Luke / Acts and the End of History

Luke/Acts and the End of History investigates how understandings of history in diverse texts of the Graeco-Roman period illuminate Lukan eschatology. In addition to Luke/Acts, it considers ten comparison texts as detailed case studies throughout the monograph: Polybius’s Histories, Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History, Virgil’s Aeneid, Valerius Maximus’s Memorable Doings and Sayings, Tacitus’s Histories, 2 Maccabees, the Qumran War Scroll, Josephus’s Jewish War, 4 Ezra, and 2 Baruch.

The study makes a contribution both in its method and in the questions it asks. By placing Luke/Acts alongside a broad range of texts from Luke’s wider cultural setting, it overcomes two methodological shortfalls frequently evident in recent research: limiting comparisons of key themes to texts of similar genre, and separating non-Jewish from Jewish parallels. Further, by posing fresh questions designed to reveal writers’ underlying conceptions of history—such as beliefs about the shape and end of history or divine and human agency in history—this monograph challenges the enduring tendency to underestimate the centrality of eschatology for Luke’s account.

Influential post-war scholarship reflected powerful concerns about “salvation history” arising from its particular historical setting, and criticised Luke for focusing on history instead of eschatology due to the parousia’s delay. Though some elements of this thesis have been challenged, Luke continues to be associated with concerns about the delayed parousia, affecting contemporary interpretation. By contrast, this study suggests that viewing Luke/Acts within a broader range of texts from Luke’s literary context highlights his underlying teleological conception of history.

It demonstrates not only that Luke retains a sense of eschatological urgency seen in other New Testament texts, but a structuring of history more akin to the literature of late Second Temple Judaism than the non-Jewish Graeco-Roman historiographies with which Luke/Acts is more commonly compared. The results clarify not only Lukan eschatology, but related concerns or effects of his eschatology, such as Luke’s politics and approach to suffering. This monograph thereby offers an important corrective to readings of Luke/Acts based on established exegetical habits, and will help to inform interpretation for scholars and students of Luke/Acts as well as classicists and theologians interested in these key questions.

This volume is a much needed and much appreciated corrective to the long held but inadequate views of Conzelmann.

Those who have spent any time in the study of Luke/ Acts have come across Hans Conzelmann.  His work casts a massive shadow across the field and he is as impossible to avoid as Bultmann is for the Synoptics and the Theology of the New Testament and as von Rad is for Old Testament theology.  Indeed, persons ignoring Conzelmann simply cannot be taken seriously as scholars of Luke / Acts.

Accordingly, it is only proper for Crabbe to deal with him.  But she doesn’t just deal with him, she corrects him, and that is a massive achievement.

The contents of the book are available for viewing here, along with various snippets freely offered for downloading.

Many books have been written on the topic of history in the Lukan material.  This volume is unique in its presentation of extrabiblical contemporaneous material as necessary for a proper understanding of the Lukan purpose.

The first two chapters are the typical ‘status questionis’ of the doctoral dissertation (which this is, revised), and the methodology to be utilized is fully and carefully detailed.  Chapter three examines ‘history’ as that word needs to be understood in order to follow the development of the dissertation.  Chapter four focuses on the notion of historical determinism whilst chapter five advances theories concerning human freedom and responsibility within history.

Chapter six is the genuine heart of the study, discussing, as it does, the present and the end of history.  Virgil is brought in as example and so are Luke/ Acts.

Chapter seven draws some conclusions and readers may want to consider beginning here to get a sense of where the book is headed before they commence reading at the first chapter.  That, by the way, is always a fairly good procedure when one reads revised dissertations: begin at the conclusion to see where the author wants to end up and then read the work to see if he or she actually accomplishes what they set out to do.  Many times they do not.  In this case, however, Crabbe does exactly what she meant to do.

The book ends with a series of 5 appendices which are simply charts illustrating the occurrences of Greek words related to ‘time’ across the New Testament.  There’s then a full bibliography, an index of ancient sources, an index of modern authors, and finally an index of subjects.

The great thing about this book is its heavy dependence on primary sources.  In an era when most scholars seem to be satisfied with collecting secondary sources and banging on endlessly only about how original sources have fared in ‘reception history’, this work delves into the works that matter instead of the works that matter to those disinterested in reading ancient texts.

Crabbe has done excellent work.  She deserves our appreciation.  And, I think, were Hans Conzelmann still with us, he would appreciate Crabbe’s work very much indeed.

If you are a Lukan scholar, this book is must reading.  If you aren’t, you will still enjoy this volume for its clarity, cogency, and helpfulness.

About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.
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