Seminary/School of Divinity



Degree Name

Master of Arts in Theology (M.A.)

Type of Paper/Work



Susan E. Myers

Second Advisor

Catherine Cory

Third Advisor

John Martens


Reader-response, or audience criticism, has rarely been applied to Luke 1:5=2:52. The essay applies audience criticism to determine how the ancient reader would have interpreted the characterization of Jesus as depicted in the aforementioned text. Audience criticism can vary in its application; the method used in the analysis follows the basic theory of Wolfgang Iser. Thus, this study seeks to determine the conclusion that a contextualized implied reader would make regarding Jesus' identity during a reading of Luke 1:5-2:52.

A significant portion of this study is devoted to constructing the contextualized implied reader. Following Darr, I attempt to discern the "competencies" that the audience must have possessed in order to adequately interpret Luke 1:5-2:52. Additionally, relevant aspects of the Greco-Roman cultural and religious milieux are discussed. Finally, a paradigm for evaluating characterization is discussed.

The analysis reveals that the characterization of Jesus and, therefore, the ancient reader's understanding of Jesus, is multi-faceted. Luke 1 begins by identifying the religio-temporal setting of Jesus' appearance; the context is eschatological and the "day of the Lord" is imminent. The depiction of Jesus guides the audience to view Jesus as a "son of god/extraordinary person/hero." Implicitly, this encourages the comparison of Jesus with contemporaries that may fall into this category. Via syncrisis, Jesus is shown to be superior to the figure of John the Baptist. In contrast to other "sons of god," Jesus' role as "son of God" is exclusive; he is the "son of God" of the only God. He is the anticipated Jewish messiah-king whose relationship to God is unprecedented. Jesus is God's son and his divine filiation aligns him with God's power, especially God's salvific power. His status as king and son of God indicate that he is also Lord. Jesus is characterized both an instrument of salvation and savior. He is the one who guides people to eschatological peace. Luke 2 clearly encourages the reader to compare Jesus and Emperor Augustus. Via this comparison, the reader understands that Jesus' role as Savior, Messiah and Lord extends beyond the confines of Judaism: Jesus is the Jewish Messiah who is Savior and Lord of all peoples.

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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.