The fifteenth chapter of the
Acts of the Apostles
represents the turning-point of the Church in theApostolic Era, one that will feature prominently in the theology of St Paul of Tarsus.
In fact, it is only
this turning-point (chapters 16-28) that St Paul emerges as the prominent character, if not the
character, in the epic. Despite the plural “Apostle
” in the
, it can really be said that theEvangelist’s second volume is really about Sts Peter
Paul, with the latter taking front stage in the firstfifteen chapters. On the other hand, it might be equally valid to call this document the “Acts
of the HolySpirit
,” since it is the activity of the “promise of the Father” (
1:4b) that guides the history recordedtherein. The role of the Holy Spirit—even more than Peter and Paul—may be better understood as themain character of the macro-narrative. The Holy Spirit thus becomes the
for not imposingthe Torah upon Gentile Christians and, more to the point made by the Evangelist, for the Gentile mission.Effectively, it is the
that succeeds the Torah as the standard of righteousness before God.In the essay that follows, the fifteenth chapter of
, usually identified as the story of the‘Jerusalem Conference’ or ‘Apostolic Council’
, will be interpreted through the lens of
This exegetical project has been divided into six sections: (1)
, with a survey of the text itself; (2)
closure of the text
, marking the boundaries of the micro-narrative within the Lukancorpus; (3)
, an outline of the story’s quinary scheme; (4)
, listing each of the players in thedrama; (5)
, the geographical locations that occupy the narrative; finally, (6)
is not found in any textual witness prior to the third century. According to the best evidence, the first ‘systematician,’ St Irenaeus of Lyon, gave the title
Acts to the Apostles
to the sequel of
The Gospel According to Luke
. See D.
, et. al.,
An Introduction to the New Testament
(Leicester: Apollos, 1999), 181.
See, for example, J.
The Theology of Paul the Apostle
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, Inc., 1998), 128-161.
My preference is for the title ‘Jerusalem Conference’ rather than ‘Apostolic Council’, since the latter gives an impressionof a kind of ‘Sanhedrin of the Twelve’ or that the office of the Twelve constitutes a quorum. Moreover, the Evangelist makes itabundantly clear by his formula «
» (in various cases: accusative in v. 2, nominative invv. 6 and 23, dative in v. 22) that the Apostles exercised a leadership in conjunction with the ‘presbyters.’ The title ‘JerusalemConference’ seems a more fitting description because it reflects the role of the Mother-Church, the source of the controversy(albeit obliquely stated), and the participation of the
at Jerusalem in the controversy.
For an analysis of
criticism, see R.
The Art of Biblical Narrative
(San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1981),hearafter A
How to Read Bible Stories: An Introduction to NarrativeCriticism
(London: SCM Press Ltd, 1999), hereafter
What is Narrative Criticism?
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990), hereafter P
; the classical text on the studyof narrative is none less than Aristotle’s
, for which the standard English text is
The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation
, vol. 2 (Princeton: Princeton University Press), 2316-2340, hereafter A