Rev. Dr. Edgar Mayer – Toowoomba 2000

Studies in Luke – Acts: The Composition of Luke – Acts (6/2)

IV The Cycle Of Salvation History In Acts

1. "Salvation Event" (Acts 1:1-5:42)
Jesus' death and resurrection works salvation. The first disciples receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-41), thousands more are baptized and receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:41,47; 4:4; 5:13-14), the city of Jerualem is filled with the teaching about Jesus (Acts 2:1-41; 4:16; 5:28,42); there is boldness and divine protection in the face of hostility (Acts 4:1-31; 5:17-42); no one needs to feel the pangs of hunger (Acts 3:44-46; 4:32-37); many miracles are worked by the apostles (Acts 2:43; 3:6-7; 5:12-16), all believers devote themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42; 4:32-33).

2. "Feeding" (Acts 6:1-7)
No believer is left hungry.

3. "Breakdown" (Acts 6:8-8:1a); [& "Revelation" (Acts 6:8-8:1a)]
Opposition arose against Stephen and in the end the people and the elders and the teachers of the law murder Stephen as the first Christian martyr. [Acts 6:8-8:1a could also bear the title "Revelation" in Luke's cycle of Salvation History. During the interrogation of Stephen his face became like the face of an angel which revealed to the onlookers some of God's glory. That recalls Jesus' face which was transfigured before the disciples on the mountain of transfiguration. Stephen further revealed God because he was full of God's grace and power, and did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. No one could stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. He retold the Old Testament salvation history which recalled the work of Jesus. In the end he witnessed that heaven was open and that the Son of Man was standing at the right hand of God.]

4. "Mission Journey" (Acts 8:1b-11:21)
Inclusio: Acts 8:1b-4: "On that day (the day of Stephen's death) a great persecution broke out ... were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria ... Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
Acts 8:5-11:18: Stephen's stoning and the ensuing persecution lead to mission work foremost among Jews.
Inclusio: Acts 11:19-21: "Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus ... "

5. "Salvation Event" (Acts 11:22-12:25)
A (Acts 11:22-30): Word and Food
a. (Acts 11:22-26): News reaches Jerusalem that the disciples who fled persecution in Jerusalem also evangelized non-Jews.
b. (Acts 11:27-30): Some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch and predicted a severe famine which would spread over the entire Roman world. The disciples decided to provide help for their brothers in Jerusalem.
B (Acts 12:1-19): Peter is freed from prison and the narrated event includes echos of Jesus' saving work through death, resurrection and ascension.
A' (Acts 12:20-25): Word and Food
ab. (Acts 12:20-23): Herod refuses to supply food to Tyre and Sidon which are dependent on his natural resources. He holds a speech and accepts when the people praise his voice as the voice of a god. Consequently an angel strikes him down, he is eaten by worms and dies.
a. (Acts 12:24): The word of God continues to increase and spread.
b. (Acts 12:25): Barnabas and Saul deliver the gifts to Jerusalem.

6. "Mission Journey" (Acts 13:1-28:31)
The mission journeys of Christians make Gentiles respond favourably to the good news but Jews mostly reject God's salvation.

[7. "Salvation Event" (The kingdom comes when Christ returns.)]

Brief Comments:

Concerning III/1 ("Mission Journey"): The cycle of salvation history in the gospel of Luke begins in Lk 3:1-20 as John the Baptist issues a call of repentance to the people who either accept or reject his message (cf. Lk 7:29-30; Lk 9:51-19:10). Those who accept the call to repentance are prepared for the coming salvation (Lk 3:6,15-17).

Concerning III/2 (The Introduction of Jesus' Person): What is said about Jesus as the Son of God (Lk 3:21-4:13) introduces the next building block ("salvation event") in the cycle of salvation history. Please note that Jesus resists the temptation of the devil in the desert (!).

Concerning III/3 ("Salvation Event"): After John the Baptist prepared the people, Jesus brings salvation to them in Lk 4:14-7:23. However, he is unable to offer God's favour to those who reject him (cf. Lk 4:23-30). The coming salvation is summarized in the programmatic inclusio of Lk 4:18-19 – 7:22, i.e. Jesus has come to preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for prisoners ... and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour. Salvation has arrived today (Lk 4:21). Since the first half of the inclusio, i.e. Lk 4:14-30, further foreshadows the salvation events in Jerusalem (see the chapter on the exodus in Jerusalem), this section rightly bears the same heading as the passion narrative, i.e. "salvation event".

What more can be said about the structure of Lk 4:14-7:23? The inclusio Lk 4:18-19 – 7:22 suggests that this block of material functions as "salvation event" in Luke's cycle of salvation history. However, the detailed structure of the various pericopes within the inclusio remain somewhat unclear to the writer. In quite a few instances the dynamic of certain sections reminds one of what happens in "mission journey" segments of Luke's cycle of salvation history. Jesus travels and thereby provokes welcoming and hostile reactions from people (cf. Lk 5:1-11,27-32; 6:1-11). Does Lk 4:14-7:23 work with a chiastic structure which elaborates on both: "mission journey" and "salvation event"? We can also draw attention to a general observation. When Jesus/the disciples bring salvation to one group of people, the same saving event often confronts another group of people with the good news. Thus the dynamics of "salvation event" and "mission journey" are interwoven inasmuch as salvation events can cause welcoming or hostile reactions in others (cf. Lk 7:23). However, that is not to say that one cannot establish where Luke places his main emphasis in any given section of his written work.

