ASK Commentary
May 19, 2006 

Speaking in California & Memory in Luke

Commentary for May 19, 2006 — Witnesses Who Remember …

Dear Associates and Friends,

I have been invited to speak at the Biblical Archaeology Society of Los Angeles (a non-religious organization) in Monrovia, California on Friday, June 2, 2006. This organization holds casual and informal meetings, not academic presentations. See the website of the Biblical Archaeology Society, Los Angeles.

If you will be in Southern California on that day, I invite you to attend this public lecture during which I shall present the major points of Dr. Ernest Martin’s biblical and historical Temple evidence. As many of you know, Dr. Martin’s research powerfully demonstrates that the Jewish Temples were located above and west of the Gihon Springs, and not on the Haram esh-Sharif, where the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque are currently located.

The location is at the Fellowship Hall of the First Presbyterian Church, 101 East Foothill Blvd., Monrovia, CA. This is at the corner of Foothill and Myrtle in Monrovia. The meeting time is 7:30 p.m. The informal meeting will last about 2 hours. The meeting is free, although a donation of $5.00 to BAS is suggested to cover their meeting room rental.

Also, I am pleased to meet with any of you at two additional times during my visit to Southern California. The first time will be on the afternoon of Sunday, June 4, between 2–4 p.m. at Denny’s Restaurant, at 105 East 17th Street in Costa Mesa, CA. I will be having coffee there and we can talk at that time. One of Dr. Martin’s books will be visible on the table.

We can also meet in the morning between 10 am to 12 Noon on Saturday, June 10 at Fuller Seminary, 135 N. Oakland Avenue in Pasadena, CA (in the area called the Pergola adjacent to the Library).

I look forward to seeing several of you from the Southern California area on June 2, June 4, or on June 10, 2006.

David Sielaff, Director
Associates for Scriptural Knowledge
503-292-4352

What follow is the Commentary “Memory in Luke”:

Memory in Luke

Memory is very important to God. It is the means by which we are accountable to Him and how he brings His Word to our mind. “Your word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). One way that Scripture refers to memory is when a person is said to keep something in their heart. Daniel expresses this very thing:
“Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations [thoughts] much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.”

Daniel 7:28

In other words Daniel thought much on the matters he had been shown in the visions and prophecies he had been given. By thinking seriously and often about highly significant events, our thoughts are put into memory. Such thoughts are said to be put into “long-term memory.” (See the article “Long-term Memory.”)

Memory was also important to the Gospel writer Luke, who was a Gentile. While not a participant or eyewitness himself to the events he writes about (they delivered them unto us, which … were eyewitnesses), Luke relies on the memory from multiple sources in his Gospel. Those memories were recalled and retained, as Luke notes in his narrative. They were done so not by a few of the witnesses, but by many:

“Forasmuch as many have taken in hand [have written down] to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers [officers or deputies] of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect [accurate] understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto you in order, most excellent Theophilus, That you might know the certainty of those things, wherein you have been instructed.”

Luke 1:1–4

Luke is saying that he was a keen and long-time student of the events he writes about and he is giving an accurate narrative from compiled accounts of the people who witnessed those events.

It is also interesting to note that those who “from the beginning were eyewitnesses” were also “ministers of the word.” The word “ministers” is better rendered as officers or deputies. They were not ministers in a traditional understanding of a church minister today. They were subordinate to the word, to the truth of the word, even as the eyewitnesses delivered their message “unto us,” the believers in Jesus the Messiah. The witnesses were telling what they saw and heard and experienced.

Luke compiled his account because apparently there was some confusion from the many accounts, written and by word of mouth, that were extant at the time Luke composed his Gospel. Luke does not say the eyewitnesses were confused, but elements of the eyewitness accounts needed to be “set forth in order.”

When Luke says he presents his material “in order,” that means he is putting the events in a sequence according to when the events happened. This means that the Gospel of Luke is an excellent basis for a chronological timeline and sequence of events, to which other New Testament documents can be related and compared. This also applies to the Book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). I shall examine some sources in Luke’s account, starting with John the Baptist’s birth narrative.

John the Baptist’s Birth
“And they made signs to his father [Zecharias], how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, ‘His name is John.’ And they marveled all. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, and praised God.

And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judea. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, ‘What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.’”

Luke 1:62–66

These events surrounding the birth of John the Baptist had a great impact upon everyone who learned about the events, and the details were spread around widely all around Judea. These were significant events in that “hill country of Judea.” This was a big deal in that town!

Who did Luke learn this from? He learned it from Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was in close contact with Elizabeth. Both Elizabeth and Zecharias were “old” (Luke 1:18, 36). They were not alive when Luke wrote his narrative some 45 years later. However, Mary was a young woman, likely 14 or 15 years old. This was a common age for marriage in those days, perhaps even younger. It is clear from Luke’s Gospel that Mary was a direct source of all events of Jesus’ birth and, of course, to most all later events where she was present such as at the wedding at Cana (in John 2:1–12), later at Capernaum (Matthew 12:46–49), and at the crucifixion (John 19:25–27) and resurrection, where she was numbered with the disciples (Acts 1:14–15).

