works of recent years

With P. Walaskay’s And so we came to Rome, the New Testament scholarship experienced an “awkward” reception of the traditional and ancestral understanding of the political apologetic of Luke. He called his enterprise an “upside-down” of the traditional interpretation of Luke’s political apologetic.46 Hitherto, it has been the custom to argue that Luke tried a harmonious and loyal presentation of Christianity to the Roman state and structure. Walaskay goes a different direction maintaining that it is the intention of Luke to persuade his readers of the complementarity between the church and the state. He writes, “Far from supporting the view that Luke was defending the church to a Roman magistrate, the evidence points us in the other direction. Throughout his writings Luke has carefully, ← 26 | 27 → consistently, and consciously presented an apologia pro imperio to his church. Where he found anti-Roman innuendos in his sources he has done his best to neutralize such material and to emphasize the positive aspects of Roman involvement in the history of the church.”47 Accordingly, Luke was able to include materials that were politically damaging to the faith because he was not interested in an apologia pro ecclesia. Rather, he was undertaking the task of persuading the readers of the fact that “the institutions of the church and empire are coeval and complementary” and that “the Christian church and the Roman Empire need not fear nor suspect each other, for God stands behind both institutions giving to each the power and the authority to carry out his will”.48 Consequently, he argues that Luke, like other New Testament authors, was addressing the church, not Rome.49 Faced with the task of explaining the numerous negative presentations of the Roman Empire by Luke, which depicts the unfavourable stance of Rome towards the new faith, normally carried out by Roman officials and magistrates, Walaskay replies: “…Luke consistently presents these magistrates against the backdrop of (1) jealous Jews who constantly pressure the authorities to act against Christians and (2) a durable imperial legal system that transcends local administrative waffling. None of theses episodes depicts Rome as an enemy of Christianity. At worst, it can be said that the civil authorities succumbed to Jewish pressure; most often, they acted out of ignorance; and at best, the Roman judicial system protected the apostles from the chaos and caprice of an unruly mob.”50 Working with this conviction, Walaskay examined certain texts in the gospel of Luke excelling the pro-Roman tendencies of these texts, which are normally considered as anti-Roman. Beginning with the nativity story (Lk 2:1–5) and the preaching of John the Baptist (Lk 3:10–14), he laid the foundation of a non-critical trajectory of the Lukan acceptance and assessment of the Roman political reality. This Lukan passion did not remain unshared since he allowed Jesus to partake of it. As such, Jesus is presented as accepting the Roman status quo, exemplified in the payment of tribute to Caesar (Lk 20:20–26) and in the discourse on kings and benefactors (Lk 22:2427).


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (August)
Apologie Evangelium Magnifikat Lukas
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 318 pp.

Biographical notes

Innocent Emezie Ezeani (Author)

Innocent Emezie Ezeani, a catholic priest from Arondizuogu/Nigeria, did his Bachelor’s degree programme in Philosophy in Nigeria before coming to Austria (Innsbruck) and Germany (Würzburg) for higher studies in Philosophy and Theology. In the course of these studies, he visited many lectures in Sociology. This work is his doctorate research in New Testament exegesis (Theology).


Title: The Apologetic Revisited
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320 pages