Will Loescher, Independent Researcher, ‘The Disappearing Spirit in Acts’
This paper will develop one of the chapters from my recently published book, Transformation by the Spirit and the Word: A Literary Exploration of Acts (Wipf & Stock, March 2023), which is itself a reworking of my 2017 PhD. Other scholars have noted that the Holy Spirit references diminish as Acts progresses (or should that be regresses?) and made tentative suggestions why this might happen. After a brief introduction to my method of literary exploration through structure, story, and significance, I review the various literal, theological, and literary explanations for “the disappearing Spirit” before suggesting a possible solution which fits the context of narrative pneumatology and missiology. This leads us into what I hope will be a stimulating discussion about how narrative theology works, whether Acts is descriptive and/or prescriptive, how Luke portrays the Holy Spirit as the major character of Acts, and ways in which he is the expected means of empowering and direction for the unfolding mission.
Paul Wilson, University of Edinburgh, ‘What’s in a Nickname? The Dynamics of Displacement, Belonging, and Identity in the Characterisation of Barnabas’
Barnabas is characterised as the quintessential mediator in the Book of Acts, a simultaneous insider and outsider, a continuity character who bridges the Jerusalem and Pauline missions. Despite the relative lack of scholarly attention given to Barnabas, his nicknaming has attracted considerable debate. For many scholars, Luke’s awkward narrative aside in Acts 4:36 (ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον υἱὸς παρακλήσεως) has obfuscated, rather than clarified the meaning of the nickname. A problem with the debate is an attempt to settle on a singular definition. I will propose that the nickname is polyvalent and should be understood with reference to the character’s introduction as a Cypriot and a Levite. This paper will present a critical reassessment of Barnabas’ characterisation in Acts 4:36 that considers Judean onomastics, the subversion of Graeco-Roman stereotypes about Cyprus, and social-scientific perspectives on migrant nicknaming strategies. The introduction of Barnabas is intended to reflect both his hybrid identity and integration into the Jerusalem church. It also prefigures and illuminates his later role as the consummate intermediary, but also his eventual rift with Paul.
This session is dedicated to the research and career of Prof. Emerita Loveday Alexander (Sheffield and Manchester), who has published widely on Luke-Acts and inspired many of us in our research. Her presentation ‘READING ACTS: How has my mind changed (and not changed), over the course of the past four decades?’ will be followed by a response by Prof. Steve Walton (Bristol) and a time for questions.
Tim Gough, University of Manchester, ‘The Cornelius effect: Re-evaluating Acts 10:2, 22 as prototypical “God-fearer” language’
The contemporary ‘God-fearer’ hypothesis within Acts orbits the Cornelius story, which forms the semantic lens for interpreting all potential God-fearer passages. Jervell says Cornelius is the ‘paradigm’ for (1996:16), and the ‘prototype’ of (26) God-fearers in Acts. Collins calls Cornelius the ‘prime example’ God-fearer (2000:264), Levinskaya, says he is ‘the model God-fearer’ (1996:11), and Finn concludes that Cornelius ‘stands as the paradigmatic convert’ of the God-fearers (1985:76). The resulting God-fearer category now haunts a significant amount of the Acts discussion as a kind of rhetorical ghost.
Despite this common designation of Cornelius as the prototypical ‘God-fearer’, there are arguments to suggest he is highly untypical as such, and if the blueprint is, in fact, not typical, then the category erodes significantly. Acts 10 reveals a unique character in whom the author shows no intentional construction of a God-fearer category—and thus it is improbable they have done so throughout the narrative. Thus, the continuously unsatisfactory God-fearer discussions may have resulted from subconscious maintenance of a category that need not exist, and begins problematically with Cornelius.
Michael Kochenash, Radboud University, ‘The Census according to Luke: Jesus of Nazareth as a New Judas the Galilean’
Josephus connects a notable event related to Quirinius’s registration, the rebellion of Judas the Galilean, with the later destruction of Jerusalem in the so-called Jewish War. Specifically, he argues that Judas’s rebellion set Judea on a trajectory that necessitated Rome’s violent intervention. The Gospel of Luke also presents a notable event coinciding with Quirinius’s registration, the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1–3; see also Acts 5:37). Not only will his birth lead to the rising and falling of many (Luke 2:34–35), the rejection of Jesus is explicitly connected with the later destruction of Jerusalem (23:27–31). I argue that, for readers familiar with Josephus’s presentation of Judas the Galilean, Luke’s placement of Jesus’s birth during the registration under Quirinius—a chronologically dubious choice—can be understood as foreshadowing this connection between the Galilean Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem. Indeed, this narrative correlation would be most meaningful for an audience holding Josephan sensibilities about recent Jewish history, and so this reading favors such an identification for the implied audience of Luke and Acts.