"I see my light come shining,


                           from the west down to the east;


                              any day now, any day now,


                                I shall be released."


                                  Bob Dylan






              Release.  Salvation.  Freedom. Resurrection.  Words of


          reassurance for those who suffer, for those in pain, for those in


          chains, for those with no hope.  Release--a word that describes a


          process to provide hope, provide salvation, provide a means to


          ease the fear and uncertainty that life brings, somehow allowing


          us to deal with the seemingly dreadful end that lies ahead for


          every one of us.  Without faith in some Higher Power--God, Jesus,


          Yahweh, Buddha, Mohammed--without the promise of release, without


          some wisp of hope for salvation, we are as temporary as a


          deciduous leaf, as expendable as nature's most primitive




              For almost 2000 years, the "Inaugural Address" of Jesus


          Christ in the Gospel of Luke 4:14-30 has provided a concise


          synthesis of the foundational release message found within


          Christian theology.  Additionally, there is strong evidence


          indicating that the power conveyed by that Biblical passage was


          not mere happenstance.  Luke knew what words he was putting into


          Jesus' mouth, to whom he was addressing his interpretation of the


          Divine Plan, and how he best could reach out and grab hold of


          this audience.


                             ISRAEL IN THE FIRST CENTURY


              As down-trodden as were the Jews that dwelled in theMiddle East


          in the centuries prior to the Common Era, so too were first


          century Israelites victims of relentless suffering,


          demoralization, and bondage.  After the destruction of the first


          Templein 575 BCE, scholars collated scattered oral traditions


          that spoke of God's love for his chosen people and promises that


          he would protect and deliver those who heard and practiced the


          legalistic interpretation of his prescription for life.  These


          writings were collectively called the Hebrew Scriptures, more


          commonly known as the Old Testament.  Hebrews during that era


          were faced with economic hardship, political instability; their


          holy city ofJerusalemnow lying in ruins, and their lives


          generally afflicted with powerlessness and shame.  (Morris page


          94) They sought comfort in the words of prophets such as Isaiah


          and Scriptural works such as the Book of Daniel which spoke of


          the coming of a Messiah who would free them from their suffering.


              Enduring the same kind of oppression from foreign powers,


          first-century Jews once again sought reassurance that there might


          be an answer to their plaintiff cries for release, for justice,


          for the true experience of God's unwavering love and devotion.


              Thus evolved the setting for the first-century rise of


          Christianity, a movement that told of God's Son, perhaps a


          descendent of heroic King David, a savior who could ease rampant


          suffering and help his followers circumvent the certainty of


          death by following the path down which his words and deeds led




              Our present civilization now has in its possession writings


          that can be traced back to the first century, providing accounts


          of Jesus Christ's birth and adult life on our planet.  Sources


          such as "Q," the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mark, and the


          Letters of Paul are the earliest evidence of a growing movement


          that saw Jesus Christ as fulfilling Old Testament promises and


          prophesies for release.


              In and around the year 60 A.D., a gifted scribe named Luke


          felt that the Gospel of Mark needed to be updated to more


          adequately and appropriately address a wider audience than did


          Mark in the first synoptic work.  Dante called Luke the "scribe


          of Christ's gentleness" because he was thought to have emphasized


          "Jesus' mercy to sinners and outcasts," with special emphasis on


          those outcasts known as women.  (Kodel page 7)


              Luke included the "anawin" when he wrote about Jesus, about


          love, about hope, about release whether that particular listener


          be early Christian, Jewish, or Gentile.  He artistically


          embellished upon the earlier gospel works and added his very own


          unique information about Jesus, his travels and the role of early


          Christianity during the first century.  A second volume of Luke's


          work, known as "The Acts of the Apostles," may very well be the


          most important book in the New Testament which serves as the


          Scriptural foundation of an apostolic movement.


                               THE INAUGUARAL ADDRESS


              Following a beautifully sculpted infancy narrative--which,


          with its poetic and powerful symbolism renders veracity


          irrelevant--a maturing Messiah seems to find his identity, his


          purpose, his role in the Divine Plan after 40 days of spiritual


          initiation in the desert.  After days and nights in the


          wilderness, theodically jousting with diabolical forces, Luke has


          Jesus then return to his hometown ofNazarethwhere word of his


          homecoming was met with great expectation.


              In his fascinating doctoral thesis entitled, "Irony and


          Ethics in the Lukan Narrative World," Father Joseph Morris calls


          the Gospel of Luke 4:14-30 Jesus' "inaugural address" for a


          variety of reasons, some obvious, others not so obvious.


              Jesus' Nazarian appearance certainly did mark his first


          Lukan preaching mission following his desert self-discovery.


