Interview with Mark Goodacre (Part II)

goodacre-2Here is the second installment of my interview with Prof. Mark Goodacre on the Gospel of Thomas (see part one here):

(CWS) 4. Awhile back on your blog, you provided a list from your index of the most cited scholars in your book. You also indicated that the frequency of a given scholar’s appearance in the book is unrelated to your extent of agreement with him/her. What scholars have you found to be the most helpful for your own Thomas research and why?

(MG) I really like the work of Stephen Patterson.  He is a clear thinker and a clear writer. Although I disagree with many of his conclusions, he analyzes the evidence with fairness and clarity. And in general I like scholars who lay out their case clearly. I am less keen on what I think of as “shifting sands” scholarship, where you simply cannot be sure how the case overall is panning out. You shouldn’t have to re-read a scholar’s work multiple times in order to work out what they are saying.

For my case on Thomas’s familiarity with the Synoptics, I found myself frequently in agreement with Christopher Tuckett and Klyne Snodgrass, both of whom write with clarity and force. Given that I had disagreed with Tuckett in my Q book, it was nice on this occasion to be joining him in battle. And now too I find that I agree with Simon Gathercole’s views on Thomas to a major extent. Although we wrote our books independently of one another, like Matthew and Luke on the Two-Source Theory, it turns out that we agree on most of the issues.

(CWS) 5. I know you have a forthcoming article in which you discuss the Nag Hammadi discoveries. Other than that, are you planning any future projects on the Gospel of Thomas?

(MG) The Nag Hammadi article arose out of my research on Thomas. I wanted to write about the story of the discovery of the Nag Hammadi codices but when I researched the topic, I found that there is not one version of the story but several. And the more I looked at the different versions, the more worried I became about how much we can really know about the circumstances of the discovery.  The article, “How reliable is the story of the Nag Hammadi discovery?” should come out later this year in JSNT.

I don’t have anything else currently planned on the Gospel of Thomas but I have a piece on the Gospel of Peter that I hope to get published before too long, and I am also doing some work on the Gospel of Mary and related texts.

(CWS) 6. You are one of the most outspoken opponents of the “Q” hypothesis. Many scholars see “Q” and Thomas as early examples of the wisdom genre applied to Jesus’ sayings. Obviously, since you reject the notion of Q, you would also reject this line of thinking. To your mind, what theological outlook do we find in the Gospel of Thomas and why?

(MG) I think the comparison between Q and Thomas has been pretty damaging and in several ways it has thrown us off the scent. The comparison is largely an accident of our own social location.  Q was one of the biggest and most successful hypotheses in twentieth century research on Christian origins, but its hypothetical nature always caused scholars some residual anxiety. One way of dealing with the anxiety was to align the hypothetical Q with the newly discovered Thomas. Coptic Thomas was discovered in 1945, but only began to seep into scholarly consciousness in the seventies and eighties, at the same time that Q was taking on a life of its own.

The difficulty for those who want to align Q and Thomas is that these works are only superficially comparable. Anyone who has done any actual research on either realizes that the differences are far more striking than the similarities. I have argued that reflection on the differences helps us to see how the true Sayings Gospel (Thomas) differs from the hybrid scholarly reconstruction (Q).  The latter makes much better sense as a scholarly extraction of parallel material from Matthew and Luke, not as a discrete work.

Moreover, and to get to the heart of your question, Thomas’s theological outlook could hardly be more different than Q’s. To take two really obvious examples, Thomas differs from Q on the Old Testament and on eschatology.  Thomas disdains the Old Testament – it only refers to Adam, it never explicitly quotes the Old Testament, and it thinks of the prophets as “the dead”. Q, on the other hand, loves the Old Testament, cites its heroes, and quotes many key texts.  Similarly, Thomas and Q differ on eschatology. Thomas has a protology rather than an eschatology, and is looking to get back to Eden, to the singular human being before the fall. But Q is driven-through with eschatology at every turn, and repeatedly talks about the kingdom, the future, and the Son of Man.

