Tag Archives: Luke

Sabbatum Excerpt: Mark Mittelberg on the Historical Reliability of the Gospels

Certainly people have challenged the historical reliability of the Gospels—such as renowned archaeologist Sir William M. Ramsay, who thought that Luke was foolish as a storyteller because he mentioned so many specific names, places, and dates. These specifics would be easy to check out and refute—assuming, as Ramsay did initially, that they were not true. But after thirty years of studying, searching, and digging, Ramsay famously concluded that “Luke is a historian of the first rank. . . . This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”


Mittelberg, Mark (2010-10-25). The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (p. 91). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What I Think Could Happen When One Looks Back While Ploughing


Reading the calling of the would-be-disciples (Luke 9:62) in native language and context makes it more sense to us who have either plowed themselves or seen firsthand before. I could not have understood the text clearer than the one who has lived his life with a plow. This is my attempt to explain the text in Nepali context. The passage (9:57-62) is a call from Jesus to three prospective disciples, where Jesus highlights this verse (62) as the main qualification to become his disciple.

A. Qualification of a disciple (Luke 9:62)

No one puts a hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God. The analogy of putting a hand on a plow and looking back seems to be taken out from Jewish traditions. Apparently, the plow in the ancient Jewish world is more or less similar to the plow still being used in today’s world in the southern hemisphere. Plow, in its simplest structure, is a triangular blade that fits in the wooden forked frame. Often times, oxen pull the plow. In some cultures, water buffaloes, asses, or sometimes people also pull the plow to furrow the field. When a plower plows the field, he must look straight ahead to make furrow straight. Looking back is a sign of distraction or being ignorant of his work and responsibility. Such a man cannot be trusted. Master can only hope that this kind of servant will finish the job well. In the same manners, Jesus says that a person with such character cannot be entrusted with kingdom responsibilities thus misfit in his kingdom.

B. Assessment and Application

We usually undermine the challenges of following Christ. Self-denial, bearing-cross and following Jesus are three major qualifying attributes that Jesus’ followers must possess. In our present day self-centered culture, we promote self-indulgence, egocentricity, and narcissism than denying our pride, prejudices, and ungodliness. And we take great comfort on what Jesus has achieved for us. We want Jesus in our lives. We love church and church calendar full of events. Also we love to identify ourselves as Christian, followers of Christ. In return, we do not want to talk about the other aspect of our personal and communal relationship with Jesus. To associate ourselves with Jesus or be called followers of Jesus bears a significant meaning. It is a serious business in light of the passage where Jesus has put certain qualifications in order to be called his followers.

In the Gospel narratives, the crowd also followed him to a certain degree. They were following Jesus more in a physical sense than spiritual sense. But when Jesus calls us to follow him, he demands us to follow him wholeheartedly. From his reactions to those three would-be-followers about putting a hand on the plow and not looking back, I can put this narrative into my own culture and context.

This is a common sense that a hardworking plowman is never going to put his hand on plow and look back. There are certain ramifications for what I think could happen when ignoring this common sense:

  1. If a plowman looks back or getting distracted while his one hand on plow, he will most likely miss the furrow and plowing will not be straight.
  2. Putting one hand on plow and looking back cannot dig the earth deep enough for proper cultivation. Harvesting good crop depends also in the depth of the furrow.
  3. Often times, it takes steady and firm grab on the plow to get done job well.
  4. Another serious consequence of putting one hand on plow and looking back is breaking the plow-blade in the process of furrowing. Plowing too deep in the earth can dismantle plow and occasionally break the plow-blade. That means, a chunk of time will be needed to the plow. It is waste of time and energy. In the context of this text, it is very unlikely that a family keeps extra plough or blade in their homes.
  5. Putting one hand on plow and looking back can be a hazard for cattle too. If the plow-man is not careful enough and blade is either in too deep earth or up in the shallow, plow-blade can pierce the hind legs of oxen or any other animal that are used to pull the plow. Once blade cut one of the oxen, you have to find another one. Again, it is most unlikely that a neighbor let you borrow his ox in the busy season of farming.

Assessing all these possible implications of putting one hand on plow and looking back when you are in work, we as a hirer also do not want such people in the job in first place. Then, how can we be such ignorant of Jesus’ calling us to not put our one hand on plow and look back? From this passage, I take away these three qualifications of discipleship: self-denial, bearing-cross, and following Jesus with putting my sight ahead and hand firm on the plow.

