5th Edition PMBOK Guide–Chapter 7: Outputs of Control Costs process


1.  Introduction

When all of the tools & techniques of process 7.4 Control Costs are applied, then the outputs are then used for several purposes:

a) to communicate information about the performance of the project to the project team and relevant stakeholders,

b)  to recommend changes to the project if the performance of the project is not going according to plan, and

c) to make changes to the project management plan and project documents if necessary.

 

2.  Outputs of Control Costs

The following chart contains the lists of outputs from the process 7.4 Control Costs.

 

7.4  CONTROL COSTS
OUTPUTS
1. Work Performance Information The calculated values of CV, SV, CPI, SPI, TCPI, and VAC
2. Cost Forecasts The calculation of estimate at completion either based on a bottom-up recalculation or through one of the formulas.
3. Change Request Based on the work performance information and cost forecasts, changes may be indicated in one of the following categories

Corrective action

Preventive action

Changes to the cost baseline itself

4. Project Management Plan Updates The same elements of the cost management plan that were inputs may be modified as a result of this process.

Cost base

Cost management plan

 

5. Project Documents Updates            Cost estimates

Basis of estimates

 

6. OPAs Updates            Causes of variances

Corrective actions to  be taken

Financial Databases

Lessons learned

According to the three purposes mentioned in the introductory paragraph, the outputs of Work Performance Information and Cost Forecasts serve the first purpose of communication to the project team and relevant stakeholders of just how the project is currently doing.

What if the project is not going according to plan?  Then the output of Change Requests serves the second purpose of recommending changes to

a)  the project, to bring it in line with the project management plan, or

b)  possibly even to the project management plan itself.

Note that the recommendation for changes are not acted upon in this process.  They are merely the output of the process, which then becomes the input of the process 4.5 Perform Integrated Change Control in the Integration Knowledge Area.

If changes are recommended, either to the project or to the plan itself, then the outputs of Project Management Plan Updates, Project Document Updates, or updates to the Organization Process Assets or OPAs fulfill the third purpose, which is to make changes to the project plan and associated project documents.

The first purpose, that of communication, fits the monitoring part, and the second purpose, that of recommending changes and documenting those changes, fits the controlling part of this monitoring & controlling process.

This concludes my posts on chapter 7, Cost Management.  Next week I will start on chapter 8, Quality Management, with a review of all the processes for that knowledge area.

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5th Edition PMBOK Guide–Chapter 7: Reserve Analysis


1.  Introduction

The last tool & technique listed for process 7.4 Control Costs is Reserve Analysis.   Why is this used as a technique for monitoring and controlling costs?   This post will discuss this issue.

2.  Contingency reserve and management reserves

Risks that are identified and put in the risk register should have risk responses prepared.   The funding for those risk responses comes from funds set aside in the contingency reserves.   The contingency reserves are added to the cost estimates to create the cost baseline, against which the performance of the project is measured.    

However, risks may occur that were not identified.   The responses to these unplanned risks are called workarounds and the funds for these come from the management reserves.  The management reserves are added to the cost baseline to create the project budget.

3.  What happens when risks do not occur?

After a probable  risk that may have been identified has not occurred at a point where it was expected it might, the money in the contingency reserves for those risks is no longer needed.   What do you do with those funds?

There are two possibilities, either a) keep the funds in the contingency reserves, or b) remove them from the project budget entirely.   If you keep the funds in the contingency reserves, the cost performance on the project will improve, because those funds will not be used.

But whereas this may improve the CPI for the project you are working on, remember that the funds in the contingency reserves are unused resources, which could be used on another project.   So as a project manager, you might be happy that your CPI goes up on your project, but a program manager or a sponsor has to look at all of the projects of a company as a whole, and would prefer not to waste resources where they are not needed.

So contingency reserves that are not used can be used to adjust the project budget going forward.

4.  What happens when new risk are uncovered?

As a project goes forward, new risks may be identified which were not identified at the beginning of the project in the risk register.   If new risks are identified, then risk responses must be developed, and the funds for these responses must be added to the contingency reserves.

So whether the number of risks decreases or increases, they will affect the budget through the contingency reserves, and that is why the technique of reserve analysis becomes a tool of cost management in this monitoring & controlling process.

