This elegantly-produced work serves a dual purpose. On the one hand it reflects an actual pilgrimage made to the Holy Land by the author and a group of pilgrims; on the other it is a sort of verbal pilgrimage through the texts of the third Gospel.
It consists of ten brief chapters, of which the first is a prologue and the tenth an epilogue. The central part of the book concerns Luke’s portrait of Jesus and of his disciples. The book is in no way intended to be read passively. Pages 133-136 are entitled Questions and Answers, while the two appendices are entitled 1) Praying with the Gospels and 2) Questions on Luke. In other words, the mind and the heart are meant to be alert when this book and the Gospel are read.
The book is distinctly, and doubtless intentionally, not controversial. The respective dating of Luke/Acts is not addressed, and where there are apparent discrepancies between Luke and the other Gospels – as on the place of the delivery of the Sermon and in the account of the Passion – although these are noted, they are not discussed in detail. Clearly it is not the author’s intention to produce yet another ‘Quest for the Historical Jesus’. Rather does he aim to enlist the pilgrim’s interest in the actual words and message of this particular Gospel.
In contrast with the present Pope’s Jesus of Nazareth, Edmonds has nothing to say about the efforts of others to understand the Gospels, though both books have a similar aim; namely to offer a portrait of Jesus which will encourage prayerful reflection. However, unlike the Pope’s book, there are no footnotes. Some people, like the present reviewer, would much like to know where the passages of Augustine, Jerome and Ambrose referred to on pages 131 and 132 actually come from.
Clearly the author is a very accurate and accomplished scholar of the Gospel text and is, therefore, able to illustrate certain features of the Lucan account of Jesus. For example, apparently Luke’s interest in the journey motif, which underlies the enterprise of this book, is vouched for by the use of the word for ‘walk’ fifty times in the Gospel. Luke is also the source of three canticles in daily use in the prayer of the church: the Benedictus, Magnificat and Nunc dimittis. This fact underlines the great stress laid by this Gospel on the importance of prayer, above all before the important moments in the life of Jesus: before his selection of his apostles and delivery of the Sermon [6:12]; during the Transfiguration [9:28]; and in the garden [22:39].
These facts will come as no surprise to attentive readers of the Gospel, but they may encourage others to attend to the words of scripture and see, in the choice of language and structure, something of the mind of the evangelist.
The reviewer, Anthony Meredith SJ, teaches Theology at Heythrop College, University of London.