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The Atonement In Lucan

Theology in Recent Discussion

Greg Herrick

Chapter 1
The Need for the Study
The study of Luke-Acts has received considerable attention over the last thirty or more years. Studies have
brought to light questions regarding redaction criticism and Luke’s use of sources,1 the reliability of Luke as a histo-
rian and the relation of Acts to Paul’s letters and travels,2 the textual problems in this two-volume work as well as
the theology of Luke-Acts. Commenting on these issues, W. C. Van Unnik says, that “in 1950 no one could have
foretold that in the next decade Luke-Acts would become one of the great storm centers of New Testament scholar-
ship, second only to that of the historical Jesus.”3
With the increasing volume of work being produced on these important documents it has become difficult
to keep up with the flow of information. This is true not only as it relates to Lucan studies as a whole, but also as it
relates to just one aspect of Lucan studies, namely, his theology of the atonement. There is no work, as far as the
author knows, that surveys the last 40 years or so of this discussion and yet there is the great advantage to the exe-
gete to be aware of the state of the current debate on this topic. Therein lies the rational and need for this work.

The Purpose & Scope of the Study

The purpose for The Atonement in Lucan Theology in Recent Discussion, is to enable the reader to under-
stand the stream of debate regarding the issue of the atonement in Luke-Acts from the time of the publication of
Hans Conzelmann’s The Theology of St. Luke (1960) to the present day. The primary question regarding this issue
may be stated as follows: “Since it appears that Luke articulates no explicit theology of the atonement with respect
to the cross, how does the cross function in his work?” There have been several answers given to this question in
recent discussion and it is the purpose of this study, not to argue for one position over against another, but instead to
present the various solutions and their relation to one another since Conzelmann.

1On the question of sources underlying Luke’s passion narrative, see Frank J. Matera, “The Death of Jesus
according to Luke: A Question of Sources,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 47 (1985): 469-85.
2One need only consider, as an example of this problem, the difficulty in relating Paul’s travels as
described in the book of Galatians to those set forth by Luke in Acts. For example, cf. Robert G. Hoerber, “Galatians
2:1-10 and the Acts of the Apostles,” Concordia Theological Monthly 31 (August 1960): 482-91. John B. Polhill,
“Galatia Revisited, The Life Setting of the Epistle,” Review and Expositor 69 (Fall 1972): 437-48. Robert H. Stein,
“The Relationship of Galatians 2:1-10 and Acts 15:1-35: Two Neglected Arguments,” Journal of the Evangelical
Theological Society 17 (Fall 1974): 239-42. Charles H. Talbert, “Again: Paul’s Visits to Jerusalem,” Novum
Testamentum 9 (January 1967): 26-40. Stanley D. Toussaint, “The Chronological Problem of Galatians 2:1-10,”
Bibliotheca Sacra 120 (October-December 1963): 334-40.
3W. C. Van Unnik, “Luke-Acts, A Storm Center in Contemporary Scholarship,” in Studies in Luke-Acts,
ed. Leander E. Keck and J. Louis Martyn, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), 15-32. See also Charles H. Talbert,
“Shifting Sands: The Recent Study of the Gospel of Luke,” Interpretation 30 (1976): 384, who quotes W. W.
Gasque, A History of the Criticism of the Acts of the Apostles, (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1975), 305,
as saying that “there is no general agreement among scholars on even the most basic issues of Lukan research.”

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The Method of Research
In order to produce this study several works were consulted. First, the most current New Testament intro-
ductions, theologies and commentaries were investigated in order to trace the discussion back to Conzelmann in
1960. Second, essays and periodicals that dealt specifically with the debate were investigated. Third, works such as
lexical aids, grammars and textual-critical works were consulted as necessary. The results are presented in the body
of the text according to the major authors and their respective views.

Overview of the Study

The body of the paper will contain two chapters. The first chapter will be a historical survey. It will deal
with the history of the debate, tracing to the present various authors in the discussion and the positions they hold.
Though the bulk of the study concerns the time between Conzelmann and the present day, some of the background
and influences upon Conzelmann will be enumerated in order that the reader be able to contextualize his [i. e. Con-
zelmann’s] views.
The second chapter in the body will give the exegetical rationale for the respective positions of the various
authors. It will focus on an examination of two critical texts involved in the discussion: Luke 22:19-20 and Acts
20:28. This chapter will look at the textual problems in these passages as well as the recent history of their exegesis.
These two chapters will serve to give the essence of recent discussion surrounding the issue of the atonement in Lu-
can theology.

Chapter 2
The Atonement in Lucan Theology in Recent Discussion
The purpose of this chapter is to survey recent discussion on the issue of Luke’s theology of the atonement
with an attempt to enumerate the various positions of several authors and their relation to one another in the stream
of ideas. The discussion will essentially begin with Hans Conzelmann in 1960, with brief reference being made to
the antecedents of his thought in earlier writers such as Henry J. Cadbury and C. H. Dodd, and will continue up to
the present day.
While every author agrees that the death of Jesus in Luke-Acts is important, they are not at all agreed on
the particular significance Luke maintains for it.4 Thus there is no lack of suggestions as to how Luke frames the
death of Christ in his gospel and therefore how he desires that his readers understand this event. Once the traditional
view had in large measure been set aside,5 several models were developed which have attempted to define Luke’s
soteriology. Some have suggested that Luke simply sees Jesus dying according to a divine plan and that he gives no
more thought to it than that. Others understand Jesus’ death in Luke-Acts to be a demonstration of divine favor in
which His death sufferings form only part of His atoning work. Still others, by placing the Lucan writings in their
first century literary milieu, and paralleling Luke’s passion narrative with what appear to be conceptually similar
materials, advance the idea that Luke’s Christ died as an innocent martyr. Still others maintain that Christ’s death in
Luke was as the Isaianic Suffering Servant and was indeed vicarious. Finally, others see the death of Christ in Luke-
Acts as either a demonstration of God’s righteousness, a prelude to glorification, the representative death of the

4Perhaps the major cause for the current dilemma is the textual uncertainty of the only two texts in Luke-
Acts that seem to explicate a doctrine of the atonement, namely, Luke 22:19b, 20 and Acts 20:28. The issue of the
their authenticity will be taken up in the next chapter. However, one cannot totally put the blame here for there are
many commentators, due to the problem of Luke’s use of sources, who nonetheless regard the theology of these two
texts (if original) as characteristically nonLucan. Therefore, solving the textual problem does not put the debate to
rest; there are several others factors, including ‘Pauline intrusionisms’ in Acts and Luke’s use of apparently
unaltered early church tradition.
5By traditional I mean the interpretation of the death of Christ in Luke as vicarious atonement. It must be
said at the outset that many still regard the traditional view as essentially correct, but most scholars appear to have
opted for another model for understanding Christ’s death on the cross.

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‘lowly’ or as a great Benefactor.6 Beginning with Conzelmann, we now turn our attention to a brief description of
the various interpretations.

The Death of Jesus to Fulfill Scripture: A Divine Necessity with No Explicit Theology of
the Atonement
Hans Conzelmann
Hans Conzelmann’s work, The Theology of St. Luke,7 was one of the first to explain the overall structure of
Luke-Acts as “redemptive history.”8 Working on premises laid down by his mentor, Rudolph Bultmann,9 Conzel-
mann carried on his literary studies in Luke-Acts, outlining the work and ‘plan’ of God in three distinct phases,
which are themselves hemmed in by Creation at one extreme and the Parousia at the other. Conzelmann delineates
the three phases or time periods as the period of Israel, the period of Christ’s earthly life, and the period of the
church which culminates in the Parousia.10
The focus for our discussion concerns Conzelmann’s understanding of the significance Luke accords the
death of Christ. Working within his threefold framework, Conzelmann agrees with the idea that Luke’s Jesus suf-
fered as a ‘martyr’,11 but does not feel that this is at all the essential idea in the Lucan account. For him, Luke’s pas-
sion account portrays Jesus as one who ‘must’ suffer, albeit willingly, because this is indeed the divine plan and
according to Scripture.12 The emphasis is therefore upon the necessity of the suffering of Jesus to fulfill Scripture. In
this regard Conzelmann argues from the use of the verb dei‘ and its relation to the fulfillment theme in Luke:

6For a brief statement of the problem and a summary of some of the suggested solutions, see William J.
Larkin, Jr. “Luke’s Use of the Old Testament as a Key to His Soteriology,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological
Society 19, 20 (1977): 326. Cf. also A. George, “Le Sens de la Mort de Jésus pour Luc,” Revue Biblique 80 (1973):
186, 87.
7Hans Conzelmann, The Theology of St. Luke, Translated by Geoffrey Buswell, (New York: Harper &
Row, Publishers, 1960), 200, 201.
8Ibid.,137. Cf. also I. Howard Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan
Publishing House, 1970), 77. He says, “The key word in Conzelmann’s approach is Heilsgeschichte, variously
rendered into English as ‘the history of salvation,’ ‘redemptive history’ or ‘salvation-history.’”
9cf.Charles H. Talbert, “Shifting Sands: The Recent Study of the Gospel of Luke,” Interpretation 30
(1976): 381. Talbert says that before the 1950’s Luke was viewed primarily as an historian, one who had researched
information on the Jesus tradition and subsequently assembled his findings, according to their historical outworking,
in a two-volume work. But by the mid sixties, Luke-Acts had become a hotbed of study focusing on several issues,
especially Luke as a theologian. The locus for the change according to Talbert lay in Rudolph Bultmann’s, Theology
of the New Testament (1951, 55). Out of his work grew the work of his students; men like Ernst Käsemann and Hans
Conzelmann. Conzelmann is dealt with here while E. Käsemann is not. However, it should be noted that while
Käsemann saw the death of Jesus in Luke in a slightly different light than his colleague, namely, as ‘a
misunderstanding of the Jews which had to be corrected by God’s intervention in the resurrection,’ he nonetheless
stands in the same line with Conzelmann in affirming that Luke communicates no positive doctrine of the
atonement; cf. Richard Zehnle, “The Salvific Character of Jesus’ Death in Lucan Soteriology,” Theological Studies
30 (1969): 420.
10Conzelmann, The Theology of St. Luke, 149, 150. According to Kevin Giles, “Salvation in Lucan
Theology (1),” The Reformed Theological Review 42 (1983): 12,13, the basic idea in Conzelmann’s view is that
Luke is primarily a historian, not a theologian and thus has abandoned any hope of the imminent return of Christ.
Giles attempts to refute this position by affirming the theological character of Luke’s work as proclamation.
11Ibid., 200, n. 2. Conzelmann says that he agrees with H. W. Surkau, Martyrien in judischer und
frühchristlicher Zeit, 1938 and M. Dibelius, Die Formgeschichte der Evangelien, 2nd ed., 1933, that the martyr-
motif is present in the Lucan account of the Passion, but says also that the fact that Luke presents Jesus’ death as
according to divine plan substantially differentiates it form a pure martyrdom. Cf. also p. 80 where Conzelmann
speaks about the martyr idea.
12Ibid., 200.

