'It is only in his own country, in his own home that a prophet goes unhonoured.'This was Jesus' comment on his home reception in Nazareth, an event placed significantly by Luke at the very opening of the public ministry. After so many years during which there had been no prophet in Israel, in which the very idea of a prophet had, for the more orthodox, become part of the past rather than the present, there was again a living prophet. The common testimony of the synoptics leaves no doubt that Jesus used the title, though it was not his favourite way of describing himself; he is called the same in the very earliest apostolic witness—Acts 3:22; 7:37—and this too would be difficult to explain if the name had not first been used by Jesus himself. There is moreover a whole host of texts to demonstrate that it was above all as a prophet that the common people received him; the Samaritan woman's 'Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet' (Jn.4:19) was the normal reaction to his teaching and miracles. In the first gospel this is particularly clear; when he entered Jerusalem before the last Pasch the whole city was disturbed: 'Who is this? they asked. And the multitude answered, This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee' (Mt.21:11). The chief priests and pharisees, we are told, would gladly have laid hands on him, but they feared the people who looked upon him as a prophet (Mt.21:46). Our Lord's prophetical character was then an accepted thing in his own lifetime and in the primitive church. It was an idea which Luke developed, but to understand it properly we have first to turn back to the prophets of the Old Testament.
In the first book of Samuel (9:9) we read that ' He who is now called a Prophet, in time past was called a Seer'. The first word, the one used most often in the Old Testament to describe prophets, is in Hebrew nabi, the second ro'eh. From these two words we can obtain some idea of what a prophet was. Let us take ro'eh first; he was a seer, one who saw further and deeper than others. Through visions, or better still vision, he could get beyond the world normally presented to our senses, and divine reality was revealed to him. In the Lamentations of Jeremias it is written that 'Israel's prophets have found no vision from the Lord' (2:9); they lacked in fact their essential gift, had become tasteless salt. But to have vision was never the whole story of a prophet; he was not only one who saw things, but one who proclaimed what he saw, and that brings us to the second name—nabi. The origin of the word is not known but its sense can be had fairly well from two passages in Exodus. The Lord told Moses to take Aaron as his spokesman, 'Speak to him, and put my words in his mouth; and I will be in thy mouth, and in his mouth, and will show you what you must do. He shall speak in thy stead to the people, and shall be thy mouth but thou shalt be to him in those things that pertain to God' (Ex.4:15-16). And again the Lord said to Moses, 'Behold I have appointed thee the God of Pharao: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet' (Ex.7:1). Evidently it is the same thing to be someone's prophet or their mouth, that is to say spokesman and interpreter. A prophet is one who speaks; the word is his characteristic (see Jer.18:18). But it is not his own word that he utters, because he is called, inspired by God, and then 'sent' to speak in God's name to the people.
These are the two sides of the prophet's character: the passive, recipient side, that of the seer granted the enlightenment of contemplation; and then the active, vocal side, the mission of preaching. Personally called and taken into the hidden counsels of God, enabled to see something of the divine ways which are not human ways, the prophet is then sent back to his fellow men to proclaim to them the divine way, path of righteousness and salvation, the kingdom of heaven. The divine sending of the true prophet is essential, and his temporal mission is the pre-figurement of that of Jesus the prophet-Son. 'Since the days that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have ever sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them.'Thus the true prophet combined vision with mission.
In fulfilling this mission he proved his authority by signs and miracles. Some prophets like Moses and Elias were great miracle workers, others in the conventional sense were not, but all in one way or another had the manifest power of God upon them. This power was their authentication, but miracles and prophecies as such remained subsidiary to their primary function which was moral and doctrinal, the proclamation of God's ways to men. This proclamation was made in a multitude of ways, some of which must seem to us bizarre and obscure rather than enlightening. What is most strange is the insertion of the supernatural within the realms of the ordinary or the fantasy of the psychic, the religious significance of ' a hook to draw down fruit' (Amos 8:2) or of Nabuchodonosor's dreams. The effect of divine insight could well be overwhelming; human flesh is not made for such experience, and at times no other response may seem possible than Jeremias' 'I cannot speak for I am a child' (Jer.1:6). Revelation was rich and diverse both in its content and its mode, and could as well be made on the purely intellectual level as mediated through a vision, dream or just a sudden intuition. This psychological side of prophetism is important, especially for the prophets of the earlier period of Israelite history. There were always many more who had the psychological than who had the theological character of prophet: the ' schools of prophets' and the ' sons of the prophets' represented a certain natural gift of prophecy, not easily distinguishable from the strictly supernatural calling; they shared the same outward phenomena and served to point out the true interpreter of the word of God.