The last post regarding this chapter deals with the outputs of the process 7.4 Control Costs, and that is the subject of the next post.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Chapter 7: Performance Reviews


1.  Introduction

In previous posts, we have talked about earned value management, forecasting, and the to-complete performance index or TCPI.   These can show the variances in the present, and the variances that will exist by the time the project is finished if the cost and/or schedule performance continue on in the same way that they are now.

The purpose of this post is to talk about performance reviews, which analyzes not only the present and or the future performance of the project, but the PAST performance as well and how it differs from the performance now on the project.

2.  Three types of performance reviews

When someone says “performance reviews”, one naturally thinks of human resource performance reviews, where the individual’s performance on the job is reviewed.   This kind of performance review is different in that it focuses on the performance of the project.

  • Variance analysis–cost variance (CV), schedule variance (SV), or variance at completion (VAC)
  • Trend analysis–compares past performance and present performance
  • Earned value performance–uses other measures from earned value management to analyze performance.

The most important thing to remember is that the analysis asks the following questions:

WHAT is the performance and how does it deviates from what it should be?

IS the trend getting better or worse?

WHAT is the cause of the variance?

It’s like diagnosing the disease of a patient if you’re a doctor.   Okay, you detect symptoms of some sort of illness.   What is the cause of the disease?   Knowing this will lead you to a cure.   Similarly, knowing the cause of the variance will lead you to propose a change, which then becomes the basis for a change request.

The next post will cover the final tool & technique used in process 7.4 Control Costs, Reserve Analysis.   How is monitoring and controlling costs related to looking at risks?   That’s the question the next post will answer.

5th Edition PMBOK Guide–Chapter 7: Earned Value Management (part 4)


1.  Introduction

The last formula to be discussed is that relating to the 3rd technique listed for process 7.4 Control Costs, namely, the To-Complete Performance Index or TCPI.

What does index do for you?   Well, let’s say you are driving downtown and your GPS system tells you it will take 30 minutes to get there.   You notice that traffic is heavier than normal on the way, and 15 minutes into the journey you realize that you have only gotten a quarter of the way.   This means that for some reason you have been going twice as slow as the GPS estimated you would, perhaps because there was an accident on the freeway that caused the traffic to be heavier than predicted.

In any case, you can tell intuitively that, NOW in order to get downtown you would have to speed up, perhaps even greater than the speed limit, in order to make up for the slow performance in the first half of your trip.   This is analogous to what the TCPI does.  

If your CPI is less than 1.0, the TCPI can tell you what your CPI needs to be from here on out in order for you to either a) meet the cost baseline or b) to meet the estimate at completion.

Here is the first formula:

a.  TCPI = (BAC – EV)/(BAC – AC)

What does it mean?   The BAC – EV is the remaining work that needs to be done on the project.   BAC – EV is the remaining budget or funds with which that work must be done.   The resulting TCPI is the efficiency that must be maintained throughout the rest of the project in order for you to complete the project according to the plan.

b.  TCPI = (BAC – EV)/(EAC – AC)

In this formula, BAC – EV is the remaining work that needs to be done on the project, just as in the other formula.  In this case, however, BAC – AC is replaced with EAC – AC, and this is the remaining budget estimate or estimated funds with which that work must be done.   The resulting TCPI is the efficiency that must be maintained throughout the rest of the project in order for you to complete the project according to the EAC or estimate at completion.

Although I have not seen this formula on any PMP test questions, it is a good idea to at least understand conceptually what the formula is for and what its component terms are.

Tomorrow I will discuss some of the remaining tools & techniques for process 7.4 Control Costs.

 

 

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Earned Value Management (part 3)


 

1.  Introduction

In the previous posts, I covered the basic formulas having to do with the three quantities of Planned Value (PV), Earned Value (EV), and Actual Cost (AC), and Budget at Completion (BAC).  Then I covered the variances Cost Variance (CV), Schedule Variance (SV), and Variance at Completion (VAC), as well as the performance indexes, Cost Performance Index (CPI) and Schedule Performance Index (SPI).

In this post, I discuss the estimate to completion or EAC used in the technique of Forecasting. The formulas tell “will be finish the project on time and within the budget?”   To calculate these quantities, we need to introduce some new terms.

