As I begin to move forward with research for my thesis, I thought I would share this little bit of data that I’ve collected which shows the various attestations of the questions Jesus asks in the Gospel of Luke. It is noteworthy that Luke contains around 47 original questions, not including parallels in which a statement in Matthew or Mark is changed to a question in Luke.
Though my thesis will mainly be concerned with a rhetorical study of The Gospel of Luke as a literary unit, it is difficult to completely separate the questions of Jesus in the Third Gospel from the sticky issue of the Synoptic Problem.
I did not include Q or Thomasine parallels out of deep respect for Mark Goodacre and Joel Watts.
I realize that there is a categorical shift in focus here, but I’ve been working on a devotional based on the questions of Jesus. It’s pretty revealing and a worthwhile study with so many avenues to explore! Do you intend to identify the particular audiences of each question as well?
I wish you the best with your work.
Matthew, that’s awesome! I would love to read your devotional when you’re finished with it.
When you say “particular audiences,” I assume you’re referring to the characters to whom each question is addressed? At this point (it may change in the future), my thesis will focus solely on the questions found in 2:48-49, 5:21-23, 6:2-4, 10:25-37, 18:18-19, 20:1-8, and 20:22-24, and I will definitely be taking the questions’ intended “targets” into consideration. Basically, the passages listed above are “confrontational discourses” where Jesus is asked a challenge question and then responds with another question.
More so than in the Gospel of John (see Estes’ awesome book on the subject), questions see a really broad usage in Luke—they are used in confrontational discourse, spoken through characters in parables (see 12:17, 20), and, in at least one case, spoken as parables themselves (see 23:31, my favorite question in Luke).
But perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the questions of Jesus in Luke is that the author of Luke’s Gospel spends the entire narrative setting up an character portrait of “Jesus the Questioner,” and then suddenly undercuts that theme in the crucifixion. This Jesus-who-questions is suddenly at a lack for rhetorical zingers when he is put on display before Pilate and the religious authorities. In fact, Luke even subverts his own motif in the last question posed to Jesus before his death. When one of the crucified bandits derides Jesus, asking, “Are you not the Messiah?” (23:39), the other bandit intercedes for Jesus, picking up the question-for-question game again: “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?” (23:40). The result is a depiction of Jesus utterly stripped of his rhetorical strength, weak and helpless.
(Sorry that this has taken me a few days to see! I didn’t get a notification that you had responded.)
Yes, by “particular audiences,” I meant the people addressed. I think it’s really interesting that you’re focusing on the confrontational discourses and have no doubt what you come up with will be worth the effort.
And thank you so much for pointing out Estes’ work! I had no idea that existed. (I’ve now read the Near Emmaus review and the interview. Now to find the book…) I was recently struck by a question from Jesus a few months ago (Jn 1.38); and the more time I spent looking at other questions, the more I realized how valuable it could be to study this in depth. The interview with Estes is actually very encouraging because I just sort of assumed that this was one of those topics you’d bring up with a professor or scholar and they’d say, “Oh, yes, of course. Read this work, that work, and these articles.” And perhaps that’s still true, but it’s encouraging to know there’s plenty of work to be had for such a compelling topic.
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