          Luke portrays Jesus' visit to his hometown as a premier


          performance although other Gospel authors have placed the event


          historically further into Jesus' travels.  That is evidenced by


          Luke quoting Jesus as saying that he anticipates being asked to,


          "Do here in your own country the things you have done in


          Capernaum," (Luke4:23) when, in actuality, he had not done


          anything of note inCapernaumuntil after leavingNazareth(Luke




              Luke obviously felt that the synagogue event in Jesus'


          hometown was crucial enough to place earlier in his work,


          apparently because it so effectively summarized what Jesus and


          his mission was all about.  As a means of reassuring Luke's



          Jewish audience, the passage emphasizes Jesus' links with his


          Jewish past as he appears at his boyhood synagogue, partakes in


          the sacred Jewish Sabbath ritual, reads from the Hebrew


          Scripture, and discusses the works of Jewish prophets.


              The passage dramatizes how the message of Jesus was


          misinterpreted and rejected, as it was throughout his work here


          on Earth.  The passage depicts how Jesus hoped to convey his


          message of salvation as open and available to all peoples, not


          just to the "chosen people" ofIsrael. And the passage also shows


          how Jesus will be defiled, persecuted, as there will ultimately


          be an attempt made to eliminate him from the sight, sound, and


          memory of humanity. The attempt inNazarethfails as does the


          final attempt made inJerusalem.


              "The account of Jesus' return to his hometown embodies the


          gospel story in miniature,"  said Jerome Kodell in his


          Collegeville Biblical Commentary on Luke. (Kodell page 23)


              Beyond being his first public appearance of consequence, Dr.


          Morris states that the work of Jesus inNazarethwas inaugural in


          nature also because of what he hoped to begin.


              "In theNazarethsermon, Jesus not only claims that he is


          the fulfillment of these promises and articulates how he will


          fulfill them, but likewise, he states that it starts now," said


          Father Morris in his chapter called "Jesus' Inaugural Address."


          "He inaugurates this New Age where God's justice agenda rules by


          reaching out and freeing the poor and the oppressed." (Morris


          page 117)



                                 RHETORICAL RELEASE


              Within the pall of suffering and destruction of Hellenistic


          Palestine, the new approach to Judaism, the new approach to life,


          love, and death, the Christian view of the human condition sprang


          forth with great emotion and zeal.  Those who spoke of Christ and


          the Resurrection spoke with unflinching conviction about the Good


          News, about the newly discovered hope for humanity.  Evangelists


          implored the unconverted with speech and with written


          communication in order to try and bring them into the fold of the


          new age of Christianity.


              It must be noted that speeches, Scripture, and written


          correspondence were not simply spontaneous enthusiasm emoting


          from zealous believers.  More often that not, the evidence that


          remains from the conversion campaigns of 1900 years ago reveal


          carefully constructed attempts to argue, to convince, and to


          manipulate audiences into states of belief.


              In recent decades, a  school of literary criticism has


          developed examining early Christian literature among other


          historic documents that search for answers to questions about


          what was said, how it was said, to whom it was addressed, with


          what intent, and with what effect.  Rhetorical criticism is


          attempting to delve deeply into the proper context of New


          Testament writings and discourse in order to construct an


          appropriate model for a renewed hermaneutical investigation of


          Scripture meaning and significance. (Lederer page 2)


              In his book Rhetoric in the New Testament, Professor Burton


          L. Mack of theSchoolofTheologyatClaremontdiscusses


          classical Greek rhetoric and its influence of the New Testament.


          Mack very carefully defines his use of the word rhetoric as


          argument, persuasion, exhortation, not the original concept of


          rhetoric in which it was a tool of oratorical exhibitionists,


          flaunting expertise in the stylistic art of debate (as did the


          Sophists.) (Lederer page 3.)


              "Rhetorical criticism is now distinguished by its attention


          to the art of persuasion and its effects upon judgments one must


          make in the course of living as social creatures," saidBurton


          Mack. (Mack page 20.)


              In various sections of his 1990 book on rhetorical


          criticism, Mack applies the classical components of rhetoric to


          Scripture. He reasons that since, Scripture began as oral


          history, and since rhetoric was such a predominant form of oral


          communication in the Hellenistic world of first century


          Christianity, there must have been a significant amount of


          rhetoric (ie persuasion, argument) included within the New


          Testament. (Lederer page 4.)


              A word of caution is prudent at this point.  It is important


          to note that some of the logic used in analyzing classic


          Hellenistic rhetoric is not necessarily directly applicable to


          New Testament writings.  As pointed out by George A. Kennedy in


          his book Classical Rhetoric and Its Christian and Secular


          Tradition from Ancient to Modern Times, much of the rhetoric in


          the New Testament is typically Jewish and early Christian, i.e.,


          there being some difficulty in matching logic of Scriptural


          writings when held up to the mirror of classical Hellenistic


          rhetorical composition.  (Lederer page 5.)


