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Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 56, 2008

YUZURU MIURA, David in Luke-Acts: His Portrayal in the Light of Early Judaism (WUNT 2/232; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007). Pp. xix + 305. Paper. €60.00.

This study by Yuzuru Miura provides a thorough analysis of all explicit references to David in the Lukan writings. While earlier studies have focused on Luke’s presentation of Jesus as the Davidic Messiah, Miura seeks to explore the person of David more widely in Luke’s writing and especially the typological connections made between David and Jesus. The framework provided for this comparison is an extensive survey of how the figure of David was understood in first-century Judaism. The book is split into two roughly equal parts, with Part 1 examining David in the OT and early Judaism and Part 2 examining David in Luke-Acts. The methods adopted by the author are mostly literary critical plus some limited redaction.

Part 1 (Chapters 2–7) explores how the figure of David is presented in various Jewish writings from the LXX to the Targums and early rabbinic literature. Other writings considered include the OT Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, Qumran, Philo and Josephus. For each of these writings, references to David are grouped by theme: as ideal king; as virtuous leader; as sinner; as psalmist; as prophet; as temple builder; as messianic figure. What emerges is a mosaic of different images of David, which is probably Miura’s main aim in this section of the book. Those seeking critical analysis must wait until Chapter 7, which provides a helpful synthesis of the preceding survey.

Part 2 (Chapters 8–10) examines the references to David in Luke-Acts, beginning with Acts. Miura highlights two main features from this material. The first is that David is viewed as author of the Psalms (a developing trend in Second Temple Judaism [STJ]) and as a prophet (Acts 1:16; 2:30–31; 4:25). This enables the Christian community to interpret the psalms from a Christological perspective and to apply them as speaking about Jesus, rather than limiting them to the historical situation of David. Second, the selected psalms are read typologically, which enables Luke to bring out the suffering experience of Jesus as legitimate, since David suffered repeatedly at the hands of his enemies. Miura then explores references to David in the Gospel, which bring out more clearly the genealogical connection between David and Jesus (especially in Luke 1–3) and also several messianic characteristics (triumphant warrior, righteous, unique relationship with God). The final chapter summarises the argument of the book and briefly explores how the figure of David is used in Luke’s narrative.

Positively, Miura offers a comprehensive overview of the figure of David in the period leading up to and a little beyond the first century. Such an overview will be most helpful for any NT or STJ scholar as it forces the reader to think beyond categories of Davidic Messiah and psalmist, although these categories dominate. Miura also highlights that the category of Davidic Messiah needs to be split into two components: the genealogical status of David (e.g. the promises of God in 2 Samuel 7); and the typological character of David (pious, righteous judge and ruler, warrior). Another important development is the view of David as a prophet (for example, 11QPsa 27), especially at Qumran, which enables the psalms to be read prophetically. This approach is important for Luke as it shows that Jesus’ suffering can be legitimated through a reading of the lament Psalms that is prophetic and typological. This is probably the strongest part of Miura’s argument.

Negatively, Miura makes little attempt to weigh the different images of David that the STJ literature reveals. The question left unanswered is which images dominate and why. What we are left with at the end of Part 1, then, is a kaleidoscope of images, all apparently waiting to be taken up by the early Christian writers such as Luke. This makes it difficult to discern whether Luke’s interpretation was typical of STJ or subversive, affirming the tradition or questioning it. Similarly, while Miura highlights the typological connections that Luke makes between David and Jesus, he fails to highlight Luke’s daring transformation of the Davidic Messiah from triumphant warrior and righteous earthly king (e.g. in Luke 1–2) to righteous sufferer and heavenly king (e.g. in Acts 2; 4; and 13).

Overall, this book achieves what it sets out to do, namely to provide a “more complete analysis of the figure of David in Luke’s writings” (3). The survey of David in the literature of STJ will provide an enduring resource for scholars while the analysis of Luke-Acts adds to our understanding of the importance of David in interpreting the life, suffering, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus.

Review by
Peter Mallen
Uniting Church Centre for Theology and Ministry
Parkville VIC 3052