2008 Book of Acts

Session 1

Dave Morlan (Durham University)

Acts 2 and Jewish Conversion

This essay is an investigation of the theology of Jewish conversion in Acts with special reference to Acts 2. With the initial setting in Jerusalem and mass Jewish conversions providing momentum for the spread of the gospel (e.g. 2:41, 4:32, 5:14), it is difficult to question the importance Luke places on Jewish conversion to Jesus. The disciples wanted the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel (1:6), and using overt conversion language, Luke explains that such restoration is offered if Israel repents (μετανοήσατε, 3:19) and returns (ἐπιστρέψατε, 3:19) to Jesus. But for Luke, what is the Jewish plight that necessitates conversion and does this plight confirm Sanders' argument that Luke is fundamentally anti-Semitic (1987)? Additionally, what other theological assumptions are at play as he describes Jews converting? For example, does Luke, as he does elsewhere in his gospel, take for granted that there exists within some humans an innate ability to repent? In other words, are Jews according to Luke, truly changeable? For Luke, do Jews need καινὴ κτίσις (2 Cor. 5:17) or are they simply in need of having the facts about Jesus presented properly (Luke 1:3, ἀκριβῶς καθεξῆς σοι γράψαι) so that they can make a reasonable decision (Acts 2:40)? As Luke does elsewhere in both his gospel and in Acts for Gentiles, are Jews presented as δίκαιος before they convert (see Luke 1:6, 2:25, 23:50)? In other words, are Jews who convert to Jesus preconditioned to do so by virtue of their own δίκαιος?

Session 2

Dr Barry Matlock (University of Sheffield)

Paul's Damascus Road experience

Papers by Dr Barry Matlock (University of Sheffield), from the perspective of the Pauline letters, and Tim Churchill (London School of Theology), from the perspective of Acts

Response by Prof Loveday Alexander (University of Sheffield)

Session 3

Dr Steve Walton (London School of Theology)

Trying Paul or Trying Rome? Judges and Accused in the Roman Trials of Paul in Acts

This paper asks who is really on trial in Luke's presentation of the trials of Paul before Roman judges in Acts: Paul or the Roman empire. It has been noted that in the trial of Jesus in the Gospels, especially John, there is an undercurrent of Pilate and the Jewish leadership bring on trial, rather than Jesus. After considering the trial of Jesus in Luke 23, this paper explores the Pauline Roman trials in Acts before Gallio (Acts 18:12-17), Felix (Acts 23-24) and Festus (Acts 25-26) from this angle. I argue that Luke gives a picture of the empire's servants which is rather more mixed than has been understood previously by both those who argue that Luke is presenting an apology for Christianity to the empire or for the empire to Christians.