Atonement in Luke-Acts Pt. 3

I proceed from where I previously left off the discussion (

The Blood of the New Covenant

Luke records our Lord’s words concerning the eucharist on the night of his betrayal, which clearly affirm the redemptive and vicarious significance of Christ’s death:

“When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.’ After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, ‘Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given FOR YOU; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out FOR YOU.'” Luke 22:14-20 NIV

This would seem to settle the issue of whether Luke-Acts actually testify to the sacrificial and atoning nature of Christ’s crucifixion until we keep in mind that there is a shorter version of Luke’s pericope:

“Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you, from this moment I shall drink from the fruit of the vine no more until the time when the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, gave thanks, and broke it; and he gave it to them, with the words: ‘This is my body.’ New English Bible (NEB

As the careful reader can see, the shorter rendering omits the words “for me” and all of v. 20. Yet they do provide a textual note which states:

[Some manuscripts add, in whole or in part, and with various arrangements, the following: ‘which is given for you; do this as a memorial of me.’] 20 [In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup, poured out for you, is the new covenant sealed by my blood.’]

On the basis of this variant, NT critics like Bart D. Ehrman have called into question whether Luke even included Jesus’ affirmation of the substitutionary nature of his death.  

The problem with Ehrman’s assertion is that it brushes asides the overwhelming textual evidence in support of the longer version of Luke’s account of the Lord’s supper. As the late Bruce M. Metzger, one of the greatest NT textual scholars wrote in his commentary on the critical edition of the United Bible Society’s Greek New Testament text:

Considerations in favor of the originality of the longer text include the following: (a) The external evidence supporting the shorter reading represents only part of the Western type of text, whereas the other representatives of the Western text join with witnesses belonging to all the other ancient text-types in support of the longer reading. (b) It is easier to suppose that the Bezan editor, puzzled by the sequence of cup-bread-cup, eliminated the second mention of the cup without being concerned about the inverted order of institution thus produced, than that the editor of the longer version, to rectify the inverted order, brought in from Paul the second mention of the cup, while letting the first mention stand. (c) The rise of the shorter version can be accounted for in terms of the theory of disciplina arcana, i.e. in order to protect the Eucharist from profanation, one or more copies of the Gospel according to Luke, prepared for circulation among non-Christian readers, omitted the sacramental formula after the beginning words.

Considerations in favor of the originality of the shorter text include the following: (a) Generally in New Testament textual criticism the shorter reading is to be preferred. (b) Since the words in verses 19b and 20 are suspiciously similar to Paul’s words in 1 Cor 11.24b-25, it appears that the latter passage was the source of the interpolation into the longer text. (c) Verses 19b-20 contain several linguistic features that are non-Lukan.

The weight of these considerations was estimated differently by different members of the Committee. A minority preferred the shorter text as a Western non-interpolation (see the Note following 24.53). The MAJORITY, on the other hand, impressed by the OVERWHELMING PREPONDERANCE OF EXTERNAL EVIDENCE supporting the longer form, explained the origin of the shorter form as due to some scribal accident or misunderstanding. The similarity between verses 19b-20 and 1 Cor 11.24b-25 arises from a familiarity of the evangelist with the liturgical practice among Pauline churches, a circumstance that accounts also for the presence of non-Lukan expressions in verses 19b-20. (Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament – A Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament Fourth Revised Edition, Second Edition, pp. 148, 150; bold and capital emphasis ours)

The renowned NT textual critics Kurt and Barbara Aland concur:

Most (though not yet all) of the exegetes under the influence of nineteenth-century theories have yielded to THE OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE attesting the originality of Luke 22:19b-20 in the Gospel text, recognizing that for the presentation and perspective of the gospel of Luke it is not the “shorter,” but the “longer” account of the Last Supper that is authentic. (Aland, The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism., F. Erroll (translator) [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI: Second edition 1995], p. 311; bold and capital emphasis ours)

As does another NT textual scholar named Philip W. Comfort:

