Monthly Archives: September 2018

The Orthodox Faith – The Bible – The New Testament (3d)

St. Luke was the only non-Jew among the Gospel writers. He was an educated man, a doctor, who wrote very good Greek. Because St. Luke was a doctor, some scholars think that his vocabulary appeared to use several medical terms, although many disagree. He was also a companion of St. Paul on some of his preaching tours. St. Luke was also the author of the Book of Acts, which describes the history of the early church from Christ’s Ascension to St. Paul’s journey to Rome.

At the opening of his Gospel, St. Luke writes that he collected information from nay people who had known Jesus. His Gospel is dedicated to “Theophilus”. No one knows who Theophilus was. It was a Greek name and so some say St. Luke wrote his Gospel and Book of Acts for a non-Jewish Christian. However, in Greek ‘Theophilus’ means ‘lover of God’ so St. Luke may have used this name to indicate that his Gospel was written for all Christians, Jews and Gentiles alike.

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theoph’ilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed. (Lk 1:1-4)

So he really makes the effort to learn as much about Jesus as he could. His Gospel provides a lot of information about the birth of St. John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.  Because St. Luke gives so much information about the births of St. John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, St. Luke probably knew the Mother of God who gave him the details. In addition, the long genealogical list of ancestors by St. Matthew and St. Luke differs in several details so St. Matthew’s genealogy is from St. Joseph and St. Luke’s from the Theotokos. In any case, both genealogies show Jesus descent from King David. This is important because the Old Testament tells us that the Messiah was to be a descendant of King David. The fact that St. Luke’s genealogy is from Mary’s point of view shows that St. Luke was acquainted with the Mother of God. 

St. Luke is reputed to have painted the first icon of the Mother of God. It would be difficult to prove this from history; it is said the “Vladimir” icon of the Theotokos was painted by St. Luke. 

Also, at the end of his Gospel St. Luke related the following story:

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emma’us, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cle’opas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (Lk 13-18)

People believe this because although the name Cleopas is mentioned, the name of the other is not mentioned so this may be St. Luke referring to himself. As mentioned above, St. Luke was a companion of St. Paul. In fact, several sections of the Book of Acts are simply taken from his travel diary. Several parts of the Book of Acts give the details of their sailing to Rome. For example:

“… embarking in a ship of Adramyt’tium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristar’chus, a Macedo’nian from Thessaloni’ca. The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul kindly, and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. And putting to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. And when we had sailed across the sea which is off Cili’cia and Pamphyl’ia, we came to Myra in Ly’cia. There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy, and put us on board. We sailed slowly for a number of days, and arrived with difficulty off Cni’dus, and as the wind did not allow us to go on, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmo’ne. Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lase’a.” (Acts 27:2-8)

Early in the 20th century an English sailor followed St. Luke’s directions and decided that the details are quite accurate and a modern sailor could follow them.

Generally, we can say that St. Matthew’s Gospel was directed towards Jews. St. Luke’s Gospel was directed towards non-Jews. This Gospel has a universalistic quality.

Fr. John

The Orthodox Faith – The Bible – The New Testament (3c)

The Gospel according to St. Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels. Traditionally, it was believed that St. Matthew wrote first and St. Mark shortened his Gospel, but many scholars today think that St. Mark wrote first. Scholars will continue to study this issue, but such questions do not affect the value of the Gospel.

Traditionally, St. Mark is believed to be St. Peter’s interpreter. St. Peter was a Galilean fisherman and probably he had little or no education, so he would not have had the opportunity to study Greek or Latin. At this time the Jews spoke Aramaic. However, St. Peter was from Galilee. Galilee was more diverse than Judea so there were many non-Jews and these people would have spoken Greek or Latin. People tend to think that people in the Roman Empire spoke Latin. Of course, there were many, many Latin speakers. However, the Roman Empire was quite ethnically diverse. Therefore, most people across the Empire spoke Greek. This was true even inside Rome. The point is this – St. Peter probably spoke at least some Greek or Latin, because of course, as a fisherman he would have to had to speak to non-Jewish customers. However, St. Peter was probably not fluent in Greek or Latin and so St. Mark acted as his interpreter when St. Peter had difficulty expressing himself in Greek or Latin. Because of this, St. Mark knew St. Peter’s preaching very well, and when he came to write his Gospel, he based it on St. Peter’s preaching. Some of the Fathers thought that this Gospel as written in Rome to strengthen the Christian community there when they were being persecuted by Emperor Nero in 64AD. Other Fathers taught that it was written about the year 70, when the Jewish war was being fought. The destruction of Jerusalem during this war made many Christians think that it signaled the end of the world. In either case, St. Mark wrote this Gospel to support the Roman Christians during these horrible events.

Another characteristic in St. Mark’s Gospel is what is called by scholars as the “Messianic Secret”. This theory claims that St. Mark did not say directly that Jesus was the Messiah. Of course, Jesus’ teaching and miracles showed that he was the Messiah. Jesus did not openly claim to be the Messiah, and asked disciples to avoid mentioning this. This was because the popular view of the Messiah was that of a political or even military leader who would end Roman occupation of the Holy Land and establish a Jewish kingdom. Jesus Christ was not this kind of Messiah. It even took a while for the disciples to understand this. It was only after the crucifixion and resurrection that the disciples fully realized what kind of Messiah Jesus was and that He was “true God of true God”, as the Creed says.

It is traditionally thought that the Last Supper took place in the house of St. Mark’s mother. Also, St. Mark is thought to be the young man who fled after Jesus’ arose from the dead.

And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body; and they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked. (Mk 14:51-52)

St. Mark’s Gospel is written ‘on the run’ so to speak. St. Mark did not write long, elegant sentences. For example, rather than write in long, complete sentences he will say things many times as if he is quoting St. Peter’s preaching style, which didn’t use literary elegance. Also, he frequently uses the word “immediately”, “at once”, indicating preaching on the run.

As we can see from the Acts of the Apostles, St. (John) Mark accompanied St. Paul and Barnabas on the missionary journey. However, for some reason chose to leave St. Paul and Barnabas mid-journey:

“Now Paul and his company set sail from Paphos, and came to Perga in Pamphyl’ia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem.” (Acts 13:13)

This angered St. Paul so much that he did not let St. Mark rejoin them.

“And Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphyl’ia, and had not gone with them to the work.” (Acts 15:37-38)

But St. Paul and St. Mark eventually reconciled. We can see this from the final greeting at the end of St. Paul’s letter to Philemon.

“Ep’aphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristar’chus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.” (Phil 1:23-24)

Fr. John