I do not, of course, accept the existence of Q, but I point out these contrasts in order to show how some of the clear problems with making them representatives of the same trajectory in early Christianity.  To put it another way, Thomas is a “sayings gospel” because it really believes that salvation lies in interpreting Jesus’s words, whereas Q is only a “sayings gospel” insofar as it represents scholarly efforts to extract and over-emphasize some of the sayings material in the Synoptics.

(CWS) 7. Another interest that I have, and one that I hope to promote on this blog, is research on the historical Jesus. In your opinion, is there anything in the Gospel of Thomas that goes back to the historical Jesus? If yes, what? If no, explain why not.

(MG) I share your interest in the Historical Jesus and I suppose to some extent this also comes back to your first question about one’s initial interest in Thomas. I began by hoping that perhaps it could provide us with some extra material on the historical Jesus, and I was disappointed when I found otherwise. I do think that there are likely to be historical Jesus traditions in Thomas, but I think that they are found in the Synoptic parallels that make up half of Thomas rather than the new material that makes up the other half of Thomas. I don’t rule out the possibility that historical Jesus traditions occur in the newer, unparalleled materials, but I find it unlikely. Bear in mind that even the Jesus Seminar, which tended to favour Thomas as a source for historical Jesus research, struggled to find much historical Jesus material in the unique material. Broadly speaking, they were using Thomas as a means of corroborating parallel Synoptic traditions about Jesus.

My reading of the earliest materials persuades me that the Historical Jesus is likely to have been a Jewish eschatological prophet who valued the Hebrew Scriptures, quite unlike the Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas, who disdains eschatology and the Hebrew Bible.

Many thanks to Prof. Goodacre for taking the time to answer our questions!

Jesus, Matthew’s Gospel and Early Christianity: Studies in Memory of Graham N. Stanton (Review)

When I was looking at PhD programs several years ago, I had an immediate interest in Cambridge and I emailed Prof. Graham Stanton with the hopes of becoming one of his PhD students. Stanton sent me back a very polite reply saying that he had recently retired and could not supervise my research. I ended up getting a fine education at Durham, but I know some of Stanton’s PhD students and friends, and everyone speaks very highly of this outstanding scholar and gentleman (who passed away in 2009).

While he was interested in Paul’s letters (particularly Galatians), Stanton made the most impact on the First Gospel and the study of its main character – thus, it is quite sensible that a Festschrift was produced in his honor under the title Jesus, Matthew’s Gospel and Early Christianity: Studies in Memory of Graham N. Stanton (T & T Clark, 2011; eds D.M. Gurtner, J. Willitts, and R. Burridge). The essays are as follows:

Sapere aude, “dare to be wise” : graduation address on receiving an honorary doctorate of divinity, University of Otago, New Zealand, 16 December 2000 / Graham N. Stanton —
The gospel of Jesus : Graham Stanton, biography and the genre of Matthew / Richard A. Burridge —
The gospel of Matthew from Stanton to present : a survey of some recent developments / Daniel M. Gurtner —
How did Matthew go about composing his gospel? / James D.G. Dunn —
Matthew as ‘gospel’ / Scot McKnight —
Determining the date of Matthew / Donald A. Hagner —
Graham Stanton and the four-gospel codex : reconsidering the manuscript evidence / Peter M. Head —
Fulfilling the law and seeking righteousness in Matthew and in the Dead Sea scrolls / Craig A. Evans —
A gospel for a new nation : once more, the [ethnos] of Matthew 21.43 / Wesley G. Olmstead —
Judging Gentiles in the gospel of Matthew : between ‘othering’ and inclusion / Anders Runesson —
Matthew and hypocrisy / Christopher Tuckett —
The twelve disciples in Matthew / Joel Willitts —
Memorial tribute to Professor Graham Stanton, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, 23 January 2010 / David R. Catchpole.

