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Is Luke’s Christology Consistent? A Blast from the Past

I have had several comments about the point I made that in Acts 2 Luke indicates that it was at the resurrection that God “made” Jesus both “Lord” and “Christ.”  Uh, does that fit in with Luke’s views otherwise?  Wasn’t he *born* the Lord and the Messiah, for example?  Then how could it be at his resurrection?

I dealt with the question on the blog a couple of years ago, and after some digging, found the post.  When I discussed the issue before it was because at Jesus’ *baptism” Luke appears to indicate that it was then that God made him his Son.  So how does all that tie together?  Or does it?  Here is that post again:


Does Luke present a (strictly speaking) consistent view of Jesus throughout his two-volume work of Luke-Acts?

I raise the question because of the textual problem surrounding the voice at Jesus’ baptism.  I have been arguing that it is likely that the voice did NOT say “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (as in most manuscripts; this is what it clearly does say in Mark’s version; Matthew has it say something different still); instead it probably said “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.”

In the past couple of posts I’ve suggested that this wording – found in only one ancient Greek manuscript, but in a number of church fathers who quote the passage (these fathers were living before our earliest surviving manuscripts) – makes particular sense if the Gospel did not originally have chapters 1-2, the accounts of Jesus’ birth.   In yesterday’s post I gave the evidence for thinking that originally the Gospel began with Jesus’ baptism.

But if I’m wrong about that (and hey, it won’t be the first time), then don’t we have an irreconcilable problem on our hands?  Because that would mean that Luke first says that Jesus is the Son of God because of his miraculous birth, where God is literally his father (this is explicitly stated in 1:35) but then says that he is the Son of God because God adopted him to be his Son in 3:22.

My view is that even if …

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Paul on Trial for the Resurrection
Did Luke Have a Doctrine of the Atonement? Mailbag September 24, 2017



  1. Lev
    Lev  September 25, 2017

    Do you know when the earliest citation of Luke chs 1 or 2 is found in Church Fathers?

    The earliest I can find is Irenaeus, Against Heresies (Book III, Chapter 10, Para 2) c180.

    Justin Martyr’s First Apology (c156) cites the angelic announcement to Mary, but he seems to cite from the Infancy Gospel of James (IGJ), rather than Luke, which is odd as he knew Luke’s gospel.

    The easiest explanation I can think of is that even in Justin’s time, these two chapters were absent from Luke’s gospel, and the angelic announcement to Mary was only found in the IGJ.

    • Bart
      Bart  September 26, 2017

      Yes, I suppose it would be Irenaeus and then Tertullian. My sense is that there were versions without chs. 1-2 in circulation in the middle of the second century (which is why marcion appears not to have known them)

  2. webo112
    webo112  September 25, 2017

    Do these “contradictions” in Acts not also (possibly) show that perhaps there was an *earlier* version of Acts, where all the fundamental titles to Jesus were in fact given to him at the resurrection (only), then later edits added titles back into his baptism/public ministry?…. it seems as if you take away the baptism/life events that earn him the titles, you are left with the resurrection only (which make more sense – no contradictions, and make sense in historical context of early Christology).

    This (theoretical) Acts version seems to hold very early Christian views, where it was at his resurrection that Jesus became Christ/ etc. But, in time followers started to push it back to the baptism (beginning of Jesus’s ministry), then to birth etc?

    I guess there is no evidence to support this, but I would be curious to see if there is? I presume this is not a theory investigated in scholarship in past etc?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 26, 2017

      The passages are so deeply interwoven into their surrounding narratives that they don’t look like later additions.

  3. Avatar
    HawksJ  September 25, 2017

    {{but recall: all the speeches of Acts were actually written by the author himself}}

    Why do you explicitly point this out about ‘the speeches of Acts’, and not all the speeches – and even quotes, for that matter – in the entire Bible? All such ‘quotes’, for example, the Sermon on the Mount, are, at absolute best, paraphrases, right?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 26, 2017

      Simply because I’m discussing the views of the author of Acts. And yes, that’s the point: the speeches are ones that *he* came up with (no one was actually recording what Peter said on the day of Pentecost!). Ancient historians always made up the speeches of their main characters, as they sometimes tell us!

