Luke-Acts as History

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Information about Luke-Acts as History

Published on November 29, 2008

Author: andrewneileen


History and the New Testament : History and the New Testament Christadelphian Presentation Luke-Acts : Luke-Acts Luke-Acts is a two-volume work Luke-Acts is 28% of the New Testament Luke-Acts is a suitable test case Scholars think that Luke intended to write history Historical Tests : Historical Tests Preface – author’s intentions Geographical accuracy Terminological accuracy Chronological synchronisms Style of the speeches Scriptural continuity (Inspiration) Preface to Luke-Acts : Preface to Luke-Acts Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word have handed them down to us, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. Lk 1:1-4 (NAS) Josephus: Against Apion : Josephus: Against Apion I suppose, that by my books of the “Antiquity of the Jews‘”, most excellent Epaphroditus, {a} have made it evident to those who peruse them, that our Jewish nation is of very great antiquity, and had a distinct subsistence of its own originally; as also, I have therein declared how we came to inhabit this country wherein we now live. Those Antiquities contain the history of five thousand years, and are taken out of our sacred books; but are translated by me into the Greek tongue. I.1 Josephus: Against Apion : Josephus: Against Apion I, therefore, have thought myself under an obligation to write something briefly about these subjects, in order to convict those who reproach us of spite and voluntary falsehood, and to correct the ignorance of others, and withal to instruct all those who are desirous of knowing the truth of what great antiquity we really are. I.3 Josephus: Against Apion : Josephus: Against Apion As for the witnesses whom I shall produce for the proof of what I say, they shall be such as are esteemed to be of the greatest reputation for truth, and the most skilful in the knowledge of all antiquity, by the Greeks themselves. I will also show, that those who have written so reproachfully and falsely about us, are to be convicted by what they have written themselves to the contrary. I.4 Josephus: Against Apion : Josephus: Against Apion I shall also endeavour to give an account of the reasons why it has so happened, that there have not been a great number of Greeks who have made mention of our nation in their histories; I will, however, bring those Greeks to light who have not omitted our history, for the sake of those who either do not know them, or pretend not to know them already. Common Features of Historical Prefaces : Common Features of Historical Prefaces Luke refers to previous writers (c.f. Polybius, Book I.1.1, Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman Antiquities, Book I.1.1) Luke uses the authorial first person, which is found in historiographical prefaces such as Diodorus. Luke criticizes other accounts, but his criticisms are implied by his objectives. Common Features of Historical Prefaces : Common Features of Historical Prefaces Luke says other accounts have failed to include the beginning of the story; they have failed to include all the necessary detail; their work was not precise enough; and it was not in order. “…when he [the historian] has collected all or most of the facts let him first make them into a series of notes…then after arranging them into order, let him give it beauty and enhance it with the charms of expression, figure and rhythm”. Lucian, How to Write History 48 Common Features of Historical Prefaces : Common Features of Historical Prefaces While Luke does not claim to be an eyewitness, he identifies with his story in the phrase “among us” (Lk 1:1) and in the “we” passages of Acts, and this satisfies Polybius’ desiderata that the historian be “of action” or a participant “in actual affairs” (Book I.1.2) Eyewitness knowledge was thought the most reliable, and Luke’s mention of eyewitnesses shows a conscious evocation of this principle of evidence and therefore an intentional participation on his part in an historical method. Common Features of Historical Prefaces : Common Features of Historical Prefaces Luke’s stated objective to Theophilus is that might “you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed”. The “apologetic” aspect of this objective is a comparable utility to the “political” value of Hellenistic histories. Common Features of Historical Prefaces : Common Features of Historical Prefaces Luke includes a dedication, and this practise is indirectly evidenced for Hellenistic histories. For example, Dionysius of Halicarnassus in his Roman Antiquities I.4.3 refers to the common practise of writing histories for kings. Common Features of Historical Prefaces : Common Features of Historical Prefaces The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach… Acts 1:1 Luke’s second preface summarises the contents of the previous work, and this bears comparison to some Hellenistic histories, for instance, in Diodorus Book II.1.1, “the preceding book, being the first of the whole work”. The first preface was generally applicable to the whole work, while subsequent prefaces were shorter. Geographical Terms : Geographical Terms “the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis” Acts 19:35 Paul preaches in Athens in the “Areopagus” – and this is known to be the common place for public lectures. Synchronisms : Synchronisms Historical works engaged in correlation of persons and events in order to set their account in a wider context. For example, Thucydides dates the beginning of the Peloponnesian War with a precise series of dates defined