2.  Terms dealing with the project cost at completion

Quantity Formula Definition
Budget at Completion (BAC)  (Related to PV) Authorized budget amount of the total project, i.e. what the project was supposed to cost
Estimate at Completion (EAC) (several formulas) Estimated cost of the project at completion, i.e., what the project is now expected to cost
Variance at
Completion

(VAC)

BAC – EAC The difference between what the project was supposed to cost (BAC) and what is now expected to cost (EAC).
Estimate to Complete EAC – AC How much more it is estimated it will cost to complete the project, i.e., the difference between what the total project is now expected to cost (EAC) and how much it has cost until now (AC).

3.  Relationship between PV, AC and the terms of completion (BAC, EAC, ETC, VAC)

So two of the formulas that relate to the terms of completion, namely,

 

Variance at Completion (VAC) VAC = BAC – EAC
Estimate to Complete (EAC) ETC = EAC – AC

can be memorized simply by realizing what the terms actually mean.

4.  Calculating the EAC

So how to you calculate the EAC?   As listed in the chart in paragraph 2, there are several formulas, which is always a point of confusion for test takers.  How do you know which one to use?  Here are the formulas, their characteristics, and an explanation of when they are to be used.

The purpose of each formula for EAC is to estimate how much it will take to complete the project based on the performance to date.   If the project is over budget or behind schedule, the key in figuring out the EAC is to analyze WHY it is over budget or behind schedule.  This will give you the clue as to which formula to use.   I’ll give some examples after explaining the terms in the table.

Formula No. Formula Formula Name Formula Explanation
1 EAC = AC + ETC New estimate ETC is new bottom-up estimate
2 EAC = AC + (BAC – EV) Atypical variance Reason for variance is one-time occurrence
3 EAC = AC + (BAC – EV)/CPI

Or

EAC = BAC/CPI

Typical variance (Cost)

 

Reason for cost variance will continue at same rate (CPI)
4 EAC = AC + (BAC – EV)/CPI*SPI Typical variance (Cost and schedule) Reason for variance will continue and effect both cost and schedule performance (CPI, SPI)

Formula 1.  If the original budget is considered totally flawed, then one way to estimate the amount it will now take to do the project is to take the amount spent on the project so far (AC) and then do a more accurate bottom-up estimate of the amount it will take to complete the project (ETC).  That’s one way to do it.  But if you are answering a question from the PMP exam, don’t use this formula unless it specifically states the ETC is a brand-new estimate.   In this case, they will have to give you the figure for ETC because it is not derivable from any other formula but from the project’s own WBS (work-breakdown structure).

Formulas 2-4.  The rest of the formulas are similar in that they all start with AC, the actual cost up to now, and then they add an amount called the remaining work or BAC – EV, modified by some other factor.

The assumption is made that the EV is somehow different than the PV, i.e., the project is off schedule somehow.   Now the PV is essentially useless for planning purposes because it shows you the value of the work that was supposed to be done, and the assumption is that the EV is somehow different than that.   So the logical think to do is to start figuring out how much work actually needs to be completed from now (EV) to the end of the project (EAC), and that difference BAC – EV is the remaining work.

 In formula 2, that difference is simply added to the actual costs already incurred, because the remaining work will be done on time and on schedule, the one-time variance having already occurred.  In formula 3, the remaining work is divided by the cost performance index, because this formula assumes that the remaining work will be done at the same cost performance index (i.e., cause of variance is ongoing).  In formula 4, the remaining work is divided by both the cost performance index and the schedule performance index, if BOTH of these performance indexes will persist throughout the rest of the project.

The next post will deal with the next technique, the to-complete performance index, which tells you if you are behind schedule now, how much “pedal to the metal” you have to apply to get to the end of the project on schedule.

History of Christianity—Lecture 7: The Gospel according to Luke (part 2)


This is a summary of the seventh part of twenty-four in the course on the New Testament presented by The Teaching Company.  The lectures in this course are by Prof. Bart D. Ehrman, the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  His expertise is in the Greco-Roman cultural environment of early Christianity and the textual criticism of the New Testament.  For those who are interested in purchasing this course and listening to the complete lectures, please go to http://www.thegreatcourses.com.