      • Avatar
        HawksJ  September 26, 2017

        I didn’t sufficiently clarify my question: I realize you were ‘only’ discussing Acts in this case. My point, which I didn’t make well, was that I’ve never heard you so explicitly make that point about any other ‘speech’/’quote’.

        So, my question wasn’t why you didn’t address all the other instances in this thread, but rather, why did you so explicitly make the point here, but don’t (to my recollection) seem to elsewhere?

        People, including you (it seems) frequently say things like “Jesus said this or that”. My point is that we don’t know what Jesus really said. I would contend, based on what I’ve learned from you, that we have no actual, reliable quotes of Jesus, period. That seems like a salient point that should be oft repeated.

        • Bart
          Bart  September 27, 2017

          Yes, a good deal of my scholarship has always been about how to know whether words attributed to Jesus or the apostles were actually spoken by them. The speeches in ancient texts were always the invention of the author, whether Gospel writer, story teller, historian, or anyone else — even if they were based on oral traditions about the words that had been handed down.

          • Avatar
            llamensdor  September 30, 2017

            Whether you’re a fan of Trump or not, virtually any time he says or tweets something, you’ll find one version on Fox News, another on CNN, a different one on NBC, a variation on the LA Times (which I read daily), another on the Wall Street Journal (which I also read daily), even if there’s a video clip of his actual words, or a copy of the supposed tweet, we’re told by these outlets, that it doesn’t mean what we think it does. Why should we be surprised that events a couple of thousand years ago are not reported identically, or interpreted identically?

  4. Avatar
    ardeare  September 25, 2017

    I think every high school student should be required to complete one year of religious studies before graduating.

    • Bart
      Bart  September 26, 2017

      In highly secular England, they do!!

      • Lev
        Lev  September 26, 2017

        Britain is one of the few remaining Christian States in the world, however, Bart is right, despite our constitutional status as a Christian nation, our society is highly secular with low attendance rates at Churches and a sharply rising population of atheists.

        Perhaps this explains why over a quarter of English schools are now breaking the law by failing to teach religious education: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-41282330

        I find it interesting that the USA has a firewall between church and state, yet her population is much more enthusiastic about Christianity! Go figure!?

        • Avatar
          flcombs  September 27, 2017

          “despite our constitutional status as a Christian nation”: confused on that statement and what you mean. Where is Christianity or any particular religion established in the Constitution?

          • Lev
            Lev  September 29, 2017

            One caveat to the following: the UK doesn’t have a written constitution, but an “unwritten” or uncodified constitution made up of statute law, common law, parliamentary conventions, and works of authority.

            The Church of England is part of the English establishment, and according to the Act of Settlement 1701 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Act_of_Settlement_1701), the monarch acts as the ex officio Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and as part of the coronation ceremony, swears an oath to “maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England” before being crowned by the senior cleric of the Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

            The House of Lords has 20-odd spaces that are filled by ‘Lords Spiritual’, senior Anglican Bishops, who can speak and vote on matters of law and state. Thousands of Church of England schools are funded by the state and run by the Anglican Church which is seen as the “official” Church of the nation. Thus, the Church of England is part of the established constitution of the English nation.

        • Avatar
          Malik  January 12, 2018

          I found this interesting, and decided to share: (https://bloggingtheology.net/2017/11/22/41936/)
          Archbishop of Canterbury: ‘Jesus did not claim to be God’

          Michael Ramsey (1904 – 1988) was the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury. He was appointed on 31 May 1961 and held the office until 1974, having previously been the Bishop of Durham and the Archbishop of York. He was known as a theologian, educator, and advocate of Christian unity. The former Archbishop of Canterbury informs us that Jesus did not claim deity for himself. Most NT scholars would agree in my experience. The book is Jesus and the Living Past (published by Oxford University Press, 1980).

      • Avatar
        SidDhartha1953  September 26, 2017

        I would recommend a modified version of the Science of Religion course offered through EdX. Some of the reading might be a bit challenging for HS students, but the concepts are great!

    • Avatar
      Wilusa  September 26, 2017

      I was raised Catholic, and attended a Catholic high school. In our senior year. a priest gave us a course on “Apologetics” – arguments for believing, first, in the necessary existence of “God”; then, that Christianity is the one true religion; and finally, that Roman Catholicism is the one true *form* of Christianity. At my very young age, I thought all the points he made (which I no longer remember, except for one whose fallacy I now see) were indeed conclusive proof.

