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Luke 3:22 — What Luke Himself Would Have Written

In my previous post I began to look at the “internal” evidence that the voice at Jesus’ baptism in Luke’s Gospel said the words that are found among Greek manuscripts *only* in Codex Bezae of the early fifth century: “You are my son, today I have begotten you,” as opposed to the words found in all the other Greek manuscripts (the voice as recorded also in Mark): “You are my son, in you I am well-pleased.” If you’ll recall, there are two kinds of internal evidence that scholars consider: “transcriptional probabilities” (which reading would a scribe more likely have preferred and therefore created by changing the text) and “intrinsic probabilities (which reading would the author have been more likely to have written originally). The last post was on transcriptional probabilities showing that the reading in Codex Bezae is probably the older form of the text. Now in this blog and the next one (or two) I will discuss the “intrinsic probabilities,” which point in the same direction. All of these arguments are meant to work together as a coherent and cumulative whole. Again, I borrow the discussion from my book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.




These transcriptional probabilities become particularly compelling when we recognize how well the reading attested in codex Bezae coincides with the theological agenda of Luke himself, even though his agenda may not have been shared by later proto-orthodox scribes. Here there is a powerful confluence of factors, for the reading that proved such an obvious embarassment for orthodox Christians of later times shows remarkable affinities with Luke’s own view of Jesus’ baptism.

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Luke 3:22 — More on What Luke Would Have Written
More Arguments over Luke 3:22



  1. Avatar
    JamesFouassier  August 12, 2013

    What might explain Luke’s consistent inconsistent use of christological titles ? Was he simply incorporating different traditions with which he was familiar ? Wouldn’t the problem also have occurred to him, especially since some of the inconsistencies follow so closely upon one another ?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 13, 2013

      My sense is that Luke simply didn’t have our (modern) concern for historical, literary, and thematic consistency. He wanted to stress that Jesus was the Son of God at all the major points of his existence (birth, baptism, resurrection), and so incorporated traditions that emphasized each of these moments as “the” moment.

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    ktn3654  August 12, 2013

    I may be going on a bit of a tangent here, but I’m troubled by the terms “orthodox” and “proto-orthodox.” What do those words really mean? Literally, “orthodoxy” just means “correct belief.” But as a non-Christian, you surely don’t mean to pronounce that some groups of Christians got their theology right while others got it wrong. Needless to say, ALL groups of Christians have regarded themselves as orthodox–so what grounds do you have for regarding one group rather than another as _really_ being orthodox?

    If what you really mean by “orthodox” is just “the dominant form of Christianity,” then maybe that’s what you should say instead. Of course, you would then have to specify the timeframe you have in mind–maybe you could speak of the form of Christianity dominant in the fourth century. For brevity, maybe you could speak of “Nicene” or “proto-Nicene” Christianity.

    I haven’t read your book, so maybe the issue I’m raising is addressed there. If you have any comments, I’d be interested to read them.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 13, 2013

      Yes indeed! I certainly do deal with the problem and meaning of these terms! That is very much what the book is about. It is all laid out in chapter one, where I explain why the terms are problematic (also, the terms “heresy” and “heterodoxy”), explain what historians mean by them, and explain how I myself use them and why.

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    Scott F  August 12, 2013

    “..whereas in another Luke explicitly states that he became the Christ at his resurrection (2:38)”

    Is this Acts 2:38?

    “38 And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

    I don’t see it… Is it Acts 2:32-33:

    “32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear.”

    • Avatar
      Scott F  August 12, 2013

      Is this one those “What is the therefore there for?” moment?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 13, 2013

      Sorry, my bad. It’s 2:36: “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

  4. Avatar
    Scott F  August 12, 2013

    Acts 13:33 that you mention actually includes the quote from Psalm 2 that Luke is supposed to have avoided in his Gospel. Hmmm. Staying tuned….

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 13, 2013

      Yes indeed! But my argument is that Luke did *not* avoid it in his Gospel — it’s the same quotation as in the original text of 3:22 (that’s been the entire point of my posts on the question.)

  5. Avatar
    toejam  August 12, 2013

    Quote: “but in Acts 2:38 he is said to have been become Lord at his resurrection” … I’m confused. Is that the right chapter/verse?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 13, 2013

      Sorry, my bad. It’s 2:36: “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

  6. Avatar
    Jim  August 12, 2013

    Yay, the writer of Luke/Acts has inspired me to write a gospel.

