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«_ A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the School of Theology Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Fort Worth, Texas _ In Partial ...»

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Joseph Fitzmeyer, “Jewish Christianity in Acts in Light of the Qumran Scrolls,” in Studies in Luke-Acts, eds.

Leander Keck and J. Louis Martyn (Nashville: Abingdon, 1966), 238.

This diversity, although present, should not be overemphasized since Greek culture had already influenced much of the Palestinian world.310 Although the subject-matter for the goggusmo;~ focuses on the distribution of food to the needy, this probably represents one of many factors contributing to the conflict.311 This writer, however, does not concur with the reconstruction of many commentators on this passage.

Haenchen, for example, seeks to demonstrate the emergence of two distinct congregations within the apostolic community.

He builds his case from the conclusion that only Hellenists experience persecution (Acts 8:1; 9:31; 11:19; 12:1).

Haenchen’s suggestion is that these two groups are so distinct that the Jewish leaders persecuted one and not the other. Luke, therefore, creates the conflict within the apostolic community between the Hellenists and Hebrews to make room for this persecution.312 I. H. Marshall, “Palestinian and Hellenistic Christianity: Some Critical Comments,” New Testament Studies 19 (1972-1973): 271-87.

J. Julius Scott Jr., “Parties in the Church of Jerusalem as Seen in the Book of Acts,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 18 (1975): 221.

Haenchen, Acts of the Apostles, 266. See also, N.

Walter, “Apostelgeschichte 6.1 und die Anfäng der Urgemeinde in Jerusalem,” New Testament Studies 29 (1983): 370-93.

Walter proposes the two-community structure.

–  –  –

two-level structure within the apostolic community: the community around oiJ dwvdeka and the Hellenist community around eJptav.313 Capper also indicates that the apostolic community solves the conflict between these two distinct groups with a further division. The apostolic community nominates and elects eJptav to lead the “separately developing community of hellenistic believers” rather than to unify the Hellenists and Hebrews.314

–  –  –

reconstructive efforts represented here, this writer seeks to discern the natural appeal of the text. As Bruce notes, the eJptav certainly are leaders among the Hellenists in the apostolic community,315 but their selection by the community does not necessarily point to the further fracture of the community. In fact, Haenchen initially proposes that “this story seems entirely plausible.”316 He then builds a case to “unravel the tangle” which he perceives beyond the text.

“The Twelve” and “seven.” Conzelman, Acts of the Apostles, 44.

B. Capper, “Palestinian Cultural Context of Earliest Christian Community of Goods,” 354-55.

F. F. Bruce, Acts of the Apostles, 121.

Haenchen, Acts of the Apostles, 265.

The plausibility of this narrative rests upon a view of Luke’s historical reliability. Hengel summarizes the viewpoint of this writer when he suggests that the historical details within Luke’s writing “do not fit in with the popular picture of Luke as a kind of pious, ahistorical novelist.”317 Accordingly, as Luke reports it, “there is no reason to picture a breach or separation in the total Christian community -- only the sort of ‘distancing’ created by natural linguistic and cultural differences.”318 The problem for the apostolic community focuses upon the “distance” between two groups within the community.

The Twelve offer “total participation” within the community;

namely, ejpiskevyasqe... a[ndre~ ejx uJmw`n marturoumevnou~ eJptav (Acts With the approval ejnwvpion panto;~ tou` plhvqou~, the 6:3).319 community elects seven Hellenists to bridge the distance between those who were voicing their concern and the whole of the community within the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:5).320 Martin Hengel, “Early Christianity as a JewishMessianic, Universalistic Movement,” in Conflicts and Challenges in Early Christianity, ed. D. A. Hagner (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity International Press, 1999), 29.

Polhill, Acts, 179.

“Examine from among you seven men who are favorably confirmed.” “Before the whole assembly.” I. H. Marshall, Acts of the Apostles, 127. The Greek names of the seven men leads to the assumption that they were Hellenists.

Even if the choice of seven Hellenists is a movement to placate the Hellenists,321 the primary requirement for these men is marturoumevnou~, plhvrei~ pneuvmato~ kai; sofiva~.322 Bruce indicates that these are “ideal requirements” for appointments in church leadership.323 As such, these men provide the leadership necessary to maintain the unity of the Spirit within the community of faith through the leadership of the Spirit who guides them into all wisdom.