7.  Jesus the prophesied Messiah

The stress that Luke places in his genealogy on Jesus being the Savior of the entire human race can be found throughout Luke’s Gospel at a number of critical junctures.  That can be seen above all by comparing several episodes of Luke with those that are found in Mark, which was one of Luke’s sources.  One of the most interesting stories to compare with Luke and Mark has to do with an event that takes place halfway through Mark’s Gospel in which Jesus goes to his hometown of Nazareth and preaches in the synagogue only to be rejected by his townsfolk who can’t understand how a simple carpenter like Jesus can speak such words of wisdom (Mark 6:1-6).  Luke also has this account (Luke 4:16-30), but he has changed it in significant ways.  The first thing to notice is that in Luke’s Gospel, this rejection of Jesus is the very first thing that happens in Jesus’ ministry.  It doesn’t happen as halfway through the account in Luke, but it’s the first that happens.

Why does Luke transpose the account to the very beginning?  Because in Luke’s Gospel, this is going to set the stage for everything else that is to come.  Moreover, in Luke’s account, the rejection of Jesus of Nazareth is much longer than in Mark.  Luke lengthens the account by having Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue.  Jesus goes to the synagogue and gets up to read the scriptures.  The attendant hands him a scroll of Isaiah, Jesus reads the scroll and it’s a passage which says “the spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach to the poor; he has sent me to proclaim forgiveness to the captives, sight to the blind,” etc.  And then Jesus sits down—this is found only in Luke, not in Mark—as everybody is looking at him and says “truly today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  Jesus explicitly claims to fulfill the prophet Isaiah.  He is the prophet that Isaiah has anticipated.  The people wonder what Jesus can possibly be talking about, and Jesus likens himself to two prophets of the Hebrew Bible:  Elijah and Elisha, whose stories in the Hebrew Bible include accounts of them going out to help people who were non-Jews even when Jews were suffering.

There’s a drought in the land in and Elijah, rather than going to stay and help out a Jewish family, goes to a pagan family, a widow in Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-16).  Elisha is sent to heal a leper; not a Jewish leper, but a pagan leper.  Jesus likens himself to Elijah and Elisha and his audience knows full well what he is talking about.   He is saying that he has come to minister not to Jews but to Gentiles.  Their reaction is immediate.  They take him out of the synagogue, they take him up to a high hill, and they going to try to cast him off, but Jesus then walks through their midst.

It’s an interesting account because it’s going to set the stage for what’s going to happen in Luke’s Gospel and then in the Book of Acts.  Jesus comes to his people, he proclaims his message of salvation that he is the one that fulfills the prophets.  They reject him, and because they reject him, his message goes to the Gentiles.  Jesus throughout this account is portrayed as a rejected Jewish prophet.  There are several ways in which Luke portrays Jesus as a prophet in narratives that are unique to Luke.

8.  Jesus as Prophet

First, Jesus is born like a prophet.  Like Matthew, Luke has a birth narrative.  We saw that Matthew’s narrative emphasized that Jesus is like Moses and that Jesus fulfilled scripture.  Luke also has an account of Jesus being born to a virgin, Mary, in Bethlehem, but here the emphasis is quite different.  What one sees when one reads this account is not that Jesus is fulfilling scripture in the sense that you have in Matthew.  Instead you have a sense that Jesus is born how prophets are born, specifically, when Mary conceives Jesus, she breaks out into a song in which she praises God for bringing down the high and raising up those who are low.  It’s a song that sounds almost exactly like the song of Hannah in the Hebrew Bible 1 Samuel chapter 2, Hannah who gave birth to the first major Jewish prophet Samuel.  Mary’s song in other words is to call to mind the song of Hannah.  Why?  Because Luke is trying to emphasize that Jesus is born how prophets are born.

Second, he’s not only born like a prophet, he preaches like a prophet, as we saw in the sermon he gave at Nazareth.  He claims that the prophecies have been fulfilled in him and he likens himself to Elijah and Elisha, these two great prophets of the Hebrew Bible.  All of these stories are found in Luke; you don’t find them in Matthew and in Mark.

