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CHRISTOPH W.

STENSCHKE

Luke's Portrait of Gentiles


Prior to Their Coming
to Faith

Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen
zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe
108

Mohr Siebeck

Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen
zum N euen Testament . 2. Reihe
Herausgegeben von
Martin Hengel und Otfried Hofius

108

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Christoph W. Stenschke

Luke's Portrait of Gentiles


Prior to Their Coming to Faith

Mohr Siebeck

CHRISTOPH W. STIlNSCHKE, born 1966; 1987-92 studied theology in GieBen (FTA); 199397 Ph.D. in Aberdeen/Scotland; 1997 Guest Professor at the International Baptist
Theological Seminary in Prague; since 1998 minister of the Evangelisch-Freikirchliche
Gemeinde in Stralsund, Germany.

Die Deutschen Bibliothek - CIP-Einheilsarifnahme


Stenschke. Chrisloph w.:
Luke's portrait of Gentiles prior to their coming to faith /
Christoph W. Stenschke. - Tilbingen : Mohr Siebeck, 1999
(Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament: Reihe 2; 108)
ISBN 3-16-147139-3

1999 by J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), P.O. Box 2040, D-72010 Tilbingen.
This book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form (beyond that permitted
by copyright law) without the publisher's written permission. This applies particularly to
reproductions, translations, microfilms and storage and processing in electronic systems.
The book was printed by Druck Partner RObelmann GmbH in Hemsbach on non-aging
paper from Papierfabrik Niefern and bound by Buchbindcrei Schaumann in Darmstadt.
Printed in Germany.
ISSN 0340-9570

To My Wife
Pauline

Preface
This study is a revised version of a Ph.D. thesis with the same title presented to the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1997. The original thesis
was accepted by the University's Academic Senate and the degree awarded
in May 1998.
Luke's portrayal of the Jews and the relationship between Jews and Gentiles has recently received much attention, while his portrayal of Gentiles
has been rather neglected. This book examines Luke's view of the Gentiles
and concentrates on his portrayal of their state prior to Christian faith. Following the introduction and survey of research (Part I) this is undertaken
in three parts. We commence in Part II with Luke's direct references to
Gentiles prior to faith. Here, as in the following sections, we study and give
equal weight to Luke's statements about Gentiles and to the way they are
presented in the narrative. In Part IH we gather conclusions from the Gentile encounter with salvation as to their state prior to faith. Most of our material comes from this area. A first section treats encounters between Jesus
and Gentiles in the Gospel of Luke (including the passion narrative). A
second section studies Luke's accounts of the Gentile response to the
Christian missionaries. A final section scrutinises Luke's notes on the state
of Gentiles prior to faith and on their appropriation of salvation. In Part IV
we gather some indirect clues regarding the situation of Gentiles prior to
faith based upon Luke's portrayal of Gentiles who had become Christians.
Such a comprehensive study of this aspect of Luke's anthropology, itself
a neglected field, has not been undertaken previously and constitutes a major contribution. This comprehensive approach is necessary to challenge
some previous contributions to Lukan anthropology. The main study in the
field (Taeger, Mensch), building on Conzelmann, suggests that for Luke,
people do not need salvation but rather correction. We argue that Taeger's
study and far-reaching conclusions do not sufficiently consider all the relevant evidence. By concentrating on the Gentiles in Luke-Acts (including
Samaritans and God-fearers) we are able to provide a comprehensive
study of all the relevant material. We conclude that Luke portrays Gentiles
prior to faith as being in a state requiring God's saving intervention. Thorough correction has to accompany and follow this salvation. This proposal
suggests that - at least for the Gentiles - Taeger's thesis should be modified
to read: Gentiles need both salvation and correction. The latter cannot re-

VIII

Preface

place the former. Though allowing for distinct Lukan emphases, this portrait is not essentially at odds with that of other NT authors.
Our examination also has a wider bearing on Lukan studies. It questions
Conzelmann's suggestion of Luke's moral-ethical understanding of sin. It
undermines a recent case against the theological unity of Luke-Acts by
showing its anthropological unity. It further shows that the Areopagus
speech needs to be and can be satisfactorily interpreted in its context and in
conjunction with Luke's other statements on Gentiles prior to faith. Our interpretation of the speech challenges the interpretive tradition of M. Dibelius and affums the proposals of B. Gartner. This also bears on the question
of whether the author of Luke-Acts knew and understood Paul. We further
argue that Luke's narrative sections should no longer be neglected in
favour of the speeches. Luke's portrait of Gentiles prior to faith provides
additional justification for the Gentile mission. Our study challenges proposals of Luke's alleged anti-Jewish stance and provides some hitherto little-noticed correctives.

Acknowledgements
I thank my wife Pauline for her support and the many hours of our young
marriage which she let me spend with Luke and the Gentiles. I came to Aberdeen to obtain an academic degree; I left with a loving wife as well.
I thank my parents, York Christian and Helga Stenschke, who generously
supported me. Without them the present work would not have come into
being.
During the time under Prof IH. Marshall's supervision I came to appreciate his vast knowledge of the field, scholarly acumen, clarity of thinking,
stimulating questions, careful criticism, his kindness, modesty and friendship.
In October 1992 Prof Marshall suggested that Lukan anthropology deserves more attention and mentioned the study of I-W. Taeger. I had met
Prof Taeger previously and had pleasant recollections of his kindness. Before leaving for Aberdeen I met him again. Taeger said that it is crucial for
any scholarly thesis to be discussed and gave me his last copy of Der
Mensch und sein Reil. Though only discussing part of the material he covered and challenging his conclusions, I look forward to his response.
I am grateful to the Arbeitskreis fUr evangelikale Theologie for having
granted me a scholarship for two years. With their financial support also
came interest and friendship.
I thank those who made my stay in Scotland a pleasant experience inside
and outside its vibrant academic life. These include members of staff, in particular Dr B. Rosner, fellow students at the Department of Divinity with
Religious Studies and the Ciampa, Wieland, Ho and McIntyre families. I am
thankful for the fellowship extended to me by Union Grove Baptist
Church and other churches in Aberdeen and on Shetland who invited me
to preach and shared their lives and homes with me. Last, but not least, my
wife's family warmly accepted me and made me feel part of the Donaldson
and Henderson clans.
Mr M.A.E. Gauld, Honorary Teaching Fellow of the Department, kindly
offered his proof-reading skills. With great care he ensured that what I
wrote - at least language wise - would make sense to English-speaking
readers. Needless to say, all remaining mistakes in language and content go
entirely on my account.
My gratitude is due to and for all the people mentioned here. Beyond
human confines, I am thankful for the opportunity and health to pursue

Acknowledgements

studies and for the privilege to do so at a time when others lacked the opportunity to pursue their interests in peace or under the circumstances and
in the surroundings which I enjoyed.
Mr Olaf Lange of Neckarsteinach produced the camara ready copy with
great skill. Mr Lange and the staff at Mohr Siebeck, Tiibingen, have been
helpful and a pleasure to work with.
I thank the Gerhard-Claas Studienfond of the German Baptist Union
for the substantial contribution they made toward the cost of preparing the
manuscript for pUblication. I am also grateful for the interest and encouragement which I received from the staff of the Theological Seminary of
the German Baptist Union in Elstal, Berlin, and from many friends far and
near during the revision of the original thesis.
June 1999

Christoph W. Stenschke
Hansestadt Stralsund, Germany

Table of Contents
L Introduction . .......................................... .
1. Introduction . ...................... '" ........... '" ..... .
2. Survey o/research . ................. " .................... .

2.1.
2.1.1.
2.1.2.
2.1.2.1.

2
2
3

The Gentiles in Luke-Acts ........................... .


Historicalissues and studies ......................... .
Theological issues and studies ........................ .
The 'Gentile problem' and the justification of the Gentile
mission ........................................... .
2.1.2.2. Neglect of the Gentiles - Focus on the Jews ............ .
Conclusion................................................ .
2.2.
The anthropology of Luke-Acts ...................... .
2.2.1. Varying approaches ................... " ., .......... .
2.2.2. The Areopagus speech and Lukan anthropology ........ .
2.2.2.1. M. Dibelius ........................................ .
2.2.2.2. B. Gartner ... -...................................... .
2.2.3. The quest for Luke's anthropology and related issues .... .
2.2.3.1. Ph. Vielhauer ...................................... .
2.2.3.2. H. Conzelrnann .................................... .
2.2.3.3. S.G. Wilson ........................................ .
2.2.3.4. J.-W. Taeger ............. , .......................... .
2.2.3.5. Recent Neglect .................................... .
2.2.3.6. M.C. Parsons and R.1. Pervo ......................... .
Conclusion................................................ .

9
14
14
20
24
25
28
34
36
42
44
50

3. Conclusion . ............................................. .

51

Il. Gentiles prior to faith . ................................ .

55

1. Introduction .. ........................................... .

55

2. The Gospel 0/ Luke . ..................................... .

55

Luke 4.26f. ........................................ .


Luke 10.12-14; 11.30,32 .............................. .

55

2.1.
2.2.

3
6
9

56

XIT

Table of Contents

2.3.
Luke 11.31 ......................................... .
2.4.
Luke 11.50f ............ " .......................... .
25.
Luke 12.29f ..................... " ................ "
2.6.
Luke 17.26-29 ...................................... .
2.7.
Luke 21.24-28 ...................................... .
2.8.
General references to human existence. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

57
57
57
58
59
59
60

3. The Acts of the Apostles. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

60

3.1.
3.2.
3.3.
3.4.
3.5.
3.6.
3.7.
3.8.
3.9.
3.10.
3.11.

Acts 2.23 ...........................................


Acts 4.25f. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Acts 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Acts 8.9-11. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Acts 12.20-23. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Acts 15.20,29; 21.25 ..................................
Acts 16.20-24; 18.2,14-17; 19.33f. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Acts 19.23-41. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Acts 24.6,14-16 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Acts 27.29 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Acts 28.4-6. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

60
61
62
64
71
74
77
80
88
91
94

4. Conclusion . ....................................... , . .. . . .

97

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation ..................

103

1. Introduction . ......................................... , . "

103

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

104

2.1.
Luke's Gospel: contacts between Jesus and Gentiles. . . . . .
2.1.1. Gentiles and the ministry of Jesus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.1.1. Luke 6.17-19........................................
2.1.1.2. Luke 7.1-10 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.1.3. Luke 8.26-39 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.1.4. Luke 9.52-56 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.1.5. Luke 10.1 ..... " . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.1.6. Luke 17.11-19 .. . .. .. .. . .. .. . . .. .. .. . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Conclusion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.2. Gentiles and the death of Jesus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.2.1. The third passion prediction and its fulfilment
(Luke 18.32f; 23.26,33f,36-38) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.2.2. Pontius Pilate (Luke 3.lf; 13.1; 23.1-7,12-25,52) . . . . . . . . . . .

104
104
104
104
106
109
110
111
112
113
113
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Table of Contents

XIII

Herod Antipas (Luke 3.19f; 9.7-9; 13.3lf;23.7-12) . . . . . . .


The Roman centurion (Luke 23.47). . . . . . .. . . . . . . .. . . .
The death of Jesus in retrospect (Luke 24.7,20;
Acts 2.23; 4.25-27) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.2.
Acts: The Christian Mission and the Gentiles. . . . . . . . . . .
2.2.1.
Introduction ...................................... .
2.2.2.
Philip's ministry in Samaria (Acts 8.4-13) ............. .
2.2.3.
The Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8.26-40) ................ .
2.2.4.
The conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10.1-11.18) ......... .
2.2.5.
The mission in Antioch (Acts 11.19-26) ............... .
2.2.6.
Sergius Paulus (Acts 13.6-12) ....................... .
2.2.7.
Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13.14-52) .................... .
2.2.8.
Iconium (Acts 14.1-6) .............................. .
2.2.9.
The events and speech at Lystra (Acts 14.7-20) ........ .
2.2.10.
Paul's ministry in Philippi (Acts 16.11-40) ............ .
2.2.11.
Paul's ministry in Athens (Acts 17.16-34) .. " ......... .
2.2.12. Paul's ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19.9-20) ............. .
Paul before Felix (Acts 24.22-27) .................... .
2.2.13.
2.2.14. Paul and his God - his fellow-travellers and their gods
(Acts 27.9-44;28.11) ............................... .
2.2.15. Paul's ministry on Malta (Acts 28.7-10) ............... .
2.2.16. Paul's ministry in Rome (Acts 28.30f) ................ .
Luke's portrait of Gentiles prior to faith .............. .
2.2.17.
2.2.17.1. The Gentile encounter with salvation ................ .
2.2.17.2. Gentiles and the devil. ............................. .

126
136

3. The state and salvation of Gentiles prior to faith. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

243

3.1.
3.2.
3.2.1.

243
244

2.1.2.3.
2.1.2.4.
2.1.2.5.

3.2.1.1.
3.2.1.2.
3.2.1.2.1.
3.2.1.2.2.
3.2.1.2.3.
3.2.1.2.4.
3.2.1.2.5.
3.2.1.2.6.

Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The state of Gentiles prior to faith. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The state of Gentiles prior to faith in direct address
(Acts 26.16-29) ................... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The preceding context (Acts 26.16f) . . .. .. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Paul's message and ministry to the Gentiles
(Acts 26.18) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Closed eyes .................... , . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In darkness. . .. . . . . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Under the power of Satan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Away from God ........... , . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In need of forgiveness ................ . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Unholy and unbelieving. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

139
143
144

144
145
147
148

164
166

171
173
178
193
203
224
227
230
235
237
238
238
240

244
244
245
245
246
248
251
253
255

AtV

Table of Contents

3.2.1.3.
3.2.1.4.
3.2.2.
3.2.2.1.
3.2.2.2.
3.2.2.3.
3.2.2.4.
3.2.2.5.
3.2.2.6.
3.2.3.
3.3.

The subsequent context (Acts 26.19-29) ............. .


The conceptual background of Luke's description .... .
Other references to the state of Gentiles prior to faith ..
Under judgement ................................ .
Devoid of revelation ............................. .
In need of divine restoration (Acts 3.21) ............ .
Enmity (Acts 10.36) .............................. .
Spiritually dead (Acts 11.18; 13.46.48) ............... .
Unclean hearts (Acts 15.8f) ....................... .
Conclusion: The Gentile need of salvation ........... .
The appropriation of salvation by Gentiles: the
implications of Luke's statements about how
Gentiles are saved ............................... .
3.3.1.
Introduction ..................................... .
3.3.2.
God's activity in the Gentile appropriation of
salvation ........................................ .
3.3.2.1.
The background to God's salvation of the Gentiles ... .
3.3.2.2.
Indications of God's activity in the Gentiles' salvation ..
3.3.2.2.1. Luke 2.14; 10.21. ................................. .
3.3.2.2.2. Acts 11.18,21,23f.. ............................... .
3.3.2.2.3. Acts 13.48....................................... .
3.3.2.2.4. Acts 14.27; 15.3f; 21.19 ............................ .
3.3.2.2.5. Acts 15.8f,14,17 .................................. .
3.3.2.2.6. Acts 16.14............................... , ....... .
3.3.2.2.7. Acts 18.10... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.3.2.2.8. Acts 18.27. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.3.2.2.9. Acts 20.28. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.3.2.2.10. Divine gifts .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.3.2.2.11. The grace of God ........ , . ... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.3.2.2.12. God's activity in the Gentile appropriation of salvation. . .
3.3.2.3.
1\vo Lukan themes and the indications of divine
activity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.3.2.4.
The devil and the Gentile appropriation of salvation. . .
3.3.2.5.
Absence of divine activity? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.3.3.
The Gentiles' activity in the appropriation of salvation. . .
3.3.3.1.
The Gentile appropriation of God's salvation. . . . . . . . .
3.3.3.2.
The Gentile rejection of God's salvation .............
3.3.3.3.
The God-fearing Gentiles. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.3.4.
The Gentile appropriation of salvation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4. Conclusion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

255
261
265
265
267
269
270
272
273
274

275
275
276
277
280
280
282
283
288
289
291
293
294
295
296
298
300
302
303
305
305
306
309
310
314
315
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Table of Contents

XV

Iv. Clues from Luke's portrait of Gentile Christians to


Gentiles prior to faith. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

319

1. Introduction, .......................... , . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . ..

319

2. Luke's Gospel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

320

3. Acts

322

3.1.
Luke's designations for Gentile Christians ............ .
3.1.1.
Saints .... ',' ................................... , ..
3.1.2,
Believers ..... , .................. , ................ .
3.1.3.
Disciples and wayfarers .............. , , ............ .
3.1.4.
Brothers ..... , ................................... .
3.1.5.
Christians .............. , .... , ................... , .
3.1.6.
The church .................. , .... , .... , .......... .
Conclusion ................... , .. , ......... , .. , , ........... .
3.2.
The difference made by the Spirit . , ............ , .... .
3.3.
The ministry to Gentile Christians ................... .
3.3.1.
Luke's emphasis on catechesis: Gentile Christians in
need of correction and instruction ........... , , , ..... .
3.3.1.1. Teaching Gentiles prior to faith .... , , ......... , ..... .
3.3.1.2. Teaching Gentile Christians .. , ........ , . , , , ........ .
3.3.1.2.1. Catechesis in the Antiochene church, . , . , , ..... , .. , .. .
3.3.1.2.2. Extended catechesis by the Antiochene church, , . , , ... .
3.3.1.3. Luke's own catechetical contribution ..... , . , , , . , .... .
3.3.2.
Luke's emphasis on pastoral care: Gentile Christians
in need of exhortation and encouragement ........ , .. .
The pitfalls and perseverance of Gentile Christians , ... .
3.3.3.
3.3.3,1. Luke 8.13-15 , ... , .. , ...... , ...... , ..... , ...... " ..
3,3.3.2. Acts 11.23. , .. , .. , ........ , .......... , , ......... , ..
3.3.3.3. Acts 13.43. ',' , ... , ....... , ............ , , ..... , , , .. .
3.3.3.4. Acts 14.22 .. , ... , ... , .. , ............ , ............. .
Structuring Gentile churches: ensuring continuous
3.3.4.
catechesis and pastoral care ......... , ......... , , ... .
Paul's legacy to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20.17-35) .... .
3.3.5.
Luke's sketches of Gentile Christians ................ .
3.4.
A non-Jewish Christian and sin (Acts 8.18-24) ........ , ,
3.4.1.
Antioch (Acts 11.28f) ................. , .......... , ..
3.4.2.
3,4.3.
Ephesus (Acts 19.18f) .............................. .
The hallmark of joy................................ .
3.4.4.
Worship of the Lord Jesus .......................... .
3.4.5.
Hospitality ....... , .. , ...... , , .. , ........ , . , ...... .
3.4.6.

322
322
323
325
328
330
331
332
333
335
335
336
337
338
340
343
344
347
347
349
350
351
352
354
361
361
366
367
369
371
372

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Table of Contents

Conclusion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

374

4. Conclusion . ...... , ............. '" .... , . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. .

375

V. Conclusion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

377

1. Luke's comprehensive portrait of Gentiles prior to faith. . . . . . . . .

378

Ignorance .............................................
Rejection of God's purpose and revelation in history .. . . . . . .
Idolatry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Materialism............................................
Moral-ethical sins.. .. .. ...... . .. . .. . ... .. . .. . .. . . . . .. .. .
Under the power of Satan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Under judgement. .. . .. . .. . .. .. . . .. . .. . . . . .. . . .. . .. . .. . .
The God-fearers: Exceptional Gentiles? ...................

379
379
380
380
381
381
382
382

2. The theological significance of Luke's comprehensive portrait


of Gentiles prior to faith. ...................................

383

1.1.
1.2.
1.3.
1.4.
1.5.
1.6.
1.7.
1.8.

2.1. The Gentile need of salvation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


2.2. Luke's understanding of sin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.3. The state of Gentiles prior to faith - further justification for
the Gentile mission and admission to the church. . . . . . . . . . . .
2.4. Correction rather than salvation? Rather salvation and
correction? ..... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

383
384
385
385

3. Some methodological implications of Luke's comprehensive


portrait of Gentiles prior to faith. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

388

3.1. The vindication of a comprehensive approach: Luke's


'rhetoric' and narrative anthropology. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.2. The significance of Luke's anthropology ... , . .. .. . . .. . . . . ..
3.3. The Areopagus speech ..................................
3.4. On the 'Paulinism' of Acts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.5. Gentiles prior to faith and Luke's alleged anti-Judaism.. .....

388
389
389
390
391

Appendix: The portrayal of Gentiles prior to faith in Luke-Acts and


in the pseudo-Philonic sermons De Iona and De Sampsone. . . . . . . .

394

Table of Conlents

XVII

VI. Bibliography . .. , . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

405

1. Commentaries on Luke's Gospel and the Book of Acts.. . .. . . . . .

405

2. Other commentaries, monographs and articles. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

407

Index of References .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

426

Index ofAuthors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

443

Index of Subjects . .... : .. . . . .. . . . .. . . . .. . .. .. . . . . .. . .. . . . . . . .

450

Abbreviations
Abbreviations follow the Abkurzungsverzeichnis - supplement volume of
the Theologische Realenzyklopiidie (= Intemationales Abkarzungsverzeichnis fUr Theologie und Grenzgebiete: Zeitschriften, Serien, Lexika, Quellenwerke mit bibliographischen Angaben), ed. S.M. Schwertner, 2. ed. (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1994). I have used the following additional or divergent
abbreviations (full references in the bibliography, VI.):
A1CS I-VI
AlCSI
A1CS 11
AlCS III
AlCS IV
AncBD
AncBRL
BC //-V
Bell
BCIV
BeV
BDR
CRINT

DDD
DJG
DPL
EDNT
EVA
GNT
JETh
LN
LSJ

NEB
NRSV
NTG
NTIh

The Book of Acts in Its First Century Setting


see Winter, B.W.
see Gill,D.W.l
see Rapske, B.M.
see Bauckham, R.
The Anchor Bible Dictionary, see Freedman, D.N.
Anchor Bible Reference Library
The Beginnings of Christianity
see Foakes Jackson, El
see Lake,K.
see Lake,K.
Grammatik des neutestamentlichen Griechisch,
see Blass, E
Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum
Testamentum
Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible,
see Toom, K. van der
Dictionary ofJesus and the Gospels, see Green, lB.
Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, see Hawthome, G.E
Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, see Balz, H.
Evangelische Verlagsanstalt
The Greek New Testament, see Aland, K.
Jahrbuch fUr evangelikale Theologie
s~e Louw, JP.
see Liddell, H.G.
New English Bible
New Revised Standard Version (1989)
Novum Testamentum Graece, see Aland, B.
New Testament Theology

xx
REI-XXIV

REIA-XA
RES I-XV

REB
Spicq I-Ill
WE

WEe

Abbreviations

Paulys Real-Encyclopiidie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, G. Wissowa, W. Kroll, K. Mittelhaus,


K. Ziegler (eds.) (StuttgartlMunich: IB. Metzlerl
A. Druckenmtlller, I, 1894 - XXIv, 1963)
Zweit~ Reihe (R-Z) of RE, (I, 1914 - X, 1972)
Supplementband of RE (I, 1903 -:xv, 1978)1
Revised English Bible
see Spicq, C.
Griechisch-deutsches Worterbuch etc., see Bauer, W.
Word Biblical Commentary

1 For the contents and dates of appearance of the individual volumes of all three series
cf. H. Glirtner, A. WUnsch, Real-Encyclopiidie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft:
Register der NachtriJge und Supplemente (Munich: A. Druckenmiiller, 1980),236. In quotations from the older volumes I have occasionally adapted the spelling to the conventions of modern German.

1. Introduction
1. Introduction
W.G. KUmmel defined one important question in New Testament anthropology as: 'How does the NT see the man to whom the message of Jesus
Christ comes?'.! Our more limited quest is for Luke's estimate of the Gentiles prior to Christian faith. 2 To use C. Burchard's words, we want to ask
'Was nach Lukas am unbekehrten Menschen eigentlich falsch ist'. 3 Though
other topics will be touched, this study is not about the Gentile mission or
questions of the relationship of Jews and Gentiles.
In this quest it has to be borne in mind that Luke's main topic is salvation. He indicates in the prologue to Acts (1.1-3) that the development of
an extensive anthropology is not his interest, rather his focus is on Jesus, on
'all that he did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was
taken up to heaven .. .'. Luke's own summary of the Gospel and his emphasis in Acts indicate that he does not provide systematic development and
presentation of anthropology. Much of the material relevant for his anthropology has incidental character.
We start with a survey and preliminary critique of some research done
on Luke's view of the Gentiles and of his anthropology as a point of departure for our investigation. This acknowledges our indebtedness to past
scholarship, paves the way for appropriating its pertinent questions and results and reveals some of the problems and notions which need to be considered or, perhaps, reconsidered.

1 Man, 16.
1 With 'Gentiles' we refer to the non-Jewish part of humanity, including Samaritans
and Gentile associates of Judaism. Luke's indications to the state of the Samaritans are
discussed in 11.3.4.1.; for the God-fearers cf. III.3.3.3.3., y'l.8. For the recent discussion of
terminology etc. cf. H.-W. Gensichen, 'Heidentum.1. BiblischlKirchenmissionsgeschichtlich', TRE XIV, (590-601) 590f. Even where not made explicit the words 'faith' and 'salvation' mean, unless otherwise indicated, Christian faith and Christian salvation. With
'Luke' we refer to the author of Luke-Acts; cf. the discussions of Fitzmyer, 35-53 and Aspects, 1-26; Thornton, Zl!uge.
3 'Review',38.

1. Introduction

2. Survey of Research
2.1. The Gentiles in Luke-Acts

Before we turn to research devoted to or touching upon Luke's anthropology and his portrait of Gentiles prior to faith, other issues concerning these
Gentiles and the research they attracted need brief consideration.
2.1.1. Historical issues and studies

Since the rise of modern scholarship there has been a continuous flow of
studies of Luke's report of the Gentile mission. 4 Also studies of the life and
letters of Paul examined this topic and the people whom this mission
sought to reach and did reach. Historical and often archaeological studies
dealt with the places visited, the missionaries and audiences involved, the
results, etc. While interest in these matters abated when the focus in Lukan
studies shifted to Luke's theology, it has never completely ceased, was often
combined with theological enquiry and currently experiences a resurgence. 5 In these studies the question of why the Gentiles were or had to be
evangelised and that of their previous state was usually not discussed at
great length.
Similarly, studies of mission in the NT often fail to address the state of
Gentiles prior to this encounter. In Mission in the New Testament F. Hahn
simply asserts: 'For the early church it was a matter of course that the gospel had to be proclaimed, and that therefore mission was necessary'.6
Hahn's section on Luke-Acts only summarises the relevant events. 7 No effort is made to gather and examine material indicating the condition of
people prior to that proclamation.8 Hahn suggests only in passing the need

4 Cf. e.g. Gasque, History, 107-200.


S Cf. Marshall, NT Guide, 83-99, with reference to the work of M. Hengel, G. Ltldemann and C.!. Hemer (pp. 86-91); cf. also e.g. Riesner, Frahzeit; Breytenbach, 'Zeus' and
Paulus and the new series AICS II-V.
6 Mission, 16.
7 Mission, 128-36; cf. the section on mission in early Christianity, pp. 47-68.
B E.g. Acts 26.18, a key statement on the condition of Gentiles prior to faith, is only
listed in a footnote; Mission, 131, n. 6. A similar picture arises in the recent entry by O.
Betz, 'Mission.III. NT', TRE XXIII,23-31 (pp. 31f for literature up to 1993). Cf. the recent article of EJ. Schnabel, 'Mission, Early Non-Pauline', Dictionary of/he Later New
Testament and Its Developments: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship,
eds. R.P. Martin, P.H. Davids (Downers Grove, Leicester: IVP, 1997), 752-75. This lack
also applies to P. Beyerhaus' exhaustive Er sandte sein Wort: Theologie der christlichen
Mission. Bd 1. Die Bibel in der Mission (Wuppertal: R. Brockhaus; Bad Liebenzell: VLM,
1996).

2. Survey of Research

for this mission: ' ... all men in the same way are under sin and need redemption .. .'.9 A comprehensive picture ofthe Gentile state prior to faith
would enhance understanding of the necessity and nature of the mission
which seeks to address and redress it.
2.1.2. Theological issues and studies
In the study of Luke's theology the Gentiles as such have received little direct attention. However, a number of works address the theological aspects
of the Gentile mission, of the admission of Gentiles into the church and the
consequences for the relationship between 'Jews, Gentiles and Christians'.IO It has been suggested that clarification of these issues was among
the purposes of Acts. Says Marshall:
... a particular theme in Acts is to show that the church, composed of Jews and Gentiles, stands in continuity with the saving plan of God, as revealed in the Jewish Scriptures, that the church is the legitimate fulfilment of the hopes of Israel, and that the
principle that the Gentiles do not need to be circumcised is divinely willed and should
cause no problems for Jewish believers."

Several studies address what has been called 'the Gentile problem'l2 and
what was doubtless a Lukan concern. The inclusion of Gentiles raised crucial theological and practical issues, e.g. questions like 'Who are the people
of God, who belongs to them, why and hoW?' and that of table fellowship.13
Acts 15 reports the solution to a number of these questions and tensions:
' ... God saves Jews and Gentiles by faith in Christ, precisely as Jews and
Gentiles'.14
2.1.2.1. The 'Gentile problem' and the justification of the Gentile mission

We shall survey some suggestions of strategies employed by Luke to address and solve problems raised by the Gentile mission and their admission
to the church. Studies of these strategies contribute to our quest, though
9 Mission, 165. Hahn's definition of mission in the NT does not include reference to
the recipients' needs (Mission, 173), though he includes 'salvation' and 'God's redemptive deed', which both imply a plight to which they are the solution.
10 So the chapter heading of Maddox, Purpose, 31-65.
11 NT-Guide, 45; cf. Buckwalter, Character, (41-57) 51-53 for survey and criticism of
various positions.
12 So Green, Theology, 125. Green defines it as 'The possibility andlor conditions of
God's full acceptance of persons from all nations, whether Jew or Gentile'; cl. Marshall's
survey in NT-Guide, 74-76; Conzelmann, Mitle, 1981.
13 Cf. Marshall, NT-Guide, 7lf; Green, Theology, 88; Esler, Community, 71-109 (for
Marshall's summary see NT-Guide, 41f).
I~ Marshall, NT-Guide, 73.

1. Introduction

Gentiles as such are not their main concern. What questions concerning
Gentiles are raised which we could carry further? As several surveys of research are available a selection suffices.
1. It has been observed repeatedly that 'salvation is now extended to the
Gentiles and Samaritans; this is so because the extension is envisaged by
Luke as having been part of God's promises to Israel from the beginning'.15
1. Dupont noted the significance of the OT for the Gentile mission and its
legitimacy:
Thus if it is true, that the evangelization of the Gentiles fulfils messianic prophecies, it
is equally true to say that the messianic prophecies guarantee the legitimacy of such
evangelization .... the Scriptures themselves justify the Christian mission among the
pagans, for they require this mission as the continuation of the salvific work of Jesus,
the Christ.!

From a different point of departure D.L. Bock concludes that


a major portion of Luke's purpose ... is related to a christological justification of the
Gentile mission .... Because Jesus was Lord of all, any Gentile rightfully belonged to
what was no longer just a Jewish religious group, but a new stage in God's work of salvation extending to all men.17

This universal lordship, established through the Scriptures is the cause and
theological justification for the Gentile mission. Jesus' position, 'proclaimed in the Scriptures as well as being verified both by event and his
own teaching ... as Lord of all men makes it clear that the offer to Gentiles
is part of the salvation that Jesus brings'.la Bock fails to note why what had
been so clearly foretold was necessary or to consider the state of the Gentiles implied by these assertions.
Bock identifies Luke's use of the aT in relation to the Gentile mission as a fruitful field
for further research.!' We shall examine how the aT contributes to Luke's portrayal of
Gentiles prior to faith and to establishing the need for the Gentile mission. aT quotations and allusions make a significant contribution to Luke's portraya!.'"

15 Fitzmyer, 188 and Aspects, 175-202; cf. the above quotation from Marshall, NTGuide, 45; Squires, Plan, (121-54) 146-53; Dupont, 'Salvation' , 13.
16 Dupont, 'Salvation', 32f.
17 Proclamation, (231-40) 238 (cf. pp. 277-79); cf. Buckwalter, Character, 20f. Bock,
Proclamation, 237f argues that after Acts 10.34-43 'all the remaining block quotations
from the aT in Acts, with the exception of Paul's christological proclamation in Acts 13,
relate either to the justification of the Gentile mission or to the threat of Israelite rejection by God as a basis for moving on directly to the Gentiles'.
18 Proclamiztion, 277 (italics mine); cf. pp. 235, 274.
19 Proc/amation,278.
20 Cf. e.g. Acts 4.25f; 13.47; 26.18. In several instances Bock's Lukan aT christology is
paralleled by an anthropology of the same origin.

2. Survey of Research

2. The significance of the OT for this issue has been set within a larger
theme. I. Squires argues that the 'theme of the plan of God is used in a con-

sistent manner to justify' the Gentile mission:


... the mission to the Gentiles is consistently presented as a part of the divine plan. It
was foretold by Jesus ... and is further undergirded by the signs and wonders performed by those engaged in mission. The necessity of Paul's call to mission amongst
the Gentiles and the necessity of his journeys strengthen the claim that God has been
at work in the Gentile mission.l1

The necessity and legitimacy of the Gentile mission is established through


various epiphanies, interspersed in Luke's account, which demand and legitimise the Gentile mission. 22 Luke also shows through fulfilled prophecy
that the Gentiles' salvation and inclusion is according to the plan of God:
The two crucial events of Luke's history, namely the passion of Jesus and the mission
to the Gentiles, are each authorised and guided by prophecies given in both written
and oral form .... Thus any claim that these central components of the Christian faith
... are notfounded in antiquity and are therefore not part of the divine plan, is to be
finnly repudiated.23

This is achieved through Jesus' predictions concerning the mission to the


Gentiles, through the prophecies of the Scriptures and the predictions spoken by Plml.24 The events which Luke reports 'are indeed willed by God'.25
Luke went to great lengths to establish the legitimacy and even necessity
of the Gentile mission. Yet, why was this mission part of God's ancient plan,
and what state of the Gentiles does it seek to address? The same Scriptural
prophecies of Scripture and epiphanies that indicate the plan of God also
provide some answers to these questions.
3. I. Jervell focuses on the relation of Israel and the Gentiles in his essay
'The Divided People of God: the Restoration ofIsrael and Salvation for the
Gentiles'. Obedient Jews have accepted the gospel and can now bring it to
the Gentiles and fulfil God's promises to Israel that Gentiles would join
them in the end-time. The motivation is the previous acceptance by Jews
and fulfilment of prophecies for Jews: 'Gentiles do not appear until the restoration of Israel and the fulfilment of the promises to the people of God
have occurred'.26 The new element in the salvation which Luke describes is
21

Plan, 187; cf the examples provided there. Previous quotation from Plan, 188.

Plan, (103-20) 116-20.


Plan, 154. For the predictions concerning the passion of Jesus see pp. 139-46.
24 Plan, 146-53. Of the predictions of Jesus which Squires treats, only Luke 24.44-47 addresses the Gentiles to be evangelised.
2S Plan, 153.
.
26 'Divided People', 56; cf. also Jervell's essay 'Law' (summary in Marshall, NT-Guide,
75; Fitzmyer, 191; Maddox, Purpose, 36) his Theology and his commentary Die Apostelgeschichte, 17. ed.,KEK III (GlIttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1998).
22

23

I. Introduction

not that Gentiles can be saved but that they are saved as Gentiles. However, why this salvation is necessary, why Gentiles were excluded previously and had to enter the people of God, why their previous lives were
not acceptable or what it implies for Gentiles that the Jews are the people
of God is not considered.
4. R. Maddox argues that Luke's aim was to show
that the breach between Judaism and Christianity is not due to the Christians. He
wants to emphasise that the Christians ... cannot resist God when he so clearly intervenes to show them that a new era has arrived, in which the Gentiles have fuIl access
to his grace.17

But why would Gentiles need access to God's grace? What does Luke say
about their 'old' era? Why was salvation offered to them? Does its offerimply its necessity? What does it imply about their previous state that now
Gentiles are indeed 'welcome within the fellowship of God's grace'?28
Maddox does not raise these questions. He suggests that Luke addresses
the uncertainties of his readers to confirm them, but the obvious theological problem of the Gentiles presumably did not include uncertainties about
the Gentiles' state prior to faith or their need of salvation.
This brief survey confirms Jervell's observation that where the Gentiles
appear in current research, it is usually in the context of 'how Luke deals
with ecclesiology, the question of the identity of a church which is heir to
the promises given to Israel, a church which claims to be Israel and yet still
included uncircumcised Gentiles within its membership.'.29 It is beyond our
scope fully to present and assess these and other valuable studies and the
issues they do address. Rather, the neglected and yet significant questions
which we have repeatedly identified, indicate the issues we seek to pursue.
2.1.2.2. Neglect o/the Gentiles - Focus on the Jews

To conclude our survey of studies touching on Luke's references to the


Gentiles, it is worth noting that the Gentiles have generally received little,
let alone comprehensive attention in NT Studies.3o

27 Purpose, 39; cf. Buckwalter, Character, 51-53. For Luke's demonstration of God's initiative in the Gentiles' salvation cf. Marshall, NT-Guide, 70-72.
2lI Purpose, 56; cf. pp. 181,186.
29 Luke 17
30 An e~ce~tion is R. Dabelstein, Die Beurteilung der 'Heiden' bei Paulus, BET 14
(Frankfurt am Main, Berne, Cirencester: P.D. Lang, 1981). T.L. Donaldson, Paul and the
Gentiles describes the development of Paul's convictions concerning the law-free mission to the Gentiles rather than Paul's view of the Gentiles; cf. my forthcoming review in
CBQ.

2. Survey of Research

H.-W. Gensichen's entry 'Heidentum. 1. BiblischlKirchenmissionsgeschichtlich' in the


Theologische Realenzyklopildie seems representative of a general trend.'! While other
entries of biblical origin in this exhaustive work usually contain extensive sub-sections
on OT, Judaism, NT, etc. 31, treatment of the Gentiles is limited to twelve pages. This includes about one page on 'Biblische Perspektiven', a few lines of which are devoted to
Jesus' view on the Gentiles.33 Most space is given to Paul's perspective." Acts is not mentioned at all despite its significant contribution to the Biblical estimate of Gentiles.'S

Apart from the issues mentioned above, only a few of the passages of LukeActs concerning Gentiles or relevant for their assessment are usually examined for their theological contribution. Their study is often not directly
concerned with the portrayal of the Gentiles as such and rarely are the respective selections related to a more comprehensive picture of Gentiles
prior to faith. 36 In view of such general neglect or of only limited attention,
further research in this significant subject is justified.
A notable exception to this common lack of attention is H.-I Klauck's
recent study of Magie und Heidentum in der Apostelgeschichte des Lukas.
In this popular and brief volume (141 pp.), Klauck examines Luke's reports
of the encounters of the Christian mission with Gentiles. The scope is similar to our section llI.2.2. Klauck offers excellent treatment and fresh in-

31 TRE XW (1985), 590-601; cf. 1. Sievers, 'Heidentum. n. JUdentum', pp. 601-05. I-C.
Fredouille, 'Heiden', RAC XIll, 1113-49 is more versatile (cf. outline cols. 1113f), though
'A.III.NT' (1117-19) and 'B.I1I.NT' (1131-33) are still brief. The latter contains a subsection entitled 'c. Der "Volkerapostel" Paulus', which includes 30 lines on the 'Theologie
des Heidentums', col. 1132. Acts 14.15-17 and 17.22-31 are treated here with the Pauline
evidence. Whether Luke has a contribution of his own and beyond these obvious passages is not considered ('a. Jesus und die "Volker'" mentions Luke 12.30, 'b. Die Urgemeinde und die "Volker'" summarises the development of Acts 8-15 in 16 lines). Cf. the
entries of A. Vogel, 'Heiden'; E. Neuhllusler, 'Heidenbekehrung', 'Heidenchristen'; K.
Rahner, 'Heidentum' in LThf<2 V,67-76 and H.-1. Findeis, 'Heiden. 11. NT', 'Heidenchristen', LThK WJ (1995),l253f,1256f.
32 Cf. e.g. the entries 'Gebet' (vol. Xll. 31-103); 'Ehe, Eherecht, Ehescheidung' (IX,
308-62); 'Eid' (IX,379-99) and 'Eigentum' (IX, 404-60).
33 P. 591.48-592.3.
.
)4 P. 592.4-19.
35 We shall find similar neglect of Luke-Acts in the entry 'Mensch.IV.NT' of the same
work; cf. 1.2.2.3.5.
36 An instructive example is the treatment of Acts 4.12 or 10.35 in discussions of the relationship of Christianity to other religions. Compare e.g. the references to Acts in the
papal encyclical letter Redemptoris Missio and in Christianity and Other Faiths: An Evangelical Contribution to our Multi-Faith Society, ed. Evangelical Alliance of Great Britain
(Exeter: Paternoster, 1983) or the discussions of Pinnock, 'Acts 4.12' and Bock, 'Atheni-

ans'~

1. Introduction

sights, often deriving from his thorough grasp of background knowledge. 37


For the material he covers, the author provides a significant and exemplary
study. As far as we know, Klauck takes the prize for writing the first monograph-length study of the Gentiles in Acts. 38 However, a glance at our own
outline indicates that Klauck did not consider the Lukan portrait of Gentiles comprehensively, neither does he specifically analyse Luke's portrait
of Gentiles prior to faith. Where Klauck's work overlaps with ours, we shall
often confirm his conclusions; yet because of our more comprehensive perspective and a more narrow focus we shaII also want to supplement his
study and venture beyond it. We shall later discuss S.G. Wllson's The Gentiles and the Gentile Mission in Acts (ct. 1.2.2.3.3).
Hand in hand with this general neglect of Gentiles, and specificaIIy with
the dearth of comprehensive studies of the Gentiles in Luke-Acts, comes a
recent interest in the stance of the NT on Judaism. This development reflects the increasing wider discussion of the relationships between Jews and
Christians. 39 As a consequence, Luke's portrayal of the Jews also receives
more attention. Accusations of anti-Judaism are leveIIed at Luke4o, while
other scholars clear Luke of this accusation. 41 Though we confine our study
to Luke's Gentiles, so that a full comparison of his portraits of both groups
is not possible within the present framework, our quest contributes significantly to this current discussion of Luke's stance on Judaism. Not only do
we address a neglected Lukan field, but Luke's portrayal of the Gentiles
can be compared to that of the Jews. The Gentiles on Luke's pages form far
too convenient a 'test-group' to neglect. Is Luke possibly as much anti'Gentile' as he is accused of being anti-'Jewish'? Does his portrayal of the
Gentiles indirectly commend the Jews (ct. III.3.3.3.3.3.)? Had Luke's Gentiles received more attention and been kept in mind, some hasty conclusions could have been avoided.

37 Cf. Klauck's recent study Umwelt; cf. the review by H.D. Betz,JBL 116,1997,357-59
and my review in European Journal of Theology 7, 1998, 134-37.
38 Cf. the detailed summary and evaluation in my review in NT 40,1998, 395f. Klauck's
volume came to my notice too late to interact consistently with it in section II.3. and
III.2.2.
39 For a survey see e.g. Fisher, Destinies.
oW E.g. Sanders, Jews (cf. Marshall, NT-Guide, 74f; Maddox, Purpose, 32f); for a summary see Rese, 'Juden'; Weatherly, 'Anti-Semitism', DJG, 13-17; Stenschke, 'Bedeutung',
142-46.
41 E.g. Weatherly, Responsibility; cf. also Fitzmyer's summary of Luke's 'partiality for
Israel' and her 'priority in the plan of God's salvation-history' (pp. l8Sf) and the balanced survey of Luke-Acts in Schreckenberg, Texte, 93f; compare his extensive, though
somewhat jumbled bibliography of the debate in NT Studies (1995), pp. 750-56.

