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The Narrative Function(s) of Evil Spirits in the Gospel of Luke

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Saulina, Chakrita 


This study conducts a comprehensive investigation of the narrative function(s) of evil spirits as dominant characters in Luke’s Gospel. In addressing this issue, this work adopts a literary reading of character within a broader narrative-critical model of the textual, symbolic, and real worlds. The textual analysis comprises two major sections: (1) a microanalysis, which assesses each episode in Luke’s Gospel in which evil spirits emerge in three discrete phases of Jesus’s ministry — the Galilean ministry, the travel narrative, and Jesus’s passion narrative — and (2) a macroanalysis, which focuses on the overall characterization and the characters’ roles in Luke’s narrative world and its plot. The investigation of the symbolic and concrete worlds includes the study of Greek, Roman, and Jewish cosmology and demonology.

This study demonstrates that evil spirits have substantial roles in many levels of Luke’s narrative world. On a micro level, since exorcism by itself is not self-evident in explicating Jesus’s identity and work and is easily misunderstood, the evangelist must control its interpretation. In Luke’s case, he often places Jesus’s exorcism stories within the framework of core theological ideas, notably, Christology and eschatology. On a macro level, Jesus’s confrontations with demons also play a crucial function in all the three stages of Jesus’s ministry: the Galilean ministry, the travel narrative, and the passion. Nevertheless, Luke assigns a different purpose to these confrontations for each stage. These distinct roles of Jesus’s conflict with evil spirits in each stage are part of Luke’s strategy in characterizing Satan as a defeated combatant yet dangerous enemy. Jesus’s vision of Satan’s fall is the key in this regard; it influences the rest of Luke’s plot.

Moreover, Satan and demons contribute substantially to Luke’s plot in three major aspects: the promise-fulfillment pattern, the proclamation of the kingdom of God, and the conflicts. Within all the three elements, Jesus’s confrontations with Satan point to the eschatological significance of Jesus’s ministry. Luke depicts Jesus’s cosmic war with Satan and his allies as the fulfillment of the eschatological Isaianic exodus. This cosmic war also lies at the heart of Jesus’s proclamation of the kingdom of God. Jesus’s victory over Satan’s kingdom evinces the culmination of God’s salvation plan and the realization of the kingdom of God on earth. Notwithstanding, the fullness of the latter still belongs to the future. A new age has dawned: Jesus reverses Adam’s curse that affects humanity; repentant sinners may now come to paradise. This reality urges responses, brings forth power to those who respond in faith as the heirs of the kingdom, and necessitates the disciples’ mission to the nations.





Lieu, Judith M


Evil Spirits, Luke's Gospel Demonology, Narrative Criticism


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge