Lukan Theology in the Light of the Gospel's Literary Structure

By Huffman, Douglas S. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, September 2006 | Go to article overview

Lukan Theology in the Light of the Gospel's Literary Structure


Huffman, Douglas S., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Lukan Theology in the Light of the Gospel's Literary Structure. By Douglas S. McComiskey. Paternoster Biblical Monographs. Carlisle: Paternoster, 2004, xvii + 388 pp., $39.99 paper.

With this revision of his 1997 doctoral dissertation (University of Aberdeen), Douglas S. McComiskey makes available to a wider audience his conclusions on the structure of the Gospel of Luke. The three chief benefits of McComiskey's work are: (1) the development of tests for authorial intentionality with regard to literary structures; (2) the establishment of a four-cycle literary structure for Luke 4:14-24:53; and (3) a new literary argument for Markan priority in addressing the Synoptic Problem.

Many have observed literary parallels in Luke and Acts and have offered various theories (historical, theological, and/or literary) regarding the author's motives for such occurrences. Since the mere existence of a parallel is not proof that the author intentionally constructed it as one, McComiskey attempts to take this kind of research to the next level by offering eleven tests for the authorial intentionality of observed parallels or patterns. He validates these tests by successfully applying them to the "universally recognized" Lukan parallelism within Luke 1:5-38. Using these tests for intentionality, he then examines the Lukan parallels and patterns observed by Robert C. Tannehill (chap. 1) and Charles H. Talbert (chap. 2) regarding the literary structure of Lukan writing and affirms many of them as intentional.

McComiskey's eleven tests are as follows (passim, but see esp. pp. 12-13): (1) Restriction to passages: "The greater the restriction of elements of correspondence to the relevant passages, the greater is the probability of authorial intent"; (2) Number of features: "The greater the number of reasonable parallel features between parallel passages, the greater is the probability of intent"; (3) Number of panels/passages: "Similarly, the greater the number of parallel passages (or panels) that match a proposed pattern or grouping of features, the greater is the case for intention"; (4) Attracts attention: "An element of correspondence that attracts the reader's attention contributes to the probability of intent"; (5) Constructive complexity: "Parallelism between complex units, such as combined pericopes, that appears constructive rather than random or coincidental increases the probability of intent"; (6) Redaction criticism: "If redaction critical observations yield evidence of Lukan adjustment to include or create the elements that constitute the literary device, the probability of intent is greater insofar as there are no superior reasons for the observed redaction"; (7) Important themes: "If the elements of correspondence that constitute the literary device are related to important Lukan themes, the probability of intent is enhanced"; (8) Historical/genre expectation: "Intent is more certain if there is no clear historical or genre expectation for the inclusion of the features in question and their sequence, if parallelism of sequence is observed"; (9) Common expression: "If a sequence or grouping of features in parallel is uncommon in other relevant literature, then the likelihood of coincidence due to common expression is diminished"; (10) Contiguity: "If the passages that constitute parallel groupings of passages are contiguous within the groupings, and not distributed broadly throughout the text, then selectivity on the part of the reader is diminished"; and (11) Cumulative case: "The probability of intent increases as more of the above tests are passed."

After establishing a precedent for the use of multiple-cycle literary structures in ancient authors (chap. 3), McComiskey proposes a four-cycle structure for the Gospel of Luke (4:14-24:53; after the prologue of Luke 1:1-4 and the parallels between John the Baptist and Jesus in Luke 1:5-4:13) with each cycle composed of the same twelve successively occurring strata (chap. …

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