2. Survey of Research

Conclusion

We have identified a lack of attention to the reason and need for the Gentile mission and their admission to the church and to the view of Gentiles
prior to these events. Significant questions have not been sufficiently dealt
with in previous research. The study of Luke's interest in the Gentile mission and admission would be enriched by a clear apprehension of the Gentiles' state prior to faith. Answers in this area would also throw light on
some problems arising once Gentiles come under faith.
Study of the Gentiles in Luke-Acts has either been neglected or confined to certain current issues and/or a limited number of passages. A comprehensive investigation of Luke's view of Gentiles prior to faith is not
available. The need and value of such a study has become apparent. Luke
offers unique features for such study. Though his gospel does not contain
some encounters of Jesus with Gentiles found in other gospels (e.g. Mark
7.24-30), in Acts Luke offers material without equal elsewhere in the NT.
Though Luke does not present systematic reflections like Paul's42, his narrative portrayal of Gentiles prior to faith and otherwise is unique.
2.2. The anthropology of Luke-Acts

We now turn to some studies of NT and Lukan anthropology. This is the


other main area of Luke's theology to which our quest belongs and under
whose auspices some of the relevant material from Luke-Acts has been
studied previously. This will include contributions on Luke's natural theology and some studies which, while pursuing different questions, touch on or
influence the discussion of Luke's anthropology. A careful look at the respective methodological approaches will help us to develop our own procedure and avoid some pitfalls of the past.
2.2.1. Varying approaches
1. In the discipline of New Testament theology Luke-Acts used to receive
little attention. 43 In the traditional approach Luke was primarily seen as
the recorder and source of the teaching of Jesus, and of the theology of the
early Jerusalem community (indicated mainly by the Petrine speeches if
these were not included with the epistles of Petef"4) and of Paul's theology.
Thus, strictly speaking, there was little, if any 'Lukan theology' acknowledged or left to be treated in a category of its own.
Cf. n.R. de Lacey, 'Gentiles', DPL, 335-39; Stuhlmacher, Theologie I, 268-83.
Compare the surveys of WeiB, Lehrbuch, 15-30 and Goppelt, Theologie, 19-51.
44 Cf. WeiJ3,Lehrbuch,l1S.

4Z
43

10

I. Introduction

This approach can be observed e.g. in B. WeifJ' Lehrbuch der Biblischen Theologie des
':!euen Testaments. Luke's contribution appears in 'Die Lehre Jesu nach der 1Iltesten
Uberlieferung' and 'Der urapostolische Lehrtopos in der vorpaulinischen Zeit', containing a section on the speeches of Acts ( 38-43). Paul's speeches to Gentile audiences appear under the heading 'Der Paulinismus' ( 69f). 'Der urapostolische Lehrtopos in der
nachpaulinischen Zeit' contains a paragraph on 'Die Lucasschriften' and 'Der Paulinismus des Lucas' ( 137_39).4s

2. Later students did not share the convictions of Weill and others on
sources and the authenticity of the speeches of Acts. As many scholars
studied what came to be called the Hauptzeugen of NT theology 46, more
of Luke vanished. The Gospel was usually included (with Matthew and
Mark) in the sections on Jesus. References to Acts were limited, as separate sections on the theology of the early church were mostly brief and
narrowly focused on its early chapters. The later speeches of Acts - now
usually evaluated as Lukan creations - no longer appear in the Pauline
section. Though in general NT theology this trend towards neglect of
Luke has been checked by the post-war re-discovery of Luke the theologian (cf. the surveys of Bovon, Gasque and Rese), examples for NT anthropology are available. 47
3. An example of this selective approach is H Wheeler Robinson's study
The Christian Doctrine of Man. Robinson devotes 82 pages to the 'New
Testament Doctrine of Man' (68-150). Subsections treat the Synoptic
teaching of Jesus (containing all the references to Luke's Gospel), Pauline
and 10hannine anthropology. Of Luke's second volume only Acts 2.16 appears in the index. 48 Explaining his restriction Wheeler Robinson writes
'Besides these principal conceptions, there are anthropological references
in the rest of the NT literature of great interest and raising great issues, but
too isolated in their setting to have had much historical influence' and lists
as examples Jas 1.13-15; Heb 6.4-6; 2.14f; 1 Pet 3.19[49 Apparently passages

4S Apparently WeiB saw no contradiction between the material contained in LukeActs and the various writings in combination with which he treats it.
46 E.g. KlImmel's Theologie des Neuen Testaments has the subtitle noch seinen Hauptzeugen Jesus - Paulus - Johannes. Despite this limitation Kllmmel includes a section on
'Der Glaube der Urgemeinde' (pp. 85-121) in which - with few exceptions - the references to Acts appear.
47 For examples cf. Schnelle, Anthropologie and 'Forschungsbericht', Literaturverzeichnis IV.;H. Hegermann, 'Mensch.IVNT', TRE XXll,49lf;Kllmmel,Man, 13f, n. 5.
48 P.378.
49 P. 76. Historical influence does not necessarily indicate significance. Wheeler Robinson's entry 'Man', DAC ll, 3-7, contains subsections on Pauline and 10hannine anthropology and on 'non-mystical anthropology' (containing James, Hebrews and 1 Peter). The
introduction contains some general remarks on Jesus' view of people; not a single reference to Acts is found.

2. Survey of Research

11

from Luke-Acts are not considered to be of great interest or to raise great


issues in anthropology.so Yet Robinson's assessment of the significance of
Luke's contribution to NT anthropology did not remain unchallenged.
4. W. G. Kilmmel's study Man in the New Testament deserves more attention
as he assesses Luke's contribution more carefully and also as its approach
and underlying assumptions reflect the agenda of other research. Kiimmel's main headings are 'Jesus in the Synoptic kerygma' (18-37), Paul (3871), Johannine theology (72-82) and a final section on 'The other writings
of the New Testament' (83-96). Luke's Gospel is included in the section on
Jesus. All the references to Acts appear on two pages of the final section. 51
The manner in which conclusions are drawn indicates that Luke's anthropology does not differ from that of other NT authors:
The few references to man in the remaining writings of the New Testament accord
with this general picture. The presupposition of every form of proclamation is the fact
that all men are sinners, and therefore in need of forgiveness from God. This common
sinfulness of man does not depend upon man's entanglement by material things as inner and outer man are equally sinful: 'We all once walked in the passions of our flesh,
following the desires of body and mind' (Eph 2.3; cf. Eph 4.17f; Tit 1.15; Heb 10.22; 1
Pet 3.21). Rather do all men belong to this present evil age (2 TIm 4.10; Tit 2.12) in the
service of tbe Ruler of this age (Eph 2.1; 6.12; Heb 2.14), and are thereby liable to
death (Acts 11.18; Eph 2.1,5; Heb 2.l4f). Man, immersed in the present world, is in
every way different from and separate from God {Acts 5.4; 14.15; Heb 6.16f; 7.8; 8.2; 1
Pet 4.2; 2 Pet 1.21}, and is rusbing hopelessly toward the imminent judgement of God
(Heb 6.2; Jas 5.9; 2 Pet 2.9; 3.7; Acts 20. I I!) . ... Thus we may say that there is a homogeneous conception of man in the NT underlying all the differences in detail.S2

As in Wheeler Robinson's treatment Luke's anthropology is either not


considered distinctive at all or not distinctive enough to deserve treatment
on its own. 53 Yet immediately following the above statement, Kiimmel singles out two passages which diverge from his general picture. One of them
is Lukan and concerns Gentiles prior to faith, the other passage is 2 Pet 1.4.
In Acts 17.27-29, Kiimmel sees 'the idea of every man's kinship with God
which works itself out within his natura/life in God'.54 He concludes that
this is 'completely strange within the context of the other expressions of the
NT concerning man'.
so With Schnelle's recent Neutestamentliche Anthropologie we shall return to this approach.
Si Man, 84f; according to the index, p. 98.
52 Man, 83-85,87 (italics mine). This conclusion is not due to a failure on KUmmel's part
to recognise a distinct Lukan theological contribution. In the foreword to the English
edition of 1963 KUmmel states tbat 'the statement of the matter as it stands in the first
edition (1948) is still valid, and I would not wish to alter it', thus confirming his earlier results when the debate on Lukan theology was well under way.
n Cf. Wheeler Robinson, Doctrine, 76.
54 Man, 88 (italics mine); for 2 Pet 1.4 see pp.92f.

12

I. Introduction

Kummel's reasons for this conclusion are instructive. Obviously, they depend on the exegesis of these verses and a presupposition as to their origin.
Says Kummel:
The thought of God's kinship to man is in Acts 17.28 another expression of the fact
that man leads his life 'inside' the Godhead. Both ideas, that of the nature and existence of the world and thus of man in God, and that of man's kinship to God are of
Stoic origin, and there is nothing to correspond to them in the NT.SS

Other interpretations of the expression are dismissed. 56 For Ktimmel the


strangeness of these verses to the NT is hardly surprising:
It is only natural that the Areopagus speech should contain a Hellenistic understanding of man in relation to God. For the Areopagus speech is, as M. Dibelius has
conclusively shown, 'a Hellenistic speech concerning the true knowledge of God',
which stands alone within the NT in its whole tone and in many of its expressions, and
which can only be seen as the precursor of the philosophical theology of the secondcentury Apologists.S7

Kummel concludes: 'The stoic-pantheistic understanding of man in Acts


17.28 cannot be brought into harmony with the rest of the NT' .58 What conclusions does Kummel draw from his observation?

55 Man, 89; with further reference to the studies listed in KUmmel's n. 99. Almost identical to KUmmel is K.H. ScheIkle's treatment of NT anthropology. He discusses the
Synoptics (Theology I, 98-110), Paul (111-41), John '(141-55) and 'The Rest of the Scriptures' (155-61). This sections contains a page on the Areopagus speech (157f). However,
Schelkle's conclusions are radically different: The speech 'also puts a special emphasis on
biblical doctrine about mankind .... It brings no alien concept into the NT (italics mine).
Other references to Acts appear on p. 156:' ... the late Apostolic writings state that man,
as he actually is, is a sinner; and that all men are sinners not merely through predetermined impersonal destiny" but through their own culpable guilt. ... In the Acts ... the
constant exhortation in preaching is 'Thrn from your sins' (Acts 2.38; 3.19). Israel (Acts
5.31) and the Gentiles (Acts 26.18) as well are in need of forgiveness. It has been granted
through the works of Christ, and now is to be announced (Acts 10.43; 13.38; ... )'.
The NT section of Fascher's brief Das Menschenbild in biblischer Sicht (24 pp), pp. 1621, contains no relevant anthropological reference to Acts and is also otherwise irrelevant for our study. Spicq's little known study Dieu et r homme selon le Nouveau Testament contains a section 'Anthropologie evangelique' which includes references from
Luke and Acts (pp. 111-47; mention of Acts is almost exclusively limited to footnotes; cf.
p.222).
S6 Man, 90f with further reference to the studies listed in KUmmel's n. 100 (Bauernfeind, Beyer, Hanson, Stonehouse, Gllrtner, Owen, Nauck).
57 Man, 90f. In n. 101 KUmmel briefly summarises the argument of Dibelius who concluded that 'the Areopagus speech is absolutely foreign to Paul's own theology, that it is,
in fact, foreign to the entire NT', 'Areopagus', 71. Ktimmel then surveys and critiques the
proposal of Schmid, 'Rede'; Liechtenhan, Mission and Glirtner, Areopagus. For KUmmel's statement on Dibelius cf. Gasque, History, 235. KUmmel does not draw conclusions
to the author of Acts and his possible relationship to Paul; cf. 1.2.2.3.1.
S8 Man, 9lf; cf. KUlIing, Geheimnis, 1-12.

2. Survey of Research

13

If one is to combine the concepts of man in Acts 17.28 and 2 Pet 1.4 with the expressions used elsewhere in the NT, one must simply either be content with this contradictory and divisive picture or else spoil the otherwise uniform picture of man in the NT
by giving equal weight to these two texts, which, in any case, do not agree with one another. The only other possibility would be to reinterpret these two texts in light of all
the other texts, which would indeed be absurd.so

Kiimmel rejects this reinterpretation of the exceptional texts in the light of


all the other texts. 60 If that means doing violence to these texts, Kiimmel's
judgement is fully justified. However, should there be a valid interpretation
of this Lukan text that agrees with the other Lukan texts that Kiimrnel adduces and those of significance that he neglects, this interpretation would
deserve serious consideration_61 What if Dibelius' claims are not as conclusive as Kilmmel took them to be? What picture emerges from Luke's other
references to Gentiles prior to faith?
In addition to finding a Lukan passage 'of great interest and raising great
issues'62, Kiimmel uses more references from Acts than Wheeler Robinson.
Various passages from Luke-Acts have anthropological relevance. 63 A brief
look at these seventeen references from Acts is instructive and indicative of
a larger trend. Except for Acts 11.18 and 20.11f, all derive from the
speeches of the book. The narrative sections of Luke's account are hardly
considered. Would Luke's narrative portrayal of Gentiles, before and following Kllinmel's exceptional verses, encourage different conclusions? In
our more specific quest for Luke's view of Gentiles prior to faith further
references from both narrative and speeches need to be examined.
Kilmmel claims that apart from one passage, Luke presents a unified picture Which is also in agreement with NT anthropology in general. If Dibelius, his predecessors and those appropriating their conclusions were mistaken, and this exception not an exception, Luke would present a harmonious picture which would not be surprising for an author who has proved his
literary skill in other areas. According to this picture people need salvation.

Man,93f.
Man, 94.
This would render unnecessary Kllmmel's far-reaching conclusions as to the boundary and significance of the NT canon (Man, 93f). With the responses to Vielhauer we
shall return to over-hasty conclusions partly drawn from Lukan anthropology regarding
questions of the canon; cf. Rese, 'Lukas-Evangelium', 2301.
62 Wheeler Robinson, Doctrine, 76.
63 Cf. Man, 97f. Compare in contrast Vielhauer's almost exclusive focus on what Kllmme! deemed to be an exception (see below).
59

60

6]

14

I. Introduction

2.2.2. The Areopagus speech afld Lukan anthropology

KtimmeI's study indicates the significance of the Areopagus speech and of its
interpretation for Lukan anthropology. What further criticism has been
raised against the supposed 'intrusion of Hellenistic ideas'?64 How would it
modify Ktimmel's conclusions? In modern scholarship two main positions
have been taken. We begin with the position already familiar from Ktimmel.
2.2.2.1. M. Dibelius

In his influential essay 'Paul on the Areopagus', M. Dibelius summed up


certain strands of previous research. 65 His extensive study was seen by
some as closing the debate and affirmed a tradition of interpreting the Areopagus speech and of conclusions drawn from it. 66 It is worthwhile to follow his investigation in some detail.
Dibelius demands that interpretation of the speech begin with its second
theme (Acts 17.26f; p. 27) and points out that 'underlying the problem of
exegesis is ... the decisive question of the principles which the speech presupposes': is the author thinking 'historically in the sense of the OT ... or is
he thinking hellenistically in the sense of the philosophy of the Enlightenment' (28)? Dibelius discusses both positions, clearly showing his preference through his procedure, and then asks:
But which is the correct explanation? The answer to this question determines our understanding of the whole second theme and, to some extent, the Areopagus speech
generally. For the point at issue is whether it is the OT view of history or the philosophical, particularly the Stoic view of the world which prevails in the speech on the
Areopagus (32).

of

64 Man, 95; i.e. criticism beyond that mentioned by KUmmel in n.l00.


6S For summaries of research prior to Dibelius cf. Clemen, Erkliirung, 290-305; Norden,
Theos; Gartner, Areopagus, 37-41; KI111ing, Geheimnis, 1-12. Gasque, History, 211, n. 29
suggests that A. Schweitzer 'seems to be the ultimate source of the view which Dibelius
defends at length in his essay'; cf. Schweitzer, Geschichte,74 and Mystik, 6-9. For the view
of the speech as a creation of the author of Acts, Schweitzer, Mysticism, 6, n. 2 himself refers to E. Norden, E. Reuss, H.J. Holtzmann 'and the representatives of the older criticism generally'.
66 Cf. KtlmmeJ's verdict above (Man, 90) and Gartner,Areopagus, 41. G!lrtner summarises and criticises Dibelius on pp. 4lf and mentions scholars who accepted or developed
Dibelius' proposal (Vielhauer, 'Paulinismus'; Eltester, 'Gott'; Kiimmel). Pohlenz's 'PauIus' is briefly discussed on pp. 43f. Cf. the summary and criticism by Gasque, 'Speeches',
233-35,237,249 and History, 210-13. Cadbury, 'Review', 70 enthusiastically endorsed
Dibelius' study: 'The present reviewer concurs so fully with the viewpoint of this excellent monograph that he fmds it as difficult to select special excellencies to praise as to
discover faults'. For discussion of the 'Dibelius-Haenchen-Conzelmann point of view' cf.
Pll1macher, 'Acta-Forschung', 7f.

2. Survey of Research

15

Dibelius answers his question by contrasting the significance of ~'l"tEtV


(Acts 17.27) in the aT and in Greek thought and concludes for the latter:
'Thus there can be no doubt what kind of seeking is meant in the Areopagus speech' (33). Dibelius summarises:
Here, then we reach a decision between the two interpretations of this portion of the
speech, the historical and the philosophical. The philosophical prevails: it is not a case
of nations, national epochs and boundaries, but of the cosmopolitan human race, the
ordering of its life according to seasons and to its appropriate habitations and of
man's search after God which this ordering of his life inspires.67

Dibelius only then turns to the first theme (Acts 17.24f) and the altar inscription of the unknown god and Paul's use of it. He recognises that
the consecration to unknown gods may have been occasioned by the fear that,
through ignorance, a god might be denied the homage which was due to him; this fear
... seems not entirely unjustified a:nd may even have been kept alive by stories of gods
which had become maleficent (39, nos. 33f).

Despite this initial negative estimate, Dibelius later claims that the speaker
'regarded the inscription as evidence of the Athenians' subconscious
awareness of the true God' (41). Is this appraisal ofthe inscription likely to
be applicable to someone who was previously pictured as provoked by the
expressions of Athenian piety (:nug(J)SVVE"tO, 17.16)? Dibelius concludes
that 'the first motif of the speech (24f) rests upon aT ideas, expressed in
modernised Hellenistic language' (42). On the basis of his above observation, Dibelius argues 'As the speech continues, we see a departure from aT
ways of thought' (42; this departure is then traced, pp. 42-46).
Dibelius then turns with his conclusion from the second theme to the
third dealing with God's relation to humanity. The treatment is surprisingly
brief: 'So much material on this subject has been collected in the discussion
of the last twenty-five years that the purely Hellenistic character of the
theme is obvious. God is not far from us ... by virtue of his nature, regardless of human behaviour, he is very near to each of us' (47, italics mine).
That the expression Ev ulmp could mean 'through him' is dismissed, rather
it is 'at least to be taken as implying a certain panentheism' (47). This crucial issue for anthropology is elaborated when Dibelius argues that Paul

67 P. 37. For detailed discussion cf. Kiilling, Geheimnis, 86-110. Nock, 'Book', (829-31)
831 criticises precisely this point which is crucial in determining the conceptual framework of the speech: ' ... Dibelius, while recognizing the phrases taken from the Septuagint, calls the ideas of the speech Hellenistic. There is a strong element of this but it is in
a framework of Jewish belief ... Certainly the Biblical element in the speech is not a veneer; what is unique in it is the pregnant brevity' (italics mine).

16

I. Introduction

could not have said this, at least not in his own interpretation (59-61). In
Dibelius' interpretation, people
honour him (God) without knowing him by actual revelation (0 ouv a.YVOiivtE~ EVOE~Ei:"te, Acts 17.23), and this is demonstrated by the altar with the inscription 'to the unknown god' .... according to the speech, this knowledge leads to man's 'feeling after'
and honouring the God he believes must exist ... (60; cf. the previous assessment of
the altar).

In contrast to Paul, 'the speaker on the Areopagus turns to non-Christians


and he calls them also the family of God'.68
Dibelius then deals with the origin and significance of the quotations and
concludes:
It is clear, however, how familiar the idea of God's relationship with men was in Hel-

lenistic poetry and philosophy; from them the idea reached the composer of the Areopagus speech. The OT cannot even be considered as the place of origin of this motif.
... Thus the strangeness of the Areopagus speech in relation to the piety of the Bible
and its familiarity with .philosophy became especially evident in this theme, not one
sentence of which accords with what we are accustomed to find elsewhere in the Old
or New Testament (52).

This conclusion is followed by further material on people's relationship


with God in philosophy (53f). In view of his approach it is not surprising
that Dibelius thinks that 'the writer does not wish to speak in the tone of
one accusing the heathen world of their sin, but as one who is enlightening
them in their ignorance' (55). Only the concluding sentence of the speech is
Christian (56). Yet Dibelius adds 'The repentance, to w~ch the hearers are
called at the end, is naturally to be understood in its Christian sense. It is
suggested, however, that repentance consists ultimately of recalling that
knowledge of God Which, by virtue of his nature, belongs to man' (58).69 In
the end he suggests that the Areopagus speech is 'a Hellenistic speech
about the true knowledge of God' (57, conclusions 57f).
Dibelius then addresses the historical problem of 'whether the apostle Paul could have
made this speech' (59) and points to the differences from the Paul of the genuine letters:
Paul would never have written in this way. He is too deeply convinced that man is estranged from God' (61). 'The speech is as alien to the NT (apart from Acts 14.15-17),
as it is familiar to Hellenistic, particularly Stoic, philosophy' (63).

After these conclusions Dibelius turns to the literary problem. After a brief
look at the preceding verses (64-67,see below) and the exactlocation of the
speech (67-69), Dibelius refers to his earlier work on Luke's literary

68
69

P. 60f; cf. Gasque, History, 211 also n. 28.


With reference to Birt, 'Areopagrede', 372.

2. Survey of Research

17

method. 70 The author inserted speeches into an existing itinerary (70) to


'answer the question: how is one to speak? and not the question: how did
that man speak at that time'. Dibelius concludes: 'Thus, for literary reasons,
the Areopagus speech must be regarded as a composition of the author of
Acts. ... Now, as new evidence in support of this conclusion, we have the results of our analysis of its doctrine' (71). Thus the speech is absolutely foreign to Paul's own theology and foreign to the entire NT. The speech is a
'typical sermon to Gentiles and put in the setting of Acts' (73); the author
wanted to give 'a classical pulpit to the classical sermon' (75). On literary
questions Dibelius concludes:
Paul's appearance in Athens is, for the author, the focal point of this great event in the
history of evangelism and religion (paul's entry into Greece). Therefore Luke conjures
up in a few sentences the whole individuality of Athens as it was at that time, in order
to give the right background to the apostle's sermon,for this reason he brings the apostle to an illustrious place,sanctified by a great tradition, and for this reason he lets Paul
speak more of the Gentile way of recognising God than of the Christian way (76).

As we shall be turning next to a study which challenged Dibelius' thesis of


the Hellenistic character of this speech in great detail, a few critical observations suffice here:
1. Dibelius asserts: 'The speech can be isolated ... (as done by scholars who
treat it as an insertion), since it is self-evident' (27). Consequently he treats
vs. 22ff without reference to similar material in Acts. Within the speech
Dibelius starts with vs. 26f and favours their philosophical interpretation
(27,29-31):
The motifs have become intelligible to us by analogy With Hellenistic philosophy. If
our interpretation of it follows only the indications which are to be found in the motifs themselves ... then we can only conclude that the Areopagus speech is a Hellenistic speech with a Christian ending .. .' (58).

However, the readers' understanding does not depend on or take its clues
only from these indications. Arriving at Acts 17.26, readers had ample occasion to appreciate Luke's indebtedness to the OT. Quotations and allusions
have sensitised readers to apply this frame of reference to understand
events and their Lukan interpretation. Paul's anger over the city teeming
with idols71 and the fIrst theme of the speech, the OT character of which
Dibelius himself argues, affirm this very frame. The sudden and complete
'switch' suggested by Dibelius comes unexpectedly. Readers are more
likely to look for evidence along the lines described by Dibelius as 'histori70 'Style-criticism'.
71 Paul's anger is reminiscent of OT divine wrath against idolatry, e.g. Exod 32.10; Deut
9.14,19f;Ps 106.19-23;Ezek 20.l3;c[ the negative evaluation of the wilderness generation
in Acts 7.3943.

18

I. Introduction

cally in the sense of the aT' (28). The same applies to the following theme.
Further quotations and allusions to the aT in subsequent chapters of the
book of Acts affirm Luke's basic orientation.
In addition, Dibelius' interpretation of the .second theme does not follow
the clues provided by the first. The natural sequence of reading should not be
disregarded. This decision bears on his following analysis and conclusions. 72
2. Only after his exegesis and conclusions does Dibelius pay some attention
to Acts 14.15-17, the dosest parallel within Luke-Acts. 73 While claiming
that 'Both speeches are the work of the author of Acts' (72), Dibelius notes
that this former speech is 'nearer to the Septuagint than is the Areopagus
speech' and identifies a contrast between its argument and the alleged
Stoic proof of God. Yet, if the first speech is in contrast to such philosophic
ideas, is the same author likely to freely employ and propagate them in the
second? Would the former speech and its conceptual background not indicate the author's world of thought and guide the reader in understanding
the latter speech?
Dibelius completely neglects the narrative setting of this first speech74
and all other previous references to Gentiles prior to faith that testify to
Luke's estiinate and guide his readers. Treatment of these speeches, needlessly isolated from their immediate contexts and without reference to
Luke's substantial amount of similar material, is hardly commendable.
3. Dibelius refers to the immediate context (Acts 17.16-21; 64-69) only after
his exegesis of the speech, though he acknowledges that 'the description of
Athens and the Athenians has obviously been composed as a preface to the
speech' (65, italics mine). He notes that this introduction is 'unique, particularly on account of its portrayal of the Athenians. At none of Paul's mission
centres has the author given such a colourful picture of those to whom Paul
preached' (64). Howeyer, this overture does not receive due attention because for Dibelius these verses are part of the literary problem (64), not indicative of Luke's view or setting the agenda for the speech and its interpretation.

72 Dibelius thinks it 'impossible to interpret individual expressions eclectically, that is


sometimes historically and sometimes philosophically', p. 29. Ktilling's study Geheimnis,
which follows Dibelius in the philosophical interpretation of vs. 26f, while otherwise confirming the results of Gartner shows that this is not necessarily the case.
73 Cf. p. 26; brief treatment of Acts 14.15-17 on p. 71.
74 Pp. 7lf, n. 23; cf. III.2.2.9. Dibelius' index is revealing (Studies, 218): While there are
five entries for Acts 14.15-17 for this essay (pp. 26-77; pp. 51,63,71,71, nos. 23,73), one for
14.16 (55) and one for 14.17 (29f.), there is only one for Acts 14.8-18 (72). After the exegesis of Acts 17, the actual setting and occasion of the Lystran speech are briefly alluded
to, yet not for their content but merely as an indication of the author's literary technique.

2. Survey of Research

19

This procedure is unfortunate because Dibelius notes that


a difference of judgement seems to be evident here: the narrative does not speak with
approval of the Athenians, as does the speech [Le. according to Dibelius' prior and
isolated interpretation!] .... the difference in tone between 17.16 and 17.22 is bound to
strike the reader ... 7S

While Dibelius argues that the difference should not be exaggerated,16 he


demonstrates the preparatory character of the introduction. Many items of it
reappear in the speech itself: Paul's perturbation prepares 'for the introduction and the third theme of the speech: for the Athenians' acknowledgement
of the cSElO1.cSEI.J.L0vLa and the warning against serving idols' (66). Dibelius'
procedure invites several questions: how would prior and comprehensive appreciation of the apparently very significant introduction, following the natural reading sequence, let alone of other previous references to Gentiles, influence the interpretation of the speech itself? Is there really a difference in
judgement? Are these differences rather due to Dibelius' approach? Is Dibelius' own solution to the differences he senses satisfactory?
4. Similar to the overture to the speech, Dibelius notes tension with its
postlude (Acts 17.32-34):
Luke wrote this speech as an example of a typical sermon to Gentiles and put it in the
setting of Athens ['giving a classical pulpit to the classical sermon', 75]; in doing so he
did not allow himself to be influenced by the poor results which Paul actually
achieved in Athens (73).

Thus the classical sermon at the classical place produces little result. Luke
did not provide a more realistic sermon to this conclusion. However the
question of sources be determined, this discrepancy between the conclusion and Dibelius' interpretation of the speech invites reconsideration in
view of this postlude. Is the tension felt by Dibelius caused by his interpretation of the speech? What conclusions concerning the speech and its audience can be drawn from the response?77
75 P. 66. Dibelius addresses this issue again in 'Speeches', 176: the speeches 'do not
agree with the narrative part of the text in all points, but rather add to it, occasionally correcting u.... The explanation lies rather in the comparative independence of the speech'

(italics mine). Compare the discussion and criticism by Gasque, 'Speeches', 240. In n. 47
Gasque notes how 'In his essay on the Areopagus speech, Dibelius had emphasised quite
the opposite, viz. the close relationship between the narrative and the speech, which fact
he regarded as evidence that both narrative ... and speech were compositions of the
author'.
76 p. 66, listing other examples and arguments. Compare the comprehensive criticism of
Dibelius' approach by Pesch I,42-45 and his n. 28 for further studies critical of Dibelius.
77 The audience mostly failed to understand or accept Paul's very basic proclamation.
What spiritual state of the audience do these results indicate? Do they support Dibelius'
positive assessment of the Gentile world in the speech? Dibelius doubts the actual con-

20

1. Introduction

A coherent, sequential interpretation of introduction, speech and conclusion would be preferable to an interpretation of only the speech that
starts with its second theme and is in contrast both to its stage setting and
its consequences. In addition, adequate interpretation of Acts 17 can only
be reached once the speech is read in the light of the Gospel and the preceding chapters of Acts. To which understanding does Luke lead readers
through previous references to the Gentiles and the issues addressed at
Athens?
Dibelius' manner of treatment and conclusions for this crucial passage
for Luke's perspective on Gentiles prior to faith found many followers to
whom we shall turn later. They draw consequences for all of Luke-Acts and
its theology from Dibelius' point of departure and conclusions. Says
Gasque: 'What Dibelius says in regard to the Areopagus address in particular is later applied (by Haenchen and Conzelmann, among others) to the
theology of Luke in general'78 - we might add 'including its anthropology'.
While previous research did not recognise a Lukan anthropology, Kfunme I, following Dibelius, took Athens, however exceptional, to be the only
noteworthy Lukan contribution. Some later research took Athens in Dibelius' perspective to be the key to unlock Lukan anthropology. Before we
trace this development, it needs to be noted that Dibelius did not remain
unchallenged.
2.2.2.2. B. Gartner

Already before Giirtner, some scholars had scrutinised and partly criticised
Dibelius' proposaP9 In the wake of Dibelius' challenging interpretation, B.
Giirtner wrote an original and thorough study called The Areopagus
Speech and Natural Revelation.8o As Dibelius and Giirtner are the main and

version of some in the audience (p.74) and sees 'simply a readiness, perhaps, to agree
with the sermon'. This makes the picture even bleaker.
.
78 Gasque, History, 212, n. 33; cf. pp. 235-50 and 'Speeches', 24lf,249f, n. 98.
79 cr. Gartner's survey of research: pp. 37-41: research before Dibelius, 42-44: after
Dibelius. GlIrtner discusses or mentions Schmid, 'Rede'; Liechtenhan, Mission; Schrenk,
Missionspredigt. GlIrtner does not mention Nock's review of Dibelius' Aufslltze in
'Book', 829-32; Stonehouse, 'Areopagus' and Dupont, 'Problemes', 50-54; cf. the bibliographies in Pesch 11, 127 and Schneider 11,227-29.
so cr. the summaries in Gasque, History, 213f and 'Speeches', 249f, n. 98 and Hanson,
177-83 for succinct discussion and contrast of Dibelius' and GlIrtner's positions. Hanson
comes down on GlIrtner's side. After initially discussing DibeIius he writes: 'But in a special study devoted to this speech B. Gartner has succeeded in making an even stronger
case for another view ... " p.l77; cf. also the summary and criticism of Dibelius and Glirtner by Dupont, 'VAreopage'.

2. Survey of Research

21

most prolific exponents of two opposing approaches and methods, it is


worthwhile to compare and contrast their works.
Before Gartner looks at the speech.itself, he studies the narrative framework of the speech, both its opening and concluding scene (45-52). After
some general considerations on the relationship between Judaism and Hellenism (,Assimilation or Adaptation' ,66-72), Gartner offers a survey of views
on natural revelation. His study of Romans 1 (133-44) shows that this chapter
follows the OT-Jewish tradition as regards its theological conception of the knowledge of God gained from creation and from His universal works, even if certain terms
in the Epistle may have a Hellenistic-Stoic flavour, i.e. are such as are also found in
Hellenistic literature that has been particularly influenced by Stoic philosophy (144).

He asks: 'Can we, then, assume the same comparative relation in the Areopagus speech?' (144). On this foundation and with this question to answer
Gartner studies the ~reopagus speech, Stoic theology and the OT' (14469). He examines the statements on natural theology which allegedly reflect the 'speaker's espousal of Stoic theology' (145), namely the arguments
for God's existence (145-54, conclusions on pp. 152, 158, 161) and the kinship of people with God (on Acts 17.28; 164-67). Gartner concludes:
There is therefore no question of a pantheistic kinship with God: Paul is not using
Aratus' conception of God and man; the words have a different application here ... To
a Jew, there would be nothing out of the way in thus appropriating a quotation without binding oneself to its literal meaning. Again we see that the speaker's topic is not
the natural theology but an attack on idolatry ... (167).

On all these points Gartner refutes the Stoic-Hellenistic interpretation and


argues for the OT-Jewish conceptual background of the speech (167-69).
Concerning anthropology Gartner concludes:
Left to himself, man falls into ignorance of God, and this leads to idolatry.sl The purpose of the missionary preaching as exemplified in Acts 17 is not to reinstate the natural knowledge of God by enlightening the misapprehensions of man's voii~, but to
show the uselessness and the vanity in the Gentiles' conception of God and worship
of God. This is followed by a proclamation of the salvation in Christ (169).

Next Gartner turns to the conception of God, namely God as creator (17174), as the preserver of his creation and God of history and to the pronouncements of the speech on the relation between God and humanity (on
Acts 17.27f; 177-202). Concerning the expression EV a,,,;<p t;WI-IEV Gartner
concludes that 'the theological meaning centres around man's absolute dependence on God for his existence' (188, full argument on pp. 179-93). Despite similarities, the function of this assertion is different in the speech
from what it is in the philosophical texts. Acts 17.28 needs to be and can be

81

Cf. 11.3.3.2.

22

I. Introduction

understood in a way that explains the conclusions drawn from it in Acts


17.29 (193; cf. p. 222).
Surveying its attack on the temple services, sacrifices (17.24f; 203-18) and
idols (17.28f; 219-28) Gartner demonstrates that the thrust of the speech is
polemic against idolatry. He examines the universalism of the speech and
its comparison of two ages and the meaning of ayvota (229f), which 'is a
condemnation of the Gentile religion as a lapse from God' (237). This discussion includes remarks on the altar inscription and Paul's reference to it.
Gartner notes that 'these words have as a rule been interpreted as an unusually positive assessment of the idolatry of the Gentiles, unique in the
NT' (236). However, this interpretation is unlikely in view of his examination of ayvoul and the occurrence of J.l.E-CUVOELV in Acts 17.31:
ME"tUVOELV always implies a radical conversion, which involves condemnation of what
is being discarded, and a total adoption of something new. To interpret !l"tUVOELV as an
exhorta1ion to men to correct their mental conception of God seems to me a forlorn effort to rescue a philosophical line of reasoning. ME"tuvoetv and ltQ[VEW show clearly
the spirit in which ayvoLu should be read (237,italics mine).

Gartner quotes some scholars who have argued precisely the point he challenges. 82 Because more recent research also adopts the line here refuted,
Gartner's references are worth quoting. Their relevance for Lukan anthropology is evident.
Dass f.lE"tUVOELV hier nicltt das jUdisclt-christliche Bereuen und Bussfertigsein, sondern
das blosse Korrigieren und Andern der Lebensauffassung bedeutet, das natiirlich stets
mit dem Bedauern lIber den bisherigen Irrtum verbunden ist, lehrt der Zusammenhang der Rede selbst (Birt).83
Nach den Andeutungen der Rede aber besteht die Busse letztlich in der Besinnung
aUf jene Gotteserkenntnis, die dem Menschen von Natur eigen ist (Dibelius) ....
(Pohlenz) speaks of 'die Aufforderung, sich von der Agnoia zu befreien und eine
geistige Umstel1ung (f.lE"ta-vmu) zu vollziehen'."S

Gartner observes that 'there is a further feature suggesting that the speech
does not regard the religiosity of the Athenians as anything other than
idolatry, and this is the word SELOLSaL!.J.OvE(ftEQO~ in the introduction' (237).
However the audience took it, 'in Paul's mouth, it patently stamps the
P. 237, n. 2.
'Theoi',372 (italics mine).
'Areopag', 55 (English: 'Areopagus', 58).
85 'Pauius', 89. Gilrtner also refers to Clemen, Erklilrung, 304 who argues that f.lE"tUvOElv 'dem Zusammenhang nach von der Sinnesilnderung im intellektualistischen Sinne
zu verstehen. DaB das aber die hellenistische Auffassung des Begriffs war, sahen wir
schon oben (S. 213); die Areopagrede erweist sich also auch hier als von der griechischen Philosophie beeinfluBt'. Garlner,Areopagus, 237, n. 2 adds: 'The content, so typical
of the NT and also of the Areopagus speech, emerges from Behm' (cf. 1. Behm, Th WNT
IV, 994ff).
82

83
84

2. Survey of Research

23

Athenians' religion as idolatry' (238). Finally Glirtner addresses the inscription quoted by Paul (242-47) and concludes:
There is no doubt that the altar in Athens is the patent symbol of a polytheistic attitude which would be incongruous save in a cult whose devotees seek to embrace as
many gods as possible, or at all events to safeguard themselves against forgetfulness
of any in the long ranks of the deities (246).

In his epilogue Giirtner compares the speech and the Pauline epistles and
argues for their compatibility (248-52).
Giirtner is the more convincing because of his sequential and thorough
approach and because in his interpretation the speech and its immediate
narrative context form a unity, whereas in Dibelius' proposal they are in
tension. Since these two studies, with their different presuppositions and
approaches, scholarship has been in a deadlock and divided between the
mainly German following of Dibelius and his conclusions86 and the mostly
English speaking following of Giirtner.87
Therefore this passage, even less portions of it, should not be the point of
departure for our quest. The diametrically opposite assessment of it by
Klimrnel (see above) and by K.H. Schelkle (ct. our n. 55) underscore this.
Neither should it be overestimated. Luke's view of the Gentiles and other
aspects of his theology were often closely and almost exclusively linked by
later research to one passage of 192 words out of a total of 37.951 words for
Luke/Acts (see below).88 Due to their limited scope, the approaches of
both Dibelius and Giirtner have not taken account of Luke's other references to Gentiles prior to faith. Nor would viewing these references
through previously determined 'Athenian' spectacles be wise. Pursuit of
these other references constitutes a promising venue for verifying both sets
of results and perhaps helping to resolve the 'Athenian' deadlock. If these
references present a unified portrait that would support one of the above
interpretations, it should be given preference (ct: V.3.3.).89
86 The weight of Dibelius in the study of Lukan theology is common place; cf. Gasque,
liistory, 201-52 and SchilIe's survey ofresearch,ppA-15. Says Schneider I, 185: 'Erst nach
dem Zweiten Weltkrieg (und nicht zuletzt durch die Publikation der gesammelten Aufsiltze van Dibelius 1951) kam die 'redaktionsgeschichtliche' Acta-Forschung zum Durchbruch. Sie machte mit dem Ertrag der Forschungen van Dibelius ernst, daB "Lukas" als
SchriftsteJler und Theologe zu werten seL' The influence of Dibelius' conclusions on Acts
17 in the assessment of Lukan anthropology is particularly striking.
87 More recent proponents of the position of Giirtner are Bruce, 378-87; Gempf, Appropriateness and 'Athens, Paul at', DPL 51-54; Hemer, 'Speeches 11'; Kiilling, Geheimnis; Marshall, 281-91; ef. Gasque, History, 25lf.
88 Cf. Green,Theology, 2, n. 5.
89 This suggestion is based on the assumption that Luke presents a unified picture.
This is likely in view of Luke's choice of genre. The theological unity of Luke and Acts
has been argued in the works of R.c. Tannehill and 1. Rius-Camps. For a recent chal-

24

l. Introduction

Probably little of great significance can be added on either side to the debate over the adequate interpretation of the speech. Our treatment of context and speech in its narrative sequence concentrates on some issues which
have not attracted sufficient attention (ct. III.2.2.11.). Presentation of the
comprehensive Lukan portrait will be our contribution to this debate.
Therefore we concentrate on Luke's neglected other references to Gentiles
prior to faith.
2.2.3. The quest/or Luke's anthropology and related issues

Throughout the upsurge of interest in Luke's theology in the wake of redaction criticism, anthropology remained in the background. 9o C. Burchard
observes in his review of Bovon's Luc le theologien: Vingt-cinq ans de recherches (1950-1975):
Nicht aus Versehen fehlt 'SUnde' im Sachregister und hat 'Vergebung' nur wenige SeitenzahIen. Was nach Lukas am unbekehrten Menschen eigentlich falsch is!, ist offensichtlich wenig untersucht, obwohl das Thema nicht unwichtiger und unergiebiger ist
als andere, die auffallend haufiger traktiert warden sind.Ol

However, some aspects of Luke's anthropology including his view of Gentiles prior to faith were included in the study of his theology. In this discussion of Luke's anthropology two trends are discernible. 1. There is the continued assumption that anthropology, sometimes with the exception of Acts
17, is not a distinctive feature of Luke's theology.1bis explains the lack of
attention it has received in Lukan studies and in NT anthropology (cf.
1.2.2.3.5.).2. Where Luke's anthropology was mentioned or even studied
for its own sake, the discussion was often focused on needlessly limited evidence, the interpretation of which was controversial.

lenge see 1.2.2.3.6.; cf. also Dawsey, Voice. If there is agreement in the description of
Gentiles before and after Acts 17,it is unlikely that the Areopagus speech is a deliberate 'status reversal' (cf. the instances of status reversal identified by Green, Theology,
170).
90 Compare the various surveys of postwar research on Lukan theology, e.g. Barrett,
Historian; Bovon, Luc; Gasque, History, 201-305 and 'Field'; Grasser, 'Apostelgeschicbte'
and 'Acta-Forscbung'; Halm, 'Stand'; PIUmacher, 'Actaforscbung' and 'Apostelgeschichte', TRE III (483-528) 522; RadI, Lukas (further literature on pp. XIIIf); Rasco, Theologia; Rese, 'Arbeiten' and 'Lukas-Evangelium' (further literature in nos. 165f, pp. 299f);
Scbnelle, Einleitung, 299-301, 32lf; Schneider 1,65-186 (further literature on pp. 26f);
Schulz, Herkunft, 243-90; van Unnik, 'Storm-Centre'.
91 'Review' ,38. Taeger, Mensch, 9 uses this quotation to describe his own agenda: 'Mein
Versuch ist in weiten Teilen diesem Thema gewidmet ... '.

2. Survey of Research

25

2.2.3.1. P. Vielhauer
An instructive example of this new interest and approach and of the influence of Dibelius is P. Vielhauer, who was among those opening the quest for

Luke's theology with his renowned contribution 'On the "Paulinism" of


Acts'. Vielhauer proposes four major discrepancies between the speeches
of Paul in Acts and Pauline theology as deducted from four Pauline letters.
Our concern is with Luke's first alleged misrepresentation, namely natural
theology, which directly bears on anthropology.92
Vielhauer concludes that Paul's Areopagus speech
... does not mention the saving significance of his [Jesus] death. Indeed, due to the
natural kinship to God and the fact that the knowledge of God is vitiated only through
ignorance, this is not necessary. The repentance which is called for consists entirely in
the self-consciousness of one's natural kinship to God." ... the speech presupposes on
the part of its Gentile hearers a presentiment of the true God and seeks by enlightenment to advance this presentiment to a monotheistic idea of God and to a worship of
God without images (34f, italics mine).

Vielhauer rightly explains some of the alleged differences as due to 'the utterly different function' that natural theology has in Romans 1 and in Acts
17 as he interprets the passage:
in the former passage it functions as an aid to the demonstration of human responsibility and is thereafter dropped; in the latter passage it is evaluated positively and employed in missionary pedagogy as a forerunner of faith: the natural knowledge of God
needs only to be purified, corrected, and enlarged, but its basic significance is not questioned."

