In the winter of 39/40 Saul came to Jerusalem wishing to see St. Peter. Such was still his bad reputation that all avoided him. Finally St. Barnabas ‘took him and led him’ to St. Peter with whom he stayed for ‘fifteen days’. It was during this visit that, in the Temple, he had another vision from our Lord, this time directing him to devote himself to evangelising the Gentiles. As in Damascus, his aggressive preaching in Jerusalem quickly provoked more murder plots. This time he was rescued by the Apostles. In 40 they sent him under escort to the port of Caesarea, and thence home by sea to Tarsus. Saul had already received his mission from our Lord. Now however, in the spirit of true obedience, he remained in Tarsus to await his final vocation, his call from the Church. 7
Three years later his vocation from the Church finally came. In 43, news arrived in Jerusalem that a flourishing church of Gentile converts was springing up at Antioch. (News of the baptism of Cornelius had no doubt spread.) Again St. Barnabas was sent with instructions to assess and act on the situation. Seeing that the time was now truly ripe for Saul’s final vocation, St. Barnabas ‘left for Tarsus to seek out Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. They were active in that church for a whole year, and instructed a great number of people.’ Thus began in earnest Saul’s life’s work as a missionary to the Gentiles. Already even the pagans could see that these were not just another sect of Jews, mere ‘Nazarenes’: ‘It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians’.* 8
During this year of teaching at Antioch, it became clear that a new Gospel was needed for use at these Masses where the congregation was composed mostly of ex-pagans. St. Mark’s collection of St. Peter’s Remembrances was available, but it was not fully adequate as it was too abrupt and brief. Strong on our Lord’s miracles but giving little of our Lord’s teaching, St. Mark’s work was also not suitable for ex-pagans who needed to be weaned away from the whole pagan mythological way of thinking. These new Christians at Antioch needed not only a more detailed summary of our Lord’s teachings, they also needed an outline of His Life which was clearly no myth but was carefully located in history. 9
A highly educated deacon or elder of the church at Antioch, a lawyer and medical doctor named Luke (Greek: Lucas), was therefore commissioned to research and compose an official teaching Gospel. The expenses for the research and ‘publication’ of this Gospel were paid for by a wealthy church member named Theophilus. St. Luke therefore prefaced his work with the customary (in ancient times) address to the wealthy patron who was paying his publication expenses. Composed especially for use with converts from paganism, this Gospel was also being prepared for use by Saul on the missionary journey he was planning to launch in the following year, in 45. Due to the persecution by Herod Agrippa in Palestine, it was most likely at this time that our Lady was, under the protection of St. John, sojourning at Ephesus. Perhaps it was in these years of 43 and 44 that St. Luke visited there and obtained from her the details for his surpassingly beautiful ‘infancy narrative’, as well as the abundance of details of feminine interest to be found in his Gospel.
Published on Nov 29, 2011
This survey of how the New Testament came to be written is also a chronicle of the first 40 years of the history of the Christian Church. It...