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Luke 15 The Christian Bible is "oftenResearch Paper

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Luke 15

The Christian Bible is "often seen as a book of moral instruction or a relic of a previous age," (Rowland 10). Moreover, the Bible has a specific style and occupies a specific literary genre that reflects its historical, political, and social contexts. Because the books of Christian Bible such as the Gospel of Luke do contain social and political commentary that are cloaked within the classical narrative structure of the hero's journey, such books are clearly works of literature and can be analyzed as such. The Book of Luke is the longest of all the synoptic gospels (Utley). It was written not by an apostle of Christ who knew the historical personage, but as someone who later came to preach the gospel of Christ throughout Greek-speaking lands (Utley). In penning the story of Jesus, Luke was accomplishing several goals at once: including entertaining his audience with parables, and providing a meaningful moral message within familiar narrative frameworks. Using the language and literary style prevalent at the time of its writing, Luke reached to his audience especially by reverting to literary tropes related to the hero's journey.

Luke 15 is a unique section of Luke's gospel because it contains several narratives. These narratives are delivered by the third party omniscient narrator in a quasi-chronological format. Luke also uses temporal prompts such as "now…" and "Jesus continued." By anchoring the anecdotes in time, the author shows that the story progresses from beginning to end in chronological format. Having a beginning, middle, and end comprise a core narrative structure. The Gospel of Luke boasts concrete description, rather than offering abstract moral or spiritual injunctions. As Ryken and Longman point out, "literature enacts rather than states, shows rather than tells," (17). Luke shows, through the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son, how the hero Jesus overcomes adversity and traverses the long and difficult journey towards the ultimate goal: immortality. Like the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Book of Luke provides the story of a semi-divine hero who seeks immortality, the gifts of good leadership, and the ability to communicate his message with an audience.

The nature of Luke 15 "calls for interpretation" because the narrative framework is flexible, nuanced, and filled with symbolism (Ryken and Longman 17). Rather than deliver the moral messages and meanings of the text in literal or pedantic terms, and instead of relying on abstractions, Luke presents the story of both good and evil characters in action (Ryken and Longman). By presenting Jesus as a demigod who must overcome challenges, Luke offers a classic heroic tale. The hero as human is one the audience can relate to; the hero as a semi-divine or divine being is one the audience can look up to and root for as they listen or read. Moreover, the hero as a leader presents a model for good governance, which the reader may internalize and use as a foundation for political philosophy and moral development. A cornerstone of Luke 15 is the moral injunction of a leader to take responsibility for the people and their suffering. In all of the parables told in Luke 15, the hero is a paternal figure who develops love and compassion on sinners.

Sinners play symbolic supporting roles in the hero narrative of Jesus as told by Luke. The characters in the parables remain nameless precisely because they are vehicles through which the hero, Jesus, demonstrates his actions. Key to understanding Luke 15 is the supremacy of the motif of being "lost." All three anecdotes are about people or objects that are "lost," and how certain attitudes, beliefs, or actions can help the hero "find" those objects. The sinner is the ultimate "lost" being, because they have strayed from God. The sinner is spiritually lost. Luke suggests that the old Jewish priests would have condemned the sinners, whereas Jesus as the new model hero forgives and loves the sinners ("Why Pursue Sinners?." The father in the parable of the wayward son models his behavior after Jesus, and thus, is an instructional tale. Audience members are presumed to be sinners, and therefore able to relate to the nameless individuals in all three of the parables. By keeping the names of the sinners and other characters blank, the audience can project its own identity onto those people and enter into the narrative. The hero's journey therefore takes on a deeply personal meaning for the reader. Each of the narratives in Luke 15 is different, allowing readers with different backgrounds and experiences the opportunity to relate the stories to their own lives. Luke also creates a "play-within-the-play" structure by having Jesus tell stories. Thus, Luke's narrative is a frame narrative.

As a classical heroic tale, Luke 15 is a "well-crafted narrative" (Travers 400). One reason why the narrative is well crafted is because Luke seems cognizant of his use of language, structure, and style. Using "conscious composition, careful patterning, and an awareness of literary conventions prevalent at the time of writing," Luke generates a meaningful series of parables that contribute to the development of the protagonist, Jesus (18). The Parable of the Lost Sheep is the first entry in Luke 15. In this tale, Jesus speaks to a group of tax collectors and sinners. Lumping together tax collectors and sinners is a specific literary device that draws attention to the author's intent and to Jesus's political message. Jesus affirms the need to forgive sinners, and passes harsh judgments on those who condemn sinners. Sinners are "lost sheep." The challenge that Jesus must overcome is the harsh political and social condemnation of his beliefs. All classical heroes must undergo a series of conflicts and trials that offer setbacks on their journey. What matters is how the hero overcomes these trials and conflicts, thereby presenting a blueprint for success. In the case of the Parable of the Lost Sheep, Jesus shows how to overcome public shaming and condemnation through compassion.

The second entry in Luke 15 is the parable of the lost coin. In this story, Luke once again uses the trope of the frame narrative. Jesus is telling the same group of people a different story. He has been challenged once again to master the arts of persuasion. If Jesus fails to persuade his audience that compassion is the key to entering God's kingdom, then Jesus would have failed his God-given mission. Knowing Jesus is the hero, the audience expects him to succeed and receive the prize of immortality, but only after showing how his success was won. In this case, Jesus tells the story of a woman who loses a coin. He notes that anyone who loses a coin will simply search for it until it is found. This simple tale is a counterpart to the much longer and more complex narrative that comprises the bulk of Luke 15: the parable of the Lost (or Prodigal) Son. Luke has Jesus again recount the story of the lost son within the frame narrative, speaking to the same audience of tax collectors and sinners.

The parable of the lost son reveals the hero's grappling with issues related to paternity and rightful leadership. The protagonist of the story is not the prodigal son, but the father. This is an important distinction, because Jesus wants his audience to know the importance of forgiveness. Forgiveness is presented as one of the hero's core strengths. The father must choose to forgive, which is a difficult and challenging act. By forgiving his son, the father goes against all social conventions and he even incurs the wrath of his elder son. The father sticks to his principle of forgiveness, and therefore overcomes the challenge.

As part of the overall hero narrative, the prodigal son was once "lost and is found" now (Luke 15:32). Therefore, the heroic journey replays itself within the frame narrative. Luke uses the structure of the frame narrative judiciously, in order to present the hero's journey in ways his Greek audience could relate to and incorporate into their lives. The hero starts from a position in which change is necessary, receives the impetus or motivation to change, and becomes willing to undertake a journey that leads him to a promised land. Each of the allegories contained within Luke 15 is a miniature of the hero's journey. Taken collectively, the stories of Luke 15 comprise the overall heroic narrative of Jesus. Luke's protagonist is a demigod who resembled the demigod heroes of ancient Greek literature, and therefore Luke understood exactly how to reach his Greek-speaking audience. Jesus's story as told by Luke is the "archetypal quest story," (Travers 400).

Although Luke's intention may have been to seduce his audience into taking on the religion of Christ, the Book of Luke reads like a classic heroic narrative in which the protagonist undergoes a series of conflicts but ultimately succeeds in his quest. Luke 15 offers a slice of insight into the importance of the Gospel of Luke as it serves as a heroic journey.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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