To Speak Thy Word With All Boldness Acts 4:23–31 -- By: Beverly Roberts Gaventa

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 03:2 (Spring 1986)
Article: To Speak Thy Word With All Boldness Acts 4:23–31
Author: Beverly Roberts Gaventa


To Speak Thy Word With All Boldness Acts 4:23–31

Beverly Roberts Gaventa

Associate Professor of New Testament,
Colgate-Rochester Divinity School

Consider for a moment the place occupied by Luke-Acts in the imagination of generations of Christians. The infancy narrative of Luke, the parable of the Prodigal Son, the Emmaus road story, the miracle of Pentecost, and the conversion of Paul will be familiar stories even to those with only a minimal acquaintance with Scripture. Through individual study and educational programs, others have come to know the journeys of Paul and additional accounts of the life and struggles of the early church. The vitality and power of the Lukan dramas have worked their way into the lives of countless believers.

The sheer popularity of Luke’s work might in itself have prompted interpreters to explore the nature of Luke’s narrative, but exegetes and preachers seldom attend to this phenomenon in Luke-Acts. Instead, the concerns of theology and history dominate. We compare the gospel of Luke with Mark and Matthew to ascertain how Luke has modified his sources to reflect his own theology. We turn to Acts when we want to discover the history of early Christianity, carefully distinguishing Luke’s redaction from his early source material. While admiring comments about the literary character of Luke-Acts may be found everywhere, almost nowhere is the relationship between that literary character of Luke-Acts and the content of Luke-Acts explored.

Recent revival of interest in literary criticism of the New Testament provides an important and needed corrective to this “eclipse” of the story.1 Literary critics have again taken up the Bible, not only because of its influence on Western literature, but also because of its inherent challenges for analysis.2 A corresponding development has caused biblical scholars to discover a variety of ways in which literary criticism illumines biblical texts.3

Renewed interest in literary criticism causes biblical scholars to focus their lenses on the text itself instead of constantly searching for the history that stands behind the text. That is, we want to know how the narrative functions as a whole and how the narrative bears the author’s theology, rather than asking to what extent the narrative reflects or obscures history. Alan Culpepper has characterized this as a reading that looks at the text rather than looking for historical evidence that lies behind the text.4

In the study of Luke-Acts, this vigo...

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