Two things strike me about the life and scholarship of Stanton. First, he is known as a kind man, someone everyone respected as a person of integrity and grace. Secondly, he was honest and humble enough to admit when he had changed his mind on a matter. These are characteristics that most Biblical scholars simply don’t have. Stanton is quite unique in that he was someone many younger scholars seek to emulate in sharpness of mind, but also in mature character.

While all the essays in this volume are interesting, I will restrict myself to commenting on the first six.

Burridge is up first with a discussion of Stanton’s (and his) own journey of studying the genre of the Gospels. The default scholarly position prior to about the 1970’s was that the Gospels were a unique genre and should not be “classified” definitively within an existing genre category. However, Burridge points out that “Stanton was…the first voice of protest against the critical consensus…and he makes the further significant point that they should be compared with ancient biographies, rather than modern biography” (p. 7). Burridge notes, though, that Stanton did not follow this line of thinking to its natural conclusion and showed hesitancy in his book The Gospels and Jesus where Stanton concludes his genre discussion with these words: “we can be almost certain that Mark did not intend to write the biography of Jesus in the Graeco-Roman tradition” (p. 12 of FS; pg. 19 of Gospels and Jesus).

This was disheartening for Burridge because he was going to defend his own doctoral thesis before Stanton and make the opposite case! It is quite entertaining to read Burridge’s reflections on the unpredictable course of the viva.

It was going alright until  about half-way through when Graham said, “Well, we had better talk about the bit where you take my new book to the cleaners. What would you say if I said, a, b, or c?”, referring to the features which he thought must have puzzled ancient readers. I replied with some points from my thesis, to which he just said, “Yes, you’re right, I’m wrong and I’ll put it right in the next edition,” and moved on to the next question on his list! In that instant, I learned that an internationally leading scholar’s humility could be even more extraordinary than his intellectual ability and research. (13)

Burridge is an entertaining guide through the various stages of Stanton’s academic life. You can tell they were quite close and each one impacted the other for the better. This is a nice snapshot of the best that our guild has to offer in terms of cooperation within a community of learning.

In the next chapter, Daniel Gurtner (also an editor of the volume) offers a survey of the study of Matthew “from Stanton to present.” He examines the development and progress (sometimes!) of critical scholarship in the study of Matthew on such topics as social-scientific criticism, Judaism, empire, wisdom, and comparisons of Matthew and Paul. It is hard to summarize this essay or capture its deft handling of scholarship, but I must say that it should be standard reading for anyone studying Matthew at present.

In Jimmy Dunn’s little essay on Matthew, he takes time to consider the method of composition and also the purpose of its composition. On the first matter, Dunn wisely refers to five “collections” of Jesus tradition that were probably at Matthew’s disposal: Mark, oral tradition which Mark also knew, Q tradition (in written form), Q tradition (in oral form), and “M” (tradition material unique to Matthew). Dunn especially highlights the debt Matthew owes to Mark’s pioneering of this Gospel form (bios raw form notwithstanding).

[T]he very fact that Matthew follows Mark’s pattern so closely, even when using the Jesus tradition in his own way or using other versions of Jesus tradition known to him, underlines the commitment which Matthew in effect took upon himself — that is, a commitment to use Mark’s Gospel genre for his own retelling of the story of Jesus and to follow the pattern of Mark’s build-up of his Gospel to the climax of Jesus’ death and resurrection. (45)

In terms of what Matthew is doing  with this tradition, Dunn makes 9 points:

(1) Matthew puts less emphasis on Jesus as “Son of God” (than Mark) and more on him being “son of David.”

(2) Matthew weakens the Messianic secret motif.

(3) He carries on the “Son of Man” motif, but with slight theological differences.

(4) Similar to #1, Matthew is more interested in showing Jesus’ royal identity.

