Monday, May 18, 2015

Why Didn't Luke Say Jesus Went To Pray In Luke 4?

Luke and Mark both include that Jesus got away from all the crowds so he could be alone. The account in Mark reads, “Jesus got up, left, and went away to a secluded place” (Mark 1:35b; cf. Luke 4:42a). It is in Peter’s account that we see find Jesus’ purpose for getting away explicitly stated: “And he was praying there” (Mark 1:35c).

Why does Mark include the purpose of Jesus’ withdrawal, while Luke does not? Consider Darrell Bock’s discussion:
“The normal explanation for this omission is that Luke wanted to focus only on the issue of mission here and so will refer to prayer in 5:16 (Creed 1930: 72; Luce 1933: 125). This explanation seems lame. Luke uses references to prayer close together (9:18, 28), while the mention of it here would fit his tendency to speak for it at key transition points. It seems better to see an additional source here distinct from Mark. Marshall (1978: 197) and Lohmeyer (1959: 42) allude to such a traditional source. It might even be possible that Luke did not use Mark here at all for this summary” (Luke, I:1:1–9:50, BECNT [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994], 437-438). 
There are a couple of preliminary points worth making. Bock is at least open to the idea that Mark is not the source from which Luke gets his material in this section. That is a big first step. Bock points out that Luke would not have been out of character by including why Jesus went away from the crowds. It would not have disrupted the narrative or distracted from the focus on Jesus’ mission to proclaim the kingdom. There is an alternative position, which I believe fits best with the historical testimony of the origin of the Gospels. Luke either does not include why Jesus went away because he did not have a record of it in the sources he used, or he chose not include this point for whatever reason. The latter seems less likely given the points made by Bock. But, then again, it's not entirely impossible. Luke, then, does not say anything of the purpose. Peter remembers why Jesus went away, though. After all, he had been among the four who found him before the crowds got to him. So, when he delivers his messages in Rome, he tells his audience what Jesus was doing in that secluded place. He was praying.

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