FULL PROJECT – THE INTERRELATIONSHIP OF THEOLOGY, HISTORY AND LITERARY ARTISTRY IN ACTS: FROM A CANONICAL READER’S PERSPECTIVE

FULL PROJECT – THE INTERRELATIONSHIP OF THEOLOGY, HISTORY AND LITERARY ARTISTRY IN ACTS: FROM A CANONICAL READER’S PERSPECTIVE

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Abstract:

Broadly, the objective of this dissertation is to contribute to the ongoing studies on the biblical theology of the Acts of the Apostles. CHAPTER ONE examines the canonical critical approach and its underlying presuppositions. Foundational to the present study is the supposition that the whole Scripture is word of God and thus, the expectation of a theological unity that is centered on “the Son” (John 1:1-4; Heb 1:1-4). It is my thesis that some specifics of that theological and Christological unity can be discerned when Acts is read in the light of the preceding canonical contexts which were ordered by the post-Ireneaus early church as hermeneutical guides for interpreting the NT Scriptures. The canonical contexts that are examined are: (1) the immediately preceding context of the Fourth Gospel [CHAPTERS TWO AND THREE], (2) the four Gospels as a unified whole [CHAPTER 4] and, ultimately, (3) the Old Testament [CHAPTER FOUR]. It is proposed that a canonically informed reading may yield significant insight into the theology that not only is inherent in the history Luke records in Acts about the continuation of “all that Jesus began to do and teach” following his ascension, but also guides the literary choices Luke makes in narrating that history. The present study proceeds from the rhetorical critical observation that the ascension of Jesus, recorded in the opening discourse of Acts, creates the primary rhetorical ‘problem’ addressed in Acts: how will the mission to establish the kingdom of God on earth, inaugurated by Jesus as narrated in the Gospels, continue postascension? CHAPTER TWO makes a case from a canonical point of view that, among the four gospels, the rhetorical ‘problem’ posed by the ascension of Jesus in the opening discourse of Acts is most anticipated, most intentionally and comprehensively addressed by Jesus in the second half of the Fourth Gospel. It is proposed and argued in this chapter that Jesus’ teaching in the Fourth Gospel about the postascension roles of the Holy Spirit and the apostles best facilitates an introduction to and understanding of the theology intrinsic to the history and narrative art in the opening scenes of Acts. CHAPTER THREE views the opening discourses of Acts from the perspective of the exegetical insights argued in chapter two. Chapter three assesses whether Jesus’ anticipation of and pre-planned response to the “problem” of the ascension is actualized in the opening scenes of Acts. CHAPTER FOUR addresses the “problem” created by the ascension in Acts from the broader canonical perspective of the four-fold Gospel testimony about Jesus’ mission. It is argued that Jesus’ mission was defined by Old Testament messianic categories and fulfills the mission of Israel. It is proposed that the reader of Acts, being familiar with the four-fold Gospel, may perceive the striking resemblance of Jesus’ mission, gospel and the concurrent conflict and controversy he provoked manifest in the church’s life and ministry in the narrative of Acts. This chapter argues from a broader canonical approach that the tri-fold Old Testament missional roles of prophet, priest and king, which Jesus fulfills as the Messianic servant in the Gospels is clearly exhibited in Luke’s literary choices and underlying missional theology in Acts. The church’s continuation of Jesus’ tri-fold missional roles in Acts yields a second major plot dynamic that permeates the historical narrative of Acts: persecution. It is argued that these two core elements of theology endemic to the canonical history of God’s people work in literary counterpoint in the history and literary art of Luke in Acts. As the post-ascension manifestation of the body of Christ on earth, the church continues to live out the tri-fold messianic, missional roles of Jesus in fulfillment of his words: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also” (John 15:20). These two contrapuntal themes set forth the core theology that guides Luke’s literary artistic choices and explains the ebb and flow and interconnectedness of the narratives of the continuation of Jesus’ mission by the church in Acts.

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FULL PROJECT – THE INTERRELATIONSHIP OF THEOLOGY, HISTORY AND LITERARY ARTISTRY IN ACTS: FROM A CANONICAL READER’S PERSPECTIVE

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