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The most important indication as regards the whole complex of ideas is the use of the significant
word dei‘. It is again in the defense of the Passion that the word is particularly used, already in
pre-Lucan tradition of course. In Luke, however, the ‘necessity’ of the Passion is fully brought
However, while Conzelmann understands the death of Jesus in Luke to be a divine necessity and according
to Scripture he argues that nowhere does Luke give the death of Jesus the explanation that Paul does or even that of
the other synoptists, all of whom relate it to the forgiveness of sins. He says,
The most important finding in this connection for our purpose is that there is no trace of any Passion mysti-
cism, nor is any direct soteriological significance drawn from Jesus’ suffering or death. There is no suggestion of a
connection with the forgiveness of sins (italics mine).14
His argument rests heavily on the following observations: 1) Luke omits Mark 10:45; 2) the cross plays no
part in the proclamation of salvation in Luke-Acts; 3) there is no trace of the idea of atonement in Luke’s use of the
term paradidovnai and 4) Luke appears to steer clear of any atonement ideas in his use of Isaiah 53. For Conzel-
mann all these omissions indicate a desire on the part of Luke to avoid casting the death of Christ in expiatory
Conzelmann’s view, then, regarding the death of Jesus in Luke-Acts is that it is according to divine plan
and is never interpreted by Luke to have any connection with the forgiveness of sin. This particular interpretation of
the atonement in Luke-Acts was not uncommon in 1960 when Conzelmann wrote. It appears that he was in agree-
ment with earlier writers whom he refers to as influencing his views; men such as Henry J. Cadbury and C. H.

H. J. Cadbury
Henry J. Cadbury’s work, The Making of Luke-Acts17 has been considered “a seminal redaction-critical
work before the rise of redaction criticism. . . [which would] influence Lucan studies from that time onward.”18
Conzelmann’s conclusions can be seen in Cadbury’s remarks on the Lucan presentation of the death of Jesus. Cad-
bury understood the death of Jesus to be of little evidential value to Luke in comparison with the emphasis placed
upon the resurrection of Christ. He says,

13Ibid., 153. See also p. 153, n. 3: “cf. Luke 17:25. Although the context is eschatological, the word dei~
is used not in connection with the future, but with the Passion. In xxiv, 7 it is a question of a subsequent proof that
the Passion was part of God’s plan, by means of a reference back to one of Jesus’ own statements. A comparison
with xxii, 37 shows the harmony between Scripture and Jesus’ own statement. In Luke xxiv, 26 the demonstration of
the necessity of the Passion is made the climax of the resurrection story; cf. v. 27 and v. 44 where the circle is
completed by the fact that Jesus quotes the Scriptural proof and refers to his earlier sayings.” Cf. also p. 57.
14Ibid., 201.
15Ibid., 201, 202. This is difficult to fathom since Luke traveled with Paul and was undoubtedly affected by
his ministry and message (notice the large place he gives him in the Gentile mission in Acts 13-28). But perhaps this
is trying to read Luke’s soteriology through Pauline eyes, with Paul placed consciously or perhaps unwittingly
superior to Luke. Cf. also Paul Feine and Johannes Behm, Introduction to the New Testament, 14th ed., Translated
by A, J. Mattill, Jr., ed. Werner Georg Kümmel, (Abingdon Press: New York, 1965), 104. Following Bleiben, Feine
et. al. claim that Luke is altogether unfamiliar with the Pauline theology. “This unfamiliarity can most clearly be
recognized in the author’s conception of Jesus’ death. Although he understands it as corresponding to the divine
necessity (9:22; 24:26), he makes no clear reference to an expiatory death. Mark 10:45 is wanting. Luke 22:19f is
carried out no further.”
16Ibid., 201.
17Henry J. Cadbury, The Making of Luke-Acts, (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1927), 280.
18Darrell L. Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern: Lucan Old Testament Christology, Journal
for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 12, (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1987), 27.

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The death of Jesus was an act of ignorant wickedness and rejection on the part of the Jews. God,
however, thwarted its effect by raising Jesus from the dead. The resurrection is therefore the sig-
nificant thing about Jesus. His death is only the prelude. The resurrection is the great fulfillment of
prophecy, the demonstration of Messiahship. . . .19
Cadbury goes on to say that 1) Luke omits Marcan ideas which might suggest a doctrine of atonement; 2)
that the longer ending of Luke 22:19, 20 is probably not original; 3) that Luke’s use of Isaiah 53 is devoid of the
soteriology that later Christians have come to see in the text20 and 4) any connection between Christ’s death and
forgiveness in Acts is simply a Pauline intrusion. Cadbury’s remarks can be summarized in the following two
points: 1) Luke makes no comments linking the death of Jesus with forgiveness of sin 2) the death of Jesus was sim-
ply necessary to make the resurrection possible. It is the former of these two ideas that can explicitly be found in
Conzelmann’s understanding of the Lucan death of Jesus.

C. H. Dodd
C. H. Dodd, in his work, The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments, also espoused the same basic
view of the death of Jesus in Luke. According to Dodd,
The Jerusalem kerygma does not assert that Christ died for our sins. The result of the life, death
and resurrection of Christ is the forgiveness of sins, but this forgiveness is not specifically con-
nected with His death.21
Dodd claimed that Paul received his doctrine of Christ’s death from the school of Stephen and Philip who
had taken the step to interpret the death of Jesus vicariously along the lines of Isaiah 53. Thus it can be seen that
Conzelmann’s view, according to his own admission, has its antecedents in Cadbury, Dodd and others. They under-
stand Jesus’ death in Luke to be a necessity according to the divine plan, but not in anyway connected with forgive-

Vincent Taylor
Vincent Taylor is a more recent advocate of this view.22 He wishes to see a distinction between Luke’s the-
ology and the theology of his sources. He understands Luke to be conveying that Christ’s work was pre-eminently
an act of obedience to his father’s will, with no thought given to suffering vicariously. He notes, as did Conzelmann,
the omission of Mark 10:45. Then, as regards Luke 22:19, 20 Taylor suggests that these verses belong to a pre-

19Cadbury, The Making of Luke-Acts, 280.

20Ibid., 281, n. 2 from 280: “It is noticeable how out of the middle of a passage with a dozen “vicarious”
phrases (Is. liii, 4-12), Acts quotes vss. 7bcd, 8abc, which have none.”
21Conzelmann refers to C. H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching, 1937. But cf. also C. H. Dodd, The Apostolic
Preaching and its Developments, (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1964), 25. See also E. Franklin, Christ the
Lord: A Study in the Purpose and Theology of Luke-Acts, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), p. 65; T.
Bleiben, “The Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Paul,” Journal of Theological Studies 45 (1944): 137, who, while
disagreeing with Dodd’s analysis of the Lucan and Pauline kerygma, says, “It is perhaps in connexion with the
significance attached to the Lord’s death that the divergence between St. Luke and St. Paul is most marked. Both
Franklin and Bleiben regard the Cross as the necessary prelude to the exaltation of Christ. But St. Luke seems
deliberately to avoid attaching to it any saving power in itself, while the atonement, of course, is a fundamental
element in Pauline doctrine. St. Luke omits Christ’s saying about his death being a ransom. According to the shorter
text of Luke 22:19-21, which is almost universally regarded as original, there is no reference at the institution of the
Eucharist to the shedding of the Lord’s blood on behalf of others” and M. Kiddle, “The Passion Narrative in St.
Luke’s Gospel,” Journal of Theological Studies 36 (1935): 267-280, for a similar view.
22Vincent Taylor, The Passion Narrative of St. Luke, ed. by Owen E. Evans, (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1972), 137.

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to a pre-Lukan liturgical source23 (if they are original at all) and that their theology, which is admittedly speaking of
a vicarious atonement, is not inherently Lucan.24

The Death of Christ: Part of Christ’s Atoning Work

and a Demonstration of Divine Favor
In his article, “The Salvific Character of Jesus’ Death in Lucan Soteriology,” Richard Zehnle writes explic-
itly to refute the idea that Luke makes no association of the death of Christ with the salvation of men and to affirm
that Luke does indeed have a soteriology with respect to the death of Christ.25 He affirms Dodd, Conzelmann and
others as they understand Luke to present no satisfaction theory of the atonement in his two-volume work. However,
he sharply criticizes them for equating that idea with the idea that there is therefore “no direct soteriological signifi-
cance to be drawn from Jesus’ death.” According to Zehnle, this is a wrong, unwarranted and even “dangerous”
conclusion to be drawn from an author who makes up more than a fourth of the entire New Testament.26
Zehnle begins his argument by attempting to demonstrate that the theme of salvation is very important to
Luke. From an examination of the verb swvzw and its cognates, he attempts to make it plain that Luke is highly
interested in the salvation of men. This emphasis can be misunderstood, according to Zehnle, if Luke is constantly
viewed from a Pauline perspective.27 He argues further that Luke gives the details on the nature of salvation and
even spells out the requirements of a man’s salvation, namely, an internal response of repentance engendered by
genuine trust in Christ leading to baptism in the name of Christ.28 Therefore, since salvation is important to Luke,
and since he does record the death of Christ, the two in some way must be connected. In this regard, Zehnle says that
the role of Jesus in salvation involves his whole life from birth through to glorification:
Essential to the understanding of the role of Jesus in Luke-Acts is the recognition that the com-
plex, life-death-resurrection-ascension/glorification, constitutes a whole whose individual parts
find their full meaning precisely in relation to the whole.29
In this process, Zehnle argues that it is the glorified Christ in Luke who is now the cause of salvation. He
refers to the life and death of Jesus as therefore holding mediate influence as regards the salvation of men. He means
by this that the perfect life of Christ and his complete obedience unto the cross provide the necessary prerequisites
for the glorification of Christ. The death of Christ is the therefore, the formal cause of salvation, not the efficient
cause. This belongs to the glorification of Christ.30 But, says Zehnle, we are bound to say that Luke has no soteriol-
ogy if we focus on any one particular aspect of Christ’s life and death. We must keep in mind the whole and out of
that emerges the relation of the death of Christ to the salvation of men.

23Ibid., 57. Taylor suggests the possibility that v. 19a may be a Marcan insertion.
24cf.Joseph B. Tyson, The Death of Jesus in Luke-Acts, (Columbia, SC: The University of South Carolina,
1986), 172, n. 1. Concerning Lucan soteriology he writes, “The conviction of divine necessity constitutes Luke’s
main contribution to the theological discussion of Jesus’ death. But he seems uninterested in piercing through to an
understanding of the theological reason for the death or in analyzing what it was intended to accomplish.”
25Zehnle, “Salvific Character,” 420-44.
26Ibid., 420.
27Ibid., 420-23, 44; Zehnle argues that just because Luke disagrees with Paul on a particular point, that fact
in and of itself, should not render ipso facto his opinion as invalid or inferior. “Whatever position we may adopt on
the much-debated question of the relationship of Paul to the author of Luke-Acts, we are bound to misunderstand it
unless we admit that we are dealing with two creative theological geniuses.” Several authors have sounded this
warning, including Joel B. Green, “The Death of Jesus, God’s Servant,” in Reimaging the Death of the Lukan Jesus,
ed. Dennis D. Sylva, (Frankfurt am Main: Anton Hain, 1990), 6; Jerome Kodell, “Luke’s Theology of the Death of
Jesus,” in Sin, Salvation and the Spirit, ed. D. Durkin, (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1979,) 223 and Werner
Georg Kümmel, “Current Theological Accusations Against Luke,” Andover Newton Quarterly 16 (1975): 132.
28Zehnle, “Salvific Character,” 425.
30Ibid., 432.

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But the question remains, “Does the death of Christ itself have any intrinsic soteriological value in Luke-
Acts?” according to Zehnle. Or, “What is the nature of Christ’s death as a formal cause in salvation?” On this point
Zehnle argues that the death of Christ, as it makes up the life-death-resurrection complex, is simply a demonstration
of God’s favor toward men and when viewed by man becomes the impetus for making a decision to trust in Christ.
When one sees all that Christ has done as a person who perfectly conformed his life to the will of His father, one is
moved to dedicate one’s life in faith to Him. Zehnle says,
Thus, in his life, death and resurrection the favor of God for man may be seen, and a man is moti-
vated to make an act of faith in His Name. This explains why the apostolic preaching insists on
conformity with God’s will in the life of Jesus, but also why the proclamation of the resurrection
plays so central a place. Indeed, apart from it, the death of Jesus has no meaning for Luke.31
In summary, Zehnle understands the death of Christ in Luke to indicate God’s favor upon men and valuable
as a saving act only insofar as it forms part of the larger whole of his life-death-resurrection-ascension and glorifica-
tion. Alone it does not save, but instead motivates a person to trust in Christ.32 For Zehnle, Luke’s soteriology is not
primitive and pre-Pauline, and by implication inferior (contra Dodd), but simply unique with different emphases.

