Monday, August 12, 2013

The Holy Spirit in Luke

The Holy Spirit in the Gospel of Luke

Compare Luke's references to the Holy Spirit with the other Gospels. What is he saying? Why do the references to the Holy Spirit seem to stop half-way through? Is the view of the Holy Spirit in Luke consistent with Acts and the Pentecost story? What is the relationship between the Holy 
Spirit and prayer in Luke?

This blog seeks to clarify, firstly on whether there is continuity in the Luke-Acts accounts and the role of the Spirit between those two books. Secondly, some brief comparisons will be made regarding the Holy Spirit as recorded in Luke compared with the other Synoptic Gospels.

Luke-Acts and the Continuity Problem
To determine whether in fact the Holy Spirit in Luke is consistent with Acts, you must determine the continuity or otherwise of the authorship of Luke. Is the writer of Luke the same as the book of Acts? W. C. Van Unnik says, ‘we speak of it [Luke-Acts] as a unit....It is generally accepted that both books have a common author....By almost unanimous consent they are considered to be two volumes of a single work.’[1] While there is unity amongst scholars regarding the ‘literary unity’[2] of Luke-Acts, that does not mean there is theological continuity.
W. F. Lofthouse argues that the Synoptic Gospels are, ‘unable to act as a basis [for the Spirit] in Acts 1-15.[3] Lofthouse and others assert the discontinuity of the Luke-Acts narrative, but surely if there is continuity in authorship, there is continuity in theological expression. Assuming we have determined that Luke (or a close companion of Paul) was in fact the author of Luke and Acts, then it is somewhat ridiculous to suggest the author changes their ideas about pneumatology in between writings.[4] In fact, G.W.H. Lampe for instance, says, ‘the connecting thread which runs through both parts [of Luke-Acts] is the theme of the operation of the Spirit of God’.[5]
Notably Luke only mentions πνευμα after chapter 13 of the Lukan account three more times and the word is used not as the ‘Holy Spirit’, but simply ‘spirit’.[6] Does this mean, for instance, that the Holy Spirit is not active at the death and resurrection of Jesus? Simply because there is no avert mention of the work of πνευμα does not then allow us to make that assumption. Following the ascension of Jesus, we read of the inauguration of the Holy Spirit, and just as the Spirit was present at the birth of Jesus, so the Spirit is present and active at the birth of the Church.[7] There are some great parallels in the Luke-Acts accounts in relation to the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit at work at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-39)
The Holy Spirit at work at the birth of the church (Acts 2:1-47)
The Holy Spirit at work in Jesus beginning of ministry (Luke 4:14-30)[9]
The Holy Spirit at work in Peter’s first sermon (Acts 2:14-41)
The Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus at his baptism (Luke 3:21-23)
The Holy Spirit descends upon the Church at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-47)

The Holy Spirit in Luke and the other Synoptic Gospels
Luke clearly places a greater emphasis on the role and work of the Holy Spirit than the other two Synoptic Gospels. The references to the Holy Spirit in each are:
Luke – 17 references
Matthew – 12 references
Mark – 6 references[10]
Take the example of the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus as recorded in Luke 4:14-30. Luke mentions (v. 14) that Jesus returns in the power of the Holy Spirit (δυνάμει τοῦ Πνεύματος). Mark and Matthew say nothing of the Holy Spirit in their versions on the start of the ministry of Jesus[11] (See attached parallel version of the relevant Scriptures).
We are left with many questions related to redactive criticism. Why is Luke choosing to communicate a story that Mark and Matthew both do not adhere to? Has Mark simply emitted the story of unrolling the scroll of Isaiah, or has Luke creatively added the story?[12] Not being within the scope of this tutorial, though pertinent to the discussion, is rationally discovering the validity or otherwise of the Lukan passage. After redactive criticism, assuming we believe the authenticity of such a narrative (that many scholars have done), we can merely say, Luke is clearly deciding to add references of the Holy Spirit and it would seem, Luke is wishing to, ‘show the centrality of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ ministry’.[13] This is consistent later on, whether he shows the centrality of the Holy Spirit in the life of the early church. As David Hill writes about the whole of Luke-Acts,[14] ‘The Spirit is the main hero of the story,’ and no doubt this could be said of the Luke 4:14-21 section.
Interestingly, Mark and Matthew identify Jesus as one calling for repentance, while Luke leaves the repentance mantra to John, and he prefers to highlight the importance of the empowering Holy Spirit in the ministry of Jesus.[15]
In this short tutorial I hope to have shown you the great continuity within the Luke-Acts writings and therefore the continuity of theological understanding and commitment to the work of the Holy Spirit. Finally, I have shown briefly that Luke quite often will focus on the Holy Spirit to a greater degree than the other Synoptic writers, as we have seen in Luke 4:14-21 passage.

[1] See Roger Stronstad (1984). The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, page 3.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Stronstad writes, ‘the literary unity of Luke-Acts must compel the interpreter to recognize a theological homogeneity in the theology of the two books,’ (page 5). He then goes on to mention that this is no less relevant to Luke’s charismatic theology than any other theological doctrine of motif.
[5] Quoted in J. Verheyden (1999). The Unity of Luke-Acts. Leuven: Leuven University Press, page 180. Also quoted in John Michael Penney (1997). The Missionary Emphasis of Lukan Pneumatology. Wiltshire: Sheffield Academic Press, page 17.
[6] Ibid, page 173-174.
[7] Ibid. See pages 165-184. A great quote from John Michael Penney says that, ‘Luke’s primary and pervasive interest is the work of the Holy Spirit in initiating, empowering and directing the church in its eschatological worldwide mission,’ page 15. See John Michael Penney (1997). The Missionary Emphasis of Lukan Pneumatology. Wiltshire: Sheffield Academic Press.
[8] Adapted from Stronstad’s, Thematic Structure of Luke-Acts, page 34.
[9] Penney says, ‘The Holy Spirit is the power by which salvation is both announced and effected (Luke 4:18/Isaiah 61:1) in the ministry of Jesus, and this is the same power by which universal mission in Acts in announced and effected,’ page 23.
[10] Cited in Penney (1997), page 26.
[11] See James B. Shelton (1991). Mighty in Word and Deed: The Role of the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, page 63.
[12] Ibid, page 66.
[13] Ibid, page 63.
[14] Referenced to in, William H. Shepherd Jr. (1994). The Narrative Function of the Holy Spirit As A Character in Luke-Acts. Georgia: Scholars Press, page 35-36.
[15] Ibid, page 66.

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