Vielhauer concludes:
Due to its kinship to God the human race is capable of a natural knowledge of God
and of ethics (Acts 10.35) and has immediate access to God. The 'word of the cross'
has no place in the Areopagus speech because it would make no sense there; it would
be 'folIy'. The author of this speech has eliminated christology from Paul's sermon to
the Gentiles ... When the Areopagus speaker refers to the unity of the human race in
its natural kinship to God and to its natural knowledge of God, and when he refers to
the altar inscription and to the statements of pagan poets to make his point, he

92 The other discrepancies (law, pp. 37-43; christology, 43-45; and eschatology, 45-48)
are summarised and challenged by MarshaU, 'View', 47-50 (similarly Gasque, History,
284-91); cl. p. 48 for criticism of Vielhauer's conclusions regarding natural theology. Cf.
Rese, 'Lukas-Evangelium', 2300f.
!IJ P. 36 (italics mine). Vielhauer neglects the preceding verses which report that Paul
eiJ1JYYEAt~'tO Jesus and the resurrection,Acts 17.18. Luke's readers appreciate what message is thus summarised; they know from the early chapters of Acts that the resurrection
of Jesus is closely related to salvation, forgiveness of sins and repentance.
94 p. 36 (italics mine); cf. Marshall, 'View', 48. Romans 1 is the one Pauline passage adduced for a comparison with Luke's theology, which is thus likewise exclusively derived
from one passage; cl. Gasque, History, 289.

26

1. Introduction
thereby lays claim to pagan history, culture, and religion as the prehistory of Christianity (37).

Some observations are in order. Vielhauer follows Dibelius with regard to


the speeches of Acts and the exposition of this speech.95 His presupposition
is therefore controversial. Vielhauer ventures to assess the 'distinctive
theological viewpoint' (48) of the author of the whole book after studying
only the speeches of Paul it contains (ct. p. 34): This restriction follows from
his presuppositions:
... [Luke's] speeches, which are generally acknowledged to be compositions of the
author and which, according to ancient literary custom, had deliberate and paradigmatic significance. ... Acts is a richer field for such inquiry than the Gospel, because in
the composition of Acts Luke had to master material which was much less formed
and arranged than was the Gospel material; in Acts therefore he was much more
deeply involved as an author than in the composition of the GospeJ.""

Vielhauer's understanding and assessment of Luke's natural theology is exclusively derived from the Areopagus speech:97
95 Vielhauer relies heavily on the interpretation of Dibelius and his 'convincing conclusions', p. 34; cf. Gasque, History, 284f. A quick glance over Vielhauer's notes (nos. 4-21,
pp. 49f) is instructive: Of eighteen references within the essay's section on natural theology (pp. 34-37) eleven are to Dibelius. Other studies of the speech referred to are Pohlenz, 'Paulus'; Schmid, 'Rede' is only adduced to mention that Schrnid failed to notice
that the speech has to be taken as a 'self-contained whole' (p. 37, italics mine). We are left
with three references to R. BuItmann (nos. 16 and 18). As far as we were able to ascertain
Vielhauer never took note of or interacted with Gll.rtner in writing. His original essay
was reprinted without alterations, his Geschichte does not mention Giirtner, neither does
his name appear in the index to the two volumes of his collected essays, cf. Oikodome,
241.
96 P. 33 (italics mine). Vielhauer goes on to argue that 'In Acts it was precisely the
Pauline section to which he was most required to give form .. .'. On the speeches see E.
PIUmacher, 'Apostelgeschichte', TRE Ill, (483-528), 502-06; Bruce, 'Speeches 30'.
Another example of this 'speech - restricted' approach occurs in HJ. Cadbury's The
Making of Luke-Acts, a work which in many ways anticipated post-war redaction critical
approaches and which was among the first to devote attention to Luke's theology. Peevo,
'Response', 4lf calls him the 'Forerunner of Redaction Criticism'. Cadbury, Making, 255
argues with reference to Acts 10.34f and 17.25-29 that Acts contains a 'splendid expression of universal religion and human-divine kinship'. Both references derive from
speeches. What B.R. Gaventa, 'Peril', 25 observes on the sources of Cadbury's conclusions concerning Luke's theology holds true for much subsequent research: ' ... the
speeches in Acts are the primary place in which its theology may be located. Cadbury
would have found very peculiar the notion that the shape of Luke's story itself reveals
something about his theology. For him the speeches reveal Lukan theology' (italics
mine). Cf. Cadbury, Making, 184-93 and 'Speeches' and lones' summary of Cadbury's
conception of the speeches in 'Legacy', 30E
97 The Areopagus speech is 'the only sermon to Gentiles by the missionary to the Gentiles to be found in Acts' (p. 34), echoing Dibelius, 'Areopagus', 26. There is one brief reference to Acts 14.16 (p. 35), none to Acts 26; cf. the pertinent criticism of Vielhauer's
method by Gasque, History, 278-90. Siegert's observation and caution for the whole

2. Survey of Research

27

It is a theology of history which combines the OT belief in the action of God with his
people and the Hellenistic idea of all men's kinship to God in such a fashion that
though the former provided the basis it was essentially modified by the latter. The absolute claim of the Jews to be the people of God is replaced by the idea of natural
man's immediacy to God .... (49).

From these premises Vielhauer also argues: 'To be sure this speech functions
only as preliminary instruction, but at this place in Acts and in the function
which the author intends it to fulm it is a self-contained unit'.98 Vielhauer entirely neglects 1. the narrative contexts of this speech (Acts 17.16-22,32-34 including Paul's previous Athenian proclamation; cf. our n. 93); 2. the other
speeches before Gentile audiences, including Paul's other statements on people without special revelation and their relationship, lack of relationship or
distorted relationship with God (e.g. Acts 26.18) and 3. Luke's narrative reports of Paul's interaction with Gentiles and of their response.
To summarise: Vielhauer bases his conclusions on one speech which
Luke allegedly is freely producing as a creative theologian. With little original contribution of his own or evidence to justify such a step, Vielhauer extends the problematic conclusions of Dibelius to fabricate the total Lukan
picture. In comparison with previous research Vielhauer's study is the rockbottom in the relation between actual textual basis and far-reaching conclusions drawn for Luke's anthropology. While Kiimmel looked at more
Lukan evidence and excluded one passage from an otherwise harmonious
total picture, Vielhauer declares this very exception, exceptional in the interpretative tradition he embraces, to be the Lukan picture par excellence, a
basis and point of departure for assessing Luke's theology. Minear's verdict
on Conzelmann's use of Luke 16.16 could also apply to Vielhauer: 'it must
be said that rarely has a scholar placed so much weight on so dubious an interpretation of so difficult a passage'.99
These observations on Vielhauer's procedure demand investigation of
more or all of the material relevant to Luke's anthropology and his perspective on Gentiles prior to faith. Revisions of his estimate need to be made accordingly. This has not been done so far. Rather, scholars following Vielhauer's estimate have attempted to argue his case more comprehensively
pseudo-Philonic sermon De Iona also applies to the Areopagus speech, which is but a
fraction of Luke-Acts (Kommentar, 305): 'Die starke Hervorhebung dieser Lehre [natllrIiche Theologie, also einer Lehre von der Erkennbarkeit Gottes aus Strukturen und Vorgangen in der NaturJ auf Kosten von Wiirdigungen der Schriftoffenbarungen und des
gottlichen Gesetzgebers Mose ist motiviert durch die heidnischen "Niniviten" als Adressaten der Oberlegungen; wir dUrfen hier also nicht auf "die" Theologie des Aulors verallgemeinern' (italics mine).
98 p. 37. Vielhauer fails to consider Dibelius' observations ('Areopagus', 65) of the unity
of introduction and speech.
99 'Use', 122.

28

I. Introduction

and to account for passages which seem to question Vielhauer's reconstruction. Therefore not only Vielhauer's conclusions need investigation.
2.2.3.2. H. Conzelmann
Die Mitte de,. Zeit by H. Conzelmann was the first major and so far the most
influential monograph on Luke's theology.loo Other scholars followed with
studies of various aspects. lOl This development reflects the discovery of
Luke's 'theology' in wake of red action criticism.
Conzelmann studies a wide range of texts to establish Lukan theology.
He was rightly criticised, however, for excluding the infancy narratives and
for not paying enough attention to Acts. The latter is particularly noteworthy for our quest as Acts contains the bulk of Luke's material on Gentiles
prior to faith. Even in Luke 3-24, Conzelmann's emphasis varies.102
Of his extensive study Conzelmann devotes only a few pages of his chapter 'Der Mensch und das Heil (Die Kirche)' (193-219) directly to anthropological questions ('Der Mensch als Empfanger des Heils', 210-16).103
In his treatment of the Areopagus speech Conzelmann follows Dibelius
in referring to 'die stoische Theorie der Gottesverwandtschaft'. Yet Conzelmann concedes that 'Diese Aussage bleibt vereinzelt' and rightly distinguishes his position from Dibelius:
Die Areopagrede ist ja auch im Sinne des Lukas nicht eine Musterpredigt; sie charakterisiert eine einrnalige Situation des Zusammentreffens mit der griechischen Welt,
wobei deren Versagen an den Tag kommt. '04

In two areas Conzelmann proposes unique features also relevant for


Luke's anthropology in general and thus significant for our quest: Luke's
understanding of sin (1) and, related to this, his understanding of conversion
(2). For the sake of clarity it seems best to blend presentation and criticism.

la) Conzelmann's initial statement is not surprising: 'Die Botschaft an den


Menschen deckt ihm seine Situation aut, indem sie ihm das kommende
Gericht mitteilt und ihm aufdeckt, daB er Sander ist' (212). People prior to
100 FIrst edition in 1954. Some studies of particular aspects of Luke's theology appeared before Conzelmann, e.g. von Baer, Geist; Dodd, Preaching; Gewiess, HeilsverkUndigung; cf. Rese, 'Lukas-Evangelium', 2290f.
101 Cf. Rese, 'Lukas-Evangelium', 2303-12.
102 Compare the criticism of Minear, 'Use'. In addition Conzelmann distinguishes between various sources behind Luke's writings. Those identified as traditional in their
widest sense are of lesser importance than those where Conzelmann sees Luke at work
expressing his own theology.
103 This presentation reflects Conzelmann's previous conclusions on Luke's eschatology, concept of history and salvation (cf. p. 212).
104 P. 210, n. 2 (italics mine).

2. Survey of Research

29

faith are sinners. Conzelmann then defines what kind of sin Luke had in
mind. Luke's concept of sin is 'stark ethisch bestimmt'.105 Sin is not a state
but rather a set of concrete acts. Conzelmann's proposal needs careful scrutiny as later research built on his claim.
For Conzelmann this moral-ethical character becomes evident in Luke 13.2,4; 15.7,18;
18.3. Do these passages prove Conzelmann's case? I cannot see any support for Conzelmann's claim in 18.3. Luke 15.7 should be seen in the context of Luke's 'sinners and
righteous' as a whole. 106 In 15.18 the culprit confesses to have sinned against God and his
father. The father refers to his son's condition as being dead and lost (15.26,32) not to his
individual deeds also mentioned in the parable. This tension demands caution (on 13.2,4
see below).

b) ConzeImann adduces Luke's only singular occurrence of UfLUQ'tLU as


proof for this understanding: 'Die konlcrete Tat bezeichnet das Wort act
7.60'.107 Conzelmann fails to appreciate the context: 't!l1hT)v 't~v clfLUQ'tLUV
refers to the konkrete Tat of murdering Stephen. This present singular action follows a pattern and particular mind-set characterising people of
which this clfLuQ'tLU is but the latest expression.l o8 Rejection of the proclaimer and proclamation is the outward expression of an attitude or state
addressed earlier (Luke 6.23; 11.47-52) and again extensively exposed by
Stephen's speech. Israel's sin was stubborn refusal of God's purposes and
persistent rebellion, expressing itself in the various individual sins mentioned in this speech.109 Acts 7.51 points to where clfLuQ'tLU as konkrete Tat
originates: the audience is characterised as stiff-necked, uncircumcised in
hearts and ears, forever opposing the Holy Spirit, persecuting the prophets
and failing to keep the law (7.51-53). With the possible exception of the last
item, it is difficult to see a moral-ethical understanding reflected in this list.
Stephen prays that this sin would not be held against them, like the other
sins which are already held against them (by God).
105 P. 213. '1st gegenUber Paulus die Slindenvorstellung stark ethisch bestimmt. . .'. This
conclusion is influenced by Paul's use of af.laQ'tLa; CL P. Fiedler, EWNT I, (65-69) 67.4.a.
For Conzelmann's approach the treatment of Luke 5.30-32 is revealing: Luke took this
material from Mark but added 'den bezeichnenden Zusatz E[~ f.lE'tO:votav ... Hier zeigt
sich die Wandlung. Das Marcinische Paradox ist beseitigt; BuBe ist die Bedingung geworden', p. 212, n. 4. This moral-ethical understanding of sin has been criticised by Dietrich,
Petrusbild, 50f and Wurm, Rechtfertigung, 60ft, 93ff (according to Taeger, Mensch, 17, n.
45). Glockner, VerkUndigung, (137-42) 137 suggests a different Lukan understanding:
'die lukanische Interpretation der SUnde als SelbsterhOhung des Menschen'. GlOckner
does not relate his discussion to Conzelmann.
106 This also applies to Conzelmann's comment on Luke 7.34: 'deutlich ist wieder, daB
das Slindersein nicht den Menschen als solchen charakterisiert' (p. 212, n. 4).
107 P. 212, n. 4. Being Luke's only singular occurrence of af.laQ"tLa, it is hardly representative.
108 Compare my treatment in 'Bedeutung', 132-39.
109 Vs. 9,25,27,35,39-41,47.

30

I. Introduction

c) Conzelmann further notes: 'Doch wird nicht in einem eigenen Topos


der Predigt eine Demonstration der Siindigkeit unternommen' (212, n. 4).
This may apply to moral-ethical sins (but cf. Luke 3.19f, Acts 8.20-23;
24.25!). Yet in addition to Acts 7, several other speeches expose and indict
the spiritual shortcoming of Jews and Gentiles alike and stress the decided
contrast between God's intention and deliberate human action and thus
demonstrate human sinfulness. While the word ullagtla may not occur,
failure before God is for example addressed in the Predigt at Athens.
Sundigkeit leading to judgement and condemnation and therefore requiring repentance is exposed. The various failures (moral-ethical and spiritual,
mostly inextricably intertwined) mentioned in the narrative material surrounding the speeches give further evidence for and describe this Sundhaftigkeit! Some of the speeches are triggered by sinful behaviour. We shall
return to these indicators in our investigation. In addition, Luke could simply be presupposing this topos.
d) Conzelmann observes: 'Der Begriff der SUnde findet sich in der AG
nur in Verbindung mit der Aussage von iluer Verge bung. Kosmologische,
spekulative Elemente fehlen dem Begriff vollig' (214, n. 4). Conzelmann
rightly notes that whatever the intended precise nature of sin, its removal is
exclusively linked to forgiveness (which in itself allows some conclusions to
the nature of these sins). However, these occurrences are not the whole
Lukan picture. Impaired by his agenda and point of departure, namely
comparison of Luke with Paul's understanding of ullag"tLallO , Conzelmann
fails to notice Luke's various other expressions to describe the natural state
of people (e.g. in Acts 26.18) and their moral-ethical and/or spiritual failure(s); cf. e.g. IV.3.4. 1. , V1.5. Is it advisable to assess Luke's thought by such
narrow comparison (use of a.llag"tLa) with other authors? Could Luke be
using his own, different expressions for what Paul might express with
ullag"tLa and thus mostly use ullag"tLa differently?
e) Continuing with the same word group Conzelmann claims: 'ullag"tooM\; ist nicht eine generelle Aussage liber die menschliche BefindIichkeit
liberhaupt. Es gibt Leute, die der BuBe und Vergebung nicht bedUrfen, Lc
15.3ff.111 ConzelmanIi refers to the conclusion to the first parable: ' ...
ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance'. No attention is
110 et p. Fiedler. EDNT 1,65-69. On such comparisons of Luke with Paul Ktimmel observes: 'Es ist daher fUr die redaktionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung der Theologie des
Lukas von Anfang an charakteristisch gewesen, daB sich mit der Darstellung dieser
Theologie eine vor allem an Paulus orientierte scharfe Kritik dieser Theologie verband',
'Anklage', 418t For a summary and refutation of KUmmel see Rese, Lukas-Evangelium,
2306, n.193. Wilckens, 'Interpreting', (6083) 77 argues that the Paul Luke was often compared to was the Paul of a certain interpretive tradition.
III P. 212, n. 4; cf. Taeger, Mensch, 17, n. 47.

2. Survey of Research

31

given to Luke 15.lf which specify the situation and audience or to other
passages identifying the group of people Luke here refers to. No other support is adduced for this statement, contradicting Conzelmann's initial statement, than a reference to A. Schlatter. Though Schlatter argues that 'lhr
bedurft sie nicht' (15.7) is not ironical, his full treatment of the passage does
not support Conzelmann's statement. 1l2 Conzelmann does not consider
what other nouns or verbs Luke may use to describe what other NT authors
express with CtfluQ"tWA.O;.
f) Conzelmann argues that Luke's first occurrence of CtfluQ"tWA.O; (Luke
5.8) 'ilIustriert, was Le unter der Bekehrung eines Sunders versteht. Nicht
die Person wird idealisiert, aber der Vorgang typisiert im Sinn eines
Bekenntnisses, das jeder ablegen solI' (212, n. 4, italics mine). Conzelmann
seems to contradict himself (cf. preceding paragraph). I argued elsewhere
that Luke 5.8 hardly reflects Conzelmann's stark ethisch bestimmte Sii.ndenvorstellung. 1l3
g) According to Conzelmann, Luke 13.2 'ist an aUe gerichtet, aber nicht im paulinischen
Verstand einer Unentrinnbarkeit, sondern irn Gegenteil als Appell an die eigene Initiative' (212, n. 4). While Luke certainly urges repentance, there is more to 13.2-5. The correction of popular notion~ in vs. 2 and 4 (aflaQ"twAOL l'WQU :n;ciV"ta~) and the following
general call to repentance suggests that people do not need to be extraordinary sinners
to attract judgement (oflO[W~ WtOAEtU'6e). As all are urged to repentance to escape destruction (compare Conzelmann's contrasting conclusions for ch. 15), the stress is not on
the quality or quantifiable amount of morally objectionable actions. A common occasion
and common need for repentance seems to lie beneath quantifiable sins. The link between moral-ethical sins and the state of aflaQ"twA.6~ I O<PELAi"tT]~ is stronger than Conzelmann assumes. This raises questions of cause and effect: do individual moral-ethical sins
make a 'sinner', or is a person's sinfulness behind the visible manifestations in individual
acts?

Conzelmann claims that 'Das Lukanische Verstandnis zeigt sich klar im


Aufbau der Reden der Apg',114 Their last topos is not a call to repentance
(so Dibelius): 'Der Akzent liegt vielmehr auf dem Heilsangebot; erst aus
diesem ergibt sich der Ruf zur Buj3e als Bedingung des Heils')15
Lukas, (346-58) 349f.
Cf. 'Need'. In addition, the reader of Luke 5.8 knows Luke's infancy narratives.
There it became evident that outwardly impeccable people (like Sirneon; 2.25) rejoice
over the availability of salvation (2.30) and can die in peace once it appears. Salvation
consists in the forgiveness of these sins (1.77;3.3) but also addresses a state beyond these
manifestations, 1.79. The tax-collector of Luke 18.13 asks for God's mercy as he is a sinner.As with Peter in 5.8,sinful acts are not in the foreground. In contrast to the Pharisee
who points to individual meritorious deeds (18.12), the tax-collector rather betrays a
humble awareness of his sinful state.
114 p. 213. The speeches are studied and assigned theological weight while Luke's narrative material is not mentioned.
115 p. 213, n. 1 (italics mine). Conzelmann continues 'Das entspricht dem Lukanischen
flE"tCtvOLa-Begriff; cf. p. 214, n. 1 and pp. 90-92.
tU

113

32

l. Introduction

2. This observation takes us to the second area which is related to the first.
Conzelmann proposes that
... bei Lukas das objektive, durch Christus geschaffene Heil und seine subjektive Aneignung nicht mehr im selben MaBe eine Einheit bilden wie fTUher .... Auf seiten des
Einzelnen aber bemerkt man zunehmende Aufgliederung des Ganges der Bekehrung
in einzelne Vorgllnge mit fester Reihenfolge (193) .... Das 'Lukanische' fassen wir,
wenn wir nach der Begegnung des Einzelnen mit der Heilsbotschaft fragen (210f).

For this encounter Conzelmann suggests two factors: 'Glaube, Bekehrung


sind als Gottes Werk verstanden' (211), yet at the same time human activity
is stressed (192). For Conzelmann, Luke's moral-ethical understanding of
sin and the appropriation of salvation are linked:
1st gegeniiber Paulus die Stindenvorstellung stark ethisch bestimmt, so gilt Entsprechendes auch von der Befreiung von der SUnde. Der Begriff der 'Verge bung' ... Uberwiegt. Bedingung der Vergebung aber ist die BuJ3e (213).
Vielmehr ist durch [LE"tUVOLU allein das Heilsgut und der Heilsweg noeh nicht genUgend bestimmt. Das Heilsgut ist fUr Lukas die ~1Il1i, die OIll"tT]QLU. Und die Voraussetzung ist die Vergebung. Wiederum deren Bedingung ist die BuBe (214).

Repentance, the precondition for forgiveness, is not a Heilsgut, rather God


gives people an opportunity for repentance. 116 Conzelmann's identification
of several steps and his proposal for the appropriation of salvation implies
a certain assessment of the spiritual capacities of people prior to faith. For
Luke ' ... geht es urn den "Weg" zum Heil ... Ober diesen Weg teilt die
Verkilndigung das Notige mit. Sache des Menschen ist es dann, mit Gottes
Hilfe den Weg zu gehen' (212). People can respond to the opportunity and
information provided in the Christian proclamation and enter this way.
Committing 'only' moral-ethical sins which do not result in or are indicative of a sinful nature, they are not spiritually 'incapacitated'. Other 'impediments', which Luke expresses differently, are not considered. What
Conzelmann understands by 'mit Gottes Hilfe' is not clear. Another statement renounces supernatural assistance:
Saehe des Mensehen ist es nunmehr, die Konsequenzen zu ziehen, zu bereuen, sieh zu
'bekehren', sieh taufen zu lassen und - ehristlieh zu leben. DaB der Beitrag des Mensehen hier selbstandige Bedeutung gewonnen hat, ist handgreiflieh (192).

