Luke: An Early Narrative Theologian

Stephen I. Wright, a tutor in Biblical Studies and Practical Theology at Spurgeon’s College (London, United Kingdom), wrote the entry on the Gospel of Luke in Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible (Baker Academic). I love what he writes below about the importance of storytelling as a medium for theology and history:

As an early “narrative theologian,” Luke raised to new sophistication a genre with which Mark (and maybe Matthew) had already experimented. He does his “theology” through the story he tells of Jesus, carefully linked with that of Israel and the church. The fact that this narrative approach preceded the theological systematizing of later generations should not be lost on us. 

Luke’s skillful storytelling is not mere spinning of yarns to edify or entertain. His story centers on historical events. It is based on tradition from eyewitnesses and his own careful investigation (1:2-3). More than any other biblical book, Luke reminds us that theology not anchored in history is sub-Christian and docetic. 

Supremely among the Evangelists, Luke shows us that Jesus’ own “theologizing” was done largely in story. Unlike the Gospel itself, his parables do not depend for their force on any claim to represent actual events. But though they are often surprising and shocking, they depict realistic scenes from the world of Jesus’ hearers, inviting them to reconfigure that world in mind and behavior. In fictional microcosm they have a similar purpose to Luke’s historiographical macrocosm: to enable people to recognize God’s activity in the world, and then fall in step with it.

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