The Davidic Messiah in Luke-Acts: The Promise and Its Fulfilment in Lukan Christology (JSNTS 110)

Written by Mark L. Strauss Reviewed By Richard A. Burridge

This revised version of an Aberdeen PhD, supervised by Max Turner, examines Jesus as the coming king from David’s line within Luke’s Christology. Strauss seeks to show how this relates to other christological motifs, arguing that Luke’s presentation is consistent and plays an integral part in his wider purpose in Luke-Acts.

Chapter 1 provides a survey of recent research on the Davidic Messiah in Luke-Acts, leading to the main questions for this study, which combines both redaction—and narrative-critical approaches. Chapter 2 considers the Davidic Promise Tradition, in a very brief survey of the OT background, followed by a more extended treatment of first-century Judaism. Strauss advocates a mediating position between the traditional view of a fixed messianic expectation and the more recent idea of diverse understandings: Davidic hope was widespread and relatively stable. Pre-Lukan material uses this promise tradition (without the warrior aspect), but Paul and Mark subordinate it to other christological concepts.

Chapter 3 on the Lukan birth narrative concludes that Davidic messiahship is the controlling Christology, introducing the presentation of Jesus in the rest of Luke-Acts. Chapter 4 jumps to the speeches of Acts, because of their Davidic material and because they are supreme examples of Luke’s theology and purpose. In fact, only three are studied—Peter’s Pentecost sermon (2:14–40), Paul’s synagogue address at Pisidian-Antioch (13:16–41, 46–47) and James’s judgement at the Council of Jerusalem (15:13–21). Jesus receives his messianic throne not as a warrior king in Jerusalem, but exalted at God’s right hand, and his rejection by many in Israel leads to the inclusion of the Gentiles.

Recognizing that the Davidic motif is relatively rare in the rest of Luke, Strauss turns next to the programmitic Nazareth Sermon. Its context of Luke 3–4 suggests the inauguration of a royal-messianic ministry, while its content combines the prophet of Isaiah 61 with the servant of Isaiah 40–55 for the messiah 9 and 11. This climaxes with Peter’s confession in Luke 9:20. Chapter 6 considers the Transfiguration ‘exodus’ (9:31) and argues that the journey to Jerusalem is a new exodus, not like Moses or Deuteronomy, but of Isaianic eschatological expectation. Thus Luke links the roles of servant and king to explain the suffering of the Christ in Jerusalem. It is through his life and death, resurrection and exaltation that the promises are fulfilled. A final chapter summarizes the book and indicates its implications for Luke’s purpose and his wider theology. It concludes with an extensive bibliography and indices.

Strauss makes out a plausible case for linking various aspects of Luke’ Christology through this stress on Messianic expectation in its Isaianic form. However, after all this argument, it is slightly curious to read that ‘Luke’s main aim in writing may not be christological per se’ (p. 344). More attention to Luke’s purpose and the overall form and genre of Luke-Acts at the start might have helped Strauss’s thesis. If the Gospel is, as I believe, a form of ancient biography, then the christological purpose is primary—and how the author views the person of Jesus is crucial. Clearly, the birth narrative and the speeches in Acts in Jewish contexts on which Strauss concentrates do have this Davidic stress, but other Acts speeches, especially in Greek contexts do not. While Strauss does attempt to show his Davidic theme can be traced in the rest of the Gospel, he does not apply this to the rest of Acts, which is necessary if it is a controlling theme for the whole two-volume work.

Richard A. Burridge

King’s College, London