The Book of Acts: Form, Style, and Theology

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

6
Paul in the Book of Acts

The literary and historical assessment of Acts in present-day scholarship is so far from unanimous that anyone who wishes to use Acts for purposes of theological study is compelled to lay his own foundations. This includes, first of all, the acquiring of a literary judgment, and it is only when we have understood why the author of Acts tells us so much and yet not more than he does about Paul, and when we have seen what sources and information were at his disposal, and what was his literary intention, that we can decide what parts of the book may safely be considered as historical.

This book, though called “The Acts of the Apostles,” does not contain as much about the apostles as we should expect. It tells about Peter, and in a quite shadowy manner about John, and about the preachers Stephen and Philip; over half the book is dedicated to the apostle Paul, yet this by no means turns it into a biography of Paul. A remarkable selection of episodes out of the apostle’s life has been portrayed in Acts. He appears in 7:58; 8:1, 3 as an eyewitness at the stoning of Stephen, with whom the “witnesses” left their clothes. It can be shown that Luke is using an older account here, a “martyrdom” of the first Christian martyr as it was current in the Christian community before the composition of Acts.1 Even without literary evidence we could assume the existence of such a martyrdom,2 and that mention might have been made in it of those witnesses who had been particularly concerned in the stoning,3 but certainly not of a young man at whose feet the witnesses laid their clothes. This assumption is confirmed by observations made from the literary point of view.4 Thus Luke has inserted three notes, on the presence of Saul, on his agreement with the killing of Stephen, and on his active part in the persecution. The third is significant as the transition to the story of the conversion (9:1–19). Luke has a habit of making his connecting links in this way, even in the Gospel, now much more so in Acts.5

This is no proof, however, that his information was not authentic. In fact, Luke seems to have had a good deal of detailed knowledge, since, according to the prologue to the Gospel (1:3), he has “followed all things closely for some

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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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