Luke and Early Catholicism -- By: Leon Morris

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 35:2 (Winter 1973)
Article: Luke and Early Catholicism
Author: Leon Morris


Luke and Early Catholicism

Leon Morris

The publication of Philipp Vielhauer’s essay, “On the ‘Paulinism’ of Acts,”1 sparked off a lively debate in Lucan studies and Hans Conzelmann’s important book, The Theology of St. Luke,2 gave it an impetus. It cannot be said that anything approaching unanimity has been reached and the situation was well summed up in the title of W. C. van Unnik’s contribution to the Paul Schubert Festschrift, “Luke-Acts, A Storm Center in Contemporary Scholarship.”3 This was published in 1966, but the situation has not greatly changed in the intervening period, at least in this respect.

Among the matters in dispute is the relationship of Luke to what has been called “Early Catholicism.” This expression is not always defined, and the discussion may become a trifle confused accordingly. The term is not exactly new and John H. Elliott notes its use at least as far back as Ferdinand Christian Baur.4 But it has had a much greater currency during the last twenty years or so, particularly with reference to the writings of Luke. E. Käsemann sees it this way: “Early catholicism means that transition from earliest Christianity to the so-called ancient Church, which is completed with the disappearance of the imminent expectation” (i.e. of the parousia).5 This puts all the emphasis on the attitude to the parousia. Others see a great number of factors involved and Elliott for example lists its

characteristic tendencies as being “in the direction of” the following:

…the organization of the Church according to hierarchical in contrast to charismatic ministry; the development of the monarchical episcopate; an objectification of the proclamation and an emphasis upon a strictly formulated rule of faith; a stress upon “orthodoxy” or “sound doctrine” in opposition to false teaching: moralization of the faith and conception of the gospel as new law; an understanding of faith in objective rather than subjective, in static rather than dynamic, terms, as fides quae creditur in contrast to fides qua creditur; a development of the principle of apostolic succession and transmitted authority; a distinction between laity and clergy; a conception of an authoritative interpretation of the scriptures; a trend toward “sacramentalism”; the formulation of a “natural theology”; a concern for ecclesiastical unity and consolidation; and an interest in the collecting of the apostolic wr...

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