Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Waiting on tables, Part 5

The second verse of 8th chapter of Acts states: “And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea, and Samaria, except the apostles.” This verse seems to suggest that the leadership of the church in Jerusalem was as conservative as the temple establishment and likewise opposed to the Samaritans and Hellenists.

There are several clues. Until the apostles appointed the seven deacons to supervise the distribution of the food, none of the church leaders were in charge of the food distribution center. The author of Acts criticizes the appointment. In the Greek text of Acts 1:26, Luke is perhaps saying that the election was not divinely sanctioned. He says of the election of Matthias that he was "voted down along with the eleven.” The base verb means to "vote down “i.e., defeat or, more,” to condemn". Since this translation seems inconsistent with the author’s attitude toward the Twelve, Stephen C. Carlson says we should inquire whether or not there are any other passages in Acts which implies the condemnation of the Twelve.

The second strange incident is demonstrated by the juxtaposition of two passages. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus advocates what has been called servant leadership. One who wants to be leader must first be willing to serve. “For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.” In Acts, we read that the Apostles “summoned the body of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.’” In the story of appointment of the deacons, the author has placed the Apostles in a bad light.

Thus the author in two separate appointment stories has criticized the Apostles. The criticism is rather subtle but perhaps the author was resentful that he was not been selected. Or is it possible that the author has used the person who was not selected as a source for these two stories? Is it possible that the source is the unknown disciple depicted in the pericope, “On the Road to Emmaus”?

Whatever the reason for the criticism, it is likely that the criticism is a type of hidden polemics directed against the leadership because they have handled the food distribution contrary to the teachings of the Lucan Jesus. The teachings of the Lucan Jesus are exemplified, inter alia, by the stories involving Samaritans. The polemical discourse is being conducted with unidentified adversaries.

The detailed discussions of chapter 6 and 7 of Acts have revealed the extremes of exclusivity and inclusiveness and of appeals to ancient authority and contemporary experience as it also demonstrated the polarizing influence of the teacher from Galilee.

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2007


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