Who is righteous and how one becomes righteous is a question often debated in Pauline studies but rarely explored in the Gospels. In this book, Denise Powell investigates Luke’s answer to the question by tracing his “righteous” characters sequentially through the Gospel narrative. By portraying Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary, Simeon, and Anna as righteous at the beginning of the narrative, Luke establishes the characteristics of the righteous. As a result of the primacy effect, these birth narrative characters become the standard against which the righteous nature of subsequent characters is measured. This leads to uncertainty over who belongs in the category of the righteous when later stories contrast an ostensibly righteous character with a “sinner.” The increasing uncertainty over who belongs in which category functions as the backdrop for the centurion’s declaration that Jesus is “righteous.” By way of the “sword discourse” of 22:35-38 and the subsequent arrest scene, Jesus intentionally places himself in the “sinner” category in fulfilment of Scripture. Since Jesus has placed himself in solidarity with sinners, and they with him, the centurion’s declaration that Jesus is righteous has implications for all the sinners in the Lukan story.
Denise Powell teaches New Testament at Trinity College Queensland and the Australian College of Ministries.
Chapter One: Introductory Matters
Chapter Two: Δίκ*: A Significant Word Group in the Lukan Narrative
Chapter Three: Establishing the Characteristics of the Δίκαι
Chapter Four: Developing Uncertainty
Chapter Five: Sinners Become Righteous
Chapter Six: Conclusion
Denise Powell makes a valuable, substantive, and original contribution to research on Luke’s Gospel. Careful literary analysis, with judicious attention to intertextuality (specifically interacting with pertinent Hebrew Bible texts and motifs), yields fresh insight into the Lukan narrative’s presentation of Jesus and other key characters in relation to the categories of “righteous” and “sinner.” I have worked with Luke’s narrative as one of my primary research activities over the last three decades, and I have learned a great deal from this study. The exegetical probes that are the heart of the study are perceptive, vigorously presented, and will be of interest to many readers—scholars, teachers, and students. My engagement with this study will inform my own future work on this Gospel.
Denise Powell fills an important gap in Lukan studies. Who Are the Righteous? provides a close, narrative reading of the motif of righteousness in Luke, paying especially close attention to the categories of ‘sinners’ and ‘the righteous.’ According to Powell, Luke ambiguates these categories to show the righteous Jesus in solidarity with sinners and to highlight that sinners have the possibility of becoming part of the ‘righteous.’ An intriguing and well-articulated argument and a worthwhile contribution to conversations on Luke.
Denise Powell has written a clear and compelling argument. Drawing appropriately on a variety of methods when helpful, she predominantly adopts a narrative approach and shows some mastery of it. She is sensitive to details as well as to Luke’s larger patterns, ably exploring characters and their interrelationships, with a keen eye for how they are characterized for the readers. Powell models what it means to listen well to Luke, and she helps her readers do the same. Once Luke is heard on the theme of ‘the righteous,’ what a magnificent message for the sinners who find themselves righteous along with Jesus! A must-read for Luke lovers.
Dr Powell's book creatively and thoroughly investigates two categories that are juxtaposed in the Gospel of Luke: the righteous and the sinners. She demonstrates that Luke flips these categories by presenting Jesus as the righteous one whose solidarity with sinners makes the sinners righteous alongside him. Dr Powell is to be commended for her enthusiastic and persuasive style which makes the book an interesting read as well as an important contribution to a central issue in Luke’s Gospel.