The meaning of “orderly” (kathexēs) account in Luke 1:3
Fung, Wing Wo Benjamin
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Luke, in the preface of his gospel, says that he is going to write an “orderly” (καθεξῆς, Luke 1:3) account. However, scholars have no consensus on the writing order of Luke’s gospel. As what kind of order Luke uses may affect the approach of study of his gospel, this thesis aims to ascertain Luke’s writing order through the following objectives: (1) to analyze the different suggestions of “orderly” accounts by various scholars; (2) to conduct textual, grammatical and semantic studies of Luke’s two prefaces; (3) to conduct a thorough word study for καθεξῆς, which includes a study of its etymology, its related words, and its contemporary Greek usages; (4) to analyze the narrative sequence in Luke’s gospel and compare it with those of Matthew and Mark’s; and (5) to analyze and evaluate the writing methodologies of Greco-Roman and Jewish historians and compared them with those in Luke’s gospel. Most scholars have reservations about the Gospel’s order being strictly chronological. One of the major reasons is because when the content of the Gospel is compared with those of Matthew and Mark’s, there are numerous unresolved problems regarding chronology which lead them to believe that καθεξῆς does not refer to chronological order, and some even believe that it does not mean any particular order at all. However, the findings of this thesis support the argument that Luke writes his gospel in strict chronological order. This conclusion is based on the following observations. (1) The contents of Luke’s two prefaces indicate that the Gospel likely is written in such an order. Luke has probably adopted the common methodologies used by Greco-Roman and Jewish historians for writing prefaces when writing his two prefaces. Greco-Roman and Jewish historians, when writing their prefaces, usually indicate in their prefaces the writing order of their writings, and if it is not explicitly stated therein, they would write in chronological order. The word study of καθεξῆς reveals that it most likely means chronological order, but even if the research results are wrong and καθεξῆς does not indicate any writing order, according to the above-mentioned common practice that if the writing order is not explicitly stated in the preface, the writer would write in chronological order, Luke still probably writes in chronological order. (2) The narrative sequence in Luke’s gospel indicates that the Gospel is likely written in strict chronological order. I have divided the Gospel into 110 narrative accounts, studied, compared them with their parallel accounts in the gospels of Matthew and Mark (if there is any) and categorized them. The investigation shows that Luke has separated his gospel into twelve sections by means of eleven summary account statements and has recorded them in overlapping chronological order, a practice commonly used by ancient historians such as the authors of the books in the Old Testament and Greco-Roman historians. Each of these statements includes a preview of the next section or an expansion of events in the current section which is not described either in the current or the next section, and the implied time frame of the preview or expansion overlaps with the time frame of the next section. However, the practice of overlapping account statements is merely a common writing technique in Luke’s time and does not undermine Luke’s intention to write in chronological order. Furthermore, 99 of the 110 narrative accounts are observed to be written in chronological order. For the other 11 accounts, while Luke has not provided adequate temporal indicators to facilitate the determination of their order, and there is either no parallel account in Matthew and Mark or the information therein is inadequate to determine the writing order, there is no evidence to show that they are not written in such an order. For example, 9 out of the 11 accounts with writing order undetermined are found in section 9:52(b)-19:48, which records Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem. Because of the difficulty in ascertaining the writing order of these accounts, a chronological order for this section has been questioned by many scholars. However, my investigation results reveal that section 9:52(b)-19:48 shares similar writing style with sections 5:1-8:3 and 8:4-9:52(a), which are found to be written in chronological order. As a result, it is reasonable to believe that section 9:52(b)-19:48 is also written in chronological order. Moreover, the chronological order of 9:52(b)-19:48 seems to be supported by Jesus’ route to Jerusalem in John chapters 7-12, which is believed by scholars such as Thomas and Gundry to be written in chronological order.
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