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PhD dissertation on Luke in Finland

April 2009
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There has just been a disputation in Finland, at the University of Helsinki, on the Gospel of Luke. The disputation took place April 25, and its focus was this dissertation by Anni Pesonen:

Luke, the Friend of Sinners.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Theology, Department of Biblical Studies

The dissertation is available in pdf format on this link.

The author’s abstract of her work runs thus:
“I examine the portrayal of Jesus as a friend of toll collectors and sinners in the Third Gospel. I aim at a comprehensive view on the Lukan sinner texts, combining questions of the origin and development of these texts with the questions of Luke’s theological message, of how the text functions as literature, and of the social-historical setting(s) behind the texts.

Within New Testament scholarship researchers on the historical Jesus mostly still hold that a special mission to toll collectors and sinners was central in Jesus’ public activity. Within Lukan studies, M. Goulder, J. Kiilunen and D. Neale have claimed that this picture is due to Luke’s theological vision and the liberties he took as an author. Their view is disputed by other Lukan scholars.

I discuss methods which scholars have used to isolate the typical language of Luke’s alleged written sources, or to argue for the source-free creation by Luke himself. I claim that the analysis of Luke’s language does not help us to the origin of the Lukan pericopes. I examine the possibility of free creativity on Luke’s part in the light of the invention technique used in ancient historiography. Invention was an essential part of all ancient historical writing and therefore quite probably Luke used it, too. Possibly Luke had access to special traditions, but the nature of oral tradition does not allow reconstruction.

I analyze Luke 5:1-11; 5:27-32; 7:36-50; 15:1-32; 18:9-14; 19:1-10; 23:39-43. In most of these some underlying special tradition is possible though far from certain. It becomes evident that Luke’s reshaping was so thorough that the pericopes as they now stand are decidedly Lukan creations. This is indicated by the characteristic Lukan story-telling style as well as by the strongly unified Lukan theology of the pericopes. Luke’s sinners and Pharisees do not fit in the social-historical context of Jesus’ day. The story-world is one of polarized right and wrong. That Jesus is the Christ, representative of God, is an intrinsic part of the story-world. Luke wrote a theological drama inspired by tradition. He persuaded his audience to identify as (repenting) sinners. Luke’s motive was that he saw the sinners in Jesus’ company as forerunners of Gentile Christianity.”


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