(5) Matthew takes further a concern to show Jesus as one who fulfills Israel’s Scriptures

(6) Matthew makes much of a Moses Christology, probably to appeal to Jews

(7) Matthew underscores, beyond Jesus’ identity as Messiah, he embodies the presence of God himself (see 55)

(8) Matthew seems to present Jesus as the presence of divine Wisdom

(9) Matthew highlights how various people worship (proskuneo) Jesus.

In Scot McKnight’s essay on “Matthew and ‘Gospel'”, he raises the question as to what it means to call Matthew a “Gospel.” Rather than focusing on genre, McKnight wonders if the term is more of a hermeneutic, where the term came to mean very early in its Christian usage “the declaration of the Story of Jesus as fulfilling the Story of Israel, and that means declaring that Jesus is Messiah, Lord and Savior” (p. 68). If I understand McKnight correctly, St. Paul was also “gospelling,” but the Gospels do this in a thoroughgoing way by recording that story in all its richness and depth, in a way only inchoate in Paul’s references to the “gospel.”

Lastly, I want to mention Don Hagner’s chapter on the dating of Matthew (ch. 6). He writes openly about a process he went through where he changed his mind about the dating, now doubting the earlier position he had that the dating must be in the 80’s. Currently, he thinks an earlier date is more plausible. He gives a variety of reasons, but ultimately urges scholars not to pre-judge the dating matter too quickly.

In determining the date of Matthew scholars should exhibit openness to the possibility of a date earlier than critical orthodoxy currently allows. Nevertheless, because of the indirect nature of the evidence, dogmatism – on either side – is of course out of the question. (92).

The other essays on the book are beneficial, but these are the ones I found most stimulating (though I probably should add my deep interest in Evans’ piece).

Those who have admired Stanton’s work will be interested in this FS, and those interested in Matthew and the Gospels will find much wisdom in these pages. This monograph reminds me of the good work that regularly comes out of the Matthew section of the SBL meeting, and I think Stanton would be proud of much that is going on in that group even in his noticeable absence.

UPDATE: Dave Lincicum brought to my attention that he has co-edited (along with Markus Bockmuehl) a collection of essays by Stanton called Studies in Matthew and Early Christianity (WUNT) – it is coming out in May and totals over 500 pages!

“Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment” (Forthcoming Book Notice)

In my Paul class on Monday we got into a bit 0f a serious discussion about how to hold together, for Paul, justification by faith and judgment according to deeds. I try to explain it in covenantal terms and allow both elements to be there (faith alone, and works as serious basis for judgment), but it is a notoriously complex matter.

Thus, I was ecstatic to see a notice in my email inbox regarding a new “Counterpoints” book from Zondervan – Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment (July 2013). The four views are, I think, chosen well.

Robert N. Wilkin: Works will determine rewards but not salvation: At the Judgment Seat of Christ each believer will be judged by Christ to determine his eternal rewards, but he remains eternally secure even if the judgment reveals he failed to persevere in good works (or in faith).
Thomas R. Schreiner: Works will provide evidence that one actually has been saved: At the final judgment works provide the necessary condition, though not the ground for final salvation, in that they provide evidence as to whether one has actually trusted in Jesus Christ.
James D. G. Dunn: Works will provide the criterion by which Christ will determine eternal destiny of his people: Since Paul, Jesus, and the New Testament writers hold together ‘justification by faith and not by works’ with ‘judgment according to works’, we should not fall into the trap of playing one off against the other or blend them in a way that diminishes the force of each.
Michael P. Barber: Works will merit eternal life: At the final judgment, good works will be rewarded with eternal salvation. However, these good works will be meritorious not apart from Christ but precisely because of the union of the believer with him.