Sabbatum Excerpt: Sir William Ramsay on the Trustworthiness of Luke’s Gospel Account

William Ramsey, a noted historian and archaeologist, set out to prove that Luke’s history was filled with errors but emerged from his study surprised, saying, “Luke’s history is unsurpassed in trustworthiness.” He discovered that Cyrenius was twice governor of Syria, first when Christ was born and again at a later period. The cycle of census shows that the approximate one recorded by Luke was in 6-5 B.C., which is the commonly accepted date of Christ’s birth. [1]


[1] Erwin W. Lutzer, Seven Reasons Why You can Trust the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1998), 75.

Prerequisite Qualification of the Disciples: Partakers of Jesus’ Mission as His Disciples



A. Relation between Synoptic Gospels

Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem can be found only in Luke. He has an extensive detailed narrative that no other rival Gospels can match. Matthew has only two verses (19:1-2) that come close to what Luke have (9:51). Mark has one verse that is little look alike. When Mark is given the priority to be the first Gospel, it is obvious that Luke does not follow the Mark but adds his own material including possibly found in Q and L as well.

B. Preview of the Passion of Christ

Luke opens up his narrative with very distinctive language of taken up or ascended to point toward the inevitable death of Jesus on the cross. Mark does not give us anything about this event in his Gospel. I wonder why he did not mention it! In his Gospel, Jesus is presented as the obedient, wonder-worker, servant of God. However, it still remains inquisitive to me that Matthew and Mark both say nothing about the event that can be seen as the pre-passion buildup moment. Jesus’ setting his face toward Jerusalem (8:52-56), the attitude of Samaritans and their refusal to receive Jesus has significant theological weight. Matthew has spent ¼ of his writing on the Passion Week; Mark had 1/3 of his narrative dedicated to the Passion Week. But they do not have one of the events that clearly indicate what awaits Jesus in Jerusalem.

We know how much Matthew likes to talk about Jesus’ healing ministry in his Gospel. So, he has Jesus exorcising and healing people, and a multitude following him in Galilean land. Luke has Jesus sending messengers to Samaritan village that is consistent of messengers going to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. This is the only place in Luke that Samaritans are sketched in a negative tone.

C. Prerequisite Demands and Cost of Following Christ

In relation to Matthew, Luke’s account of three would-be-followers is slightly different. Matthew (8:19:22) mentions a scribe (γραμματεὺς) as a prospective disciple. Luke does not identify the man but simply tells ‘someone’ (τις). Again Matthew likes to suggest the second would-be-follower as another μαθητῶν (8:21), whereas Luke merely mentions him as another man (9:59). Rest of the conversation between Jesus and these would-be-followers are very similar in Matthew (8:20-22) except Luke has three characters conversing with Jesus about following him (9:61). Thus, it leaves us with minor textual discrepancies in Matthew’s and Luke’s account.

II. WORD STUDY – συμπληρόω

Συμπληρόω occurs only three times through out the Bible. Two of them occur in Luke (8:23; 9:51) and one occurs in Acts (2:1). The Septuagint does not contain this word at all. However, the uses of συμπληρόω can be found in the early Christian literatures by Philo and Josephus. Luke chose συμπληρόω to mean, “be swamped” (8:23) and «come to an end» or “be fulfilled” (9:51). The former meaning “be swamped” is used as συνεπληροῦντο (they were being filled or swamped with water). In the latter uses, συμπληροῦσθαι (were approaching or drew near) (9:51) gives the general idea of coming to the end of a particular period of time or fulfillment. In other words, God’s plan is going to be revealed and be actualized soon.


A. Jesus’ Messianic Manifestation

Prior to rejection from Samaritans, Luke has feeding of five thousands, series of exorcism, the great confession of Peter, Jesus’ prediction of his death and resurrection, and his transfiguration narratives. All these narratives serve one purpose that confirms Jesus is who he claimed to be. He is the very Son of God. Those were the messianic acts that validate Jesus’ claims. At the meantime, Jesus is also trying to teach the disciples what is awaiting for them in Jerusalem. The reason for Samaritan’s refusal to receive Jesus and his disciples is because he set his face toward Jerusalem. The correlation between the language of taken up and set his face toward Jerusalem can help readers comprehend the Lucan Christology. They tell us that Jesus is going to be taken up or he is ascending to heaven. In order to actualize this great thing to happen, he has to go to Jerusalem. In the grand scheme of God’s salvific work, Jesus who just showed his disciples and people around Galilee that he is the deliverer now has to receive a horrendous death.