The history of prophetism in Israel is nearly identical with the history of the chosen people itself, from Moses, like whom ' there arose no more a prophet in Israel' (Deut. 34:10), through Nathan and Elias, Amos, Isaias and Jeremias, to the time when there was not only no prophet like unto Moses, but no prophet at all—'there was no prophet in Israel' (1 Mach. 9:27). It was a sign that the old dispensation was nearing its close.
Moses was the great foundation figure for Israel, the man who had led the tribes throughout Exodus, Israel's springtime of testing and the classical moment of her relationship with God. In a way he hardly belongs to the prophetical tradition, which is characteristic of a later period. Nevertheless he was canonized as the greatest of prophets, as the man who had had the closest vision of God (on Sinai) and who beyond all others had been the interpreter of the will of God to his people. Of him alone was it said that ' The Lord spoke to Moses face to face as a man is accustomed to speak to his friend' (Ex.33:11); and he alone was law-giver, mediate source of that law which grew to embrace practically the whole of Jewish religion. Israel was agreed that no more recent figure could be compared with him, and that makes it all the more strange that Deuteronomy foretells the coming of a new Moses, like unto the first. This is a prophecy of high importance. After rules for priests and levites and the forbidding of soothsayers Moses continued:
Thou shalt be perfect: and without spot before the Lord thy God. These nations, whose land thou shalt possess, hearken to sooth-sayers and divines: but thou art otherwise instructed by the Lord thy God. The Lord thy God will raise up to thee a prophet of thy nation and of thy brethren like unto me. Him thou shalt hear. As thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb, when the assembly was gathered together, and saidst: Let me not hear any more the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see any more this exceeding great fire, lest I die. And the Lord said to me: They have spoken all things well. I will raise them up a prophet out of the midst of their brethren like to thee. And I will put my words in his mouth: and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him. And he that will not hear his words, which he shall speak in my name, I will be the revenger. But the prophet, who being corrupted with pride, shall speak in my name things that I did not command him to say, or in the name of strange gods, shall be slain. And if in silent thought thou answer : How shall I know the word that the Lord hath not spoken ? Thou shalt have this sign: Whatsoever that same prophet foretelleth in the name of the Lord, and it cometh not to pass; that thing the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath forged it by the pride of his mind. And therefore thou shalt not fear him (Deut. 18:13-22).
We have here the classical account of the prophet's role in Israel; though speaking of a single prophet it clearly refers to the 'institution' of prophets, of a series of men raised up by God to continue Moses' work of speaking to Israel in the name of God; a single prophet would not have answered the purpose as indicated by the people's request at Horeb. The reference to false prophets points to the same conclusion. But here as elsewhere a prophecy referring to a whole group has a fuller sense not satisfied by its group explanation.The prophecy's full meaning requires not only a series of prophets, but also a single one who, summing up all in himself, will be great as Moses both in closeness to God and as legislator for God's people.
Next to Moses stands Elias, a figure still more enigmatic; no one surely is more distant, more difficult to comprehend. 'Prophet and father of prophets' St Ephraem called him, and St Jerome thought him the type of all prophets.He is a truly archetypal figure to be encountered in religion's deepest places like the desert and the Order of Carmelites, but in life it was his fierce opposition to idolatry which was his most striking characteristic, a perennial struggle with the Baal worship of Queen Jezabel of Samaria. He wrote not a word, but his miracles, his power with God to bring down rain and fire to earth, to raise the dead or massacre the enemies of true religion was prodigious. And then, like Moses, he 'saw' God (3 Kings 19:13), and just in that place where Moses too had seen Him, on Mount Horeb or Sinai. Finally Elias did not die but was carried up to heaven in a chariot; and not dying, he became a symbol of immortality, life beyond the grave, the Resurrection. His return as precursor of the Messiah was prophesied by Malachy and constantly expected by the Jews of later times.
