Category Archives: Luke-Acts

Leuven Symposium on the Sources of Luke-Acts: Paper Summaries

Here is the promised summary of the papers from the recent three day symposium at KU Leuven entitled, “Luke on Jesus, Paul and Christianity: What Did He Know?” Again, most of these presentations will likely be published in a proceedings volume late in 2015. I sent out a draft of these summaries to the presenters and received slight corrections from some. Additional corrections from the other presenters are most certainly welcome.

Christoph Heil of Graz showed that Q does not really fit the description of a “narrative Gospel” and explored the ways in which Luke sought to improve upon the narrative deficiencies of Q.

Manfred Lang of Halle-Wittenberg, using a definition of a “source” as a text used to gain knowledge of the past, contended that Acts only clearly shows the use of the LXX as a source. In other words, Luke was more of a theologian than an historian.

Andries Zuiderhoek of Gent explored ancient practices of munificence and showed how Luke’s depiction of Jesus simultaneously draws upon these conventions and subverts them regarding the inclusion and treatment of the poor as recipients of benefaction.

Vadim Wittkowsky argued that parallels between Acts 12 and Mark reflect not merely a literary but also a personal relationship between the evangelist Luke and the evangelist Mark.

John Kloppenborg of Toronto showed how Luke’s geographical knowledge varies widely, from non-existent or vague in Palestine, to modest on the Levantine coast, to superb on the Eastern Aegean coast. This knowledge runs parallel to that of several ancient geographers and maps, making them possible sources of some or much of Luke’s geography.

Dan Smith of Huron University College contended that the various speech-events in Acts, a series of failures and successes, collectively picture Christianity as an esteemed philosophy at home in prominent cultural centers but not in synagogues.

Cilliers Breytenbach of HU-Berlin drew upon epigraphical evidence regarding Roman roads to show how the so-called Southern Galatian hypothesis is not necessary to make sense of the geographical dilemmas between Paul’s travels in his letters and in Acts.

My presentation was next, but I provided in a previous blog post a full abstract of the paper and a summary of the conversation that followed.

Tom Phillips of Claremont School of Theology argued that Acts obtained the idea of Paul’s citizenship in response to Pliny the Younger and his pioneering legal precedent regarding the treatment of Christian citizens. He also pointed out how Pliny’s influence may unravel other knots in Acts, including the geographical problems and oddity of the Spirit’s instruction to avoid Bithynia.

Giovanni Bazzana of Harvard focused on continuities and discontinuities between ethics of wealth and poverty in Q and Luke. While both texts represent a sub-elite class, a shift from village to urban settings occurs from Q to Luke. Luke also incorporates Jewish topoi of almsgiving.

Michelle Christian of the University of Toronto showed how ancient numerical and accounting practices lend insight into Luke 19:12-27 and Acts 19. Both reflect a Lukan tendency to exaggerate (rather than diminish) numbers in a way typical of the large-scale accounting practices of elites. This contrasts with Luke’s depiction of actual coinage and precise amounts when speaking about persons of lower social classes.

Jens Herzer of Leipzig argued that close affinities exist between Acts and 2 Timothy and Titus, similarities that suggest Luke as amaneunsis of the two latter texts and his identity as traveling companion of Paul. 1 Timothy should instead be understood as a later composition unrelated to this author.

Markus Oehler of Vienna thoroughly analyzed the references to places throughout Luke and Acts, comparing the two. Among the more notable observations was that the location and character of the upper-room is quite ambiguous and that caution should be exercised in regard to a geographical analysis when theological concerns are foremost.

Dieter Roth of Mainz, in anticipation of his soon-forthcoming critical edition of Marcion’s Evangelion, demonstrated that some of the recent arguments of Vinzent and Klinghardt are detached from that text. He hinted that Marcion’s text may show a working knowledge of the redacted/canonical text of Luke, which runs counter to Tyson’s anti-Marcionite hypothesis.

– Mark Bilby

Leuven Symposium on Luke-Acts: Personal Summary on Acts and Pliny

This past Friday concluded a three day symposium at KU Leuven entitled, “Luke on Jesus, Paul and Christianity: What Did He Know?” Organized by Joseph Verheyden and John Kloppenborg, it brought together a wide array of fine scholars who explored the sources and intertextualities of Luke and Acts. Most of the papers will likely be published as an edited collection, probably late in 2015. In an upcoming post, I will include a brief summary of each conference paper, but I am giving the presenters a chance to comment on my summaries before I do that.

In the meantime, I will take the liberty of summarizing my own paper and discuss its response. Here is the abstract:

A movement is afoot among scholars to situate the Acts of the Apostles in the 2nd century. An important test case for this thesis (whether to reject, to support, or to nuance it) is the relationship between Acts and the letters of Pliny the Younger, in particular his correspondence with emperor Trajan about Christians. A close comparison of the two texts reveals parallels notable for their analogical imitation, volume, frequency, order, distinctiveness and coherence. These parallels include: 1) marketplace disruption as the impetus for arrest and trial, 2) the presiding official’s abjection over the spread of Christian influence, 3) a puzzled response at the accused and official inquiry made to a political superior, 4) direct appeal to the emperor as a sacred custom, 5) the use of the term Christian as a opprobrium by a Roman official during a trial, 6) considerable vexation about the application of the Christian label, 7) survival predicated upon paying homage to the public gods, 8) official pressure for the accused to face actual charges in a proper trial, 9) the presiding official’s ridicule of Christian citizens as mindless, and 10) the remittance of Christian citizens to the capital for trial. Both even 11) know a lawyer with the uncommon name of Tertullus who represents an anti-Christian party. Finally, an intertextual relationship enhances interpretability, clarifying Acts rather than obscuring it. This correspondence would indeed have been available and known to someone writing in western Asia Minor in the 110s or subsequently. The earliest history of the interpretation of both texts also dovetails. In sum, it is probable that Acts depends on Pliny’s correspondence with Trajan. Moreover, in its broader cultural, social and historical context, Acts not only presumes Pliny’s letters but is situated in the very world brought about by them.

Essentially, this was a modestly edited version of a presentation I gave at SBL in 2009. That presentation, made on the last day of the conference and lightly attended, seemed to go over the heads of most in the audience, probably because a 2nd century date for Acts was a relatively new idea at that point in time.

This conference was different in many ways. I had a full 45 minutes to present, followed by 30 minutes of discussion. Some of the world’s best New Testament scholars were in attendance. A complementary case for Acts having an historical (though not literary, per se) relationship to Acts was made by my colleague, Tom Phillips, based on an SBL presentation he made in 2010. Over the past five years, the number of scholars entertaining a 2nd century setting for Acts has grown, and several of the conference attendees voiced their view that Acts belonged to a Hadrianic timeframe.

So, with these many advantages, I felt that my argument was heard and taken seriously. That is not to say, however, that everyone was instantly persuaded. Some expressed a hesitant acceptance, others pointed out possible issues and problems to consider, and still others said that they were not convinced, but would continue to consider the case I made.

As I said in the introduction to the presentation, the argument that Acts depends on Pliny (even if second-hand or as an oral tradition) is probably a fairly controversial idea to most scholars today. That said, I felt that my paper received a sympathetic and critical hearing, and I could not ask for anything more than that!

– Mark Glen Bilby