Vicarious Atonement and the Idea of the Suffering Servant

Joachim Jeremias
Joachim Jeremias, in The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, argues that it is inconceivable that Jesus should not
have viewed His death as a vicarious atonement.33 Jesus has, according to Jeremias, compared Himself with the
paschal lamb (cf. Luke 22:15-20) and in so doing has basically affirmed his death as a saving death. Jesus is the
fulfillment of the Egyptian paschal lamb and all other Passover meals before him. Just as each Passover meal looked
back to Israel’s deliverance from death and judgment in Exodus 12, so Christ also delivers through his death. This is
the significance of the Eucharistic words of Jesus in Luke 22:19, 20.34

31Ibid., 436. He further tries to reinforce this interpretation of the death of Christ by arguing that the phrase
“the forgiveness of sins” (ajfevsi" aJmartiw`n) in Luke-Acts really equates to divine favor. And the parable of
the prodigal son, as a picture of salvation, is further indication that this is so. The son who knows he has sinned
against his father receives special favor from his father when he returns home.
32At this point Zehnle’s appears to present Christ’s death in Luke as a moral appeal to cause people to turn
to him, that is, Luke frames it in such a way so as to reveal its emotional power to motivate lost sinners to turn to
Christ in faith.
33Joachim Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, (New York: Charles Scriber’s Sons, 1966): 220-31. It
is true that Jeremias is writing largely to refute those who say that while the Eucharistic words of Jesus in the
gospels (in particular Luke for our purposes) do assert a vicarious theology, it is nonetheless the dogma of the early
church read back into Jesus and not his own interpretation. This situation, however, does not change the fact that
Jeremias affirms that Luke 22:19, 20 teaches vicarious atonement. Cf. also, Joachim Jeremias, New Testament
Theology, Translated by John Bowden, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971), 291.
34Ibid., 139-59. Jeremias regards the longer text as authentic primarily on the basis of the overwhelming
manuscript evidence in its favor. Also, he focuses on the “for you” aspect of the Eucharistic words of Jesus which
are proof for him that the idea of vicarious suffering is present in these verses. But cf. Frederick W. Danker, Jesus
and the New Age: A Commentary on St. Luke’s Gospel. Revised and Expanded, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988):
346, who believes that the idea of vicarious death indicates a substitution which would go well beyond Luke’s words
here. Cf. also Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans
Publishing Company, 1954), 555; “The sacrificial death of the Saviour was not the outcome of a fortuitous
combination of circumstances, but was in accord with the divine plan of salvation, which had already been
foreshadowed in the Old Testament, especially in the sacrifice of the paschal lamb, centuries before. Moreover, the
Saviour allowed Himself knowingly and voluntarily to be sacrificed as the perfect paschal lamb. For this reason his
sacrificial death possesses an eternal, all-sufficient, divine value.”

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Adding to this, Jeremias points to the milieu in which Jesus lived and thought as further support for the idea
of vicarious atonement in the last supper. He argues that it was very common in first century Palestinian Judaism to
view death as possessing atoning power, even the death of a criminal if that person were truly repentant. He says,
Conceptions of the atoning power of death play a large part in the thought of Jesus’ contemporar-
ies. Every death has atoning power—even that of a criminal if he dies penitent. An innocent death
offered to God has vicarious power of atonement for others.35
This being the case, it is not surprising that Jesus, knowing he was going to face a violent death, should
search for the meaning of his death and find it in the idea of the paschal lamb. This is indeed what Christ did accord-
ing to Jeremias, and once having clearly understood the meaning of his sufferings he thus taught his disciples at the
supper. For Jeremias the Jesus of Luke’s passion knows he is the Servant of God who is going to His death on behalf
of others.36

I. H. Marshall
I. H. Marshall, in Luke: Historian and Theologian, begins by pointing out, as others have done, that Luke is
not so out of place as might be imagined regarding explanations relating to the death of Christ.37 He says,
As compared with Mark and Matthew, therefore, Luke’s silence about the death of Jesus in the Gospel is
not in any way remarkable. It is more significant that there is little about it in Acts. But the rather scanty evidence
must be carefully scrutinized lest we take too superficial a view of Luke’s teaching on this theme.38
Having made the point, he nonetheless recognizes that Luke’s emphasis is to link salvation with the exalta-
tion of Jesus and with His name and not so much with the cross.39 But, he says, this does not justify claiming that
the cross has no direct soteriological value in Luke. He argues that there is the possibility of a Servant soteriology in
Marshall emphasizes the fact that Luke describes Jesus in terms of the Suffering Servant. He bases this on
the use of Isaiah 53 in Acts 8:32; that pai‘” (Acts 3:13, 26; 4:27, 30) in the light of 8:32 must mean Servant and not
son, and the term divkaio” (Acts 3:14, 7:52; 22:14) associates Christ with Is. 53:11. He acknowledges that the New
Testament does not develop at length a Servant christology but maintains nonetheless that a Servant soteriology is
not precluded by this fact. He refers to 1 Peter as support for his thesis. The use of the traditions referring to Christ
as Servant show that Luke has at least incorporated traditions about the atoning work of the Servant though he him-
self has not positively interpreted the Servant idea as vicarious, redemptive suffering.
There is, according to Marshall, another way in which Luke has (at least implicitly) affirmed vicarious
atonement, namely, through the borrowing of the oldest tradition of “hanging on a tree” (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29)
from Deut 21:22. The oldest form of the tradition seems to be related to the bearing of sin and its curse, as its use in
Paul and Peter seem to make clear. What is different in Luke is that he has not explicitly made known its sote-

35Ibid., 231.
36Ibid., 227; Jeremias links the Eucharistic words of Jesus in Mark and Matthew with Isaiah 53
predominantly through the association of polloiv yBr. He refers to it as a leit motiv. In this way he supports the
idea of the ‘suffering servant’ standing behind Jesus’ interpretation of the bread and the cup. However, the Lucan
text has uJmw`n so this is not valid for our purposes. But, Jeremias does indicate that the Lucan Jesus stands as the
suffering servant as well, due to the presence of Luke 22:37, but he [i.e., Jeremias] does not develop it at any length.
This has been done by Marshall, Bock and others though Bock affirms that Markan usage is more clearly linked to
the Old Testament than is Lucan. Cf. Darrell L. Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy, 338, n. 204 .
37cf. Conzelmann, The Theology of St. Luke, 201.
38Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian, 171.
39Ibid., 169.
40The idea of a Servant christology is admitted by Marshall to be doubtful, but cf. Green, “The Death of
Jesus,” 24.

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riological interpretation, but would have left that up to the community, who undoubtedly understood it as vicari-
Finally, Marshall raises the question of whether Luke has misrepresented the teaching of the early church
which explicitly claimed that ‘Christ died for our sins’ (cf. 1 Cor 15:3, 4). He says “no.” Luke has simply decided to
emphasize that as “exalted Lord and Messiah, Jesus is the Saviour.” Citing Romans 4:25 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-5,
he claims that the linking of the death and resurrection of Christ (as Luke has done) was common in the early
church.42 Luke has, according to Marshall, recorded one line of preaching in the early church which had, as it focus,
the resurrection of Christ as the confirmation of His Lordship and the guarantee of his offer of forgiveness. Thus,
Luke’s presentation is one sided (as is every presentation) stressing certain aspects to the playing down of others.
One should not conclude, however, that Luke has no rationale for salvation. Indeed he does, namely, that Jesus
grants salvation in virtue of the fact that He is Lord and Messiah. Again, what is different is that Luke does not spell
out every detail in an attempt to relate the death of Christ as the means of salvation.43

Darrell L. Bock
Darrell Bock is another who is unwilling to claim as did Conzelmann and others that there is no doctrine of
the atonement in Luke-Acts. He links the idea of forgiveness in Acts 10:43; 13:38 with the idea of the Servant in
Luke 22:37 and the idea of the necessity of Christ’s sufferings in Luke 24:46, 47. From these references he con-
cludes that Luke does indeed present Christ as the Suffering Servant whose death is vicarious.44
He also mentions Luke 22:19, 20 and refers to it as having “undoubted substitutionary significance” and
Acts 20:28 as setting forth the purchasing value of the blood, a reference with clear expiatory overtones. But it ap-
pears that he has laid less stress on Luke 22:19, 20 and Acts 20:28 in his argument, perhaps due to their textual un-
certainty and unusual grammatical problems.
In summary, Bock affirms with Marshall and others that Luke does indeed have a positive theology of the
atonement, but has chosen to place greater emphases on other aspects of Christ’s work. Nonetheless, he claims that
it is incorrect to think that Luke has no theology of the cross.45

William J. Larkin, Jr.

William J. Larkin has developed the Isaiah 53 background to Luke’s passion narrative in a slightly different
manner than has Marshall or Bock.46 Before entering into his main thesis, though, it is worthy to note some interest-
ing answers he supplies to the traditional arguments raised in favor of Luke’s supposed intention to steer clear of any
reference to vicarious suffering in his account of the passion.
As far as Luke’s omission of the Mark 10:45 passage (i. e. kaiV dou‘nai thVn yuchVn aujtou‘ lu-
vtron ajntiV pollw‘n) is concerned,47 Larkin says this need not be the result of an a priori soteriological idea
in the mind of the evangelist, but simply due to any number of things, including: 1) the desire to link up directly the

41Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian, 173. According to Marshall, Acts 20:28 was another
traditional expression in the church, but Luke does not develop its theology.
42Ibid., 174.
43Ibid., 175
44For a slightly different emphasis in the development of the “Servant” motif in Luke-Acts see Green, “The
Death of Jesus,” 1-29. Green relates the whole of the life and passion of Jesus to the Servant idea throughout Isaiah.
45Bock,Proclamation from Prophecy, p. 338, n. 204 . Cf. also Kümmel, “Current Theological Accusations
Against Luke,” 138, for a similar view and the caution that we not too quickly dismiss Luke as having no
redemptive understanding of the cross.
46Larkin, “Luke’s Use of the Old Testament,” 325-35. Larkin argues similarly to Bock, et. al. and says that
Luke’s use of Is. 53:12 sets the historical basis for the doctrine of vicarious atonement and the offer of the
forgiveness of sins in Luke-Acts.
47One might remember that Conzelmann, Dodd, Cadbury and virtually every other commentator who
denies a vicarious atonement in Luke-Acts points to this omission in support of their hypothesis.

