- Luke’s Christology of Divine Identity by Nina Henrichs-Tarasenkova
Henrichs-Tarasenkova is an adjunct instructor at the University of Portland (USA) and at Asbury Theological Seminary (USA). She completed her PhD at Brunel University (UK) under the guidance of Dr Joel Green and this book is an edited revision of that thesis. The entire study is a wonderful example of a consistent application of literary theory and exegesis to the narrative of Luke. In her opening chapter, Henrichs-Tarasenkova highlights what she considers to be one of the remaining challenges in the realm of Lukan Christology, namely the question of the divinity of Jesus. She points out that, since the writings of Conzelmann on the theology of Luke (in the 1950s), there has been marked reluctance, among scholars, to seek out signs of the divinity of Jesus in Luke-Acts. However, some scholars have chosen to swim against the stream, like Laurentin, Turner, Buckwalter, Fletcher-Louis, Rowe and Bauckham. In particular, she draws attention to Turner’s understanding of the Holy Spirit, in Luke and Acts, as a symbolic agent in the fusion of the identities of Jesus and Yahweh. Building on the work of these scholars, Henrichs-Tarasenkova sets out to do a close-reading of Luke (1–2) and Acts (2 and 14) comparing Luke’s characterisation of Yahweh, with his characterisation of Jesus. Throughout the work, one cannot fail to be impressed by the author’s attention to detail and her meticulous scholarship.
Chapter one is entitled “Luke’s Divine Christology in Scholarly Studies” and is a scholarly review focusing on the impact of Conzelmann and some dissenting voices. Each chapter ends with an adequate summary, and, in this instance, she underlines the need for revisiting the question of [End Page 220] the divinity of Jesus in Luke-Acts. She challenges Conzelmann’s assertion of divinity as tied to the noun “theos” and his quest for a systematic theology akin to that found among the early church fathers. Instead, she offers an alternative direction, founded in the notion of literary characterisation.
Chapter two, entitled “Construction of Characters’ Identities in the Lukan Narrative,” opens with a detailed study of narrative theory, text and reader in the production of meaning, and the relationship between character and action, following Abbott, Hochman, and Sternberg among many others. She includes a solid section on ancient historical narratives, and compares the historiography of Luke-Acts with Jewish historiography. She pays attention to the functional elements within both Luke-Acts and contemporary writings with regard to the creation of characters.
Chapter three is entitled “Exploring the Categories of Personal and Divine Identity” and examines two contemporary trajectories in the modern Western world, namely the Path of Introspection and the older traditional Path of Relationality. Given her family’s history, in the former Soviet Union, and their struggle to retain their Christian faith against significant opposition, this section of Henrichs-Tarasenkova’s study offers a refreshingly different take on identity construction. She looks at Hellenistic and Jewish perspectives, noting the emphases found there on the relational aspects of characterisation, ending with the vexed question of Second Temple monotheism and the question of a divine Jesus, concluding that Bauckham offered a reasonable way forward. This opens the way for a study of the characterisation of Yahweh and Jesus, viewed from both relational and functional angles.
Chapter four is entitled “YHWH’s Divine Identity in Luke-Acts,” and is a close reading of Luke 1:5–25, 57–80 under the rubric “Good news of YHWH’s mercy and salvation”; Luke 1:26–38, 39–56, 2:1–20, “YHWH’s unexpected ways”; and Acts 14:8–18, “YHWH’s claim on the Gentiles.” The author’s reading is straightforward and balanced, drawing attention to the critical point that Luke builds up his characterisation of Yahweh based on what God does and his relationship to the people of Israel (by covenant) and to the gentiles (recipients of a universal promise according...