Bible Study Group

6th April 2022

Luke 19: 28 – 40 The Messiah enters Jerusalem

v. 29: ‘close by the Mount of Olives’, Luke places the important events of Jesus’ life on mountains, like the transfiguration (9:28) and the Ascension (24:50); ‘Bethany’, a village on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, about 2 miles from Jerusalem; ‘Bethphage’, another village located towards the top of the mountain, 2673 ft above sea level.

v. 30: ‘a tethered colt’, probably the owner was a follower of Jesus and historically the ass was used by a prince who entered a town peacefully and joyfully.

vv. 35 – 36: ‘their garments …their cloaks’, symbols of honours for a king, but Luke excludes the palms.

v. 37: ‘began to praise God’, this is a Lucan addition; ‘for the miracles’, i.e., the cures performed up to now in the Gospel.

v. 38: The first two lines are taken from Psalm 118, which part of the ‘Hallel’ sung at major feasts. To focus attention upon the person of Jesus, Luke replaces ‘kingdom’ with ‘King’, removes the Aram word ‘Hosanna’ and then adds two lines from his Infancy Narrative (2:14)., therefore, including the angelic chorus into the song.

vv. 39 -40: only found in Luke, and it is difficult to say if ‘some of the Pharisees’ were friendly or not; ‘the stones will cry out’, Jesus’ answers in the form of a prophecy, i.e., a greater judgement will befall those persecutors of Jesus’ disciples with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, if the will try to silence the latter.

1st April 2022

John 7:53, 8:1 -11 The Adulterous Woman

This passage was probably written by Luke, as indicated by its Synoptic style, for which reason it was omitted from the earlier Greek versions of John’s Gospel. It was only accepted in the canon of the Latin versions of the Gospel around the 12th century, but there is no evidence to suppose it was not a real incident.

vv. 1 – 2: these verses are very similar to Luke 21:37 – 38.

v. 4: ‘in the very act of committing adultery’, it is not clear if this was her first offence.

v. 5: ‘death by stoning’, the penalty for a betrothed virgin who had committed adultery (see Deuteronomy 22:23 – 29); but for an adulterous wife death is prescribed, but not its manner (see Deuteronomy 22:22; Leviticus 20:20). In the latter cases, the rabbis would normally interpret the penalty as death by strangling and maybe Jesus was being asked if such an interpretation as valid.

v. 6: ‘started writing on the ground with his finger’, the only occasion in the Gospels where Jesus had written anything and maybe Jesus was just doodling to show his disinterest in the case.

v. 7: ‘let him be the first to throw a stone at her’, the witnesses against the accused were to initiate the punishment (see Deuteronomy 17: 7), although Jesus, as always, refuses to deal with the matter in a purely legalistic way by asking them to examine their consciences first.

v. 9: ‘they went away’, either because of the effectiveness of Jesus’ answer, or through shame of trying to use a woman’s humiliation to trap a man.

v. 10: ‘Jesus was left alone with the woman’, compare this ‘making her stand there in full view of everybody’ in v. 3; the sinner standing face to face with the Sinless exemplifies the call to repentance.

v. 11: ‘don’t sin anymore’, sin is not belittled, but God extends his mercy to sinners that they may turn away from sin.

25th March 2022

Luke 15:1 - 3;11 – 32 The Parable of the Prodigal Son

v. 3: ‘This man … welcomes sinners’, sets the scene for the parable.

v. 12: ‘the share of the estate that would come to me’, according to OT Law, a father could abdicate before his death and divide his wealth; we do not know how the estate was divided.

v. 13: ‘life of debauchery’, or ‘loose living’, as the Greek word renders the meaning of uncontrolled sensuality and spending extravagance.

v. 16: ‘the husks’, which is the direct translation from the Greek, but also translated as ‘pods’ (RSV), meaning in fact the fruit of the carob tree; he was too disgusted to eat with the pigs.

v. 18: ‘I will … go to my father’, as the adulteress in Hosea 2:7.

v.19: ‘I have sinned against heaven’, meaning that the father seeks his son, firstly, by the memory of instilled goodness.

v. 21: ‘Father’, compare this polite address used by the prodigal son with that not used at all by the elder son in v.29.

v.31 ‘this son of yours’, emphasises the contempt with which he speaks of his brother.

v. 32: ‘My son … ‘, the Greek word means literally ‘my child’, therefore suggesting God’s mercy extends to those too poor or too unknowledgeable to be aware of every refinement of the Law; ‘was dead and has come to life’, alludes to Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection.

