the weblog of Alan Knox

Two thoughts on Acts

Posted by on May 5, 2009 in books, scripture | 7 comments

I have great respect for David Peterson. His book Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship is one of my favorites. I’ve also learned from and enjoyed many of his journal articles. Now, Justin at Between Two Worlds points out that Peterson is the author of a new commentary: The Acts of the Apostles in the Pillar New Testament Commentary series. I don’t buy alot of commentaries, but this one will probably end up on my wish list.

Justin later quotes Blomberg concerning interpreting Acts in a post called “Blomberg: An Axiom on Applying Acts“:

Unlike the epistles, [Acts] gives few formal commands. Even though four Gospels, with their emphasis on Jesus’ ethical instruction, have more explicitly didactic material than Acts. Most of its contents simply present various vignettes involving the characters Luke chooses to highlight. Subsequent readers frequently find themselves asking,
  • “What is normative?”
  • “What is a positive example to emulate or a negative one to avoid?” Or,
  • “Are certain events included for other reasons–perhaps just because they happened and remained important for explaining developments in the fledgling church?”

One fundamental hermeneutical axiom in answer these questions is to distinguish [1] consistent patterns of behavior from multiple contexts within the books (and within the rest of the New Testament more generally) and [2] patterns that vary from one context to the next.

Luke, as narrator, can also give indirect clues by noting God’s blessing as the result of some activity–a further way of indicating its exemplary nature. – From Pentecost to Patmos: An Introduction to Acts through Revelation (p. 10)

What do think about Blomberg’s axiom?


7 Comments

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  1. 5-5-2009

    Hello Alan,
    Regarding point 1–consistent patterns, a recently read a book called Leadership and Lifestyle: The Portrait of Paul in the Lietus Speech and 1 Thessalonians, a revised PhD dissertation by Steve Walton. The premise of the book points to an overwhelming unification of the portrait and teaching of Paul in the NT as a uniform whole. The Paul of Acts and the Paul of the Epistles are one and the same. That being said, I think it makes a compelling argument for Paul's teaching/instruction on the church gathering (including leadership, function, etc.) as formative and not to be ignored.

    I hope this adds to the discussion and does not come off as mere rambling :)
    Grace & Peace,
    Chris

  2. 5-5-2009

    Oops! That was suppose to read “The Miletus Speech” not “Litus Speech”–sorry.

  3. 5-5-2009

    Chris,

    That’s very interesting. I’ll have to look that book up.

    If Luke selected what he wrote about for theological reasons – and I think he did – then I think we’re mistaken if we discount any part of Acts.

    -Alan

  4. 5-5-2009

    I think that leads to another, broader question: what commands throughout the New Testament are normative? We observe the Supper, but we don’t wash feet typically. We reserve the office of elder to men but women don’t cover their heads (well my wife and a few others do…) So the big question in my mind as we look back at the NT is determining what is descriptive and what is prescriptive.

  5. 5-5-2009

    Alan,

    I really like that axiom. However, I think that axiom should be applied many other times in the scriptures also as Arthur pointed out. We all have subjective hermeneutics but we say we don’t. As Arthur pointed out again, how many of us drink wine when our stomach hurts, or raise our hands as Paul instructs Timothy and those in Ephesus?

    But to the main point brother, Acts is very tough as to not what only is to be obeyed but can we even expect that same type of move of God that they experienced and the same type of unity that they expected or should I just say “that was then and this is now”?

  6. 5-5-2009

    Arthur,
    I'm just thinking here, but could Acts be largely descriptive (Luke sharing what they early church did as it grew) and the NT Letters be prescriptive (i.e., Paul writing to the church in Corinth regarding what to do when the church gathers)?

    But I think the fact that the teaching of Jesus, the Paul described in Acts, and his teachings in the epistles all touch on uniform themes of leadership, etc. I think that makes it descriptive–but I am no expert :)
    Grace & Peace,
    Chris

  7. 5-5-2009

    Arthur,

    The normativity question is huge. Very few have answered it in a way that is satisfying for me. I think Vanhoozer come close.

    Lionel,

    Good thoughts. What would we do if God did similar things today that we read about in Acts? Would we accept them as works of God, or reject them?

    Chris,

    I agree that there are uniform themes of leadership in the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles.

    -Alan