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A Theology of Luke and Acts: God’s Promised Program, Realized for All Nations (Biblical Theology of the New Testament Series) Hardcover – June 10, 2012
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About the Author
Darrell L. Bock (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. Known for his work in Luke-Acts, Dr. Bock is a Humboldt Scholar (Tubingen University in Germany), an editor-at-large for Christianity Today, and a past president of the Evangelical Theological Society (2000-2001). A New York Times bestselling author, Bock has written over thirty books, including Luke in the NIV Application Commentary series.
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This year the next volume is A Theology of Luke and Acts by well known Luke commentator Darrell Bock. Darrell Bock has written a few other books on Luke and Acts: Luke (IVP), Luke (NIVAC), Luke (BECNT), and Acts (BECNT). A Theology of Luke and Acts is not a commentary but rather a thematic look at the biblical theology of Luke and Acts as a literary unit.
PURPOSE OF LUKE-ACTS
The essential purpose for Luke-Acts is "to show that the coming of Jesus, Christ, and Son of God launched the long-promised new movement of God. The community that has come from his ministry, the suffering these believers experienced, and the inclusion of Gentiles are part of God's program promised in Scripture." (p. 29) According to Bock, Theophilus needed assurance that this new movement (Christianity) was a legitimate work of God given the amount of persecution it underwent. Luke assures him that the persecution is not a judgment of God but rather part of the plan of God to spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations.
UNITY OF LUKE-ACTS
There has been a long history in regards to the unity of Luke and Acts. Bock's argument is that Luke and Acts are to be read together, as was intended by Luke. After handling the objections to the unity of the two books Bock responds with the argument that Luke and Acts are to be viewed as Luke-Acts on the basis of literary and theological grounds rather than their shared authorship (p. 60). Two of the literary aspects that point to their unity are the beginning of both books (Lk. 1:1-4; Acts 1) and the clear connection between Luke 24 and Acts 1. "The two volumes link together in the telling of the ascension, which concludes Luke and also begins the book of Acts." (p. 65) One of the other subtle literary pointers to their unity is the geographical movement of the books. Luke begins in Jerusalem and Acts ends in Rome (p. 66) In regards to the theological point of unity, well, that's the main content of the book. In each chapter Bock discusses the contribution of both books towards the biblical theological theme discussed. Through the pairing of these books side by side the theological unity of the books clearly shines through.
BIBLICAL THEOLOGICAL THEMES
The bulk of the book is taken up by the intent of the book - to provide a biblical thematic look at Luke-Acts together. In the seventeen chapters dedicated to the major themes in Luke-Acts we see discussion on God as the primary acting agent in the book (chap. 5), Jesus as the promised Messiah and bringer of the new era of salvation (chap. 7), the Holy Spirit (chap. 9), Israel (chap. 12), the church (chap. 14), the law (chap. 18) and eschatology, judgment and hope (chap. 20). With few exceptions, each chapter tackles 2-3 common themes and brings them together through a common thread.
There are a number of elements which Bock utilizes in order to discuss the many themes within Luke-Acts:
1. Infancy Material of Luke - Perhaps the predominate and driving lens through which Bock sees and draws out the various biblical theological themes of Luke-Acts is in the infancy material of Luke 1-2. Chapter after chapter Bock anchors his discussion within Luke's infancy material. It is truly the bedrock for the various theological themes in both books.
2. Israel and the Church - As a Progressive Dispensationalist (though he never mentions this in the book) Bock is committed to the position that since the OT promises were given to national Israel they will be fulfilled to a reconstituted national Israel. However, this does NOT mean Gentiles will not partake in these blessing and promises. In fact, from the beginning with God's promises to Abraham they were always in view as being recipients of God's promises and blessings. Though it shows up from time to time throughout the book, Bock primarily fleshes out his view of how this works out in the chapters on Israel (chap. 12), the Gentiles nations (chap. 13) the church (chap. 14) and ecclesiology (chap. 19).
3. Word Studies - One way in which Bock picks out the major theological themes is by observing the dominate words used by Luke in both books. Here Bock provides a great example for the reader on the proper use of word studies. For instance, in chapter ten on salvation, Bock discusses all of uses of the sozo word group.
4. OT Background - A reading through of any chapter will alert the reader to the fact that Bock sees Luke-Acts as having their roots in the OT. This is one of the great strengths of the book. As Bock discusses in the book, it is this anchoring in the OT which Bock uses to show that Luke believed what God was doing through Christ, during and after his life on earth, was rooted in the OT plan of God for all nations.
5. Continuity of Themes in Both Books - As each chapter bears out, Bock begins with the theme under discussion in Luke and then moves to Acts. It is here that the theological unity of the books shines through. What Luke begins in his gospel he continues in Acts.
In Bock's words, the canonical theological contribution of Luke-Acts is that it "presents the continuity of Israel's story with the new era that Jesus brought and the new community that his ministry generated." (p. 447) Though much of national Israel rejected Jesus and His message, many still believed and God did not reject His people. There was a remnant that believed (which is typical of believing Israel in the OT). In Christ and through the Holy Spirit, God is continuing to pursue His people and spread the gospel to all nations.
A Theology of Luke and Acts is a very readable biblical theology of Luke-Acts. Bock has done a great job synthesizing the biblical theological themes that no doubt run through his commentaries. Though not a commentary, this is an essential book along side Bock's, or any other commentators book on Luke and Acts, as it gives the reader the big picture of what Luke wrote to Theophilus and for us. It is clearly organized, exegetically mindful, OT rooted, eye-opening and lay friendly.
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:
Birth and Introduction of John and Jesus
Jesus is anointed for ministry
Ministry in Galilee
Journey to Jerusalem
The Arrest, Execution and the Resurrection in Jerusalem
Ascension of Jesus
The Early Church in Jerusalem
Persecution at Jerusalem and the Spread of the Gospel
Gospel to the Gentiles
First Missionary Journey of Paul
Second and third missionary Journeys of Paul
The Arrest of Paul
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
Discipleship and Ethics of Christian living
Unity and Division brought about by the Person of Jesus
Women, and Social Action
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:
Fulfilling of God's Covenant through Jesus
God's Plan includes Israel
The Coming of the Holy Spirit as Evidence of Jesus' Resurrection
How the Work of Jesus Bring Salvation and Identity to all who believe
A Trinitarian story
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.
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.