17th March 2022

Luke 13: 1 – 9 On Repentance and the Barren Fig Tree

v.1: ‘the Galileans’, no historical evidence for this incident.

v. 2: ‘were greater sinners’, Jesus does not condemn Pilate, merely comments on the guilt, or none of those murdered.

v. 4: ‘the tower at Siloam’, probably one of the towers of the aqueduct bringing water to the pool of Siloam (see John 9:3), to the south of the eastern corner of Jerusalem.

v. 5: Jesus repeats the same comment on this incident too, to mean that sin is not the immediate cause of disasters, but these serve as a call to repentance.

v. 7: ‘three years’, could be a reference to the length of Jesus’ ministry.

vv. 8 - 9: ‘leave it one more year’, Jesus’ patient attitude towards the fig tree contrasts with his ‘harder’ attitude in Matthew 21; 18 – 22 and in Mark 11: 12 – 14 and 20 – 25.

9th March 2022

Luke 9: 28 – 36 The Transfiguration

v. 28: ‘about eight days after’, as opposed to ‘six days’ in Matthew and Mark and may refer to the Christian celebration of the octave of Tabernacles; ‘after this had been said’, the first prophecy of the Passion; ‘the mountain’, for Luke, this could mean either the hills where Jesus chose the Twelve (6:12), or the Mount of Olives (22:39).

v. 29: ‘and his clothing became brilliant as lightning’, some versions have ‘robed in light as with a cloak’ referring to Psalm 104:2.

v. 30: ‘Suddenly there were two men’, the same phrase in the Greek is used at the Resurrection (24:4) and at the Ascension (Acts 1:10).

v. 31: ‘his passing’, Jesus now learns the full extent of his painful ministry. The Greek uses the word ‘exodos’, so Moses and Elijah see the real Exodus in the Passion and Resurrection.

v. 32 ‘his glory’, i.e., Jesus’ Ascension and his Second Coming.

v. 33 ‘three tents’, reference to the Feast of Tabernacles’.

v. 35: ‘the Chosen One’, ‘the Beloved One’ in Matthew and Mark; ‘Listen to him’, as Moses and Elijah have disappeared and so Heaven declares that it is Jesus who humanity must listen now.

v. 36: ‘ the disciples kept silence’, Luke omits the conversation about Elijah Jesus had with his disciples after this event, as narrated in Matthew and Mark. 

3rd March 2022

Luke 4:1 – 13 Temptation in the Wilderness

v. 1: ‘led by the Spirit through the wilderness’, v.2: ‘being tempted there …at the end’, Luke’s use of the Greek in these phrases suggests that Jesus was accompanied by the Spirit during the forty days, in which he fasted and prayed before taking on the devil. Therefore, it is the full force of the Father’s power that confronts the powers of evil.

v. 3: ‘If you are the Son of God’, the temptation focuses on the kind of Messiah Jesus will be, i.e., will Jesus be tempted to use economic power, symbolised by the bread, to win the people over, by granting them their immediate desire - the end of hunger, or will he prolong their suffering by sticking to the divine ideals demanded of them.

v. 4: ‘Man does not live by bread alone.’ Jesus’ reply quoting a text from Deuteronomy, suggests this was a favourite O.T. book of the early Christians.

v.5: ‘in a moment of time’, found only in Luke, serves to emphasise that the kingdoms, symbolizing the use of political power, were shown to Jesus as a vision and no physical relocation by Jesus took place. Again, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy in reply (v. 8).

v. 9: ‘Jerusalem’, this last temptation is the climax of Luke’s Temptation account to present Jesus’ ministry as a journey leading up to his Passion, Death and Resurrection in the Holy City; ‘throw yourself down’, and the quotes in Jesus’ reply from Psalm 91 in vv..10 – 11 symbolize the use of self-aggrandisement, sensationalism, and ostentation to win popular support.

v. 13: ‘having exhausted all these ways …’, i.e., Jesus has perfected himself through the experience of every temptation; ’to return at the appointed time’,  the next time only in the Passion Narrative, suggesting the victory over evil has already been achieved.