              "The gospels are unique works which do not exactly fit any


          classical literary genre and which have a subtle internal


          rhetoric of their own," said Kennedy. (Kennedy page 128.)


              Nevertheless, when applying the aforementioned school of


          classical literary criticism to Luke 4:14-30, as one might


          expect, the use of such techniques in that passage is noticeable


          and extensive.  Less with Machiavellian intent than out of love


          and conviction, Luke pulls out all of the stops (perhaps not all;


          St. Paulmay be accredited with that level of rhetorical


          intensity) in his attempts to convince his audience that Christ


          was indeed the Messiah and that his death represented Good News


          to humanity.


              An important part of classical rhetoric is the establishment


          of the orator's/author's credentials, or "ethos."  Luke sets the


          rhetorical stage for Jesus in a number of ways.  Merely by


          mentioning the facts that Jesus' reputation had preceded him,


          that he was teaching in synagogues throughout the region, and


          that he had already been the recipient of considerable praise,


          established Jesus as someone who was more than qualified to


          deliver a message of great spiritual importance.  (Luke 4:14-15.)


          Add to those ethos set forth by his being asked to read from the


          Torah during the Sabbath service and to comment on the Isaiah,


          said much about who Jesus was (or certainly about how Luke wanted


          Jesus to be perceived.) (Luke 4:16-20.)


              Associating Jesus with the Isaiah Old Testament Scripture


          passage represented a number of rhetorical devices.  As


          previously indicated, using the passage (actually parts of two)


          highlighted a perpetuating link between established Jewish


          religious documentation as well as providing a rhetorically


          non-invented means of explaining Jesus' mission from that moment




              Jesus is met with approval until, almost without warning,


          the audience in the synagogue starts asking about who this man


          might be, and asking if he is not merely the son of a local


          carpenter essentially proclaiming himself the second coming of


          King David? (Luke 4:22.) Some rhetorical scholars look upon this


          question as being asked with great hostility, although it must be


          considered that HOW Jesus responded to the question may have


          generated some of the subsequent hostility.


              If Jesus had said, "Yes, you may think you know who I but I


          am no longer just the son of Joseph but someone imbued with the


          love of God.  I plan on changing the world and I plan on doing


          some wonderful things and I plan on starting right here in my own




              Of course, Luke did not have him say anything quite like


          that and proceeded to have Jesus antagonize his listeners by


          telling them that he was indeed going to change the world but


          would not do much for his fellow towns people because they were


          incapable of grasping the importance of his mission: in


          retrospect, not a very Christian thing to say.  (Luke 4:23-24)


              It is also possible that something was lost in translation


          somewhere along the way, or that Luke's "speech in character"


          (see upcoming explanation) was simply not accurate.  In Luke


          4:22, by merely adding the word "But..." to the last sentence,


          one can change the emphasis:


              "But they ALSO asked, `Is not this Joseph's son?'"


              With all due respect, judging from Luke 4:23-24, it is no


          wonder that his former peers wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff.


          Luke's "Who does he think he is?" inference may have resulted


          from his overall attitude, not his audience turning on him for no


          apparent reason.  (Luke 4:23-30) But again, we must keep in mind


          that Jesus may not have answered their question in the way that


          Luke and his sources indicated.


              In reality, Luke and those who preceded him in using such a


          hostile response in Jesus' Inaugural Address may have been


          answering a difficult question in their own minds:  why was Jesus


          met with such hostility at the hands of his own people?  Their


          answer may have been: he must have refused to treat them in a


          special way.  This approach, too, might be considered a


          rhetorical device to set up Jesus as a religious paradigm who was


          misunderstood and persecuted as a result.


              Providing examples from the Hebrew Scriptures in which other


          Jewish prophets refused to work wonders in their hometowns


          because of spiritual misperceptions is another of Luke's


          rhetorical devices for Luke justifying Jesus harsh approach to


          people for his hometown.  One of Luke's primary goals was to


          establish the fact that salvation was not just for Jews who


          interpreted the Old Testament as proof that they were God's only


          chosen people.  Luke wanted to include all people in Jesus'


          divine message of Good News and his confrontation may have been a


          rhetorical contrivance.  The sudden turn to a testy, spiteful


          Messiah is somewhat out of context and out of character.  It may


          show us more about Luke (or Matthew and Mark) than Jesus.


