Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
William S. Kurz
Luke develops the theme of God’s salvation prominently and fully in the Third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles to mean the deliverance from danger, disease, and death, experienced physically and religiously. Isaiah’s oracles announcing the inauguration of a new era of God’s favor and a salvation reaching to the ends of the earth shape Luke’s vision; their images and vocabulary permeate his thought. For Luke, “cleansing” is a means by which God extends this salvation, and Luke therefore uses cleansing language, in forms of the word katharizō, to mark three specific manifestations of salvation in his accounts of the life of Jesus and of the early church. Katharizō explains the predominantly Gentile presence in a first-century religious movement born in Judaism. It marks a pivotal point in the heavenly speech accompanying Peter’s dream of clean and unclean animals in Acts. And it appears in the multiple Gospel references to the restoration of leprous bodies to wholeness.
Luke exploits the multivalent ritual and medical meanings of katharizō in service of his message by means of the leprous body, understood as both physically afflicted and ritually unclean. The leprous body, with its boundary of skin appearing to deteriorate, is relegated to places beyond the reach of both the human and the holy. As such it is symbolic of salvation found at the boundaries where distinctions are made between the afflicted and the whole, the clean and the unclean, the Jew and the Gentile, the holy and the human. The cleansing of the leprous body similarly is a potent symbol of the means of that salvation.
Luke proclaims God’s deliverance from the distinctions that afflict the body of humanity and God’s preservation of that body in holiness. Luke shapes his message on the deliverance from a skin disease that afflicts the boundary of the individual human body. The cleansing of a leprous body thus becomes the pattern for the cleansing of Gentile hearts, and one of Luke’s primary expressions of the means of God’s salvation.