2014 Book of Acts

Session 1

Illumination in Acts and Jewish Unbelief

Josh Mann 

University of Edinburgh

The depiction of Jewish unbelief and rejection of the gospel in Acts has led scholars to diverse conclusions about the author’s attitude toward Jews—from a sympathetic author to an anti-Semitic author. Absent from the discussion has been a sufficient accounting for how the theme of ignorance and illumination, the concealing and revealing of knowledge to characters, in Luke-Acts relates to Jewish unbelief in Acts. This paper sets Jewish unbelief in Acts against the backdrop of the theme of illumination, and then rereads the final rejection narrative in Acts 28 accordingly. It will be argued that Luke offers a sympathetic interpretation of Jewish unbelief and rejection of the gospel in Acts and leaves open the possibility of Jewish repentance in the future.

Making Place while in Chains: Paul’s Captivity and the Continuing Productions of Space within Acts

Dr Matthew Sleeman 

Oak Hill College, London

From Acts 21 onwards, Paul is a prisoner, unable to affect the production of space and place in the manner possible in the preceding chapters which recount his relative liberty to undertake ‘missionary journeys’. This paper explores how Paul continues to speak and act in such a way as to continue shaping and projecting spatial practices and projections during his extended captivity and the constraints it enforces on him. The paper traces how, as prisoner, Paul’s words and deeds both continue and bring to a provisional climax the spatial vision pursued in earlier chapters of Acts. Having explored these earlier productions of space in part in my Geography and the Ascension Narrative in Acts (Cambridge University Press, 2009), this paper builds on, questions and extends that work. It also raises some critical questions regarding the use of spatial theory for reading scripture and, relatedly, about how scripture can itself inform readings for space and place. Thus, as well as helping illuminate the latter chapters of Acts, this paper also highlights the need for ancient texts to inform modern theory.

Session 2

Textual Criticism and the Greek Text of Acts: An Editor's Account

Tyndale House, Cambridge is working on a critical edition of the Greek text of the New Testament, and recently a first draft of Acts was completed. This paper will share some of the observations on source-materials, questions that posed themselves, and reflections on the whole process.

1) The genre of Acts is unique within the New Testament and so is the situation of the witnesses to its text. Within the big manuscripts Acts behaves as any other part of the New Testament, but in the type and number of individual manuscripts Acts shows some distinctives. Some of the materials for the study of the text of Acts that have not been used very often will be pointed out, among which is the work of Cosmas Indicopleustas.

2) The Greek text of Acts is known for its special text-critical situation, and the problem posed by the so-called Western text requires careful reflection on the nature of the various textual traditions. When is a text form still the same text with variations and when does it become a different edition of the same text? How did one evolve into the other? Is it possible to make a summary judgement on the whole of the text instead of working on a case by case basis? We will argue that the Western text is the product of a consistent, sustained, and unified editorial activity that covered virtually the whole book. At present, it seems that when compared to the whole of the New Testament, only in Acts we find editing on such scale.

3) In the course of preparing the Tyndale House edition the editors had to deal with many small issues. These range from the spelling of simple words and determining where one sentence stops and the next starts, to getting to know the ways in which manuscripts deal with citations from the Greek Old Testament. Decisions have to be made regarding text lay-out, reader's helps, and general presentation. It is only once one has to take responsibility for all these features that their—at times—problematic nature becomes clear.

Who are ‘We’? Clues in the Variant Readings of Acts to the Identity of the ‘We’-group

Dr Jenny Read-Heimerdinger 

University of Wales Trinity St. David

The identity and purpose of the ‘we’-group in Acts have been much debated, not least because of the importance accorded to them for determining not only Luke’s purpose in telling his story but also the genre of his work. It seems that ancient readers were also uncertain, for there are significant variant readings at the places where the ‘we’-group are mentioned.

It will be argued in this paper that first person readings not retained by the current Greek edition of the NT throw interesting light on the question. Notably, in the composite picture of Codex Bezae (D.05), ‘we’ can be seen to designate a group of Paul’s companions who function in the narrative as a collective character. They play an enhanced role in that manuscript compared with the familiar text, both in terms of the frequency of their appearance (they are active at 11.28; 13.14 and 21.29 in addition to the common references) and in the nature of their intervention (there are significant differences of wording in the shared references of 16.10 and 21.11-12). The group of companions speak as people who knew and understood Paul very well. Their special role, as disciples who are in tune with the Holy Spirit, is to act as guides to keep Paul following the path appointed by God at times when he deviates from it. In this form of the narrative, Paul’s inclination to take another direction is seen to be prompted by his resistance to accept the mission to the Gentiles until the salvation of Israel is secure.

Session 3

Locating the Present: The Periodisation of History in the Animal Apocalypse, Daniel 7, and Luke/Acts

Kylie Crabbe 

University of Oxford

Traditional criticisms levelled at Luke/Acts range from claims that Luke focuses on theologia gloriae at the expense of a theologia crucis, to assertions that he is apolitical (or, worse, advocates complicity with ruling authorities), or that he has removed any sense of imminence from eschatological expectations in order to address a crisis brought about by the parousia’s delay. Such criticisms have been countered in various ways. However, I argue that these concerns can also be addressed by attention to the underlying shape of history in Luke’s account.

This paper suggests that the focus on resurrection, presence of the Spirit, and the spatial location of Jesus at God’s right from the time of his ascension confirms that Luke understands that a new period of history has begun through Jesus’ resurrection. It argues that Luke’s understanding of history, as periodised, planned, and approaching a telos, is reminiscent of the understanding found in apocalypses. This builds on C. Kavin Rowe’s insight that Luke is “apocalyptic” (in his World Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age, Oxford: OUP, 2009, 137) but, through a systematic treatment of history in apocalypses, attempts a comparison that illuminates what this might mean in terms of Luke’s theological account of history.

In this paper I consider two apocalypses with historical reviews, 1 Enoch’s Animal Apocalypse and Daniel 7, identifying the temporal placement of key events in these histories. The location of the historical present is of particular interest, as a period of affliction of the righteous and enlightenment for a select group, which stands on the cusp of decisive divine action that will lead ultimately to restoration of the righteous. In comparing the schema of history in these texts to the understanding of key events of history in Luke/Acts, I note that Luke presumes a similar pattern, though with one crucial difference: the resurrection of Jesus is presented as the basis for assurance that the ultimate period has already begun.

The Echo and Function of Passover in the Rescue Narratives of Peter (Acts 12:1–25) and Paul (Acts 27:13–44)

Dany Christopher 

Durham University

That Passover plays an important role in Luke’s soteriology (cf. Luke 22:1ff) is generally accepted by scholars. However, the significant role of Passover in Acts has not gain a lot of interest. While a number of scholars note the echo of Passover in the rescue narrative of Peter (Acts 12:1–25), they seldom discuss its function.  Even fewer are the discussions on the possible echo to Passover in the rescue narrative of Paul (Acts 27:13–44). Thus, in this paper I propose that both rescue narratives echo back to Israel’s Passover narrative (Exodus 12) as well as Jesus’ new Passover narrative (Luke 22).  I believe that these twofold allusions serve as a hermeneutical key to understand the rescue narratives of Peter and Paul.

To support my view, two points will be argued. First, I will show that the link between Jesus’ new Passover and Israel’s Passover is necessary to signify the continuity and climax of God’s salvation. Second, the same pattern and link can also be found in the rescue narrative of Peter and Paul. In these narratives, both Peter and Paul experience death threat. Yet both also experience salvation from their present danger. Building on these two points I will analyse the function of the Passover in the two rescue narratives, putting into account the similarities and the differences between the two.