Placing Luke 9:51-18:14 Within John 7:10-12:19

Luke 9:51-18:17 and John 7:10-12:19 crisscross in their general timing. It is impossible to be certain the exact order of each event, but here are some principles and examples by which we can give plausible guesses of the timing.

Luke

Luke 9:51-18:14 shows a series of events largely unique to Luke.  At the beginning, Jesus, “set His face to go to Jerusalem,” (where He would depart from this world, see Luke 9:51; 24:51). Throughout the section, Jesus is similarly seen journeying toward Jerusalem a final time (9:53; 13:22, 33; 17:11).

However:

  1. The geography does not show a linear progression from Galilee to Jerusalem. Luke 10:38-42 (cf. John 11:18) is near Jerusalem. While Luke 13:33 is 3 days away from Jerusalem, and Luke 17:11 is back in Galilee.
  2. The timing does not show a linear progression.  For instance, some of the episodes in this section parallel stories recorded earlier in Matthew and/or Mark (e.g. see Luke 11 discussed in this harmony). 

Thus, it seems a general trajectory (in thought and action) takes Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem in Luke 9:51-18:14, though each individual event is not necessarily successive along this path. This is not unlike the way the gospels were constructed in general, where sometimes stories are thematically selected, but there is still a general chronological sequencing (see When Did Jesus Resurrect Jairus’s Daughter, for instance). 

From this, we can establish two principles for ordering the Luke 9:51-18:14 events:

  1. Look for indicators within each story to see if it should chronologically be placed outside of Luke’s ordering.
  2. Assume each story follows a general time/geography sequence, unless indicators show otherwise.

John

Unlike Luke 9:51-18:17, John 7:10-12:19 follows a very tight sequence (chronologically and geographically):

  1. Fall: Jesus travels from Galilee to Judea (John 7:1-10).
    1. He went to the Feast of Tabernacles, in the Fall (7:1-3; cf. Lev. 23:34)
    2. The trip was private (7:10)
    3. There was little time for excursions (cf. 7:8-9)
  2. Fall: Jesus remains in Jerusalem (John 7:11-8:59).
    1. He remained all 7 days of the feast (Jn. 7:37-39; Lev. 23:34)
    2. He continues teaching during (or shortly after) the feast (John 8:1[1]-59)
  3. Winter: Jesus is in/near Jerusalem (John 9:1-10:39).
    1. He heals a blind man (9:1-39)
      1. Siloam (9:7) was connected to Jerusalem (cf. Lk 13:4)
    2. He teaches the Pharisees (9:40-10:21)
      1. The subject of Jesus as “shepherd” seems to connect to Ezekiel 34’s messianic prophecy of a Shepherd to come.
        1. The shepherd theme and passage were part of regular synagogue readings around the Feast of Dedication (cf. Brown 1966, 29:389).
        2. This teaching continues into the Feast of Dedication (10:22, 26-27).
    3. He teaches in the temple during the Feast of Dedication (10:22-30)
      1. “And it was winter,” (10:22)
    4. He escapes the Jews stoning Him (10:31-39)
  4. Winter: Jesus goes, “beyond the Jordan” (John 10:40)
    1. Most likely this was Batanaea[2], near Galilee (10:40)       
  5. Winter-Spring: Jesus ministers in Batanaea (John 10:41-11:6)
    1. Many believed Him there (10:41-42)
    2. Mary and Martha’s messengers inform Jesus that their brother, Lazarus, was ill (11:1-6)
  6. Spring: Jesus travels to Bethany (John 11:7-18)
    1. The trip from Batanaea to Bethany took 3-4 days[3] (11:6, 17)
    2. “Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away,” (11:18)
  7. Spring: Jesus resurrects Lazarus in Bethany (John 11:19-44)
  8. Spring: Jesus hides in Ephraim (John 11:45-57)
    1. Jewish leaders decide to kill Jesus (11:45-53)
      1. This was shortly after Lazarus resurrected (11:45-46)
    1. Jesus relocates to Ephraim (11:54)
      1. This was shortly before Passover (11:55-57)
  9. Spring: Jesus anointed at Bethany, shortly before Passover (John 12:1-11)
  10. Spring: Jesus’ Triumphal Jerusalem Entry (John 12:12-19)
    1. This point onwards is paralleled in the other gospels
      1. Within 1 week Jesus will die in Jerusalem

