The Theme of Acts: Institutional History Or Divine Necessity in History?(Company Overview) - Journal of Biblical Literature

The Theme of Acts: Institutional History Or Divine Necessity in History?(Company Overview)

By Journal of Biblical Literature

  • Release Date: 1999-12-22
  • Genre: Language Arts & Disciplines
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The Theme of Acts: Institutional History Or Divine Necessity in History?(Company Overview) Journal of Biblical Literature Book Review Score: ★★★★★ 5/5 stars

Proponents for some sort of history as the major theme of Acts are not few) Hubert Cancik has now provided us with a stimulating article on Acts as the history of an institution. (2) His thesis seems to be that "Luke-Acts is a history that narrates the origin and spread of an institution .... The 'person' who is a thematic center of Luke's history appears for the first time late in the second logos as an acting subject. It has peace, walks in the fear of the Lord, and becomes ever larger and more numerous" (p. 673). This is from the first paragraph of the article; elsewhere he is more cautious, claiming that the growth and spread of an institution is a theme in Acts, with no claim to draw its relationships to other themes--"How this theme of institutional history relates to other motifs and themes of the second logos I wish to leave open" (p. 679); "One theme of Luke's history is, according to my thesis, the origin and spread of an institution, the ekklesia or hairesis of the Christians" (p. 694). Since Cancik twice ascribes the title "Concerning the origin and growth of the church (of the sect) of Christians" (pp. 679-80) to Acts, I conclude that he considers this theme of institutional growth to be significant enough to label the book by it. Like Cancik, I have invested much in this thesis, having given for approximately eight years a lecture on Acts with the title, "Acts: Documenting the Church's Growth." I wish to reflect on the thesis that a major theme of Acts is institutional history and explain why I can no longer describe it in this way. The identification of the major theme in Acts is worth discussing, since its confirmation or rejection will affect the expectations we bring to this NT text. (3) The central thrust of this article is that the theme of institutional origin and growth might appear dominant in Acts if one starts with the parallel texts of institutional history that Cancik has selected. But if one starts with the narrative of Acts, these parallels begin to appear more incidental than constitutive of Acts' plot. (4) The story that comes to us in Acts is more focused, has more particularity, than the theme "institutional history" captures. If we allow institutional history such thematic prominence as to entitle the story in accord with it, we will miss a bigger point that Luke is making in Acts: divine necessity plays out in the lives of those who proclaim and encounter the word of Jesus. (5) This alternative better matches Luke's prologue, in which he mentions the things fulfilled (Luke 1:1), and seems to align everything in his project toward [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], or certainty, the final, all-important word in the prologue for determining his purpose in Luke-Acts (Luke 1:4). (6) Luke seeks to demonstrate that his story in Luke-Acts is reliable by narrating the particulars in his story as a composite fulfillment of divine necessity.

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