Postmodern people seek to distance themselves from the “distance of others.” They despise the relegation of “others” to the place of inferiority. Postmodernism rejects outright this “totalization.” As Lyotard pronounces, “Let us wage a war on totality.”324 Albert Borgman suggests that the postmodern person desires to hear and to respond to the “voice of alterity,” which is the cry of the “other.”325 The apostolic community responds to the voice of alterity.

W. Neil, Acts of the Apostles, 104.

The present, passive participle, marturoumevnou~, refers to a favorable report concerning these men.





Furthermore they should be “full of the Spirit and wisdom.” F. F. Bruce, Acts of the Apostles, 121.

Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, vol. 10, Theory and History of Literature, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minnaopolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), 82.

Albert Borgman, Crossing the Postmodern Divide (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 116-18.

An apostolic approach deals with divisions in the church

–  –  –

alterity” gains a hearing, and the leadership respond with decisive action to respond to the specific needs.326 The result of this immediate response is that oJ lovgo~ tou` qeou` hJuvxanen kai; eplhquvneto (Acts 6:7).327 “The Christian community had evidently been guided in the disposition of its own affairs so that its witness to ‘those outside’ remained vibrant and attractive.”328 The same is true for the contemporary church in a postmodern world.

–  –  –

the evangelization of postmodern people focuses on the biblical conception of the community of faith: unity and mission; inclusion dia; th`~ pivstew~ ejn Cristw`/ jIhsou`; and uniqueness and purity. As a “divine standard” of God to the world, an apostolic community serves as an avenue for the transformation from a postmodern to a Christian worldview through th`/ didach`/ tw`n ajpostovlwn and koinwniva. The community also functions as a living witness to the love of God following the pattern of Jesus Christ through the apostolic ethic.

Thomas D. Lea, The New Testament: Its Background and Message (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1996), 295.

“The word of God grew and increased.” Trites, “Prayer-Motif in Luke-Acts,” 180.

This ethic uniquely answers the postmodern desire for intimacy. As such, the apostolic ethic of community provides a powerful tool for the evangelization of postmodern people. Finally, the obstacles to an apostolic community, which includes deception and division, find resolution through the leadership of the Spirit in a postmodern world.

The role of the community in the evangelization of postmodern people does not present the absolutism of the community, which is the postmodern plea. Instead, the role of community exalts the absolutism of Christ. As Moltmann cogently states: “The visible church is, as Christ’s church, the ministry of reconciliation exercised upon the world.

Thus the church is to be seen, not as absolute, but in its

–  –  –

The postmodern ethos seeks pluralism in the face of pluralities. This dissertation distinguishes between plurality and pluralism. David Tracy suggests that “plurality is a fact. Pluralism is one of the many evaluations of that fact.”1 Plurality is “the sheer diversity of race, value systems, heritage, language, culture, and religion in many Western and some other nations.”2 Pluralism, however, is the response to plurality which approves, cherishes, and embraces the multiple, and sometimes contradictory, differences.3 As such, pluralism

David Tracy, “Christianity in the Wider Context:

Demands and Transformations,” in Worldviews and Warrants:

Plurality and Authority in Theology, eds. William Schweiker and P. M. Anderson (New York: University Press of America, 1987), 2.

D. A. Carson, Gagging of God, 13. Carson gives plurality the nomenclature of “empirical pluralism.” Alister E. McGrath, “The Challenge of Pluralism for the Contemporary Christian Church,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 35 (September 1992): 363.

declares that all truth-claims, and religions, are equal.

Therefore, “Jesus Christ must then be regarded as a religious genius like Buddha or Mohammed -- human beings at the origin of a world religion, praiseworthy but nothing more.”4 Pluralism seeks the “deferral of all strong claims to unity or even truth”5 so that “there is no officially approved pattern of belief or conduct.”6 This writer proposes that evangelism in the midst of postmodern pluralities follows the pattern of evangelism in apostolic times. Paul Lakeland, however, suggests that the postmodern identification of the “community of redemption” as a “place of relative, revisable, pragmatic, provisional ‘ways of seeing what-is’” demands an approach different from the first-century church.7 Lakeland’s approach does not seek persuasion toward the gospel, but a Lieven Boeve, “Christus Postmodernus: An Attempt at Apophatic Christology,” in The Myriad Christ: Plurality and the Quest for Unity in Contemporary Christology, eds. T.

