Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Chosen Vessel of the Lord

Previous approaches have failed to explain many of the nuances of Luke-Acts. From 1721, commentators have viewed Luke-Acts as a defense of Christianity to convince Roman officials who considered this new religion a threat that they had nothing to fear. In 1983, Walaskay asserted that Luke was attempting to persuade members of the church rather than Roman officials. Esler concluded that Luke-Acts is a legitimating text for Christianity.

When a particular Roman appointee, who happens to know Saul, is viewed as the addressee, all of the pieces of the puzzle are utilized, fit properly and the completed puzzle is a masterpiece. Luke writes to most excellent Theophilus to persuade him that the followers of Jesus will not bring the wrath of Rome upon Israel and in the second letter that the prosecution of Paul, the chosen instrument or vessel, should not be continued by the Temple authorities in Rome.

The motif of carrying vessels is included in a very subtle manner. Saul was chosen by the High Priest to carry letters from the High Priest to synagogues in the Diaspora. Paul, formerly known as Saul, is the “chosen vessel” of the Lord “before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” and he carries the message to Gentiles and Jews in the Diaspora. This is a clear indication that Luke does not view Saul’s mission solely to Gentiles or in rejection of his fellow Jews. C.K. Barrett observed that “Luke . . . means that Saul is the one whom the Lord has singled out for special service.”

The wording of verse 15 is re-enforced by its special placement within a literary structure. Bligh has noted that Luke has created a chiastic pattern for Acts 9:1-25 with vv. 15-16 in the vertex of the structure. Talbert’s states: “The significance of this surface structure is that its centerpiece focuses the item of central significance for the auditor of Acts: Paul’s commission.” The enemy is chosen as an emissary. Having reported earlier the warning issued by Gamaliel in the Sanhedrin [Acts 5:34-39], Luke did not have to tell most excellent Theophilus that the temple authorities in continuing the prosecution of Paul maybe opposing God.

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