Friday, October 31, 2014

Luke's Conception of Prophets Considered in the Context of Second Temple Literature

Despite my supervisor's encouragement, I never submitted the Ph.D. thesis that I defended 10 years ago this month for publication as a monograph. While the topic of prophecy in early Christianity and early Judaism remains an ongoing research interest, and the dissertation has provided a starting point for several other journal articles,  essays, and conference presentations (click here for details), any book that eventually materializes will be very different from the dissertation I originally defended--not so much because I disagree with what I argued there, but because I have moved on in my thinking, and because a book should be more focused than the very broad scope of the original thesis. Since the thesis is freely available online, I thought I would link to it here for anyone with an interest in the topic: 
Miller, David M. “Luke’s Conception of Prophets Considered in the Context of Second Temple Literature.” Ph.D., Hamilton, ON: McMaster University, 2004.

Here is the abstract:
The fresh assessment of Luke's conception of prophets undertaken in this thesis is doubly warranted, both by recent scholarly debate about Second Temple Jewish beliefs concerning prophets and by ongoing discussion about Luke's terminology for prophets. The results of the thesis shed light not only on the role of prophets in Luke-Acts, but also on the author's familiarity with beliefs about prophets held by (other) Second Temple Jewish writers.

The results also challenge contemporary scholarship regarding Luke's Christology and his conception of salvation history. Luke does not distinguish prophets according to the period of salvation history to which they belong, nor does he suggest that prophecy had ceased. Instead, the prophets in Luke's infancy narrative join with the biblical prophets as they anticipate the time of fulfillment initiated by Jesus' birth. Luke was aware of expectations concerning the return of Elijah, but there is little evidence in Luke-Acts or in Second Temple literature for a belief in the "prophet like Moses" understood as an independent eschatological figure. Luke limits Jesus' prophetic role to his earthly life, subsuming it under the all-encompassing category of royal Messiah.

Luke attributes a fairly consistent but not unique range of characteristics to prophets. Though non-prophets sometimes "prophesy," the title "prophet" is reserved for individuals who served as prophets over an extended period of time. While the events of Pentecost led to an increase in prophetic activity among Jesus' followers, Luke does not portray all believers as prophets. That Luke does not identify members of the Twelve or the Seven as "prophets" points to a shift in focus: In Luke, Jesus is portrayed against the background of Scripture and first century Jewish life as one who functioned as a prophet and as the Messiah. In Acts, as exalted Messiah and Lord, Jesus becomes the primary background against which Luke's story of the church is told. 

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