“Fear” As A Witness To Jesus In Luke’s Gospel -- By: Aída Besançon Spencer

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 02:1 (NA 1992)
Article: “Fear” As A Witness To Jesus In Luke’s Gospel
Author: Aída Besançon Spencer


“Fear” As A Witness To Jesus In Luke’s Gospel

Aida Besançon Spencer

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
South Hamilton, Massachusetts

When readers want to summarize the central themes or characteristics of the Gospel of Luke, they often point to Luke’s interest in people because he highlights Jesus as Savior. Such general consensus may be found even in introductory books. Theodor Zahn noted that: “Luke, in much stronger colours than any other evangelist, depicts Jesus as the friend and Savior of those most deeply sunk in sin and farthest astray.”1 Werner Kümmel also writes that Luke stresses “the human, moving features of Jesus” because “according to Luke Jesus expresses more emphatically than in Mark or Matthew God’s love for the despised, both by his behavior and by his message.”2 Norval Geldenhuys agrees that “the fundamental quality of Jesus which Luke wishes to show us is, therefore, that He has come as Saviour, as Redeemer.”3 In other words, many scholars have observed that Luke highlights Jesus as Savior of all classes of people (social outcasts, women,4 children, and poor). Because of this emphasis, Luke then focuses on people and the various emotions they express. Everett F. Harrison summaries some of these: praise, joy, peace, forgiveness, weeping, love and friendship, wisdom and understanding, glory, authority, and spirit. Harrison also mentions that, similarly, Luke frequently records the popular response to Jesus’ ministry—crowds

filled with amazement.5 This essay will highlight that one concept: amazement or fear. Luke repeats and places different synonyms for “fear” or awe at key stages in the gospel. Do the people who fear God always bring in Christ’s reign? “Fear” is a key response to Jesus’ divinity, but it is insufficient by itself for persistence in faith.

Seven word-families are in Luke which might all be translated “fear”: θαυμάζω, θάμβος, ἐξίστιημι, ἔκστασις, ἐκπλήσσω, πτοέω, τρέμω, and φόβος (φοβέω, φόβητρον, ἔμφοβος). These words will be analyzed in the context of the literary development of Luke’s Gos...

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