Unity In Acts: Idealization Or Reality? -- By: Alan J. Thompson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 51:3 (Sep 2008)
Article: Unity In Acts: Idealization Or Reality?
Author: Alan J. Thompson

Unity In Acts: Idealization Or Reality?

Alan J. Thompson*

* Alan Thompson teaches New Testament at Sydney Missionary and Bible College, 43 Badminton Road, Croydon, NSW 2132, Australia.

This article will respond to the tendency in some Lukan studies to assume that the presence of the theme of unity in Acts necessarily entails an unrealistic idealization of the unity of the church.1 Following a summary of the material in Acts that highlights the theme of unity, this article will briefly note those studies that regard this material as evidence of unrealistic idealization, then several assumptions about the nature of historicity relevant to the theme of unity in Acts will be clarified. The article will then argue that the evidence of ancient discussions of unity and the narrative of Acts itself indicate that it is misreading Luke to assume his portrait of the unity of the Christian community is simply unrealistic idealization.2

I. Summary Of References To Unity In Acts

With regard to the unity of the church, Acts draws attention to the “togetherness” of the early Christian community (frequently using terminology such as ὁμοθυμαδόν, πᾶς, and ἐπὶ τὸ ἀυτό): praying together (Acts 1:14; 2:42; 4:24), being together (Acts 1:15; 2:1, 44, 47; 5:12), holding everything in common (Acts 2:44), being of one heart and mind in agreement (Acts 4:32; 15:25), and sharing possessions (Acts 2:45; 4:32, 34).3 Furthermore, disputes are resolved. The Ananias and Sapphira incident (Acts 5:1–11) is surrounded by summary passages that highlight the unity of the people of God and the continuing spread of the gospel (Acts 4:32–37; 5:12–16). Similarly, the complaint of the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebraic Jews (

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