Salvation, Spreading, And Suffering: God’s Unfolding Plan In Luke-Acts -- By: Brian J. Tabb

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 58:1 (Mar 2015)
Article: Salvation, Spreading, And Suffering: God’s Unfolding Plan In Luke-Acts
Author: Brian J. Tabb


Salvation, Spreading, And Suffering:
God’s Unfolding Plan In Luke-Acts

Brian J. Tabb*

* Brian J. Tabb is associate dean for academic affairs and assistant professor of biblical studies at Bethlehem College and Seminary, 720 13th Avenue S., Minneapolis, MN 55415.

Twenty-five years ago in this Journal Paul House wrote, “Many writers briefly mention suffering or persecution in Acts. Very few, however, explain its significance at length.”1 This article adds to those “very few” studies of suffering in Luke-Acts. First, I briefly survey scholarship on Luke’s theology of suffering. Second, I offer a working definition of “suffering” and offer examples of suffering in Luke-Acts under four headings: persecution, oppression or injustice, natural adversity, and retribution. Third, I consider how suffering relates to Luke’s purpose in writing his two volumes. Fourth, I unpack five theses concerning God’s unfolding plan for salvation and spreading through suffering.

I. Survey Of Recent Scholarship

Hans Conzelmann’s redactional study of Luke’s theology has cast a large shadow over subsequent Lukan scholarship, including studies of suffering and persecution.2 Conzelmann argues that Luke responds to the delay of the Parousia by writing an account of salvation history in which the period of the church is “a situation conditioned by persecution.”3 Luke’s primary concern is “the Christian’s behaviour in persecution” in this time when the church is called to suffer for Jesus’ sake.4 Conzelmann raises questions concerning methodology, eschatology, and ethics, with which subsequent scholars have grappled. First, how should modern readers discern Luke’s “theology” of suffering? Second, how is the church’s suffering related to God’s plan and the expectation for Jesus’ (delayed) parousia? Third, what is the relationship between the suffering of Jesus and that of his followers?

Georg Braumann follows Conzelmann’s redactional approach and salvation-historical paradigm. However, he contends that the community’s persecution (not the delayed parousia) motivates Luke to write.5 Frieder Schütz argues that the

church’s de facto position in the world is determined through tribulation (“durch θλίψεις”), and he stresses that believers e...

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