ALL GREEK MANUSCRIPTS except D testify to the presence of Luke 22:19b-20 in the account of the Last Supper. Very likely, the Bezaean editor (D) was puzzled by the cup/bread/cup sequence, and therefore deleted this portion, but in so doing the text was left with the cup/bread sequence, contrary to Matt 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; and 1 Cor 11:23-26. As far as we know, the Bezaean order is found only in the Didache 9:2-3 and some Old Latin Manuscripts. The other four variants show translators’ attempts to resolve the same problem of cup/bread/cup, but their deletions and transpositions produce the more usual bread/cup sequence. The Bezaean editor, Latin translators, the Old Syriac translators must not have realized that the cup mentioned in 22:17 was the cup of the Passover celebration, occupying 22:15-18. Going back to 22:16, it seems clear that the food of the Passover is implied when Jesus speaks of never again eating it until the kingdom of God is realized. Then, according to 22:17-18, Jesus passed around a cup of wine, again saying that he would not drink of it until the kingdom of God came. Thus, 22:16-18 has its own bread/cup sequence as part of the Passover meal. Following this, 22:19-20 has the bread/cup sequence of the new covenant.

All the translations except the NEB and REB include this portion, though several provide a marginal note as to its omission. Tasker (1964, 422-423) provides a lengthy discussion as to why the translators of the NEB did not include Luke 22:19b-20. The REB persists in leaving the shorter reading in the text. (Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary – Commentary on the variant readings of the ancient New Testament manuscripts and how they relate to the major English translations [Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Il. 2008], p. 232; bold and capital emphasis ours)

As do the translators of the New English Translation (NET):

49tc Some important Western mss (D it) lack the words from this point to the end of v. 20. However, the authenticity of these verses is very likely. The inclusion of the second cup is the harder reading, since it differs from Matt 26:26-29 and Mark 14:22-25, and it has much better ms support. It is thus easier to explain the shorter reading as a scribal accident or misunderstanding. Further discussion of this complicated problem (the most difficult in Luke) can be found in TCGNT 148-50. (; underline emphasis ours)

The following author mentions the views of noted NT scholar Joachim Jeremias in support of the longer reading:

In defense of the longer text, Jeremias concentrates his discussion in four main areas: 1) the mass of evidence in favor of the longer reading; 2) a comparison of similar textual phenomena at other points in Luke’s gospel; 3) objections raised to the longer version and 4) a rationale for the development of the shorter text from the longer.105

The manuscript evidence is decidedly in favor of the longer reading. With this in mind Jeremias states:

To hold the short text as original would be to accept the most extreme improbability, for it would be to assume that an identical addition to the text of Luke (22:19b-20) had been introduced into every text of the manuscripts with the exception of D a b d e ff 2 i l syrcur sin.106

As far as the omission is concerned, Jeremias says that this is not the only place where a longer reading stands beside a shortened form in Luke, with the short form attested by D it vet-syr. According to Jeremias when these other passages107 in Luke are scrutinized the longer is always to be preferred except in two cases (i. e. Luke 24:36, 40). The longer readings demonstrate, in part, Lucan style and the shorter form can be accounted for by scribal assumption that assimilation to Matthew and Mark is going on. To say that the Western text is correct each time is tantamount to saying that the Eastern text (usually judged as the better text) had been obliterated. Jeremias also adds that the Western readings in Acts are generally thought to be secondary as well. This further supports the longer Eastern reading in Luke

Like both Jeremias and Marshall, [E. E.] Ellis agrees that non-Lucan style is no argument against verses 19b, 20 since they are liturgical in nature and that the two cups can be accounted for if the meal is indeed a Passover meal. But, says Ellis, a Gentile scribe who did not know the ritual of the Passover meal might excise 19b, 20 as a repetition of verses 15-18. This then is how one might account for the shorter reading arising from the longer. (Greg Herrick, An Examination of Key Texts in the Discussion:; bold emphasis ours)

107 Ibid., 148-52. Jeremias cites Luke 5:39; 7:7a, 33; 10:41, 42; 11:35; 12:19, 21, 39; 19:25; 21:30; 24:6, 12, 21, 36, 40, 50, 51, 52. (Ibid.:

Fellow Christian apologist “Wildcat” also mentions Jeremias’ views:

