Recasting a fish story: miracle and mission in Luke 5:1-11.


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In the calling of Peter, James, and John, the Gospel of Luke incorporates three distinct traditional stories about Jesus into one narrative. The focus of this study is to understand the way this arrangement is heard by Luke’s model readers. The method is be broadly narrative critical, with reference to classical rhetorical criticism. This study makes three contributions to the study of the gospels generally and to this passage in particular. First, Luke’s version of the calling of Peter, James, and John is analogous to Aelius Theon’s description of chreia expansion as well the paraphrasis section of later elaboration exercises. This expansion of a chreia into a narrative serves as a commentary on the original. In Luke 5:1-11, the expansion of the chreia clarifies the meaning of its metaphors and builds a unique picture of the Church and its mission. Second, the metaphor of fishing for people carried a negative connotation in both Greco-Roman and Jewish literature. This negative image is overcome in the Gospel of Luke through the combination of the three traditional elements into one narrative. Third, Luke 5:1-11 paints a more open picture of the Church through its use of the symbol of the Boat. There is evidence that the boat had already come to symbolize the Church in the gospels. In Matthew and in Luke the story of Jesus preaching from the boat symbolizes the gulf between the Church and the crowds on the shore. By connecting this setting to the miracle of the great catch and the call of the first disciples, Luke has used the symbol of the boat to present an outward facing Church that is focused on bringing the outsiders in. The dissertation consists of three main sections. The first focuses on the chreia as a unit of gospel tradition. I hope in this section to establish that traditional stories about Jesus circulated among early Christians (including the audience of the Third Gospel) in a form that was similar to what Greco-Roman rhetoric defines as a chreia, and that the incorporation of these units into the Gospel of Luke is analogous to the incorporation of chreiai into Greco-Roman biography. The study reviews previous attempts at reading New Testament texts as chreia elaborations, and suggests an alternative model which is more consistent with the production of narrative. The goal is to better understand how the model audience might view the adaptation of units of tradition with which they were already familiar into a narrative form. The second focuses on the symbolic content of the various aspects of the story, in particular the concept of fishing for people and the use of the boat as a symbol of collective fate. Special attention is paid to the way that the Gospel of Luke modifies the symbolism of these aspects of the story through its arrangement of the material. The third section returns to the text of the Third Gospel. The goal is a close reading of our pericope within its narrative setting in Luke. The narrative elements of the text including setting, characters, and plot are considered.



Chreia. Classical rhetorical criticism. Luke 5:1-11. Gospel of Luke. Great catch of fish.