Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Flirting with the Gentiles

As the mouthpiece for the Gentiles, I do want to report that Luke did flirt with the Gentiles. He no doubt was influenced by Amos, Isaiah and Jonah to engage in such conduct to make the Jews jealous. I find that his patron actually used the words “Gentile” and “Gentiles” at least eighteen times in the last eighteen months. This is significant since there are numerous other words such as worm and gourd that were used less frequently by his patron. However in his defense I need to report that he had visa problems.

In 1972, Jacob Jervell asserted that the Jewish segment of early Christianity late in the first century was a significant minority. Since 1972, a number of scholars have challenged the essentially Gentile composition of the Lucan audience by noting the Judaic roots of Christianity as emphasized by Luke. Fletcher-Louis writes “there is a growing consensus, spearheaded by the work of Jacob Jervell, that accepts essential interaction with Jewish concerns and a Jewish readership.” In my opinion, first published in 1997, the audience of Luke-Acts was predominantly of Jewish background as was the target group of Stark's missionaries. In agreement with Jervell, I have also stated there can be no Gentile mission without a mission to Israel at the same time. There is no final rejection by the Jews recorded at the end of Acts.

On May 17, 2005, I noted that Ulrich Luz has revised his position and now agrees that Matthew 10:23 does not imply that the mission to the Jews has ended. Before Luz had indicated that the Matthean Jesus with the Great Commission had initiated a mission directed exclusively to the Gentiles and that Israel had lost its chances. Luz has now indicated that the above statement does not accurately state his previous position and that his fourth German volume has clarified his position.

If Ulrich Luz can change his mind, then I, as a one day advocate for the devil, contra Jervell, can argue that there is merit to the position that Theophilus is a Gentile consistent with the “Gentile” composition of the audience of Luke-Acts. There are two passages that can be cited in support of this radical statement.

Peter, lodging in Joppa with a tanner, experienced a vision while praying on the roof of the house with a view of the Mediterranean Sea. Jonah had sailed from Joppa. Tanners dealt with the hides of slain animals. The fact that Peter lodged with a tanner would have been significant to both the Gentile and Jewish Christians, for Judaism considered the tanning occupation unclean.

Peter had a vision of many unclean animals being declared clean. Theology changes to meet social need. This change prepared the way for the acceptance of Paul by the Jerusalem community. No one objected to the fact that Paul was a tentmaker. No one had even objected that Peter was lodging with a tanner. Peter had a vision, as a result of which Peter concludes that certain Gentiles may become members of the Way. However, the fact that Jewish exegesis and a Jonah Joppa allusion has been employed to support this argument is a point that would be lost on the Gentile beneficiaries.

The second passage is also overlooked by the strictly Gentile audience proponents. The NT quotation contained in Acts 15:16-18 differs slightly from the Septuagint text to which it is compared.

“After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up, that the rest of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who has made these things known from of old.”

In the very next verse, James announces the Apostolic Decree. James Dunn has indicated that this passage from Amos was “featured in Jewish speculation of the period about the restoration of Israel, of the David kingdom” and it would not be surprising that the Jerusalem community identified with the remnant of Amos 9:11. This passage provided comfort to both the remnant and to select Gentiles.

Perhaps the most important part of the Amos quotation utilized by Luke is this: Whoever responds in belief to this mission will be included in the eschatological community consisting of Jews and Gentiles. With this response to this mission, the Gentiles become part of God’s people without being obliged to observe the Mosaic laws in full. Most of the commentators focus on the Apostolic Decree announced by James paying little attention to what may be the more important message contained in the Amos Septuagint quotation.

Today, any way, the evidence is clear that Luke did more than flirt. He may have even married a Gentile!

Copyrighted 2006


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard, I'm slowly making my way through your blog. Good stuff here! I really liked your post on the Jerusaelm Perspective Forum about Theophilus. I'd welcome your scholarship over at YESHUA QUEST:

The JP forum is rather limited in focus and what can be discussed. I love it there, but created YESHUA QUEST to open up other areas of interest. Be well. Peace, Smadewell

5:38 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home