'This, then, was the testimony which John bore, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem, to ask him, Who art thou? He admitted the truth, without concealment; admitted that he was not the Christ. What then, they asked him, art thou Elias? Not Elias, he said. Art thou the prophet? And he answered, No.' (Jn.1:19-21). Here we see the variety of ideas in Our Lord's time about the 'coming one'—the Messiah, Elias, the prophet. Expectation of the latter seems to have been due less to Deuteronomy than to contemporary eschatological nationalism. The common people, unlike the scribes and pharisees, had never reconciled themselves to the extinction of the prophetic gift in Israel, and even the Maccabees had been thought of as prophets (they were already priests and kings). Since their time the expectation of an approaching prophet was mixed up with the nationalist messianism then rampant. Such men as Theodas and Judas the Galilean, mentioned by Gamaliel (Acts 5:36-7), were readily received as prophets by the common people; and the return of Elias, greatest of all wonderworkers, was anxiously awaited. If there seems to have been little explicit expectation of a prophet-messiah, the explanation may be partly that people were less concerned with the coming of a personal messiah than with that of the messianic age, and partly that prophet and messiah were still normally distinguished : the prophet's coming was to be the immediate sign of messianic times, which he would usher in, preparing the way for the messiah-king who would follow. This expectation of the prophet-precursor was remarkably vindicated, as the first chapters of St Luke especially indicate, in the preaching of John, son of Zachary.
It was certainly the popular expectation of a powerful prophet of one kind or another which explains Jesus' tremendous welcome by the common people. John's preaching had already drawn vast crowds, and at first sight Jesus seemed to fulfil still better all the yearnings of popular Jewish religion for a prophet or messiah-king. Only slowly did they realize how different he was from what they had come to expect and desire. The early Church interpreted his prophetical function much less according to the popular apocalyptic ideas of the time than in the classical terms of Deuteronomy 18, and seems (with maybe the Samaritans) to have been the first to understand the latter in a fully messianic sense. Here as elsewhere the root of Christian theology is to be found in Jesus' bringing together of different strands of Old Testament teaching and prophecy in his own person.The prophet of Deuteronomy, unlike some of the later popular conceptions of the future prophet, had his feet firmly planted on earth; and yet Jesus was able to link this up in himself with the Son of Man 'coming on the clouds of heaven'; his teaching about himself was a revolutionary combination of Old Testament ideas, reconcilable only in the light of his own personality.
But more important than Deuteronomy 18 for Jesus' own conception of his prophetical character is another set of texts, that of the suffering servant of the Lord, described by Deutero-Isaias.The figure of the servant depicted is that of a prophet, a prophet in some ways very like Moses; it was especially as the servant of the Lord that Jesus manifested himself, a prophet representative of his people, and one that had to pass through suffering to glory. It is in these texts that the coming was revealed of the
Man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity: and his look was as it were hidden and despised. Whereupon we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our iniquities: he was bruised for our sins. The chastisement of our peace was upon him: and by his bruises we are healed (Isa. 53 :3-5).
Although these passages were interpreted messianically even before our Lord,the people of his time were certainly expecting a glorious rather than a suffering messiah; the need for his sufferings was the burden of most of the teaching given by Jesus to his closest disciples, yet it was also what they found most difficult to understand. In spite of his frequent prophecies they were overwhelmed by the Passion, and only after the Resurrection did they understand the teaching he had given them about his redemptive death. And this teaching made use above all of the Servant songs in Isaias; the New Testament is saturated with references to them. This was common Christian teaching, St Luke's included, and he gives us its locus classicus in his account of Philip and the eunuch in Acts 8:30-5; but it is also true that St Luke speaks less of Jesus' sufferings than Matthew or Mark, and he toned down their picture of the Passion, concentrating more on the glory. It was St Peter himself who best understood the mystery of Jesus' suffering, Peter who previously had failed to accept it at all (Mk. 8:32-3); but having once understood he never forgot it, and the theology of Jesus' sufferings, of Jesus the suffering servant, is pre-eminently his.