Interview with Mark Goodacre (Part I)

MarkGoodacreThis morning I am pleased to post the first part of an interview I conducted with Prof. Mark Goodacre in which we explore his views on the Gospel of Thomas. Prof. Goodacre presently serves as Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Duke University. Anyone paying attention will recognize that Prof. Goodacre is quite well-known around the web, not only for his scholarship, but also for how he makes NT scholarship accessible to so many. Along with the very useful website, NT Gateway, and his blog, Mark provides regular reflections on various subjects through his podcast, the NT Pod. He has recently written a book entitled, Thomas and the Gospels: The Case for Thomas’ Familiarity with the Gospels. I have already given this book my strong endorsement, as have others across the blogosphere (see here, here, here, here). I will say it here again: the book is very good and deserves the attention it is getting. No one interested in the subject matter can afford to ignore this book–even those who disagree. I hope you enjoy this first half of our interview.

(CWS) 1. I have asked this question of every scholar I have interviewed on this blog: What initially sparked your interest in studying the Gospel of Thomas?

(MG) Well, I have always been really interested in the Synoptic Problem and I have spent a lot of time investigating the double tradition and the hypothetical “Q” source.  My skepticism over the existence of Q often led people to ask the question, “But what about the Gospel of Thomas?”  After all, scholars have often paired Q and Thomas, making them early witnesses to a trajectory within early Christianity that specially emphasized Jesus’ sayings, and which was not very interested in Jesus’ death.  So my interest in Thomas proceeded in part from my interest in Q.

I found also that there are many fascinating Synoptic-type questions to be explored in the study of Thomas. Indeed, quite often Thomas has been discussed in ignorance of detailed knowledge of the Synopsis and the Synoptic Problem.  I suppose that I felt that I could see a few things that others were missing when they were looking at Thomas.

Having begun there, I then found that I greatly enjoyed where Thomas was taking me – into the world of second and third century Gospels with which I had been unfamiliar.  I used to fall victim to canonical bias in my teaching and focused almost exclusively on the New Testament.  Now I find that some of my favourite teaching is in Non-canonical Gospels, including Thomas but also many other works.

(CWS) 2. I have had an opportunity to work through your recent book, Thomas and the Gospels. In the book you make a sustained (and quite compelling) case for Thomas’s familiarity with the Synoptic tradition.  Can you provide here a sketch of your view(s) on Thomas’s relationship to the Synoptic Gospels?

(MG) The case begins by asking a key question that is almost universally missed in studies of Thomas’s relationship to the Synoptics:  how similar are they?  Is there sufficient verbatim agreement between Thomas and the Synoptics to suggest that there is a direct link?  I argue that the verbatim agreement in several parallels between the Synoptics and Thomas is so striking as to make a direct link highly likely.

Where one has this kind of agreement, one next needs to ask whether the characteristic features of one work show up in the other.  I call these “diagnostic shards”, borrowing a term from archaeology, and I suggest that there are good, strong cases of Matthew’s and Luke’s redaction that show up in Thomas.  The Gospel of Thomas, for example, uses Matthew’s favourite term “kingdom of the heavens”.  And it has parallels to places where Matthew and Luke are clearly redacting Mark.  On one occasion (Thomas 79), Thomas has such clear parallels to Luke’s distinctive setting, language, imagery and theology, that it becomes unlikely that Thomas is not using Luke.

(CWS) 3. As you know, some scholars have written at length about the supposed relationship between Thomas and the Gospel of John. (This question is of particular interest to me, since I wrote an entire dissertation on the subject!). To your mind, what, if any, is the connection between John and Thomas? Please explain.

(MG) I must admit to feeling a little guilty about writing a book called Thomas and the Gospels and then dealing so little with John!  As it happens, I think it’s one of the most fascinating things about Thomas that it has at times a kind of Johannine feel, with Johannine echoes, and yet it does not feature the same kind of verbatim agreement that you see between Thomas and the Synoptics.  I think it is possible that Thomas knows John but it is difficult to establish.  I wonder whether it is in part a question of timing.  If I am right about the date of Thomas (I argue for a date in the 130s, Chapter 9), then John may not yet have the same degree of authority as the Synoptics have, and so its author is less inclined to look to its sayings to lend the account legitimacy.

