Narrative Structure of Luke 1:5-38

As I’m taking Luke in fairly big chunks, my first big chunk is 1:5-38 – the narrative of the promised births of John the Baptist (JtB) and Jesus. Having started working on this passage in the last week or so, I’ve noticed a useful device that Luke uses to structure the narrative. (Time, and more work, will tell if he uses this method throughout the rest of his gospel?).

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Hebrew Discourse Linguistics

Of the five main types of Hebrew discourse (narrative, hortatory, expository, predictive and procedural) only the first three occur in Jonah. Details of each outlined below based on Tucker’s Handbook on Jonah pages 3-7 (


Seeks to narrative a series of events in a story:

  • Mainline
    • wayiqqtol
    • weqatal – pivitol/climactic event
  • Off-the-line
    • topicalisation: X + qatal
    • embedded direct speech
    • past background: qatal in dependant clause
    • non-past background: yiqtol in dependant clause
    • background activities: participle
    • embedded procedural discourse
    • transition marker: wayiqqtol of היה
    • scene setting: verbless clause
    • irrealis: verb negation by לֹא


“exhort someone to act in a particular mannar”

  • mainline
    • imperative
    • cohortative
    • jussive
    • weqatal
  • off-the-line
    • topicalisation: X + imperative/cohortative/jussive
    • prohibitive comands: אַל or לֹא + yiqtol
    • possibility: yiqtol
    • consequence/purpose: weqatal; לֹא or פֶּן + yiqtol; embedded predictive narrative
    • identification of a problem: embedded historical narrative
    • background activities: participle
    • scene setting: verbless clause


Explains stuff or makes statements.

  • mainline
    • verbless clause
  • off-the-line
    • qatal of היה
    • X + qatal
    • yiqtol + present time reference
    • qatal/yiqtol in dependand clauses
    • embedded discourse