The aspect of the Servant songs which probably appealed most to Luke was their universalism. The servant 'will bring forth judgment to the Gentiles' (42:1), he is given 'for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles' (42:6). Called from the womb God says to him,' Thou art my servant Israel, for in thee will I glory. . . . Behold I have given thee to be the light of the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation even to the farthest part of the earth' (49:3, 6). All of which was fulfilled in Jesus,' the light which shall give revelation to the Gentiles, the glory of thy people Israel' (Lk. 2:32). By many other little traits Luke further delineates Jesus as the prophetic servant of the Lord, who would be called from the womb, on whom the Spirit would rest, who would give law and justice, inaugurate a new age, and suffer for the sins of his people. But in speaking of Luke we are anticipating, and for a moment we must return to sum up the pre-Lucan position.
Behind Jesus, prophet-messiah, there was a vast and complex prophetical tradition, which we even now do not understand too well. It was a cord of many different strands, weaving and inter-weaving, and preparing for Jesus' use at once the classical prophecy of the Deuteronomic prophet, the mysterious messianic figure of the suffering servant of the Lord, and other popular and less orthodox ideas, which were very widely spread among the Jews of Jesus' time. Yet combined with this expectation of a prophet was the sad reality that for long there had been no prophet in Israel. When the prophetical tradition had thus died out, the appearance of a new prophet inevitably implied something more than a continuation of the prophets of the past, it suggested the arrival of a new epoch, the messianic age. As we have seen, both Jesus and the early Church made use of this expectation and these ideas, and St Luke had a firm foundation on which to build. To him we now return, to consider his interpretation of the Old Testament witness and New Testament fulfilment woven into the pattern of his teaching.
The first prophet to appear in the third gospel, as in the other gospels, is John the Baptist. He was the prophet who was to precede the Messiah and usher in the last age. 'And thou, my child, wilt be known for a prophet of the most High.'It is because he is a prophet that he will be filled with the Holy Spirit (1:15) and will be supremely a man of prayer and a desert-dweller (1:80), for these were all prophetic traits. The reference to the desert is especially significant:' He dwelt in the wilderness until the day when he was made manifest to Israel.' The desert was the place where prophets belonged, at least in their formative years-—Moses, Elias, and now John the Baptist and then Jesus himself; it was where they were prepared and where they prayed; Jesus was there for forty days before the beginning of the ministry (and maybe for much longer periods previously) and he returned there during the ministry—'he would steal away from them into the desert and pray there' (5:16).
The Jerusalem document constituting the core of Luke's first two chapters brought out sharply John's Elianic character. There was a strong tradition on the subject of Elias' return to earth, as witness the canonical Book of Malachy, the Book of Henoch and 4 Esdras. Our Lord and all primitive Christianity understood this to be fulfilled in John, as we see already in Matthew and Mark. The Jerusalem booklet stressed this point. In it is related how the angel Gabriel told Zachary that John was to prepare the way for the Lord God, 'ushering in his advent in the spirit and power of an Elias' (1:17); Gabriel's description of the work John was to do, 'He shall unite the hearts of all, the fathers with the children', is a clear reference to Elias' role as foretold in Malachy 4:6 and Ecclesiasticus 48:10. Quite certainly Luke was aware of this, and knew that his readers would be aware of it as well. Yet beyond it he avoids mention of John's role of new Elias, and nowhere makes an explicit identification of one with the other. He omits, clearly deliberately, the conversation given by Matthew and Mark immediately following the Transfigurationand also the second part of Jesus' comment on the Baptist, as given in the first gospel, after the mission of the latter's disciples ; in both of these Jesus had clearly identified the Baptist with Elias. The reason for this departure from traditional doctrine will soon appear.
