Darrell Bock – Lessons About the Incarnation from Luke 1-2

darrell_bockToday’s guest post in the Incarnation Series is from Dr Darrell Bock, Senior Research Professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary.  As well as Darrell’s great commentaries on Luke and Acts that I have appreciated so much over the years, be sure to check out The Table – a weekly podcast on God, Christianity and Culture.  His latest works are the co-authored Truth in a Culture of Doubt (UK Link, USA Link), and Truth Matters (UK Link, USA Link).  I am grateful to Darrell for offering this succinct post on the Incarnation in Luke 1-2 as we mark the release of Pleased to Dwell.


God keeps his word. In Luke 1-2, this is the theme that surrounds the incarnation. Jesus’ birth is shown to be part of a divine plan that involves both John the Baptist and Jesus. Jesus’ birth is shown to be superior to John. John is a prophet, while Jesus is Son of God. As hard as some of what the angel says to Mary is about how the child will be born, the refrain is that “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

Three hymns sing out the refrain that God keeps his Word. Mary’s hymn speaks about how God lifts up those who fear him in line with covenantal promises made to Abraham and his offspring (Luke 1:54-55). Zechariah’s hymn highlights God’s visitation to his people showing mercy to the fathers and keeping the covenant (Luke 1:68-75). Simeon’s hymn affirms that the psalmist’s eyes have seen the salvation of God when he sees the baby Jesus (Luke 2:30). The child is light, revelation to Gentiles and glory for Israel (Luke 2:32), for God has kept his word to deliver his people.

We tend to forget when we think about the incarnation that the arrival of Jesus is part of a plan God had and that he represents the keeping of promises and divine commitments made long ago. This is why Luke 1:45 says of Mary, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” John 1 calls Jesus the Word, but Luke 1-2 argues that in Jesus God kept his word. God is faithful. Underneath all that is the incarnation that comes from God stands God’s faithfulness to keep his pledge and to perform his word.

The coming of Jesus means God can be trusted to care for us for in Jesus’ coming that is exactly what God has done––just as he promised he would do. As God is trustworthy, all that is left for us is to trust his promise and live with hope.

The Challenge of Narratives 2: Gospels – Part I

Peter has extended comments on this post.

When we come to interpreting the narratives in the Gospels, we are faced with a couple of potential difficulties.  I’ll call it the double challenge of more than one:

1. More than one “author” of the parables. Our goal in interpretation is to grasp the author’s intended meaning.  But which one?  There’s Jesus telling the story in the first place, around AD30, in Aramaic, somewhere in Galilee or Judea.  What did Jesus intend for those original hearers to grasp and learn?  But then there’s Luke, for example, retelling the story, around thirty or more years later, in Greek, to a reader somewhere in the Greek speaking world.  Primarily our concern is with what Jesus intended, but we’d be naïve to think that Luke’s intent was unimportant.  Luke did not struggle to focus, and thereby put together a random gospel.  No, he sequences his material with precision and skill.  We see this when different gospel writers frame the same content in a different sequence of material.  But that is another challenge again.

Next time I’ll give the other half of the challenge, the other “more than one!”