The Kingdom according to Luke and Acts

A Social, Literary, and Theological Introduction

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This substantial, reliable introduction examines the character and purpose of Luke and Acts and provides a thorough yet economical treatment of Luke's social, historical, and literary context. Karl Allen Kuhn presents Luke's narrative as a "kingdom story" that both announces the arrival of God's reign in Jesus and describes the ministry of the early church, revealing the character of the kingdom as dramatically at odds with the kingdom of Rome. Kuhn explores the background, literary features, plotting, and themes of Luke and Acts but also offers significant, fresh insights into the persuasive force of Luke's impressively crafted and rhetorically charged narrative.


Introduction: The Heart of Luke's Witness to the Kingdom
Part 1: Luke and His World
1. Imperium Romanum: An Empire of Disparity and Want
2. Israelite Visions of the Kingdom
3. Luke's Place in Caesar's Kingdom: The Social Location of the Third Evangelist
Part 2: Luke's Narrative Artistry
4. The Building Blocks of Luke's Narrative
5. Plotting through Parallels
6. The Kingdom Story through Speech and Theme in Luke's Infancy Narrative
7. The Kingdom Story through Speech and Theme in Luke 24 and Acts of the Apostles
8. The Power and Prominence of Luke's Pathos
Part 3: Luke's Kingdom Story
9. Yahweh Is King and Lord of All
10. The Corruption and Redemption of Creation
Conclusion: Discerning Luke's Purpose


"Karl Kuhn's groundbreaking monograph on Luke-Acts will reset modern interpretation of these books and influence New Testament studies for years to come. By integrating insights of literary criticism and cultural anthropology, Kuhn demonstrates the potential for Luke's opus to function as a narrative that shatters traditional (and oppressive) patterns for ordering society. By situating both the Lukan author and his likely intended readers among the well-educated, well-traveled, and well-financed Roman elite, Kuhn reveals the self-critical, deconstructive character of a religion that invites rich people to embrace 'good news for the poor.' And by elucidating Luke's rhetorical reliance on pathos, Kuhn indicates that the effectiveness of Luke's writings may lie in their ability to produce an emotional reaction in people who might be slow to accept doctrinal propositions or to be moved by conventional arguments. Pastors, teachers, or anyone who looks to Luke's writings for guidance on how communities of faith might live responsibly in a secular world will want to read and treasure the insights of this book."

Mark Allan Powell, Robert and Phyllis Leatherman Professor of New Testament, Trinity Lutheran Seminary

"Kuhn provides a rich introduction to Luke's two-volume work, carefully unraveling its thick, interwoven tapestry of literary patterns, rhetorical strategies, social networks, political tensions, and theological themes. This book is beautifully written and structured (aptly for Luke's 'orderly' narrative) and chock-full of carefully explained examples from Luke's text. While helpfully assessing the current state of Lukan scholarship, Kuhn also offers many fresh insights; in particular, his attention to the poignant, passionate-emotional features of Luke's project is a real bonus."

F. Scott Spencer, professor of New Testament and biblical interpretation, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond; author of Salty Wives, Spirited Mothers, and Savvy Widows: Capable Women of Purpose and Persistence in Luke's Gospel and T

"Building on recent conversations about early Christian resistance to the Roman Empire, Kuhn provides us with a well-written, thorough, and helpful introductory textbook for the study of Luke and Acts. While addressing historical, social, literary, rhetorical, and theological elements, Kuhn effectively highlights the Lukan call for readers to abandon allegiance to Rome and embrace God's kingdom."

Andrew Arterbury, associate professor of Christian Scriptures, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University

The Author

  1. Karl Allen Kuhn

    Karl Allen Kuhn

    Karl Allen Kuhn (PhD, Marquette University) is professor of religion at Lakeland College in Plymouth, Wisconsin. He is the author of Having Words with God: The Bible as Conversation, The Heart of Biblical Narrative: Rediscovering Biblical Appeal to...

    Continue reading about Karl Allen Kuhn


"Kuhn's work is an excellent example of integrating literary, theological, and social-scientific methods in the study of Luke-Acts. . . . Kuhn has delivered a thought-provoking study of the kingdom of God in Luke-Acts. This volume will prove to be helpful both to the scholar engaged in narrative and theological readings of Luke-Acts and to the professor in the graduate or seminary classroom as a guide to discussing the intersection of methods for studying an important motif in Luke-Acts and other early Christian narrative texts."

Frank E. Dicken,

Review of Biblical Literature

"Kuhn effectively draws upon 'key historical, social, literary, and rhetorical features of Luke-Acts.'. . . I found the whole work engaging and clearly argued with suitable diagrams/figures to show patterns. . . . Highly recommended!"

Robert S. Dutch,

Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"This little volume would make an excellent textbook for a course on Luke-Acts or Lukan theology. It covers historical background information, analyzes Luke's literary techniques and theological connections to the OT and Israelite tradition, and makes a case for the goals of this portion of the NT with appreciable nods to those who have differing proposals. This is a worthwhile purchase for anyone interested in the discussion of Luke's theological and literary emphases."

Douglas S. Huffman,

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"This is an exceptionally fine exposition of the fundamental purpose and theology of Luke-Acts. Kuhn . . . writes with clarity and with sure acquaintance with contemporary scholarship."

Donald Senior, CP,

The Bible Today

"This book offers a well-organized, clear introduction to Luke-Acts. . . . The book ably introduces nonspecialists to the sociological, narrative, rhetorical, and theological dimensions of Luke-Acts, balancing a bird's-eye view of Luke-Acts with more detailed analyses. . . . It assumes no knowledge of extrabiblical texts, and offers regular summaries, aiding the reader in following the argument. Imaginative reconstructions in the early chapters and occasional addresses to the reader may appeal to students."

Kindalee Pfremmer De Long,

Theology Today

"Kuhn makes a strong case that Luke's kingdom narrative countered the controlling values of the first century, creating an anti-Roman critique. . . . Kuhn provides a helpful reading of Luke. His analysis of the social construct within which Luke wrote provides helpful insight into several points of Luke-Acts. By integrating Luke's literary method with his social concerns, Kuhn gives a new angle to read Luke-Acts."

Benjamin I. Simpson,

Bibliotheca Sacra