The Book of Acts: Form, Style, and Theology

By Martin Dibelius; K. C. Hanson | Go to book overview

8
Paul in Athens

The author of the book of Acts in the New Testament wanted to describe the first Christian mission but really only presented Paul’s journeys. These seemed to him to be significant for the future, since they showed the spread of belief in Christianity from Jerusalem toward Rome. Obviously he had a source for these journeys. Many investigators thought they could restore this source by concentrating on those parts of the work that are written in the “we-style” (16:10–17; 20:5–15; 21:1–18; 27:1—28:16). Adolf von Harnack, in particular, has proved in modern times that we cannot be certain that this theory of the “we-source” is justified: he has shown that what we find in the “we-passages” and in the other parts of the account of the journeys is, from the lexicographical standpoint, the same.

We might argue that the vocabulary used belongs to the author of the whole work and that the style of the whole is therefore, to some extent, leveled out. But the argument from the lexicographical standpoint is supported and confirmed by other considerations. All the scanty accounts which the book gives of the missionary stations—whether they are “we-passages” or not—fit in with the same scheme. The arrival and accommodation of the missionaries are always dealt with, also the point of contact for their evangelism which they seek (and generally find within the Jewish community), their preaching, the disturbance of their activities (usually by the Jews), and the results, which include the names of new converts. This sort of information is too dull to be legend, too detailed to be fiction. Its colorless nature also prevents us from assuming that the author of the book composed it himself on the basis of information he had. He writes differently, at least where he can expand freely. So we have before us fragments of a source, of an itinerary, which must ultimately be ascribed to one of the company on the journey.

In view of this, it no longer matters whether the “we” was really to be found in the itinerary or whether it was inserted by the writer of Acts in order to indicate his part in the journey. It is sufficient that this writer possessed such a source and used it in accordance with his own purposes. He abbreviated it

-129-

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The Book of Acts: Form, Style, and Theology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Editor’s Foreword vii
  • Acknowledgments x
  • Abbreviations xii
  • Part I - History and Style in Acts 1
  • 1 - Acts in the Setting of the History of Early Christian Literature 3
  • 2 - The First Christian Historian 14
  • 3 - The Book of Acts as an Historical Source 27
  • 4 - Style Criticism of the Book of Acts 32
  • 5 - The Speeches in Acts and Ancient Historiography 49
  • Part II - Paul and Peter in the Book of Acts 87
  • 6 - Paul in the Book of Acts 89
  • 7 - Paul on the Areopagus 95
  • 8 - Paul in Athens 129
  • 9 - The Apostolic Council 134
  • 10 - The Conversion of Cornelius 140
  • Part III - The Text of Acts 151
  • 11 - The Text of Acts 153
  • Notes 161
  • Bibliography 204
  • Select Bibliography on the Book of Acts 208
  • Index of Authors 215
  • Index of Ancient Sources 219
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