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Neues Testament


Denova, Rebecca I.


The Things Accomplished Among Us. Prophetic Tradition in the Structural Pattern of Luke-Acts.


Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press 1997. 260 S. gr.8 = Journal for the Study of the New Testament Suppl. Series 141. Lw. £ 40.-. ISBN 1-85075-656-2.


David W. Pao

In this monograph, R. I. Denova presents a reading of the Lukan writings in light of the Scripture of Israel. Arguing against Conzelmann and others who have suggested that the author of the Lukan writings is preoccupied by the problem of the delay of the parousia, D. suggests that Luke-Acts was written to demonstrate the fulfillment of the promises made to Israel. The use of scripture in Luke-Acts should not be understood as an apologetic "proof from prophecy" since Scripture is used by the author "to design his structure of the narrative units in the life of Jesus and his followers" (27).

On the use of particular scriptural traditions, D. highlights the significance of Isaiah in providing "the structural pattern of events" (29) and the constructive power of the Elisha/Elijah cycle that provides the "form of the narrative" (29). Following E. P. Sanders, the importance of the "Jewish Restoration Theology" of Isaiah is noted. Following Thomas Brodie, D. argues that the relationship between Jesus (Luke) and his disciples (Acts) is modeled upon the Elijah/Elisha relationship. As the basis of this narrative-critical reading, D. identifies the literary devices used by the author of Luke-Acts: the use of scriptural citation, typology, and narrative parallelism. The underlying purpose of the author is to "persuade other Jews that Jesus of Nazareth was the messiah of Scripture and that the words of the prophets concerning ’restoration’ have been ’fulfilled’" (231).

D. has successfully emphasized the importance of the scriptural pattern that frames the narrative of Luke-Acts. She rightly argues that "the key to understanding this material was found in both the structure of his argument as well as the content of his stories" (7). This narrative-critical reading that takes full account of the formative power of the Scripture of Israel provides a useful model in the examination of the underlying purpose of the Lukan writings.

D. has also rightly challenged Conzelmann’s understanding of history and eschatology in the Lukan writings although one is surprised to read that "almost every secondary work that I consulted on Luke-Acts informed me, either directly or through nuance, that Acts was written to account for the crisis over the delay of the parousia, by establishing the Gentile Christian church" (7). While many continue to argue that the Gentile issue remains a central one in Luke’s program, few have anchored their arguments on "the crisis over the delay of the parousia." One senses that the underlying agenda of this study is to revive the thesis of Jacob Jervell in minimizing the importance of the place of Gentiles in Luke’s vision. This can perhaps explain the curious fact that in the chapter entitled "The ’Fulfillment of Prophecy’ in the Acts of the Apostles," only two passages are examined: the rejection of Stephen in Acts 7 and the ingathering of the exiles in Acts 2 (155-177).

The further limitations of this work can partly be traced to D.s uncritical use of the works of three scholars. In her reliance on E. P. Sander’s characterization of the restoration theology of Isaiah, the wider Isaianic program beyond the theme of restoration is not explored. In her reliance on the works of Thomas Brodie, who has rightly noted the significance of the Elijah-Elisha narrative in bridging the two volumes of the Lukan writings, the further use of Isaiah that frames the narrative is not explored in sufficient detail. Most significantly, in her reliance on the works of Jacob Jervell, the transformation of the scriptural pattern and the Isaianic vision in the Lukan writings is ignored. This is most evident in D.s treatment of the Gentile issue where the criticism leveled by many against Jervell’s work are left unanswered.

This leads to the major weakness of this work. In any intertextual exploration of a set of texts, both the affirmation as well as the transformation of the base text have to be noted. In her discussion of the use of scriptural traditions, D. simply assumes that the Lukan program is dictated by the vision contained within the passages as they appeared in the Hebrew Bible. The most important, as well as the much more interesting, point at issue is the transformation that is evident in the Lukan use of Scripture - an area that demands further attention. This is most clearly seen in the following statement: "The eventual inclusion of Gentiles does not exclude Israel, for such a concept would be inconsistent with prophetic tradition" (153). While this statement may be valid in that which it affirms, the reasoning should, however, be questioned since it assumes that Luke would not move beyond the paradigm as supplied by the prophetic tradition. The possibility of the redefinition of the people of God, a process that is already evident within the ancient Scripture of Israel, cannot be ruled out. In other words, simply to point out that "Luke’s ’universalism’ is not a Christian invention, for it is drawn from prophetic tradition and Jewish eschatological beliefs" (146) is not sufficient in explicating the peculiarities of the Lukan understanding of "universalism".

In this narrative-critical study that highlights the importance of development and plot, the narratologically significant ending of the Lukan writings with the explicit and extended quotation from Isaiah 6 is surprisingly left untreated. If a fuller consideration is given to the development of the final chapters of Acts, one wonders if D. will arrive at a different understanding of the Lukan program. This leads us back to D.s critique of Conzelmann’s conclusion as well as her understanding of the purpose of the Lukan writings as one wonders if an acceptable alternative concerning the Sitz im Leben of the text has been provided. While one can recognize the significance of the Lukan emphasis upon the Messianic identity of Jesus as well as the concern for the restoration of Israel, one wonders what life-setting lies behind these and other major themes of the Lukan writings.