In section III.3.3. we return to the question of divine and human activity in

the Gentiles' appropriation of salvation in order to enquire what picture of


Gentiles prior to faith is implied. Then we shall have comprehensively examined Luke's portrait of them, including their moral-ethical and spiritual

116 P.

214, n. 1, see also p. 92: 'das Lukanische Verstlindnis des Ausdrueks 60iivm
die Gelegenheil dazu wird gegeben'. This notion will be discussed in section
III.2.2.4.3.3.
[LEta.VOLUV

2. Survey of Research

33

failure, however expressed, which in turn bears on the possibility and extent of their contribution.
Conzelmann briefly notes aT influence: 'In der Aufnahme des BuJ3rufes
an die Juden zeigt sich die KontinuiUi.t mit der Botschaft des AT und des
Tiiufers. Gegenuber den Heiden ist derselbe Sachverhalt klarzustellen'
(213, n.1.). This proposed continuity between the aT and its instances of
such calls to Gentiles and Luke's cases may suggest that Luke's view of the
Gentiles is also influenced by the OT.1 17 Conzelmann notes that for Gentiles 'bedarf es hier anderer AnknUpfung und Begrundung'. The reason for
repentance is 'Es gibt (allgemein) Auferstehung und Gericht. DaB wir uns
davor zu ftirchten haben, ist vorausgesetzt' (213, n. 1). Of what Gentiles
need to repent or why this judgement is coming upon them is not clarified.
ConzeJmann's considerations suggest that further aspects, other than
those of Dibelius and his followers, point to a Lukan anthropological contribution worthy of attention. Conzelmann's proposals are based on a
wider selection of texts showing that there is more to Luke's anthropology
than Athens. Despite these differences, Conzelmann's conclusions are not
unlike those of Dibelius and his followers. Rather than being appreciated
on his own terms, Luke is far too much assessed with reference to Paul. llS
C.H. Talbert once claimed that the only agreement in Lukan studies is
'that Conzelmann's synthesis is inadequate'.1 19 It has become apparent in
our survey that Conzelmann's proposals for Luke's hamartiology and soteriology, both affecting Luke's anthropology, need reconsideration and that
caution is required with studies which heavily rely on Conzelmann in these
regards. More specific investigation of Luke's anthropology based on a
wider textual basis is required. Such study will allow more confident assessment of Conzelmann's proposals (cf. Y.2.2.).

117 Ellis, 'Funktion', 384 notes: 'Soweit erkennbar, sieht Lukas ... den Menschen in alttestamentlichen Kategorien'; cf. p. 387 and EIlis' criticism of the 'Dibelius' interpretation
of Acts 17.28 in n.16. An increasing number of studies points to the close link of Luke's
work with the aT or its reception in early !udaism. Parallels are seen in matters of genre,
type of historiography, christology, etc. Thus Luke's anthropological indebtedness to the
aT is plausible and this potential background has to be carefully considered in our discussions of individual passages.
118 Cf. K!immel, 'Anklage'; Wilckens, 'Interpreting'.
119 'Sands', 395; cf. Rese, 'Lukas-Evangelium', 2312f. Our examination of two of Conzelmann's proposals affirms van Unnik's conclusion to his analysis of research:' ... much
work is still ahead of us, particularly in the field of exegesis, I cannot help confessing that
the exegetical basis for many statements in the modern approach to LukeActs is often
far-from convincing, at least highly dubious in my judgement', 'Storm-Center', 28. For
Conzelmann and the ensuing discussion see Braumann, 'Einf1lhrung'.

34

I. Introduction

2.2.3.3. S.G. Wilson

Our survey of Luke's anthropology includes the only major study of the
Gentiles in Luke-Acts. However, in The Gentiles and the Gentile Mission in
Acts S.G. Wilson claims that 'the most striking characteristic of Luke-Acts
is precisely the lack of any consistent theology of the Gentiles'PO
Like other studies of the Gentile mission and their admission to the
church, Wilson examines how both are explained and affirmed. His conclusions are familiar (cf. 1.2.1.2.1.): 'The role of the Spirit permeates the story
of the Gentile mission, guiding and prompting the Church at every stage
and confirming the most important turning points ... ' (241). Jesus and the
Spirit, the role of God and the risen Christ and the occurring miracles all
serve to justify the Gentile mission. The assertion that God is no partisan
(243) and the proof-from-prophecy theme support the same goaP21 On
this theme Wilson comments:
Of all the various methods Luke uses to justify the turning to the Gentiles, this appeal
to the aT and, by implication, to the eternal will of God is the most profound and fundamental. It is the closest Luke gets to constructing a 'theology' of the Gentiles and the
Gentile mission (244, italics mine).

Wilson concludes:
For a characteristic of Luke's writing at this and at other points is that Luke has no apparent logic. His account of the motivations for the Gentile mission is neither logical
nor theological. There is no single underlying theme, but rather a jumble o/miscellaneous themes, none of which is fully developed in itself or in relation to the others. Sometimes ideas are used which have the potential for forming the basis of a systematic and
more logical justification, but their potential is never realised (246, italics mine).

Rather than developing a consistent 'theology' of the Gentiles, Wilson proposes that Luke took a more pragmatic approach in line with his purpose.
Wilson sees this approach exemplified in Luke 7.1-10; Acts 10-11.18; 14.1517; 17.22-31: ' ... by his description of the centurion and Cornelius and by
his assessment of the religious status of the Gentiles in the Areopagus
speech [Luke] tries to show that the Gentiles are, in their own way, as devout
and as likeable as the Jews' (245, italics mine). Comparing Luke's depiction
of Jews and Gentiles 122, Wilson concludes: 'The Gentiles may not belong to
120 P. 239. In response to Wilson, Fitzmyer, 191 tried to show that' ... Luke's attitude toward them [the Gentiles] certainly fits into Lucan theology in a larger sense'; cf. his review ofWilson in TS 35,1974, 741-44 non vidi.
121 Pp.43f; cf. the statements on God's impartiality in Acts 10.34; 15.9 (cf. p. 243) and the
above discussion including Bock,Proclamation.
ill Wilson's brief comparison of both groups (p. 245, reflecting his previous treatment)
is problematic in that Luke's presumably positive statements about and occurrences of
Gentiles are contrasted to /legative statements about Jews. Obviously, such treatment

2. Survey of Research

35

the chosen race and they may lack the religious insight of the Jews, but
within the limits set for them they prove to be neither more nor less responsive to God's revelation of his character and will .... (245). Wilson speculates on Luke's motivation for this apologetic portrayal of the Gentiles:
Luke seems to be saying that an unbiased look at the past and the present shows the
Gentiles to be in every way as good as the Jews. And if this is so, then there is no good
reason why the gospel should not be preached to them and the Church welcome
them. Apart from the Jew's temporal priority, the Gentile has as great a claim on the
gospel as the Jew; the response of the one is as valid as that of the other.m

In support of this 'equalising-pragmatic-approach' thesis some Lukan


statements on Gentiles prior to faith are included and discussed. Did Wilson reach this positive evaluation through his interpretation and choice of
the evidence? Wilson's procedure invites twofold reconsideration:
1. Are Wilson's references to Gentiles really as positive as he takes them?
The positive evaluation of Gentiles which Wilson suggests for Acts 14.15-17
and 17.22-31 follows an interpretative tradition which we have already had
reason to question.1 24 How is his treatment of Luke 7.1-10 and Acts 1011.18 to be evaluated?l25

fails to do justice to the many negative references to Gentiles and overlooks Luke's
many positive references to Jews (see below).
123 p. 245 (italics mine). Wilson affirmed these results in his later study on Luke and the
Law. There he claims that Acts 14 and 17 provide 'an interesting complement to Luke's
view of Jewish legal piety, since here Gentile piety is also viewed with a certain magnanimity and optimism, as something which provides a useful preparation for the gospel. even
though it is corrected and supplemented by it'. He concludes for Jews and Gentiles: 'The
piety of the one is as good as the piety of the other ... being a Jew or a Gentile brings no
advantage since both can be valuable preparation for reception of the gospel' Cp. 104, italics mine).
124 From his exegesis of Acts 14.15-17; 17.22-31 (pp. 196-218; speeches, not their contexts!) Wilson seeks to establish Luke's 'liberal assessment of the pre-Christian history of
the Gentiles', p. 243. This 'liberal and magnanimous assessment of the Gentiles' pre-Christian religiosity can be connected with his pragmatic justification of the Gentile mission ...
The Gentiles ... have a religious attitude which can be positively evaluated. The average
Gentile's response to God is no worse, though neither is it any better, than that of the average Jew.... the Gentiles' religiosity is the first stage on the way to salvation' (p.218).
125 For Wilson's exegesis of Acts 10.If cf. pp. 171-78. Luke's portrayal of Cornelius is
also motivated by his 'pragmatic approach to the JeW-Gentile problem' (p. 32), namely
'to show that the Gentiles were not such a bad crowd after all. By making Cornelius a typical example of a Gentile, Luke may be trying to say that, all things considered, there is not
much to choose between a Jew and a Gentile ... As in Luke 7.1-10, Luke seems to be introducing a thoroughly pragmatic justification of the Gentile mission alongside the more
"theological" justification found both here and elsewhere' (pp. 176f, italics mine; cf.
pp. 217, 245). However, do Luke's other comments on Gentiles and his description of
Cornelius really suggest that he is a 'typical example of a Gentile'? Cf. III.2.2.4.1.1. and
Taeger, Mensch, 60.

36

l. Introduction

2. Are these references representative? How would Luke's comprehensive


portrait of Gentiles prior to faith, which despite the promising title WiIson
does not examine, affect his proposal? Does Luke's portrayal, not only in
speeches but also in narrative sections, actually suggest that Gentiles are 'in
their own way, as devout and as likeable as the Jews' and that Luke commends their way (245)? How is pagan devotion portrayed and evaluated
(e.g. Acts 12.22; 14.11-13,18f; 19.23-41; 28.4-6)? What of their many other
appearances on Luke's stage? Does Luke's comprehensive portrait indicate more of a consistent 'theology of the Gentiles' than what Wilson
found, and if so, what does it look like?
Would this comprehensive portrait rather suggest a negative common
denominator between Jews and Gentiles? To play on Wilson's words: if the
Gentiles prove to be in every way as bad as the Jews (while allowing positive references for both groupS)126, there would be even more reason why
the gospel should be preached to them and why the Church should welcome Gentile converts. The Gentiles are in God's plan, not because they deserve salvation as much as the Jews, but because they need salvation and
God wishes to save them. However, only Luke's comprehensive portrait
will allow proper assessment of Wilson's proposal.
Even Wilson's extensive study does not fully discuss the reasons for or
the necessity of the Gentile mission and of the Gentiles' salvation (cf.
1.2.1.2.). What Wilson suggests we have reason to question. Though Wilson
covers themes related to the Gentiles (cf. pp. 239-44), other than through
his 'pragmatic approach' he does not relate Luke's p'ortrayal of Gentiles to
the Gentile mission and their salvation. We have to examine whether the
state of the Gentiles, could be another, or possibly even the underlying
theme to explain,justify and affirm the Gentile mission and their admission
to the church, to which other themes are closely related.
2.2.3.4. 1. -W Taeger
Despite the ongoing quest for Luke the theologian, his anthropology has so
far been the subject ofonly one monograph. I-W. Taeger's Der Mensch und
sein Reil: Studien zum Bild des Menschen und zur Sicht der Bekehrung bei
Lukas (1982) presents the most comprehensive attempt to date to understand and appreciate Luke's anthropology. Taeger argues for a unified
Lukan anthropology different from others found in the NT. He proposes

126 For the Jewish need of salvation rather than their deserving it cf. Stenschke, 'Bedeutung', 140-42.

2. Survey of Research

37

that for Luke people do not need salvation but rather correction: 'Der
Mensch ist kein salvandus, sondem ein corrigendus'.127
Similar to our own observations Taeger notes: ' ... die Anthropologie, die
der lukanische Paulus in Athen vortragt '" wird oft als Fremdkorper nicht
nur im NT, sondem auch innerhaIb der lukanischen Theologie angesehen'
(13). Otherwise Luke's anthropology is thought to have little to offer: 'Die
VemachIassigung der Frage nach dem Menschenbild ... mag damit zusammenhiingen, daB Lukas sich hierin, wenn tiberhaupt, so doch nur unwesentlich von den anderen Synoptikem zu unterscheiden scheint'.l28
Adopting Dibelius' tradition of interpretation, which largely accounts
for the Athenian Fremdkorper l29 , Taeger raises a question decidedly different from that of previous scholars:
Doch bei einem so bewuBt und I1berlegt gestaltenden Autor wie Lukas wird man zu
fragen haben, warum sich gerade bei ihm solche 'fremdartigen' Gedanken finden, ob
sie irn Rahmen seines Werkes wirklich so fremd wirken und mehr oder weniger als
Kuriosum abgetan werden ktlnnen oder ob sie nicht integrierender Bestandteil seines
Menschenbildes sind, das in den eigenstandigen Entwurf des Autors ad Theophilum
einbezogen ist ... (13, italics mine).

Rather than being on~ exception, possibly this aUeged exception is representative and aU of Luke-Acts is an anthropological exception in the NT. To
pursue this possibility and to discover Luke's integrated view of humanity,
Taeger examines two closely related areas: 'welches Bild Lukas von dem
Menschen, auf den die Verktindigung trifft, zeichnet' and 'die Sicht der
Bekehrung' (17), thus Der Mensch und sein Heil. 130 Before the second
quest can be pursued adequately, Luke's view of the condition of people
prior to conversion needs clarification.
After introducing the subject and reviewing previous research (11-18),
Taeger begins with Luke's 'Charakterisierung des Menschen durch die anthropologischen Hauptbegriffe' (19-30) and concludes:
Es liegt ihm [Luke] fem,schon durch die anthropologischen Begriffe den Menschen
wesenhafi negativ zu qualiflZieren; '1j!1!XTJ, xaQSla, O'wlla und O'(iQ~ sind grundsiitzlich
neutrale GroBen. Der Mensch kommt nicht von vomherein hinsichtlich seiner Nich
tigkeit ... , Verfallenheit oder Sl1ndhafiigkeit in den Blick, sondem hinsichtlich seiner
MogIichkeiten. Die Wertungen betreffen ein vom Menschen zu verantwortendes und
zu korrigierendes Verhalten des Individuums, weshalb der Mensch urn die rechte Ausrichtung seiner 'IjIlJXTJ, die Befindlichkeit seiner xaQ/)la Sorge tragen soil. Darum ist

127 P.225 (italics mine).


128 P.13; with reference to Kl1mmel, Man and Spicq, Dieu.
1211Taeger's own treatment of the passage indicates that this tradition is disputed
(pp. 95-103).
.
130Taeger devotes the first half of his study to 'Der Adressat der Verktindigung'
(pp. 19-103), the second to conversion (pp. 105-228).

38

1. Introduction
auch die durch die Begriffe 'Ijluxli und xaQbla gesicherte Ansprechbarkeit und BeeinfluJ3barkeit des Menschen van entscheidender Bedeutung, besonders auch, was seine
SteUung zur christlichen VerkUndigung, die ihm den Weg zu seinem Heil weist, anbetrifft. In diesem Zusammenhang wird dann die dem Menschen bereits mit dem !;;ijv gegebene Beziehung zu Gatt wichtig;derjenige, der sich zu diesem Gatt wenden soli, kann
aUf seine nalilrliche Beziehung zu diesem Gott hin angesprochen und bei ihr behaftet
werden: Apg 17.22ff. (29f, italics mine; cf. p.227).

Taeger then turns to Luke's characterisation of people prior to faith to see


ob die sichtbar gewordenen Linien sich weiter ausziehen lassen. Bestimmt die an der
individuellen Lebensgestaltung orientierte Sicht des Menschen auch die ... Charakterisierung des VorgHiubigen? ... Entspricht der von anderen neutestamentlichen Autoren unterschiedenen Sicht der OelQ!; ... auch ein Siindenverstandnis, das nicht bei einer Grundverfallenheit des Menschen ansetzt? Und wie kommt der ansprechbare
und beeinfluBbare Mensch hinsichtlich seiner Verantwortlichkeit und seiner Moglichkeiten bei der Begegnung mit der christlichen VerkUndigung in den Blick? (30).

Taeger examines the following themes (31-84): 'Der Mensch als Sunder' (a
study of (l!.I.ugtLu and related words); 'Negative Aussagen uber die YEVEU';
'Die S6hne dieses Aons'; 'Gerechte, Ungerechte und Sunder'; 'Der Mensch
und die Exousia des Satans'; 'Der Mensch als Unwissender' and examines
'Die VerantwortIichkeit des Adressaten der Verkundigung und seine
M6gIichkeiten' (85-103; on Luke 11.33-36; 12.54-59; Acts 17.22-31). Taeger
concludes:
In Lk 12.54ff wurde der Mensch bei dem ihm konstitutiv eignenden Vermogen zur
rechten Erkenntnis behaftet. Apg 17 verhalt es sich nicht anders. Die Rede von der
Gottesnlihe und der Gottesverwandtschaft des Menschen.ist nur der starkste Ausdruck dafUr. Was als Zugestlindnis an die hellenistisch-philosophische lradition erscheinen mag, ist tatsachlich kaum Uberbietbarer Ausdruck der Hochschiitzung des natUrlichen Menschen durch Lukas.l3l

Taeger's second part is devoted to Luke's view of conversion. Again Taeger


pays close attention to terminology (cf. p.105). Following from his previous
conclusions, emphasis lies on the 'Entscheidung des Menschen' (106-55)
while conversion as 'Werk Gottes' is only briefly mentioned (155-60)1
Taeger then considers the 'Tat der Missionare'; '''Neutrale'' Wachtumsnotiz' and the 'sachliche Rahmen: Der Heilsplan Gottes'. These last three subjects do not add much to the discussion. Taeger concludes with a selection
of Luke's accounts of individual conversions (188-219). From this material
he gathers:
[Luke's] Hauptgewicht Iiegt eindeutig ... auf der Bekehrung als dem vom Menschen
geforderten, zu vollziehenden und zu verantwortenden Akt. Wrrd die Bekehrung
\31 Pp. 102f (italics mine). In III.2.2.11.2. (after Acts 17.31) we briefly examine Taeger's
interpretation of the meterological capacities ascribed to Jews in Luke 12.54-56. These
verses should be related only with great care to the spiritual capacities of Gentiles prior
to faith.

2. Survey of Research

39

nicht als Tat des Menschen dargestellt, geschieht das, urn Ubergeordneten Gesichtspunkten Ausdruck zu verleihen (220).

The principle is 'daB man aus besserer Einsicht und in freier Entscheidung
Christ wird, nicht zum Christen "gemacht wird'" (221). From Luke's prologue it becomes
versUlndlich, daB die Bekehrung bei Lukas letztlich zu einer Frage der rechten
Erkenntnis wird und damit menschlicher Anstrengung Uberantwortet ist; diese ist
allerdings fUr einen interessierten und einsichtigen Menschen nicht allzu graB, denn der
christliche VerkUndigerredet nicht nur 'wahre' ,sondern auch 'vemUnftige Worte' (224).

Taeger concludes from his observations in both parts:


Der Mensch ist kein salvandus, sondern ein corrigendus. Die Charakterisierung des
vorgliiubigen Menschen durch Lukas ergab keinerlei Hinweise auf eine Sicht des
Menschen als salvandus, der durch eine Ubergreifende negative Macht bestimmt ist
und sein Subjektsein an diese verloren hat .... Der Mensch kommt in den Blick als
sein Leben individuell gestaltendes, verantwortliches Wesen. SUnder ist er sofern er
SUnden begangen hat, verwerfliche Einzeitaten, nicht aber, weil er als Mensch der
Macht der SUnde verfallen ist. ... Die an etbisch-moralischen Kriterien orientierte
Sicht des vorglliubigen Menschen gelangt keineswegs nur zu negativen Ergebnissen;
es gibt durchaus Menschen, an deren LebensfUhrung nichts auszusetzen ist.... [Satan]
ist auf der ganzen Linie der Verlierer und seiner Exousia kann sich der belehrte und
zur Einsicht gelangte Mensch entziehen. Das Fehlen dieser Einsicht ist neben dem
Lebenswandel der zweite Aspekt, unter dem der Vorgliiubige charakterisiert wird
(225) .... Ein corrigendus ist der Mensch also in zweifacher Hinsicht: Er soll zur besseren Moral und zur besseren Erkenntnis finden .... Der Lebenswandel- soweit ntitig
- und der Erkenntnisstand bedUrfen der Korrektur, die unterschiedlich ausfiillt, weil
sie van den individuellen Voraussetzungen aufseiten der Unbekehrten abhiingt.Liiuterung, nicht ErlOsung ist das Ziel. Solche Korrektur als Voraussetzung des Bestehens
im Gericht und der Erlangung des Heils kann vom Menschen gefordert werden, weil
dieser zur Selbsterkenntnis und Erkenntnis des wahren Gottes, der Bedeutsamkeit
Jesu und des zu tun Notwendigen fiihig ist.... SolchermaBen auf seine naturlichen
Moglichkeiten und seine Entscheidungsfreiheit verwiesen und dabei behaftet, muS
dem Menschen der Dbertritt zum Christen turn mit seiner Uberlegenen Moral und der
wahren Erkenntnis als eine in jeder Hinsicht einsichtige Sache erscheinen; eigentlich
konnen nur Inkonsequenz, Boswilligkeit oder Verstocktheit der Grund sein, wenn
Menschen sich dem Christentum verschlieSen (226f). Es entspricht dieser Einschlitzung des Menschen, wenn die VerkUndigung die MlIngel des Lebenswandels und des
Erkenntnisstandes der VorgUiubigen aufdeckt und sich die urn des Heils willen notwendige Bekebrung als Vollzug der jeweils erforderlichen Korrekturen darstellt, also
der Unterschied zwischen dem Unbekehrten und dem Glaubenden letztlich nur ein
gradueller ist, der Mensch eben nicht als ein salvandus, sondern als ein corrigendus
gesehen wird (227).