I have very much enjoyed the work of several scholars, including yourself, on the relationship between John and Thomas.  I always introduce students to Elaine Pagels’s and Gregory Riley’s work on the relationship, not least because it provides such good intellectual stimulation on these important early Christian texts.  It’s an issue I want to think about some more in due course.

F Scott Spencer on Salty Wives, Spirited Mothers, and Savvy Widows (Book Notice)

I first came across F. Scott Spencer’s work when I was a salesman for Hendrickson Publishers and he published with us Journeying through Acts. I read his work again more recently as he was one of the contributors to a volume on multiple views on hermeneutics (Spencer taking the “Literary/Postmodern View”). Even when I had read his chapter, I wasn’t quite sure what this view was all about, but he takes up such a view again in his recent book from  Eerdmans: Salty Wives, Spirited Mothers, and Savvy Widows: Capable Women of Purpose and Persistence in Luke’s Gospel (2012). Spencer’s not the first person to write a book on women in Luke  – Barbara Reid has been very influential in this discussion with her book Choosing the Better Part. Also, there is a feminist companion to Luke (ed. A.J. Levine). Indeed, this isn’t even Spencer’s first book on women in the Gospels. In 2004, he wrote Dancing Girls, Loose Ladies, and Women of the Cloth: The Women in Jesus’ Life (Continuum). But this new book is not a rehashing of his 2004 volume. It has a persistent focus on Luke and his gospel.

How is this book different than other texts within the ambit of feminist biblical interpretation? While Spencer has a lot of respect for what he calls “FBI” agents (its an acronym, get it? Spencer gets this from the informal way Harvard students of Fiorenza refer to themselves), his desire is to study the gospel of Luke both in terms of faithfulness to the lives and plight of women in the world, and working from a hermeneutic of trust in God as he reads Holy Scripture. Spencer has no assumption that Luke was a bona fide feminist. Neither does he understand Luke to have an agenda where he wants to suppress and stifle the voices of women. Rather, he urges that a responsible study will reveal “the creative agency and capable activity of women in Luke’s Gospel” (x).

After an introductory chapter, he gives attention to 6 key episodes: Luke 15:8-10, Luke 1-2, Luke 8:1-3; Luke 10:38-42, Luke 4:25-26, and Luke 18:1-8.

If Spencer is anything, he is good at reading all the fine print of the text and thinking through what Luke actually writes. Sometimes you will encounter a strange or weak argument, but his project and the majority of his discussion are worthwhile. One bonus – Spencer is the king of puns. His cleverness keeps the text moving and helps the reader to stay engaged.

John T. Carroll’s Luke Commentary in the NTL (Review)

John T. Carroll is familiar to me as co-author of an excellent book called The Death of Jesus in Early Christianity. Thus, it was with great anticipation that I ordered his new commentary on Luke in the WJK NTL series. His commentary is rather short compared to other recent commentaries on Luke (Bock’s two volumes in BEC amount to about 2000 pages!; Joel Green’s NICNT is 1000+), but the NTL series tends to produce succinct commentaries that follow the flow of the text with concern for historical matters, exegetical conundrums, literary concerns, and theological ideas expressed in and through the biblical work. Carroll does all of this adroitly. The text also includes a fresh translation, in this case being a particular benefit because Carroll puts a lot of work into this, trying to be precise as well as stimulating. Thus, he translates (what we tend to see as) “kingdom of God” as “God’s reign.” Also, he renders the “Son of Man” language as “Son of Humanity.” This is a notoriously thorny issue (how to interpret the language of the “Son of Man”) and I don’t think Carroll’s solution is fully satisfactory, but I admire his attempt to translate it in a meaningful way beyond the tradition phrase.

