The following review first appeared in Reviews in Religion and Theology 1998/4, pp. 101-2. It is reproduced here with permission.
Jonathan Knight, Luke's Gospel (New Testament Readings) London & New York: Routledge, 1998 pp. viii + 232 ISBN 0415173221
Routledge’s series New Testament Readings is providing alternative approaches to the New Testament, written largely by scholars who seem to be intent on avoiding the sterility of many of the standard works, and it is producing some gems. Jonathan Knight’s volume on Luke’s Gospel, innovative in both method and content, is no exception.
In his discussion of the Synoptic Problem (pp. 11-16) Knight sides with those like E. P. Sanders who combine acceptance of Markan Priority with a refreshing scepticism over Q, but this book’s focus is not primarily on source-criticism. His main interest is "Luke as a narrative" (Chapter 2) and after introducing pertinent issues in narrative-criticism, he progresses to his own reading of Luke (Chapter 3). This reading takes up a large part of the book (c. 70 pages) and progresses through the text section by section with many interesting observations along the way. Knight plausibly emphasises the Temple as a key theme in Luke’s story -- the present temple is denounced by Jesus "in the hope that the eschatological temple will be revealed by God" (p. 117), and Jesus is not only its prophet but also its cornerstone.
The insights are only a little compromised by the book’s oddities, chief among which is Knight’s adherence to J. M. Dawsey’s theory that there is a disagreement between "Jesus" and "the narrator" concerning Jesus’ identity. For this to work, Knight has to maintain that statements like "he gave them strict orders not to tell this to anyone" (9.20) are not simply indirect speech but are rather examples of places at which "the narrator unwittingly suppresses the suffering of Jesus in his attempt to conceal the Messiahship of Jesus" (p. 101).
Knight’s reading is followed by a selection of "Alternative Readings of Luke" (Chapter 4), predominantly deconstruction and feminism, and then a chapter on "themes" (Chapter 5) in which the famous problems are discussed -- Jews and Gentiles, salvation-history, ethics and kingdom of God. The book concludes with a fine piece (Chapter 6) entitled "A Reading of Readings", Knight’s review of what he regards as the key literature on Luke -- an interesting selection (including Conzelmann, Marshall, Maddox, Moore and Goulder) with special emphasis given to the much-underrated Franklin.
Jonathan Knight’s Luke’s Gospel is that rare thing in New Testament studies, a book that one actually wants to read from cover to cover. It is unusual in its ability to combine sophistication at the literary-critical level with a sound historical-critical footing. Let us hope that "readings" like this will not be so rare in the future.
University of Birmingham