2018 Book of Acts

Session 1

Review Panel of Editio Critica Maior: Acts

Matthew Sleeman (Chair) 

Oak Hill College, London

Klaus Wachtel 

University of Münster

Sean Adams 

University of Glasgow

Tommy Wasserman 

Lund University

Jenny Read-Heimerdinger 

University of Wales Trinity St. David

Dirk Jongkind 

University of Cambridge

Steve Walton 

Trinity College, Bristol

Open Questions and Discussion

Session 2

Rhetoric in the Synoptic Gospels and the Book of Acts

An Examination of the Texts of Luke and Acts, For What They Owe to Ancient Rhetoric’s Rules and Practices

Ancient Rhetoric’s rules cover Idea, Structure, Style, Memory and Performance. For the writing act itself, many conventions and devices existed. Chief among them were dualities and word/phrase repetitions. For the reading act, the reader had the assistance of the rhetor’s choice of writing style. It greatly helped with the parsing and punctuating of texts which in their manuscript form consisted only of columns of letters and edentations with allied spaces. Firstly, we will set Mark and Matthew side by side, to see how these earlier works demonstrate the influence of rhetoric’s rules and practices.  It will show us, at least, however briefly we look, that we are not examining Luke and Acts for something that is not already encountered elsewhere. Setting Matthew and Luke, then, side by side we will complete the preliminaries. In exploring Luke and Acts side by side, we will identify their rhetorical characteristics and determine the rhetorical links that bind these two documents together. We will draw out from the texts, the matching frameworks of their composition and the discipline behind their detailed formulations. We will see how these first century texts worked. We will see the purposes for which these documents were written: that:

  1. with the Gospel, the rhetor intended a fresh representation for Gentiles of the contents and meanings of the Gospels of both Mark and Matthew, re-structured and re-mythologised, and
  2. with his second book, the rhetor sought to say that the Life of Jesus is lived over again in the Life of the Church and that it is a Life of Mission that the Spirit brings to birth, directs in the world and sustains through every kind of trial. 

Briefly, at the last, we will set our findings on Luke and Acts within the Rhetorical Table of the New Testament.

Saint Luke, Saint Mary and the Rhetoric of Luke-Acts

Mathew Bartlett 

University of Roehampton

Since rhetorical theory was learned in Greco-Roman education throughout all its stages, and found immediate application in almost every form of oral and written communication (official documents, letters, speeches and literary composition), it provided the tools for all public discourse and persuasion in Greco-Roman times. Consequently, rhetoric played a significant role in the culture which surrounded and nurtured the authors of the New Testament, and provided them with the tools to communicate their message and persuade others of its authenticity. With an adequate number of manuals on rhetoric extant, we have ready access to the toolkit of ancient speech-writers and authors—the techniques they employed in constructing their arguments. These tools prove valuable for biblical scholars seeking to understand the how the NT texts were fashioned. This paper examines the proem and opening two chapters of Luke’s Gospel in terms of his use of proofs (πίστεις), both external (e.g. naming of witnesses, existing written accounts) and internal (artistic, of his own creation). I shall discuss how Luke uses these proofs to claim legitimacy for his sources and the superiority of his account. In addition to overt statements to this effect, Luke utilizes some rather more subtle, though not unfamiliar, rhetorical techniques to achieve his end. I shall examine the possibility that Luke uses insinuation, in conjunction with cumulative argument, to imply that he has a reliable source close to Mary, Jesus’s mother. As part of my conclusion I shall briefly discuss how Luke, as he works out the topics he has introduced in the first chapters of his Gospel, continues to utilize these and other more “subtle” techniques of rhetoric across both volumes, and thus indicate the direction of my current research in the rhetoric of Luke-Acts.