Thirdly, Jesus heals like a prophet heals.  There’s a very interesting account in Luke 7:11-17 of Jesus raising from the dead the dead son of a widow from a city called Nain.  The account, if you know the Hebrew Bible well enough, sounds very similar to the account of Elijah raising the dead son of widow from a city called Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-9).  In fact, the similarity of the miracle is not lost among the people who witness it in Luke’s Gospel.  In chapters 7 through 16, the crowd acknowledges the significance of what Jesus has done on the occasion by saying “a great prophet has risen among us.”

So Jesus is born like a prophet, he preaches like a prophet, he heals like a prophet, and most significantly, he dies like a prophet in Luke’s Gospel.

9.  The Passion Narrative in Luke

Jesus explicitly says only in Luke that he must go to Jerusalem to be killed because that’s where the prophets die (Luke 13:33).  Because Jesus is being portrayed like a prophet in his death, Luke modifies some of the traditions about the Passion narrative itself in some very interesting ways.  Jesus knows what’s going to happen to him in Luke’s Gospel.  Because he knows, it doesn’t appear that Jesus experiences real agony in this Gospel the way he does in the others.  This is one place in particular where it’s important not to conflate the accounts and pretend they are all saying the same thing.  If you read Luke’s account just on its own terms, you don’t have the sense of Jesus going through real agony up to his death.

You can see this in two different narratives.  When Jesus goes out to pray prior to his arrest, in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus goes to the garden of Gethsemane.  He’s extremely distraught; he tells his disciples that his soul is troubled unto death.  He tells them to wait for him.  He goes off, he falls on his face, he prays three times, “God, take away this cup from me.”  Luke has the same narrative, but Luke doesn’t say that Jesus is distraught.  Jesus in this narrative doesn’t say to his disciples, “my soul is troubled unto death.”  He goes to pray, but he doesn’t fall on his face; instead he kneels down.  Instead of praying three times “God, take away this cup from me,” he says “if it be your Will, take this cup from me,” and he says it only once.  There’s not the same sense of agony here at all.

The idea of Jesus not being in real distress and agony going up to his death is seen even more clearly in the account of Jesus’ own crucifixion in Luke’s Gospel.  Again, it’s worthwhile comparing what Luke says with what his predecessor Mark had said.  Remember Mark’s account:  Jesus appears before Pontius Pilate, he is accused of being King of the Jews; he is basically silent during the whole proceeding.  He only says a few words in Mark’s Gospel.  Pontius Pilate asks him, “are you the King of the Jews?”, and Jesus says “you say so.”  He goes to his place of crucifixion and he is silent the entire way in Mark’s Gospel.  He is nailed to the cross in Mark’s Gospel and is silent the whole time.  People are passing by, people are mocking him, and he says nothing even on the cross until the very end.  When people have betrayed him, denied him, mocked him, in Mark’s Gospel at the very end he is hanging on the cross and he cries out, “”Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?”, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, and he dies.  In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus appears to be in doubt and wonders why God himself has forsaken him in the end.

It’s a stark contrast with Luke, because Luke has changed the story.  In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is not silent on his way to crucifixion.  He is walking to the cross, and he sees some women weeping on the side of the road and he turns to them and he says weep not for me but weep for yourselves and for your children for what is to befall you.  He has more concern about this women than for himself.  In Luke’s Gospel, while he is being nailed to the cross, he’s not silent:  instead he prays, “Father forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing.”  While he is hanging on the cross in Luke’s Gospel, he’s not silent:  he has an intelligent conversation with one of the other people being crucified with him.  Now in Mark’s Gospel, both robbers mock Jesus; in Luke’s Gospel only one of them mocks him.  The other one tells him to be quiet because Jesus hasn’t done anything to deserve this, and then this robber turns to Jesus and says, “Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”  And Jesus replies, “Truly, I tell you that today you will be with me in paradise.”

Most striking of all, at the end in Luke’s Gospel, instead of crying out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, Jesus instead says “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit”, and then he dies.

There is a tendency for readers to assume that he said all of these things on the cross.  So you have the seven dying words of Jesus, where he says the words in Mark, those in Matthew, those in Luke, and those in John, and altogether you have seven sayings of Jesus.  In fact, these are distinctive portrayals.  Luke is not portraying Jesus the same way Mark is, as someone who is in agony and uncertainty at the end.  In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is going to his death knowing full well what is happening to him and why it is happening, and what is going to happen to him after his death:  he’s going to wake up that day in Paradise and this robber is going to be with him.

