Further thoughts on the Gospel of Luke: Jesus as ‘Lord’ and ‘Christ’

Above all, the two most significant christological titles for Luke are surely Lord (kyrios) and Christ (christos).

The word ‘kyrios’ had a very wide range of meanings. Kyrios can be just a term of polite respect to a teacher (as it is still used by students of their teachers in Greece today or so I am told). So it is unlikely that Luke, situating his narrative in the intensely monotheistic environment of 1st century Judaism, intends Jesus to be understood as divine when the term is used of Jesus in his gospel.

For Luke, Jesus is a royal David figure, the ‘christos’, Christ (2:11, 26). Peter confesses Jesus as Messiah in 9:20. Luke states that it is as christos that Jesus suffered and died. So we read that the risen Jesus in Luke 24 tells the disciples on the road to Emmaus that the christos had to suffer and die as foretold ‘in all the scriptures’. However the claim that the Christ/Messiah must suffer is a story invented by Luke because there is no mention of a suffering Messiah anywhere in the Old Testament. Taking their lead from Paul of Tarsus who in his First Letter to the Corinthians asserted ‘that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures‘, Christians have argued that the Scriptures (ie the Jewish Bible) predicts that the Messiah would suffer and die for the sins of the world.

The Jewish Bible fails to substantiate this claim. The messiah is never portrayed as suffering and dying for anyone’s sins. Christians sometimes refer to one of the four Servant Songs (Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9 and 52:13-53:12) to be found in the Book of Isaiah – Isaiah 53. But the Servant in all these passages is the nation of Israel itself – personified – as a contextual reading makes clear. Nowhere does the text even mention the messiah. The authoritative work The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church notes,

‘Amongst British Old Testament scholars the prevalent opinion identifies the Servant with Israel in some form‘ (from the article, ‘Servant Songs’)

As Professor Christopher Tuckett of Oxford University correctly notes: ‘appeals to the description of the suffering servant figure of Isaiah 53 are not relevant here: the figure of Isaiah 53 is not said to be a messianic figure’ (p146, Christology and The New Testament, Edinburgh University Press, 2001).

A final point should be made about Luke’s christology: Jesus is very much subordinate to God. God raises Jesus from the dead in Acts 2:32-3 (Jesus does not raise himself). God works miracles through Jesus in Acts 2:22. God makes Jesus both Lord and Christ in Acts 2:36. Luke makes a vital ontological distinction between Jesus and God in Acts 2:22: Jesus is supremely a man chosen by God to do God’s will (see also Acts 17: 31). This last observation accords with the Quranic description of Jesus as a mere man who rejected any claim to divinity, ‘The Messiah does by no means disdain that he should be a servant of God’ (Qur’an 4:172). The Quran continues, “Indeed, they have disbelieved who have said, “God is the Messiah (Jesus), son of Mary.” The Messiah said, “Children of Israel, worship God, my Lord and your Lord.” (Quran, 5:72)

Extract from my book Jesus as Western Scholars See Him, pp 27-28. See first part of this article here

Categories: Bible, Christology, Jesus, New Testament scholarship

2 replies

  1. And The Trinitarian insist that Jesus is God


  1. The Gospel of Luke teaches that Jesus, the son of God, was created by God. – Blogging Theology

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