Edwards, James R. The Gospel according to Luke. PNTC. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2015. 831 pp. Hb; $65. Link to Eedrmans
James Edwards previously contributed the volume on Mark to the Pillar New Testament Commentary. It is unusual for a commentary series to assigned two Synoptic Gospels to a single scholar. What is more, Edwards did not write the Acts commentary in the series, David G. Peterson did in 2009. This allows Edwards to read Luke without having a second commentary on Acts in mind. As a result, Luke nor Luke is not merely a prologue for Acts. Edwards notes in the preface he has not paid attention to reception history in the commentary, referring interested readers to François Bovon’s Hermneia commentary on Luke.
At only 22 pages, the introduction to the commentary is brief, especially since it is divided into nine sections. Edwards accepts the traditional view the author of both Luke and Acts was a companion of Paul and quite possibly Jewish (10) native of Antioch (12), although he is less open to the suggestion Luke was a doctor (8). It is nearly certain Luke used the gospel of Mark, which Edwards dates about A.D. 65, suggesting a date for Luke’s Gospel about a decade later. If Like is dated after A.D. 70 then Luke 19:43-44 may be an allusion to the destruction of the city.
Edwards argues Luke used a Hebrew source along with Mark. In the introduction to this commentary he briefly summarizes the argument of his The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Synoptic Tradition (Eerdmans, 2009). There are, Edwards argues, a disproportionally large number of semiticisms in the Gospel of Luke, especially in the unique material in the third Gospel. Semiticisms are words and phrases can be best explained as reflecting a Hebrew or Aramaic original, such as the “divine passive.” Sometimes these phrases are called “Septuagintisms” because Luke sounds like the Septuagint. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible obviously is based on a written Hebrew source and often reflects the style of the Hebrew original although it is written in Greek. Edwards finds many of these examples of semiticisms in the Gospel, especially in the prologue.
With respect to the sayings source (Q), Edwards remains unconvinced. Of the approximately 175 verses usually associated with Q, some are narrative and at least one is found in the Passion narrative. This so-called double tradition does not exhibit the semiticism found elsewhere in Luke (17). Edwards suspects the double tradition is the “skeletal remains” of one of Luke’s sources and it is likely Matthew received the sayings from Luke, although this cannot be state with certainty (17-18). The body of the commentary is not overly concerned with matters of Source Criticism, most references to Hebraisms appear in the footnotes.
There are eleven excurses scattered throughout the commentary. These brief notes cover key terms in the Gospel (“Son of Man”), literary features (“Elijah and Elisha Typology,” “Pairs in the Third Gospel”), and historical issues (“Pharisees in Luke,” “Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas”). These are useful and placed at appropriate places in the commentary. When Edwards offers some additional detail on a historical, exegetical or geographical point within the commentary which are shorter than an excursus, the theme is identified in bold print (tax collectors, 3:11; slavery. 16:1-9).
The body of the commentary follows Edward’s outline of twenty-two sections, roughly equivalent to about a chapter of Luke per section. Each unit is divided into several pericopae with comments on groups of verses rather than words or phrase. All Greek appears in transliteration with most technical details relegated to the footnotes (textual variants, references to various theological dictionaries and wordbooks). Since there are few in-text notes, the commentary is very readable. Edwards has several memorable phrases, such as his description of perceptions of Jewish tax-collectors as “the husk of an individual whose soul had been eaten away by complicity with Roman repression” (169). He is able to use brief contemporary illustrations to make the text clear, such as comparing the shrewd manager in 16:1-13 to a CEO who says “you’ve turned your pink slip into a promotion” (455). Although this is an exegetical commentary which wrestles with lexical and syntactical issues, Edwards finds ways to elegantly draw out meaning and present it in language appreciated by students and busy pastors who desire to teach the text of Luke in various contexts.
The commentary often provides cultural details drawn from Second Temple period practice. Commenting on 11:37-40, for example, Edwards explains the importance of ritual washing before meals, citing the work of Neusner (354). His observations about the piety of the Pharisee in 18:9-14 make it clear the Pharisee is “not to be denigrated for declaring his commendable record” (504) based on Tobit 1:6-8 and other early texts. His presentation of Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the Temple refers to many Second Temple texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls (594).
In addition to the literature of the Second Temple period, Edwards draws on the insights of patristic writers throughout the commentary. There are numerous references to Origen’s Homilies on Luke and the writings of Justin Martyr, Jerome and Eusebius.
Conclusion. Each volume of the Pillar series has been a solid contribution to scholarship, Edward’s Luke commentary continues this legacy. There are more technical commentaries available, but this commentary is a pleasure to read and will serve pastors and teachers well as they continue to study the third Gospel.
NB: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.