The text states explicitly that she remembered the events of John’s birth account and all other events clearly, closely, and carefully in two of those events. Almost all of the first two chapters of Luke likely have Mary as the primary source. This means the entire account from Luke 1:8 to 2:52. In fact, Mary was the only person who could have been the source for this narrative.

Mary was either a direct participant or extremely close in relation and affection to the participants, such as John the Baptist’s parents. Elizabeth was a close relative to Mary, “And, behold, your cousin Elisabeth …” (Luke 1:36, the word “cousin” actually means “relative,” the exact relationship is unspecified, but they were obviously very close in affection and circumstance).

Elizabeth was 5 months pregnant before she went public with her happy news (Luke 1:24–25). At the 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel and told that she herself was to become pregnant with a child who would be the Messiah (Luke 1:26–38). After an unknown period of time the pregnant Mary visited Elizabeth before John was born, and she stayed three months (Luke 1:56). It is unclear whether she was present at the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:57–80). However, all the relatives (“cousins” in the KJV) heard and rejoiced at Elizabeth giving birth (Luke 1:58). That would include Mary who in verse 36 had just been referred to as a “relative.”

The Shepherds

The events surrounding John the Baptist’s naming was a “big deal,” likewise the appearance of the angels to the shepherds was a “big deal” to the people near Bethlehem, and understandably so. A glorious supernatural being made an appearance to them: “the glory of the Lord shone round about them” (Luke 2:9), the angel spoke to them, and gave them an important message. After that announcement, “a multitude of the heavenly host” appeared and praised God.

Soon after the birth of Messiah the angels communicated a message to the shepherds, who later told Mary and Joseph what that message was. Here too, Mary would have been the best source for this account written down by Luke:

“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, … And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ [Messiah] the Lord.’”

Luke 2:9–11

The shepherds were compelled to seek the child that the angel told them about, “And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2:16). The announcement of the angels proved to be true, and they were not shy to report the message of the angels and about the child to anyone who would listen to them.

“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.”

Luke 2:17

The news had a profound effect on those they told; it was a wonder to them.

“And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. … And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”

Luke 2:18, 20

Other translations for “wondered” have “were amazed,” “were astonished,” “marveled,” all of which communicate the awe and fright of the appearance (Luke 2:9). They were terrified yet excited with joy!

Mary’s Reaction

But note what Mary did — and this is most important. It relates directly to her being an eyewitness, and relates secondarily to everything that took place from Luke 1:8 to Luke 2:20:

“But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”

Luke 2:19

The Greek is actually stronger than the KJV makes it to be. The Greek indicates that she remembered and treasured and cherished the memory of all that transpired. She thought about the events over and over again. Mary was a participant, an eyewitness, and a recipient of eyewitness reports from others (Elizabeth, Zecharias, Joseph, the shepherds). These events had a profound and powerful effect on her and they were recalled in detail to Luke later in her life.

Luke 2:19 is the kind of statement from a direct eyewitness source. This is not the kind of statement that would be made up by Luke. In other words, the text “reads” naturally, like a narrative that tells about significant events that actually happened.

The entire narrative is from Mary’s point of view, even those parts where Luke relates background information when Mary was not present from others. The entire narrative from Luke 1:8–2:20 is summed up in verse 2:19. The entire narrative has both its climax and denouement (in a literary sense) in the small details that Mary “kept” (remembered) and “pondered” (thought deeply and often) the events that occurred in her life in that period of some 15 months. Mary relates information from eyewitnesses or as a direct eyewitness and participant to events herself. And keep in mind that all of the events of this period were good and happy and marvelous. There was no evil in the entire story. Such things come later.

Another Witness by Mary

Another occasion took place when Mary was a direct participant and when she again remembered the events precisely, “in her heart,” in other words, in her memory. It was the event of Jesus, a boy then of 11 or 12 years old, at the Temple in Luke 2:41–52 during the feast. Read the entire account for yourself, but note the conclusion of the event:

“And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.”

Luke 2:51

Once again she remembered and communicated them to Luke at an appropriate time.

Jesus’ Admonition to Remember

In the parable of the Sower, Jesus reminds his audience that it is not only important to hear the Word of God, but to remember it:

“But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”

Luke 8:15

Later, after He had cast out a devil, Jesus was accused of casting it out by Beelzebul (Luke 11:14ff). After Jesus explained what was taking place, He was praised by a woman:

“‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the paps which you have sucked.’ But he [Jesus] said, ‘Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.’”

