Posted by: chuckbumgardner | July 12, 2016

Jesus in the Gospel of Luke: the Knower of Thoughts

I just read a review of:

Jesus and the Thoughts of Many Hearts: Implicit Christology and Jesus’ Knowledge in the Gospel of Luke. By Collin Blake Bullard. Library of New Testament Studies 530. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015, xviii + 210 pp., $112.00.

The review provides an excellent summary of the book, and reveals that it argues a very interesting thesis. As background, note that because the humanity of Christ is strongly on display in Luke’s narrative, critical scholarship has often highlighted the lack of a “high Christology” in the gospel of Luke and suggested that the author did not view Jesus as divine. However, some scholarly treatments have recently demonstrated that Luke does, in more subtle ways, show that he really does think Jesus is God. Bullard’s thesis is about one of those ways.

One of the distinguishing marks of Luke’s Gospel is the way he portrays Jesus as knowing what people were thinking. He does this a number of times (in Luke, Bullard examines 5:17–26; 6:6–11; 7:36–50; 9:46–50; 11:14–32, 37–54; 24:36–43); for instance:

And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? (Luk 5:21-22 ESV)

Two points stood out to me about Bullard’s work (as mediated through the book review):

  1. Bullard finds the closest parallel to Luke’s portrayal of Jesus as the Knower of Thoughts not in the OT prophets (or for that matter, in any putative Greco-Roman parallels), but in Yahweh, who searches and knows the hearts, an ability often connected with Yahweh’s divine identity as the righteous judge. And Jesus’s “knowing of thoughts” is also often connected with Jesus’s role as judge.
  2. Bullard finds these portrayals of Jesus as Knower of Thoughts to be a fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy:

“Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luk 2:34-35 ESV)

I had never made these connections before.


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