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Friday, October 19, 2012

"A Theology of Luke's Gospel and Acts" (Darrell L. Bock)

TITLE: A Theology of Luke and Acts: God's Promised Program, Realized for All Nations (Biblical Theology of the New Testament Series)
AUTHOR: Darrell L. Bock
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012, (480 pages).

This is an extremely comprehensive survey and study of two New Testament books. Affirming that both Luke and Acts are written by the same author, Bock pulls together many theological themes surrounding the Person of Christ. The textbook is packed with so much information that it warrants two table of contents, one first one containing chapter headings, and the second a more detailed and descriptive listing of key ideas to structure the whole book into one unified whole.

Part One sets out to state the contexts, the importance of the two New Testament books in biblical theology, and the case for studying Luke-Acts as one whole unit instead of two separate ones. The key idea is that when Luke begins to write, he has Acts in mind as a completion for what he has started in the gospel. Clues are there, such as the way Luke 24 ends and how Acts 1 begins; or how the descriptions of Jesus, Peter, and Paul are paralleled in both books; and the way the Holy Spirit has been described. Any objections to the unity tend to be an "argument of nuance" instead of an absolute objection. The narrative survey gives us a good chronological flow of how both books are written. Briefly, the outline is as follows:
  1. Birth and Introduction of John and Jesus
  2. Jesus is anointed for ministry
  3. Ministry in Galilee
  4. Journey to Jerusalem
  5. The Arrest, Execution and the Resurrection in Jerusalem
  6. Ascension of Jesus
  7. The Early Church in Jerusalem
  8. Community Living
  9. Persecution at Jerusalem and the Spread of the Gospel
  10. Gospel to the Gentiles
  11. First Missionary Journey of Paul
  12. Second and third missionary Journeys of Paul
  13. The Arrest of Paul
  14. Gospel to Rome
 Part Two is about the major theological themes in Luke-Acts. Themes like:
  • The Person and Character of God through Jesus
  • Salvation theme and fulfilment in Jesus
  • Messiah and Prophet theme through the works of Jesus
  • The Witness of Jesus in the Power of the Holy Spirit
  • Major dimensions of the salvation themes in Luke and Acts
  • Israel
  • Gentiles
  • Discipleship and Ethics of Christian living
  • Unity and Division brought about by the Person of Jesus
  • Women, and Social Action
  • Ecclesiology
  • Scriptures.
Part Three looks at how Luke and Acts are incorporated into the canon and how it fits into the big picture of the Bible story. The major thrusts are centered on God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. There are also parallels to the other synoptic gospels, John, the Pauline epistles, and other books in the New Testament. Finally, six key theses are highlighted to summary the whole book. Bock argues that Luke-Acts taken together argues for:
  1. Fulfilling of God's Covenant through Jesus
  2. God's Plan includes Israel
  3. The Coming of the Holy Spirit as Evidence of Jesus' Resurrection
  4. How the Work of Jesus Bring Salvation and Identity to all who believe
  5. A Trinitarian story
  6. Prophecy and Promise of Jesus' Return.
Jesus comes. Jesus saves. Jesus gives hope. Jesus is present today in the Holy Spirit. These and many more proves again that Luke-Acts alone is a treasure chest of theological themes that not only completes the biblical canon, it gives readers a rich appreciation of how much Jesus has done for the whole world.

My Thoughts

There are so many theological themes in both Luke and Acts, that just by trying to consolidate them can easily lead to reductionism. The book is a worthy in-depth treatment of Luke-Acts, with very few stones left unturned. There is a lot of supporting scholarship material at the beginning of each chapter. The narrative and the theological themes inform each other. Bock also deals with known objections and puts forth his own case with force but allows readers to take their own stand. Most of the historical and contextual heavy-lifting are done at the first part of the book. The level of detail and care is evident, as in any doctoral dissertation, which this book is based upon. Going through this book is intense. At the end, these 3 hermeneutical axioms describe the book. (1) Luke-Acts represent God's design and fulfilment of the good news in Christ; (2) Christ must be read as the center figure in the reading of Luke-Acts; (3) of how Scripture explains what has happened and what is happening today.

This is a theological textbook. Seminarians, Bible teachers, and pastors will benefit a lot from it. It can be used by pastors to structure a preaching series on Luke-Acts. Teachers can use it in a teaching curriculum. Students can frame their learning using the themes highlighted in the book. The bibliography at the beginning of each chapter allows one to research at a topical level or more specific theological themes, without having to dig through the comprehensive bibliography at the end. The strength of this book likes in its comprehensiveness of coverage, the clear theological themes highlighted, and the way it brings together the whole gospel and its associated themes in one unified whole. The comprehensiveness can also become a weakness, as readers can sometimes be lost in the details of it all. This can be overcome by the frequent use of the table of contents, and the conclusions and summary at the end of each major chapter. 

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Zondervan and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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