Joel B. Green. Luke as Narrative Theologian: Texts and Topics. WUNT 446. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2020. 360 pages. 134,00 € (hardcover).
Joel Green, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA, has compiled a revised collection of his essays on Luke-Acts in Luke as Narrative Theologian. Green has several published works on Luke-Acts, including The Gospel of Luke (1997) in the NICNT series, Conversion in Luke-Acts (2015), and many journal articles on the subject. This book collects twenty essays written by him between 1989 and 2018.
As stated on the inside cover, Luke as Narrative Theologian seeks to contribute to the “understanding of the theological and narrative unity of Luke-Acts.” Green explains that while most of the essays have minor revisions to ensure “consistency of style” and fix errors, significant revision occurs in chapters 1 and 10 (V). Green divides the chapters into three sections: “Introduction,” “Texts,” and “Topics.”
The “Introduction” section contains two chapters discussing the roles of narrative and theology in interpreting Luke-Acts. The “Texts” section contains essays that begin in Luke 1 and end in Acts 16. The articles study ten scenes using a narrative approach to Luke’s theology. Social and cognitive studies are also used (see chaps. 3 and 6). The third section, “Topics,” has eight essays focusing on themes, motifs, and subjects such as baptism.
The essays are well selected and written, but the revisions to the essays are limited. It appears the revised articles have incorporated little new scholarship, since only one chapter contains a footnote that postdates the original article’s publication date (21). Nevertheless, the collected essays all contribute to the principal goal of the book. Green does not shy away from difficult topics such as household baptism. Rather, he seeks to show the value of narrative analysis while promoting the unity of Luke-Acts by studying any given passage.
Readers seeking to understand narrative analysis would particularly benefit from reading chapter 10. There, Green gives an apologetic for narrative analysis before engaging with Acts 6. He concludes his case for narrative analysis by writing, “Luke’s work simply is a theologically determined narrative representation of historical events” (151). Next, Green reviews “two historical reconstructions” of Acts 6:1–7 before presenting his narrative study of the passage. He provides a strong argument against historical reconstruction by showing that “Luke’s theological history” provides adequate information for understating the passage (160).
Luke as Narrative Theologian accomplishes Green’s goal to contribute to the conversation on the unity of Luke-Acts. The collected essays present well-researched and powerful arguments.This volume is recommended for scholars and students of Luke-Acts. Readers considering this work should first reference the Table of Contents to see if the book aligns with their interests and if they are already familiar with the previously published essays.
Ross Harmon is a Ph.D. student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary