Christianity 201

November 16, 2022

John’s Gospel Has a Prologue; So Does Luke’s

One of the books in my possession is an early copy of what would later become The Message of Luke in “The Bible Speaks Today” series from IVP. My copy has a larger title, Savior of the World.

In the section dealing with chapter two — appropriate to the season of the year we are approaching — author Michael Wilcock notes that there are three stories presented revolving around three key characters:

  • the angel
  • the prophet
  • the child himself

and also three sayings from each of them:

  • “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
  • 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
    30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
    32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.” …
    34 …“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
  • 49 “Why were you searching for me? … Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

On the latter, Wilcock writes:

…So the first recorded words of Jesus are a statement about himself, and a claim to a relationship between himself and God different from, and deeper than, anything that has been known before. Furthermore, it is a relationship into which he is going to bring all others who are prepared to put their faith in God through him. He will teach them to address their prayers regularly to their ‘Father’ (11:2), and they will learn to use the affection, intimate name of ‘Abba’ (‘Daddy’) which he himself uses. Thus early in his Gospel, Luke introduces the great object of the divine plan of salvation, just as John does, in his own way, at the beginning of his story of Jesus: “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become the children of God.”

Both these truths, that he is the son of God, and that he has come into the world so that others might become sons of God are implied in his words in 2:49. For to be “in my Father’s house” really amounts to the same thing as to be “about my Father’s business”: where my father is, where he centers his activity, there I am always to be found as well. (Again, this is Luke’s equivalent of some of the great sayings in John: “I and the Father are one…” “The Son can do nothing of his own accord but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does that the son does likewise… I always do what is pleasing to him.”) But the Father’s work, as we have seen, is the work of salvation; so this is the work in which the Son also “must” be engaged. Thus, early in his career, does Jesus express the compulsion that is upon him to be at one with his Father in the saving of men.

So we have Luke essentially including this passage as if to offer a parallel to what we normally refer to as John’s prologue.

If you’re looking to go a little deeper into a particular book of the Bible but want something that has content accessible for laity — i.e. not written for scholars or academics — I do recommend The Bible Speaks Today series from InterVarsity Press (IVP). Additionally, you might want to look at the Life Application Commentaries from Tyndale House, and also consider a series of commentaries by Warren Wiersbe which all begin with the word “Be” (David C. Cook Publishing).

One of the challenges of our present publishing environment is that if you only purchase books online, you can’t see titles in these series in order to make a comparison. If possible, find a brick and mortar book retailer where that is an option. Even if they only 3 or 4 selections from each series, it will give you a much better idea of what you’re getting.

John’s gospel is generally considered the oldest of the four. Luke wouldn’t have had access to it, and wouldn’t be writing in response to it; so as we tease out the idea of Luke 2 being Luke’s prologue, we should still keep in mind that Luke’s goal was to summarize the life of Christ after considerable research and part of good research is organization of the material. We can think of chapter 2 as being a precis of what follows.

The origins of the synoptic gospels are the subject of much academic writing and even though this is Christianity 201 and not 101, it’s beyond the scope of what we talk about here. However, Wikipedia has a chart I thought regular readers here would find interesting:

Source — Wikipedia article on “Gospel;” image link: