2016 Book of Acts

Session 3 is a joint session with Synoptic Gospels.

Session 1

Will Loescher (University of Cambridge)

Locating and Exploring the Middle of Acts from Aristotle to Modern Film-writers: Using Ancient and Modern Literary Concepts in the Search for Literary Shape and Theological Significance

The Middle of Acts is the most difficult stage of the narrative to identify and analyse. Whilst at least the beginning has a start and the ending a finish, the middle presents more challenges for the literary critic and biblical exegete. However, the middle is important in bringing cohesion to the whole work. Various suggestions have been made for identifying a middle somewhere within the range of Acts 12-15, but monographs on these chapters are few and do not tackle the question of literary structure. The plausible options of Peter and Herod (Acts 12), Paul at Psidian Antioch (Acts 13), Lystra (Acts 14:8-20a) and the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15) are briefly assessed before ancient and modern literary middle concepts are used in identifying and analysing both the centre of Acts’ structure and the climax or crisis of Acts’ story. Surprisingly the episode at Lystra is revealed as Acts’ structural centre and story climax illustrating Aristotle’s complication, transition and denouement. This has implications for a fresh understanding of Acts with a narrative rise to the middle climax and a fall away from it affecting theological significance.

Multi-levelled Jewish Diaspora Concerns Evident in Luke’s Narrative of Paul’s Mission (Acts 16–19)

This paper explores the narratives of Acts 16–19 against various arguments for the audience and purposes of Acts. Challenging the common view that the authorial audience for Acts would have been largely Gentile, this paper builds on scholarship showing that Luke-Acts most easily would have resonated with audiences shaped by Jewish or God-fearing influences (Alexander, Jervell, Nolland, Schneckenburger, Tannehill, etc.). These proposals are tested in Acts 16–19, which, along with Acts 27, are arguably the most Gentile-focused narratives in Acts. Acts 16, where evidence of Jewish concerns initially seems absent, is examined in greater detail by employing elements of authorial audience criticism and narrative criticism with particular attention to social identity concerns.

Within the broader intertextual and intratextual context, this paper argues that narrative details support the probability that Acts 16–19 is written with an eye to Diaspora Jewish concerns about the piety and honour of Paul, and the social implications of his mission for their peaceful co-existence with authorities and neighbours. Acts 16–19 is, therefore, more than a historical account of how the church expanded among the Gentiles, and more than an apologetic for Paul and his gospel with Gentile audiences in mind. In the richer picture, Acts 16–19 legitimates Paul and the message he represents within the context of Jewish Diaspora concerns.

 

Session 2

Joshua Mann (Durham University)

Review of Brittany Wilson, 'Unmanly Men' (OUP, 2015)

Session 3

Andrew Byers (Durham University)

The “Church” of the Synoptic Gospels: Social Identity Construction through Narrative Ecclesiology in Luke-Acts

The concern of this paper is not with the historical communities behind the Synoptic Gospels, but with the visions of community set forth within their narratives. The ecclesial vision of each evangelist is certainly informed by historical realities, and reconstructing plausible Sitze im Leben through mirror-readings is now a major historical-critical enterprise in New Testament studies. In the inevitable hermeneutical circle, however, scholarly discussions have been disproportionately focused on providing reconstructions of ecclesial social groups behind the Gospels rather than on the social identity the evangelists are seeking to construct through the Gospels. Just as a "narrative Christology" presents the identity of Jesus through the linear axis of a story, "narrative ecclesiology" casts a vision for the identity of the new people of God reconfigured around Christ through the unfolding development of a sequential account. Narrative ecclesiology conceives Gospel writing as an ecclesial practice exercising a hermeneutic through which Jesus-material and Israel's Scriptures are selectively appropriated by pastoral motivations. This paper puts forward suggestions for how Matthew, Mark, and Luke can be approached as narratives presenting not only nuanced portraits of Jesus but also nuanced visions of the new humanity to be formed around him. Attention will then be directed to Luke's multivolume account of Jesus' ministry and the subsequent genesis of early Christianity in the Mediterranean world. In his Gospel, Luke offers a prescriptive ecclesial vision that is then enacted (at times only partially) in the book of Acts. Luke is not only an apologist for Christ-devotion; he is also an ecclesial theologian who narrates the divine identity of Jesus while also narrating (prescriptively and descriptively) the social identity of a new society called “church.”

 

James T Mace (University of Kent)

Messianic Reunification in Luke-Acts: Fulfilling Prophesied Davidic Inclusion of Northerners (Samaritans) in Restoring “All Israel”

Royal Davidic typology is the unifying factor for Lukan Christology, including the Davidic covenant constellational element of ruling over a united kingdom of all Israelite tribes (Hahn 2009). Thus, in displaying Davidic covenantal fulfillment, Luke-Acts includes messianic reunification (MR), restoring unity by joining both southern and northern kingdoms’ constituents (Judaeans and Samaritans) under Jesus the Davidide, which phase of Israel’s Heilsgeschichte must occur before inclusion of Gentiles. MR coherently synergizes with several additional established Lukan themes (the people of God, ecclesiological identity, inclusion of marginalized Israelites, table-fellowship, economics). Although widely expected in prophets used by NT authors, scholarly consideration of MR is frequently neglected (conversely, see Jervell, Ravens, Pao, Bauckham, Samkutty, Butticaz). Moreover, the fifty-year Samaritanological revolution is generally unappreciated in NT studies. This paper describes the prophetic MR paradigm then shows literary thematic progression in Luke-Acts foretelling, initiating, proclaiming, teaching, consummating, and summarizing MR: the Davidic son of God (Luke 1:32-35; 10:22, etc.) must fulfil all elements of Davidic covenant restoration; that awaited by “many prophets and kings” (10:24) includes the scion of David’s MR into kingdom unity (Isa 11:1; Jer 23:5-6; 33:14-17); this royal Son teaches Samaritan Israelism, that faithful Samaritans are also Israelites inheriting his reunited messianic age (10:25-37; cf. 17:11-19); this eschatological MR theme mirrors the Chronicler’s pan-Israelite ideology, displayed in Jesus’s use of 2 Chr 28:15 in 10:33-34; Samaritan inheritors represent the northern kingdom in the 2-stage resurrection of Israel (Acts 2-8), fulfilling Ezek 37 and vindicating the Son’s enthronement; Acts 9:31a and 15:16 summarize, declaring fulfillment of Amos 9:11’s rebuilding of Davidic dominion. This MR hermeneutic revitalizes theological exegesis (e.g., Lizorkin-Eyzenberg 2015, Gospel of John). Most significantly, MR shows Luke’s Samaritan parable not to address universalized ethics but to ecclesiologically reinforce Lev 19:18 as performing purely intra-covenantal ḥesedism, including almsgiving (Giambrone 2016).