Despite these challenging proposals, Taeger's study has received little attention.1 32 As we shall engage with Taeger's proposals in sections n. and
IlI., some preliminary observations suffice.
132 Bovon, Luke, 417f devotes a mere 14 (mainly critical) lines to the study of J.-w.
laeger [sic]. Schnelle's 'Forschungsbericht' (8.3.) offers only a quick summary. Radl,

40

J. Introduction

Dibelius and Vielhauer concentrated on Acts 17 and concluded that


Lukan anthropology was different from that of others.!33 Conzelmann
studied more evidence and also suggested a divergent picture.!34 Taeger
rightly argues for a unified Lukan anthropology, including the Areopagus
speech135 , whose worthwhile ingredients are not confined to these verses.
Taeger combines these previous approaches and their congruous results,
pursues Conzelmann's line and argues for the divergent anthropology of all
of Luke-Acts in accordance with the Areopagus speech.1 36 This dependence is also apparent in Taeger's focus:
Weil dem lukanischen Doppelwerk kein Entwurf einer theoretischen Anthropologie
zu entnehmen ist, dieses aber eine Fl111e von Szenen enth!ilt, die die Begegnung des
Menschen mit der Verkiindigung in der Zeit Jesu und der der Kirche schildem, ist an
H. Conzelmanns Einsicht, daB man das 'Lukanische' fasse, wenn man nach dieser Begegnung [rage, festzuhalten. Wie kommt der Mmsch als Adressat der VerkUndigung
und als aUf diese VerkUndigung Reagierender in den Blick?1:n

Despite this combined and far more comprehensive approach Taeger still
neglects material indicative of Luke's anthropology. Due to his adoption of
Conzelmann's emphasis on the encounter with the proclamation, Taeger
misses or underestimates Luke's references to the state of humanity, to the
actual Jews and Gentiles of the past, to both groups apart from and prior to
this Begegnung and what Luke says about people after this Begegnung.
Lukas-Evangelium, 108-10 sumarises and cautiously counterbalances some of Taeger's
proposals. Pliimacher's 120 page review of 'Acta-Forschung 1974-82' refers briefly (9
lines) to Taeger regarding the differences between Luke and Paul; cf. also Lindemann,
'Literaturbericht', 353f. Marshall's 'Luke: Luke as a Theologian', AncBD IV, (402f) 403,
contains a 14 line summary and criticism; MarshaU's 'Postscript: Lucan Studies since
1979' in Historian (1988), 223-35 and Gasque, 'Field' do not mention Taeger. Wiefel's
ThLZ review of Taeger only appeared seven years after publication (in volume 114,
1989). It is the only review of Taeger listed in eleven volumes of EBB (63, 1982 - NS 8,
1992).
133 Cf. Taeger's reference (Mensch, 14) to Vielhauer.
134 Though Taeger, Mensch, 4-15 summarises Conzelmann's relevant pages (Mitle, 193217) and acknowledges that Conzelmann has 'bereits wichtige Beobachtungen zur
lukanischen Sicht des Menschen zusammengestellt' (p.14), he does not sufficiently bring
out Conzelmann's suggestions of a divergent Lukan anthropology. Taeger is far more indebted to Conzelmann than what becomes apparent from his summary.
135 Cf. his convincing argument in the above quotation. Studies of other areas of Lukan
theology have supported Luke's theological unity; for a recent challenge cf. 1.2.2.3.6.
136 The point of departure is crucial: granted a unified Lukan picture, should disputed
verses, if they are not an exception, set the agenda for other anthropological references
or should the other references be studied on their own and, in case of doubt, even guide
the interpretation of the speech? As the interpretation of these verses is so controversial,
we want to attempt the latter. While Taeger does not start with Athens (pp. 94-103), his
position appears to be set early on (pp. 12f, foUowing Vielhauer and KUmmel).
mp.17 (italics mine); with reference to Conzelmann, Apostelgeschichte, 12 and Mute,
210f.

2. Survey of Research

41

Other factors active in pre-Christian existence or in this very encounter, be


they demonic or divine, do not receive enough attentionP8 What Luke says
about people apart from, prior to and after this encounter bears on his portrayal of them and on the assessment of their spiritual capacities and thus
their contribution in this encounter. 139 Neglect of this setting fosters inadequate conclusions. While some of this material is included in Taeger's first
section, in particular Luke's na"ative descriptions of Gentiles prior to faith
have not been given sufficient weight. Taeger studies only four conversion
accounts of individual Gentiles (Acts 8.26-39; 13.7-12; 16.13-15,25-34).
Brief study of Luke's references to Jews prior to this encounter has led
us to challenge Taeger's conclusions.1 4o Here it remains to examine in
greater detail whether the same questions arise from Luke's references to
Gentiles prior to faith. What can be concluded from neglected aspects of the
Gentile encounter with salvation141 and from Luke's portrayal of Gentile
Christians to their state prior to faith? Taeger's scope requires expansion. It
remains to be seen whether a harmonious portrait emerges from the more
extensive material we consider. 142 In addition to these significant limitations, Taeger interprets the Areopagus speech in a fashion which continues

138 The role of the devil as the adversary of Jesus and the Christian mission is far more
significant than what is apparent from Taeger's treatment (ct. our n.183). Bovon, Luke,
418 notes: Taeger 'is right to insist on the responsibility of the human being, but I would
say the believers responsibility, for according to Luke, Satan holds non-believers under
his power more than Taeger is willing to admit. In a significant manner, the author is almost mute when it comes to Acts 10.38 ... '; ct. Taeger's n. 282, p. 72 and Bovon's n. 74,
p.490.
139 Neglect of these aspects is reflected in Schnelle's criticism of Taeger: ' ... Taeger in
seinen Analysen die Beteiligung des Menschen am HeilsprozefJ Uberbetont', 'Forschungsbericht', 8.3. (italics mine). Wiefel asks in the conclusion to his review of Taeger, col. 273:
'Das alte Lied vom "Synergismus" des Lukas? Jedenfalls sieht man die Akzente so gesetzt (oft schon durch die vom )'erfasser bevorzugten Vokabeln, etwa das haufige
"ethisch-moralisch"), daB diese ,?arstellung der Anthropologie des Lukas in der Anklage erscheinen dtlrfte.Aber ist es 'fVirklich der ganze Lukas?' (italics mine).
140 Cf. Stenschke, 'Bedeutung'. \
141 Taeger, Mensch, 188 and n. 77sf;following and with reference to Conzelmann,Mitte,
215, n.1, excludes the conversions of Paul and Comelius, though they are emphasised by
Luke through their threefold/twofold repetition. The latter deserves careful scrutiny; cf.
III.2.2.4. For the former cf. III.3.3.2.2.3.6.2. Both accounts report the conversion of men
who were beyond moral-ethical reproach and very devout, both stress God's saving activity in the encounter. Lindemann, 'Literaturbericht', 354 notes on Taeger's omission of
Paul's conversion: 'gerade diese scheint sich dem von Taeger gefundenen Schema doch
zu widersetzen'. Lindemann also criticises Taeger's treatment of Luke 7.36-50 and 15.20.
U2 We do not devote a separate section to anthropological terminology; cf. Taeger,
Mensch, 19-30. Many of these terms occur in the Jewish setting of the Gospel. Where referring to Gentiles these terms will be examined as integral parts of the passages under
consideration.

42

I. Introduction

to be controversiaL Acts 17 should not be overemphasised and be seen as


the interpretive key. Its position in Luke-Acts also forbids such use.
Rather than interacting with Taeger point by point, we want to re-examine Taeger's treatment of material regarding Gentiles143 and add material
that he and others have neglected in order to develop a fresh hypothesis for
Luke's view of Gentiles. Should Luke's portrait of Gentiles prior to, on their
way to and under faith indicate that they need salvation and correction,
Taeger's proposal would need major reconsideration.
2.2.3.5. Recent neglect

Taeger's study remains the only major contribution on this subject. Little
has changed since Taeger's survey and study.1 44
1. Luke's anthropology as a worthwhile subject of its own has remained unrecognised, be that through simple neglect, a shift of interest within NT
studies, or the continued assumption or recognition that the anthropology
of Luke's Gospel is similar to that of Matthew and Mark and can therefore
be subsumed under the anthropology ofthe Synoptic gospels and/or that of
Jesus.1 45 Such studies usually yield little for our quest. Other subjects are on
the forefront in the study of the theology of Acts.

2. Studies of other Lukan subjects or quests not limited to Luke's volumes


keep touching on issues regarding Luke's anthropology. We have already
mentioned the ongoing discussion of the Gentile mission. In addition to
Luke's soteriology, there is e.g. also the discussion of natural theology
which usually includes Lukan anthropological key passages 146 and other interest in the Areopagus speech.
H3 Cf. e.g. the description of Cornelius (Mensch, 60-63),Acts 26.18 (pp. 68-81),17.22-31
(94-103) and some conversion accounts (208-17).
\44 Mensch, 18; cf. Taeger's survey of Lukan studies bearing on anthropology,14-16.
14S Cf. e.g. Marshal!, 'Luke: Luke as a Theologian', AncBD IV, (402f) 403: 'But Luke's
understanding does not differ significantly from that of Mark and Matthew'. Taeger,
Mensch, 13f adduces further reasons of this continued lack of recognition and summarises several perspectives imd studies that touched on Luke's anthropology. They illustrate 'aus wie unterschiedlichen Richtungen man sich dabei dem lukanischen Menschenbild genahert hat' (14).
146 Cf. e.g. BaIT, Faith. BaIT, pp. 21-38, argues for the uniqueness of the Areopagus
speech and criticises K. Barth's use of the passage and what Barr calls the 'Barthian position'. In his own interpretation Barr mainly follows Conzelmann, Apostelgeschichte.
Still Barr concludes that Paul was not 'simply adapting Stoic or other Greek philosophy
to his needs. It is more likely that his arguments came from Jewish tradition and were familiar from a long time back in the Jewish self-statement against the Greek world', p. 36.
In contrast, Killling, Geheimnis, 172f and Torrance, 'Logos',13f affirm Barth's interpretation of the speech (cf. CD 1.2, 305ff; II.1, 121ff).

2. Survey of Research

43

The contributions of H. Hegermann and U. Schnelle exemplify the


continued neglect of Luke's anthropology (cf. 1.2.2.3.6. for an example
illustrating the second observation). In the NT section of the entry
'Mensch' in the Theologische Realenzyklopiidie (1992)147, Hegermann
does not consider Luke's anthropology in its own right.l48 He discusses
'Alttestamentlich-friihjUdische Grundlagen' (1 page), followed by sections
on 'Das Menschenbild Jesu' (2), 'Die theologische AnthropoIogie des PauIus' (5), 'Das Menschenbild der johanneischen Schriften' (1.5) and on
Hebrews (0.5).
The Synoptics are taken to paint the same picture. Hegermann claims
that Jesus saw 'den Menschen durchweg rettungslos verschuldet' (482.31)
or mentions the 'unerloste Welt' (483.28; cl. also 483.37,46-48). Taeger's thesis for Luke's anthropology challenges these conclusion from the Synoptic
gospels, while other remarks would fit into Taeger's proposaI. 149 Surprisingly, neither Acts 17 nor any other passage of Acts appears in this entry. Do
Hegermann's conclusions also hold true for Luke and Acts?
The same restriction appears in Schnelle's Neutestamentliche Anthropologie: Jesus-Paulus-Johannes. What is questionable in a concise entry, is
more surprising in a study of almost two hundred pages. Luke's Gospel appears in the section 'Das Bild des Menschen in der Verklindigung Jesu' (1343). Reminiscent of Wheeler Robinson's work of 1911 (1. ed.; with one reference to Acts), not a single reference to Acts appears in the index (p.195),
despite e.g. Ktlmmel's claims and the attention that at least the Areopagus
speech continually receives elsewhere. Though Schnelle's introduction covers a wide range of topics, his restriction to 'Jesus', Paul and John is nowhere explained or defended.1 5o
147 'Mensch. IV. NT', TRE XXII, 481-93; cf. our notes 3lf above.
148 Taeger's studies (Mensch and 'Paulus'), devoted to books which comprise 27.5% of
the NT (based on the figures in Green, The%gy,2,n. 5), are not even mentioned in the
extensive bibliography (pp. 491-93), though Hegermann readily lists his own contributions on Hebrews.
H9 E.g. Hegermann claims (483.5-8; I fail to fully appreciate his argument): 'In der
!Craft und dem Licht der neuen G~esniihe sieht Jesus den Menschen befreit zu der ihm
bestimmten "Erkenntnis des Gpten u~posen"; auf die Frage "Was soLI ich tun?" antwortet Jesus sinngemlU3: "Du kennst den Willen Gottes". Die "Erkenntnis des Basen" im
Sinne der Selbsterkenntnis .. .' Hegermann neglects the context of these verses (Mark
10.17-19): this question does not concern ethics, the enquirer does not know what to do
to inherit eternal life. Jesus does not refer him to 'der ihm bestimmten Erkenntnis' but
first to the commandments and later adds his own radical command. Vs. 23-27 indicate
that though it is hard to enter the kingdom of God, salvation is possible with God; cf.
Luke 18.18-26.
l50The emphasis in Schnelle's 'Forschungsbericht' falls on studies of Pauline anthropology. A few pages are devoted to John. Schnelle notes: 'Nur sehr wenige Untersuchungen Iiegen zur Anthropologie cler Synoptiker vor'. Among the 'Weitere ntl. Schriften',

44

I. Introduction

This neglect is hardly due to failure to appreciate a distinct Lukan theology as it has received extensive attention since Kummel's study of 1948.151
These two authors demonstrate that much of the theological quest for anthropology is still limited to material or authors more obvious and easily
accessible or traditionally considered to be of theological relevance. 152
There is still room and need for attention to Luke's anthropology.
2.2.3.6. M.C Parsons and R.I Pervo

In Rethinking the Unity of Luke and Acts Parsons and Pervo employ Luke's
anthropology as a test case for challenging the theological unity of LukeActs.1 53 They chose anthropology because it is 'an important and pervasive
element of Lukan thought and literary expression that stresses general cultural views rather than particular concerns emerging from the Israelite religious tradition' (90, italics mine). While their recognition of Luke's anthropology is commendable, their assumption of background needs attention as
other scholars have claimed the contrary.
Unfortunately, their treatment fails to provide careful examination and
the compilIison of the anthropology of the Gospel with that of Acts, which
would be required to establish their case. Though they rightly draw attention to often neglected methodological issues in studying Luke's theology
(80-89), their own procedure, comparisons with other ancient literature and
results are too dependent on a particular identification of the genre of Acts
and on their selection of material of anthropological relevance in LukeActs. 154
The relevant chapter (90-113) is mostly a loose collection of ideas and
gleanings from other scholars, often uncritically accepted155 and occasionally self-contradictory;156 The authors discuss a number of issues only
vaguely related to anthropology and unnecessary for proving their thesis
while missing important issues and studies such as those of Giirtner and
Theger appears as the only study of relevance to Luke-Acts (8.3.; the only other NT book
considered is James).
151 Cf. Rese, 'Lukas-Evangelium', 2298-2319.
152 Cf. Taeger,Mensch, 13:' ... die Frage nach der "Anthropologie des Lukas" anders als
bei Paulus und Johannes wenig ertragreich zu sein verspricht'.
153 Pp. 89-114; cf. the summary and criticism of their proposal by Marshall, 'Treatise',
164,1'68-69. Reviews by C.R. Matthews,JBL 114,1995,333-35 and J.B. Green, CBQ 57,
1995,411-13. Cf. the recent survey on the unity of Luke-Acts by Buckwalter, Character,40f.
154 The anthropological chapter is dependent on Pervo's Profit; cf. Marshall, ''Ii"eatise',
178f.
155 The conclusions of Conzelmann are accepted as if they had not been challenged; cf.
only Talbert, 'Sands', 395.
156 Cf. the assessment of J.B. Green, CBQ 57, 1995 (411-13) 412.

2. Survey of Research

45

Taeger! Still their treatment of some passages and themes, not often adduced in this context, and their methodological considerations raise issues
worth pondering. We follow the sequence of their chapter.
1. Characterisation. Following their assumption of genre, the authors refer
to Hellenistic novels and romances. 1S7 'These popular writings readily compare their heroes to divinities. Just as apostolic missionaries exhibited godlike characteristics .. .'.158 They compare Acts 14.6-18 to a passage from
Chariton's novel Chaereasand Callirhoe159 and ask: 'Is this simply a literary
convention in novels and a theological point in the acts? Or does there
hover behind such scenes a kind of anthropological understanding?' (91).
Unfortunately this interesting question is neither adequately discussed nor
answered. Further issues in Lukan anthropology are taken from Acts 14.618 (see 7. below).16o .
2. Acts 17.22-31 is briefly discussed in context of the unity of the human race
(98). The Athenians 'may be ignorant, but their ignorance is far from invincible. No blindness has utterly corrupted pagan hearts ... '. This interpretation is not related to the speech's meagre response or e.g. to Acts 26.18. The
claim of 'common descent from the one God' introduces an excursus on
157 Pp. 90f. That narrative parallels need to be considered in assessing a narrative has
often been neglected by other scholars.
158 p. 91. They overlook the f~6i that the characterisation of the missionaries as divine
(not divine men!) is ascribed t6 barbaric Gentiles. It is not a commendable recognition,
but rather indicative of their spiritual blindness and strongly refuted by the missionaries.
Luke does not portray the missioftaries as divine men; cf. WB, 719.2.; B.L. Blackburn, 'Divine ManfTheios Aner',DIG,189-92j differently H.D. Betz, 'Gottmensch.Il.Griechischrtimische Antike und Urchristentum', RAC XII, (234-312) 288-90,297-300,303,305: 'In
den Evangelien teilweise und stllrker in der Apostelgeschichte werden die JUnger und
Apostel als -&ELOL aVaQE~ dargestellt (Geistbesitz, Weissagung, Wundertaten); zugleich
aber wird eine Vergottung scharf abgelehnt (in Aufnahme hellenistischer Polemik s Act.
12,2113; 1O,26j 14,14)'j cf. also Acts 3.11-16j 9.34; 13.9-11; 16.18; 28.6.
1591.14 (cf. Reardon, Novelr,36)jcf. their p. 91, n. 30. F. Siegert's distinction between the
providence of God, stressed by the pseudo-PhiIonic sermons De Iona and De Sampsone,
and the popular theology of Hellenistic novels also applies to Luke-Acts (Kommentar,
299f): 'Zu dies er einfachen und eindeutigen theologischen Haltung kontrastiert die
Populllrtheologie der hellenistischen Romane. Dem Leser von Charitons Callirhoe z.B.
muB auffallen, wie belie big und ohne erkennbaren MaBstab mal von der "Vorsehung"
gesprochen wird, mal von "Gott", mal von "Gtittern", mal von "'JYche" ... Unser jiidischer Autor konnte hier viel klarer sprechen. I1QovoLa ist ihm der Name flir das Wirken
des aus der Geschichte und Tora bekannten Einen Gottes'.
160 Pp. 92-94. They conclude: 'The two words beginning with homoi- also indicate a relationship - in this case a relationship between the human and divine. If the healing
stands at the tip of God's gracious creation, the healers represent the zenith of human
achievement', p. 94. Both claims need reconsideration, the latter assumption is unlikely
in the light of e.g. Acts 3.12,16 and 14.3! Such healings are not expressions of human
achievement.

46

I. Introduction

ancient philosophical and biblical beliefs about 'Human beings as offspring


of the divine' (98-100). Luke 3.23-38 and Acts 17.26-28 are compared, the
former taken to pre-figure the latter 161: 'Luke 3.23-28 shows that Acts
17.26-28 is not anomalous' (100). The epithet of Adam as son of God (3.38)
becomes determinative for the application of this title to Jesus in 3.22.
Though they rightly caution that 'The conception through the Holy Spirit
... cannot be overlooked', they continue: 'but Luke 3 does proclaim Jesus
Son of God also by virtue of descent. This heritage is shared, needless to say,
with all humanity' (101, italics mine). The distinction of the infancy narratives between Jesus and other humans is disregarded. What is uniquely said
about Jesus in 3.22, is extended to all humanity. The authors fail to distinguish between all humans as God's creatures and as partaking of divine nature and neglect the sequence of the chapter. 162 The authors claim that
The Adam of Luke 3.38 and Acts 17.26-28 is ... a glorious figure. 16' Anthropologically this portrait of Adam not only proclaims the unity of the human race but also a
divine parent whose offspring can recognise their maker, a parent from whom they
are not wholly estranged, even if the inheritance has been squandered in a strange
land far away. Luke's theology ... does not take its departure from the assumption of
brokenness tl04).

This they see affirmed in Luke 15.11-32 which


... portrays the Lukan view of sin in narrative form. The prodigal does not require a
messenger to expose his condition nor adoption co reclaim his status. Self discovery
leads to change (Lk 15.17). His father did not see their relationship as broken ('dead
and alive' are softened by correlation with 'lost and fount:\', vv. 20-32). With repentance comes a restoration of the younger son's former Iife. I "

This interpretation is difficult to reconcile with Luke's references to the


ministry of the Jewish prophets of the past and the Gentile mission (cf. Acts

161 P. 100. This comparison, quite apart from its validity, links rather than severs both
books.
162 Even if the same kind of sonship were implied in Luke 3.22 and 38, 0 ayrutl,,:6~ and
EV oot EUOOXT]Oa certainly apply to Jesus only! Their reference (p. 101, n. 70) to SchUrmann I, 20lf does not support their claim: 'Die Gottessohnschaft Jesu (3.22) sieht Luk
gewiB nicht in solcher Verwurzelung der Menschheitsgeschichte in Gott begrUndet';
against Johnson, Purpose, 235-39. SchUrmann's exegesis, Inf, emphasising the uniqueness of Jesus, is completely different. Kurz, 'Genealogies', 175-79 provides a fine treatment of Luke's genealogy in relation to Acts 17.
163 The initial judgement was more cautious: 'Lukas [sic] presumably refers to Adam
not as a fallen sinner but as the glorified, immortal being fashioned by God and placed at
the head of creation. This splendid figure is worthy of the epithet "Son of God''', p. 101
(italics mine).
164 p. 104, n. 83 (italics mine). Ct. Conzelmann 's reference to Luke 15 in Mitle, 212, n.4.

2. Survey of Research

47

13.1-3).1 65 Even if it is true for the Jewish prodigal who knew where to return to (Luke 15.17-20), would the same be true for Gentiles?
3. Hamartiology. As there is no reference to Adam's fall in Luke 3.38 166 , the
authors assert naively: 'Lukan theology does not include a theory of "Original Sin"'.167 They follow Conzelmann (102f): 'In Luke and Acts sin is always in the plural, referring to deeds rather than to character'.168 The significant singular occurrence of UJ.LUg"tLU in Acts 7.60 (deed expressing character) is missed. Acts 10.35 is taken to indicate that Cornelius and his associates were acceptable to God and did not need to repent. No defence of
this interpretation is put forward (Ill.2.2.4.2.). Whether Luke indicated the
fallen state of humanity other than through reference to Gen 3 (in the geneal,ogy of Jesus) is not considered.