10.  God’s Plan

Jesus is a prophet who is fully certain about God’s Will for him and the future of the Earth.  For that reason, Jesus doesn’t go to his death in agony.  So, Jesus is portrayed as a prophet in Luke, one who is born as a prophet, one who preaches as a prophet, one who heals as a prophet, and one who dies as a prophet.  This emphasis on Jesus as a prophet, one who knows full well what God’s will is, and who is sent to proclaim it, coincides with other emphases found throughout Luke’s Gospel.  In particular, it coincides with an emphasis found distinctively in Luke that everything is going to God’s plan.  The Will of God, the Plan of God, are terms that one finds throughout Luke’s Gospel.

Moreover, in this Gospel there is no emphasis the way there is Mark that the end of the world is supposed to happen right away.  Mark’s Gospel on a couple of occasions that we will refer to later on in the course refers to the stance that the end is immediate.  Jesus tells his disciples in Mark, “some of you standing here won’t taste death before the Kingdom of God has come in power.”  Luke changes that verse to “some of you standing here won’t taste death before you see the Kingdom of God,” but he says nothing about it coming in power.  Luke does think that the disciples have seen the Kingdom of God, because according to Luke Jesus’ own ministry is the Kingdom of God.  Luke says in chapter 17 that “the Kingdom of God is in your midst” or “among you”.  For Luke, there is not going to be an end of the age as we would normally think of; the Kingdom has already arrived in some sense.

So too in the trial before the High Priest, in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus says “you will see the son of Man coming on the clouds of Heaven.”  Luke has the same verse, but he changes it to “from now on, the son of Man will be seated at the right hand of power.”  It’s not that the high priest is going to see the cosmic judge come from heaven; it’s that from now on Jesus will be exalted.

Jesus as a prophet in Luke knows that the end is not going to come right away.  The reason why it’s not going to come right away is because God wanted to allow time for the message of Jesus to go out in the world so that salvation can come to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews.  That’s what the second volume of Luke’s, the Book of Acts, is going to be about, the salvation of God that goes to Gentiles.  Well, it takes time for salvation to go around the world, so of course in this Gospel you can’t expect the end to come right away:  first there has to be time for the establishment of the Church.

Since Luke thinks that there is going to be a long period of time before the coming of the end, Luke more than the other Gospels has a strong social agenda.  Unlike the other Gospels, Jesus stresses the importance of taking care of the needs of those who are poor and oppressed and outcast.  You can some of this in the other Gospels, but in Luke, it is much more strongly stated.

11.  The Beatitudes and Rights of Women

Compare the Beatitudes in Matthew and in Luke.  In Matthew, Jesus says “blessed are the poor in spirit.”  In Luke he says “blessed are you who are poor”; in other words, poverty itself is the problem.  In Matthew, it says “blessed are those of you who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”  In Luke, it’s “blessed are you who hunger and thirst.”  In other words, in Luke’s Gospel, rather than being concerned just about spiritual matters, Jesus is concerned about material matters as well, including the needs and rights of women.

In Luke’s there is an emphasis on the need for Christian communities, the followers of Jesus, to take care of the needs of women who were of course an oppressed group in ancient societies.

12.  Conclusion

In conclusion, Luke is both like and unlike Matthew and Mark, the two other Synoptic Gospels.  Like both of the others, Luke describes Jesus’ public ministry as one this is filled with stupendous,  miraculous fears and marvelous teachings.  Here too, we see the importance of Jesus’ death for God’s plan of salvation.  But instead of stressing Jesus as the misunderstood son of God, as in Mark, or as the Jewish Messiah who insists that his followers keep the Jewish Law, as in Matthew, Luke portrays Jesus as a Jewish prophet whose salvation goes to the whole world to bring salvation not just to Jews, but also to Gentiles, in fulfillment of the plan of God.

History of Christianity—Lecture 7: The Gospel according to Luke (part 1)


This is a summary of the seventh part of twenty-four in the course on the New Testament presented by The Teaching Company.  The lectures in this course are by Prof. Bart D. Ehrman, the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  His expertise is in the Greco-Roman cultural environment of early Christianity and the textual criticism of the New Testament.  For those who are interested in purchasing this course and listening to the complete lectures, please go to http://www.thegreatcourses.com.

