Luke Bible Commentary: Interview with Joel Green

Joel Green Luke commentary

Joel B. Green, Ph.D. (University of Aberdeen, Scotland) is a New Testament scholar, theologian, author, Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Green is a prolific author who has written on a diverse range of topics related to both New Testament scholarship and theology. His books include Dictionary of Jesus and the GospelsJesus of Nazareth: Lord and Christ: Essays on the Historical Jesus and New Testament ChristologyWhat about the Soul?, Neuroscience and Christianity Anthropology. He is an ordained elder of the United Methodist Church.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Luke?

I had written on the death of Jesus in the Gospels, and a book called How to Read the Gospels and Acts. The invitation from F.F. Bruce to write this commentary, though, was in some ways a life-changer, since it focused my attention early in my career on the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. I found myself more and more interested in what it means to “inhabit a narrative,” and to learn how narratives help us to think about what God is doing in the world and how we respond faithfully to him.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

Commentaries in the NICNT are especially for pastors and students, and then for scholars. In fact, most of the correspondence I receive about my commentary on Luke comes from preachers, adult education teachers, and theological students.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Luke?

When it was first published, my commentary on Luke stood out for its relative lack of attention on what was going on “behind the text” – its general lack of concern with determining “what actually happened,” with the sources Luke might have used, that sort of thing. Instead, it focused on what Luke has given us in his Gospel, on Luke’s theological representation of historical events.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how best to represent Luke’s own theological concerns, his spirituality, his understanding of salvation and discipleship. And I worked a lot on how best to invite my readers into their own encounters with Luke’s Gospel.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

“Adoration of the Shepherds” by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

It’s hard to pick out a single section as particularly memorable, since the whole process of research and writing was meaningful and fruitful.

Actually, what was most fascinating to me was preparing to write. While working on Luke, I often spoke on the Gospel at family camps or pastors’ retreats or conferences or adult education classes. I listened carefully for the sorts of questions that people raised about this or that part of Luke. These helped to guide me in my thinking about Luke, and in my work on Luke.

As time has gone on, the section of Luke that I’ve returned to over and over has been Mary’s Song, Luke 1:46-55. I’ve come to think of this song as Luke’s understanding of God (his faithfulness and saving purpose) and of human response to God in a nutshell.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

I remember the first time I taught the Gospel of Luke in a seminary classroom, and read on the course evaluations this comment from a student: “What was serendipitous about this course? Luke! Who would’ve known?” I often felt the same way as I worked on the commentary. In fact, when I first started writing, I was on sabbatical in Durham, England, working away, often alone, in a study carrell in one of the basements of the library. Unhindered by protocols that usually govern library work (!), I found myself praying, even singing, as I experienced Luke leading me by the hand through Jesus’s Spirit-saturated ministry.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Luke?

Most importantly, I encourage people to read Luke’s Gospel, and his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles! Additionally, they will find a wonderful resource in the Dictionary of Jesus & the Gospels. In the revised edition (2013), I wrote the essay on the Gospel of Luke, so people can find additional bibliography there.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I have several related projects in the works, including the NICNT on the Acts of the Apostles, and two volumes in the “discovering” series: Discovering Luke and Discovering Acts.

People can follow me on Twitter (@JoelBGreen), Academia.edu (fuller.academia.edu/JoelBGreen), or Facebook (facebook.com/joel.b.green). I try to keep an updated website at JoelBGreen.com.

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