The Structure And Theology Of Luke’s Central Section -- By: Hobert K. Farrell

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 07:2 (Fall 1986)
Article: The Structure And Theology Of Luke’s Central Section
Author: Hobert K. Farrell

The Structure And Theology
Of Luke’s Central Section

Hobert K. Farrell

Le Tourneau College

Charles Talbert has shown that the literary patterning of Luke-Acts fits into the broad literary tradition of the ancient Mediterranean world.1 Both in classical civilization and in the ancient Near Eastern world, the principle of balance was felt to be rooted in the cosmos itself and shaped the literary expression. To use Talbert’s words, “The Third Evangelist stands before us a man of his time and place. He shares, in this regard at least, in the Zeitgeist of the Mediterranean people.”2 This perspective gives credence to the work of scholars such as Bengel, Lund, Morgenthaler, Goulder, and Bailey who have called attention to Luke’s chiastic structure.3 It is within this perspective, that emphasizes the importance of literary structure, that the present writer would like to address the issue of a lengthy chiasm in Luke’s central section. Chiasm is used to speak of the presentation of themes which are then repeated in reverse order.4 This work is especially indebted to Talbert’s outline presented in his Literary Patterns and Reading Luke.5

The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate, not just by an outline, but by presenting the similarity of the theological points of the corresponding scenes for the reader to observe for himself, that Luke’s central section is structured chiastically. It will be assumed that the development or flow of thought expressed in the narrative is important. The narrative will be seen to consist of scenes with a dominant theme. These scenes are sequenced in chiastic or reverse order with multiple interrelationships.6 Often a parable or action illustrates a saying or principle just expressed.7 These relationships are at the level of concepts and themes or meaning and theological points and not at the level of mere words or language, although often key words aid in communicating the relationships involved. Further, the correspondence of the scenes in the chiastic structure is not that of an exact reduplication, but of an insightful contrast or comparison. Often the correspondence is a positive-negative relationship in making the same or a similar theological point.8

The central section of Luke’s Gospel develops seven basic themes or...

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