Setting the Time for Luke 7

29 Nov

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After concluding his sermon on the plain Luke tells us that Jesus went into Capernaum (Luke 7:1). Nevertheless, does Luke mean to say that the events he records next immediately follow those in chapter 6, or is he bringing together two events in their chronological sequence but separated by a longer period of time than Luke 7:1 implies? I believe the latter to be so, and I hope to show in this study that there is reason to believe this proposition.

Although Luke seems to create a neat and fluid storyline between the sermon on the plain and account of the Roman centurion, the events in Luke 7:2-10 probably occur as much as one year later. Consider, for example, we are told that **after** John was imprisoned, Jesus entered into Galilee and preached the Kingdom of God (Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14). So, both Matthew and Mark at least seem to begin Jesus’ public ministry at this point. However, the Passover season of John 2:13 seems to be close to the time when John was cast into prison (John 3:24), so the fourth Gospel shows Jesus was preaching and performing miracles before either Matthew or Mark begin their accounts of Jesus’ ministry. Moreover, John implies the Jewish authorities were responsible for John’s imprisonment (cf. John 3:24-25 & John 4:1-4), and may have been seeking to get rid of Jesus together with John in one swift blow. Therefore, Jesus must have been upsetting the Jewish authorities at Jerusalem for at least several months prior to the events of Luke 7.

The point is that there is only so much room on a scroll to write what one intends to say. Choices have to be made to include what is pertinent to one’s theme and exclude what is not. Moreover, one’s writing must not look choppy, as though it is apparent one is leaving material out of one’s account. Notice:

“For, though all parts must be independently perfected, when the first is complete the second will be brought into essential connection with it, and attached like one link of a chain to another; there must be no possibility of separating them; no mere bundle of parallel threads; the first is not simply to be next to the second, but part of it, their extremities intermingling.”[1]

The point is Luke follows an ancient literary rule whenever he records accounts that overlap or whenever two accounts must be brought together in a story. So Luke’s account of the centurion’s servant and John’s account of the nobleman’s son could be different perspectives of the same event, but Luke simply didn’t need John’s material (John 2, 3 & 4) for his own theme.

With this in mind, it seems Jesus spent Pentecost with the Samaritans. The harvest season which occurs about the time of the fall festivals puts Jesus’ “four months” (John 4:35) in the third month of the Jewish calendar. Pentecost occurs near the beginning of that month. Therefore, Jesus may have celebrated this Holy Day with the Samaritans. What this does is put the events of Luke 7 after Pentecost of that year. At this point Jesus left Judea and entered Galilee, and folks in there had been spreading the word about what Jesus had done in Judea about the time of the Passover (John 4:45-47). At this time a certain nobleman came to Cana of Galilee in order to find Jesus, because he sought healing for his son.


[1] Lucian of Samosata (cir. 120 AD to 180 AD): The Way to Write History 55; (emphasis mine)]. The complete work can be found HERE.

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Posted by on November 29, 2016 in Gospel of Luke


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