December 01, 2005

No Caesarea Philippi = Lucan Priority?

Richard Anderson asked an interesting question in regards to Lucan Priority (i.e. that the Gospel of Luke was the first to be composed, and other Gospel writers use it as a source.) He points out quite correctly that for some reason, Luke omits the location of the discourse (Luke 9:18-27) in which Jesus asks “Who do the people say I am?” This is the exchange where Peter famously confesses Jesus is the Christ.

The accounts in Matthew and Mark however, contain the place name as “the district of Caesarea Philippi” and “the villages of Caesarea Philippi” respectively.

Richard asks if there is any evidence as to when this area is first known as Caesarea Philippi, and if the area would have been known as such during the time Luke composed his Gospel. Further he asks:

“Is the failure of Luke to mention Caesarea Philippi evidence in support of the priority of Luke because Caesarea Philippi did not receive its name until some time after Jesus' famous visit to that community and thus is evidence of anachorism by Matthew and Mark?”

This was an interesting question, and got me thinking; so I took a look at the narratives. I’ve come to the conclusion that while the questions Richard raises are interesting, and some what possible --- I don’t believe them to be convincing evidence of Lucan Priority.

(1) The lack of a place name does not imply that there was no common name for the location at the time. Luke may have simply just left it out.

(2) It seems unlikely that the area remained without a common name or common recognition so much so that Luke cannot supply a name but the other writers (writing in generally the same time frame) could.

(3) Both Mark and Matthew often use themes and references that Jews would better understand while Luke catered to Gentile sensibilities. Given this, it seems fitting Luke would omit the location, but Mark and Matthew would include it since the area (at the ‘borders’ of heathen territory so to speak) so associated with pagan worship (especially the worship of Pan) would provide a fitting contrast with the Jewish Temple. It is doubtful that Gentiles would understand this irony.

(4) Luke could have also described the gentile temples (which no doubt would have existed at the time) or some other landmarks, but instead he seems more concerned with the verbal exchange.

(5) While the point remains that Mark and Matthew could be committing some form of anachronism (in placing the conversation at Caesarea Philippi) I believe the point in (3) supersedes this likelihood. Further, even if Lucan Priority is the case, this does not logically flow that any anachronism taking place as much as clarification.

I would like to read more about, and see more evidence for Lucan Priority, but as for this omission being evidence of such, I’d have to disagree.


At December 01, 2005 5:14 AM, Blogger Richard H. Anderson said...

Thank you for engaging with me on this matter. Why is it that Luke is the only NT writer who tells us about the circumcision of the Messiah? In Jan, Feb and March of 2005, I published a number of articles on my blog that ought to interest you: Circumcision, 2-13; Was the author of Luke-Acts Jewish, 2-2; Knowledge of Theophilus of the LXX, 1-20 and Rewriting Sacred Scripture, 3-27. In Rewriting I demonstrates how and why Josephus rewrote scripture, he was responding to Luke! In most of the articles, I published this year, I could have easily included a paragraph indicating the contents of the article supported Lucan priority. I close with a question, does the Lucan Jesus walk on water?
Thanks again for your thoughtful response.

At December 04, 2005 1:58 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

I've never heard anyone else in the entire history of the church (at least what I'm familiar with) propose "Lucan priority" (I can't even write the phrase without putting it in quotation marks). The unique features of Luke's gospel aren't enough (all four gospels have unique features). To seriously suggest "Lucan priority," you'd FIRST have to argue against all the many, many reasons stated over the last two centuries regarding Markan priority. Then a case would have to be made for Luke's gospel as the first written. Those two tasks would be an uphill battle, and in my mind an impossible one.


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