25th February 2022

Luke 6:39 – 49 Integrity and The True Disciple

v. 39: ‘He also told a parable to them, …’, the parable is addressed to Jesus’ disciples to exercise self-criticism, whereas in Matthew, it is directed towards the scribes and pharisees (see Matthew 15:14).

vv. 41-42: ‘the splinter … the plank (or the log in other versions)’ are hyperboles, i.e., literary exaggerations; ‘Hypocrite!’, i.e., literally ‘actor’ in Greek, someone who deliberately gives a false impression, thus pitifully deceived by their own condition.

vv. 46-49: Luke adapts Matthew’s parable in Matthew 7:24-27. in which the latter reflects the Palestinian topography where the bedrock is close to the surface so deep foundations are unnecessary ‘built his house on soil' (on sand in Matthew) refers to the sandy surface of the wadis, that are dry in summer, but during the rainy season get filled with water.

18th February 2022

Luke 6:27 – 38 Love of Enemies, Compassion and Generosity

v. 27: ‘Love your enemies’, i.e., to a heroic degree to become ‘sons of the Most High+’, and so manifesting the life of God among mankind.

v. 28: ‘who curse you’, the Greek word implies spite, jealousy and ill will.

v. 29: ‘slaps you on the cheek’, more physical, when compared with Matthew’s version which is more legal and verbal abuse; ‘cloak … tunic’, Luke has reversed Matthew’s order, as in Palestine, the cloak used for sleeping outside was more important than the tunic.

v. 33: ‘sinners’, Luke is more tactful than Matthew who points to ‘tax collectors’ and ‘pagans’ (see Matthew 5:47 – 48).

v. 35 ‘kind’, the Greek word implies tenderness, giving and friendliness.

v. 36 ‘grant pardon’, Matthew reads ‘be perfect’.

v. 38 ‘full measure’, i.e., the capacity of one’s generosity; ‘into your lap’, the folds in the tunic, or cloak were used as a pocket, or a bag for provisions.

10th February 2022

Luke 6:17, 20 – 26 The Beatitudes

v.17: ‘He then came down with them … ‘, i.e., from one of the hills near Capernaum with his twelve ‘apostles’ whom he had just selected for his disciples (see vv. 12-16);

‘… people …from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon … ‘, therefore, Luke is including Gentiles, as well as Jews.

 

v. 20: ‘How happy … ‘, closer to the Hebrew meaning than the translation ‘Blessed … ‘, found in other versions of the Bible; ‘… you poor …’, Luke’s use of the second person plural pronoun gives the beatitude more directness and the poor, or ‘lowly’ are those desperately dependent on God and the omission of Matthew’s ‘in spirit’ emphasizes material poverty.

 

v. 21: … now…’, a Lucan addition.

v. 22: Luke’s version of this beatitude serves to emphasize that every follower of Jesus, must be prepared to be rejected in the same way.

v. 23:’ …your reward will be great in heaven.’, i.e., the reward that is to be enjoyed in this world, already exists with God. This gives the beatitudes an eschatological urgency, i.e., it deals with the present in function of the future.

vv. 24 – 26: ‘The curses’, or ‘woes’, found only in Luke and seem to be directed to those not present; ‘… you are having your consolation now.’, a possible Lucan use of a technical word for someone who has taken on a debt to show that every comfort is owed to Jesus.

