Paul And Sedition: Pauline Apologetic In Acts -- By: Craig S. Keener

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 22:2 (NA 2012)
Article: Paul And Sedition: Pauline Apologetic In Acts
Author: Craig S. Keener


Paul And Sedition: Pauline Apologetic In Acts

Craig S. Keener

Asbury Theological Seminary

In a number of cases, Luke’s depiction of riots in Acts follows the appropriate convention in forensic rhetoric of returning charges against accusers. At the same time, Luke’s apologetic could have been better served had he been able to avoid narrating riots surrounding Paul at all. His narration of riots therefore reflects accusations against Paul still likely circulating in his day, charges exemplified in Acts 24:5 and 25:8 and perhaps associated with Paul’s martyrdom (depending on the date one assigns to Acts). There is therefore strong probability that Luke preserves relevant and fairly recent, therefore probably accurate, information about some of Paul’s historical experiences. Observing Luke’s apologetic therefore informs our appreciation of Luke both as an apologist and as a historian.

Key Words: Acts 24:5, Acts 25:8, Lukan apologetic, apologetic, sedition, Paul in Acts

Many scholars agree that at least one function of Acts is apologetic, a purpose that many extend to include an apologetic for Paul. Less frequently noted is Luke’s recurring narrative response to a charge stated by Paul’s narrative opponents: Paul as a stirrer of unrest (Acts 24:5). Luke offers repeated examples of riots involving Paul, in each case showing that the unrest was caused not by Paul but by his enemies. Shifting opponents’ charges back onto the opponents was appropriate forensic rhetoric.

These observations have consequences for our evaluation not only of Luke’s rhetoric but also of the information available to him about Paul. It is highly improbable that Luke would risk Paul’s reputation by reporting a charge of sedition and many incidents of riots associated with him unless these were in fact charges that needed to be answered. This observation is instructive both regarding the support it offers for preexisting information behind sometimes-disputed action scenes in Acts and also for recognizing one of the key purposes and rhetorical strategies in Luke’s writing.1

Defending Paul’s Legacy

Paul’s defense speeches dominate the closing chapters of Acts before his voyage to Rome (Acts 22-26, passim). These forensic speeches, which appear in the context of the probably eyewitness “we” material, are carefully crafted rhetorically.2 They probably...

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