Not only the Baptist but all the figures appearing in Luke's first two chapters are prophetical. They are given the gift of the Spirit—the Spirit of prophecy—and their inspired insight into the divine plan of salvation, manifest in the Benedictus, the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis can only remind one of the great prophetical songs of the past, the magnificent hymns of Moses, Deborah and Anna, Samuel's mother. Moreover Simeon and Zachary explicitly prophesy future events, while Anna is called a prophetess. Yet all this outburst of prophetic activity is simply introductory to something altogether surpassing the experience of past times: the arrival of the prophet-messiah himself, the Son of God sitting upon the throne of David.
That Jesus is emphatically delineated as a prophet'—the prophet—in the third gospel is very clear. His birth, baptism and temptation in the desert all suggest it, especially on account of their numerous references to the Spirit, to be considered in the following chapter. It is even clearer in the first Lucan episode of the public ministry, when Jesus takes up the scroll of Isaias in the Nazareth synagogue and in the words of chapter 61:1-2 proclaims himself the servant of the Lord, on whom the Spirit rests, sent to inaugurate the messianic age; and then comments on his reception by his fellow townsmen with the words, 'No prophet finds acceptance in his own country' (4:24). Indeed, this sentence comes near to summing up the whole theme of the third gospel. 'A great prophet has risen up among us' is the popular conclusion from the raising of the son of the widow of Nairn (7:16); the doubting Pharisee reasons to himself 'If this man were a prophet' (7:39), while if for Pilate's Roman soldiers Jesus is a mock king, for their Jewish counterparts in the palace of the High Priest he is a false prophet, and 'Come, prophesy' is the tenor of their raillery (22:64). Right to the end of the story it is especially as a prophet that the Lord is described in Luke's gospel, and the disciples on the road to Emmaus cannot describe him better than as the 'prophet whose words and acts had power with God, and with all the people' (24:19).
All the great prophets were very close to God, and Moses even spoke with him 'face to face', but there is no comparison between such transient Old Testament experiences and Jesus' abiding consciousness of his union with his Father: 'None knows what the Son is, except the Father, and none knows what the Father is, except the Son, and those to whom it is the Son's good pleasure to reveal him' (10:22). It was never any effort for Jesus to turn from men to his Father, the effort was rather the other way—to return to those who understood him so little; even on the cross in the last dread moments of his life the profound awareness of the Father's presence remained unimpaired, 'Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit' (23:46). The special revelations of his union with the Father at such moments as his baptism and Transfiguration were simply a breaking into visibility of this constant, abiding state. From the first moment he was God's Son (1:35) and his union with his Father was the root of his whole being.
To this was added his mission, a task of revelation. He was ' sent'as the spokesman of God, and his mission was to open up the way of salvation for men by word and deed, and then himself send the apostles in their turn to teach and continue his prophetical function for all time. He was sent out, according to the first words of his public ministry, 'to preach the gospel to the poor' (4:18), the gospel of the kingdom. 'I must preach the gospel of God's kingdom to the other cities too, it is for this that I was sent' (4:43). The arrival of the kingdom was certainly good news, but it did not offer any sort of an easy time, or worldly paradise; on the contrary, it demanded total renunciation of the world and total love for Christ and one's neighbour :
Follow me. . . . Leave the dead to bury their dead. . . . Sell what you have, and give alms. . . . (Peter said, and what of us ? we have forsaken all that was ours, and followed thee.) ... It is for thee to go out and proclaim God's kingdom. . . . Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. . . . Everyone who has forsaken home, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children for the sake of the kingdom of God, will receive in this present world, many times their worth, and in the world to come, everlasting life.
It was no abstract moral doctrine which Jesus preached, something independent of his own person. No, it was his doctrine, his commandments; 'follow me' is the supreme law and acknowledgement of him will be the test in the coming judgment: 'Whoever acknowledges me . . . will be acknowledged, . . . he who disowns me . . . will be disowned' (12:8-9). The prophets of the past proclaimed the ways of God almost impersonally, but now they are identified with the preacher himself: his present coming has inaugurated the kingdom, his future coming will finally establish it. The public teaching ends with these solemn words: 'Keep watch, then, praying at all times, so that you may be found worthy to come safe through all that lies before you, and stand erect to meet the presence of the Son of Man' (21:36).