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passion prediction with the following scene in which miraculous powers are demonstrated and a blind man is healed
(cf. Luke 18:31-34 and 18:35-43); 2) due to his redactional activity and the wish to avoid repeating similar though
independent material or 3) due to Luke’s preoccupation with the large amount of non-Markan material occurring
throughout the travel narrative (Luke 9:51-18:14).48
Commenting on the textual problem in Luke 22:19b-20, Larkin argues (based substantially on the work of
Jeremias49 and Schürmann50) that when the extrinsic probabilities are combined with the probability that the short
form developed as a result of disciplina arcani, 51 the longer reading is to be preferred. This is of course important,
for the longer reading almost certainly carries the idea of vicarious atonement.
Larkin also argues that the lack of the soteriological interpretation of the Christ’s death in the preaching in
Acts can be accounted for in ways other than presuming Luke’s avoidance of the idea of vicarious atonement. The
book of Acts appears to record summary forms of proclamation, linking Jesus with the Isaianic Servant and present-
ing the fact that as such he suffered unjustly for the sins of people. Larkin admits that the connection is not as ex-
plicit as one would like, but it is nonetheless there.52
Finally, in his comments against the traditional arguments for rejecting a soteriological interpretation of Je-
sus’ death in Luke-Acts, Larkin says that interpretations that want to find Luke’s soteriology completely in the res-
urrection-ascension-glorification of Christ fail to adequately link Jesus’ present position as glorified Lord with the
fruit of salvation, namely, the forgiveness of sins.53 Thus says Larkin, it is probably correct to see the basis of
Luke’s soteriology as the death of Jesus.
The reason Larkin responded to the previous arguments against a soteriological interpretation of Jesus’
death in Luke-Acts was to show that the possibility is still open to a redemptive understanding of Luke’s soteriology
and to set the stage for his own idea of vicarious atonement as seen in Luke’s use of Isaiah 53:12d in Luke 22:37.
We now turn our attention to the main points in his presentation.
It is Larkin’s desire to demonstrate that Luke’s use of Isaiah 53:12d (i. e. “and he was numbered with the
transgressors”) in 22:37 functions as a context pointer to draw the reader back to the entire Servant song in Isaiah 53
and all that it means (cf. Isaiah 52:13-53:12), including the idea of vicarious atonement.54
First, Larkin argues that the specific reference “and he was numbered with the transgressors” is not fulfilled
in any specific way in the Lucan context.55 The fact that it is not fulfilled in a specific way leads to the possibility

48Larkin, “Luke’s Use of the Old Testament,” 326. Larkin attempts to demonstrate his thesis regarding the
omission of the ‘Mark 10:45 saying by presenting similar editorial activity, etc. in other places in Luke when
compared to Mark.
49Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, NT Library trans. from 3rd German ed., (London: SCM,
1966), 139-59.
50H. Schürmann, “Lk 22, 19b-20 als ursprungliche Textüberlieferung,” Traditionsgeschichtliche
Untersuchungen zu den synoptischen Evangelien (Kommentar und Beiträge ZANT; Düsseldorf: Patmos-Verlag,
1968), 159-97.
a brief discussion of disiplina arcani see Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek
New Testament, (New York: United Bible Societies, 1971), 176.
52Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, 328.
53Ibid. For an example of this oversight see Green, “The Death of Jesus,” 10.
54But cf. Ralph P. Martin, “Salvation and Discipleship in Luke’s Gospel,” Interpretation 30 (1976): 377-
378. He feels that the Servant passages are more closely tied to Isaiah 49:6-8 than Isaiah 53.
55Larkin, “Luke’s Use of the Old Testament,” 329, 30. He suggests that there have been at least four
traditional places to place the fulfillment of Jesus’ words (i.e. levgw gaVr uJmi'n o{ti tou'to toV
gegrammevnon dei' telesqh'nai ejn ejmoiv, toV kaiV metaV ajnovmwn ejlogivsqh: kaiV gaVr
toV periV ejmou' tevlo" e[cei.); 1) when the disciples took up swords and acted like rebelling criminals; 2)
when Christ was arrested; 3) when Jesus’ life was given over and Barabbas released in his place or 4) the crucifixion
between two criminals. As far as Larkin is concerned all these are wanting on the basis of the lack of verbal and
material parallelisms.

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that Luke wants us to read the whole of the passion narrative in the light of Isaiah 53:12d. That is, that the fulfill-
ment of Jesus’ words are to be seen in the whole of the passion. Two reasons suggest this: 1) Luke 22:37 is placed at
the end of the farewell discourse and at the beginning of the action of the passion, thus it stands as virtually a head-
line for all that is about to come56 and 2) Luke uses other fulfillment proof texts in his gospel in similar ways (cf.
Luke 3:4-6/Isaiah 40:3-5 and Luke 4:17-19, 21/ Isaiah 61:1-2; 58:6).57
Having established the idea that Isaiah 53:12d is being used by Luke to refer to the entire passion narrative,
Larkin raises the question as to what part of the quotation is fulfilled in the passion as a whole. He asks,
What is the precise content from Isaiah 53 that is fulfilled? Is the fulfillment limited only to what
is explicitly cited by Luke, or is this brief quotation a pointer to the rest of the original context?
Further, if the Luke 22:37/Isa 53:12 quotation is a “context pointer,” is the vicarious atonement
significance of the Servant’s death something to which Luke intends to point and present as ful-
filled in Jesus’ death?58
There must be some criteria that can be used to determine if an Old Testament text quoted by a New Tes-
tament writer is being used as a ‘pointer.’ For this, Larkin draws upon the work of Morna Hooker.59 Two criteria are
cited: 1) the presence of other Old Testament allusions in the immediate context and 2) the “presence of a unified
interpretation. . . of the whole Isaianic Servant concept.” Luke 22:37 fails the first test, but passes the second accord-
ing to Larkin.
There are several points in the passion that demonstrate that the suffering experienced by Jesus is identical
with that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53,60 that is, that Jesus was innocent, yet was treated unjustly just as the
Servant. Luke brings this out through interpretive comments (cf. 22:48, 52, 53; 23:41), through his arrangement of
the details of the narrative and through certain special emphases. The net result is that we see Luke using the objec-
tive facts of Isaiah 53:12d (i. e. “that he was numbered with the transgressors”) in Luke 22:37 to show that what
follows (i. e. the passion events and suffering) is really to be related to the whole Servant song in Isaiah 53. In the
end, according to Larkin, Luke has indeed placed the whole of Isaiah 53 behind his use of 53:12d and therefore,
vicarious atonement stands at the heart of the death of the Lucan Jesus. He does this, Larkin says, because in a liter-
ary way he wants to drive his readers to ask the question of what possible explanation can there be for this God-
ordained injustice? The answer: it must be the vicarious suffering spoken of in Isaiah 53:12.61

The Lucan Jesus as an Innocent Martyr

C. H. Talbert, following M. Dibelius,62 argues that Luke associates the death of Jesus with the motif of an
innocent martyr.63 He strongly denies that Luke 22:19, 20 and Acts 20:28 have anything to do with the forgiveness

56cf. Green, “The Death of Jesus,” 23.

57Larkin, “Luke’s Use of the Old Testament,” 331. Larkin deals with the exception to this pattern, namely,
Luke 7:27/Malachi 3:1; Exodus 23:20 by showing in fact that it too focuses only on a general description of Johns’
ministry and not on one detail in particular.
58Ibid., 332.
59Ibid. Cf. Morna D. Hooker, Jesus and the Servant, (London: SPCK, 1959), 22.
60And thus Isaiah 53:12d is being used as a context pointer with Luke desiring to ask why a man so
innocent should suffer so unrighteously. We find the answer when we read Isaiah 53—he bore our sin.
61Ibid., Larkin, 332-35.
62cf. Martin Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1966), 201. “The
literary consequence of this view is that Luke presents the Passion as a martyrdom. There were Jewish martyrdoms,
as is proved by the literary record of them in the Martyrdom of Isaiah. . .[and] since these were read among the
Christians, the evangelist [could expect to be understood].”
63C. H. Talbert, “Martyrdom in Luke -Acts and the Lucan Social Ethic,” In Political Issues in Luke-Acts,
ed. Richard J. Cassidy and Philip J. Scharper, (New York: Orbis Books, 1983), 99 and 110, n. 1. For a similar view
of the Lucan Jesus as a martyr, see Arland J. Hultgren, “Interpreting the Gospel of Luke,” Interpretation 30 (1976):
361. But cf. also Green, “The Death of Jesus,” 21. He denies that Luke is representing Christ as a martyr. Cf. also

© 1997 Biblical Studies Press 11

of sins, but instead simply present Christ as the seal of the New Covenant.64 As well, he follows in the line of Con-
zelmann and others in their treatment of the Luke’s failure to record the soteriological words of Mark 10:45, Luke’s
studious avoidance of any redemptive overtones from Isaiah 53 and the lack of reference to the death of Christ in
apostolic preaching. According to Talbert, Peter’s and Paul’s sermons in Acts never link the forgiveness of sins with
the death of Christ. Instead he says, forgiveness in Luke comes from the earthly life of Jesus as well as Christ, the
glorified, ascended Lord.65
For Talbert, then, the significance of the death of Christ must be found in some place other than in a kind of
Pauline soteriology. It is his contention, as stated, that Christ died as a martyr: “the unjust murder of an innocent
man by the established powers due to the pressure of the Jewish leaders.”66
According to Talbert, the first dimension in understanding Jesus’ death as a martyrdom in Luke is that his
death represents the rejection of God’s messenger by God’s people. The nation as a whole was supposed to be God’s
people, but indeed the majority of the historical people (i. e. the nation of Israel, the larger populace out of which
believers would arise) rejected the Lord, expressed most clearly in His condemnation by the religious authorities, the
chief priests and their associates (not so much the Pharisees in Luke).67
The second dimension involved in understanding Luke’s presentation of the death of Jesus as a martyrdom,
is that such deaths serve to legitimate the Christian cause and serve as a catalysts for evangelistic outreach.68 To
further establish that this is indeed the Lucan idea, Talbert parallels Luke’s portrayal of the death of Jesus with 1)
Graeco-Roman views of martyrdom; 2) Jewish views of martyrdom and 3) Christian views of martyrdom. In his
mind, these parallels serve to buttress the idea that the Lucan Jesus died as a martyr.
It was common, Talbert argues, for a Graeco-Roman philosopher to enjoin his mighty doctrine with con-
comitant acts which later result in his unjust death. It was the hope of the philosopher that his death might propel his
cause forward. But, adds Talbert, Seneca and others taught that one should not seek death. So there is a parallel here
between secular writings on the subject of martyrdom and Luke’s writing of the death of Jesus.
The Jewish view of martyrdom was similar to the Graeco-Roman view with the hope of course that the one
might win converts to Judaism. The early Christian view of martyrdom is similar to its Graeco-Roman and Jewish
counterparts, except that it apparently put more emphasis on the evangelistic thrust resulting from the death. 69
From these observations Talbert argues the following two points:
1) The martyrdom of Jesus in Luke is like the Jewish martyrdoms in that Jesus is a prophet rejected and
killed by God’s people and that he is a devout Jew executed unjustly by the Gentiles and 2) Jesus’ martyrdom has
points in common with all three views. He did not seek martyrdom and not everyone was converted by his being

Robert J. Karris, “Luke 23:47 and the Lucan View of Jesus’ Death,” Journal of Biblical Literature 105 (January
1986): 68-70, where he strongly denies the idea of the Lucan Jesus as a martyr. He brings into question the material
essence of the so-called parallels from extant non-biblical literature that are often cited as corroboration for such an
64Talbert, “Martyrdom in Luke -Acts,” 109, n. 2.
65Ibid., 99.
67Talbert sees Luke as more favorably disposed toward the Pharisees, but not everyone is in agreement
with this. Cf. Robert J. Karris, “Luke 23:47,” 189, n. 28.
68Basic to the idea of legitimating the Christian cause is Talbert’s insistence that Luke wrote with a
polemical mindset. One can understand the possibility of this in light of Luke’s second volume which in large
measure records the advance of the gospel into unevangelized territory. There would be a need to legitimate the
Christian cause.
69This point involves circular reasoning, assuming the idea of martyrdom to be true.

