Monday, January 3, 2022

Luke 3.15-22 Translations and Notes (RCL Baptism of Our Lord; First Sunday after Epiphany Year C)

Fresco in St. John The Baptist Roman Church at Bethany Beyond the Jordan
The appointed RCL text for the Baptism of Our Lord = First Sunday after Epiphany Year C is Luke 3.15-17, 21-22. I'm guessing they wanted to focus just on the baptism part, but it makes no sense to me to omit verses 18-20, so I'm sharing Luke 3.15-22 here.

A few things worth noting from a close reading of the text:

  • Clearly there was some speculation that John the Baptist was a messianic figure. In Luke's depiction of him (especially in contrast to Matthew and Mark), his role is downplayed. He is locked up in prison apparently before Jesus is baptized! My suspicion is that this is part of Luke’s plan to minimize John’s role and separate him from Jesus. (Cf. John 3.30!) Note that the execution of John is never detailed except for a passing reference in Luke 9.9. Also note the ongoing influence of John the Baptist in Acts 18.24-28 and 19.1-10 over against the community of Jesus followers. Apparently there continued to be speculation whether John or Jesus was the more important figure.
  • In verse 18, how are John's "exhortations" understood to be the "gospel / good news"? 
  • The Greek is rather clunky in this passage. Verses 15-17 are one sentence, and John's quote in verses 16-17 is especially complicated. Greek admired a long subordinated sentence, but I think this stretches matters. Verses 19-20 and 21-22 are similarly complicated and need help to get into English.

Here are my collection of translations and my notes on translating.