A Theology of Luke and Acts – Review

A Theology of Luke and Acts: God's Promised Program, Realized for All Nations (Biblical Theology of the New Testament Series)

Darrell Bock’s new volume on Luke-Acts caps over 30 years of his academic work. As part of a series of survey/commentaries devoted to Biblical Theology, Bock shows how Luke and Acts both take up Old Testament themes, showing their culmination in the person and work of Jesus Christ and in the life of New Testament Church. Bock shows how the mission of Jesus continues in the Church, and how the predominance of the Holy Spirit in Acts shows the Trinitarian development of the Old Testament story. I found Bock’s book to be an ideal balance of scholarship and practical application. Bock has obviously done his homework, and the bibliographies and footnotes give the interested reader plenty of material to work through. But, this is not a dense commentary–Bock keeps returning to points of application and relevance to the Christian life, always keeping the focus on Jesus Christ.

For the purposes of the Zondervan blog tour, I focused on Ch. 17, “Women, The Poor, and the Social Dimensions in Luke-Acts.” Other scholars have noted Luke’s focus on women in his gospel, which is all the more interesting, given the lower status they occupied in the ancient world. Bock notes the prominence of women in Luke, without venturing into liberal feminism. Bock shows how Jesus affirmed the dignity of women repeatedly, and how Luke stresses this. Most interesting is that all the Gospels present women as the first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. This is striking when we read the Jewish sources that prohibited women from bearing witness in court cases (except in exceptional circumstances). If the gospel writers were trying to convince a hostile audience that a condemned and crucified man was the Messiah, surely they could have modified the story for better PR?

Bock also highlights Luke’s attention on the poor in Luke-Acts. Again, Bock shows how Luke charts a middle path between liberation theology, and neglect of the poor. Luke shows how Jesus fulfills OT expectations of God’s care for the poor, without turning mercy ministry into a political revolutionary manifesto. While there is much more to be said here (I’m thinking of some of John Howard Yoder’s insights), Bock shows how Luke offers a different nuance from Matthew in this regard: “This is why Jesus issues a beatitude for the poor in Luke 6:20. It is clear from the woes that follow that this use of ‘the poor’ is not merely or exclusively spiritual. This is not Matthew’s ‘poor in spirit.’ There is a social dimension to this group as the woes to the rich that follow in Luke 6:24-26 are not to the ‘rich in spirit’ but to the materially wealthy” (pg. 355). So, Luke seems to stress the social implications of Jesus’ preaching and actions more than the other gospel writers.

In summary, Bock’s volume is an excellent resource for scholars, pastors, seminary students, and motivated readers.

(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Zondervan book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.)

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