Concerning III/4 ("Breakdown"): In Lk 7:24-35 the people in the end reject both Jesus and the John the Baptist (cf. Lk 9:37-50).

Concerning III/5 ("Mission Journey"): In Lk 7:36-8:21 Jesus once again travels to provoke friendly or hostile reactions from people. He wants to prepare some for the coming salvation. Like the travel narrative (Lk 9:51-19:10) the segment Lk 8:1-21 features a programmatic introduction which takes up the travel motif. Lk 7:36-50 is not part of the elaborate composition of Lk 8:1-21 and does not include an explicit travel notice but the lack of an explicit travel notice may not speak against this pericope being part of the "mission journey" dynamic because even within the travel narrative not all pericopes include notices of a travelling Jesus (cf. Lk 11:37-54; 14:1-24).

Concerning III/6 ("Salvation Event"): The chapter on Jesus' exodus in Jerusalem clarified that Lk 8:22-9:6 foreshadows the salvation events in Jerusalem which come about through Jesus' death and resurrection.

Concerning III/7,8,9,10,11: The dynamic of these various sections in Luke's cylce of salvation history have been investigated in previous chapters. After the salvation events of Lk 8:22-9:10a further events accentuate the time of salvation: Lk 9:10b-17 – the feeding of the people which is reminiscent of the Old Testament feeding with manna; Lk 9:18-36 – the revelation on the mount of transfiguration which is reminicent of the Old Testament revelation on mount Sinai. However, then a breakdown between Jesus and the disciples/people is reported which is reminiscent of the golden calf incident in the Old Testament. Jesus responds by going on a mission journey to work positive and negative reactions to the kingdom news. In the end the disciples who welcome him are ready for the coming salvation in Jerusalem (Lk 19:11-24:53).

Concerning IV/1 ("Salvation Event"): At the beginning of Acts Jerusalem remains under the impression of Jesus' saving work through death, resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:1-5:42). Cf. See the positive events which are summarized under IV/1.

Concerning IV/2 ("Feeding"): The salvation event in Jerusalem includes the blessing that no one of the faithful needs to be hungry (cf. Lk 9:10b-17; Acts 11:19-12:25).

Concerning IV/3 ("Breakdown"); ["Revelation"]: In Acts 6:8-8:1a the relationship between the people and the disciples breaks down (cf. Lk 7:24-35; 9:37-50) and Stephen is killed as the first Christian martyr. The "Jerusalem spring" (word creation by Lohfink) has come to an end for now. [Acts 6:8-8:1a could also bear the title "revelation". See what is written under IV/3.]

Concerning IV/4 ("Mission Journey"): Acts 8:1b-11:21 spells out more strongly than Lk 9:51-19:10 that the breakdown of the relationship between the disciples and the people triggers the ensuing mission journey. Persecution forces the disciples to spread out from Jerusalem and thus they spread the good news predominantly among Jews even though there are also first signs of a future gentile mission (cf. Acts 10:1-11; 18:20-24).

Concerning IV/5 ("Salvation Event"): An inclusio Acts 11:22-30 – 12:20-25 embraces the salvation events of Acts 12:1-19 which are reminiscent of Jesus' saving work through death, resurrection and ascension: a. Peter is imprisoned and saved at the passover and the feast of unleavened bread (Acts 12:3-4). Jesus is crucified and saved at the passover and the feast of unleavened bread (Lk 22:1-2,7). b. After Peter's rescue a woman is the first witness of his deliverance but no one believes her (Acts 12:13-15). After Jesus' resurrection women are the first witnesses of his deliverance but no one believes them (Lk 24:1-11). c. Peter appears to the disciples who were astonished but Peter commanded them to pass on the good news and then left for another place (Acts 12:16-17). Jesus appears to the disciples who were astonished but Jesus commanded them to pass on the good news and then ascended into heaven (Lk 24) ... There are more parallels between Peter and Jesus in Acts 12:1-19 which are identified by various scholars: Garrett, S.R.: Exodus from Bondage: Lk 9:31 and Acts 12:1-14, in Catholic Biblical Quartely 52 (1990), 656-680; Radl, W.: Befreiung aus dem Gefaengnis: Die Darstellung eines biblischen Grundthemas in Apg 12, in: Biblische Zeitschrift 27 (1983), 81-96; ... The inclusio of Acts 11:22-26 – 12:20-25 impresses the consequences of salvation, i.e. adequate food supply and the increasing word of God.

Concerning IV/6 ("Mission Journey"): In Acts 13:1-28:31 another mission journey(s) is reported which clarifies that the Jews mainly reject the good news while the Gentiles accept the word of salvation (cf. Acts 13:13=52; 14:1-7; 17:1-13; 18:4-8; 22:17-21; 28:23-28).

[Concerning IV/7 ("Salvation Event"): After Paul summarized the effects of his mission journey in Acts 28:17-31, the two-volume work of Luke–Acts abruptly ends. What is missing is the concluding salvation event of Christ's return and the coming of the kingdom of God (cf. Lk 21:25-28; Acts 1:11). The open end of Luke–Acts encourages the readers to await the conclusion of the book at the end of time when all God's promises finally come true.]