              Using the Old Testament-based Jewish tradition of the


          Jubilee Year (ie, after 7 x's 7 years, the fiftieth year is one


          devoted to God's release for the oppressed) is an extremely


          clever method used by Luke to describe what the Jesus' Kingdom of


          God will be like, ie something new based upon something old and


          established. Rhetorically, it is logical but logically, it may


          touch upon a exegetical taboo of allegorizing allegory (the New


          Testament have Jesus analyze the Old Testament analysis of the


          Jubilee year,) finding symbols within symbols, which can


          intellectually dilute a concept.


              A host of other rhetorical methods appear in this very


          crucial Scriptural passage.  Composition of speech/speech in


          character provide us with words that probably were spoken by


          Jesus based upon what Luke and others had known about him.  The


          chreia structure of argumentative narration can help shape the


          opinions of an audience.  The use of dissociative argument as


          Jesus distances himself from formerly accepted norms is another


          tactic in the arsenal of rhetorical weapons, eg., as Jesus


          exposes the incompatibility of a world ruled by human


          self-righteousness and injustice with a world ruled by God's


          righteousness and justice (Morris page 154.)


              Dr. Morris points out Luke's use of mixed argumentation as


          rhetorical technique.


              "We noted how the presence of such inductive and deductive


          reasoning in theNazarethspeech serves to portray Jesus as an


          authoritative prophet and clever teacher, who expounds a new era


          where God reigns, by reinterpreting the ancient promises and


          asking all those who contemplate joining the Christians to


          reflect on the careful arguments of its attractive founder." (Morris


          page 154.)




              It is fascinating to note that perhaps the most powerful


          rhetorical device available to first century Christian


          evangelists was purposefully avoided:  that of making Jesus into


          a superhuman, all-powerful warrior-like king who could easily


          counteract evil, opposition, and execution.  Instead of such a


          portrayal of strength, we were handed a messianic legacy


          saturated with irony of strength within weakness, life within


          death, victory within defeat, irony such as that perfected by the


          rhetorical master himself, Aristotle.


              Above and beyond just the Inaugural Address or just the


          Gospel of Luke, Dr. Joseph Morris points out numerous areas


          within the New Testament message where irony serves the purpose


          of rhetorical persuasiveness, perhaps more effectively than would


          have the Herculean portrayal of omnipotence.  He entitles that


          area of analysis as "Unexpected Reversals of the Implied Reader's


          Characterization of God."



                       1.    God portrayed as working through an aging


                             couple:  Zechariah/VS. God portrayed at


                             emnity with the priestly party.




                       2.    Poor humble maiden chosen to be the mother of


                             the messiah/VS. God has confused the proud


                             and disposed the mighty.



                       3.    Word of God comes to John the Baptist in the


                             wilderness/VS. just before this there has


                             been a formal naming of world rulers.



                       4.    Anointing of Jesus with Spirit comes as a


                             surprise to the people of Nazareth/VS.


                             anointing for prophets and righteous people


                             who usually do not disrupt the status quo and


                             lord it over others.



                       5.    God is more joyful over a repentant


                             sinner/VS. a self-righteous elder brother.



                       6.    A tax collector who pleads for mercy is


                             justified by God/VS.a meticulous,


                             self-righteous Pharisee is not justified



                       7.    As God's chosen one, Jesus suffers and dies


                             under the divine necessity (i.e. the divine


                             plan)/VS. one blessed and chosen by God


                             should not suffer but be blessed with a long





                       8.    Ironically, God responds to Jesus' death by


                             raising him from the dead/VS. one who suffers


                             such an ignominious death deserves no


                             recognition or mention



                       9.    The twelve share the rule in the new kingdom


                             Jesus brings, a rule based on the compassion


                             Jesus' ministry revealed/VS.Israelexpected


                             restoration of the nation by the messiah of




                         10. God ofIsrael's forbears extended divine


                             salvation to the Gentiles without


                             circumcision/VS. no one would be saved except


                             those circumcised and carefully following the


                             laws ofIsrael. (Morris page 223-224)



              Indeed, the power of the unexpected seems to have succeeded


          in providing us with a Messianic image that not only has endured


          down through the centuries but also shows little sign of


          diminishing as we approach the third millennium.


                                   tgl 12/4/93





          Dylan, Bob. "I Shall Be Released."New York:  Dwarf Music, 1968.


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          Secular Tradition from Ancient to Modern Times.Chapel Hill:

          Universityof North CarolinaPress, 1980.



          Kodell, Jerome.  The Gospel According to Luke. Collegeville,

          Minnesota: Litergical Press, 1983.



          Lederer, Thomas G. "Rhetoric in the New Testament."Huntington,

          New York:  Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, 1993.



          Mack, BurtonL. Rhetoric and the New Testament.  Minneapolis:

          Fortress Press, 1990.



          Morris, Fr. Joseph A.  Irony and Ethics in the Lukan Narrative

          World.Ann Arbor:  U.M.I., 1992.