Declaring Luke Evangelist

Luke: Historian and Theologian, by I. Howard Marshall (Zondervan, 1971, 238 pp., paperback, $2.95), is reviewed by W. Ward Gasque, assistant professor of New Testament studies, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia.

This new book by one of the foremost of the younger New Testament scholars in Britain today is certainly the most important contribution to Lucan studies since the controversial study of the theology of Luke that Hans Conzelmann published in 1954.

Over the past decade and a half scholars have engaged in much debate about whether the author of Luke-Acts should be understood primarily as a historian of early Christianity (the traditional view) or as a creative theologian who stands alongside Paul and John (the more recent view). Among those who have stressed the theological aspect of the Third Gospel and Acts, some, mostly Germans, have tended to take a rather dim view of the historical value of these writings.

Marshall argues that there need be no contradiction between the two roles of historian and theologian—indeed, that it is important to recognize both aspects. Conzelmann, Haenchen, and others have rightly recognized that Luke was an interpreter of the tradition he received concerning Jesus and the early Church; but they have been wrong in insisting that his theological aims caused him to play fast and loose with the historical data.

The best way to understand the nature of Luke’s writings is to view him primarily as an evangelist. He is one who proclaims the message of salvation. This “message of salvation” is not concerned simply with bringing about “self-understanding” on the part of the hearer, as many modern theologians allege. Rather, the message is a report of actual happenings, ...

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