Luke’s Narrative of Joseph and Mary, Simeon, and Anna Intended as Affirmation of Righteous Piety?

I know many folks simply want to read Biblical narrative through a moralistic hermeneutic, trying to gain some life principles or some characteristics to emulate from the Biblical characters. While the motives of such an endeavor are commendable, many have missed the main point, namely Christ. He is everywhere in Scripture and if we don’t see him, then we aren’t reading our Bibles as God intended. That being said, much narrative is constructed to commend or condemn certain behavior.

New Testament scholar Robert Stein suggests that Luke constructs his narrative in chapter 2:22-40 of his Gospel with the intent of commending the piety of Joseph, Mary, Simeon, and Anna as an example to emulate. I thought his insight was worth mentioning:

Within this passage two major Lukan theological emphases can be seen. The first involves the ethical behavior Luke was commending to his readers. We find several ethical models in this passage, and they were all commended by Luke because they keep God’s law. Joseph and Mary, whose behavior hitherto has been portrayed most positively, kept the ritual law by submitting their son to the circumcision rite (2:21) and by having Mary and Jesus fulfill the rites of purification and redemption (2:22–24). They did what the law required (2:27). In fact, they did “everything” the law required (2:39). Likewise Simeon is described as righteous and devout (2:25), and the reader at this point assumes that he was so because he observed “all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly” (1:6). Anna also portrays the best in OT piety, for she was always worshiping in the temple, fasting, praying, and giving thanks (2:37–38). Significantly Luke referred to the law four times in this passage (2:22, 23, 24, 27, cf. also 2:29 [rhēma, “thy word,” RSV]). He clearly believed that the OT is still operative as a guide for Christian behavior. True piety in the kingdom is basically no different from true piety in the OT period. The God of Abraham is the God of Jesus Christ and the God of Peter and Paul as well. The behavior God sought from Abraham is the same behavior he was seeking from Theophilus.[1]

[1] Stein, R. H. (2001). Vol. 24: Luke (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (119). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

© 2011, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.


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