Encountering Luke’s Portrait of Jesus: A Review of John T. Carroll’s Commentary on the Third Gospel

“Luke,” Richard Hays remarks in one of his books, “is above all a storyteller” (2016, 275). This characterization, brief as it is, highlights what might be the most important dimension of the lens that Union Presbyterian Seminary professor John T. Carroll brings to the table in his book, Luke: A Commentarywhich was published in 2012.

A number of New Testament scholars—maybe most prominent among them James Dunn—have highlighted the importance of remembering that the materials we read in the Gospels were in all likelihood first passed on as oral traditions by the earliest communities of Jesus followers. This insight is important at the very least because it prevents contemporary readers from making anachronistic assumptions about how the canonical Gospel texts were formed, but it doesn’t take away from the fruits that can be gathered by also exploring their literary shape and texture. Recognizing the predominantly oral origins of the Gospels and studying the narrative dynamics of their final forms aren’t mutually exclusive tasks. After all, the Gospel writers, in their own distinctive ways, were creative theologians in their own right, not merely haphazard compilers of community traditions.

This gives us one helpful way of framing how Carroll’s commentary fits into the ongoing stream of scholarship on Luke: while some commentaries devote most of their pages to reconstructing the historical world behind the text, and others delve most deeply into the twists and turns of interpretation history that have developed in front of the text, Carroll focuses his critical efforts on narrative analysis on the nuances of meaning in the text itself (9). Continue reading

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To Bring Good News to the Poor: The Mission of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel

theology of lukeJoel B. Green’s book, The Theology of the Gospel of Luke, is a concise and insightful exploration of the major contours of Luke’s theology, beginning with an exploration of the Gospel’s social context, moving on to a discussion of Jesus’ identity and mission, and ending with a pair of chapters looking at discipleship and the role that Luke’s Gospel has played (and continues to play) in the life of the Church. Luke’s narrative frames the words and actions of Jesus within the rich and ongoing story of God’s redemptive purposes in creation, giving salvation important meanings at both the individual and community level. Green writes that “Luke situates human salvation, even when understood in personal terms, within larger social conventions and institutions—a strategy foreign to many of us” (p.135). Indeed, such a community-centered vision of salvation’s scope can seem odd thanks to the individualistic emphasis of many in the Western world. What does it mean to hold together the assertion that salvation has important personal and social implications in Luke? This is the kind of question that Green wants to explore. Continue reading