“… Jeremias states that ‘it is astonishing in the few lines which the eucharistic words occupy we come upon not less than three peculiarities which present the most distinctive characteristics of Jesus’ manner of speaking.’ (Jeremias 1966; 201). Jeremias’ lists the following: 1) The Greek for ‘I tell you the truth’ (αμην λεγω υμιν) in Mark 14:25 “is a completely new idiom of Jesus, which is without parallel in the entire Jewish literature and in the New Testament outside the gospels’; 2) Regarding ‘[until] it finds fulfillment’ (πληρωθη) in Luke 22:16: ‘The use of the passive for the reverent circumlocution of the activity of God…is met only very seldom in rabbinic literature. Dalman, in 1898, adduced only a single example,2 to which Billerbeck, in 1922, added 53, and Dalman himself in 1930 added a further example4. Even if the material is not exhausted5, nevertheless, the rabbinic examples are extremely sparse. The frequency of the passive for the circumlocution of the name of God, which is found in the words of Jesus in all five lines of tradition represented in the gospels (Mark, Sayings tradition, Matthaean special material, Lukan special material and John), is completely without parallel and therefore is to be taken as an indication of his own manner of speaking.’; and 3) ‘The predilection for similitudes, comparisons and parabolic expressions which is presupposed in the words of interpretation is likewise an express peculiarity of Jesus.’6”(Jeremias 1966; 201-202) (“Wildcat”, Pondering the Passion Prognostications: Did Jesus Predict His Death and Vindication?

Hence, as far as the actual textual tradition is concerned there is no question that the longer version of Luke’s pericope is definitely genuine, and Luke, therefore, did include our Lord’s words concerning the atoning, sacrificial significance of his death in the place of sinners.

Ironically, even Ehrman admits that the longer rendering is found in most manuscripts, and doesn’t appear in ONE old Greek copy:

… Another textual variant in Luke’s account of Jesus’s final hours emphasizes this reality. It occurs in the account of Jesus’s last supper with his disciples. In one of our oldest  Greek manuscripts, as well as in several Latin witnesses, we are told

IN MOST OF OUR MANUSCRIPTS, however, there is an addition to the text [sic], an addition that will sound familiar to many readers of the English Bible, since it has made its way into most modern translations. Here, after Jesus says “This is my body,” he continues with the words  “‘which has been given for you; do this in remembrance of me’; And  the cup likewise after supper, saying ‘this cup is the new covenant in  my blood which is shed for you.'” (Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why [HarperSanFrancisco, 2005], pp. 165-166; capital emphasis mine)


That is the form of the text found in most manuscripts.  But in ONE old Greek manuscript and some Latin manuscripts, the words in question are missing, leading to the following text. (“The Striking Conclusion: Jesus’ Last Supper in Luke”; capital emphasis mine)

Yet despite this candid admission, Ehrman still calls in to question its textual veracity for the express purpose of destroying a person’s confidence in the longer reading’s textual pedigree.

For more on this issue we recommend the following article, “Do This in Remembrance of Me: Luke 22:19” (

Purchased by God’s Blood

The originality of the longer reading is further supported by what Luke says in his companion volume to his Gospel:

“But going ahead to the ship, WE set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there; for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. And when he met US at Assos, WE took him on board and came to Mityle’ne. And sailing from there WE came the following day opposite Chi’os; the next day WE touched at Samos; and the day after that WE came to Mile’tus. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost. And from Mile’tus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. And when they came to him, he said to them: ‘You yourselves know how I lived among you all the time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which befell me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, bound in the Spirit, not knowing what shall befall me there; except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that all you among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he purchased with his own blood.’” Acts 20:13-28

The NET translators state:

sn That he obtained with the blood of his own Son. This is one of only two explicit statements in Luke-Acts highlighting the substitutionary nature of Christ’s death (the other is in Luke 22:19). (Ibid.; underline emphasis mine)

Astonishingly, not only does Luke quote Paul as identifying Jesus as God who purchased the church with his own blood, thereby affirming that Christ has two distinct natures, something he does elsewhere in his inspired writings:

“concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,” Romans 9:4-5 Romans 9:4-5 English Standard Version (ESV)

“They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” ESV

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,” Colossians 2:9 NIV

But the Apostle has also taken the language of the following Psalm, which is employed in reference to the one true God of Israel,

O God, why have you rejected us forever? Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture? Remember the nation you purchased long ago, the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed— Mount Zion, where you dwelt.” Psalm 74:1-2 NIV

And attributed it to the risen Christ!

With the foregoing in perspective, we are now ready to move onto the next segment of my analysis (

2 thoughts on “Atonement in Luke-Acts Pt. 3

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