The Narrative Function of the Holy Spirit as a Character in Luke-Acts

Article excerpt

THIS IS A WELCOME CONTRIBUTION to burgeoning study both on Luke's understanding of the Holy Spirit and on the application of narratology to the New Testament. Redaction-critical study of the Spirit in Luke-Acts has tended to focus narrowly on the Spirit's role in enabling prophetic speech. Shepherd's findings largely support this thesis, but he goes further to explore, in narrative terms, the characterization of the Spirit within Luke-Acts. Shepherd follows an initial discussion of characterization in narratology with a sequential examination of the Lukan material wherein the Spirit is explicitly mentioned or has an implicit role. Surprisingly, given his interdisciplinary aim, Shepherd relies especially on the synthesis of narrative theories of characterization developed by another New Testament scholar, David Gowler; in any case, such theoretical concerns fade into the background as the study develops, surfacing in summary and concluding statements. Throughout, Shepherd finds that the Spirit functions as the narrative symbol for reliabilityfor the reliability of prophetic figures who speak under the Spirit's inspiration, for the reliability of the narrative as indicated by the care with which it shows the work of the Spirit behind and through its plot, and, as God's virtual "stand-in," for the reliability of God. …