Acts: the People's Bible Commentary

Alexander, Loveday
Bible Reading Fellowship (2006)
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This review accompanies the Study Sheet Acts (Loveday Alexander).

One of the great assets of the People's Bible Commentary is that it allows authors to put their individual stamp on texts within a set format of bite-sized chapters each ending with a prayer, reflection or question for discussion. So, in this case, it is nice to contrast Loveday Alexander's love of a somewhat buccaneering Luke in Acts with Henry Wansbrough's rather more gently ironic appreciation of Luke. The contrast between the rather claustrophobic mission of Jesus and the grandstanding of Paul on the world stage is beautifully caught in these two books.

Alexander's feel for the Greek and Roman classics adds greatly to her Biblical skills. She is clearly as at home with Homer as she is with Jonah, with Aeneas as she is with Isaiah and her economical but perceptive references to contemporary politics are well balanced with her exegesis.

The danger of enthusiasm, of course, is that it can get out of hand and there are times when Alexander chances her imagination and has Luke thinking and doing things for which there is little evidence; but I rather like that. When you read the Bible regularly there is a danger that you read interesting detail without noticing it So, Luke the possible physician and improbable painter may well have been a nautical enthusiast.

As for her view of Paul, it is really admirable to have such a clear and well balanced picture of the rugged missionary with no tinge of hostility because of his alleged misogyny. The Paul that emerges from her pages is driven, dedicated, passionate, complicated and, for all his exhortation, immensely humble.

The only quibble I have with an otherwise rewarding book is that Alexander does not say anything in the introduction, or elsewhere, about the authorship of letters attributed to Paul and we are left to assume from her citations that she thinks he wrote the lot, other than Hebrews which very few people now think he wrote. Otherwise, the scholarship and exegesis are unexceptionable. A fine book for dipping into, for reference and for teaching.