3rd February 2022

Luke 5:1 – 11 The First Four Disciples are called

v.1: ‘the Lake of Gennesaret’, i.e., the Sea of Galilee, considered as a lake for Luke because of its size (13 miles by 7.5 miles) and Gennesaret named after the plain just Northwest of the lake.

v. 5: ‘Master’, translates the Greek word “Epistata” (literally., the learned or knowledgeable one), which Luke prefers in place of the Hebrew title “Rabbi” throughout his Gospel.

v. 8: ‘Lord’, “Kyrie” in Greek, which Peter now calls Jesus, reflects, his religious fear before the presence of the divine.

v. 10: Andrew is not mentioned by name, but his presence is implied by the use of the plural pronouns ‘we’ (v. 5), ‘they’ (vv. 6 and 7), indicating that Jesus spoke exclusively with Peter (compare with Mark 1:16 – 20); ‘from now on’, the Greek rendering of this phrase suggests a crisis in Peter’s life.

v.11: ‘they left everything’, as opposed to ‘the boat and their father’(Matthew 4:22) and ‘their father Zebedee in the boat   and  the men he employed (Mark 1:20)

January 28th 2022

Luke 4:23-30 – Jesus at Nazareth 2 (astonishment and rejection)

v. 23: ‘… you will quote me …’, Luke purposefully employs the future tense, because Jesus goes to Capernaum only in verse 31 and to teach that miracles are meant to deepen already existing faith in the Messiah and not to force belief.

v. 24: ‘I tell you solemnly…’, i.e., ‘amen’, a transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning ”true”, or “steadfast”, which Luke uses only six times in his Gospel.

vv. 25 – 27: unique to Luke, who although is comparing Jesus to the two O.T. prophets, is also anticipating the Church’s future mission to non-Jewish peoples;  ‘…three years and six months…’, the time used in apocalyptic literature to denote persecution and distress.

vv. 28 – 29: Jesus’ rejection written in language similar to that of Stephen (Acts. 7:58) and of Paul (Acts 13:50), thus the universal Church’s history is already taking place in the person of Jesus.

v. 30: ‘… he slipped through the crowd… ‘, not necessarily a miracle.

21st January 2022

Luke 4:14 – 22 Jesus at Nazareth

v. 14: ‘with power of the Spirit’, in contrast with Matthew 4:12; ‘his reputation spread’, a favourite Lucan theme, e.g. 4:36

v. 15: ‘and everyone praised him’, another favourite Lucan theme, e.g. 4:22

v. 16: ‘Nazara’, the name is unique to Luke, around which the Evangelist may be combining three visits to his hometown: vv. 16-22 (Jesus is honoured), vv. 23-24 (Jesus astonishes the crowd, as in Matthew and Mark) and vv. 25-30 (Jesus’ life is threatened).

v. 17: ‘they handed him’, any adult male Jew, could be authorised by the synagogue vv. 18-19: Luke excludes ‘to heal the broken-hearted’, probably to emphasize Jesus’ concern with preaching and interior renewal, rather than with physical cures; ‘He has director to read; ‘he found the place’, was this accidental, or deliberate?

sent me…’, the Greek tense of the verb means that the one sent has already arrived  and can be found in the person of Jesus; ‘the Lord’s year of favour’, i.e. the jubilee year (see Leviticus 25:8-55).

v.21: Jesus is referring here to the power of the word of God (see Isaiah 55:10-11) and the Greek rendering of the verb ‘fulfilled ‘again means that the moment of salvation is already being achieved, because Jesus’ continuing presence through the gift of the Spirit in the preaching of the prophets and the apostles keeps the word of God alive and active. 

16th December 2021

Luke 1:26-38 The Annunciation

Note the strict parallelism between the annunciation of John the Baptist's birth and that of Jesus.

v. 26: 'sixth month', i.e. of Elizabeth's pregnancy; 'Nazareth ', an insignificant town, never mentioned in the O.T., despised by Palestinians in Jesus's own time (John 1:40) and inhabited  by jealous, material-minded people (Luke 4:23-30).

v. 27: 'Mary', the Hebrew "Miryam' means 'the exalted one'.

v. 28: 'Rejoice, so highly favoured!', is the better rendition of the Greek than 'Hail, full of grace!', emphasizing upon the source of goodness (instrumentality), rather than upon its effects (fullness). Mary, therefore, is the object of God's grace and favour, chosen for a long time past. 'The Lord is with you.', a popular greeting, but coming from God implies being set aside for something special.

