Topic: Luke's Perspective of Jesus: Ch. 1 Message Outlines
Luke 1:26-38 (2)
by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Study # 2 December 28, 2003 Lincolnton, N.C.
(038)Thesis:Why is it that we cannot live with a certain level of ambiguity in the Bible?
Introduction:As we come to our time of study this morning, we are faced with a puzzle. The first piece of the puzzle is the question of the content of the text (what did Luke write?). The second piece of the puzzle is the question of what really caused Mary's reaction (what caused Mary to be so agitated?). And the third piece of the puzzle is the question of why Luke put this puzzle before us (upon what did Luke want Theophilus to dwell as he considered this record?). Therefore, we are going to see if we can begin to make a picture come together this morning by attempting to put the pieces of the puzzle together correctly.
I. The First Piece of the Puzzle.
A. The first question here is 'what did Luke write?'.
1. This question is raised by the obvious differences that are found in the translations.
2. This question has to be answered before we can live by these words of the life-giving Spirit.
B. The second question here is 'how do we decide?'.
1. There are many reasons for differences between translations.
a. These reasons begin with the fact that there are different manuscript traditions behind the different translations.
b. With different traditions as the starting point, there are still many reasons because even the different traditions have variations within themselves.
2. The main reason for the difference before us today is that, at some point, someone either added to the text he was copying, or someone subtracted from the text he was copying.
3. The answer to 'how do we decide?' is to be found in answering two other questions.
a. These questions are:
1) Is it more, or less, likely that someone added to, or subtracted from?
a) To answer that question, we must look at what would be at stake.
i. Clearly, no one who would deliberately add to, or subtract from, would have a solid focus on the Word as critical revelation (i.e. that Jesus said there was "life" in every word was not on the front burner).
ii. That leaves us with two fundamental options:
(a) There are only two basic reasons for subtracting from a text:
i) The text is seen to contain falsehood that needs to be deleted.
ii) The text is seen to be redundant and needs to be streamlined.
(b) There are only two basic reasons for adding to a text:
i) The copyist is so impressed with what is happening in the text that he/she wants those who will have his/her copy to really think about what is happening in the record.
ii) The copyist wants those who read his/her copy to move closer to his/her own theological position so he/she adds words to help that happen.
iii) Either of these desires would motivate the insertion of "commentary".
2) Could it have been an accident?
a) The 'accident' could have happened in either of two ways:
i. Someone made an honest copy, but, for personal reasons, also wrote brief "commentary" for his/her own personal benefit; but, someone else got this copy and didn't know the "commentary" was commentary and, thus, copied it along with the actual text.
ii. Someone who was aware that sometimes "commentary" crept into the text determined, for whatever reason, that something in the text was "commentary", so he/she deleted it.
b) So, by accident, the text could have been emended in either direction -- longer, or shorter.
b. In applying these issues to our text this morning, what we find is this:
1) There is nothing in any of the textual traditions that is "untrue", so there is no 'theological axe' here.
a) That "the angel" came to her is indisputably true.
b) That Mary was "blessed among women" is indisputably a part of the meaning of the later conversation between her and Elizabeth.
c) That Mary "saw" Gabriel is also indisputably true.
2) There is nothing in the texts that hints of a desire to "streamline" [as the double reference to 'the virgin' in the preceding verse indicates], so the idea that someone 'deleted' words that appeared to be redundant does not apply here.
3) There is no evidence of any kind that someone attempted to streamline for any other reason.
4) That leaves us with one conclusion: it is far more likely that someone added words to the text than subtracted words from the text.
5) Therefore, we will rest this case upon the text that is shorter.
a) What is the bottom line here?
b) In the final analysis, there is only one issue involved: was Mary deeply agitated by the statement "you are blessed among women", or "you are highly favored by God and He is with you"?
C. The third question is this: 'why didn't God preserve His text in infallible purity so we wouldn't have to wrestle with the specific identity of Truth?'
1. There are those who say that He did.
a. However, all of the evidence that exists argues that He did not.
1) There is no promise in any manuscript anywhere that God would preserve the integrity of His gift of infallibly inspired words.
a) All of the manuscripts contain the statement that men penned the biblical writings at the unction and under the dominion of the Holy Spirit.
b) None of those infallibly inspired documents contain the promise that those who made copies would be under the same unction and dominion of the Spirit.
2) There is no manuscript tradition that is free from differences in the text.
3) There is no manuscript tradition that has a discernible stamp of divine preservation upon it.
4) Even those who adamantly insist on an infallible purity of 'their' text cannot be consistent in their defense of 'their' text.
b. In the final analysis, those who say that He did, say so as an article of blind faith, not as a demonstrable fact.
1) As an article of blind faith, the claim is simply the result of deductions made from certain fallible interpretations of certain texts from a certain textual tradition [blind faith is the fifth step from its roots that refuses to admit any error in any of the preceding four!].
2) As an article of blind faith, the claim cannot be unseated in the minds and hearts of those who subscribe to it -- blind faith cannot be unseated by argument or evidence.
2. For those who admit the fallibility of all four preceding steps, the question remains: why didn't God preserve the integrity of His gift?
a. First, because it is not necessary.
1) The necessity only rested in the original manuscripts as they were the foundations for all of the copies to be made.
2) The original manuscripts established all doctrine by repetition and coherence so that no alteration of tiny details could have any final subversive impact upon the disciple of the Truth.
b. Second, because it feeds into the excesses of the depravity of men.
1) There is no gift which God has given that has not been either idolized or crucified by men who do not want to be at the mercy of God.
a) It is impossible for depravity to respond legitimately to divine goodness.
b) In every case in history in which God has given benefit to men, they have taken it as their "right" and either turned it into an idol, or turned from it in hostility.
2) The doctrine of an infallible present gift has turned men from humility to arrogance and heresy.
3) The underlying problem of man is his desire to get into the driver's seat because he does not want God to be necessary and gracious -- thus, he invariably turns the grace of God into a method of establishing himself in dominion -- so God has taken away the foundations of man's ability to sit in the seat of authority.
4) An inspired text has become a pretext for promotion of an inspired interpreter!
a) As long as man-made faith is the fifth step in the process, there will never be any foundation for human arrogance.
b) As long as God-made faith is the function of the Spirit of God acting for man's benefit, there can be no foundation for human arrogance.