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Luke’s Passion Account as the Suffering of a Righteous
Man and the Demonstration of God’s Justice
Robert J. Karris argues that the term divkaio” in Luke 23:47 should be translated ‘righteous’ and not ‘in-
nocent.’’ He recognizes the weighty support advanced for the translation of divkaio” as ‘innocent’ but there is
other sound evidence, he argues, from the context of Luke-Acts as a whole, from the cry of the centurion and Luke’s
use of dovxazein toVn qeovn (cf. Luke 2:20; 5:25, 26; 7:16; 13:13; etc. ) and from Jesus’ death when he recites
a Psalm of the righteous suffering one (i. e. Psalm 31) that is commonly overlooked. From these references, as well
as Luke’s use of Psalms 22 and 69 and Wisdom 2:18 in Luke 23:34b-38, Karris feels that it is perhaps better to con-
clude that divkaio” means ‘righteous’ in this context.
Karris then attempts to show how the idea of justice is a pervasive motif in Luke-Acts. Building on the
work of John Reumann70 and Norman Perrin,71 he concludes that Jesus’ work in Luke-Acts is as a preacher whose
mission of justice it is to go about preaching the good news to the poor so that God’s kingdom (which is founded on
righteousness) can be realized on earth.
With that in mind he demonstrates that the death of Christ in Luke is to be seen as a picture of the ‘right-
eous suffering one,’ whom the just God later vindicated in the resurrection. Anyone who trusts in God’s justice will
receive similar vindication. Thus, according to Karris, in Luke,
God has not abandoned his suffering righteous son, whose suffering typifies that of his unjustly
treated creation; God graciously vindicates that Jesus and creates salvific trust in those who trust
in his justice. Truly, Jesus was the suffering righteous one.72

The Death of Jesus Simply a Means to Resurrection,

Ascension and Glorification
Eric Franklin understands the Lucan Jesus to be cast largely in the light of the Isaianic Servant and puzzles
over the question of why Luke avoids any mention of the redemptive sufferings of the Servant.73 His response to
this query is to posit that Luke is so controlled by his Christology, and Jesus’ present reign in glory from whence He
dispenses salvation, that he does not want to root human salvation in the past event of the cross.
Franklin argues that Luke does not have a negative view of the cross, that is, Luke does not allow it to go
against those things that were claimed by the Messiah and he therefore, places it among the events in Jesus’ life that
were decreed by God. In short, for Franklin Luke’s cross is simply the means to a higher end, namely, glorification.
He says that “its positive value lies in the fact that it alone made the resurrection and ascension possible.” 74 Other
than that, the cross simply underscores the necessity of suffering, a predominant theme in Luke-Acts.75 Franklin’s
view has much in common with Conzelmann, Dodd and others, but he places more emphasis on the cross as a
means to the end, namely, glorification.

70John Reumann, “Righteousness” in the New Testament: “Justification” in the United States Lutheran-
Roman Catholic Dialogue, with Responses by Joseph A. Fitzmyer and Jerome D. Quinn, (Philadelphia: Fortress;
New York and Ramsey, NJ: Paulist, 1982): 135.
71Norman Perrin, Jesus and the Language of the Kingdom: Symbol and Metaphor in New Testament
Interpretation, (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976): 15-32.
72Ibid., 78.
Franklin, Christ the Lord: A Study in the Purpose and Theology of Luke-Acts, (Philadelphia: The
Westminster Press, 1975), 67.
74Ibid., 66, 67.
75For a similar view of the relation of the cross to Christ’s glorification in Luke see Hultgren, “Interpreting
the Gospel of Luke,” 361.

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The Death of Jesus: The Death of the Lowly
In his article, “Luke’s Theology of the Death of Jesus,”76 Jerome Kodell underscores the New Testament
affirmation that ‘Christ died for our sins’ and proclaims the fact that there is probably no truth more deeply embed-
ded in the hearts of Christians. He therefore, finds it incredible that it should be altogether “missing” from Luke-
Kodell acknowledges the veracity of the martyr motif in Luke as well as the necessity of Christ to go to the
cross, but building on the work of a German Dominican, Richard Glöckner, he sees salvation in Luke as essentially
the raising of the “lowly” and the cross as the means to this end.77 He argues that there is a great struggle going on
in Luke-Acts between the truly righteous and the self-righteous, between the truly lowly and those who are mighty,
and the death of Christ as one who was lowly (and sought not his own self-glorification) is the means by which God
can now raise all those who are likewise lowly. “His death has meaning in itself as the confrontation of human sin-
fulness by lowliness, which in God’s plan is the state of openness to divine salvation.” 78

The Death of Christ Imaged through Beneficence

F. W. Danker places the Lucan account of Jesus squarely in the traditions of the Graeco-Roman writers and
parallels the passion narrative to the so-called stories of the Graeco-Roman heroes, superstars—great benefactors.79
He says that the fact that Luke introduces Jesus as a deliverer would have automatically alerted his readers to the
fact that Jesus was being cast in this light. By interchanging Christ with Satan in the temptation account, Luke has
once again demonstrated the superior ability of the great benefactor, Jesus. Jesus’ sermon in Luke 4 is akin to the
great addresses of political leaders who promise liberation and his exorcisms were proof that he had power to carry
out his promises.
It is in this context, Danker argues, that Luke presents Jesus. Jesus is the great Benefactor, the one individ-
ual of exceptional personal merit and piety. His death then, is to be seen as the ability to face impending danger
without flinching or being detoured from his purpose and mission. Danker parallels Christ’s struggles in the Garden
of Gethsemane with the life struggles of Demetrios the Great and Antiochus I of Kommagene who faced deadly
perils during their various exploits and overcame by persevering. He especially cites a quotation from Eumenes who
said that he had undergone many great struggles (povllou” meVn kaiV mevgalou” ajgovna”) yet ap-
proached the great dangers with indifference. So Christ has all the qualities of a great Graeco-Roman Benefactor and
his death in that it leads to his exaltation and apparent immortality further confirm this interpretation for Danker.

Since the time of Conzelmann’s work, The Theology of St. Luke (1960), in which he claimed that Luke de-
lineates no clear theology of the atonement, there have arisen several models to account for the Lucan presentation
of the death of Jesus. These models have several things in common: 1) they all recognize Luke’s underscoring of the
necessity of the death of Jesus; 2) they all recognize that Luke-Acts focuses more on the exalted, glorified Lord and
3) they all tend to see the mixture of motifs Luke uses, including, justice, innocence, betrayal and martyrological
ideas. It is this last point, however, that gives rise to the different models advanced, depending on what a commenta-
tor thinks should be stressed.
Some commentators stress the justice motif and therefore cast his death in the light of God’s vindication of
a righteous man.80 Others stress the innocent martyr idea.81 Some feel that the death of Christ in Luke-Acts is that

76Kodell, “Luke’s Theology of the Death of Jesus,” 221-30.

77By the term ‘lowly’ Kodell means a person who is humble and ready to receive God’s salvation.
78Kodell, “Luke’s Theology of the Death of Jesus,” 229.
79FrederickW. Danker, “Imaged as Beneficence,” in Reimaging the Death of the Lukan Jesus, ed. Dennis
D. Sylva, (Frankfurt-am-main: Anton Hain, 1990), 57-67.
80cf. Karris, “Luke 23:47,” 68-78.
81cf. Talbert, “Martyrdom in Luke -Acts,” 99 and 110, n. 1; Hultgren, “Interpreting the Gospel of Luke,”

© 1997 Biblical Studies Press 14

of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 and that the death is presented so as to include the idea of vicarious atone-
In summary then, there is at present no satisfactory consensus reached regarding Luke’s presentation of the
death of Jesus. Many models have been proposed, but none seem to deal adequately with all that is going on in

Chapter 3
An Examination of Key Texts in the Disucussion
The purpose of this chapter is to survey the textual critical and exegetical work done on the significant texts
in the discussion of the atonement in Luke’s theology, namely, Luke 22:19b and Acts 20:28. There has been, over
the last 40 years or so, no lack of discussion surrounding these texts. Regarding critical study of Luke 22:15-20, one
author says,
The Lucan account of the Last Supper is a scholar’s paradise and a beginner’s nightmare; for it
raises problems in almost every department of New Testament study and has provided a basis for
a welter of conflicting theories.83
As concerns the text-critical problem of Luke 22:19b, 20 it was commonplace up until the 1950’s to regard
the shorter version as original and to dismiss 19b, 20 as the result of later scribal additions.84 Such is not the case
presently and the debate surrounding the authenticity of these texts is still ongoing.85
Similar conditions prevail in the study of Acts 20:28. The textual problem is not as grave, but the interpre-
tation of the words and whose theology they actually represent (i. e. Luke’s or Paul’s) continues to be an open dis-
cussion. In this chapter we will first look at Luke 22:19b, 20 and then Acts 20:28 in the light of these questions and
their bearing on Luke’s theology of the atonement.

82cf. Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words, 220-31; Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian, 171; Bock,
Proclamation from Prophecy, 338, n. 204.
83G. B. Caird, Saint Luke, Westminster Pelican Series (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1963): 237.
84I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke,(Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,
1978), 799. The various suggested reasons for the inclusion of the two verses are stated below. Regarding the
apparent consensus on the shorter reading priori to 1950 cf. Klyne Snodgrass, “Western Non-interpolations,”
Journal of Biblical Literature 91 (1972): 372-74. He argues that the consensus appears to go back to the work of B.
F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort who, in their critical edition of the Greek New Testament, referred to Luke 22:19b, 20
as “Western Non-interpolations; “ that is, not original. Cf. B. F. Westcott and F. J. A Hort, The New Testament in
the Original Greek, Cambridge-London, I, 1881, 177 (text); II, 1882, Appendix, 63f. It has not been until recently
(i.e. 1950’s-1990’s) that their theory has been sharply criticized by the work of men such as Joachim Jeremias, The
Eucharistic Words of Jesus (London: SCM Press, 1966): 139-159; see our discussion below; Kurt Aland, “Neue
neutestamentliche Papyri II” New Testament Studies 12 (1965, 66): 193-210 and Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “Papyrus
Bodmer XIV: Some Features of Our Oldest Text of Luke,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 24 (1962): 170-79.
85This is despite what Arthur Vööbus has claimed: “It is certain that the longer text could not have been
Luke’s version of the words of the institution. The evidence is strong enough for us to say that this is a firm
conclusion.” Cf. Arthur Vööbus, “A New Approach to the Problem of the Shorter and Longer Text in Luke,” New
Testament Studies 15 (1968, 1969), 462. Such a statement which is based primarily, if not completely, on literary
grounds without an adequate treatment of the extant textual witness, is perhaps unwarranted.

© 1997 Biblical Studies Press 15

Recent Discussion Concerning the
Exegesis of Luke 22:19b, 20
The Problem of the Text:
Is It Original or Not?
Before dealing with the specific arguments for the shorter and longer readings,86 it will be helpful to briefly
present the textual evidence for each position.87 In favor of the shorter reading is the following: D a d ff2 i l syh (and
perhaps c r2 d).88 The longer reading is attested by the following: 1) all the Greek manuscripts, including p75 (AD
175/225); 2) all the versions with the exception of the Old Syriac and part of the itala and 3) by all early Christian
writers beginning with Marcion, Justin and Tatian.89 Therefore, the bulk of the manuscript evidence supports the
longer reading.90 We now look at arguments for the two positions, beginning with the shorter text first.