v. 29: 'asked herself ... mean', the Greek verb implies intense, prolonged reflection, supported by a strong faith.

v. 30: 'do not be afraid; you have won God's favour.', parallels Luke 1:13, as does the birth formula in v.31.

v. 32: 'He will be great ...', O.T. language usually reserved for God's redeeming action among his people.

 v. 34: '... since I am a virgin.', literally 'since I do not know man.'  (as a wife knows her husband).

v. 35: '... the power of the Most High will  cover you with its shadow.', is reminiscent of O.T. expressions for God's presence, e.g. Haggai 2: 6 - 9.

v. 37: 'for nothing is impossible to God.', Mary's virginity reveals a complete trust and obedience before God.

12th December 2021

Luke 3:1-18:The Preaching of John the Baptist

v. 1: 'fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar's reign', i.e. 28-29 AD, as Tiberius ruled from 14 to 37 AD; 'Pontius Pilate', strictly Procurator of Judea, Idumaea and Samaria from 26 to 36 AD; 'Herod', i.e. Herod Antipas, tetrach of Galilee and Peraea from 4 BC to 39 AD; 'Philip', tetrach of Ituraea and Trahonitis from 4 BC to 34 AD; 'these last two were sons of Herod the Great. Lysanias', tetrach of Abilene whose identity is uncertain.

v. 2: 'Caiaphas', actual name Joseph, was high priest from 18 AD to 36 AD; 'Annas, Caiaphas' father-in-law, held the office from 6 AD to 15 AD. 'the word of God came to John', this phrase is only found in Jeremiah 1:1, drawing attention to John's continuation of that prophet's work; 'in the wilderness ', i.e. the Judean desert between the Dead Sea and the central plateau, unlikely therefore to be the Jericho area as is generally assumed, but Luke is making a link with a tradition of desert spirituality.

v. 3: 'proclaiming', the Greek verb suggests an initial announcing to non-Christians; ' a baptism' a ceremonial rite of purification by water, with deep roots in biblical tradition and used in the reception of converts to Judaism. John's baptism was a one-off ritual, extended to soldiers, publicans and sinners, considered not in full communion with God's people; 'repentance ', literally, a change of direction in one's life, requiring the forgiveness of sin and not just being moved with sorrow or pity.

vv. 4 - 6: passage used by the Qumran community as their 'credo'; Luke adds the last verse to stress the universality of the coming message of salvation of Jesus.

v. 7: 'crowds', indicating the universality of the message;  'vipers', a desert image.

v. 8: 'stones', another desert image, the Hebrew word for which  Lukes plays on to mean also 'sons', thus stating that only through God's gift of faith life is given to His chosen race.

v. 9: 'thrown on the fire', i.e. the eschatological judgement.

vv. 10 -14: only in Luke; 'the tax collectors', bought the right from the Romans to collect taxes and were despised by their fellow countrymen; 'soldiers' irregular troops, providing support for the tax collectors.

v. 16: 'more powerful', i.e. in the struggle against evil and not in terms of authority, or hierarchy; 'fire', here could refer to It's cleansing power, God's presence, or as in v. 9 above.

v. 17: 'winnowing-fan', another image of purification, this time through separation.

v. 18: note the more conciliatory tone with which Luke ends this passage.


2nd December 2021

Luke 1:26-38 The Annunciation

Note the strict parallelism between the annunciation of John the Baptist's birth and that of Jesus.

v. 26: 'sixth month', i.e. of Elizabeth's pregnancy; 'Nazareth ', an insignificant town, never mentioned in the O.T., despised by Palestinians in Jesus's own time (John 1:40) and inhabited  by jealous, material-minded people (Luke 4:23-30).

v. 27: 'Mary', the Hebrew "Miryam' means 'the exalted one'.

v. 28: 'Rejoice, so highly favoured!', is the better rendition of the Greek than 'Hail, full of grace!', emphasizing upon the source of goodness (instrumentality), rather than upon its effects (fullness). Mary, therefore, is the object of God's grace and favour, chosen for a long time past. 'The Lord is with you.', a popular greeting, but coming from God implies being set aside for something special.

