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Out of the question

by
22 November 2011

St Luke’s Gospel and our Lady

Write, if you have any answers to the questions listed at the end of this section, or would like to add to the answers below.

Your answers

St Luke tells us that he “carefully investigated everything from the beginning”. Is it possible that he interviewed Mary in person?

When I have given lectures on the topic of my book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, I have quite often been asked about this. Briefly, I think it is possible, but not very likely.

If the author of Luke’s Gospel was the person who includes himself in the “we” of some passages of Acts (which I still think likely, although many scholars do not), then he visited Jerusalem, spent time with the leaders of the church there, including Jesus’s brother James, and may well have stayed in the area during the two years that Paul spent in prison in Caesarea. This would be around the years AD 59-60.

We know nothing reliable about Jesus’s mother, Mary, after the notice in Acts 1.14, but the tradition that she stayed and died in Jerusalem is more plausible than the notion that she moved to Ephesus. But since she must have been born, at the latest, in 20 BC, she would have been around 80 when Luke was in Jerusalem. Some people did live to that age, but far fewer than in our society.

James and other members of Jesus’s family, however, would have been readily accessible to Luke. So, in the first two chapters of the Gospel, he could be dependent on family tradition. He says that Mary “treasured all these words and pondered them” (2.19), and that she “treasured all these things in her heart” (2.51). It is not easy to see the point of these statements unless they indicate that Mary was the source of the stories.

In that case, the word “pondered” would suggest that she not only remembered but reflected deeply on the significance of these events. The stories as Luke tells them could therefore draw on some of Mary’s own interpretative reflections.

In addition, we must certainly allow that Luke has written up these traditions in a way that is not merely factual. The canticles, for example, are a literary device that he has borrowed from the Old Testament.

(Professor) Richard Bauckham
Cambridge

This statement is more likely to be a literary contrivance to provide an authoritative veneer. Let us put aside issues of how far into decrepitude or long dead Jesus’s mother would have been at the time of writing. If we take this as mean­ing that her memories were drawn upon, we have some difficult considerations.

With the exception of one passage, Luke jumps from the birth stories to the baptism of the adult Jesus, after which Mary plays little part in the events. So we are left with an option that Mary felt that — apart from his birth — the majority of her son’s life was inconsequential (which would be strange for a mother) or “Luke” judged her memories to be on the whole irrelevant.

If Luke does preserve Mary’s memories, we should then assume that she was not at the crucifixion (as she is missing from his account), and instead John’s Gospel gets that detail wrong.

Colin Setchfield
Chingford, London

Your questions

We have a very competent secretary with accuracy of recording on our PCC. The incumbent, however, has taken to altering items raised and recorded to fit his own agenda. I think that this is illegal — am I correct? How can this be dealt with?

Name & Address Supplied

What, if any, was the involvement of the International Consultation on English Texts (ICET) in the drawing up of the new (and slightly more traditional) rites for the celebration of the eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church? As members of ICET, were English-speaking mem­bers of the Anglican Communion involved in this? If not, why not?

G. S.

Address: Out of the Question, Church Times, 13-17 Long Lane, London EC1A 9PN.

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