2009 Book of Acts

Session 1

Dr Peter Walker (Wycliffe Hall, Oxford)

Paul's 'Missing Year' (Acts 20:1-3): Some Implications for Pauline Chronology

In writing my popular-level In the Steps of Saint Paul (LionHudson, 2008), I had to look afresh at various issues relating to the account of Paul's ministry in Acts. This paper will focus on two particular questions: a) What was Paul doing between his leaving Ephesus and arriving in Corinth (as summarised in Acts 20:1-3)? b) What happened after the open-ended two-year period described in Acts' final verses (28:30-31)? Did Paul ever get of Rome alive? In reassessing these questions, some new suggestions will be offered for the order and dating of Paul's letters (primarily his 'prison epistles' and the Pastorals).

Dr Mike Gilchrist

The 'We' Sections as Eyewitness Reporting: Some New Arguments

The we-sections and the rest of Acts have the same author: the difference lies in the intensity of detail, which is far greater in the we-sections. The we-sections are eyewitness reports. Transmission-history can not account for the 'we': oral tradition is ruled out because various characteristics of the text would not survive the process- thus Wedderburn's theory that the text is the creation of a 'school' of an eyewitness fails; literary transmission is not possible because there is no evidence of redaction, and because the text lacks the polish which an editor would inevitably have given; theories that the 'we' is artificial (e.g. Robbins) are unacceptable; and the narrative is too realistic to be a fictional composition. In combination, these findings reveal the we-sections to be the unedited work of an eyewitness, himself the author of Acts.

Problems of this thesis can be answered. They relate to a seeming distance between the writer and the incidents recorded: 1. The Philippi jail account is unlikely in part- but Luke was probably not in Philippi at the time; 2. The writer seems somewhat distant from the shipwreck events, but this is because of a difference between 'we-on-land' and 'we-at-sea', which, when analysed, reflects actual conditions of travel; 3. The author hero-worships Paul; but a parallel from Boswell shows that this is possible of an eyewitness; 4. Luke misrepresents Paul in Jerusalem, by smoothing over the roughness of the relationship between Paul and the elders, but this is possible of a starry-eyed writer idealising the past. Contra Wedderburn, Luke does not misunderstand Paul's theology.

These objections failing, the we-sections can be recognised as original eyewitness reporting by the author of Acts.

Session 2

Luke-Acts as a Hybridization of Philosophical Biography and Narrative History: An Investigation of the Evolution of Ancient Genre

Making use of Russian and Polish formalism, specifically proposals from Ireneusz Opacki and Makhail Bakhtin, as well as a dynamic, diachronic view of genre that evolves and changes over time, it is possible to evaluate ancient genres in light of power relationships. In the view of Opacki, the dominant or "royal" genre has a strong impact on the generic make up of subordinant genres and authors wishing to gain a greater access within a culture. As a result, some writers will attempt to incorporate characteristic features of the prevailing genre into other generic forms in order to gain greater prestige and wider acceptance.

Using this understanding of the evolution of genre in the modern world, it is possible to make some fresh insights into the transitionary world following the Roman conquest and the cultural pressures that would have been exerted on the then existing literary forms and preferences. It is within this volatile literary scene that the New Testament was written, specifically that of Luke-Acts. One of the primary challenges of the study of Acts over the past few decades is the determination of its genre. Accordingly, it is possible that our current inability to apply a particular generic label to this document is a direct result of dominant literary forms being mixed with another set of genre characteristics. With this perspective, this paper will propose that Luke-Acts could be understood as an amalgamation of philosophical biography and narrative history genre types.

Session 3

Repetition in Cornelius' and Paul's Story in Acts

There are two famous events which appear repeatedly in Acts, that is, Paul's call/conversion and Cornelius' conversion. That kind of repetition had not been paid attention to for a long time, but after F.D.E. Schleiermacher it has been analysed in many perspectives even up to the present.

Recently, R.D. Witherup, W.S. Kurz, and W.T. Wilson have studied the repetition in the Cornelius' story in terms of literary criticism, and G.A. Kennedy and J.I.H. McDonald have done it by using rhetorical criticism. In regard to the repetition of the Paul's call/conversion story, the voices of D. Marguerat, R.D. Witherup, and T.W.R. Churchill should be heard. These studies clarify well both the similarities and the differences of the repeated portions, and interestingly suggest the function of repetition in diverse ways. Characters are compared, the narrative sequence is considered, and human and divine elements are emphasised.

The fascinating insights into repetition in these two stories, suggested by the studies above, may be strengthened and improved by using combined tools. Narrative criticism may be used along with some criteria in rhetorical criticism and in the communicative action theory. Human and Divine characters will be analysed in respect of their speech and evidence as well as the narrator's description. The five kinds of 'the illocutionary force' defined by J.L. Austin may help to categorise the communicators' intentions. In addition, the three kinds of evidence introduced by Aristotle, namely ethos, pathos, and logos, may show the characters' focus and attitude.

In Cornelius' conversion story in Acts 10:1-11:18, we may see a narratival emphasis on the difference among the characters and find a theme that God's will is fulfilled by a God-centred person. Further, through the repeated Paul's call/conversion story in Acts 9, 22, and 26, it may be possible to read Paul's changing from a human-centred to a God-centred character. By dealing with two stories altogether, this article may be able to suggest that by reading Acts the implied reader can learn that God's will be fulfilled by God-centred people, for example, Peter and Paul those developed.

Eventually, this study seems to give us some evidence for the following statements on repetitions found in Acts. First, the repeated contents function within the whole text as a unit. Second, the repeated ones altogether produce another meaning which leads the reader to realise something in a deeper level. Third, repetition is not a simple repetition. Fourth, combined tools can be useful to analyse repetition in Acts.

Timothy Lim Teck Ngern (Regent University, Virginia Beach)

The Acts of the Apostles: Prototypical Ecclesiologies of Ecumenism?

This paper seeks to investigate whether an ecclesiology of ecumenism would emerge from a theological reading of the Book of Acts. Simply state, an ecclesiology of ecumenism is a theological proposal on the Church and the churches. Underlying the quest for a theology of Christian ecumenism is the attempt to find an overarching justification and plausible paradigms for dealing with conflicts (theological, social, and praxis) that would facilitate the pursuit of visible unity among churches. The paper seeks to explore to what end Acts of the Apostles offers a prototypical model(s) for conceiving an ecclesiology of ecumenism. In a way, this project seeks to further Alan Thompson's analysis of "Unity in Acts" so as to overcome the current ambivalence of evangelicals towards ecumenism. This proposal is twofold: to suggest an incipient topography towards an Acts' theology of ecumenism, and to provide an overlay of prospective paradigms towards an Acts' ecclesiology of ecumenism. As a preamble, methodological issues as well as the rationale for staging and examining ecumenism and ecclesiological models in Acts will be explained. The project concludes with an adumbration of factors that impedes the selection of a model of unity for a global Christianity. It is hoped that the findings from this investigation will have a bearing for the rethinking of evangelical theology, ecclesiology, and ecumenism. This proposal is then a modest but important contribution to the ongoing construction of an evangelical ecclesiology.