Considering this outline of John 7:10-12:19, one more principle emerges in our ordering of Luke 9:51-18:17 and John 7:10-12:19:

  1. John 7:10-12:19 sets a fixed chronological ordering of events from Jesus leaving Galilee (John 7:10) to His death at Passover (beginning John 12:12). Thus, John 7:10-12:19 should be used as a framework wherein Luke 9:51-18:17 events can attach to (unless they clearly belong before or after the John 7:10-12:19 narrative)[4].   

Luke & John Harmonized

After examining Luke 9:51-18:17 and John 7:10-12:19, we have established the following 3 principles for placing their events:

  1. Look for indicators within each Lucan story to see if it should chronologically be placed outside of Luke’s ordering.
  2. Assume each Lucan story is placed in chronological order unless indicators show otherwise.
  3. Recognize John’s ordering as chronologically fixed, and thus use John’s ordering to place Luke’s events.

Application

To see how to apply this, we will examine the first event in Luke’s narrative (9:51-56: “Samaritans Reject Jesus”) using these 3 principles.

Principle 1: Look for indicators within each Lucan story to see if it should be placed outside of Luke’s ordering.

There are no timing or geography indicators suggesting Luke 9:51-56 should fall outside of Luke’s placement of the story, so we can proceed to principle 2.

Principle 2: Assume each Lucan story is placed in chronological order unless indicators show otherwise.

We can assume Luke 9:51-56 happened after Luke 9:49-50, since Luke records it next.  Further, Luke uses language suggesting this story falls in time sequence with his broader narrative: “It came to pass… the time had come…as they went…and they went to another village,” (Luke 9:51-56).

Principle 3: Recognize John’s ordering as chronologically fixed, and thus use John’s ordering to place Luke’s events.

Because Luke 9:51-56 takes place while Jesus was journeying from Galilee toward Jerusalem via Samaria (cf. vv. 51-52), its geography can only match 2 or 3 places within John’s narrative:

  1. #1 – Fall: Jesus travels from Galilee to Judea (John 7:1-10).
  2. Between #2 – Fall: Jesus remains in Jerusalem (John 7:11-8:59) and #3 – Winter: Jesus is in/near Jerusalem (John 9:1-10:39).
  3. Between #8 – Spring: Jesus hides in Ephraim (John 11:45-57) and #9 – Spring: Jesus anointed at Bethany, shortly before Passover (John 12:1-11).

Luke 10 begins by saying, “After these things…” (10:1), and then tells the account of Jesus commissioning the 70. Thus, Luke 9:51-56 happened before the commissioning of the 70.

Luke 10’s Commissioning of the 70 disciples is a fairly public display of power and authority, thus, it seems unlikely that it would have happened in or near Jerusalem, due to Jesus’ tenuous relationship with the Jewish community in Jerusalem (cf. John 7:1, 10; etc.).  Further, it envisions a geographic movement that spans at least 35 different areas (cf. Luke 10:1), which, again, seems in discord to the more private and localized Jerusalem ministry recorded of Jesus in the gospels (at least, this is certainly true of His Jerusalem ministry from John 7:1 until the crucifixion).  Finally, Luke 10:1-24 focuses on town names surrounding Galilee (10:13-15, cf. Mt. 11:20-24), far from Jerusalem.  Such things indicate that the commissioning of the 70 happened outside of Jerusalem over a sizable time frame.

