Tuesday, January 24, 2012


"Acts" Carson & Moo pp. 285-330

Acts serves in a way as the second volume of the gospel according to Luke, but in a way as the historical document cataloging the progress of the gospel from its roots at the time of the resurrection of Jesus in Jerusalem to the middle of the first century, by which time it had spread to a significant portion of the Roman empire. Carson and Moo outline as follows beginning on p. 286.

p. 286 "Prologue: foundations for the church and its mission (1:1-2:41). Luke begins by rooting the church and its mission in Jesus' acts and words.

p. 286 "The church in Jerusalem (2:42-6:7). Luke begins this section with a summary of the characteristics of the early church in Jerusalem."

p. 287 "Wider horizons for the church: Stephen, Samaria, and Saul (6:8-9:31).

p. 287 "Peter and the first gentile convert (9:32-12:24).

p. 288 "Paul turns to the Gentiles (12:25-16:5). From Peter, luke turns now to Paul, who dominates the remainder of the book. Paul's significance for Luke lies in his being used by God to pioneer an extensive ministry to Gentiles, to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth, and to show that the gospel was no direct threat to the Roman government.

p. 288 "Further Penetration into the Gentile world 916:6-19:20). It seems a bit odd that we should divide Luke's story at this point. Yet by the care with which he shows how Paul was directed by God's Spirit step-by-step to take the gospel into Macedonia (16:6-10), Luke implies that we have reached a decisive stage."

p. 289 "On to Rome (19:21-28:31). Again we may feel that it is rather artificial to insert a major break in the midst of Paul's stay in ephesus. But Luke again suggests such a break with his first indication that Paul was determined to go to Rome (19:21-22).

The Traditional Case - throughout history it has been broadly held that Luke was the author of both Luke and Acts. p. 291 "The tradition that Luke, a companion of Paul, was the author of the third gospel and of Acts is early and unchallenged: The Muratorian Canon (C. a.d. 180-200?), Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 3.1; 3.14.1-4), the anti-Marcionite prologue (end of second century), Clement of Alexandria (Strom. 5.12), Tertullian (Adv. Marc. 4.2), and Eusebius (H.E. 3.4; 3.24.15).

The Case against the Tradition
Arguments from the external evidence don't seem to hold much weight. They are advanced but are not overly persuasive. Even the alleged differences in theological orientation between Paul as revealed in his letters and Paul as described in Acts are not differences which can't be harmonized.

Conclusion - Carson and Moo do not find a convincing reason not to conclude that Luke was the author of Acts.

Dates suggested range from about A.D. 62 to the second century. A second century date originated with the Tubingen school, dating it from the first outside reference to the book. This view has fallen out of favor and is no longer held by many scholars. More scholars suggest that Acts was written in the 80s. It is suggested that it should be dated quite a while after the gospel, which is typically dated no earlier than 70. The book tends to have a fairly optimistic view of Roman government, which would be less likely during a period of state persecution. A date before 70 can be supported by the abrupt ending which leaves Paul in the year 62 without resolving his imprisonment, despite the fact that Paul appears to have been released from prison for a period about 62 before being imprisoned and executed around 64 or 65. For this reason, Carson and Moo suggest a date in the early to mid 60s.

Genre - Luke's writing fits generally into the realm of historiography, though it has a strong element of the gospel.

Addressees and Purpose - Acts is addressed to Theophilus, probably a patron of Luke. Finding how much broader the intended audience might have been depends on Luke's purpose, which is not clearly stated in the text. He may have written to seek conciliation between different factions of early Christianity. He may have been writing to provide examples of evangelistic and apologetic works. The work includes some strong theological elements which may suggest that Luke is intending to clarify orthodox doctrine. And the theme of edification of the Christian is pervasive, indicating that Luke may well have desired to strengthen Christian communities through a narrative of the early events of the Church.

We do not have much information about the sources Luke may have had. He is clear that much of his material comes from research, and that research may include written and oral sources. Some of the material comes from his own eyewitness account, apparently, as there are the "we" passages of the text.

The text of Acts is intriguing as there are two distinct text traditions. One of the two, the Western tradition, is approximately ten percent longer than the text in the Codex Sinaiticus. It is unclear at many points which may have been closer to the original text.

Carson and Moo survey recent research about Acts, much of which focuses on finding the purposes which Luke may have held in writing. A great deal of effort has also gone into identifying whether Luke's writing is as historically accurate as other ancient historians. Since the mid 1960s Luke as the theologian has emerged.

Acts has been shown again and again to be a reliable and definitive text to inform us about the events of the early Church. Where events mentioned by Luke are mentioned by other historians Luke appears to be sound and accurate. Our expectation would be that he is a credible witness to other events as well. p. 321 "Perhaps Luke's most important contribution is precisely this careful linking of the apostolic proclamation of the Word of God with the word that Jesus both taught and fulfilled. The "Word of God" thus binds together Luke's two volumes, as the salvation that the angel first announced on the night of Jesus' birth on a Judean hillside is brought finally to the capital of the Roman Empire. Luke focuses on six key theolgoical themes, identified by Carson and Moo on pp. 322 and following.
1) The Plan of God
2) The Presence of the Future
3) Salvation
4) The Word of God
5) The Holy Spirit
6) The People of God
All these themes are illustrative of the ongoing work of the Gospel in the people of the primitive Church.

This chapter points up that in a book like Acts there is more than meets the eye at first. We can look to the text on many different levels.

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