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A Final Post (!) on Luke 3:22

I would like to thank all the readers who have indulged me on this rather heavy thread of posts on the text of Luke 3:22.   I certainly do not mean to provide a steady diet of hard-hitting scholarship on the blog, and I know that for some of you, this thread has been rather boring and uninteresting.   But I do think that every now and then, maybe a couple of times a year, it is good to peel back the layers and go at it at a deeper level of scholarship, if nothing else to show the world at large how this kind of thing gets done at a more serious level.

My book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, from which these posts have come, is all at this level.   If you’ve enjoyed the posts (I know a couple of people have!) you may want to check out the book.  If you’ve found them rather tedious, then you should be pleased to know that I will go back to less in-depth posts starting with my next one.   In that one I will resume my conversation about why patristic evidence is important for textual criticism (at a lay-person’s level), and then (thankfully you may think) I will move on to other things.   Please feel free to suggest areas you would like me to address on the blog; I have been keeping a (long and growing) list, and do try to get to what people want me to talk about.

In any event, this will be my last post on the text of Luke 3:22.  In it I continue and conclude my argument that the reading found only in Codex Bezae, “You are my son, today I have begotten you,” is the reading that best explains Luke’s “backward glances” to the event of Jesus’ baptism throughout his two books, the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.   If you want the fuller context for these concluding remarks, simply read the two preceding posts.


Luke’s two other uses of the verb χ ρ ί ω (the verb for “anoint”) confirm the point (that at the baptism God actually did something to Jesus for Luke, i.e., “made” him his son). In Acts 4, Peter refers to Jesus as the one whom God had “anointed” (4:27; ἔ χ ρ ι σ α ς , again aorist tense – i.e., indicating a completed action), after explicitly quoting Psalm 2 with reference to Jesus, the “χ ρ ι σ τ ό ς ” against whom the rulers of the earth were gathered together (Ps 2:1–2). Then in Acts 10 Peter states that God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and power, and this time clearly links the event with “the baptism of John” (10:38).

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Did Luke Originally Have Chapters 1-2?
Luke 3:22 — More on What Luke Would Have Written



  1. Avatar
    stokerslodge  August 14, 2013

    Hi Barth, would you consider doing a blog sometime on what the prevailing beliefs or views on the nature of Hades was among Jews and gentiles in Jesus time, and could you tell us how those views are reflected in the Gospels and New Testament writings? I’m curious to know how similar or how different those beliefs were to the Church’s teaching on Hell and punishment in the afterlife. Kindest regards.

  2. Avatar
    Scott F  August 14, 2013

    These continuous references back to John (as in Acts 10:37) have always made me wonder if the early followers of Jesus desperately needed to tie Jesus to a well-known religious figure in order to acquire an air of respectability. John gets a section in Josephus after all. His disciples were in the mission field at least as early as those of Jesus as indicated in Acts 18:25 when we meet Apollos who “knew only the baptism of John.”

    This is not to say that Jesus was not an associate of John. However, this early attempt to cement in people’s minds that Jesus is on the same page as John might have been enough to counter-balance the awkwardness of having God’s son baptized by a mere mortal. And as you said of Luke, consistency was not always the top priority.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 15, 2013

      Yes, I guess it’s possible. Usually it is thought that the connection with John was an *embarassment* to the early Christians (since they constantly had to explain it away, which would suggest that it was *not* made up….

      • Avatar
        Scott F  August 16, 2013

        There is good reason to believe that it is not made up. The attempts to remove the embarrassment are pretty clear as well – although sometimes wonder if Mark just missed the embarrassment factor completely. The other references to John however stick out to me. Just some (mostly) harmless speculation on my part.

        If I had the time to indulge in some serious dilettantism I would pick out all the John passages and do the parallels,etc. I’ll just have to self-publish when the kids are grown. 🙂

  3. Avatar
    Joel_Lisboa  August 14, 2013

    Thank Bart for these post! As for me, I have already read the book “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture”, so not much “new” in these post. I got 2 question:
    1. Why religious scholars, or the mainstream religious literature, doesn’t seem to be bothered by this hard evidence of the corruption of scripture? Why do they keep using the Bible (for exegesis or the like) like if the text has been always the same? Are any other scholars, besides you, that brings out this kind of information to the public (lay and scholars alike)?
    2. Off-topic question: I’m taking Greek reviews by Dr. W. Larry Richards, a Greek expert and textual criticism specialist. Do you know him? Is he good? Seems like a nice old guy.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 15, 2013

      1. I think even conservative evangelical scholars admit that the text has been changed over the years; they simply think that we have a very good idea what it originally said, and so they do their exegesis on that basis. And there’s something to be said for that!
      2. I’ve met him, but it’s been many years. Yes, he is a good scholar and an expert in textual criticism.

  4. Avatar
    SJB  August 14, 2013

    Prof Ehrman

    Not boring and uninteresting at all. Since this is the level on which you do your most important work.

    You’re discussion of Jesus’ Baptism naturally brings up one of the most interesting figures in the New Testament – John the Baptist!

    Who was the historical John the Baptist? What was his real message? What was the real relationship between John and Jesus? What was the real relationship between John’s disciples and Jesus’ disciples?

    Please add a discussion about John to your growing list.


    ps If you need something lighter in tone, care to weigh in on the current Reza Aslan brouhaha? Seems Jesus scholarship is still good for a headline!