v. 29: 'asked herself ... mean', the Greek verb implies intense, prolonged reflection, supported by a strong faith.

v. 30: 'do not be afraid; you have won God's favour.', parallels Luke 1:13, as does the birth formula in v.31.

v. 32: 'He will be great ...', O.T. language usually reserved for God's redeeming action among his people.

 v. 34: '... since I am a virgin.', literally 'since I do not know man.'  (as a wife knows her husband).

v. 35: '... the power of the Most High will  cover you with its shadow.', is reminiscent of O.T. expressions for God's presence, e.g. Haggai 2: 6 - 9.

v. 37: 'for nothing is impossible to God.', Mary's virginity reveals a complete trust and obedience before God.

20th November 2021

Mark 13:3-8; 24-32 The Coming of the Son of Man

These two passages are meant to be read together, forming part of Chapter 13 - The Eschatological Discourse in which Jesus preaches on the end of time for humanity. It deals with the present in function of the future and is not an anticipation of future events, but a transposition of the fullness of things after death, which cannot be lived out perfectly in this life.

The passages are written in the 'apocalyptic' style, representing the future in fantastic form, dealing with the future in function of the present, e.g. to console the faithful, or to communicate an eschatological truth, such as the final judgement, which can lead us to conversion,or to take our life more seriously.

v. 3: 'Peter, James, John and Andrew', the first - called disciples.

v. 4: '... is this going ... will all this is about to be fulfilled?',  Mark's sharpens these questions by referring to the parousia.

v. 5: 'Take care ...', warnings against being led astray are a characteristic of apocalyptic writings.

v. 6: 'in my name', emphasizing that Jesus is the true messiah.

v. 7: 'wars and rumours of wars', another example of apocalyptic distress.

v. 8: 'beginnings of the birthpangs.',  the figure of a woman in labour is often used in the Bible to announce the coming of the Day of Yahweh, or the Messianic era.

v.24: 'time of distress', refers to vv. 14-23; 'the sun ... the moon ... the stars ...', all OT images symbolizing divine judgement.

v.26: 'the Son of Man coming with great power and glory', reflects Daniel 7:13, understood to be a superhuman individual, possessing  heavenly 'power and glory'.

v.29: 'when you see these things ', refers not just to vv.24-27, but to all that has gone before; 'he is near', or 'it is near', impossible to say from the Greek verb for 'is'.

v.30: 'this generation ', Mark is thinking not only of the destruction of Jerusalem, but of the coming of the Son of Man.

v.32: 'nor the Son', for Mark, Jesus is only the Son, i.e. not sharing the same 'godhead ' as the Father, the doctrine later elaborated at the Council of Chalcedon.

An Introduction to St. Luke's Gospel

Christian tradition maintains that the author is Paul's "beloved physician" ( Colossians 4:14), who probably came from Antioch in N.W. Syria. and wrote the Gospel around 70 AD.

Luke, having carefully selected his sources (Luke 1:3), has followed Mark's outline, leaving some details out, while expanding others to make his Gospel as relevant as possible to his non-Jewish readers, in the main converted Gentiles.

Because in Luke's mind, evangelization starts and ends in Jerusalem, as evidenced by his writing of the Acts, so does his Gospel. Therefore, the Ascension takes place in the outskirts of Bethany  and not in Galilee, as in Mark's and Matthew's Gospels. Luke's biggest divergence from Mark though, is found from 9:51-18:14 which combines Sayings that Luke sourced on his own.

Luke is very respectful of his readers and of the characters in his Gospel, avoiding anything that is critical, derogatory or offensive to both. That is why the Italian poet Dante  called him the 'faithful recorder of Christ's lovingkindness'. However, Luke contrasts this tenderness for the poor and lowly with his severity for the proud and those who abuse their wealth, but they are not condemned until the time of mercy is over.

The other notable features of Luke's Gospel are: insistence with prayer, detachment from the material and the prominence given to the Holy Spirit and Joy.

The Greek used in the original version of the Gospel is generally of a very high standard, but out of respect for his sources, Luke 'roughens' it up in some places.

© 2022 Holy Cross Hucknall