1.  Introduction

We have not yet begun to ask the question about what Jesus himself really said and did.  Instead, we have been looking at the distinctive portrayals of Jesus in each one of the Gospels.  We have seen that Mark portrays Jesus as the son of God who, contrary to widely held expectations, must suffer for the sins of the world.  Matthew agrees with this perspective, but adds a strong emphasis that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah sent in fulfillment of the Jewish scriptures, a new Moses who expected his followers to keep the Jewish Law.

Prof. Ehrman turns now to the third of the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of Luke, who like Matthew and Mark has a distinctive emphasis of his own.  On the other hand, like Mark, Luke will portray Jesus as the son of God whose death fulfilled the Scriptures, but he does not stress the failure of everyone to recognize Jesus the way that Mark did.  In fact, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is worshipped already as an infant.  Like Matthew, Luke will remain that Jesus is the Messiah, but he does not stress that Jesus is the new Moses who demanded that his followers adhere to the Jewish law.  Instead, Luke stresses that Jesus’ salvation comes not just to the Jews, but to all people.

Prof. Ehrman does not mean to say that Jesus is not portrayed as Jewish in the Gospel of Luke, for in fact he is portrayed as a Jewish prophet, that is, a man who knows God’s will and has been called by God to proclaim this will to his people.  Jesus in this Gospel is portrayed as a Jewish prophet sent to the Jewish people who was rejected by them.  Because he was rejected by the Jews, his message of salvation can then go to the non-Jews, that is, to the Gentiles.  That is the overriding thesis of the Gospel of Luke.

2.  Background Information

As with the other Gospels we have considered, this one too is anonymous; the other didn’t tell us his name.  Traditionally the Gospel has been ascribed to a man named Luke who is a Gentile physician who was a traveling companion of the Apostle Paul.  This tradition goes back to the 2nd century.  Whether or not we can trust the tradition is a matter of debate among competent scholars.  Like the other Gospels, this one was written in Greek.  Apparently, it was written at about the same time as the Gospel of Matthew, possibly around 80-85 AD.

There’s little to suggest that Matthew and Luke knew of each other’s work, but they do both appear to have had access to the Gospel of Mark, and to the lost source of Jesus’ sayings that scholars have called “Q”.  One of the things that makes the Gospel of Luke distinct is that this author wrote a second volume, the Book of Acts, which we will be discussing later in this series of lectures.  The Book of Acts, which is our only surviving account of the history of earliest Christianity after the death of Jesus up through the ministry of the apostle Paul.  In this later lecture, we’ll look at how this second volume, the Book of Acts, continues many of the themes and emphases of this first volume, the Gospel of Luke.  This lecture focuses exclusively on the Gospel of Luke.

3.  The Preface to Luke’s Gospel

One way of approaching Luke’s account is by comparing it with the narratives that we have already considered, those of Matthew and Mark.  Prof. Ehrman wants to compare these accounts not to conflate them, but precisely to show how they differ from one another, so we can see what the distinctive emphases are.

The first thing that strikes one when making a comparison between Luke and the other Gospels is that he begins in a completely different way from Matthew and Mark.  Luke begins by a kind of preface, an overview of his account.  It is a preface that is very much like that of  prefaces of other works that you find from ancient historians.  Luke begins by saying (Luke 1:1-4):  “whereas many have undertaken a narrative of the matters that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us from the beginning from eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word, it seemed good to me, most excellent Theophilus, to produce an accurate account, having followed all things carefully so that you might know the certainty of the matters that had been fulfilled among us.”

It’s a very interesting preface for several reasons.  First, as mentioned before, this preface is like prefaces found in other works of other historians, which might suggest that Luke was taking the historical nature of his narrative a little more seriously than the other Gospel writers that we have.  He is trying to mimic the style of ancient historians.

Second, he tells us what his sources of information were.  This was a typical move among ancient historians.  His narrative will be based on accounts that he has seen based on written reports that others have made, and these written reports go back to the reports of eyewitnesses.  In other words, Luke has before him written Gospels and oral traditions.

