John Kilgallen, «Martha and Mary: Why at Luke 10,38-42?», Vol. 84 (2003) 554-561
Given that Luke has wide freedom to arrange his stories as he thinks best, one looks to the material surrounding the story of Mary and Martha to better understand why that story is in its present place. It seems best to think of this story as an affirmation of the teaching of the ‘one thing necessary’, the teaching within the story of the Good Samaritan. Indeed, the Mary-Martha story underlines the Lucan emphasis on the primacy of all Jesus’ teaching.
in Chapter 10 to emphasize a singular teaching about ‘the neighbor’ is not out of order; Luke amply uses literary emphasis25. We may not have here a literary inclusio, but by these two references (10,24 and 10,39)26 one is aware of being focused upon the word of the Lord and thus made to give great importance to listening carefully to what Jesus teaches in Luke 10,25-37.
The intent of this brief essay has been to justify the claim that the Martha-Mary story is in its present location in the Gospel at the very least in part in order to emphasize the supreme importance Luke gives to the teaching of Jesus in Luke 10,25-3727; this teaching is a revelation not enjoyed by ‘kings and prophets’. Emphasis of Jesus’ revelations of the mind of his Father is a strong tool for Luke, in all its forms. But within this explanation one can still find room, I believe, for a particular explanation implicit in various authors28 as to why Luke had the Martha-Mary story follow upon the Good Samaritan parable. Because the textual/literary signals are not as evident to sustain this thesis as they are to argue for the centrality of the Good Samaritan story as a particularly notable teaching of the Lord, one can call this thesis ‘secondary’ — for all that, it seems reasonable and sustainable, once it is fitted into the unique significance of ‘the teaching of the Lord’.
In its developed form this thesis would sugggest that Luke wanted to correct a possible misunderstanding of the Good Samaritan story, particularly about the influence of the verb e)splagxni/sqh upon the Samaritan’s decision