Saturday, March 06, 2010

Reflections on Luke-Acts

The Luke-Acts module was (when I took it in 2009) taught by Dr Mike Bird. Aiming to investigate the literary and theological relationships between Luke's two volumes, the module draws out the main theological themes through thematic lectures backed up by exegesis sessions from the text in translation. There were many highlights, but one will suffice here: the Apostolic Kerygma in Acts. This was the topic for the assessment essay.
Are challenges to the centrality of the cross in the apostolic kerygma justified? An analysis of the seven apostolic kerygmatic speeches (as opposed to other types of speech in Acts) shows that the death of Christ is referred to in all but one of them, with the cross explicitly referenced in all but two. The resurrection is always mentioned. However, Dodd's challenge (also that of Conzelmann) that the cross is not linked to the forgiveness of sins by Luke was significant. Key in refuting this view is Acts 20:28 - a prominent reporting of words of Paul which clearly support the idea of vicarious atonement. Textual difficulties in this instance are minor and sometimes exaggerated. Also significant are references to the cross as a 'tree' on the lips of Peter and Paul. The reference to the cross as a tree is unusual and due to its multiple use (and its use by Paul), Morris writes that 'it is difficult to escape the impression that Luke is alluding to this (Jesus bearing our curse)'. And, of course, the Suffering Servant in the preaching of Philip in Acts 8.

However, this said, it must be acknowledged that Luke's particular focus on salvation-history and eschatological fulfilment means that the significance of Jesus' death is not necessarily seen in terms of the mechanics of salvation, but in how it fulfils God's purposes for salvation in history.