4.  Luke’s implicit criticism of Mark

Third, it is striking that Luke does not think favorably of his predecessors.  He indicates that others have tried to write an account, but now he wants to write one that’s accurate so that the recipient will know the certainty of what happened before.  In other words, he is casting some slight aspersions perhaps on some of his predecessors, which is particularly interesting if in fact Mark was one of those predecessors, because that might suggest that Luke didn’t think Mark had done an adequate job.  Of course that’s implied by the fact that he has changed Mark so significantly.  If he had liked Mark the way it was, he would have simply copied Mark and published it as is.

5.  Luke’s Dedication

He dedicates this book to Theophilus, but we don’t’ know who Theophilus was.  It’s typical for historians to dedicate their work to a patron, someone who provides financial support for the author.  The author may have been a patron of Luke.  Some scholars have thought that Theophilus might have been some kind of Roman administrator who Luke is giving his book to.  The reason for thinking that is because he calls Theophilus “most excellent Theophilus” and that term “most excellent” is used in the Book of Acts for Roman administrators.  So possibly this is a pagan Roman who Luke is writing for.

While that is a possibility, and a number of scholars think that is what is going on here, it seems to other scholars somewhat unlikely that a book of this size is being handed over to some pagan Roman official as if he would have time or the desire to read it.  There’s another explanation of what “Theophilus” is.  The term “Theophilus” in fact comes from two Greek words meaning “beloved of God” or “lover of God.”  It’s possible that in fact Luke has devised a fictional recipient of this book, one who is loved of God.  In other words, he is writing for Christians in his own community who are loved of God or who are lovers of God.  That makes somewhat better sense since most of these early Christian writings, in fact, all of these Gospels, were probably directed to the Christians rather than to outsiders, say, as missionary literature.  And so it may be that Theophilus is simply a “code name” for the Christians who are receiving this book.

6.  Luke’s Genealogy of Jesus

Once we get beyond the preface, we can see other differences between Luke and the other Gospels.  First, let me point out a striking difference between the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Matthew.  It’s not that Luke used Matthew as a source, but they do have some similarities and so it is interesting to look at some of their differences.  One of the striking differences between Luke and Matthew has to do with the genealogy of Jesus that he uses in his Gospel.  Mark doesn’t have a genealogy; Matthew has one and it turns out Luke has one as well.  What is striking is that Luke’s genealogy is different from Matthew’s.

The genealogy that Luke gives is found in Chapter 3.  In Chapter 3 we are told that Jesus was supposedly the son of Joseph who was the son of Heli who was the son of Matthat who was the son of Levi, etc. and it keeps on going back.  Matthew’s genealogy, if you recall, traced Jesus back to King David, and from King David back to Abraham, the father of the Jews.  The stress in Matthew’s genealogy was that Jesus was Jewish, descended from the father of the Jews and the great King of the Jews, and is the Messiah from the Davidic line.

Interestingly, Luke doesn’t just go back to David and Abraham; he goes all the way back to Adam.  This is a terrific genealogy that traces Jesus all the way back to Adam, as in Adam and Eve.  But why?  If Matthew’s genealogy was meant to show the Jewishness of Jesus because he’s related to David and Abraham, Luke’s genealogy is designed to show Jesus’ humanity.  He is not just the Savior of the Jews.  He descends from the entire human race; he’s the Savior of all humankind.

This genealogy is different from Matthew’s not simply because it goes all the way back to Adam.  If you read the beginning part of this genealogy, you realize in fact that it is a completely different genealogy from the one in Matthew.  It traces Jesus’ lineage through Joseph, as does Matthew’s, but Joseph in Luke’s genealogy as a different father and a different grandfather and a different great-grandfather than does Joseph in Matthew’s genealogy.  The names are in fact all different from Joseph back to David.  Some people have tried to reconcile this by saying that Matthew is giving the genealogy of Joseph, whereas Luke is giving the genealogy of Mary.  This would be a clever solution which would explain why you have the different names.  Unfortunately for that thesis, when you read the text itself it is quite clear that Luke’s genealogy is also the genealogy of Joseph.

Apparently Matthew and Luke simply inherited their genealogies from different sources.

The next post will cover the second part of the lecture.