Thursday, February 02, 2006

Acts 2 and Peter's Interpretation of Pentecost

In Acts 2.14-21, Peter presents an interpretation of the events at Pentecost (i.e. xenolalia). In reading over L.T. Johnson's Acts of the Apostles commentary (SP) he points out a parrallel with Plato Timaeus 72B, where it was the role of a prophet to interpret ecstatic utterances from an oracle. I looked up the reference and found it interesting.

And herein is a proof that God has given the art of divination not to the wisdom, but to the foolishness of man. No man, when in his wits, attains prophetic truth and inspiration; but when he receives the inspired word, either his intelligence is enthralled in sleep, or he is demented by some distemper or possession. And he who would understand what he remembers to have been said, whether in a dream or when he was awake, by the prophetic and inspired nature, or would determine by reason the meaning of the apparitions which he has seen, and what indications they afford to this man or that, of past, present or future good and evil, must first recover his wits. But, while he continues demented, he cannot judge of the visions which he sees or the words which he utters; the ancient saying is very true, that "only a man who has his wits can act or judge about himself and his own affairs." And for this reason it is customary to appoint interpreters to be judges of the true inspiration. Some persons call them prophets; they are quite unaware that they are only the expositors of dark sayings and visions, and are not to be called prophets at all, but only interpreters of prophecy.

In the eyes of Luke's Greco-Roman readers this may give Peter a prophetic like role and underscore his authority all the more (what I think is one of the purposes of Peter's first missionary speech in Acts). I wonder what Rick Strelan has to say about this in his book Strange Acts?

1 comment:

mr. c said...

While many pentecostals would like to believe in ecstatic utterance, so as to remove any responsiblility for what is said, prophetic utterance is to be delivered while the prophet is in control of himself.

Paul's instructions to the Corinthians deals with this very issue. The only ecstatic experience in the New Testament Narrative is that of vissions, namely Peter's vision on the roof top & John's apocolyptic visions.

The tongues experience from the upper room might be seen as ecstatic except that again, Paul's instructions to the Corinthians explain that those speaking in tongues have the power to stop themselves.

There seems then that in Christian supernatural experiences, the Christian retains control of their body, in stark contrast to other early religions. This would lend strength to the idea that obedience of the Christian based on faith is often required for the supernatural to take place.

I wrote a paper on the issue a few years ago. Keep in mind it is an undergrad paper: New Testament Prophecy