In terms of authorship, Carroll finds the traditional association with Luke neither careless nor provable. Rather, he prefers to examine the gospel itself to determine a kind of “profile” of the (encoded) author: a Gentile, committed to God, the Jewish Scriptures, and the community of the Jewish people. So, this very well could be a God-fearer (p. 2).

A far as what this Gospel is about and why he wrote it. Carroll is not alone in thinking that this helps to establish a stable social identity for believers at the end of the first century:

Who are we as a people in light of recurrent conflict within synagogues and increasingly Gentile membership? How is Israel’s story—how are its Scriptures, its hopes, its future—still ours to claim? And with the embarrassment of our founder (Jesus) and his prominent successor (Paul) put to death through Roman judicial process, what place do we have in the Roman social order? The story Luke tells (in both Gospel and Acts) appears to take aim at precisely this sociorhetorical exigency: the need of early Christian audiences in urban centers of the Roman Empire to answer such questions, whether their own or those of others around them, and as the people for whom Jesus is Christ and Lord, to connect their own story to the ancient story of Israel. (4)

In terms of genre, Carroll follows Sterling by appealing to “apologetic historiography” (p. 5). As Carroll works through the text, though, he maintains a focus on the flow of the narrative itself – Luke’s story and how it shapes identity and teaches the community through a social, theological, and ethical vision.

The NTL typically features excurses peppered throughout the commentary. I was surprised that Carroll only included 4 of these, but they are certainly important ones: “Parallel Birth Announcements,” “Women in Luke’s Narrative,” “Poverty and Wealth in Luke’s Gospel,” and “The Reign of God and the Roman Empire in Luke’s Gospel.” In each of these discussions (of the second, third, and fourth topics), the conversations tend to be polarized in the history of scholarship. It is all the trend to see Luke as promoting women, focused on the poor, and anti-Rome. Carroll avoids this either-or in view of the complex nature of the third gospel. For example, pertaining to possible anti-imperial sentiments in Luke, Carroll says this:

Luke’s audience is introduced to, and invited to participate in, a counterreign defined by alternative practices and a fundamentally different notion of power and status, in a third space not dominated by the ideology of Rome, even if this counterrealm does not translate into overt revolution. And it is a space liberated from the malevolent, distorting rule of Satan. Yet for all of this, and despite Satan’s clam to have conferred power over the nations (4:6), the narrative does not paint Rome in unambiguously negative colors. (402)

Furthermore, Carroll says

As a third space, liberated from Satan’s control, this is a community whose identity is bound up with a crucified and risen Lord and whose character and future are defined in terms set by the reign not of Caesar but of God. Yet the movement that Luke terms ‘the way’ continues to navigate that Roman Empire, for the most part, peaceably, from within. (404)

What this means, in the end, is that Rome can easily be viewed as a destructive power in league with Satan. However, we also see signs that “God can make use of imperial power to accomplish purposes of liberation and salvation” (404).

As a whole, this commentary is very helpful when trying to work through the wider narrative of Luke , and you get Carroll’s take on the major exegetical problems in Luke. On the word-by-word or verse-by-verse level, space prohibits detailed discussion from Carroll, so if you go looking for a word study, you will be disappointed. This is a quick-and-easy-access commentary, but far from exhaustive. Carroll is a good reader of the text, sensitive to Luke’s story-telling mind. Carroll admits that he only scratches the theological surface of meaning and application, and then leaves it to others to take the ideas further. I recommend, if you use this commentary, to compliment it with other longer ones such as those by Culpepper (NIB) or Green (NICNT).

My Pauline commentary recommendations in latest issue of Catalyst

The online Methodist seminarian journal Catalyst just posted their Feb 2013 issue, which includes a short article of mine on some Pauline commentary recommendations. My recommendations change pretty much daily, but I will say that, right now, as I am teaching through Galatians, I find Richard Hays’ Galatians commentary (NIB) spectacularly rewarding!

For Catalyst, see here.