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    RonaldTaska  August 12, 2013

    Do such inconsistencies in when Jesus became Christ imply that Luke and Acts were the work of multiple authors who had their writings fused together by a later editor?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 13, 2013

      They were written by the same author, but he certainly had multiple sources. And he was not overly concerned about the places where they were at odds with one another. He simply didn’t have our modern concerns over inconsistencies.

      • Avatar
        gavriel  August 13, 2013

        Could it be that chapters 1&2 were added or expanded in a much later edition by an aging Luke? Are there stylistic differences in the chapters?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  August 14, 2013

          Yup, and yup! I think I posted on this before. But if I haven’t yet, I will!

          • Avatar
            sleonard  August 24, 2013

            > Could it be that chapters 1&2 were added or expanded in a much later edition by an aging Luke?

            You have posted on this part of the question here:


            You don’t address the specific question of whether it could be Luke that added the first two chapters at a later time, but do discuss the reasons that scholars believe the chapters were later additions.

            > Are there stylistic differences in the chapters?

            In the comments section of that 2nd post, you mention that:
            “Some have thought L2 was more influenced by Septuagintal style”
            Where L2 was the 1st two chapters of Luke.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 24, 2013

            Yes, it’s certainly possible that Luke himself produced a second edition; that has been argued for the book of Acts as well, on differnt grounds.

      • Avatar
        toejam  August 15, 2013

        What do you think of the theory that one of Luke’s sources for Acts was Josephus’ writings? I know some of your nemeses like Carrier and Eisenman think so. I think it’s certainly plausible, given they’re the only two sources who reference people like ‘The Egyptian’, Theuddas and Judas of Galilee, and events such as the (some sort of) census at the time of Tiberius. Of course, this would push Acts back to probably early 2nd Century if so…

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  August 15, 2013

          I doubt it. The Antiquities dates to around 93 CE. Acts *may* have been that late, but I doubt it. (Pervo and others have argued that Luke is dependent on Josephus; for me the evidence is pretty thin) (and I would connect Carrier with NT scholars!)

  8. Avatar
    haoleboy26  August 13, 2013

    This has been a very interesting thread. What I find most striking about the possibility that Luke had the voice saying “You are my son, today I have begotten you” is, under the two sources hypothesis, Luke had to change Mark’s account. Are there any other places where Luke changes Mark’s account in the same theological way?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 13, 2013

      It depends on in what “way” you mean. The point of the change here is that the baptism is the moment at which God adopted Jesus to be his son. As I argue in today’s post, that’s a view that is confirmed by other changes in Luke over against Mark in his backward glances to the baptism.

  9. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  August 13, 2013

    I read all the references you cited in Luke and Acts about when Jesus became Christ, Lord, Savior, and the Son of God. I have to say that these references are no where near as clear to me on the subject as they are to you. Am I missing something?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 13, 2013

      Apparently so! 🙂

    • Avatar
      Scott F  August 13, 2013

      I don’t find them as straight forward as I would like, either. But they are what they are. I am assuming that the “exalted” “made him” language indicates an action that God took upon an already living man rather than Jesus’ messiahship being baked in from the beginning. Correct me if I am way off base!

  10. Avatar
    billgraham1961  August 14, 2013

    Bart, is there a volume you can recommend on looking up the patristics quotes of scriptures from the first two or three centuries, CE? I’d love to explore some of these passages on my own. I really appreciate your work. It has made an incredible difference in my life and reawakened my love of Bible study, but from an entirely new perspective. Because of your entries I’ve bought the book, Ancient Literacy, by William V. Harris, and another book, “The Bible Unearthed,” by Israel Finkelstein. I’ve also pulled out my dusty Greek and started learning it again. I haven’t been this thrilled to study the Bible for years. Keep up the great work.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 14, 2013

      There’s a publication called Biblia Patristica. I believe it is now online. It gives you the references to all the quotations of scripture in various church fathers. But you then need to look them up in the writings of the Fathers. It’s time consuming, but for serious research, an absolute necessity!

    • Avatar
      FrankJay71  August 16, 2013

      If you don’t mind me making the suggestion, I think you would enjoy this link. It’s for a project called “e-Catena: Compiled Allusions to the NT in the Ante-Nicene Fathers.” It’s at the site “Earlychristianwritings.com.” Its not for experts, but you might find it quite useful and entertaining. It’s in the form of a hyperlink indexed database, so it’s quite easy to use.

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