2007 Book of Acts

Session 1

'An Orderly Account': Acts 1:1-15:35 as Composed of Four Diptychs (Units of Two-panels)'

Among the structures governing Acts 1:1-15:35 one is the arrangement into four diptychs. These may be named as follows: the church's beginnings (1:1-2:42); the church's early ministry (2:43-5:42); the church's move away from Jerusalem (6:1-9:30); and the church's transformation, integrating Gentiles (9:31-15:35). Each diptych consists of two complementary parts or panels. The panels of Diptych One, for instance, consist respectively of: the events surrounding the promising of the Spirit and the Ascent on the 40th day (Acts 1); and the Descent of the Spirit on the 50th day (2:1-42). The full range of complementarities is manifold and detailed. In the other diptychs Acts 2:43-4:31 is balanced by 4:32-chap. 5; Acts 6:1-8:1a by 8:1b-9:30; and Acts 9:31-chap. 12 by 13:1-15:35). As in Hebrew poetry, the complementarity between the panels of a diptych may be synthetic or antithetic. The diptychs' expanding volume accords with basic features of Hebrew narrative. Precedent for the diptych arrangement occurs elsewhere-for instance, in the Psalms (L. Boadt, 'The Use of "Panels" in the Structure of Psalms 73-78,' CBQ 66: 2004, 533-550), in the Elijah-Elisha narrative (T. L. Brodie, The Crucial Bridge, Collegeville: Liturgical, 2000) and in Luke 1-2 (R. E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, New York: Doubleday, 1997, 230-231). The arrangement accords with Luke's indication of 'an orderly account' (Luke 1:3). The full Greek text, laid out in diptych form, with English headings, will be supplied at the presentation.

Session 2

Dr Stephen Catto (Moorlands College)

Reconstructing the First-Century Synagogue

In the past two decades a debate has taken place in scholarship, which has reassessed much of the primary source material relating to the first-century synagogue. Whether synagogues existed, what form they took, and what functions they fulfilled around the turn of the era, have all been discussed. This paper will give an overview of some of these debates, highlighting the variety of places which would have been used for synagogue gatherings, the multiple uses synagogue buildings would have been put to, as well as discussing some of the synagogues' functions.

The first-century building at Ostia will then be used as an example of a Diaspora synagogue building. Using a computer generated three dimensional reconstruction, we will take a 'virtual' tour of the building, and point out how the architectural layout may inform our understanding of its function.

Finally, drawing on the overview of research and the walk-through, consideration will be given to the presentation of the synagogue in Acts.

Session 3

Dr John Squires (United Theological College)

Luke's Portrait of Apollos (Acts 18:24-28; 1 Cor 1-4)

Apollos is described by Paul in positive and affirming ways in 1 Cor 1-4. Yet interpreters of Acts have consistently viewed Apollos in negative ways, as imperfect or deficient in his faith. This paper argues that Luke portrays Apollos as an important leader who operates firmly within the mainstream of the messianic movement whose story Luke reports.

The paper demonstrates that Apollos stands in continuity with the other leaders described in Acts. He is possessed by the spirit and has been instructed in 'the Way'. His knowledge of the message concerning Jesus stretches back to its origin at the baptism of Jesus by John; he teaches this message accurately. He speaks with frankness in making his public testimony in the synagogue, using scripture to prove his central point, that the Messiah is to be identified with Jesus. He is endowed with divine grace; and he is sponsored by two co-workers of Paul, Priscilla and Aquila.

Some aspects of Luke's description of Apollos are distinctive. He is a person who exhibits power, which is manifested, not in healings and exorcisms, but in his words. He bears a letter of recommendation when he travels from one messianic community to another; this simply reflects a common Jewish practice. There is no record of the baptism of Apollos; however, this does not cast Apollos in a negative light, or infer any deficiency on his part, since the baptisms of the apostles are likewise never reported. Apollos is clearly possessed by the spirit; the distinctive phrase used to describe him in this regard indicates that he was boiling over with a superabundance of the spirit. The additional instruction which Apollos receives does not indicate a correction of inadequate beliefs, but a strengthening of already accurate beliefs. In this way, Apollos is 'sponsored' as are other leaders in Acts. Finally, by not explicitly reporting the effects of the powerful rhetorical preaching of Apollos, Luke may in fact be inferring that Apollos has been completely successful in his persuasive activities.

Thus, Luke's portrait of Apollos is, from start to finish, that of an important leader who operates firmly within the messianic movement whose story Luke reports.