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Identifying the Centurion’s Servant

04 Dec
manaen

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Is it possible to know the identity of the centurion’s servant (Luke 7:2)? I don’t think we can identify him with certainty, but by considering the Scriptures I believe we can do better than merely the centurion’s servant (Luke 7:2). For example, if we consider the similarities between John 4:45-54 and Luke 7:2-10, we would find that Capernaum is the focus of the healing in both records (Luke 7:1 cf. Matthew 8:5; John 4:46). Both the centurion’s servant and the nobleman’s son were near death (Luke 7:2; John 4:47), and in both Scriptures the request for healing came from someone of rank (Luke 7:2; John 4:46). Moreover, Jesus chided the Jewish nation for their lack of faith in both accounts (cf. Luke 7:9; John 4:48), but the Scriptures point to the man of rank, who wasn’t Jewish, as having faith (Luke 7:9; John 4:50-53). Finally, in both Scriptures the man who was near death was healed by Jesus over some distance (Luke 7:10; John 4:50-53).

Some may ask, if John 4:45-54 and Luke 7:1-10 are really accounts of the same event, why is Luke silent concerning the fact the father of the servant was present? It seems to me that such a revelation wouldn’t fit Luke’s theme. Luke’s focus is upon the faith of the centurion, which greatly surpassed what Jesus had thus far found among the Jews, and even that of the nobleman mentioned in John 4, who presumably worshiped the God of Israel. The nobleman’s faith is mentioned only after Jesus told him his son wouldn’t die. The centurion’s faith is seen not only in his request that Jesus heal his servant, but in the fact that he didn’t believe Jesus had to be present when the healing took place. Luke neither wished to mention the nobleman with the centurion, and, thus, take focus off the centurion’s great faith, nor place the nobleman with the Jews who came on behalf of the centurion and take focus off the Jews’ great lack of faith, because John specifically states that the nobleman believed, together with his whole household (John 4:53).

On the other hand, one may wonder how a nobleman’s son became a centurion’s servant. Nevertheless, the term servant may be used simply to distinguish rank (Genesis 19:2; 32:18) without meaning one’s bondservant. Care for nobility often fell within the responsibility of military men in the Roman era. Roman generals, for example, were often associated with guiding and protecting Caesar’s sons, who for all practical purposes obeyed the general under whose authority they were placed. If this was the case concerning the centurion’s servant, it would have been considered an honor for a low ranking nobleman in Israel to have his son tutored by a Roman centurion, who was arguably the backbone of Roman military power. In such a case the Roman centurion would have a special interest in the welfare of such a servant, and this prospect fits Luke’s context.

A nobleman among the Jews of Galilee would probably have come from Herod’s family or household. I find it interesting that immediately after mentioning Jesus’ dealings with a few unidentified people in Luke 7, he identifies several women in Luke 8:3 as some of Jesus financial supporters (cf. Luke 8:2-3). If the nobleman’s son is the centurion’s servant, it is entirely possible that Chuza is the nobleman in question, and Joanna (Luke 8:3) became one of Jesus’ supporters, because Jesus healed their son.

This prospect has another interesting twist. If Chuza is indeed the nobleman of John 4:46, could Chuza and Manaen of Acts 13:1 be the same person? I think it is very possible that the two are the same person. Strictly speaking, Jewish nobility was of the priestly family in the first century AD, and nothing is mentioned of David’s descendent’s being considered nobility during Jesus’ day. On the other hand, the Herod family, although not Jews, were considered nobility. So, simply by process of elimination, the nobleman of John 4:46 seems very likely to have come from the Herod family. Moreover, since Galilee was ruled by Herod Antipas, the nobleman of John 4:46 would be most easily identified as coming from his household.

Acts 13:1 mentions Manaen (Greek for the Hebrew Manahem) who was brought up with (suntrophos – G4939) Herod Antipas. The Greek points to his being either a foster-brother or at the very least an intimate friend in Herod’s household. Josephus mentions another Manahem, who was an Essen. He had prophesied Herod the Great’s rise to power.[1] Afterward, he became Herod’s friend and may be the father of Manaen of Acts 13:1 / Chuza of Luke 8:3.

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[1] Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews 15.10.5

 

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Posted by on December 4, 2016 in Gospel of Luke

 

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