Luke’s ‘Choice’ of Narrative Tense in Acts – Verbal Aspect or Lexical Aspect?
This paper investigates the use of different tenses in the narrative passages in Acts (Acts NP) and suggests that important distinctions of meaning in the text are being lost by many translators and exegetes because of a failure to appreciate the interplay between verbal aspect and lexical aspect as it pertains to Koiné Greek. So, as an example, it is widely acknowledged that the question asked in Acts 1:6 has significant implications for the book of Acts as a whole, yet, ἠρώτων (imperfective in verbal aspect) is uniformly rendered in English as ‘they asked’ (perfective in verbal aspect).
This paper proposes that a much more confident understanding of important distinctions of meaning in narratives like Acts implied by the ‘choice’ of the aorist or the imperfect can be achieved by, first, considering the lexical aspect of the verb used in its clausal context before, second, considering the verbal aspect used. The paper further suggests that the widely used Dowty/Vendler categorisation of the lexical aspect of English verbs into states, activities, accomplishments and achievements can also be applied profitably to Koiné Greek verbs. So, in the clause, Οἱ μὲν οὖν συνελθόντες ἠρώτων αὐτόν (Acts 1:6), ἠρώτων with a plural noun is an activity – ‘they were continually asking’, whereas ὁράω, in any narrative context, is an achievement – ‘I noticed’ (BDAG, ὁράω §1).
Acts as Biblical History?
A growing number of scholars are suggesting that Luke writes Acts in continuity with biblical (OT) history (e.g. Samson Uytanlet, Brian Rosner, Loveday Alexander), and by this means (among others) locates the Christian movement in continuity with the purposes of the God of Israel in Scripture. This paper identifies the basis of these claims, considers key features of Acts which are seen as signalling this continuity, reflects on what such continuity might achieve and signify about Luke’s theology, and offers a fresh assessment.
The Didache: Key to the Acts-Galatians Conundrum
Acts and Galatians appear to offer incompatible accounts of Paul’s dealings with the Jerusalem Apostles – with the Westar Fellows rating most of the Acts account as ‘Black/Improbable’. The infamous discrepancies between the two accounts resolve, however, when an early version of the Didache is placed in the role of the Apostolic Decree. The Didache is double-edged with regard to Gentile circumcision: Baptism, and thence Eucharistic participation, may be achieved without circumcision but salvation may be seen as, ultimately, requiring circumcision. If the Apostolic Decree had this bivalent property, then the following sequence becomes possible:
First, responding to a predicted famine, Paul and Barnabas take a gift to Jerusalem, at which point the Pillar Apostles accept the non-circumcision of Antioch’s Gentile believers. Second, others visiting Antioch insist that Gentile believers must be circumcised. Paul, confident of having recently secured the Apostles’ support, agrees to take the dispute for their adjudication. Third, the ensuing Council does not go as Paul expects. The Apostles produce a double-edged Decree (viz. The Original Didache). Paul nonetheless elects to use this document as an instrument of mission in Galatia. This allows, however, his opponents to trumpet Paul’s submission to the Jerusalem Apostles and his acceptance of their double-edged (ultimately pro-circumcision) ruling. Fourth, Paul writes Galatians – a letter that contests his opponents’ reading of the Council and its Decree by, among other things, citing what had happened at the earlier famine visit (Gal 2.1-11). Fifth, Luke writes Acts – mentioning the famine visit in passing and offering a singularly pro-Pauline account of the Council and its Decree.
Thus, by the simple expedient of replacing Luke’s single-edged Decree with a double-edged one, the perceived incompatibility between Acts and Galatians becomes resolvable. And, at the same time, new light is cast on the specific crisis addressed by Paul in Galatians.
Pauline Christ Groups and Greco-Roman Voluntary Associations: Comparing Competing Conflict Management Models
In Galatians as well as in several of his other letters, Paul engaged in conflict management in absentu. The Galatian conflict was in many ways a reprise of the conflict discussed during the so-called Apostolic Council. The problem was twofold. It regarded both admission to the Christ movement (circumcision or not) and the unity of the movement (table fellowship between jewish and gentile Christ-believers or not). Three conflict management models seems to have competed for hegemony: an assimilationist approach arguing for both circumcision of Gentile Christ-believers and subsequent table fellowship (the so-called Judaizers; Gal 2:1-5), a segregationist approach neither requiring circumcision of Gentile Christ-believers nor wanting table fellowship with them (James and possibly the Apostolic Council; Gal 2:9), and finally Paul’s own Antiochean integrationalist approach, not requiring circumcision of Gentile Christ-believers but nevertheless insisting on table fellowship (Gal 2:11-14). The present paper discusses (in light of recent work by John S. Kloppenborg and others) the social impact of these three competing approaches to conflict by comparing them to conflict management practices in ethnically and socially diverse Greco-Roman voluntary associations.