F. Scott Spencer on the Gospel of Luke

F. Scott Spencer on the Gospel of Luke January 19, 2020

F. Scott Spencer
Luke (THNTC); ed. J. B. Green.
Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2019.
Available at Eerdmans and Koorong.

This is easily one of best written and “edgy” Luke commentaries I’ve read for a while – and I read a lot. I have several favourites in Luke commentaries: Green (NICNT), Bock (BECNT), Tannehill (Fortress) and this is definitely up there with them.

F. Scott Spencer has spent a career in Luke-Acts and it shows in this Luke commentary, one of the last in the now discontinued THNTC series. Spencer is genuinely insightful in his exegesis, he includes some nice biographical asides, he is often comically direct, and the theology section is the best theologizing of/from Luke that I think I’ve ever read.

Spencer thinks the purpose of Luke is largely catechetical, namely, to reinforce the truth/solidity of the gospel. Spencer shows a certain kind of affection for and affinity with theological interpretation as laid out in the Bartholomew and Thomas “Manifesto for Theological Interpretation.” However, as a Baptist, he does have a few reservations: “As a theological interpreter, I freely admit to being formed by my ecclesial communities for good and ill (we still ive in a fallen, broken world) and by the wider span of ecclesiastical Christian traditions for good and ill (the church fathers are useful, but not infallible, and would have been more useful if they’d talked more with faithful church mothers) – all of which deeply inform my commentary writing about how I think Luke’s narrative aims to form “solid,” being-saved Christian pilgrims and to inform the Christian faith journey in Luke’s day and ours” (pp. 16-17).

He sees a close connection between OT ideas/events of creation, exodus, exile, and restoration in Luke-Acts. I love his definition of “salvation” in Luke: “‘Saving’ In God’s terms defies narrow definition, bursting forth into a cosmic, holistic vision of God’s re-creating purpose for all creatures and environs. In short, Luke wants his readers to know how the Savior God has acted dynamically in Christ to make their broken lives and world whole” (p. 14).

Spencer offers excellent summaries of the Lucan nativity hymns and the Lucan travel narrative which would be great for the classroom or church Bible study.

A very good summary of the Nazareth Manifesto is offered: “The strong liberation-redemptive thrust of this mission is signaled by the double use of aphesis … and broad application to those in various states of physical, psychological, social, economic, and political distress: the poor, the blind, the imprisoned – including those bound by overwhelming forces of demonization, debt and domination. This is the hardcore material and social gospel of Jubilee, rooted in liberated of depleted land and enslaved people for the flourishing of God’s entire creation. We should not rush to a ‘spiritual’ interpretation of Jesus’s saving mission divorced from material realities” (pp. 111-12). And “Full salvation, healing, and knowledge of God will come for God’s people only if they share in God’s redemptive mission to others” (p. 114).

On the travelers going to Emmaus who meet Jesus, Spencer comments: “The hermeneutical key to the Emmaus disciples’ understanding of the living, saving Christ is Jesus himself mediated through the word of Scripture and the bread of Communion. … This christological principle keeps the sacrament of word and bread in proper perspective, clarifying their function as means of Christ’s self-disclosing grace more than to Christ’s discovery by seekers. Christ’s roles as authoritative prophet-teacher of God’s word (which testifies to Christ) are indispensable, not optional, to God’s redemptive plan” (pp. 623-24).

The theological reflections on Luke take place under the headings of theological knowing, Trinitarian Theology, Spiritual Theology, Creational Theology, Social Theology, and Passion Theology, lots of interaction with peeps like K. Vanhoozer, J. Moltmann, E. Johnson, and even my EvTh gets a good look in at a few points.

So big recommendation from me on this one, if you’re into Luke, teaching or preaching, put this one on the syllabus.



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