Alan Thompson’s latest contribution to Luke–Acts scholarship is this fine volume on the Gospel of Luke in the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (EGGNT) series. The EGGNT series was launched by Murray Harris with Eerdmans back in 1991 when his volume on Colossians and Philemon first came out. Two decades later the series has been relaunched by B&H Academic, under the editorial guidance of Andreas J. Köstenberger and Robert W. Yarbrough. So far the series has republished Harris’s Colossians and Philemon, added the volumes John (also by Harris), Philippians (by Joseph H. Hellerman), James (by Chris A. Vlachos), 1 Peter (by Greg W. Forbes), Ephesians (by Benjamin L. Merkle), and Romans (by John D. Harvey), and has lined up authors to cover the rest of the New Testament.
The Luke volume by Thompson has the usual benefits of the EGGNT series. It is not a commentary per se; it is a guide to understanding the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax of the Greek, utilizing the UBS5 Greek New Testament. In a brief opening chapter, Thompson addresses some of the typical introductory matters found in commentaries. Regarding the Gospel’s authorship, he sides with the bulk of church history on the physician and sometimes companion of Paul; regarding the date of writing, he prefers the late 50s or early 60s; regarding the intended audience, he suggests a mixture of Jewish and Gentile Christians; and regarding purposes, he sees assurance concerning God’s saving work as Luke’s primary intent. The technical commentaries serving as Thompson’s chief conversation partners on exegetical matters include those by Darrell Bock, François Bovon, Joseph Fitzmyer, I.H. Marshall, and John Nolland.. Thompson also makes frequent reference to the Luke volume in the Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament by Culy, Parsons, and Stigall (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2010) and occasional reference to the classic ICC volume on Luke by Plummer (London: T&T Clark, 1909) as well as to several other less technical commentaries. His highest recommendations for pastors are the commentaries by Bock and Edwards (PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015).
Thompson provides an unsurprising six-part outline of the Gospel of Luke, but offers headings designed to be more thematically oriented (see p. 7):
- Prologue: The Context and Purpose of Luke’s Writing Project (1:1–4)
- The Arrival of the Royal Lord of Salvation (1:5–2:52)
- The Inauguration of Jesus’ Public Ministry (3:1–4:13)
- Actions that Demonstrate Who Jesus Is and the Salvation He Brings (4:14–9:50)
- Teaching that Explains the Saving Rule of the Lord (9:51–19:44)
- The Lord Accomplishes the Salvation of the Kingdom (19:45–24:53)
As is typical with the EGGNT series, an extended exegetical outline for the whole book is provided (see the Table of Contents on pp. xi –xxiii and again pp. 383–88).
The bulk of the volume is, of course, the phrase-by-phrase analysis of the Greek grammar and syntax. This includes parsings, definitions, usage statistics, syntactical components, structural considerations, and treatments of important textual variants. Arguments are sometimes presented for debated issues. Thus, the volume is for those who are familiar with grammatical and syntactical labels and who are prepared to interact with the Greek text. In addition to expected engagement of technical commentaries and with the typical Greek grammar and reference works, comparisons of English translations occur regularly. Properly avoiding the plethora of footnotes that could be present, this work has an abundance of parenthetical references to the scholarly works using the common and sensible abbreviations. Among the valuable contributions of the EGGNT series are the homiletical suggestions offered in accordance with the detailed outline of the book and the bibliographical recommendations for further study organized by numbered topical categories.
There are three potential disappointments with this volume. First, while almost all of the text of Luke is incorporated into at least one homiletical suggestion (with the exception of Luke 19:45–46), these are not as evenly spaced across the Gospel as a pastor might wish. Some homiletical suggestions cover brief sections (e.g., 1:1–4; 3:21–22; 5:12–16; 6:12–16; 8:22–25; 10:38–42; 18:15–17; 18:31–34; 20:41–44), and others are rather large sections (e.g., 6:17–49; 8:1–21; 10:1–24; 15:1–32; 21:5–38; 23:1–49; and 23:50–24:53). This imbalance might be disappointing to preachers using the volume.
Similarly, a second potential disappointment is that this volume lacks bibliographical recommendations for further study for many sections of the Gospel of Luke. To his credit, Thompson offers bibliographical lists on 43 different themes. These range from literary features (e.g., Luke’s prologue, the hymns in the infancy narratives, parables), to historical events (e.g., Jesus’s birth, Jesus’s temptation, the transfiguration, the triumphal entry), to theological themes (e.g., Christology, Satan/demons, the Kingdom of God in Luke, repentance, heaven and hell), to institutions (e.g., the temple, Sabbath and Law, baptism, Rome and Caesar), to people (e.g., John the Baptist, Pharisees, Disciples/discipleship, men and women in Luke, children, Samaritans). Nevertheless, there are sections in the Gospel of Luke that have a homiletical suggestion but no bibliographical recommendations, and conversely there are sections with bibliographical recommendations but no specific homiletical suggestions (and there are some sections with both). Even if the bibliographies are deemed sufficient in variety (but notice that the EGGNT volumes on the brief epistles of Ephesians and Philippians each has 61 bibliographic lists), it would be helpful for the volume to have an index of these bibliographies rather than requiring the reader to simply page through the table of contents (NB: like most of the EGGNT volumes, this one does contain a helpful Grammar Index—something not commonly seen outside of grammar textbooks).
A third potential disappointment has to do with the sparseness of structural analyses, which are more regular in the EGGNT volumes on the NT epistles. All passages have a structure of some kind, of course, and Thompson’s exegetical outline for the whole Gospel of Luke is rather extensive. But Luke–Acts is well known for various other kinds of structural displays (e.g., parallels, chiasms, and word play). Thompson does note around a dozen or so structure issues (e.g., 1:1–4, 49, 51; 2:32; 4:18; 6:27–28; 7:1–8:56; 10:25–37; 13:10–14:35; 13:25; 14:8, 12; 20:28), but readers might be expecting more (and perhaps especially more sentence diagrams like those offered for 1:68 and 20:28).
Despite these potential perceived shortcomings, students and scholars working on exegesis in the Third Gospel will welcome Alan Thompson’s Luke volume in the EGGNT series. I am glad to see this installment.