Tom Wright has been churning out new volumes of the “For Everyone” series at an impressive rate. The series features his own translation of the New Testament, broken into chunks of around 10 verses followed by a page or two of comments. The series is aimed at a broad readership, and most sections of comments are begun with an anecdote. Luke is covered in one relatively thick volume (about 300 pages). As usual key words are highlighted in bold, and defined in a glossary at the back.
The gospels are of course one of Wright’s acknowledged areas of expertise, and many of the themes he develops in “Jesus and the Victory of God” may be found in layman’s terms here. As you might expect, there are plenty of pieces of historical information to help us truly appreciate the culture of the day, and the impact that Jesus’ words would have had on his original audience.
Wright’s typical emphases on the Temple, Exodus and Exile can be detected throughout. He also may surprise new readers with his interpretation of the parables traditionally thought to be about the “second coming” and the “end times”. In Wright’s view, they describe the destruction of the temple in AD70 and the vindication that this event brought to Jesus, although they are not without contemporary relevance.
This is not however a merely academic analysis brought to a wider audience. The comments often encourage practical response and application as well as encourage Christians to think more deeply about how their faith should be put into action. The book ends with some themes from Wright’s “Resurrection of the Son of God”, describing what the Christian understanding of the significance and future hope or resurrection is all about.
This book will prove useful to those wanting a fresh look at the gospel of Luke from an evangelical historian’s perspective. It’s format lends itself to being used for daily devotions. It will get you thinking again about the meaning of Jesus’ parables, and brings a deeper understanding of the significance of Jesus’ message. Throughout it respects Luke as a first class historian in his own right, and seeks to interpret the way he has organised the material in the gospel.
While the BST series claims not to be a commentary series, many of the New Testament volumes follow a typical verse by verse approach. By contrast, the volumes covering Old Testament books take a broader view of the overall flow of a book, highlighting its major themes without necessarily touching on every verse or discussing all the interpretational or theological issues that are raised. Michael Wilcock’s volume on Luke is very much in the latter style.
The author acknowledges from the outset that this is an intentionally brief volume majoring on exposition rather than exegesis. There are no prolonged defences of traditional authorship or historicity. Neither is there more than a few passing references to what is and isn’t found in the other gospel records. Controversial or complicated passages are noted as such, but not explored in any depth. The introduction is particularly short, although this is compensated by an extended first chapter on 1:1-4. After that, the pace picks up considerably, and he begins by analysing Luke’s interesting literary style in the birth narrative.
Rather than treating each parable, miracle or teaching separately, Wilcock prefers to group them together and demonstrate what common themes are to be found in all of them. He is primarily concerned with grasping Luke’s flow of thought and discovering why he arranged the material in the way he did. This means that sections that you might expect to find a long section of comments on (e.g. the Lord’s prayer) are covered in only a few sentences. It also means that the book is not suitable as a reference for those who want an explanation of an individual pericope.
However, this book does do a good job of fulfilling the stated aim of the series – to highlight “the message of” a particular book. Luke’s portrayal of Jesus as the healer and saviour for all nations is at the forefront throughout the book. Also, in keeping with the rest of the BST series, practical and theological application is very important, and nowhere more so than in the chapter on the cross. Wilcock strongly disagrees with any suggestion that Luke had no theology of the cross.
If you want an overview of the book of Luke this is a good place to start. At 200 pages it is much more manageable than most commentaries on Luke. In fact it will serve well as a companion to other introductory level commentaries on Luke, which will leave out much of Wilcock’s treatment of the flow of thought in favour of cramming in more comments on individual verses.