Sunday, February 10, 2008

Book Review: Acts - Darrell Bock

Darrell L. Bock
BECNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007.
Available at

For those familiar with Darrell Bock's mother-of-all-Luke-commentaries, you'll welcome the addition of his (delightfully more concise) volume on Acts. The introduction is fairly comprehensive (48 pp.). He opts for a pre-70 AD date for Acts and he regards it as a piece of Jewish and Hellenistic historiography that is blended with theology to produce a "theography". There is a superb quote from E. Earle Ellis on Vielhauer about the Paulinism of Acts: "When he [Vielhauer] has difficulty in recognizing Luke's Paul, this writer often finds a similar difficulty in recognizing Vielhauer's Luke" (Ellis 1974: 47). Bock also argues for the essential historicity of Acts in the tradition of Hengel, Hemer and Bruce. In regards to the purpose of Acts, Bock identifies from the prologue a concern to show (Theophilus) that being a Gentile in an originally Jewish movement is part of God's design. Bock does touch briefly upon Luke's claim to legitimize this new movement in the Greco-Roman world, but I think this and the apologetic dimension of Acts has a lot more going for it. Bock also treats the theology of Acts fairly sensitively. In discussion on the topic of the "New Community's Emerging Separate Identity" he correctly notes how a major issue in the early church was the question of whether Gentiles should be treated as prosleytes to Judaism and what was expected of them in the new community in regards to the Torah. Although at one point Bock's (progressive) dispensational colours shine through: "Whether this new community saw itself as the 'restored Israel' ... is a matter of debate. They did, however, view themselves as a community that had been formed by God in conjunction with promises made long ago. The remnant of Jews who believed in the Messiah was the link to the Israel of the past. The new community's existence meant that God was doing something fresh from a structural point of view, distinct from the Israel of old." Unfortunatley, I will never understand the dispensational sine qua non of an absolute discontinuity between the church and Israel. Bock's commentary itself is very detailed, easy to read, and open to theological reflection. Bock is at his best when commenting on inter-textual links with the Old Testament and his discussions are always informative. Otherwise, this is a commendable volume and is useful for students and pastors.

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