Admittedly, I have never read Dean Printer before, but I have read Josephus and I have read Luke. When it comes to Josephus, I suspect Printer and I will disagree about him and his hidden transcripts, but will agree when it comes to Luke. Unlike Willitts who has Carter as his foil, Printer’s essay is generally a collection of talking points aimed roughly across the Third Gospel but not hitting anyone in particular in a cordon defensive manner.
Printer’s aim, then, without another scholar to directly challenge, is to use Josephus as a foil to Luke. This, I believed, would be interesting given Luke’s sometimes borrowing of scenes from various works of Josephus, but alas, I found the mention of this area of scholarship lacking in this essay.1 Instead, Printer bases his use of Josephus on a supposed commonality of agendas shared by the two ancient historiographers (103). Printer ultimately sees more of the hidden transcripts in Josephus than Luke (107–8), which I find rather odd since several scholars, myself included, have identified the imperial propaganda created by Josephus as the impetus for the Gospel of Mark.2
While I agree with Printer’s overall arguments, that Luke is simply not concerned enough with Rome to be anti-Rome, his argument is lacking in two distinct areas. First, in discussing the hiddenness of the transcript, Printer’s laugh is almost noticeable as he points out the addressing to Theophilus (109) of the Gospel. The essayist, then, counts the Gospel as a private letter. If so, then this is the only instance of a private letter in the New Testament, not to mention that neither Luke nor Acts is presented as a private letter.3 It is doubtful historiographers would see such a historical enterprise as private, but this is another story. Instead, we can focus on the lack of historical Theophilus. This is not say Theophilus may have not been a real person, but there needs not be such an entity. Instead, we can allow the possibility “Theophilus” is itself a hidden meaning implying “friend of God” or “lover of God,” both theological concepts indicating a status of the person reading the letter rather than a person of status reading the letter. If this is the case, then from the start, Luke is telling his audience that something is buried in the Gospel, something only they will fully understand.
Of course, that is not the major weakness of his argument. His major weakness is not considering Luke as a final redactor of the Mark-Matthew tradition à la Farrer-Goulder. We may allow Luke to have his own agenda, but given the distance away from Mark and Matthew, Luke’s agenda must be considered as one without the crisis of imperial ideology as we see in Mark with something of an echo in Matthew. If Luke is not using the implausible and certainly non-existent Q, then Printer’s allowance that Luke is “free to write as he chooses” (109) is roundly mistaken. Luke is only really free to shape Mark-Matthew around some independent sources. These sources, I would urge, reveal Luke’s agenda and they are an agenda of a settled community rather than a community under mental siege by imperial ideology. Indeed, Luke as much as tells us he is only using sources known to him to retell the story differently and for a different reason (Luke 1.1-4).
Overall, Printer does a fine job and showing a developed Gospel with no real need to press against the encroachment of imperial ideology, offering satisfactory answers as to why Rome simply doesn’t seem to matter to our Evangelist.
- If Luke used Josephus, what does this say about imperial criticism and hidden transcripts? ↩
- First, I would recommend Adam Winn‘s fantastic monograph, The Purpose of Mark’s Gospel. Follow this closely with my recent work as well. ↩
- Some will point to Philemon, however, other names are listed on the letter, as if Paul intended to be read aloud. 1-2 Timothy and Titus, Deutero-Pauline at best, include the need for the letters to be read aloud, in a congregation as well. ↩