Present and future are inextricably mixed in the teaching of Jesus, and every doctrine has meaning in both fields. The future dimension was the more important one; if the kingdom had already made its appearance in his life, its real (if still incomplete) establishment was to come later, after the Passion, the Resurrection and then the Descent of the Spirit. It is only in Acts that we find the realization of Jesus' teaching, the fellowship of the kingdom; and this is still not the definitive realization which is dependent on the second coming and judgment. Within the general body of teaching there were some things which related to specific events of the future, the sequence to present events in the ministry: the central issue of Jesus' public life was his relationship with Israel, the chosen people of God, and consequently his specific prophecies of the future concerned this same relationship as worked out in him and in Jerusalem. In the immediate future he prophesied for himself betrayal, suffering, death and resurrection; for Jerusalem her rejection of him and its consequences, her own rejection and destruction. Beyond these, two others intimately linked with them, so much so that it is often not easy to see which words of his apply to the near and which to the more distant future. Beyond death and resurrection is Jesus' second coming, when the glory and power already revealed in the Resurrection will finally shine out in all their clarity (21:27); beyond the end of Jerusalem is the end of the world when not only will there be tribulation in Judaea but the very powers of heaven will rock (21:26). In both cases the immediate event is the sign, guarantee, and mystical inauguration of the more remote one; the meaning of them is continuous, flowing from one to the other, and Jesus' words hardly distinguish between them because—like all prophecies—they are concerned not with giving historical previews with precise chronological divisions, but with pointing out in significant images the divine meaning in the mysteries of the future.
It is in his second coming that Jesus' power (δύναμις) will finally be revealed, but he makes manifest use of it even while on earth. This word 'power' is indeed linked more with his role of earthly prophet, in slight contrast with another word 'authority' (ἐξουσια) which belongs to him more especially as the heavenly Son of Man. His miracles are acts of prophetical power—dynameis—by which he exercises compassion, proves his authority and manifests by visible signs the divine mysteries he has come to teach.They are the proofs of his messiah-ship: 'Go and tell John what your own eyes and ears have witnessed; how the blind see, and the lame walk, and the lepers are made clean, and the deaf hear, how the dead are raised to life, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. Blessed is he who does not lose confidence in me' (7:22-3); thus the programme announced in the synagogue of Nazareth (4:18-19) is fulfilled. Like his whole function of prophet, so his power in particular is connected with the Holy Spirit:' Jesus came back to Galilee with the power of the Spirit upon him' (4:14). The Holy Spirit and the power of the most High are equated in 1:35; Jesus, Peter told Cornelius, was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power (Acts 10:38); and when Jesus spoke of the gift of the Spirit which he was about to pass on to his disciples, it was sufficient for him to say that they would be clothed with power from on high (24:49). That the apostles did in fact receive Jesus' prophetical power and were therefore able, like him, to do mighty acts of healing and signs among the people, we shall see later on. From weak, frightened men they became giants in the apostolate, awe-inspiring in the strength and clarity of their purpose. They had received the strength of Christ. We so easily forget or pass quickly over the fierce intolerance and dominating power of Jesus. It was similar to that associated with the prophets of old, power at one and the same time over the body and the soul. Damning in his condemnation of pharisee and lawyer, irresistible in miracle and spiritual healing, it is Jesus' forcefulness, his dynamism and his demand for a total commitment which recall the preaching of past prophets and at the same time suggest something entirely new: here is an absoluteness of claim and of capacity explicable only if God himself is now present in the flesh. God in truth has become a prophet, fulfilling and reshaping both the old function of prophet and the old idea of God. Old things pass, and at the centre of the new testament is 'Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet powerful in word and act' (προφήτης δυνατὸς ἐν ἔργῳ καὶ λόγῳ, 24:19).
