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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: GPG Cc: Synoptic, Crosstalk, WSW On: Acts From: Bruce Not to come between Dennis Goffin (who has repeated his suggestion about Ac 20:28 and the Christology
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 29, 2010
      To: GPG
      Cc: Synoptic, Crosstalk, WSW
      On: Acts
      From: Bruce

      Not to come between Dennis Goffin (who has repeated his suggestion
      about Ac 20:28 and the Christology of Acts to these three lists) and
      his respondents, I will add a few notes on Acts off to the side, under
      this different thread name. I see them as necessary preliminaries to
      taking up any of the more specific points so far raised.

      [I should add (see the copyright notice at the end) that, such as it
      may be, this note is a work in progress, shared with a select group of
      persons in the hope of helpful comment, but remaining the property of
      its author, who requests that it not be cited or otherwise repeated
      without the permission of the undersigned].


      When we say "Acts," what are we talking about? Is Acts one thing or
      several? In text study, as I understand it, whether in ancient China
      or in the classical Mediterranean, this is always the first question
      we should ask, and answer, before we are free to ask a second
      question. I find persuasive Torrey's argument that Acts originally
      ended at Ac 15:35 (though I am still not convinced by the Aramaic
      scenario as Torrey states it), and that the textually ill supported
      15:34 was added when the second half of Acts was later appended to the
      first half, in order to put Barnabas in Antioch (where Acts II needs
      him) rather than in Jerusalem (where, by the logic of Acts I, he
      should return, as in fact he does in 15:33). The Metzger commentary
      notes this *reason* for the addition, which is fine, but does not
      explore the *implications* of that reason, which I think is not quite
      good enough. I here attempt to take up the matter where he - or rather
      they - left it.

      Having a hypothesis, we proceed to test it. We test it by asking, now
      that we have demarcated two zones in Acts, are there differences
      between them, other than the one on which we based our hypothesis in
      the first place?

      I find the two extraordinarily contrastive. Acts I ends with a scene
      of amity and of balance between the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem and
      the Gentile Christians of Antioch, and their respective leaders. The
      agreement reached at the highest levels was welcomed "with joy" at the
      lower levels, and we end with a picture of a Christianity expanding
      amicably in both those directions. A mutually comfortable dualism. On
      the other hand, Acts II ends with a repudiation of Jesus by "the
      Jews," and a declaration by Paul that the future of the religion lies
      solely with the Gentiles. "They will listen." The formerly amicable
      joint community is decisively sundered, and only one of its resulting
      pieces has any life in it. This is a very different picture of early
      Christianity than the one with which Ac I ends. I submit that it
      amounts to a thorough revision of Ac I. As such, it must come somewhat
      later than Ac I.

      So yes, there *is* a difference which coordinates with the proposed
      division, and the hypothesis is to that extent confirmed.

      Yet the two documents end very similarly, in a literary sense:

      15:35 "But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, *teaching* and
      *preaching* the Word of the *Lord,* with many others also."

      28:30. "And so he lived there two whole years at his own expense, and
      welcomed all who came to him, *preaching* the Kingdom of God and
      *teaching* about the *Lord* Jesus Christ, quite openly and unhindered."

      Talk about revisionism. But it is seemingly revision by the same hand,
      or at least a hand capable of adopting the stylistic handprint of a
      previous author. Both Acts I and Acts II end with a state of
      equipoise: the direction of Christian growth is indicated, and it is
      proceeding to be preached in peace. (For that matter, Luke ends in
      much the same mode; see below).

      So we probably have, not a later corruption, but an early and most
      likely an authorial change. The text was still being worked on by its
      first maker. Good to know.

      The UBS Committee confessed itself unable to make sense of the many
      scenarios offered for Acts (see Metzger 1994 p215 and the wry p352
      n21n), and were reduced to local arguments for specific text variants.
      Yet at several points in the Metzger Commentaries, it is concluded
      that some variant is the author's own revision, or second thought (for
      one such case, see the note to Ac 2:17-21: "This adaptation may be the
      work of the original author"), . For the above and other stylistic
      reasons, that seems to me exactly right. But no use is made of that
      inference in the UBS deliberations generally. Had that view of things
      been openly adopted, and had its implications been allowed to guide
      some of the UBS decisions on small points (the logic of those
      decisions is at present disappointingly variable, between one point
      and another), we might now have a better UBS text than is presently
      the case.


      Another point at which there seems to be manifest textual disturbance
      is the join between Luke and Acts. It turns up in the supposed fate of
      Judas, but still more in the narrative of the Ascension, which
      (anomalously enough) is present in both Luke and Acts, but in
      different forms. In Luke, it occupies half a sentence, and occurs
      after Jesus has been with his followers for a matter of hours; in
      Acts, it occurs after forty days (symbolic number), and it is a little
      more fully described. Surely these two divergent Ascension accounts
      were not written by the same author on the same afternoon. Given the
      text evidence, they were both very early, and in all probability stem
      from the same hand, but given the difference of content, evidently not
      the same hand on the same day.