Merrigan and J. Haers (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2000), 577-78.

D. Tracy, “Christianity in the Wider Context,” 2.

Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 1.

Paul Lakeland, Postmodernity: Christian Identity in a Fragmented Age (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1997), 102-103.

conversation with pluralities which leads to a consensus.8 Lakeland further indicates that the Christian community “cannot realistically understand itself as the only avenue of the divine into human history.”9 Lakeland, therefore, rejects the necessity of Christ for salvation.10 For Lakeland, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra defines salvation as “being faithful to the earth.”11 Thus, he concludes that other religious traditions are equally valuable for the salvation of the postmodern world.12 Such an approach for evangelization, however, deconstructs the gospel so that it is no longer biblical, apostolic, or Christian. Although Lakeland’s approach calls for postmodern people to “choose one” among the alternative versions of reality, no one version is better than another.13 The evangelization of the apostolic church in Ibid., 102.

Ibid., 104-105.

Ibid., 109-111.

Ibid., 111.

Ibid., 112-13. Lakeland writes: “What is distinctive about Christianity remains within Christianity and in no way challenges or represents itself as superior to other religious traditions, namely, the belief that in Christ God has spoken in a way that human beings can receive the word.” Ibid., 113.

pluralities presents a better approach for the contemporary church.

Pluralities in Apostolic and Postmodern Times

–  –  –

postmodern times presents similarities as well as differences, but the fact of plurality in apostolic age is certain. An examination of New Testament (NT) literature provides a mosaic of the religious and cultural pluralities in the pre-modern world of the apostolic church.14 Robert Grant’s summary of the gods in the book of Acts certainly points to this fact.15 Anthony Blasi of Tennessee State University describes the sociology of early Christianity within the framework of the Roman Empire. He suggests that the context of the apostolic church’s evangelization was a “culturally pluralist environment.”16 Several examples from Acts and the Pauline epistles Harry Eberts Jr., “Plurality and Ethnicity in

Early Christian Mission,” Sociology of Religion 58 (1997):

317. According to Eberts, the apostolic church faced the cultural, social, and religious differences within the target-groups for evangelism: Galilean, Hebrew, Hellenist, and pagan Greek culture.

Robert M. Grant, Gods and the One God (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986), 19-28.

Anthony Blasi, “Sociology of Early Christianity -By Way of Introduction,” Sociology of Religion 58 (1997):

299-303.

provide ample evidence of the plurality which confronted the apostolic church in the evangelization of the ancient world.

The apostle Paul writes: ouj gavr ejstin diastolh; jIoudaivou te kai;

{Ellhno~, oJ ga;r aujto;~ kuvrio~ pavntwn, ploutw`n eij~ pavnta~ tou;~ ejpikaloumevnou~ aujtovn (Rom 10:12).17 jIoudaivou and {Ellhno~ represent plurality,

–  –  –

3:11 Paul adds peritomh; and ajkrobustiva, bavrbaro~ and Skuvqh~ to the list of pluralities.18 Rajak indicates that these listings represent ethnic, linguistic, religious, or social differences.19 More specifically, however, the apostolic church

–  –  –

evangelism in Athens illustrates this plurality (Acts 17).

Athens possessed “a blend of superstitious idolatry and enlightened philosophy” in its cultural and religious “For there is no difference of both Jew and Greek, for the same Lord [is] rich toward all who are calling upon Him.” These terms are translated: dou`lo~ (slave), ejleuvqero~ (free), a[rsen (male), and qh`lu (female) in Galatians 3:28;

peritomh; (circumcision), ajkrobustiva (uncircumcision), bavrbaro~ (barbarian), and Skuvqh~ (Scythian) in Colossians 3:11.

Tessa Rajak, “The Location of Cultures in Second Temple Palestine,” in The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting, ed. Richard Bauckham, vol. 4, The Book of Acts in Its First Century Setting (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 3.



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