Arguments for the Shorter Text

General Observations
The accepted criteria for evaluating the internal evidence in a text-critical problem are: 1) the shorter read-
ing is usually older and gives rise to the other readings and 2) the more difficult reading is to be preferred.91 The

86cf. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (New York: United Bible
Societies, 1971): 173-177. Metzger puts forth the arguments on both sides of the issue in a fairly balanced way. But
cf. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke, X-XXIV, vol. 28a, The Anchor Bible, ed. William Foxwell
Albright and David Noel Freedman (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1985), 1388, who says that “the
rating of “C” given in the UBSGNT3 302 is decidedly too low; it should be a “B” at least.” Cf. also E. Earle Ellis,
The Gospel of Luke, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 254, who says “this
passage is the most discussed textual problem in Luke” and Bart D. Erhman, “The Cup, the Bread and the Salvific
Effect of Jesus’ Death in Luke-Acts,” in Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Paper Series. ed. Eugene H.
Lovering, Jr. (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991), 576-591. For a very brief overview of the textual history of the gospel
of Luke and its possible bearing on the text of 22:19b, 20 see, Caird, Saint Luke, 32, 33, 237-38.
87It is hoped that the presentation of this information here will help the reader better understand the
discussion to follow. It must also be said that in reality there are more than two possible texts here according to the
witnesses. There are four intermediate forms of text which seem to be mixtures of the two principal forms. They are
definitely secondary and the reader is asked to consult Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary, 174, for a
presentation of the texts and explanation as to how they are secondary.
88cf. Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, 799. On the possibility of the omission being supported by c r2 and d
see Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words, 142, n. 6; “According to the careful investigation of G. D. Kilpatrick, ‘Luke
XXII. 19b-20,’ Journal of Theological Studies 47 (1946), 49-56, the archetype of c should be added (in the present
form of c vv. 19b-20 are added according to the Vulgate Text) and probably that of r2. According to Merx, Markus
and Lukas, 437, the same is true for q aur d.
89The textual evidence for the longer reading is taken principally from the work of Jeremias, The
Eucharistic Words, 139-142. As far as listing Tatian for the longer reading, Jeremias wants to assert that whenever
we have the combination of D it vet-syr Tatian, “we do not have the influence of Tatian upon the text read in the
West, but rather the text which Tatian in his stay at Rome found there and utilized” (p. 148).
90cf. Pierson Parker, “Three Variant Readings in Luke-Acts,” Journal of Biblical Literature 83 (1965):
165-170 who says “the textual evidence for rejecting vss. 19b, 20 is so scanty that it is hard to see why it should be
taken seriously. Against the [driblets of support for the shorter reading] is the overwhelming mass of evidence from
all the great uncials and cursives, Byzantine, Caesarean, and Alexandrian, that Luke 22 19b, 20 is authentic.”
91Cf. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary, xxiv-xxviii and 176, for a brief description of the
principles for doing textual criticism.

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shorter text fulfills both of these rules in the case of Luke 22:19b, 20 and has therefore been viewed as original.92
Other reasons have historically been advanced in its favor as well: 1) the longer text can be explained as an attempt
to assimilate Luke 22 with 1 Corinthians 11:24 and Mark 14:24b; 2) the style of Luke 22:19b, 20 is not Lukan; 3)
Luke’s avoidance of any kind of vicarious theology precludes the originality of the longer text; 4) redactional study
can account for Luke’s changing Mark from a Lord’s Supper account into a Passover meal93 and 5) the apparent
difficulty that the shorter reading creates regarding the cup–›bread sequence can be accounted for by a similar inci-
dent recorded in the Didache.94

A. Vööbus
Arthur Vööbus, in his article, “A New Approach to the Problem of the Shorter and Longer Text in Luke,”
strongly contends that the shorter reading is to be preferred.95 He suggests that traditional lines96 of inquiry have
failed to produce a satisfactory footing for one side or the other, and that a new approach is needed in order to re-
solve this important issue.97 He refers to his new approach as motif-history and cult-tradition.98
This new approach is based upon the fact that Luke 22:19b, 20 is handled by the evangelist in the context
of a mosaic of traditions; traditions regarding Judas (Luke 22:21-23), personal greatness (22:24-27), the Messianic
banquet (22:28-30), Peter (22:31-34) and preparedness (22:35-38).
According to Vööbus the mosaic as a whole hinges on the account of Judas, who in contrast to the other
parallel accounts, is shown to stay with the 11 and Jesus, to partake of the Eucharistic meal and to be then singled
out. Why does Luke present the Judas episode in such a startling way?99
Vööbus answers,
Luke obviously had his eyes upon the contemporary congregation. His modifications produced a
version the purpose of which was the encouragement of self-examination. The congregation is
warned not to depend upon false security. The point to be grasped is precisely this, that anyone
participating in the Lord’s supper is not thereby exempted from backsliding, from lapsing, from a
failure to fidelity or from an act of treason.100

92Most commentators affirm that the shorter form is more difficult in this case due to its abrupt ending
which demands a smoother completion. But, cf. Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke, 1388, who says that the
longer reading poses the problem of the “two cups” and is thus the lectio difficilior.
93cf. Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, 800. Cf. also Eric Franklin, Christ the Lord: A Study in the Purpose
and Theology of Luke-Acts, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), 65; 199, n. 32 for arguments similar to the
first four mentioned in this list.
94Didache 9:2. Cf. Fitzmyer, The Gospel of Luke, 1397, who criticizes this association as invalid due to the
fact that the Didache is not referring to the Last Supper, but instead to the Eucharist.
95Arthur Vööbus, “A New Approach to the Problem of the Shorter and Longer Text in Luke,” New
Testament Studies 15, (1968, 1969), 457-463. See also Snodgrass, “Western Non-interpolations,” 369-79 and
Parker, “Three Variant Readings,” 165-170.
96Ibid., 457, 58. Vööbus feels that the contributions of the text-critical method, the literary-historical
method and the findings of the ‘stylistic approach’ all point to the reality of the need for a new approach. Even the
work of form critics and redaction-historical critics has done very little in aiding us in understanding Luke’s mosaic
of traditions, according to Vööbus.
97The importance of this issue, lest it be taken too lightly, has been aptly put by Jeremias, The Eucharistic
Words, 139. He says, “The question is not simply a subordinate text-critical problem; anyone who knows the history
of the investigation of the Lord’s Supper of the last eighty years is aware that the question of the Long Text or Short
Text of Luke has time and again been a crucial issue and that a basically different understanding of the Lord’s
Supper has repeatedly resulted according to the answer given to this.”
98Vööbus, “A New Approach,” 459.
99Ibid., n. 2. Vööbus points to the plhvn iJdouv as abruptive and attention grabbing.
100Ibid., 459.

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Therefore, according to Vööbus, the Judas tradition is being used by Luke for pedagogical purposes, in par-
ticular, as a warning to his contemporary readers.101 The same kind of arrangement is being carried out with respect
to the other traditions in the mosaic. The issue of greatness raised by the disciples has been taken from a different
place in the other gospels and grafted in here with the result that the historical connection to the event (i. e. with the
Sons of Zebedee) is reduced to give way to a timeless frame of reference. It too is being framed in such way by
Luke so as to be a warning to his readers. The same is true, Vööbus says, for the other traditions that make up the
The whole mosaic, then, was designed by Luke to function paraenetically with a special note of immediacy
to the congregation. The primary reason for this focus on the immediate nature of the Eucharistic supper is the con-
gregation’s realization that the living Lord is present at the celebration.102 This is the primary theme Luke brings out
with respect to the Eucharist. There are several ancillary themes that flow from this.
The presence of the Lord and the life that he offers in communal worship enable worshippers to live har-
moniously (not fight and quarrel for positions of honor) and serve the Lord wholeheartedly. These themes are set in
the larger framework of the Messianic Kingdom/Banquet and the assurance of a personal presence. From these ob-
servations Vööbus raises the question as to how all this relates to the textual problem at hand.
According to Vööbus Luke has interpreted for us the meaning and significance of the Lord’s Supper. Since
Luke has deliberately omitted the luvtron saying (cf. Mark 10:45), the sacrificial idea is not inherent in the
Lord’s Supper for him. Again, at the heart of the Lord’s Supper is the focus (for Luke anyway) on the living Lord
who is currently present. The idea of an historical sacrifice has no place in this schema and must be accordingly
dropped from the account.103

Eric Franklin
Eric Franklin is another author who, following in the line of Vööbus, defends the shorter reading as origi-
nal. He argues the following points in his contention that the shorter reading is “the true vehicle of Luke’s theology.”
First, he says that the shorter reading is to be preferred and can most easily account for the others. Second, the
longer reading is too much like Paul’s language and therefore appears to be a scribal attempt to harmonize Paul and
Luke. Third, Franklin argues that the longer reading does not contain Lucan terminology. Although he is in agree-
ment with Vööbus he approaches the problem more from the traditional grounds of the textual details than from a
literary model.104

Arguments for the Longer Text

J. Jeremias
In defense of the longer text, Jeremias concentrates his discussion in four main areas: 1) the mass of evi-
dence in favor of the longer reading; 2) a comparison of similar textual phenomena at other points in Luke’s gospel;
3) objections raised to the longer version and 4) a rationale for the development of the shorter text from the

101Ibid.,According to Vööbus, there are several editorial facts that serve to strengthen this interpretation :
1) the dramatic introduction of the event (cf. the plhvn iJdouv); 2) “the drastic adumbration of the logion” is
designed to raise the immediacy of the situation in the minds of the readers as the historical dimension recedes into
the background; 3) the change of tense from Mark who records the Judas event in the past tense, but Luke in the
present; 4) some delicate retouching and 5) the use of travpeza to convey the Lord’s Supper. All these serve to
provide a feeling of immediacy.
102Ibid.,461. Vööbus also says that “Everything in the mosaic is designed with the greatest care to foster a
sense of actualization.” Cf. also, 460.
103Cf. Snodgrass, “Western Non-interpolations,” 374, n. 15. He strongly criticizes Vööbus’s conclusion
that the shorter reading is original by saying that “his assertion . . . is hardly more than a statement of his
104Franklin, Christ the Lord, 65; 199, n. 32.
105Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words, 139-59.

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The manuscript evidence is decidedly in favor of the longer reading. With this in mind Jeremias states:
To hold the short text as original would be to accept the most extreme improbability, for it would
be to assume that an identical addition to the text of Luke (22:19b-20) had been introduced into
every text of the manuscripts with the exception of D a b d e ff 2 i l syrcur sin. 106
As far as the omission is concerned, Jeremias says that this is not the only place where a longer reading
stands beside a shortened form in Luke, with the short form attested by D it vet-syr. According to Jeremias when
these other passages107 in Luke are scrutinized the longer is always to be preferred except in two cases (i. e. Luke
24:36, 40). The longer readings demonstrate, in part, Lucan style and the shorter form can be accounted for by
scribal assumption that assimilation to Matthew and Mark is going on. To say that the Western text is correct each
time is tantamount to saying that the Eastern text (usually judged as the better text) had been obliterated. Jeremias
also adds that the Western readings in Acts are generally thought to be secondary as well. This further supports the
longer Eastern reading in Luke.
Jeremias is well aware of the various arguments that have been raised to cast doubt on the authenticity of
the longer text.108 He deals with two principal arguments; 1) the longer text is nonLucan in style109 and 2) it repre-
sents assimilation to Paul and Mark. These two arguments, however, break down, says Jeremias, for the simple rea-
son that we are not dealing here with Luke writing extempore, but writing according to his Vorlage. He is
transmitting a liturgical text and it is reasonable to concede that very little stylistic polishing went on. The gram-
matical difficulties would present no problem to the hearers due to the sacred nature of the text. And the association
with Paul is not so uncommon once we realize that Paul himself said that he had received the Eucharist tradition (cf.
1 Cor 11:23 NIV).110 Hence they may perhaps go back to the same tradition or to different ones. There is no neces-
sary literary affinity.
Jeremias makes the observation that the theory that the longer text is original can only stand if a satisfac-
tory answer to the question of how the short form developed is forthcoming. This is his final point in an attempt to
establish the argument that the longer text is indeed original.111
Jeremias denies the idea that the short form developed due to scribal desire to avoid two cups (i. e. one in
verse 17 and one in v. 20). If this were the case, the first cup, due to the sequence of the supper, would have been
deleted and not the second.112 The real problem is the deletion of the phrase ‘which is given for you’ (22:19b) and it
is not due, according to Jeremias, to Luke’s avoidance of a theology of the atonement. Rather, it is due to scribal
desire to protect the Eucharist from profanation. Therefore, the text is an aposiopesis; the beginning of a verse of