The Rhetoric of Luke’s ἄνομοι (Luke 22:37)

This paper proposes that the ἄνομοι in Luke 22:37 are part of the Gospel’s sin – salvation rhetoric. For Luke the gospel is about the forgiveness of sin and Luke pervasively uses the language of ἁμαρτία and ἁμαρτωλός to explain this paradigm. However, in Luke 22:37 Luke includes a quote from Isa 52:12 that Jesus is counted among the ἄνομοι. This is introduced by the emphatic words τοῦτο τὸ γεγραμμένον δεῖ τελεσθῆναι ἐν ἐμοί (this scripture must be fulfilled in me) and ends with καὶ γὰρ τὸ περὶ ἐμοῦ τέλος ἔχει (for that which is written about me is being fulfilled). This focuses the reader’s attention on the fulfilment (τελέω) of this scripture in Jesus (ἐν ἐμοί) and that this fulfilment is found in his end (τέλος). The combined language of divine necessity in 22:7 (δεῖ), the Isaianic quote, the fulfilment language and the personal significance Jesus places on the fulfilment of the prophecy with the use of ἐν ἐμοί, makes this verse a crucial verse in understanding the death of the Lukan Jesus. Luke’s theology of the cross is often said to be quite thin or even barely there; this paper aims to thicken that conversation by showing how Jesus identifies with the sinner. This paper examines what has been said about this language, it explores its use in Luke and Isaiah in particularly from the LXX, and finally discusses what this means for reading Luke. 

Session 3

Fresh Insight on the Leading Women of Thessaloniki and Berea

Samuel Rogers 

University of Manchester

Luke describes the “first women” in Thessaloniki (17:4) and the “prominent Greek women” in Berea (17:12). Scholars’ attempts to describe these titles have not been successful. In this paper, I seek to detail the status, wealth, and civic duties of those who held the titles πρώτη γυναικῶν and εὐσχήμων. I argue the women were socially known and respected, economically wealthy, and perhaps socially elite.

Recent commentaries fail to comment substantially on either title. Keener, Fitzmyer, and Pervo note the title πρώτη γυναικῶν may indicate high ranking or aristocratic women. Barrett and Schnabel reference Horsley who asks, “Is the phrase…a title, or merely a descriptive way of referring to ‘leading’ women?” No conclusion is given. Similar comments are made about the “prominent Greek women” in Berea: Schnabel and Pervo note only they are members of the elite or have high-social standing. 

Since Horsley’s question, considerable work has advanced our understanding of both phrases. The title, ‘first lady’ in inscriptions probably mirrored (1) Livia’s title as femina princeps in Rome and (2) increased civic benefactions by women. In the inscriptions in which πρώτη γυναικῶν appears, the women are honored based on their actions towards the city and their civic offices held, not their relationship to their husband. Similarly, the term εὐσχήμων occurs in papyri; it denotes a wealthy individual, usually a benefactor, of varied but usually higher social ranks. The εὐσχήμονες had varied jobs, but most tasks revolved around supervision or management of tasks from which the city benefitted financially or socially. In both cases, the titles involve acting in the city’s best interests through donations or benefaction. The prominent women, then, were wealthy benefactors known throughout their city. They would able to act as benefactors or patrons to Paul and may have financially overseen to Paul’s escort to Athens (17:15).

Idolatry and Belief: The Christian Assembly’s Engagement with Judaism in the Acts of the Apostles

Ali Harper 

Exeter University

A brief survey of secondary literature within Biblical Studies reveals scholarship’s fascination with the engagement of the Christian assembly and its surrounding cultures in the Acts of the Apostles. A central aspect of the engagement is the relationship between the Christian Assembly and Judaism. Such scholarship includes the writings of  A. von Harnack, J. T. Sanders, and J. Jervell. Despite a close engagement with the narrative, and often the same texts, such scholars have come to varied and contradictory conclusions about this engagement. 

By using a methodology called subversive-fulfilment as a hermeneutical lens I contend that a fresh approach to this engagement can be gained; an approach that compliments the strengths of previous scholarship but one which can also address their limitations and weaknesses. To demonstrate this, I intend to examine Acts 13:13-52. This is a significant pericope because it provides a paradigm for Paul’s engagement with diaspora Judaism and with those from the Nations who associate with the synagogue as the narrative develops (14:1-2; 17:1-4; 10-12; 18:4, 19-20; 19:8-9). It is further significant because it provides a paradigm of response, both of diaspora Judaism and of those nations associated with the synagogue.