Vernon K. Robbins

Sociorhetorical Interpretation

Emory Studies in Early Christianity

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Luke 4:1-2: Reconfiguration

The Gospel of Luke

Reconfiguration refers to the restructuring of an antecedent tradition. Recitation and recontextualization may be part of the reconfiguration of a past tradition, but they also may simply present the past tradition, like Acts 7.30-32. An excellent example of reconfiguration occurs in Luke 4.1-2:

And Jesus, full of Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry.

First, this wording reconfigures the context in which Moses received the ten commandments. Exodus 34.28 states that Moses spent 'forty days and forty nights' with the Lord, and during this time 'he neither ate bread nor drank water'. Second, the wording evokes Elijah's flight into the wilderness when Jezebel threatened to kill him. When he went a day's journey into the wilderness and was sleeping under a broom tree, an angel touched him and told him to arise and eat. The third time the angel made the command, 'he arose, ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God' (1 Kings 19.8). The story of Jesus' testing by the devil in Luke, then, begins with a situation that reconfigures the situation both of Moses and Elijah.


From: Vernon K. Robbins (1996) The Tapestry of Early Christian Discourse: Rhetoric, Society and Ideology, London: Routledge: 107.

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