106Ibid., 144.
107Ibid., 148-52. Jeremias cites Luke 5:39; 7:7a, 33; 10:41, 42; 11:35; 12:19, 21, 39; 19:25; 21:30; 24:6, 12,
21, 36, 40, 50, 51, 52.
108This is true due to the fact that he once advocated the shorter text as original. Cf. Jeremias, The
Eucharistic Words, 152.
109Ibid., 155. Jeremias argues that the nominative participial phrase toV uJpeVr uJmw`n
ejkcunnovmenon is clumsy and nonLucan in that it is in the nominative and not in the expected dative and it is
widely separated from pothvrion.
110In other words, Luke did not have to know 1 Corinthians to have written Luke 22:19b, 20.
111Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words, 156, 57. Jeremias dismisses the arguments that the short text
developed because 1) Luke knew nothing of the words of interpretation over the wine. This is not true for he had
Mark’s gospel in front of him (according to Marcan priority); 2) of communio sub una due to the fact that a great
majority of Christians did not have wine and 3) Luke 22:17-19a presuppose a Lord’s Supper in the order wine-
bread. He also thinks it outrageous and inadmissible to excise 22:19a, a text read by all the witnesses, in order to
smooth out the ending of the passage.
112According to Ellis, The Gospel of Luke, 254, 55, this argument was popularized by Hort and is highly
suspect for the reasons suggested by Jeremias.

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holy text, the remaining unwritten portion of which is known to Christians only, not to outsiders and is therefore
protected from abuse by pagans.113

I. H. Marshall
Marshall agrees with Jeremias in large measure.114 Nonetheless, he finds it difficult to see why, if the tradi-
tion of shortening texts to protect them from abuse by the uninitiated prevailed among Christians in the second cen-
tury, Matthew and Mark did not omit the text from their accounts. He offers no criticism of Jeremias’ theory of an
aposiopesis and out rightly rejects the idea that the shorter version is due to the redaction of Mark. Marshall thinks it
possible that the omission was simply do to a scribal accident or misunderstanding. Apparently, some among those
who made up the UBS (3rd edition) committee suggested the same.115

E. E. Ellis
E. E. Ellis does not readily agree with the idea that the deletion was due to scribal desire to preserve the sa-
cred formula found in 22:19b-20.116 Instead, he builds his case primarily on the work of H. Schürmann who ad-
vanced the following arguments for the longer text: 1) the words plhVn iJdouv (22:21) are strongly adversative
and refer back to uJpeVr uJmw‘n; 2) the idea of the kingdom (v. 29) relates back to the New Covenant (v. 20); 3)
the phrase tou‘to toV pothvrion (v. 42) refers back to pothvrion in 22:20; 4) verbal peculiarities make it
difficult to draw Luke 22:19b, 20 from 1 Corinthians 11 or Mark 14.
Like both Jeremias and Marshall, Ellis agrees that non-Lucan style is no argument against verses 19b, 20
since they are liturgical in nature and that the two cups can be accounted for if the meal is indeed a Passover meal.
But, says Ellis, a Gentile scribe who did not know the ritual of the Passover meal might excise 19b, 20 as a repeti-
tion of verses 15-18. This then is how one might account for the shorter reading arising from the longer.
There is also the possibility, according to Ellis, that Schürmann may be correct in postulating that the omis-
sion is due to liturgical usage. That is,
The omission occurred after the Lord’s supper had been detached from a preceding ‘Love Feast.’
Thus, the textual basis for the earlier rejected practice would be removed. . . The longer text is in
all probability what the evangelist wrote.117

The Exegesis of the Text

The following section deals particularly with the exegesis of Luke 22:19b, 20 as offered by several New
Testament commentators. However, since these verses are themselves part of larger pericope beginning in 22:15,
other exegetical details on verses 15-18 (as well as other texts) will be presented as deemed necessary to accurately
represent each author’s viewpoint.

Joseph A. Fitzmyer
Fitzmyer begins his discussion of Luke’s account of the Eucharistic Supper by noting the marked differ-
ences between it and the Johannine account of the same events.118 On this basis and its similarities to the Marcan
(and Matthean) account, he argues that Mark is the true ‘inspiration’ for the Lucan presentation of the Supper. He

113Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words, 159. Jeremias says that because D in Matthew and Mark leave it in;
this is no argument against his theory since the omission could have been made in the second century (not fifth or
sixth; compare the date for vet-syr; see note 2, 159) among the group of manuscripts (in particular the Luke
exemplar) that make up the D archetype. Ellis, The Gospel of Luke.,255, says that such a tradition is unlikely
because 19a was permitted to stand in the text.
114Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, 799-801.
115Metzger, A Textual Commentary, 176.
116Ellis, The Gospel of Luke, 254-56.
117Ibid., 256.
118Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke. 1385-1402.

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says that Lucan redaction of Mark can be seen in the use of eijpevn with prov” + the accusative (v. 15a) and the
absolute use of paqei‘n in the sense of “suffer.” From a form-critical point of view, Fitzmyer says that the passage
as a whole is the product of a liturgical tradition, disagreeing however, with Bultmann, who considered the pericope
a product of ‘cult-legend.’ There is no need, says Fitzmyer, to take that unnecessarily pejorative direction.119
The passage as a whole breaks down into two discernible units according to this commentator, with verses
15-18 describing Jesus’ celebration of the Passover120 and verses 19, 20 presenting Jesus’ reinterpretation of the
meal or his institution of the Lord’s Supper.121 We now turn our attention to the details of Fitzmyer’s interpretation.
Fitzmyer makes several comments regarding 22:19 that bear on the idea of vicarious atonement in this pas-
sage. He says that according to New Testament usage the reference to Christ’s ‘body’ (v. 19) does not refer primar-
ily to the physical body per se, but to the ‘self,’ including the immaterial aspects.122 And it is this that was given for
the disciples. The terms “this” and “given” have been variously understood,123 but Fitzmyer argues,
No matter how one resolves [these] first two problems, the “for others” aspect of this phrase is
unmistakable. The vicarious gift of himself is the Lucan Jesus’ intention in reinterpreting the
Passover offering of old; it implies the soteriological aspect of his life and death.124

1386, 1387. Cf. also 1387, 88 for a nice description of the text-critical problem in Luke 22:19b,
20. Fitzmyer argues similarly to Jeremias for the longer reading.
120Ibid., 1389, 90. Fitzmyer argues (along with Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words, 15-88) that Luke 22:15-
20 is describing a Passover meal in spite of several opinions to the contrary. According to Fitzmyer and Jeremias the
following suggestions have been proposed: 1) the Last Supper was a: 1) Qiddûs meal; 2) a haburah meal or 3) an
Essene meal. In the understanding of these two men, Fitzmyer and Jeremias, none of these satisfactorily define the
Last Supper as admirably as the Passover meal.
121Ibid., 1390. Fitzmyer contends that if one knows the nature of a first-century Passover meal in Palestine
one will understand that the so-called problem of the second cup is really no problem at all since there were at least
three cups during the meal and most likely four, two of which were considered more important according to the
Passover meal. But cf. John Nolland, Luke 18:35-24:53, Word Biblical Commentary, ed. Ralph P. Martin, vol. 35c
(Dallas: Word Books, Publisher, 1993), 1056. Nolland says that one cannot take the cup in Luke’s account to
identify a particular cup in the Passover meal since Luke has associated it with the Eucharist and the lamb and cup
of 15-18 are set in parallel to the bread and cup in 19, 20.
122Ibid., 1399. Fitzmyer bases part of this argument on the work of Rudolph Bultmann, Theology, 1951,
1:194, who says that “man does not have a soma; he is soma.” As far as the knotty problem of what is meant by “is”
(ejstiVn), Fitzmyer admits that it is difficult to tell for sure whether it means: 1) “is really with” or 2) “is
symbolically with.” He cites from the New Testament support for both interpretations, but says that the first
interpretation held sway up until the Middle Ages (i.e. the eleventh century) and was again reaffirmed at the Council
of Trent. But cf. Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary. Rev. ed. Tyndale New Testament
Commentaries, ed. Leon Morris, vol. 3. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), 334,
who says that identity cannot be in mind (that is, the bread cannot literally be his body) for Jesus’ body was present
when the comment was made. He continues: “The statement is a strong one (i.e. as regards the idea of sacrifice) and
must not be watered down, but it must not be overpressed either.” Cf. also, Ellis, The Gospel of Luke, 256, who is in
agreement with the vicarious interpretation of Fitzmyer, but regarding the verb “is” he says that “the elements are
representative and are the preached word made visible. The point is not the substance of the elements, but their use
as a proclamation of a past event and of a Lord present in the Body of believers.”
123Ibid., 1400, 1401. The primary question with regards to the term “this” (tou`to) is to what does it
refer? Does it refer to the body of Christ or to the bread? Fitzmyer says that the most obvious referent is “my body”
(toV sw`mav mou) because “this” is neuter and agrees with “body” which is neuter as opposed to “bread”
(a[rton) which is masculine. The second question involves understanding the sense of the term “given”
(didovmenon). Due to the sacrificial context here, as well as ample New Testament evidence in addition to
support from several intertestamental sources, it is best to understand “given” as having sacrificial overtones.
124Ibid., 1401.

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As far as the details of verse 20 are concerned, Fitzmyer contends that the phrase “this cup” refers to the
contents of the cup and that the language here is no less sacrificial than the Marcan account (cf. Mark 14:28). He
says that the “New Covenant” idea refers back to Jeremiah 31:31 and is set in contrast to the Old Covenant both of
which were inaugurated through sacrifice; animals under the Old and Christ himself under the New. Fitzmyer also
contends that the passage has Leviticus 17:14 in mind and that Jesus has been “put upon the altar to make expia-
tion.” Again, says Fitzmyer, the idea of Jesus’ blood being “poured out for you” speaks of vicarious suffering.125

Fred B. Craddock
Craddock understands the meal referred to in Luke 22:15-20 as the Passover and says the passage breaks
down into two major sections, namely 15-18 and 19, 20. The first section describes both the fulfillment of the meal
and its eschatological orientation. The second section is composed of two sayings as well, but from a different tradi-
tion, according to Craddock.126
He argues according to the content of verses 19 and 20, that the phrases “this is my body which is given for
you” and “this cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood” do not speak of Christ’s death as
an atonement for sin. He recognizes that the words have come to be understood as referring to such, but maintains
Luke’s account is governed by the Passover, and the Passover lamb was not a sin offering. The
lamb sacrificed for sin was another ritual; the Passover lamb was the seal of a covenant, and the
Passover meal commemorated that covenant offered to the faith community buy a God who sets
free. Jesus’ blood seals a new covenant. . . .127
In conjunction with this, Craddock states that the New Covenant is the means by which God offers freedom
from sin and death to those who believe. Further, those who believe, as shown by the use of a shared cup at the
meal, are intimately linked to Christ and to one another through this New Covenant.128