Thus, on this basis, Luke 10:1-24 could fit:

  • Sandwiched between #2 – Fall: Jesus remains in Jerusalem (John 7:11-8:59) and #3 – Winter: Jesus is in/near Jerusalem (John 9:1-10:39). 
  • #5 – Winter-Spring: Jesus ministers in Batanaea (John 10:41-11:6)

Following the commissioning of the 70, we see the story of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42).  Since there are no indicators that this event happened outside of the sequence of Luke’s placement, we assume it happened after the commissioning of the 70 (principles 1 and 2).  And John 11 tells us that Martha and Mary’s house was outside of Batanaea (in Bethany, near Jerusalem – cf. 11:18) and that Jesus already had a relationship with Martha and Mary by the time He was in Batanaea (see Jn. 11:3).  Thus, the episode of Luke 10:38-42 consequently belongs before #5 – Winter-Spring: Jesus ministers in Batanaea (John 10:41-11:6), as does the story of Jesus commissioning the 70.

This leaves sometime between #2 – Fall: Jesus remains in Jerusalem (John 7:11-8:59) and #3 – Winter: Jesus is in/near Jerusalem (John 9:1-10:39) as the best option for the commissioning of the 70.  If the Samaritans’ rejection of Jesus (Lk. 9:51-56) also happened at the same general time (between #2 and #3 stories in John’s narrative), it would mean that the following things must have taken place in the nearly 2 months between #2 – Fall: Jesus remains in Jerusalem (John 7:11-8:59) and #3 – Winter: Jesus is in/near Jerusalem (John 9:1-10:39):

  1. Jesus travels back to the Galilean region (presumably He would have spent a decent amount of time there after making such a journey)
  2. Jesus leaves Galilee and travels to Samaria, where He is rejected by them (Lk. 9:51-56)
  3. Afterward, Jesus draws together a group of 70, instructs them, sends them out to 30+ cities, waits for them to return, continues teaching them, then goes Himself to all of the cities for follow-up ministry (cf. Luke 10:1)
  4. Jesus also visits Mary and Martha (perhaps during the follow-up ministry) – see Luke 10:38-42.

The time required for all of these events seems difficult to imagine in a 2-month span[5].  Thus, that leaves #1 – Fall: Jesus travels from Galilee to Judea (John 7:1-10) as the most viable timing of Luke 9:51-56. 

Further, the story of Luke 9:51-56 uses terminology and concepts parallel to the #1 – Fall: Jesus travels from Galilee to Judea (John 7:1-10) period, more than the period between events #2 and #3 of John’s narrative.  For instance, both mention that Jesus’ “time” had come to travel to Jerusalem (Lk. 9:51; Jn. 7:8, 10), and both have this as the last explicit mention of Jesus journeying from Galilee to Jerusalem in their respective gospels.

Thus, following the principles outlined above, we can fairly confidently place Luke 9:51-56 within the same general time as #1 – Fall: Jesus travels from Galilee to Judea (John 7:1-10).

Conclusion

The same principles and similar reasoning are used to place each Luke 9:51-18:14 event within John 7:10-12:19 throughout our gospel harmony (which will be published soon, Lord willing).


[1] Some question whether John 7:53-8:11 was part of John’s original gospel (cf. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, 1986; Carson, The Gospel of John, 1991). If it was original to John, then John 8:12-59 takes place the morning after the feast ends (cf. 8:2).  If it was not, then John 8:12-59 either happens on the last day of the feast (cf. 7:39 and 8:12) or shortly following the meeting of the Jewish authorities (7:45-52; cf. 7:52 and 8:12), which took place in the wake of Jesus’ ministry during the Feast of Tabernacles (7:45-52). Thus, both scenarios are consistent with this outline.

[2] See Riesner, “Bethany Beyond the Jordan…” from Tyndale Bulletin (1987).

[3] A more detailed argument for Jesus’ journey being 3-4 days is found in Riesner (1987).

[4] This principle assumes that John 7:10 and Luke 9:51 refer to the same time.  Such an assumption seems safe because: (A) Luke 9:51 uses language indicative of this being his final departure  – “the time had come for Him to be received up…He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,” and (B) Matthew and Mark, speaking of the same general time, mention Jesus needing to leave Galilee (Matt. 19:1; Mk. 10:1).  This does not mean that Jesus would never again visit Galilee (cf. Jn. 21:1), for both Luke and John leave that possibility open in their sequence of events. It only means, instead, that He would not minister there in a permanent or long-term sense (as He previously had done).

[5] The time between the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Dedication is roughly 2 months.

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