A Theology of Luke and Acts: God’s Promised Program, Realized For All Nations

December 13, 2013

9780310270898Darrell L. Bock, A Theology of Luke and Acts: God’s Promised Program, Realized For All Nations, Biblical Theology of The New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, June, 2012. 496 pp. Hardcover, $39.99.

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Darrell Bock is research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, and an all around pretty cool guy. If you have time, you check out The Table podcast that he hosts for The Hendricks Center for Christian Leadership and Cultural Engagement (of which he directs the Cultural Engagement side). Most people though know him for his stellar commentaries on Luke and Acts (both in the Baker Exegetical series) and his work in historical Jesus studies.

All that being the case, he is just the kind of guy that you would want summarizing the biblical theology of Luke’s contributions to the New Testament. Though part of the same series as Andreas Köstenberger’s volume on John’s Gospel and Letters (who serves as the general editor of the series), Bock’s work is organized a little differently.

He begins with an introductory section which provides chapters on the importance of Luke/Acts, the context of the books, a case for their unity, and then an outline and narrative survey. The latter summarizes each unit of the text and provides an intense overview of the books. This seems to be a standard feature of this series since Kostenberger did the same thing.

The bulk of the book (17 chapters and over 300 pages) is the second part, where Bock gets down to laying out the major theological themes in Luke/Acts. He proceeds in more or less traditional systematic theological categories. 2 chapters detail the plan and promises of God, 2 chapters on Jesus as Messiah, 1 chapter on the Spirit, and two chapters on salvation. Then, he discusses in successive order, Israel, the Gentiles and the nations, the church, discipleship, how people divide over their response to Jesus, social dimensions (women, the poor), and the law. The final three chapters in this section deal with ecclesiology and eschatology proper, as well as Scripture in these books. The final part of the book is just two chapters. The first is on Luke within the canon of Scripture, the second is a conclusion.

As I’ve had sermons and lessons to prepare on Luke and Acts, I’ve found this to be a useful reference work. For just about any passage, I can surf the index and find if it receives any extended discussion. Then, when I see under what topic that discussion takes places, I immediately have other passages to connect with. Because of the range of topics covered and the fact that Luke/Acts is almost a third of the New Testament, Bock is generally concise in his discussions. But, the fact that he has written extensive exegetical commentaries on both books means you know where to go to find more in-depth discussion of your passage. That being the case, this book works best in tandem with Bock’s commentaries, though it could be a nice stand alone resource.

When you compare this work with Kostenberger’s first volume in the series, a couple of things are noticeable. First, Köstenberger is more exhaustive and meticulous in his treatment of John’s Gospel and Letters. Though they both more or less proceed on a historical-literary-theological pathway, Bock is exhibits much more brevity. Second, Bock does not have any kind of extended discussion of Luke/Acts within biblical theology studies (which is Köstenberger’s first chapter). Bock instead presents his case for reading Luke-Acts as a unit, which is a biblical theology type question, but it is not entirely clear how Bock conceives of biblical theology, or what kind he is employing in this volume. In many ways, it reads like a theological commentary on Luke/Acts. This of course is a species of biblical theology (he’s clearly tracing themes through Luke/Acts), but a chapter on method would have been helpful. Instead, the introductory matter is typical of what you’d find in a standard commentary, but then the volume proceeds thematically instead of chronological through Luke-Acts.

In the end, this isn’t a huge detriment to the work. While a discussion of method would have been helpful, you can somewhat deduce Bock’s method by looking at his layout and reading through his work. When one evaluates Bock’s work on the basis of the own goals he sets for himself, it is a success. It is only if one is moving from the title of the series (“Biblical Theology of The New Testament”) to a preconceived idea of what that entails (and we all have one or more ideas about that) that it might not seem to be a good fit. However, it is a quality work regardless, and for anyone who is teaching or preaching Luke/Acts, this is a very helpful theological summary of the material in those books. I’m looking forward to the rest of the volumes in this series as they are made available. And if these first two volumes are any indication of what we can expect, then this will be a series to keep an eye out for.

Nate

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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!