I was recently asked what commentaries I am finding most helpful as I research the Gospel of Luke. Briefly, in a not-so-particular order, here are a few thoughts on Luke (and a couple on Acts):
I. Howard Marshall on Luke (NIGTC) (1978), though its been around a while (!), nearly always hits the significant exegetical issues of a given passage. Marshall is also concise: Whereas some commentators need two volumes, Marshall is able to pack it into one. I always consult Marshall.
Joel B. Green on Luke (NICNT) (1997) is good especially for his narrative-critical sensitivities in the text. Like Marshall, Green is concise, but he is unable to cover near as much ground! I usually consult Green.
François Bovon on Luke (EKK in German and Hermeneia in English) (1989–2013) is a seasoned Lukan scholar. He has produced commentaries on Luke for more than two decades (though the latest works are essentially updated English versions of the EKK commentaries). Bovon is aware of a breadth of scholarship in more languages than most commentators know. I always consult Bovon. (I’m waiting to get my hands on the second and third volumes of the Hermeneia series, one of which was out just last year).
John Nolland on Luke (WBC) (1989–1993) is certainly helpful, though I increasingly find the commentary “hit and miss.” Am I the only one who finds him majoring on minors and minoring on majors? Even so, I usually consult Nolland.
Darrell Bock on Luke and Acts (BECNT) (1994–2007) used to be a ‘go to’ commentary, though both the two Luke volumes and the one on Acts have fallen in line with the others. Bock is exegetically rigorous, perhaps the greatest strength of volumes, and I like the layout of the BECNT series. I just don’t find myself reading much in the Luke volumes that I’ve not read in Marshall, Bock’s Doktorvater. Of course, the Acts volume is a bit different. I almost always consult Bock.
John T. Carroll on Luke (NTL) (2012) is helpful for its awareness of recent scholarship, as well as its narrative and theological sensitivity. You can read more in my recent reviews (part one, two, three). I sometimes consult Carroll.
Joseph Fitzmyer on Luke (AB) (1981–) is helpful for its attention to detail. I find also him concise, in many ways like Marshall. I consult him sometimes but that is only because I don’t have my own copies! (The library copies are in high demand).
Craig Keener on Acts (Baker) (2012–?) is exhaustive. That’s an understatement. You’ve probably heard how big it is. The first volume (of four!) is over 1,000 pages. He’s left me no choice but to consult him! On a more serious note, I’ve found the first volume helpful, up to date, and showing a great awareness of ancient primary sources.
Richard Pervo on Acts (Hermeneia) (2008) is reasonably up-to-date and concise. I’m not crazy about the layout of the Hermeneia series, but Pervo is helpful and I find myself consulting him often.
I’ll stop there. These are among those I find most helpful.
Increasingly I consult the German commentators, the likes of Schürmann (1969, 1994), Wolter (2008), and Schneider (1977, 1984) particularly. Of course, I’ve left out older commentators (Plummer, Cadbury, Conzelmann, Haenchen, etc.) though I often make use of them, too. Tannehill, Tiede, Johnson, Garland, Evans (C. A. and C. F.), Loisy, and others deserve mention, but to be honest, they’re not among those I consult immediately unless I am looking at an issue I know one of them covers well.
I’d be happy if you have one that ought to have made the list!
I’ve only used Marshall and Bock.. What do you think of R.T. France? I love his stuff on Matthew.
Hey Matt, great to hear from you! So far as I know, France has a volume on Luke coming out later this year in the Teach the Text commentary series by Baker. I assume he had finished most or all of it before his passing last year, but I have not heard any specifics on this. Should be helpful, I’m sure.
If you had to have one volume on Luke what would it be?
I have a choice between Green or Bock, both on sale at the moment. Also Acts – have you checked out Bock (BECNT), Schnabel (ZECNT), Peterson (Pillar). Any comments on these 3.
It depends a bit on your situation and purpose. Assuming you’re wanting some technical discussions but not too much… If you’re choosing between Green and Bock, and you don’t have much else on Luke, I would go with Bock since he covers more (in 2 vols). On Acts, I have found Bock helpful at many points. I have not used Schnabel or Peterson to any great extent.
This is an old post but even better because you have had more time to re-read. Can you tell me which commentary you rank as the best on Luke and Acts?
You end each review with the words “I always” or “I usually” “almost always” is that a way of ranking?
I would really like your take on Marshall, Bovon and Bock on Luke. Peterson and Bock on Acts?
It depends on what you need the commentary to do. I still like Marshall and Nolland for Luke when I’m wanting quick reviews of the exegetical ‘problems’ in the Greek, though they are both dated (esp. Marshall). I’ve warmed up more to Carroll’s NLT (2012), and I’ve tended to use Bock less and less. Bovon is good on Luke, though the Hermeneia series tends not to be as good on theological threads through a book. On Acts I’m less sure. I now have all four of Keener’s volumes, but they are so large that they become nearly unusable as commentaries (they are more likely encyclopaedias). Peterson is good on Acts, and Pervo has strenghts (within the scope of a Hermeneia volume).
Thanks a lot for the reply Johua. I have been raking my head on whether I need Bock’s 2 volume work if I have Marshall, Bovon and Edwards. And whether to go for Bock’s or Nolland’s for detailed exegetical and theological work? Have you looked at Edwards in the Pillar series? Anyway, the little I’ve read looks good especially for theology and the pulpit. I hope to check out Carroll’s.
My sense is that Nolland might have the edge on exegetical details and Bock on theological. Bock may come out on top with both considered, but since I’m not using Bock a lot these days, take that with a pinch of salt. I haven’t used Edwards extensively but I think it’s good. I would want to look at it closer before recommending it as a ‘go to’ resource, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it at least as a supplementary ‘voice’ on the shelf.
Thanks a lot Joshua. Much appreciated.