according to the year of several contemporaneous rulers and governors (Book II.2.1). Luke synchronizes the start of the ministry with the incumbent political and religious authorities. Synchronisms continue in Acts with references to persons and events such as Claudius, Herod, Gallio, Felix and Festus (Acts 11:28, 12:1, 18:12, 23:24, 24:27). Synchronisms : Synchronisms Achaia was a senatorial province from 27 BC to AD 15 and then from AD44 onwards – Luke correctly gives the title of Gallio as “proconsul”, and he became proconsul in AD 51 (Acts 18:12) Cyprus was an imperial province until 22 BC and then became a senatorial province – Luke correctly calls Sergius Paullus a proconsul (Acts 13:7) Synchronisms : Synchronisms Nero became emperor in 54 AD and at this time the proconsul of Ephesus was murdered by emissaries of Nero’s mother; these then temporarily shared the proconsul duties – hence Luke uses the plural term “proconsuls” in describing the riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:38) Local officials at Ephesus were known as “Asiarchs” and this is the term used by Luke – Acts 19:31 Synchronisms : Synchronisms The magistrates at Thessalonica are called “politarchs” – Acts 17:6 – and this is a title confirmed on inscriptions. The chief official in Malta is called “the first man of the island” – Acts 28:7 – and this is confirmed by inscriptions Herod Antipas is called a “tetrarch” by Luke (Lk 3:1, 19), and this is his proper Roman title – unlike his father upon whom the Romans conferred the title of “king” Mistakes? : Mistakes? Jesus was born in the reign of Herod the Great who died 4 BC, but the census under Quirinius conflicts with evidence that he became governor of Syria in 6 AD This “problem” was known as early as Tertullian (c. 180- 240 AD), who suggested Luke got his governor wrong, and that Saturninus (9-6 BC) introduced the census. Solution : Solution “…there was a hearing before Saturninus and Volumnius, who were then the governors of Syria.” Josephus, Antiquities XVI.280, 283, 344 “And he sent great presents to his friends, at Rome particularly, to gain their goodwill; and above all to Saturninus, the governor of Syria.” Josephus, Antiquities XVI.280 Quirinius was active in the region in military affairs – the possibility exists that he was a temporary governor of Syria with Saturnius Speeches : Speeches “As to the speeches that were made by different men… [they] are given in the language in which, as it seemed to me, the several speakers would express, on the subjects under consideration, the sentiments most befitting the occasion, though at the same time I have adhered as closely as possible to the general sense of what was actually said” Thucydides Book I.22.1. Speeches : Speeches Polybius followed Thucydides’ example; he states, “…the peculiar function of history is to discover, in the first place, the words actually spoken, whatever they were, and next to ascertain the reason why what was done or spoken led to failure or success. For the mere statement of a fact may interest us but is of no benefit to us: but when we add the cause of it, study of history becomes fruitful” Book XII 25.1-2 Speeches : Speeches Luke obviously follows this practise, insofar as he places set-piece speeches at critical junctures in his narrative. Luke’s structural use of set piece speeches is analogous to Classical and Hellenistic history-writing. Scriptural Continuity : Scriptural Continuity Luke intends Luke-Acts to function alongside the Jewish Scriptures. Luke continues the story elements (plot lines, events and characters) of the Jewish Scriptures Luke imitates Jewish scriptural episodes Luke uses a Septuagintal style in writing Luke presents a theological history which continues the salvation-historical acts of God in respect of Israel Scriptural Status : Scriptural Status The dominance of these characteristics implies a scripturally sensitive readership and invites such a reader to read Luke-Acts alongside the Jewish Scriptures. Did Luke conceive of his writing as “scripture”? Argument 1 : Argument 1 Luke shows awareness of the historic role of prophets in Israel’s history. Prophets have books recording their oracles (e.g. Lk 4:17). Luke identifies John the Baptist and Jesus as prophets (Lk 1:76, 4:24, 7:16, 26-28). He also presents their fate as typical for prophets (Lk 11:49-51, 13:33-34, Acts 7:52). Luke claims to be recording their words and deeds Lk 1:1-4, Acts 1:1), therefore it is reasonable to assume that he viewed his writing as “scriptural”. Argument 2 : Argument 2 Luke records an awareness of literary periodicity in Jesus’ remark, “…the law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached” (Lk 16:16). The content of that preaching is prima facia contained in Luke’s gospel and as such represents the writing that comes after the “Law and the Prophets” and adds to those writings the new teaching of Jesus — a third corpus. Argument 3 : Argument 3 Luke narrates the presence of the holy Spirit at the beginning of the Gospel and throughout Acts. The Spirit is the “Spirit of prophecy” and as such confirms, not only the Word that was preached by the apostles, it confirms this Word as recorded by Luke. Conclusion : Conclusion In terms of the reading experience of Luke’s audience, reading Luke-Acts is more likely to have resembled the reading (or hearing) of the Jewish Scriptures than the available political histories or biographies. Recognition of the genre of Luke and Acts as “scripture” as early as the writing and first circulation of the two works is an indication that this was its perceived genre.

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