“To The End Of The Earth”: The Geographical And Ethnic Universalism Of Acts 1:8 In Light Of Isaianic Influence On Luke -- By: Thomas S. Moore

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 40:3 (Sep 1997)
Article: “To The End Of The Earth”: The Geographical And Ethnic Universalism Of Acts 1:8 In Light Of Isaianic Influence On Luke
Author: Thomas S. Moore


“To The End Of The Earth”:
The Geographical And Ethnic Universalism
Of Acts 1:8 In Light Of Isaianic Influence On Luke

Thomas S. Moore*

The purpose of this study is to show how the Isaianic background of heōs eschatou tēs gēs in Acts 1:8, together with its location in the Lucan narrative, is decisive in determining the significance Luke attributed to the phrase. 1 Its possible geographical and ethnic significance has been much discussed. In asking whether for Luke the phrase carried only geographical significance or also ethnic significance, and in asking what constituted “the end of the earth” with respect to geography, one is confronted with the need to consider clues to background influences that can be shown to have shaped Luke’s understanding as well as to consider the Lucan narrative presentation itself. We begin with a representative survey of recent discussion.

I. Geographical Significance

E. Haenchen argues that heōs eschatou tēs gēs, derived from Isa 49:6, has a geographical sense. He points to Rome—that is, “in Acts the farthest place perceptible and attained by the mission.” 2 Thus the program of Acts 1:8 prescribes the content of Acts: the progress of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome. Support for this view is allegedly found in the use of the phrase in Pss. Sol. 8:15 describing Pompey’s coming to Jerusalem from “the end of the

*Thomas Moore is pastor of Gingellville Community Church, 3920 Baldwin Road, Orion, MI 48359.

earth,” which for Haenchen means Rome. 3 On the other hand W. C. van Unnik has argued that Rome is not a suitable referent for “the end of the earth” in Acts. He feels (1) that this would deprive the phrase of the eschatological force it has in the OT prophets, (2) that Acts shows no special interest in the capital of the Roman empire, and (3) that Luke focuses on Paul’s imprisonments and speeches in the final chapters and notes that a church already exists in Rome when Paul arrives. This means that “the end of the earth” looks beyond Rome and what is narrated in Acts. 4 Elsewhere van Unnik has investigated Biblical occurrences of eschatou tēs gēs and concluded that it refers to the end of the earth in a general sense, paralleling texts that refer to the preaching of the gospel throughout the inhabited world (

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