      But a few years later, I had doubts. So I started from scratch: using *the methodology he’d taught us, assuming nothing* – and realized *I* didn’t need to go beyond the first step! I didn’t see conclusive proof of the necessary existence of “God.”

      And I really am grateful to that priest, for having given me the idea of how to approach the subject.

  5. Avatar
    godspell  September 26, 2017

    I’ve noticed about Luke that he seems to be trying to incorporate basically every story he can find about Jesus into one narrative. He’s all over the place. It’s a bit like a superhero movie, where the main character has been around a long time in the comics, so there are all these conflicting origin stories, and the screenwriter tries to reconcile them all. Obviously they can’t all be right, but that’s not the point. The point is that he loves all the different stories, and he feels like they all make the hero look bigger, his story more interesting, and that’s his mission statement. Not narrative coherence. Let alone theological coherence.

    Luke is not without talent as a storyteller. None of the four ‘canonical’ gospel writers were, which is why they’ve endured. Later on, when it came time to decide which texts made into the Christian bible, there must have been those who said “We’ve got to pick a story and stick with it.”

    But in the end, the stories that conflicted were all so popular and well-known by then, that they all had to stay in.

  6. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  September 26, 2017

    In 1 Cor. 5:7b, Paul writes, “Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.” But this is in the context of an extended metaphor comparing yeast making bread unsuitable for Passover as sin corrupts the church. Is the comment a digression about the historical Jesus being sacrificed as an atonement for sin, or is he referring to the bread (which is sometimes referred to as “the lamb” in orthodox churches) they share in their eucharistic meals? The latter seems to fit the context and his later comments in ch. 11 about the importance of giving due reverence to the bread that is Christ.

    • Bart
      Bart  September 27, 2017

      The Pascha normally referred to the lamb, I believe; I don’t know of it’s being used for bread.

      • Avatar
        llamensdor  September 30, 2017

        I don’t think any bread was sacrificed on Passover.

  7. talmoore
    talmoore  September 26, 2017

    “Adam is said to be the son of God – so Jesus’ is in direct lineage to God himself.”

    I’ve never understood the logic behind this. If Adam was the “son of God,” and every human being on earth is descended from Adam, then doesn’t that make ALL of us sons of God? And, if so, then what’s so specially about being a son of God?

    • Bart
      Bart  September 27, 2017

      Hey, I think it’s *great* that I’m a son of God! 🙂

      • tompicard
        tompicard  September 27, 2017

        but this is exactly what Jesus taught us
        Jesus hearing the voice from heaven after his baptism ‘you are my son’ doesn’t imply in the slightest that anyone else isn’t. In fact, his ministry stressed that everyone shared this same lineal relationship. well that is how I understand it. (additionally it is special if you realize it, not so much if you take it for granted or are agnostic)

      • talmoore
        talmoore  September 27, 2017

        I’ve already added it to my CV.

    • DestinationReign
      DestinationReign  September 29, 2017

      The Christ story is the archetype for every man’s journey to the realization of the intrinsic “son of God” within, which has been hidden from -self. His “resurrection” symbolizes the inward awakening to that fact. His “missing years” are purposely “missing” to stress DE-EMPHASIZING the historical, and carrying out your own quest.

    • Avatar
      godspell  September 30, 2017

      My understanding is that the term was frequently used in that time period among Jews, to designate a holy man. In one sense we’re all God’s children, but you don’t throw that term around loosely–somebody has to distinguish himself in matters of faith to earn it.

      It’s not meant to be taken literally, but once you had a lot of Christians who were originally pagans, raised in faiths where gods come to earth and father children all the time, of course it would be.

      The increasing reverence for Jesus after his death and purported resurrection would also be a factor, but it would have taken quite a bit of time for the myth to take hold and dispel the memory of a man whose mother had other children besides him.

      I don’t for one minute think Paul believed in the Virgin Birth. Or any of the original disciples. And least of all Jesus. I mean, there are probably some Irish guys who would like to believe their mothers had never known man, but down inside, we all know better. 😉

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