Monday, May 08, 2006

The Neglect of Luke-Acts

This semester I've had the privilege of teaching courses on Luke-Acts and Jesus and the Gospels (half of the second course consists of examination of the Lucan parables). I must say that it has imparted to me an awareness of the significance and relative neglect of Luke-Acts in NT Study. Consider the following:

W.G. Kümmel, The Theology of the New Testament: According to its Major Witnesses: Jesus – Paul – John (London: SCM, 1972).

It is interesting that N.T. Wright's COQG project was initially three volumes: Introduction, Jesus and Paul - the same bias is inherent there.

We could add Bultmann's Theology of the NT while we are at it. A few pages on Jesus, the early church, the Hellenistic chuch, stacks on Paul, the Johannine writings, and the ancient church; but no Luke-Acts.

What about Luke who makes us 28% of the NT? I find it interesting that scholars will frequently dedicate their careers to one or two areas of study, either Jesus and Paul or John and Paul or similar. Yet very few will do say Luke and Paul (the exceptions here are of course Talbert, Marshall and perhaps Bruce Longenecker). But I still think that there is a relative neglect of Luke in favour of Historical Jesus, Paul and John. I lament that most Reformed Evangelical Ph.D candidates I meet are all doing Paul.

Ranting aside here are some recent Luke-Acts studies I've found to be an interesting read:

Yongmo Cho. Spirit and Kingdom in the Writings of Luke and Paul: An Attempt to Reconcile these Concepts (Carlise, UK: Paternoster, 2005).

James M. Hamilton, "Rushing Wind and Organ Music: Toward Luke's Theology of hte Spirit in Acts," RTR 65.1 (2006): 15-33.

Barbara Shellard, New Light on Luke: its Purpose, Sources and Literary Context (JSNTSup 215; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002).

Brendan Byrne, "Jesus as Messiah in the Gospel of Luke: Discerning a Pattern of Correction," CBQ 65 (2003): 80-95.


Chris Petersen said...


This neglect may in part be due to the worry that Luke may have severely "colored" over the early history of the church such that to extract a coherent theology from Luke-Acts is problematic whereas with someone like Paul the historian and theologian has texts that directly stem from the author's own hand. So then it's not surprising that when Luke-Acts is treated with importance it is usually done by authors with evangelical leanings who will be more apt to see Luke-Acts as portraying a very reliable historical account of the early church's development.

J. B. Hood said...

Let me echo that post by suggesting that something similar happens for Matthew as well as the "Jewish-Xian" letters (Heb, Jas, Petes, Jude).

If you lump those in a category, then you've got something akin to the quantity of content in Lk-Acts, though without the obvious authorial connection.

slaveofone said...

Just for clarification, in Tom Wright's COQG, Luke-Acts goes under the heading of "Jesus". In fact, he spends some time exploring Luke-Acts, especially in "Jesus and the Victory of God", in which he discusses the narrative structure, themes, and messages of Luke-Acts and how it portrays Yeshua in comparison with the Davidic history.

Paul W said...


Right now I'm going through Michael Dauphinais's and Matthew Levering's _Holy People, Holy Land_. One of the most glaring omissions I noticed in the table of contents was that there was no chapter on Luke-Acts. This "theological introduction to the Bible" jumps from John's Gospel into Romans.

Jim Hamilton said...


Thanks for the plug of my article. I'm glad to see that it's out! I still haven't received a copy of it. . .

I'd love to know any further reactions you may have.



CJW said...

Your point is well made. Perhaps this is more pronounced in some Christian traditions than in others - I can't think of any examples at the moment, but Emergent-types like myself seem (on the whole) to be more open to the Lucan Corpus. Green would also be in there keeping the Lucan flame alive, and he, Thiselton and Bartholomew have edited a volume of the SAH Series on Reading Luke. Bosch's magisterial work on mission paradigms also sees significance in the Lucan corpus for what he called in 1991 the 'emerging ecumenical paradigm'.