Jews in the Hellenistic and Roman Cities

By John R. Bartlett | Go to book overview

4

THE JEWS IN THE HELLENISTIC CITIES OF ACTS

Fearghus Ó Fearghail


Introduction

A topic such as the Jews in the Hellenistic cities of Acts presents many difficulties for the historian of Judaism and early Christianity. Undoubtedly there is historical information present in Acts, 1 but given Luke's skill as a writer and the obvious impact on the narrative of his concerns and theology, it is no easy task to assess the information provided in the quest for authentic information on the period covered by Acts (c.27-63 CE) or on the situation at the time of its composition. The task becomes more complex when account is taken of issues such as the extent and quality of the material gathered by the writer, the particular audience he had in mind, the aim or aims he set himself to fulfil and apologetic motives that consciously or unconsciously may have influenced his composition. 2 It is further complicated by the fact that Luke's narrative deals with Jewish communities spread over a wide geographic area, communities that may have differed quite significantly in their religious views and practices. 3 The diversity that existed within early Christianity, evident from Acts itself (cf. 6.1-6; 15.1-2; 20.30; 21.20b-25), must also be borne in mind. 4 Ostensibly, it would seem a less arduous task to ascertain the writer's attitude towards the Jews in his two-volume work, but that this is far from the case is suggested by the variety of opinions on the subject. 5

In this contribution the focus is initially on Luke's presentation of the Jews in the Hellenistic cities of Acts, their attitude towards the preaching of the followers of Christ, especially that of Paul, and their relationship to the non-

1 See, for example, Fitzmyer 1998:124-7; Barrett 1998: II, xxxiii-lxi, cxi-cxviii.

2 Cf. Alexander 1999:13-44; Walaskay 1983.

3 See the comments of Kraabel 1987:49-60; 1994:87; Overman 1992:63, 77-8; Goodman 1997:303.

4 See, for example, Paget 1999:741.

5 For some of the numerous publications on the topic see Wolter 1999:307-24; Brawley 1987:69-173; Setzer 1994:44-82; Ó Fearghail 1987:23-5.

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