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83 4 Ought Not This Daughter of Abraham Be Set Free? Getting the Story of the Bent Woman Straight Who belongs in this new family of God? Who qualifies as a child of Abraham? Luke begins his case for the inclusiveness of the Abrahamic covenant community with the story of the so-called bent woman. The Bent Woman Ignored and Interpreted Until recently,the story of the bent woman has largely been ignored in the scholarly literature. In fact, Dennis Hamm could write as late as 1987 that he could find only two articles devoted to Luke 13:10–17. Those who did address the pericope often had little positive to say. Rudolf Bultmann claimed that when compared with other similar stories (Luke 14:1–6, Mark 3:1–6), Luke 13:10–17 exhibits the least skill in . M.Dennis Hamm,“The Freeing of the Bent Woman and the Restoration of Israel: Luke 13:10–17 as Narrative Theology,”Journal for the Study of the New Testament 31 (1987): 23–44. Hamm (p. 39 n. 1) cites J. Wilkinson,“The Case of the Bent Woman in Luke 13:10–17,”Evangelical Quarterly 49 (1977): 195–205, and L. Milot,“Guérison d’une femme infirme un jour de sabbat (Luc 13.10–17),”Sémiotique et Bible 39 (1985): 23–33. Parsons_LukeActs_JDE_djm.indd 83 9/15/06 1:27:30 PM 84 Body and Character in Luke and Acts composition. This assessment no doubt rests in part on the fact that from a form-critical perspective this story seems to be a “hybrid form,” drawing on elements of both a healing and a controversy story. Thus many who have studied the pericope have focused on the conflict story (vv. 14–16). When older studies did attend to the healing story, they often dealt with the diagnosis of the woman’s ailment.The study by John Wilkinson (himself a medical missionary) would represent this approach taken to its logical conclusion. In the chapter, “The Case of the Bent Woman,” Wilkinson discusses various possible diagnoses to explain the woman’s symptoms of being “bent double,” finally concluding that ankylosing spondylitis is the “most probable diagnosis”in this case,although noting that this disease is more common in men. However fascinating such a study may be for modern readers,Wilkinson’s analysis is unlikely to shed much light on the function of the story in Luke’s narrative. Since Hamm’s article appeared more attention has been paid to this passage. Contra Bultmann and others who failed to see any literary coherence in it, Robert O’Toole has argued that the story reveals “Luke’s considerable literary skill.” He sees a diptych composed of two panels, with verses 11–13 paralleling 14–17: First Panel (Luke 13:11–13) 1. Bent woman gets Jesus’ attention (v. 11) 2. Jesus calls the woman and cures her (vv. 12–13a) 3. Twofold results of Jesus’ actions (v. 13b) a. Immediately she is made straight b. She praises God Second Panel (Luke 13:14–17) 1. Synagogue ruler objects (v. 14) 2. Jesus reacts to the ruler’s words (vv. 15–16) 3. Twofold results of Jesus’ words (v. 17) . Rudolf Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), 12–13. . See,e.g.,Paul Achtemeier,“The Lucan Perspective on the Miracles of Jesus: A Preliminary Sketch,” Journal of Biblical Literature 94 (1975): 558; also, J. M. Creed, The Gospel of Luke (London: Macmillan, 1953), 181; W. Schmithals, Das Evangelium nach Lukas (Zurich: Theologischer Verlag, 1980), 152. . John Wilkinson,Health and Healing: Studies in NewTestament Principles and Practice (Edinburgh: Handsel, 1980). . Ibid., 74. . Robert F. O’Toole, “Some Exegetical Reflections on Luke 13,10–17,” Biblica 73 (1992): 84–107. Parsons_LukeActs_JDE_djm.indd 84 9/15/06 1:27:30 PM 85 Ought Not This Daughter of Abraham Be Set Free? a. Jesus’ adversaries are put to shame b. All the people rejoice O’Toole has also helpfully related this story to its immediate and larger context. Likewise, Joel Green has clarified the relationship between the healing story and the kingdom of God. And of course,one must mention feminist studies that have also shed considerable light on this story.Pride of place here belongs to Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza,together withTurid Seim’s enlightening discussion of the title,“Daughter of Abraham.” Still, questions remain. For example, what symbolic meaning is conveyed by details of the woman’s illness in Luke’s account...


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