B. Jesus’ Humiliating Rejection

Here comes the Lord of the heavens and the earth wanting to go Samaritan village. However, Samaritans did not show any interest to host Jesus and his disciples. Their political prejudice against Jews clearly overrule their good modest practice of showing great hospitality to the guest. Jesus, in different occasions, was received warmly. This time, however, was the different setting that overshadowed the previous reports of them becoming very positive toward Jesus. They did not like Jesus’ idea of traveling to Jerusalem. It is understood that Jesus is certainly going to worship in the Jerusalem Temple. This one fact changed their hearts, because Samaritans believed that the true God of Israel must be worship in their land, Mount Gerizim.

C. Enhanced Preview – Rejection and Humiliation

The turning down of Jesus’ messengers request from Samaritans is humiliating. No ancient people would turn down any guest’s request for food and lodge as long as they have. This provoked two brothers – John and James. Samaritans’ antagonistic attitude toward Jesus can be compared of the one in Nazareth where his own people rejected him. In terms of humiliation, the settings are different but the truth is, in both occasions, they humiliated Jesus. While reading this narrative, our interpretation of Greek verb ἐδέξαντο can give us very different picture of what really happened there. This root form of this verb simply means, «to receive» or «to welcome,» or «to extend hospitality.» If this is the case, the text should be read, they received him not, instead of they rejected or refused to receive him. Luke could have used ἀποδοκιμάζω (to reject) to communicate the narrative, that was the ever the case. The passive form of δέχομαι is translated into active form. This gives the whole new interpretation that makes Samaritans actively rejecting Jesus.

On the other hand, if we go with majority of the scholars who turned the passive form of δέχομαι to active form in their translation, the narrative will point to Samaritans actively rejecting Jesus because they did not like Jesus going to Jerusalem. Either way we translate this sentence, what it does not change is the fact that Jesus was denied to minister them. He was not received in Samaria. This becomes the reality for all who associate themselves with Jesus Christ shall face rejection and humiliation, not only in the past but it will remain same in the days to come.


The very first step to follow him is to reject self. This idea decentralizes yourself and Christ becomes the center of your life. He reigns over all. He is in the driving seat now. Jesus is interested in wholehearted commitment – an absolute surrender.

Knowing what is going to happen to him, Jesus was so adamant to go to Jerusalem and face the cruel fate. His impeccable character of resoluteness and uncompromising commitment are the lessons for his disciples. At this point, the disciples had no idea what is going to happen. Still this is going to be the reminder for them what it means to follow Jesus. Following Christ comes with a high price. The prerequisite demands of following Christ can make people nervous. He demands unswerving commitment, love for God, and passion for his mission. Nothing comes before these qualifications.

The very first step to follow him is to reject self. This idea decentralizes yourself and Christ becomes the center of your life. He reigns over all. He is in the driving seat now. Jesus is interested in wholehearted commitment – an absolute surrender.

In order to surrender self to God, our ego must be put to death. The portrait of carrying ones own cross is the constant reminder that we might end up with same fate as Jesus had. Rejection and humiliation becomes a part of our lives. Next, no duties or responsibilities can substitute God’s commandment. Obedience to his commandment shows the level of our commitment to God. Merely physical following Christ cannot be counted as disciple. They can be followers just as more than five thousand followed Jesus during those days when he fed them in the deserts of Israel. But when it mattered the most in the night when he was betrayed and flogged and crucified later, there was hardly anyone who was with him. Therefore, following Christ require commitment that comes with high price.

Biblical Nuggets: The Missionary Movement of the Early Church

God’s Purpose in the Redemptive History

1. Suggested to Abraham 

Genesis 12:1-3 ESV

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. (2) And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. (3) I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

2. Prophesied by Daniel (2:1-49)

3. Taught and Commissioned by Jesus

a. Mat 28:18-20 ESV

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

b. Luk 24:45-49 ESV

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, (46) and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, (47) and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (48) You are witnesses of these things. (49) And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

c. Act 1:7-8 ESV

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. (8) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

4. Explained by Paul: This is the mystery once hidden but now revealed.


Class Notes from HI361 | History of Western Christianity