Jesus resembled his predecessors. I have spoken already of his likeness to the Servant of the Lord of Isaias, and must turn now to the resemblance with the two greatest historical prophets, Moses and Elias. When Jesus took Peter and John and James with him and went up the mountain and was transfigured before them, it was Moses and Elias who appeared and spoke with him. Jesus had already followed their example in his fast of forty days,and now they came back to converse with him; the significance of this has been variously interpreted. For some, Moses stands for the Law and Elias for the prophets, so that together they represent the whole Old Testament doing homage in Jesus to the New. For others, Moses represents the dead, Elias (who never died) the living, and hence together they again constitute a wholeness of witness to Jesus. Without denying these interpretations, we may see the truer and deeper sense of their presence in their common prophetic character, and especially their closeness to God. They stand for the same rather than for different aspects of experience. These were the two men who had seen God on Horeb, and their presence adds meaning to the experience of the apostles who now on a mountain see the glory of Jesus and hear the voice of the Father; it also makes of Moses and Elias particularly reliable witnesses to Jesus, who is revealed not only as God but also as their successor, and especially as the prophet 'like unto me' foretold by Moses in Deuteronomy. Of this prophet Moses had said 'It is to him thou must listen', and on the mountain of the Transfiguration, as the figures of Moses and Elias disappear into the cloud, the voice of the Father is heard proclaiming 'This is my beloved Son; to him, then, listen' (9:35). The command is renewed, the prophet like unto Moses is identified. St Stephen developed this in his long speech before the Council, the chief point of that whole discourse being that it was because Jesus was the prophet like Moses foretold in Deuteronomy that he could be, like Moses, both rejected by Israel and at the same time Israel's true ruler and deliverer (Acts 7).
It cannot be said that elsewhere Luke lays explicit stress on Jesus' resemblance to Moses. Explicit, I say, because his gospel certainly has Deuteronomy for one of its Old Testament foundations. The order of the events and discourses in his central section has always presented a great problem, because it is very difficult to see what order there is at all. The answer, it has been recently suggested,lies in the order of Deuteronomy: St Luke followed its sequence in arranging his matter, so as to compose a sort of Christian Deuteronomy. In itself this does not seem to me an unlikely suggestion, yet the arguments fail to convince; and I see the danger of reading into slight similarities of order much more than is in fact there. But apart from the actual order of paragraphs, it seems very clear that the third gospel—and especially its central section—is in some ways closely related to Deuteronomy, and that through this Luke again suggests Jesus' character of a new Moses. Deuteronomy is a very beautiful book, full not only of the law, but of the law's spirit, of the love and mercy of God which have inspired the law. Passages like chapter 30 may remind one of the third gospel, the gospel of mercy. The spirit of Deuteronomy must most certainly have appealed to Luke.
At the moment of the Transfiguration, when Jesus is revealed as the new Moses, he is in a similar position to Moses at the beginning of Deuteronomy. The Israel of Moses is about to leave Mount Horeb and to take possession of the promised land (Deut.1:6-8), so Jesus coming down from the mountain was about to set off on his all-important journey to Jerusalem. But if Jesus is the prophet whose relation to Israel is like that of Moses (Deut.18:15), the effect of his teaching is to be very different. The central law of the Deuteronomic code is that of the sanctuary (Deut.12), the divine consecration of Jerusalem; but the life of Jesus was to culminate in the divine rejection of Jerusalem, and St Luke's gospel is the gospel of that rejection. Again, Deuteronomy calls for the destruction of the non-Jew nations (Deut.7) and the sentence 'When the Lord thy God shall have destroyed the nations' is almost a refrain running through the book; but St Luke is the evangelist of the calling of the nations, of the universal extension of that divine mercy, which the Deuteronomist had so well experienced within the fold of Israel. Jesus, the new Moses giving the new Deuteronomy, embraces much of the spirit of the old, but yet turns its whole construction upside down; and it is St Luke who most clearly illustrates the point.
But even more evidently Jesus in the third gospel is depicted as the new Elias.3 Kings 17 to 4 Kings 5 is another of the Old Testament foundations of St Luke's work. This is probably why Luke, to avoid confusion, omitted explicit references to the Elias character of John the Baptist. At the very opening of his public prophetic ministry at Nazareth Jesus compares himself with Elias:
He said to them, No doubt you will tell me, as the proverb says, Physician, heal thyself; do here in thy own country all that we have heard of thy doing at Capharnaum. And he said, Believe me, no prophet finds acceptance in his own country. Why, you may be sure of this, there were many widows among the people of Israel in the days of Elias, when a great famine came over the land, after the heavens had remained shut for three years and six months, but Elias was not sent to any of these. He was sent to a widow in Sarepta, which belongs to Sidon (4:23-6).
