Acts 17:16–34 An Apologetic Model Then And Now? -- By: Lars Dahle

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 53:2 (NA 2002)
Article: Acts 17:16–34 An Apologetic Model Then And Now?
Author: Lars Dahle


Acts 17:16–34
An Apologetic Model Then And Now?1

Lars Dahle

Apologetics has traditionally been described as the rational justification of Christian truth claims over against relevant questions, objections and alternatives. Presupposing such an understanding of apologetics and the need to investigate biblical apologetic foundations, this thesis explores the hypothesis that Acts 17:16–34 is to be seen as an apologetic model ‘then’ and ‘now’. This New Testament passage has not previously been fully developed as a biblical paradigm for apologetics, neither exegetically nor in terms of contemporary apologetics.

Two preliminary and two major research questions are identified in the introductory chapter, which sets the scene for an interdisciplinary approach to the exploration of Acts 17 as a potential apologetic model, with an integration of New Testament exegesis, philosophical apologetics, and cultural analysis.

Preliminary Questions

The first preliminary research question addresses whether Luke (the narrator) intended to provide his readers (the narratees) with an apologetic model in Acts 17:16–34 by recording what Paul supposedly did in Athens. The analysis in chapter 2 indicates that Acts 17:16–34 contains explicit apologetic material, that this material seems to fit a wider, positive Lucan description in Acts of apologetic convictions, approaches and arguments, and that this positive pattern can be related to a plausible dual Lucan apologetic intention with Acts (as written for Christians both in order to confirm the truth-value of their Christian faith and to provide them with apologetic tools and models for reaching outsiders). This preliminary analysis is confirmed in subsequent chapters and gives a plausible literary context for seeing Acts 17:16–34 as an intended apologetic model.

The second preliminary research question addresses whether Acts 17:16–34 provides valid insights into the apologetic thinking and practice of the apostle Paul (as the supposed orator). The basic historical purpose of Acts (as shown in chapter 2) and Luke’s general credibility as a historian (as indicated in chapter 3) make it highly probable that this specific passage should be seen as claiming to be historically authentic. It is argued in chapter 3 that this claim should be seen as valid, since the acc...

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