The bull of St Luke

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

LUKE CHAPTER 1: Preparing for the Story

Chapters 1-2: Overview

We need to begin by reading through both chapters 1 and 2, carefully but not yet in great detail. Certainly we find here well loved stories about the birth of our Saviour but these are stories which we can too easily assume we know. We need to be reading them again every year so that they remain fresh in our minds.

As you read, note down the various scenes of chapter 1 and then the overall story of chapter 2. Each scene is marked by a change of character and a change of place. Take special note of how chapter 1 is arranged and how it prepares for chapter 2. A useful clue is to consider the signifcance of verse 56.

Then confirm your reading by looking at my response and overview of chapter 1. This will give us our reading plan.

The Overture

Traditionally the two chapters from 1,5 onwards are known as the infancy narrative of this Gospel. Like so many traditional titles, that of itself raises questions. Chapter 2 is indeed about the birth and childhood of Jesus and we will read that in due course. Chapter 1, all 80 verses of it, is much more of a mixture, alternating as we have now seen between scenes about Jesus and about John the Baptist. That is why we will read this chapter separately to chapter 2 and as a preparation for it.

There is no need for us to go into detail about Luke's sources. Nor am I suggesting we do a comparison with the first two chapters of Matthew's Gospel. Those two chapters also tell of the birth and childhood of Jesus but from a very different point of view. It will useful though for us to check on the basic similarities between the two.

These opening chapters are best read as an overture to the Gospel because many themes which come up throughout the Gospel story are introduced here. We need therefore to read these stories looking for what they tell us about Jesus and his mission in this world in preparation for the story to come. The evangelists are always more interested in the message and are using their story to present that message.

With that in mind, we can now begin first with the Prologue (1,1-4) where Luke makes his intentions clear. Then we will be ready to move on to the announcement of the birth of John and into the Gospel story.