The bull of St Luke


Chapter 1: Overview

We begin by reading through both chapters 1 and 2, carefully but not at this stage in great detail. We find in these chapters much loved stories about the birth of our Saviour which we may well have heard frequently over many years. All too easily we can assume we know these incidents well but we need to be reading them again every year so that they can remain fresh in our minds.

We have seen that the Gospel begins with a formal prologue (Lk 1,1-4). Following this, the story of the Gospel opens with a very different style. Note down the various incidents of chapter 1 and then note the theme of story which is told in chapter 2. You will see how 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 here is to consider the signifcance of verse 56. Can you spot a pattern?

Then to confirm your reading take a look at my response and the overview of chapter 1 that I have given. This will also give us our reading plan for the chapter.

The Overture

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

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

There is no need for us to consider Luke's sources. We will see how he is reflecting upon the Septuagint, the Greek version of what we now call the Old Testament He may well have had some traditions available to him. The Gospel of Matthew also begins with two chapters about the birth and childhood of Jesus. The stories and the point of view are very different because Matthew like Luke is using these stories as an introduction to the themes of his Gospel. There are though basic similarities between the two accounts which we can check - the names of Jesus' parents, the places of birth and of upbringing, for example.

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