Fletcher-Louis: Theo-/angelo-phany in Luke 5:1-11

Crispin Fletcher-Louis argues that Luke 5:1-11 reflects an early angelophany in Luke’s narrative. I argue that it is is not only the appearance of an angel: it is the appearance of God fulfilling his promises in Jeremiah 16.

Discussing the view that Luke had an early Christology, and therefore a low one, Crispin Fletcher-Louis begins with a discussion of Luke’s so-called “low Christology” (a view Fletcher-Louis himself does not seem to advocate). Scholars use the term “low Christology” to reflect, in their opinions, the theologies of New Testament writers who emphasize, or only show, the human side of Jesus. Fletcher-Louis shows that Luke, before describing the resurrected Christ in no uncertain terms as identifiable with Yahweh of the Old Testament, shows that Christ is far more than human even before the Passion.

In Luke 5, an extended call scene compared to Matthew and Mark (Fletcher-Louis, 34), links the call of the disciples with a miraculous catch of fish. When Jesus calls his disciples, his instructions cause them to catch far more fish than even their boat can handle. “The fact and enormous weight of the catch – such that the boats were beginning to sink – causes Peter to fall at Jesus’ knees saying, ‘Exelthe ap’ emou hoti aner hamartolos eimi kyrie‘” (ibid.) to which Jesus replies, “reassuringly, ‘me phobou, apo tou nun anthropopous ese zogron” (ibid.). This interaction is typical between man’s reaction to seeing God (Peter’s wonder, thambos in verse 9) and the response of angels to men (“me phobou”) and shows that this interaction was more than the meeting of two men.

Not only that, but Peter shifts from addressing Jesus as “epistata” to “kyrious”, a term used in the Septuagint used to describe God. It is also used to refer to the Father 25 times previously in the Gospel, and is used to describe Christ in Acts to refer to his lordship as something more than “merely human” (Crispin-Fletcher Louis, p 24) in Acts 20:41-44.

Luke’s use of “lord” to describe Jesus is not the only evidence of Luke’s high Christology. In Jeremiah 16, Yahweh promises that the second exodus will be even greater than the first. When Israel thinks of the faithfulness of God, rather than thinking about her Exodus from Egypt, she will remember the time in which God brings his people, Israel, out of the north country. As Pitre argues, in Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of Exile, the Jews of the first century still viewed their exile as continuing because the entirety of the Jewish people had not been brought back to the Land. The restoration at the end of the original 70 years of Jeremiah 29 was not a complete one: Jews had not believed that the Northern Kingdom had been restored. Yahweh said that the second exodus would take place when the Northern Kingdom was restored: this would be done by the “fishers of men”. For the purposes of this study, it is important to note that Yahweh says that he will be the one who calls for these fishermen. When Jesus calls for the disciples in Luke 5, he is faithfully enacting Yahweh’s promises to bring a return from exile.

Between Peter’s response to the miracle of Jesus, Jesus’ response to Peter, and Luke’s intentional connection between the calling of the disciples with the promise of Jeremiah 16, we are well on our way toward establishing Luke’s High Christology.

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