John T. Carroll, Luke: New Testament Library (Louisville: Westminster / John Knox), 2012.

Our publisher informs us (on its website) that this commentary … on the Gospel of Luke epitomizes the New Testament Library series. Combining scholarly rigor and theological insight, Carroll not only focuses on the Gospel text but also makes frequent reference to Luke's second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, to show how the two writings work together to present a full picture of the life of Christ and the work of the apostles. In addition, Carroll includes several illuminating notions about special topics in Luke's Gospel: a comparison of the birth announcements to Mary and Zechariah, an examination of the role of women, a discussion of wealth and poverty, and insights on the reign of God and the Roman Empire. The question is thus set before us by the book’s publisher itself: is this, in fact, a commentary which combines scholarly rigor and theological insight? Here are various excerpts from the early segments of the commentary which will allow the potential reader to decide for her or himself. On page 1 we read This commentary will stand with those who have read Luke’s Gospel with appreciation of both his literary achievement and the theological and ethical commitments that find expression in his narrative. It will be critical appreciation, as befits engagement with an ancient author who writes out of, and for, a particular culture, from a particular social location, with all the limitations such a project entails (inescapable for any author, myself included). But critical appreciation nonetheless.

Fair enough. Sympathetic reading is a desirable attribute when readers approach ancient or modern texts. Critically sympathetic reading is even better, so Carroll is on the right track here. Then, a few pages further along, on page 7The commentary presents a literary reading, a narrative reading that pays attention to sequence, but the interpretation is not restricted to a onetime, sequential hearing of the text. I allow for the possibility of readings and rereadings, in which initial understandings are challenged, deepened, or confirmed, in retrospect, by later materials in the narrative and in the narrative sequel, Acts. In short, Carroll’s approach is quite ‘Protestant’ in that here he cues us in that the best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture itself. Listening to the text will inform our listening to the text both in prospect and in retrospect. This approach, it has to be said, is both critical and refreshing. Carroll understands right from the outset that ancient authors were intelligent and gifted theologians who wrote with verve and vigor and, most importantly, purpose. This viewpoint is a salutary and necessary antidote to the nonsense parading itself as scholarship in scholarly circles as ‘reader-response’ criticism. As to his procedure itself as it is worked out in the body of the commentary, users of the New Testament Library will be familiar enough with it that nothing further is here needed. Those unfamiliar with it will find it thorough and ‘user friendly’ as Carroll (and the other authors in the series) give readers a fresh rendition of the text, textual notes, explanation and exegesis, and the occasional excursus. In terms of those particulars, this volume is neither unique nor ‘ground breaking’. In sum, in fact, it is simply a very good, very stable, very trustworthy, very reliable member of the commentary genre. Nothing more. And nothing less. If anything sets it apart from the other members of the family of commentaries it is the lucidity and clarity with which Carroll writes. He spares readers the non-essentials and – may his tribe increase – sticks with the text. Finally, while I do very much appreciate the review copy I would be remiss if I did not also point out that it arrived in electronic format (which I don’t really mind as much as I once did). What I do not like, however, is the fact that the electronic version expires in a mere 30 days and hence there’s no way to refer to it later, make use of it in research, or share it with anyone else. I view this as a very unfortunate state of affairs. If persons qualified to review

volumes are willing to take the time to do so, they should be respected enough to be allowed to retain a copy of the materials they review1. Nonetheless, if you’re seeking a commentary on Luke, this is a brilliant one. If you’re thinking about reviewing it- arrange to receive a hard copy or the only fruit you’ll pluck from the tree is a handful of air.

Jim West Quartz Hill School of Theology

1

I didn’t, in fact, invest as much time in working through the material at hand as I normally do precisely because, at the end of the day, there’s nothing to show for it. The publisher benefits from the mention of the book but I remain with nothing but the passing pleasure of reading a book I cannot keep. Publishers don’t send books unless they intend them to be reviewed and to be perfectly blunt, reviewers don’t review books without some expectation that they will add them to their collection. I don’t wish to sound like a mercenary; but I do believe in fairness and in my humble opinion evaporating books reviewed are not exactly fair.

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