Luke :1-4 And “Traditionsgeschichte” -- By: Robert H. Stein

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 26:4 (Dec 1983)
Article: Luke :1-4 And “Traditionsgeschichte”
Author: Robert H. Stein


Luke :1-4 And “Traditionsgeschichte”

Robert H. Stein*

Of all the canonical gospels, Luke alone discusses the methodology used in the composition of his gospel. His prologue therefore is the most explicit statement available as the the transmission of the gospel traditions from the time of the historical Jesus to their incorporation into Luke’s gospel. Scholars would of course like to have had Luke elaborate and comment a great deal more on the subject and to have been more explicit, but our disappointment over the brevity of Luke’s statement should not cause us to forget how fortunate we are that he commented at all. Despite its brevity the Lukan prologue provides us with much useful material that enables us to understand what took place during the second and third Sitz im Leben(s) of the gospel tradition.

The prologue itself ranks among the very best Greek literature of the first century. In style and vocabulary it is similar to other writings of the day, and this along with the non-Lukan nature of much of the vocabulary1 reveals that we have in the Lukan prologue a conventional form of introduction that was rather common in his day.2 The purpose of this paper is to investigate the Lukan prologue in order to see what light it may shed on the Traditionsgeschichte of the gospel materials. The prologue itself consists of three parts. The first, consisting of vv 1–2, is an explanatory clause in which Luke informs Theophilus of his predecessors in the history of the gospel traditions; the second, consisting of v 3, is the main clause of the prologue in which Luke gives his “credentials” for writing his gospel; and the third, consisting of v 4, is a purpose clause in which Luke informs Theophilus of his purpose in writing the gospel of Luke.3 In this paper we shall deal with each of these sections selectively and briefly.

* Robert Stein is professor of New Testament at Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

I. The Lukan Predecessors (Verses 1 And 2)

1.Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative.” In the opening words of the prologue Luke speaks of those who have written on the subject before him. Several things should be observed with regard to these opening words. One important issue involves the term polloi, “many.” Does this expression suggest that before Luke “do...

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