Acts And The Historical Monograph -- By: Darryl W. Palmer

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 43:2 (NA 1992)
Article: Acts And The Historical Monograph
Author: Darryl W. Palmer

Acts And The Historical Monograph

Darryl W. Palmer


Despite other recent suggestions, Acts deserves consideration as a ‘historical monograph’. The modern phrase denotes a historical writing, which deals with a limited issue or period and may also be limited in length. In ancient discussion Polybius contrasts the historical monograph with his universal history. Sallust writes Roman history ‘selectively’. Cicero’s correspondence reveals his concept of various features of the historical monograph. Acts qualifies as a short historical monograph: it deals with a limited issue and period in a single volume; and, like Sallusts’s historical monographs, contains a prologue, narrative, speeches, quoted letters and even a historical survey. The subject-matter is unprecedented.

I. Introduction

In recent years considerable attention has been given to the classification of New Testament writings according to standard Greek and Roman literary genres.1 The issue of the genre of the Acts of the Apostles continues to be discussed. Some scholars have been particularly concerned to treat the Gospel of Luke and Acts as a single literary work. Even so, views of the combined work have varied. R. Maddox saw Luke-Acts as ‘to some extent shaped by the style and technique of Greek historiography’; but ‘the best analogies for Luke’s work are the historical works of the Old Testament, and perhaps post-Old Testament Jewish histories such as 1 Maccabees’. The genre of Luke–Acts is designated ‘theological history’.2 Most recently, G.E. Sterling has proposed that in the Hellenistic period there existed a type of history whose narratives ‘relate the story of a particular people by

deliberately hellenising their native traditions’. According to Sterling: ‘This is precisely what Luke–Acts does.’ And for the genre he uses the term ‘apologetic historiography’.3 L.C.A. Alexander’s investigation of the Lucan prefaces led her to understand Luke–Acts against the background of technical treatises. She sees ‘Luke as a writer set firmly within the context of the scientific tradition. . .The scientific tradition provides the matrix within which we can explore both the social and literary aspects of Luke’s work, both the man himself and the nature of his writings.’4 C.H. Talbert interpreted Luke-Acts as a mixture of two sub–types of Graeco–Roman biography.5

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