This at once links up with Luke's account of the raising of the son of the widow of Nairn (7:11-16) in which the similarity with Elias stands out clearly and prepares the way for the conclusion, A great prophet has risen up among us; God has visited his people.' But what is immediately and equally noticeable is the difference between Jesus and Elias. Jesus raises the son of the widow of Nairn with a word; Elias brings back to life the son of the widow of Sarepta only after much prayer and lying on the corpse. Such little points suggest something of the transcendence over the old Elias—imposing figure though he was—of the new: of that tranquil plenitude of spiritual power which belonged to Jesus.
There can be no doubt that one of the key verses for the understanding of the third gospel, a verse to which we shall be constantly returning, is 9:51: 'And now the time was drawing near for his taking away from the earth, and he set his face steadfastly towards the way that led to Jerusalem.' It is the beginning of a new part of the book, the narrative of the journey to Jerusalem, and is a verse full of mystery and suggestiveness; there is more than a hint in it of the Elias theme, for Luke must surely have been thinking of 4 Kings 2:1, 'And now the time had come when the Lord would have Elias carried up by a whirlwind into heaven.' A last journey leading up to a solemn ascension is indicated in one and the other text; but while Elias was carried up into heaven in a fiery chariot and a whirlwind, Jesus was carried up quietly in a cloud.
Immediately following this verse Luke narrates an incident which goes yet further to establish the parallel between Jesus and Elias. Jesus, he writes,
sent messengers before him, who came into a Samaritan village, to make all in readiness. But the Samaritans refused to receive him, because his journey was in the direction of Jerusalem. When they found this, two of his disciples, James and John, asked him, Lord, wouldst thou have us bid fire come down from heaven and consume them? But he turned and rebuked them, You do not understand, he said, what spirit it is you share. The Son of Man has come to save men's lives, not to destroy them. And so they passed on to another village (9:5 2-6).
Elias had been the great bringer of fire to the earth—physical,
material fire, able to consume men and offerings,
'with the Holy Spirit and with fire' (3 :16) and this baptism was to be offered to the whole world: 'It is fire that I have come to spread over the earth [not just over one little Samaritan village], and what do I desire but that it should be kindled' (12:49). It was to be kindled at Pentecost, when tongues of
fire came down on the Apostles and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3-4), and its spreading over the earth is the theme of Luke's second book, the Acts. Not only the
Ascension but also Pentecost manifests Jesus as a new Elias, especially as this passing on of Jesus' spirit to his disciples after they had seen him go up to heaven is reminiscent of the passing
on of Elias' spirit to Eliseus. In both cases this passing on of the Spirit enabled the disciple to perform the mighty works of his master: Eliseus raised up the dead son of the Sunamitess, St Peter Tabitha—both women abounding in charity and alms-deeds. Both miracles are followed by the intervention and conversion of Gentiles: Naaman in one case, Cornelius in the other, both foreign officers. The parallels are remarkable and would seem to be deliberate.
A few lines further on in chapter nine of the third gospel is a strange verse, which again requires for its understanding a comparison with the story of Elias. 'And there was yet another who said, Lord, I will follow thee, but first let me take leave of my friends. To him Jesus said, No one who looks behind him, when he has once put his hand to the plough, is fitted for the kingdom of God' (9:61-2). At once we think of Elias and his disciple Eliseus, who was permitted to take leave of his father and mother before following his master (3 Kings 19: 19-21). Jesus' call has an absoluteness which exceeds that of the old prophet, just as his work has a truly spiritual character very different from that of the extraordinary miracles which filled the life of his predecessor. The new Elias possesses the characteristics of the historical Elias, but in a transcendentally original way.
I may now summarize St Luke's contribution to this subject. The earliest Christian writers, following Our Lord himself, certainly saw Jesus as the great prophet of Deuteronomy, the New Moses. Jesus had instituted a new covenant, a new law, and Moses was his obvious predecessor. Elias was not: his importance was not as predecessor but as precursor of the Messiah,