Recent Discussion Concerning the Exegesis of Acts 20:28

The Problem of the Text: tou‘ Qeou‘ vs. tou‘ kurivou
The external evidence is fairly balanced between these two readings, resulting in the need to look closely at
internal probabilities.129 According to Metzger, the phrase ejkklhsiva kurivou occurs seven times in the Sep-

125Other commentators that essentially agree with Fitzmyer, especially as concerns the issue of Lucan
soteriology in this passage include: C. A. Evans, Luke, New International Biblical Commentary, vol. 3, (Peabody,
MA: Hendricksen, 1990), 316-18. David L. Thiede, Luke. Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament,
(Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988), 380-82. William F. Arndt, Luke, Concordia Classic Commentary
Series, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1956), 438, 39. Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of
Luke, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1954), 555. David Gooding, According to Luke: A New Exposition of
the Third Gospel, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1987), 331-333 and J. Neyrey, The Passion according to
Luke: A Redaction Study of Luke’s Soteriology, (New York: Paulist Press, 1986), 15-17 who admits that Luke’s
words of interpretation concerning the bread and cup speak of an atoning sacrifice, but feels that Luke’s emphasis in
the passage is on the Eucharist as meal, not sacrifice. Cf. also Nolland, Luke 18:35-24:53, 1052, who says that
Luke’s imagery of “poured out blood” foretells the violent kind of death Jesus would undergo and the “for you”
phrase may speak of a “proleptic transmission of the benefit” of Jesus’ impending death to his disciples.
126FredB. Craddock, Luke, Interpretation: A Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, (Louisville: John
Knox Press, 1990), 256.
128cf. also Frederick W. Danker, Jesus and the New Age: A Commentary on St. Luke’s Gospel, Revised and
Expanded, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988), 346. He says that it is not correct to interpret the words, “which is
given for you” so as to indicate vicarious suffering. For him this goes beyond Luke’s ‘simple terminology.’ His view
of the passage is essentially summed up in chapter 2 of this thesis from his work, Imaged through Beneficence.
129The bulk of this discussion is taken from Metzger, A Textual Commentary, 480, 81. He lists another
reading, namely, kurivou kaiV qeou` and understands it to be obviously conflated and therefore, secondary.

© 1997 Biblical Studies Press 22

tuagint, but not in the New Testament and the phrase ejkklhsiva tou‘ qeou‘ occurs 11 times in Paul’s writings.
With these facts in mind one could postulate that a scribe influenced by the Old Testament might well have chosen
ejkklhsiva kurivou over its counterpart. On the other hand, another scribe familiar with Paul’s writings may
well have chosen ejkklhsiva tou‘ qeou‘ over the other. In the final analysis, the difficulty that qeou‘ presents
with respect to “the blood of God” makes it the more difficult reading and in this case the preferred reading.
There is the suggestion though, that the phrase diaV tou‘ ai{mato” tou‘ iJdivou may mean “the blood
of His Own,” where “Own” (i. e. iJdivou) refers to Christ. Both Metzger and Johnson suggest that it may be a title
which early Christians gave to Jesus. If this is the case, the offense caused by qeou‘ would be removed, but it must
be remembered that such a theory rests on very little evidence, none of which is found in the New Testament.130 In
the end, it can safely be said that the overwhelming majority of scholars regard ejkklhsiva tou‘ qeou‘ as origi-

The Exegesis of the Text

The purpose of the following section is to present the state of the discussion on the text of Acts 20:28131 as
it touches on the issue of the atonement in Lucan theology. Virtually every commentator affirms the idea of the
atonement in this passage,132 but they are not agreed as to whether it is due to some early church tradition, Paul’s
belief or Luke’s belief.
Conzelmann says that the expression, “which he purchased with his own blood” is a “turn of phrase current
in the church” and is perhaps being used to give the speech a Pauline stamp. Thus for him, the theology of the
atonement inherent in the passage is definitely not Lukan, perhaps Paul’s, but most likely simply a tradition current
at the time.133 F. F. Bruce opposes Conzelmann’s view that Acts 20:28 represents a ‘turn of phrase’ common in the

Richard Longenecker, Acts, in The Expositors Bible Commentary, vol. 9, ed. Merrill C. Tenney, (Grand Rapids:
Zondervan, 1981), 514, n. 28 cites another variant reading for this text: tou` kurivou JIhsou`. He lends no
credence to the reading, perhaps feeling that it too is conflated and therefore, secondary.
130Metzger, A Textual Commentary, 481. He says that the absolute use of oJ i[dio" is attested in the
papyri as a term of endearment referring to near relatives. L. T. Johnson, The Acts of the Apostles, Sacra Pagina, ed.
Daniel J. Harrington, S. J., vol. 5, (Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazier, 1992), 363. Cf. also Hans Conzelmann, Acts
of the Apostles: A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Translated by James Limburg, A. Thomas Kraabel and
Donald H. Juel. ed. Eldon J. Epp with Christopher R. Matthews, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), 175. He says
that such a patripassianistic statement in Luke is not suited to this period in time and is completely impossible for
Luke who maintains such a strong subordinationism between the Father and the Son. He comments on the
possibility that Luke borrowed the phrase as a whole and in its original context it referred to Christ.
131That is, the exegesis of the phrase: “which he purchased with his own blood.”
132Cf. Darrell Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy, 338; F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles: The Greek
Text with Introduction and Commentary, Revised and Enlarged, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing
Company, 1990), 434; Conzelmann, The Theology of St. Luke, 201; Simon J. Kistemaker, Acts, New Testament
Commentary, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 733; I. Howard Marshall, The Acts
of the Apostles: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, ed. R. V. G. Tasker,
(Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980. Reprint 1989), 333, 34; John B. Polhill, Acts, The
New American Commentary, ed. David S. Dockery, vol. 26, (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 427, 28; R. B.
Rackham, The Acts of the Apostles, Westminster Commentaries, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978), 392;
David J. Williams, Acts, The New International Biblical Commentary, ed. W. W. Gasque, (Peabody, MA:
Hendricksen Publishers, 1990), 355. All these writers, in one form or another, see the “purchasing “ idea in the
Greek verb periepoihvsato and feel that the idea of “obtained” is too weak. But Bart D. Erhman, “The Cup,”
582, 83 outrightly denies that such an interpretation is probable. Luke’s other reference to the blood of Christ in
Peter’s speech (Acts 5:39) is in the context of trying to arouse guilt on the part of the leaders who killed Jesus, to
bring them to repentance. Therefore, says Erhman, since the term periepoihvsato means “acquired,” not
“purchased,” the blood of Christ in Acts 20:28 is that which “produces the church because it brings the cognizance
of guilt that leads to repentance.”
133Conzelmann, The Theology of St. Luke, 201.

© 1997 Biblical Studies Press 23

church. He affirms with C. F. D. Moule that “this is Paul, not some other speaker, and he is not evangelizing, but
recalling an already evangelized community to its deepest insights.”134 Marshall goes a step further by saying that
even though this is one of the few places in Luke-Acts where the atonement is clearly mentioned, we should not
minimize its importance as the belief of both Paul and Luke.135 Franklin, on the other hand, essentially agrees with
the conclusion that the atonement theology of Acts 20:28 is nonLucan. The passage, he says, is Luke’s defense of
Paul against would-be detractors and as such represents “an accommodation to Paul’s beliefs rather than an expres-
sion of his own theology.”136

The purpose of this chapter was to set forth the recent discussion on the exegesis of two critical passages,
namely Luke 22:19, 20 and Acts 20:28. The originality of Luke 22:19, 20 is a much debated textual problem. Gen-
erally those who accept the shorter reading, for whatever reason, feel that the longer reading does not fit Lucan the-
ology in the first place. They deny that the passage teaches any kind of vicarious atonement.
There are those, however, who accept the longer reading as authentic, yet still maintain that it does not
teach a doctrine of the atonement, but is instead connected with the sealing of the New Covenant.
Finally, there are an increasing number of scholars today who accept the longer reading as authentic based
upon solid textual evidence and who affirm that the phrases, “given for you” and “poured out” explicate a doctrine
of the atonement.
Concerning Acts 20:28, most writers affirm both the originality of tou‘ qeou‘ and the idea of vicarious
atonement in the passage. Nonetheless, many still conclude that Luke in Acts presents no positive theology of the
atonement because the theology of Acts 20:28 does not belong to Luke, but to some other source such as Paul or
early church tradition.

Chapter 4
The purpose of this thesis, as stated in the introduction, is to enable the reader to understand the stream of
debate regarding the issue of the atonement in Luke-Acts from the time of the publication of Hans Conzelmann’s
The Theology of St. Luke (1960) to the present day. No attempt has been made to argue for one position over against
another, but instead to delineate from the time of Conzelmann to the present, the state of affairs surrounding this
issue. In this regard, we have seen that there have been several models developed to account for Luke’s presentation
of the death of Jesus, but nonetheless the problem remains a thorny issue with no satisfactory consensus reached.
While virtually every scholar recognizes Luke’s stress on the necessity of Christ’s sufferings,137 there have
been few who have organized the whole of their exegesis of Luke around this idea. Thus, the discussion continues as
to whether Luke presents Jesus’ death as 1) part of his atoning work; 2) the Isaianic Suffering Servant with expiatory
overtones; 3) an innocent martyr; 4) the death of a righteous man whom God later vindicated in the resurrection; 5)
necessary to make possible the resurrection, glorification and exaltation; 6) the death of the lowly and humble, the
benefits of which are passed on to others who walk in lowliness of life or 7) that of a great benefactor.
The reason for the scholarly movement away from a vicarious interpretation of the death of Christ in Luke-
Acts is due to the fact that apart from two passages Luke never appears to make that equation. That is, apart from
these two passages, he never explicitly links the death of Christ with forgiveness of sins. The problem is further

134C.F. D. Moule, “The Christology of Acts,” in Studies in Luke-Acts. ed. Leander E. Keck and J. Louis
Martyn, (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980) 171, quoted in F. F. Bruce, “Acts,” 434.
135Marshall, Acts, 334.
136Franklin, Christ the Lord, 66.
137Scholars have tended to recognize Luke’s use of the Greek verb dei` in connection with Christ’s

© 1997 Biblical Studies Press 24

compounded by the fact that the two passages in question, namely, Luke 22:19, 20 and Acts 20:28 are fraught with
both textual and interpretive problems.
There are a growing number of New Testament scholars, however, who regard Luke 22:19, 20 as authentic
and as such argue for vicarious atonement. Not all, however, who regard the longer text as original interpret it as
commending vicarious atonement. Many instead see Christ’s impending death as the seal of the New Covenant and
not substitutionary suffering at all.
The other passage, Acts 20:28, is textually uncertain as well, but most scholars view the qeou‘ reading as
original. And there seems to be a developing consensus among exegetes that the phrase tou‘ iJdivou was a way of
referring to Christ in the early church. With this in mind, most interpreters understand the thrust of the verb perie-
poihvsato to be in the direction of the “purchasing” idea and agree that here we have vicarious suffering espoused.
But again, in recent discussion on the issue there has been a tendency to ascribe this idea to the theology of someone
other than Luke; to Paul perhaps or to early church tradition.
Such is the current state of the discussion regarding the atonement in Lucan theology. If a satisfactory con-
sensus is to be forthcoming, it will undoubtedly include a model that will both rightly appraise the strengths and
weaknesses of the previous solutions and adequately handle the exegetical details of the Lucan texts in a unified and
convincing way. Such a model has not yet been proposed and is probably good material for a dissertation.

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________. The Theology of St. Luke. Translated by Geoffrey Buswell. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1960.
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Unpublished Materials
Pilgrim, W. E. “The Death of Christ in Lucan Soteriology.” Th. D. Diss., Princeton University, 1971.

© 1997 Biblical Studies Press 29