Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Paulineness of Paul's Speech in Acts 13

Paul's evangelical preaching in Pisidian Antioch in Acts 13.16-41 and in Lystra/Derbe in Acts 14.15-17 are among the lesser studied speeches of Acts (lesser compared to Peter's Pentecost sermon, Stephen's martyrdom speech, and Paul's Areopagus address). The authenticity of the speeches in Acts are obviously question since it is debated as to whether Luke was even intending to give an accurate account, did he have sources that heard and remembered the orations, then there is the relative uniformity of the speeches and their accordance with Luke's own theological perspective, not to mention the practice of speech narration in antiquity. As I'm reading Jimmy Dunn's Beginning from Jerusalem (and for the rest of my natural life I shall probably still be slowly wading through it), Dunn makes a good point about the elements of contact that Paul's speeches in Acts 13-14 have with Paul's letters:

- Paul's understanding of the gospel as for the Jew first and also for the Greek (Acts 13.46/Rom 1.16).
- Paul as fulfilling the mission of the Servant of Isaiah 49.6 (Acts 13.47/Gal 1.15-16, etc.)
- Paul's sermon in 14.15-17 is a variation of his indictment of paganism in Rom. 1.20-23.
- Echoes of Paul's exhortation abut suffering as a necessary prequisite to glory in Acts 14.22 are common enough in his letters.

Steve Walton did his Ph.D thesis on Paul's Speech to the Ephesian elders and the exhortaton in 1 Thessalonians (SNTS), and I wonder if a comparison of the Paulinism of Acts 13-14 with Romans would be a good subject for some other brave soul.


Erick White said...

I believe there is much to be done in this area of research.

Paul traces the promise of Israel's Savior back to King Saul and David, both of whom would reign over Israel and bring in the theocratic shalom promised to the fathers. God revisits Israel by raising up another one in the dynastic line, Jesus of Nazareth, who functions to be the Messiah/Christ Lord to bring salvation and restoration.

This can be seen in Romans 1:3-4 where God's saving work in the Messiah involves preperation in the Holy Scriptures and resurrection unto power (both topics which Paul speaks of in Acts 13).

In addition, the suffering of the Messiah is central to Paul's speech in the book of acts as it is in the book of Romans (Rom 1:3-4; 3:21-26; 4:25; 5:8-21; 6:1-14; 7:1-6; 8:3; 10:9). Also notice the parallel between the forgiveness of sin and justification apart from the mosaic law which is mentioned at the end of Paul's speech and the centrality of both justification/forgiveness through Christ's death in Rom 3-8.

Believing in the gospel of Jesus Messiah is also urged by Paul as is it's nature unpacked in Romans. God's gospel and Messiah call for obedience by faith (rom 1:3-4).

Interestingly, I understand the righteousness of God not to have been a major theme in the whole of Christian preaching. Have you ever pondered on why Luke never recorded anything of this sort to Theopolis, a man whom is reviewed in the gospel which was instructed to him (Luke 1). I believe that it is a phrase which denotes right-standing from God (this is simply hard to get around given the context of "righteousness" through rom 3-5) but that can be equally explained by the forgiveness of sin. This is why Paul can witness the grace-gift of righteousness imputed apart from works in a Pslam which recounts the blessing of the forgiveness of sin. In Paul's mind, to argue that a man is forgiven of his sin by God and that all his sins debts have been cancelled is to argue of the imputation of righteousness. They are not equated metaphorically, but in principle the concept is equated, I think.

Since this is so, Paul's major concern with the righteousness imputed to believers is paralleled with the forgiveness of sin which takes up much space in the soteriological parts of the early Christian preaching.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I always bring out just these connections when I teach on Paul's first missionary journey. What is significant and controversial is how shot through with Davidic Messianism the speech is. I noticed nothing was said about this in your list, albeit not surprising. DM is perhaps the most underappreciated yet central concept in Paul.

Ken Schenck said...

One point where I think Acts has "conservatized" Paul's theology is at 13:39. Justification seems supplementary to the Law in this verse along the lines of where Gal. 2:16 starts as a parroting of Peter's position. Paul then moves in the argument to see justification as mutually exclusive with the Law. Acts 13:39 would thus more represent Peter's position than Paul's on justification.

wggrace said...

Paul's quotation of Is 49:6 is interesting. The original is from a Servant Song and of course we associate the Servant with Christ. If so we have here an example of the identification with Christ that forms a central aspect of the participatory theology of Paul.

Michael J. Gorman said...

I also noted Dunn's discussion and found it interesting. I wish he had mentioned the use of dikiaoo in 13:38-39. First, these are the only two occurrences of the verb in Acts. Second, I'm not sure I agree with Ken. Isn't the point of the sermon that Jesus provides what the law cannot---justification, and by faith no less: en touto pas ho pisteuon dikaioutai (cf. Rom 1:18), 10:4? And is that not Paul's point in Gal 2, and elsewhere? I think Ken may be reading "all the [unforgiven-by-Moses] sins" as a subset of all sins, whereas I would argue that the point is total forgiveness of [all] sins and thus justification come from Jesus, not Moses. A different accent here may be the use of forgiveness (aphesis), which is not used in the undisputed letters.