  5. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  August 14, 2013

    It has been helpful to learn how scholars go about trying to decide which text is most likely to be closest to the original text. Before these posts, I had no idea that patristic evidence was involved in these determinations. I would have guessed that scholars mainly tried to find the oldest text hoping that it would have been copied less and, hence, less influenced by copying errors. My main struggle with the posts is that, to me, the scriptures you have quoted don’t seem that convincing of an exaltation theology be it with the birth, the baptism, or the Resurrection of Jesus. If a Gospel writer wanted to present such an exaltation theology, then it seems to me that such an author could have expanded on these points a little more in order to better convince the reader. Moreover, reading these passages many times before your posts, it never occurred to me that they were advocating an exaltation theology. I merely took them as saying that Jesus was important to God and that was about it.

    • Avatar
      EricBrown  August 15, 2013

      I’m not so sure. An early exaltation theology would be entered a background of “no Son” by and large, not written to counter an exisiitng background of “eternal, pre-exisiitng Son.” Against the former background, simple statements of election or adoption would be the good news, and probably read as such, rather than an argument against another (Son) theology.

  6. Avatar
    Jim  August 14, 2013

    Now that you asked for suggestions, I would like to see detailed posts (with references) on assignment topics that you will be giving students in the upcoming term so that I can try to sell this inside info to the students. I’m only thinking of the students of course.

  7. Avatar
    TomTerrific  August 14, 2013

    This discussion hasn’t been too technical for me at least.

    It’s been interesting to follow.

  8. Avatar
    Walid_  August 15, 2013

    don’t that suggest Luke was an adoptionist?
    or perhaps his ‘sources’ were or at least some of them were and others weren’t?
    or even a kind ‘redactor’ has managed to change things to distance jesus away from the adoptionists’ theory?


  9. Avatar
    jgranade  August 15, 2013

    Thanks for this thread Bart! I have enjoyed the “hard-hitting scholarship.” I think I will read The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture next.

  10. Avatar
    z8000783  August 15, 2013

    “I would like to thank all the readers who have indulged me on this rather heavy thread of posts on the text of Luke 3:22. I certainly do not mean to provide a steady diet of hard-hitting scholarship on the blog, and I know that for some of you, this thread has been rather boring and uninteresting.”

    Absolutely not. Loving every bit of it even though I’ve read the book.

  11. Avatar
    dralpc  August 15, 2013

    Bart, I have enjoyed this in depth examination of Luke 3-22 supporting this idea that scribes changed the text because they did not like the implications of the original. I look forward to future posts on your blog.

  12. Avatar
    tcroberts02  August 15, 2013

    I have greatly enjoyed this series of posts. They required a closer reading to grasp the significance of your points, but were well worth the effort.

  13. Avatar
    evodevo  August 16, 2013

    Yes. More John the Baptist. How much is actually historical, and how much myth? Can his death be dated more closely? like to, say 33-34 CE? What about Aretas and his battle with Herod Antipas over the rejection of his daughter? etc. etc.

  14. Avatar
    bobnaumann  August 17, 2013

    You mentioned earlier that consistency did not seem to matter to Luke. To me the most glaring example Is Luke’s account of the ascension. In Luke 24 it would seem to occur on the same day as the ressurection after he appeared only to his closest followers, whereas in Acts 1 it is said to occur 40 days later after he was seen by many. How do the literalists get around this?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 18, 2013

      Sometimes by pointing out that the ascension in Luke 24 is not found in a number of manuscripts and may be a scribal alteration. Sometimes by saying that the ascension on Luke 24 didn’t happen on the day of the resurrection.

  15. gmatthews
    gmatthews  August 23, 2013

    I keep finding myself about 2 weeks behind on reading your blog, but I’d like to add my voice as another who owns The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. I have also thoroughly enjoyed the in-depth subject at hand.

  16. Avatar
    Hngerhman  March 16, 2019

    Dr Ehrman –

    Jumping into the blog’s way-back machine, I stumbled onto this fascinating post.

    Question 1: Given Mark as Luke’s source, is there any reasonable probability that the original Markan statement in 1:11 was similarly the “begotten” wording, later changed to “pleased” like Luke due to the adoptionist read? Or is that just too speculative (given, among other things, no specifically Markan manuscript evidence for it and the Matthean continuation of the “pleased” language)?

    Question 2: If Luke changed Mark’s “pleased” to “begotten”, it would seem that the first part of the divine statement (declaration of sonhood) was to Luke sufficiently linguistically reminiscent of Psalms to spark his change. Is the underlying Greek of Mark 1:11 similar to the Septuagint rendering of Psalm 2:7?

    Thanks a ton!

    • Bart
      Bart  March 17, 2019

      1. I don’t know of any evidence to suggest that, no. 2. Luke wasn’t actually changing Mark’s wording per se; he was substituting a different Scriptural quotatoin.

      • Avatar
        Hngerhman  March 17, 2019

        Thank you!

        Quick follow-on: From which scriptural predecessor is Mark most likely lifting the “well pleased” phraseology?

        NB – I’ve found occurrences in Deuteronomy, 1-2 Samuel, Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah and Ezekiel. Isaiah 42 seems the best conceptual fit of the lot in its context, but it’s not a straight shot (at least not to my untrained eyes). If that’s it, it would seem to make Mark 1:11 a kind of scriptural mash-up/composite? Thanks a ton!

        • Bart
          Bart  March 18, 2019

          It’s a reference to Isaiah 42:7.

          • Avatar
            Hngerhman  March 18, 2019

            Awesome, thanks!

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