I am thankful to be able to participate in a blog tour for the latest contribution to Zondervan’s Biblical Theology of the New Testament series, A Theology of Luke and Acts by Darrell L. Bock. Each volume in the series includes: (1) a survey of recent scholarship and of the state of research; (2) a treatment of the relevant introductory issues; (3) a thematic commentary following the narrative flow of the document(s); (4) a treatment of important individual themes; and (5) discussions of the relationship between a particular writing and the rest of the New Testament and the Bible. As a companion to more traditional commentaries, this series has the potential to be a great resource for ministers, seminarians, and committed students of the Bible who are interested in glimpsing the bigger picture of a specific book or set of books in the New Testament than is often provided in traditional commentaries.
Bock’s work is the only volume in this series with which I’ve had a chance to interact, so I won’t offer much of an opinion on the actual value of the series. Specifically in regard to his contribution, A Theology of Luke and Acts, my feelings are mixed. The book opens on a strong note with Part One on Introductory Matters. Of particular significance are the outline and narrative survey in chapter 4, which offer the students of Luke and Acts a means for grasping how the smaller sections of the books fit together and function as a unified whole. Part Three affords readers an understanding of the place of Luke and Acts within the broader canon of Christian scripture, particularly the New Testament. This section also gives Bock an opportunity to set forth six key theses about Luke’s theology, which provide helpful touchpoints for reading Luke and Acts.
Part Two, the longest of the three major sections in the book, is a bit more uneven. There are some really solid chapters in this section, including chapters on discipleship and ethics, women and the poor, and ecclesiology. However, the specific chapter I am focused on as a part of the blog tour, Chapter 18 on “The Law in Luke-Acts,” is fairly weak. The chapter deals with pretty much every explicit reference to the law or Moses or to specific practices commanded in the law. There is, however, a gaping hole in Bock’s analysis of the law in Luke-Acts in terms of his failure to comment at all on what light other aspects of Jesus’s practice and teaching and the church’s practice and teaching shed on Jesus’s and the church’s attitude toward the law. For instance, surely Jesus’s response to the desert temptation (Luke 4:1-13) teaches something about Jesus’s view of the law. Likewise, certainly the description of the believers in the early church sharing their possessions (Acts 4:32-37) says something about the enduring effects of the law on the early Christian community.
Aside from content, the layout of the book is very user-friendly and the bibliographies at the beginning of each chapter are very useful. The writing in A Theology of Luke and Acts, however, isn’t particularly readable. Repeatedly during my reading, I found myself thinking a good editor could have improved greatly the final product. Despite its shortcomings, this is a valuable reference work worth consulting during any study of Luke or Acts.
Disclaimer: Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy. I was not required to write a positive review.