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Monday, February 21, 2011

Luke's account of the Transfiguration - part one

In the synoptic accounts of Jesus' transfiguration Matthew and Mark are generally similar with some disagreement in detail but Luke is an independent version.

28  Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray.

Luke 9:28  Εγενετο δε μετα τους λογους τουτους ωσει ημεραι οκτω ⸀και παραλαβων Πετρον και Ιωαννην και Ιακωβον ανεβη εις το ορος προσευξασθαι. — SBLGNT M. Holmes

The time reference is different. Both Matt. and Mark have Καὶ μετὰ ἡμέρας ἓξ παραλαμβάνει ὁ Ἰησοῦς And after six days Jesus taking with him. Luke introduces the story with reference to the forgoing words μετα τους λογους τουτους  after these sayings and he attaches a hedge word ωσει about to the number ωσει ημεραι οκτω about eight days. Matt. and Mark have no hedge word, a different number, and they do not anchor the story to the previous speech μετα τους λογους τουτους  after these sayings.

Both Matt. and Mark use a full noun phrase  ὁ Ἰησοῦς Jesus to indicate the agent/subject with the participle. Jesus taking with him παραλαμβάνει ὁ Ἰησοῦς. Luke[1] omits the full noun phrase. The participle is left hanging out there all alone with nothing to help it. The lack of a full noun phrase is significant because it requires a backwards look in the immediate context to find out who is the agent. This produces textual cohesion. Luke provides a strong clue about the agent with the phrase μετα τους λογους τουτους after these sayings. The reader needs to ask, who was speaking just now and that will supply an agent for the participle. This feature of Luke's account makes the transfiguration story less portable by anchoring it to the preceding pericope.

[1] The name of Jesus occurs statistically [per 1000 words] less often in Luke than the other gospels. John's gospel is at the other end of spectrum with the highest level of occurrence.


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