      Here, let me suggest, is where the idea of authorial revision comes
      into its own. There was at first only Luke. It ended with a tiny
      innovation: the Ascension of Jesus. Not much was at this time made of
      the Ascension; it was merely a logical inference from previous
      doctrine, and a narratively satisfying way to bring the Appearances to
      a close.

      Then, at some later time, Luke decided to extend his work by including
      the early history of the Jesus movement, down to its amicable Antioch
      equilibrium point, following (his interpretation of) the Jerusalem
      Decree. That is, he decided to compose Acts I and attach it to his
      earlier Gospel. For this, he needed a longer period of final
      instruction of the Apostles, hence the new idea that Jesus lingered
      for 40 days. Luke, just possibly, was not a complete dummy, and he was
      capable of keeping two parts of his manuscript in mind at the same
      time. At this point, seeing the incongruity, he went back and took out
      the Ascension half line from Lk 24:51b (that half line is already
      excised in our RSV Bibles, following Bezae and Sinaiticus).
      Alternatively, Luke may have overlooked the problem, in which case the
      deletion in Bezae and Sinaiticus is in the nature of a narrative
      amendment - such narrative amendments are a virtually continuous
      feature of Bezae, especially in Acts.

      So the Ascension in Luke is textually precarious. So too, it turns
      out, are the Ascension passages in Acts. And both together are
      exceedingly few. Eldon Epp has noted (see now his collected papers,
      211-225) that actual descriptions of the Ascension, whether or not
      giving physical detail, are confined, in the NT, to exactly four
      passages, one in Lk and three in Ac. (The *exaltation* of Jesus is a
      commonplace, but the specific post-Resurrection Ascension is a
      different matter). This is a surprising fact. The simplest way to
      account for it is, well, here is how Epp puts it: ". . . could it not
      then be argued with considerable persuasion that the notion of the
      ascension of the risen Christ as a visible transfer from earth to
      heaven was only a secondary and later development in early Christian

      I think it could indeed, and I propose that we accept that implication
      and then move on from it. The Ascension in the usual sense of the term
      is an invention of Luke, further elaborated in Acts. The Acts version
      is an improvement, or if one likes, a "later development," of what is
      still a simple and undeveloped idea in the Gospel. I add the thought
      that the Vaticanus and the Bezae/Sinaiticus versions of Lk 24:51 *are
      both Lukan,* the longer form in this case (correctly preferred by UBS,
      though perhaps for the wrong reason) being that of the early state of
      the text (Luke without Acts) and the short one an authorial revision,
      more precisely a deletion, to harmonize that passage with a later
      state of the text (Luke with Acts I).

      Someone has wryly observed (was it Lake/Cadbury?) that WH goofed by
      picking variants in such a way that both Lk and Ac now contain the
      Ascension, but in an incompatible form. This mistake, for such it must
      be, might have been obviated by realizing that to reconstruct Luke is
      one matter, and to reconstruct Luke with Acts I appended is another.


      I have shown, on several of these lists and at SBL 2008, that Luke
      itself underwent structural revision during its formation process, two
      of the most obvious cases being the addition of the Birth Narrative
      (overriding the perfectly satisfactory original beginning at Lk 3:1)
      and the drastic relocation of the Nazareth episode. Can we associate
      either of these changes with the stages in the composition of Acts
      above suggested? I call attention to the placing of the Nazareth
      Rejection at the very beginning of Jesus's career, leaving in its wake
      many a narrative inconcinnity. This relocation must have had a strong
      thematic motivation, and the motivation now lying ready to hand is the
      theme of Acts II: the rejection of Christ and Christians by Jews. Then
      the relocation of Nazareth was to bring the Gospel into thematic
      coherence with Acts II: Jesus was rejected by his own people at the
      beginning of his career, and his message was rejected by his own
      people at the end of the career of his greatest Apostle, Paul. More
      authorial symmetry. The same hand, but working on a larger canvas.

      It is a truly symphonic conception. But perhaps not one reached all in
      one creative swoop. Like so many creations, it seems to have taken
      time and pain and rethinking. In all probability, external stimuli
      also played a role, in the form of Jewish rejection of Christians in
      real life. For the nature and date of these, Torrey's suggestions are
      as convincing as anything else I have heard so far. Further
      suggestions always welcome.


      The point of all this, I should think, is that we cannot lightly
      assume a constant "Luke" in our calculations, nor can we assume a
      constant "agenda of Acts." The intention of Luke, and the theme of
      Acts as it first appeared in brief and irenic form, seem to have
      changed in the course of arriving at the final and oppositional shape
      of the composite work.

      Those changes are not unlikely to be relevant as background to more
      specific inquiries, in the sense that if we pursue such queries
      without first answering the more basic questions, our conclusions are
      apt to be made in innocence of the real condition of things, and thus
      will be liable to be wrong.

      It is always tempting to focus on what seems a nice finite little
      problem, rather than take on the great panoramic situation. The
      trouble is that the nice finite little problems tend to be part of the
      great panoramic situation. We can talk about a drop of water, but in
      the end it may make a difference if the drop is part of a lake, or
      part of a waterfall.

      Respectfully suggested,


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst

      Copyright © 2010 by E Bruce and A Taeko Brooks
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