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Spring 1992 · Vol. 21 No. 1 · pp. 102–4 

Book Review


Craig A. Evans. New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1990. xvii + 397 pages.

Reviewed by Devon H. Wiens

In this volume of the new NIBC series (easily confused {103}, unfortunately, with the similarly named New International Commentary series), Craig Evans, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity Western University (British Columbia), treats the text of Luke in a fashion which will be of interest to Mennonite Brethren readers. W. Ward Gasque, editor of the New Testament volumes, indicates that the aim of the series “is to provide for the benefit of every Bible reader reliable guides to the books of the Bible—representing the best of contemporary scholarship presented in a form that does not require formal theological education to understand” (ix). This purpose, which the reviewer can only applaud, Evans substantially endorses as well in his Preface (xiii).

Among the critical assumptions informing the commentary (see pages 1-16) are the following: a “provisional acceptance” of the tradition of Lucan authorship, the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE (not further specified) as the time of writing, the priority of Mark, and the existence of Q, though not necessarily as a single, written document (both Mark and Q have been utilized by Luke). Evans also maintains that, theologically, Israel is still a part of God’s plan for Luke, and that the evangelist is not anti-Semitic.

The commentary is something of a mixed breed; it is part critical, part expositional, and occasionally devotional, any one aspect of which would be difficult to do justice to, in only 400 pages (compare, for instance, Fitzmeyer’s two-volume work on Luke, which exceeds 1500 pages). In terms of format, Evans, in discussing each textual unit of Luke, first briefly introduces the unit by noting its structure and its relationship to the literary context (and often to the other two synoptic gospels as well), then offers his comments on the unit, and, thirdly, concludes with “Additional Notes.” Although the “Additional Notes” usually concern more technical matters than the commentary proper, the distinction between the two is not always clear. Evans does not make much of the overall structure of Luke (a bare-bones outline is offered on page 15); as a consequence, the work as a whole is somewhat discursive.

Evans works essentially as an evangelical redaction critic, in this respect, the commentary represents a healthy via media between an anti-intellectual refusal to see editorial effort at work in Luke and a leftist fundamentalism which assumes a substantial fabrication by the evangelist. Accordingly, there is a cautious embrace of modern critical study of {104} the Gospels (see pages 56, 60, 68, 110, 116, 215, 267, 295, 318, and 328-29, for instances). Commenting on the Pharisees, Evans notes: “What the twentieth-century reader may not realize is that because Christianity in Luke’s time was criticized and opposed primarily by Pharisees, the Pharisees are portrayed in the Gospels as Jesus’ chief enemies” (91).

The reviewer found little with which he would disagree, as far as Evans’ conclusions are concerned, though I fail to see that Luke is all that different from Matthew and Mark in his distinguishing between the fall of Jerusalem and the time of the coming of the Son of Man, as Evans claims (306ff). However, his discussion of the “Olivet Discourse” is quite enlightening, on the whole. Indeed, I registered a fairly impressive list of insightful comments on the text.

There are some weaknesses which may be noted. The writer has a curious tendency to employ secondary sources, when citing ancient works (e.g., Josephus, p. 18; Aristeas, p. 19; Gospel According to the Hebrews, p. 59; the Mishnah, p. 334). He tends also to be overly reliant on other Lucan commentaries, especially Ellis, Fitzmeyer, Marshall, James Sanders, and Tiede (to the latter two he acknowledges considerable indebtedness). The reviewer at times perceived the work to be a compendium of other scholars’ views. Finally, Jack Sanders’ “ax-grinding,” to the effect that Luke is anti-Semitic (an unwarranted conclusion, in the reviewer’s mind as well), is polemicized against to such an extent that Evans himself seems to join the grinders’ guild. On the whole, whereas many will undoubtedly be helped by the commentary, there are better examples of what remains a somewhat prosaic and unexciting representation of the Third Evangelist.

Devon H. Wiens
Fresno Pacific College
Fresno, California

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