Misuse and Use of Luke 10:21

At Bible study last night, one verse that got quoted was Luke 10:21: “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight” (KJV).

I think that this verse can be taken in unfortunate anti-intellectual directions: you don’t have to listen to scholars, since God reveals wisdom to the simple; you don’t have to understand why someone believes what she believes and respond to that, since reasoning is irrelevant, as knowledge of “the” truth comes by revelation.

This verse was quoted on the DVD that we watched within the context of the typical narrative that the marginalized, humble people came to the truth (i.e., accepting Jesus as the Messiah), whereas the scholars and religious leaders missed out.  There are many conservative evangelicals who would draw from this narrative the lesson that we don’t need to listen to scholarly “worldly wisdom” because the scholars of Jesus’ day missed out on the truth.  Can we also take from this narrative the lesson that maybe we shouldn’t trust today’s religious establishment because the religious leaders of Jesus’ day missed out on the truth?  I doubt that a number of conservative evangelicals would want to go there, as such an idea would conflict with their belief in church “authority”!

I’m not sure if my problem is merely with the misuse of Luke 10:21, or with Luke 10:21 itself.  I’ll have to admit that I can’t think of ways to interpret Luke 10:21 in a way that makes me completely comfortable.  I will say this, though: there is perhaps a valuable lesson in Luke 10:21, namely, that God can work in ways that we don’t quite expect.  We all (or many of us) have our biases and blinders, our egos and insecurities, our desires for power and acknowledgement of how the world “really” works.  I should take heed that these marks of “sophistication” not blind me to the good things that God does in the world.

In a similar vein to some of my concerns, check out Pete Enns’ excellent post here.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to Misuse and Use of Luke 10:21

  1. John Valade says:

    As one who also has tried to get an education, I can understand the discomfort with this verse. If it is supposedly so hard for the educated to know Jesus Christ, how do we explain the Apostle Paul?

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  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Yeah, he is a good example of an educated Christ-follower.

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