Book Review

K: JNWTS 30/2 (September 2015): 25-26

Roland Meynet, Luke: The Gospel of the Children of Israel. Rome: Gregorian and Biblical Press, 2015. 912 pp. Paper. ISBN: 978-88-7839-306-6. $90.

Meynet’s commentary is a tour de force. It is a major accomplishment and will reward the pastor and student with structural, narrative and biblical-theological insights throughout.

In the "Introduction", Meynet observes how higher critics argue that Luke is composed of disordered pericopes. He then traces this absurd approach in terms of the form critical method (i.e., the gospel writers merely served as compilers of disparate versions of oral traditions—thus making the gospel writers compilers of folklore). As a result, form critics atomize the text, destroying the unity of the Lukan narrative. Next came the redaction critics who built on form critics’s notion that the gospel writers were collectors. Redaction critics maintained the writers were creative theological editors (redactors). One result of this approach was to search through the redactional layers of the gospels so as to ascertain the "original" source as it arose from the "original" religious community—a community which created the tradition as well as the theology, advancing the redaction as its own agenda. To all of which Meynet makes this stunning remark: "the ‘final redactor’ is considered an idiot . . . as he felt obliged . . . to leave his text full of a multitude of mistakes" (9).

Then came the shift in literary criticism "away from historicizing research" (i.e., form critics and redaction critics) "of both the diachronic and genetic kind" (ibid). New synchronic, structural and narrative approaches have appeared which take the text of the gospels "in their final state". Finally, Meynet notes the rise of what he calls "rhetorical and biblical analysis" which he distinguishes from classical Greco-Roman rhetorical criticism. His point is that biblical rhetorical analysis is unique to the Bible—"there is a biblical rhetoric, different from western rhetoric" (10).

Rather than accuse Luke of awkward, confusing, even contradictory pericopes, "the reader may discover that . . . the third gospel is composed and very well composed" (11). Hence Meynet’s commentary seeks to unfold the well-ordered (and theologically intentioned) composition that Luke has left us—i.e., an appreciation for the "whole" gospel in its integrity. Meynet then disavows any intention on his own part to write a "scholarly" (i.e., higher critical) commentary: "this book is a new kind of commentary" (11). It seeks "to place oneself inside [Luke’s] world and his culture, in short, inside his rhetoric, rather than outside" (10).

Meynet organizes his commentary according to three methodological labels: composition (syntagmatic analysis); biblical context (paradigmatic connections); and interpretation (hermeneutic extrapolation [my term, JTD], drawing out the previous two examinations). "[T]he interpretation flows, at least when it is well conducted, from the relations that the [syntagmatic] composition has brought out and from the links that have been discovered in the [paradigmatic] biblical context" (14). And Meynet is honest enough to confess the "subjective aspect" of the "interpretation" element—a refreshing acknowledgement of (ultimately) his own fallibility.

The author also provides a helpful short glossary of technical terms (19-21) so as to aid the reader in understanding his rhetoric-literary lingo.

All of this is refreshing. From our point of view (orthodox Calvinistic biblical-theology), such an approach may serve the supernaturalism of the incarnation and the inerrant inscripturation of that narrative as it is fraught with dramatic, powerful and life-transforming (regenerating) significance. For Luke’s text is the ipsissimsa verba et acta of God the Father, in and through God the Son, through God the Holy Spirit for the redemption of his people—the new Israel of God (all of which Luke the evangelist clearly believed and recorded). Where we may differ from Meynet (on account of our high Christian and Protestant orthodoxy), we nonetheless are indebted to him for enabling us to see "treasurers new and old" (to borrow our Lord’s phrase in Matthew 13:52) in this magnificent third evangel.

The commentary which follows is a model of elucidation, penetration and theological riches. Every excursion into Luke’s narrative of the words and works of Christ provokes new insights into the treasures locked up in this majestic literary-theological masterpiece. Meynet is to be thanked (as is his English translator; the French original third edition of this work appeared in 2011) for unpacking these riches for the benefit of those who "love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity" (as Luke’s beloved companion, Paul, puts it in Ephesians 6:24, KJV).

—James T. Dennison, Jr.