The Unity Of The Church In Acts In Its Literary Setting -- By: Alan J. Thompson

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 58:1 (NA 2007)
Article: The Unity Of The Church In Acts In Its Literary Setting
Author: Alan J. Thompson


The Unity Of The Church In Acts In Its Literary Setting1

Alan J. Thompson

This thesis examines the Lukan themes of unity and disunity against ancient Greco-Roman and Jewish social and political discourses on concord and discord, in order to better understand the context in which Luke highlights the themes of unity and disunity. The themes of unity and disunity are particularly prominent in ancient discussions concerning the reigns of rulers, the evaluation of laws/constitutions/forms of government, and in descriptions of the contrasting effects of unity and disunity in the destruction and preservation of peoples and cities. These themes were grouped under the broad categories of kingship and law (chapters two and three), and the preservation and destruction of cities (chapters four and five). In the context of its literary setting, the theme of the unity of the church in Acts contributes to Lukan christological claims that Christ is the true King, and Lukan ecclesiological claims that the Christian community is the true people of God.

Following an initial survey highlighting the importance of the themes of unity and disunity in Acts, chapter one surveys the literature on these themes and observes that discussion has largely revolved around Luke’s account of events such as the Jerusalem Council; the historical reliability of the portrait of Paul in Acts; Paul’s relationship with Peter and with the Jerusalem church; and the portrait of the Jews. Thus, chapter one argues that there is a need for a detailed study of the theme of the unity of the church in Acts that relates this theme to:

(a) the wider narrative references to discord and disunity in Acts; and

(b) Greco-Roman and Jewish discussions of unity and disunity.

Chapter two focuses on the themes of kingship and law in ancient discussions of unity. It argues, firstly, that homonoia is frequently associated with the subject of kingship and is frequently the means for evaluating kings and their reign. Roman emperors in particular are both praised and criticised for their ability or failure to bring concord (e.g., Virgil, Eclogae 4:4-17; Polybius, Historiae 6:11-18). The Old Testament and Jewish second-temple writers also frequently combine these themes. The unity of God’s people under the reigns of David and Solomon is the pattern for the expectation that unity would be restored under a coming king (Ezek. 34:22-23; 37:15-28). Secondly, chapter two argues that the theme of unity is also closely associated with the subject of law and the best ...

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