Luke 11:27–28

It is not enough to “hear the word of God” but one must also dwell upon it, ponder it, study it — and “keep it.”

Peter’s Remembrance

When Jesus was undergoing His trial and Peter denied Him:

“And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, ‘Before the cock crow, you shall deny me thrice.’”

Luke 22:61

Could anyone really believe that Peter would ever forget that moment? Peter in fact remembered and he (or his written account) was likely the source of Luke’s account, and the accounts in the other three Gospels.

The Resurrection

After Christ’s resurrection the women came to the tomb. Note how the words “remember” and “remembered” are central the narrative:

“And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they [two men, verse 4] said unto them, ‘Why seek you the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spoke unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, ‘The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ And they remembered his words.”

Luke 24:5–8

The angel’s admonition for the women to “remember” was experienced only by the women. They remembered the words, both the words from Jesus and the angels.

The Purpose of the Gospels

Alfred Edersheim in the “Preface to the First Edition” of his book The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah wrote:

“The title of this book must not be understood as implying any pretence on my part to write a ‘Life of Christ’ in the strict sense. To take the lowest view, the materials for it do not exist. Evidently the Evangelists did not intend to give a full record of even the outward events in that History; far less could they have thought of compassing the sphere or sounding the depths of the Life of Him, Whom they present to us as the God-Man and the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father.”

In his personal copy of Edersheim’s book Dr. Ernest Martin circled the phrase ‘Life of Christ’ in the above paragraph and hand-wrote (date unknown) the following above the “Preface”:

“The evangelists did not mean to portray a history of Jesus. They wrote their narrative only to show His prophetical fulfillment of the Old Testament; to show His doctrines; to show His example; to show His salvation. If they wanted to show His history, the evangelists would have recorded His life from 2 years of age until the commencement of His ministry. There, then, is no such thing, actually, as ‘the life of Christ’ (John 21:25).”

What Alfred Edersheim and Dr. Ernest Martin both wrote is true, notwithstanding what others may say, the Gospels and the other New Testament works present to the reader the Gospel of Messiah, the Gospel of God. Its focus is not on mere historical details. Yes, the New Testament documents are controversial. They go against human nature. When the person hears the proclamation of the Gospel, he or she by nature rejects the message.

As I said before, it is not enough just to hear the Word of God. It must be received. It must sink in. It must be “kept.” It must be remembered.

Jesus spoke about those who receive the truths of God. Understanding those truths can only come by God’s revelation — God revealing the truths put forth simply in the Gospel. Only then can the Gospel be understood and believed.

“In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, ‘I thank you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hid these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in your sight. All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knows who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.’”

Luke 10:21–22

The other Gospels and the rest of the New Testament books each have their unique way of presenting their witness and sources. See for example John 2:17, 22, 12:16, 14:26, 16:4; Acts 11:16; 1 John 5:20, to give just a sample.

The Word of God is too important for anyone to dismiss valid eyewitness accounts simply because those simple and straightforward accounts do not agree with their theological presupposition and bias. Pray for those who have such blindness of mind and heart, so they may come to acknowledge the valid witness of the Word of God, and for God to open their minds to the truth of the Gospel of His Messiah, Jesus, the Son of God.

Note what the apostle Paul wrote and how memory is central to the proper understanding of the Gospel so we act accordingly and obtain God’s approval:

“Consider what I say; and the Lord give you understanding in all things. Remember that Jesus Christ [Messiah] of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: ... It is a faithful saying: For
● if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:
● If we suffer, we shall also reign with him:
● if we deny him, he also will deny us:
● If we believe not, yet he abides faithful: he cannot deny himself.
Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.”

2 Timothy 2:7–8, 11–16

On another level it is clear that Scripture was written to be understood. What Luke wrote in his Gospel are simple words written in plain language. It is important not to make a text too difficult to understand by inserting theological thinking into simple narrative. We should not over analyze the Scriptures. The narrative of Luke is set out simply and in a straightforward manner. In regard to the narrative of Luke, perhaps we should remember what the renowned Jewish sage Groucho Marx who said: “A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.”

While some of what the apostles Paul and John have written is subtle and even difficult to understand, the Gospel of Luke is written plainly. The purpose of the Scriptures is to be understood. The apostle John states this explicitly:

“And we know [1] that the Son of God is come, and [2] has given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal [eonian] life.”

1 John 5:20

Mary keeping in her heart and in her memory the early events as told by Luke can be duplicated by each witness, even though explicit citation is not always given to our modern sensibility. The New Testament consists of accounts of witnesses (the Gospels and Acts), Letters (the Epistles), a sermon (the Book of Hebrews), and a vision (Revelation). Each document is genuine, rational, and each one witnesses the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the central event.

“So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth:
it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:11

These witnesses that comprise the Word of God in the New Testament cannot be ignored or dismissed. God’s word will be fulfilled.

David Sielaff
david@askelm.com

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