Paul Middleton, University of Chester, ‘”Hanging’s too good for him!” The Death of Judas in Acts as Divine Execution’
Luke’s account of Judas’ death has been overshadowed by Matthew’s better-known story of his self-killing. Antipathy to suicide in Christian tradition has led to commentators from Augustine onwards interpreting Judas’ death at his own hand as an appropriate end for this treacherous character. Yet while Luke’s portrayal of Judas is arguably more negative than Matthew, the circumstances of his death are quite different, with no suggestion he takes his own life. In this paper, I will argue Luke’s account of Judas’ death is consistent with his more negative portrayal. Rather than any suggestion Judas’ self-killing could be interpreted within the Noble Death tradition, Luke presents Judas—along with Ananias, Sapphira, and Herod—as the deserving victim of divine execution. I will also suggest traditions of divine execution are found in New Testament traditions beyond Luke.
Travis R. Niles, University of Bern, ‘“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” Blasphemy in Luke-Acts’
In this paper, I argue that the conception of blasphemy in Luke-Acts is distinct from that found in the other Synoptics and that the Lukan manner of understanding and responding to it demonstrates a discursive similarity with other thinkers of his day concerning the topic of human ignorance and its relation to wrongdoing. Specifically, Luke uses βλασφημία to refer only to derisive speech-acts directed at the Messiah and his witnesses and he understands it to be grounded in ignorance rather than malice, which paves the way for the response of forgiveness.
Robert W. Heimburger, University of Aberdeen, ‘Food in the Book of Acts: Division, Community, and Thanksgiving in the Wake of the Spirit’
Acts seems to say little about the non-human world, but closer attention shows the repeated appearance of plants and non-human animals as food for human beings. In this paper, I will ask what significance non-human creatures have as food in Acts. I will look at instances where breaking bread appears to unite the Jerusalem community (Acts 2) and sustain despairing seafarers (Acts 27). I will also look at two occasions where food has divided communities but in the Jesus movement, begins to bring them together in equality and fellowship: the Hellenists and Hebrews in Jerusalem (Acts 6) and Jews and Gentiles (Acts 10–11). I will reckon with the paring back of Jewish food prohibitions and the decisions of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 10–11, 15). In conclusion, I will explore whether it is right to say that non-human creatures matter in Acts as occasions to gather across human divisions and to express thanks for God’s abundant provision of food.
Jeff Bennett, University of Edinburgh, ‘On the Way to Moral Transformation: Luke and Philo’s Use of a Moral Idiom’
This paper interrogates the significance of Luke’s identification of the nascent christians as “the way” (ἡ ὁδός, Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22) in the Acts of the Apostles. It does so by exploring the identification of moral-philosophical traditions as distinctive ways of life by various Greco-Roman authors. In particular, the paper will juxtapose Luke’s identification of the nascent church as the way with Philo’s depiction of Israel’s Exodus in his Vita de Mosis. The paper demonstrates that Philo depicts Israel struggling with three paradigmatic passions while on the road. For Philo, the road through the wilderness was a means of moral transformation. Through this juxtaposition, the paper will demonstrate that Luke’s identification of the church as the way evinces his understanding of the church as a moral-philosophical tradition. For this reason, this paper suggests that Luke’s narrative was written to facilitate the moral transformation of his readers and auditors.
Daniel McGinnis , St Hild College, ‘Rhetorical Purpose and Persecution Narratives in Acts’
Suffering is a prominent theme in the narrative world of Acts. This paper examines its multiple persecution stories in the light of ancient rhetorical conventions, concluding that as examples of epideictic rhetoric they present a model to be praised and emulated by readers. This view rejects the traditional missionary-or-prisoner dichotomy and understands opposition and imprisonment to be central aspects of the author’s overarching missional agenda. The paper then undertakes a close reading of the primary suffering episodes in Acts, focusing on its final seven chapters and their rhetorical message. Even the ending of Acts seeks to draw its readers into the ongoing suffering-as-mission experience of its characters. In light of current events in Ukraine and elsewhere, this theme of missional suffering is of paramount importance and relevance today.
The paper builds on Part 4 of my recently published book, Missional Acts: Rhetorical Narrative in the Acts of the Apostles, which interacts with recent scholarship on this often-overlooked theme of Acts.
Paul Wilson, University of Edinburgh, ‘Those who were scattered’: A Migration Studies Perspective on Acts’
Acts describes the movement of nascent Christianity outward from its cradle in Jerusalem to throughout the Roman Empire. The narrative not only depicts the spread of a message, but the movement of people who carry that message. This is more than Luke’s literary invention; Acts was composed and received in a world shaped by high levels of migration. This paper will argue that migration studies can offer fresh insights into Acts and its context. First, a brief survey of material and bioarchaeological evidence for high levels of migration in the Early Roman Empire will be presented. Second, it will be proposed that Acts can be read as literature of migration. Third, migration-informed exegesis of Acts’ portrayal of “those who were scattered” (oἱ μὲν οὖν διασπαρέντες, Acts 8:4, 11:19) and the Philip narrative will be offered as examples of the relevance of migration studies to Acts.