4. Pneumatology. The universal availability ofthe Spirit to all of Adam's descendants is 'the basis for and means whereby one may reclaim the heritage
of God's children' (103f). That this Spirit is not inherent but needs to be received and that this reception is linked to conversion is overlooked (cf. Acts
2.38). For Luke, the Spirit is not 'the basis for and means' of reclamation,
but a divine gift following salvation.
5.In 'Adam and Christ' (104f) the authors affirm a Lukan 'Christology based
upon Jesus as a new, gforious Adam who reverses the events of the fall'. 169

have~uch

Adam and Jesus


in common. Both are 'Sons of God', but also human beings, for Luke regards Jeslls as truly human, not as preexistent or as endowed with

165 The people of Nineveh certainly required a messenger to expose their condition.
Luke stresses that they came to repentance through Jonah's message (IlZtEvOT]oaV E~"tO
xT]QuYfla 'IolVa, Luke 11.32), not through self-discovery (er. II.2.2.2. and our conclusions
there). The experience and the insights of the Iewish prodigal (cf. II.2.8., p. 59, n. 20)
should not be ascribed to humanity in general.
166 Ct. their claim quoted in our n. 163. Is such a reference really to be expected? Is this
expectation raised by some of Paul's references to Adam? The function of this genealogy
and genealogies in general is overlooked; et. D.S. Huffmann, 'Genealogy.2', DIG, (25359) 256f. The anthropology of the infancy narratives does not support their presumption.
Do many Western Christians really miss such a reference in this genealogy as the authors
claim?
167 p. 102, with reference to Conzelmann, MUte, 212, n. 4; cf. our treatment of Acts 3.21
in III.3.2.2.3. On their observations on xaQola cf. Theger, Mensch, 22-24.
168 P. 103, n. 77. They continue: 'The disputed category of "Godfearers" illustrates this
unity'. No unity was spoken of in the context. I fail to understand this reference to the
God-fearers.
169 P.1D4; also proposed e.g. by Neyrey, Passion, 165-74 et passim; cf. Buckwalter, Char
acter, 7f,18 and the criticism of Fitzmyer, 211. This reversal of the fall is surprising in view
of their previous assessmen t of the fall, p. 102.

48

I. Introduction

gifts unavailable to other persons.170 For Adam, Jesus, and every other person temptation can be resisted and the Devil thwarted. m The importance of this comparison,
then, is not the contrast between a Christ who restored what Adam lost, but in the
qualities not lost by Adam that Jesus and others share.172

6. The communalism of the Jerusalem community reflects a 'program of restoring the (primeval) unity of the human race through sharing.... In Jewish
terms it reflects the restoration of paradise. In pagan terms this life represents
achievement of an ancient philosophical goal ... ' (106). The authors conclude
promptly: 'Humanity can achieve the splendours of its original state'173, disregarding that this wonderful 'restored primitive unity' is limited to Jewish
Christians,follows their reception of the Spirit (Acts 2; 4.31f) and is all too
quickly marred by sin (5.1-11; 5.3 mentions demonic influence).

7. Background. For Luke's anthropology, the authors suggest that


behind the preceding sketch stands what is probably the most common (and fluid) of
Greco-Roman anthropological perspectives, in which humanity lies upon a spectrum
ranging from the ~QLw()e~ (beastly) to the 'frLov (divine), with a potential for ethical
improvement. To return to the original basis of comparison, just as ancient romantic
novels were fond of portraying their leading characters' appearances as divine, so
were their antagonists often described as savage (and barbaric) beasts.114
170 Jesus and the men mentioned in n. 89 (Peter,Paul,Moses, Elijah and Elisha) do not
perform similar deeds because they are realising their own human potential, but because
they are filled with the Spirit or associated with the purpose of God. They note that 'Acts
17.31 calls even the glorified Christ a "Man"', p.105, n. 89. Here and in their previous assessment of the speech they overlook the fact that this designation is necessary to combat false identification of Jesus with polytheistic deities, Acts 17.18. His deity was different from their deities.
171 The description of the Gerasene demoniac, other references to demonic possession
and human helplessness, exorcisms, Luke 8.12, Acts 26.18, etc. severely modify this claim.
On p. 109 they suggest: 'Exorcisms could be viewed as transformations of Satan's degraded victims into civilized children of God'. Unfortunately this is not related to these
previous statements.
172 p. 105. This view leads to a 'home-made' problem for Lukan christology: 'Lukas'
[sic] explication of this anthropology, in which divine origin is the basis for divinely endowed individuals, the presence of whom, in turn, demonstrates that humans are of divine origin, in terms of christology produces the theological unity (or disunity) of Luke
and Acts.... Lukas' [sic] challenge was the expression of a distinctive Christology in the
light of his anthropology' (p.112; their argument remains unclear to me; cf. also p. 113).
17Jp' 106 (italics mine). On their ensuing claim 'Once again, anthropology provides
Lukas [sic] with a basis for.integrating traditional Jewish and Greco-Roman concepts' cf.
Capper, 'Context'.
174 P. 107. They claim: 'Such a spectrum is implied in Acts 14.6-18, through the view of
miracles offered and the prefix homoi- ... The Lystrans complete the circle in vv. 19f by
revealing their beastly aspects'. While raiSing interesting issues, one passage where this
concept may be implied (though both the divine and beastly portrayal are dubious)
hardly establishes the case. The application to Acts 14.19f is unconvincing; cf. pp. 110-12.
A much more careful examination of Luke's portrayal of protagonists and antagonists
and that of Graeco-Roman narratives would be required. Cf. the beast references in the

2. Survey of Research

49

The authors return to the alleged potential of Luke's humanity. The deeds
of Jesus and the missionaries 'are the tip of the iceberg revealing the fullness of human potentiality. The superhuman is within hUman grasp' (108,
italics mine). They neglect the fact that this 'superhuman' is due to the
Spirit and not inherent in the missionaries and that these glorious deeds are
not all that characterises them. They illegitimately generalise from Jesus and
Christians to humanity in general. Parsons and Pervo conclude:
Lukan anthropology deals with the totality of human potential, with the prospect of
the almost limitless possibilities available to those who claim their divine heritage. Such
an anthropology, with its confidence that all people can be righteous and therefore acceptable to God, is thoroughly optimistic and quite open to moralism . ... The desire to
reach for and achieve the divine potential available to everyone stands behind all of
the various Acts ... (HOf, italics mine).

While this may be true of some apocryphal acts and popular novels, the
Lukan picture is far more complex. Luke's portrayal of Gentile Christians
(IY.) indicates that such optimism is hardly warranted.
Though we have reason to disagree with almost all of their conclusions,
several positive features need recognition. In contrast to other recent studies, Lukan anthropology is taken seriously and its discussion is extended
beyond the 'classic' passages. The authors appreciate Luke's narrative as a
source for anthropqllogical insight175 , which is otherwise often thought of
no relevance for tlj~o~ogical questions. Though we question their conclusion and limitation, thei.vapproach is promising: 'Lukan anthropology and
literary method are thoroughly congruent. The narrator of Luke and Acts
found stories of those who exemplify the divine in their lives as the preferred medium for theological expression' .176

pseudo-Philonic sermon De Jona (in Siegert, Predigten): 'Zuniichst und vor allem haben
wir dieses Geschenk von Gott empfangen, daB wir Menschen sind. ledoch gieich nach der
Geburt haben wir den wiIden TIeren nachgeeifert und sind, vemUnftig erschaffen, auf die
Stufe des unvemUnftigen Viehs abgesunken'. The reason for this insight follows suit: 'Wie
dieses gerade nur sein Futter kennt und sich urn seinen Ernahrer nicht kllmmert, so
genieJ3en auch wir die FrUchte des Landes, ohne an den zu denken, der die FrUchte hervorbringt .. .' (120;cf.121-23;Acts 14.17;lsa 1.3;Jer 5.14;Siegert, 'Heiden', 55).
17SThey rightly observe (p. 89, italics mine): 'Despite the general moves in scholarship beyond redaction criticism, the call for study of Luke and Acts as a unity, and the
emergence of narrative criticism, Lukan theology is still largely engaged in questions
raised and shaped by these earlier questions.. ,. Lukan theology that gives due weight to
Acts as well as Luke, narrative no less than discourse ... '.
176 P. 113, italics mine; cf. their astute criticism of redaction criticism, pp. 84-86 and previous approaches (pp. 85f). cf. also pp. 9lf:' ... the speeches are often appropriate to their
narrative contexts. This observation should not only caution against generalizations from
individual addresses but also raise the question of narrative context. The speeches belong to the narrative and must be analyzed in this context rather than as detachable entities.... Some may regard any attempt to derive abstract ideologies from narratives as a

50

I. Introduction

We shall return to these issues only insofar as they concern Gentiles.


Covering the relevant material of both volumes, our study will also show
whether Luke's comprehensive portrait of Gentiles prior to faith does support the case for the anthropological disunity of Luke and Acts.
Conclusion
1. Often Luke's anthropology remained unrecognised for various reasons.
When noted, there often was a narrow focus on one passage. Yet it is hardly
wise to draw often far-reaching conclusions from one passage only (Acts
17.22-31), which appears in the second half of Luke's second volume, without taking into consideration how the reader is likely to understand this
passage in light of the pertinent material of the previous forty chapters. 1.
Darr's study On Character Building demonstrates the fruitfulness of an approach that respects the natural sequence of reading and follows the
author's building of character. 177 In addition, this passage has often been interpreted in a dubious fashion which has too often been uncritically accepted.

2. Even where such confinement was avoided, Luke's narrative presentation of anthropology, in particular his view of the Gentiles, has not been sufficiently recognised. Parsons and Pervo have addressed some of the restrictions inherent in earlier approaches and have shown Luke's narrative to be
a challenging field for anthropology.
3. Study of Luke's anthropology usually is part of other quests. It has hardly
been studied comprehensively for its own sake and been assessed on its own
terms. Comparison with Paul or other authors, before ascertaining Luke's
contribution on his own terms, is precarious.

misplaced enterprise from the outset, but when dealing with a partisan religious text presented by a reliable and omniscient narrator, it is possible to discover at least some features of that narrator's theology'.
l17For methodological considerations see pp. 11-59. The section 'Narrative sequence
and the accumulation of character' (pp. 42-44) is particularly relevant to Luke's characterisation of Gentiles prior to faith. The fact of two volumes and the sequence of reading
indicated in the preface of Acts questions the suggestion of Parsons and Pervo to 'identify the Lukan theological core in Acts and then to show how this is applied, even without complete success, to the Gospel', p. 114. Their defence of this approach on pp. 86f is
all too familiar: 'Since Acts represents most emphatically the particularity of Lukas' [sic]
contribution and is, presumably, the volume in which the narrator enjoyed greater freedom, there are strong grounds for the working hypothesis that Acts will reveal Lukan
theology in its full-fledged form'.

3. Conclusion

51

3. Conclusion
1. Our survey of theological studies of the Gentiles and of anthropology in
Luke-Acts indicates that the topic needs further attention. The perspective
of all of Luke's Gospel and all of Acts specifically on Gentiles prior to faith
has not yet been sufficiently examined. Some beginnings need to be re-ex
amined on their own grounds and/or in the light of Luke's larger portrait. A
specific and comprehensive attempt on the basis of a methodology less
bearing upon the results is needed. Though covering material previously
treated, our study attempts, like that of Taeger, 'einen wichtigen Teilbereich
erstmalig neu [zu] vermessen',118

2. Before we sketch the course of our investigation some methodological issues arising from the survey need to be addressed.
a) Some earlier research carefully differentiated between traditions that
Luke used and his own redaction, assuming that Luke's own views can better or only be ascertained from his redactional activity and from passages
where he was not 'bound' by traditions. This accounts for the attention
given only to the speeches of Acts as they were assumed to be Lukan creations. In ad?ition to the problems inherent in identifying the extent of
sources and! of redactional activity, this approach is in danger of overlooking the fact ~Luke's theological convictions may likewise be reflected in
the traditions lie Uses and in his use of them. As we found some studies employing this distinction wanting and as this redaction-critical approach has
increasingly come under criticism, it would be unwise to follow this approach and/or build on its resultsP9 We shall approach Luke-Acts as a
unity of traditions and redaction.
In response to some hasty reactions to Vielhauer's thesis180, O. Bauernfeind delineated a course for assessing Luke's theology. His plea fully applies to anthropology: 'Wer die Theologie des Lukas sucht, der wird sie aus
der Struktur seiner umfassenden ErZiihlung ablesen miissen, und nicht aus

178Wiefel 'Review' 273


179 ct. M~rshaII, H~torian, 13-20 and e.g. the contributions of E.V. McKnight, WA.
Beardslee and H.C. Kee in' The New Testament and Its Modem Interpreters, eds. El. Epp,
G.W MacRae, The Bible and Its Modern Interpreters (Philadelphia: Fortress; Altanta:
Scholars, 1989),149-98,245-69. The major commentaries we interacted with offer ample
discussion of sources, traditions and Lukan redaction.
II1l Cf. Rese's summary of the debate, 'Lukas-EvangeIium', 2301; Bovon, Luke, 15. The
immediate rise of this discussion testifies to the impact that Vielhauer's proposals, un
critically accepted, made on some.

52

I. Introduction

dem Niederschlag einzelner theologischer Konzeptionen .. , in seiner Erzahlung'.181


This procedure is also required as due to the size and subject matter of
Luke's work, the evidence available for our quest is limited. We cannot afford to limit ourselves through the traditional methods of analysing Luke's
theology.
b) Therefore, material often discussed or adduced and mostly neglected,
more implicit, passing remarks, in short all material relevant for Luke's assessment of Gentiles prior to faith, has to be taken into account to reach
adequate conclusions. Partial use of the evidence available, based on literary assumptions, or other needless restrictions, has had a distorting effect
on some previous research. In addition, disputed passages should not become points of departure which then determine the understanding of other
material, rather they should be interpreted with reference to the comprehensive picture, not in isolation.
c) Much of the evidence for our study is incidental. Luke's limited
number of references to Gentiles prior to faith is due to his choice of topic.
Luke is primarily recording God's saving intervention.182 Because of this
focus, the material shedding light on people prior to faith, fueir relation to
God or the devil, (moral-ethical) dealings with one another, etc. is related
to salvation and not reported for its own sake. Even when the condition of
people prior to faith is directly addressed, the reference is often closely
linked to salvation. Luke is not interested in fue Gentiles and their religious
convictions and practices as such. His emphasis is on the availability of salvation for them (its pre-history, reasons and legitimacy) and once confronted with it, their reaction in acceptance or rejection and the change it
evokes within and among them. The material we study forms the backdrop
for understanding salvation and often explains the particular shape of the
Christian proclamation (e.g. the description of the setting of the Areopagus
181 'Frage', 88 (= Apostelgeschichte, 382, italics mine); cf. Wilckens, 'Interpreting', 81,
n.56.
182 Marshall, Historian, 77-215. In 'Die tbeologische Bewertung heidnischer Religion
und Kultur', K. Uining, 'EvangeJium', (2627-37) 2628 suggests a complementary reason
why 'im lukanischen Doppelwerk die reJigiilsen Verhliltnisse in der hellenistisch-romischen Welt Uberhaupt nur selten zur Sprache kommen': 'Del Grund daftir liegt darin,
daB Lukas einen missionarischen Neuansatz im au8erpaliistinischen Raum in der Regel
in der jtidischen Synagoge lokalisiert, dem heilsilkonomischen Prinzip entsprechend, daB
den Juden (und Proselyten) das Wort Gottes "zuerst" verktlndigt werden "muB"; demselben Prinzip entsprechend erscheint dann die Heidenmission als ein zweiter Schritt,
der den ersten zur Voraussetzung hat. Auf diese Weise kann gar nicht auf die Frage nach
der mBglichen Relevanz nichtjUdischer Religionen und religiBser Phiinomene ... eingegangen werden'. Loning lists the following exceptions: Acts 13.6-12; 16.16-18; 19.23-40;
14.8-18; 17.16-34.

3. Conclusion

53

speech and its content) and shows indirectly from what and why people actually needed to be saved.
Having sketched the scope of our contribution within the wider study of
Luke's Gentiles and his anthropology and some of the inherent problems, it
remains to survey and explain our procedure.
3. We shall approach Luke's portrayal of Gentiles prior to faith from three
different angles which yield results of different character.
The first perspective (part II) deals directly with Gentiles prior to faith.
What has Luke to say on Gentiles before they encounter salvation or apart
from that encounter? We shall follow the sequence of the occurrences in
Luke and Acts.
The second perspective (part Ill) examines the clues from the Gentile
encounter with Jesus and the mission to Gentiles prior to faith. This will include all the Gentile encounters with Jesus, including the passion narrative.
The second section examines all the encounters of Gentiles with the Christian mission. The third section examines references to the state of Gentiles
addressed or apparent in this encounter and the Gentile appropriation of
salvation. Due to Luke's own emphasis a large percentage of our material
falls in this c~tegory.
The third p~ct{ve (part IV) is likewise indirect. It examines Luke's
portrayal of Gentile Christians to draw conclusions to Gentiles prior to
faith. What can be learned by way of contrast or analogy? Just as the second section cannot offer a full discussion of Lukan soteriology, so we have
to limit ourselves to aspects relevant to our quest when gleaning from
Luke's ecclesiology, pneumatology, practical theology and portrayal of
Gentile Christians.
The conclusion (part V) combines the clues from these three angles into
Luke's comprehensive portrait of Gentiles prior to faith and relates this
portrait to some of th~ issues raised by our previous survey.
A satisfactory systematic arrangement of Luke's various and varying references to Gentiles prior to faith, to their encounter with salvation and to Gentile Christians, proved
complicated. These difficulties are reflected in our outline: Some passages are divided up
and treated in different sections (e.g. references to Acts 8.5-25 appear in all three main
sections; cf. II.3.S., IIl.2.2.2., IY.3.4.1.). In keeping other passages together some inconsistencies were introduced in the outline (e.g. Festus' response to Paul's testimony, Acts
26.24-29, is not included with the treatments of the encounters of Gentiles with salvation
(e.g. between III.2.2.13.and 14.), but with the Lukan descriptions of the state of the Gentiles (in III.3.2.1.3.) as the subsequent context to Acts 26.16-23. Despite these imperfections, the present arrangement is sufficient for our investigation. A fair amount of crossreferencing and the detailed outline provides orientation.'S>

183 Passages and observations concerning Gentiles prior 10 faith and the devil appear in
the following sections: 11.3.4., 1II.2.1.1.3., IIl.2.2.6.2., III.2.2.10.2., 111.2.2.17.2., III.3.2.1.

54

I. Introduction

To follow Luke's narrative sequence consistently would be the best way to


trace his building of the character of the Gentiles (narrative characterisation) and the readers' perception of them. l84 We shall do so in section
H., 1lI.2.1. and HI.2.2. and wherever possible elsewhere in the discussion of
smaller units. Unfortunately, consistent application of this insight would
have rendered thematic treatment unfeasible.
Some technical notes remain. Italics within a quotation are those of the original author,
unless identified by '(italics mine)'. I refer to a work by its author, usually followed by
the first or otherwise most representative noun of the title. Commentaries have been
cited by the author's name and page number only. Multi-volume commentaries with running pagination follow the same principle (Brown, Fitzmyer, Nolland, Zahn). The bibliography indicates the pages contained in each volume. When each volume has its own
pagination, the number of the volume follows the name, e.g. SchUrmann I (so also for
Barrett, Calvin, Pesch, Schneider). I have not listed in the bibliography the many entries
of well-known reference tools like AncBD, DB(H), EDNT, EWNT, KP, RAC, RE,
ThWNT, TRE to which I referred in footnotes. Biblical books, the Apocrypha, pseudepigraphical and early patristic works are abbreviated according to the Journal of Biblical
Literature - 'Instructions for Contributors'. For the sake of consistency these abbreviations were extended to English quotations. Graeco-Roman literature is cited according
to KP I, XXI-XXVI where applicable; translations are usually taken or adapted from the
Loeb Classical Library series. m

As we embark on discovering Luke's view of Gentiles prior to faith, it will


be wise to remember 0. Luschnat's conclusion to his analysis of the
Geschichtsdenken of Thucydides, an ancient author whose work is of a similar genre and many times more voluminous than Luke's: 'Der Rekurs auf
die personliche Uberzeugung eines antiken Autors kann ... nie voU gelingen .. .'.186

2.3., 1II.3.3.2.4. and y'1.6. They can be read in this sequence to give Luke's picture; cf. the
relevant sections of Garrett, Demise; Baumbach, Versttindnis, 122-207. This arrangement
is explained in IIl.2.2.1.
184 For methodology cf. Darr, Character, 11-59. The study of Blomberg, 'Law' shows
how such following of the narrative sequence can be applied not only to the characterisation of individuals or groups but also to theological issues.
18Suanslations from the works of Philo are usually taken or adapted from The Works
of Philo: New Updated Edition (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1993; trad. C.D. Yonge). I was unable to consult the Revised Supplement to LSJ (revision of the 1968 Supplement), eds.
P.G.w. Glare,A.A. Thompson (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996).
186 'Thukydides', RE S XII, (1085-1354) 1224,1231-36,1241,1251-57; quot.1257.59-63.

H. Gentiles prior to faith


1. Introduction

We begin our quest for Luke's view of Gentiles prior to Christian faith by
studying his direct references to them. These occurrences are mostly incidental remarks on the Gentiles' behaviour and convictions (cf. 1.3.2.3.). We
shall simply follow the sequence of the narrative. What picture of the Gentiles does Luke convey to his readers apart from his reports of the encounters of the Christian mission with Gentiles?
This second part is relatively slim, as other direct material on Gentiles
prior to faith is included in the third part to avoid excessive fragmentation.
Direct references to the Gentile state prior to faith appearing in the context of the e~counter of Gentiles with Christian salvation, in the message
proclaimed t(\ them, and in their reactions, appear there.
'-----.-/

2. The Gospel of Luke

Because of its Jewish setting Luke's gospel contributes only a limited


number of references to Gentiles, mainly to Gentiles of the past or in general statements on the Gentiles.
2.1. Luke 4.26f

Beyond God's general providential care (cf. Acts 14.17), in past times some
Gentiles benefited from special divine intervention through [srael's prophets'! A Gentile widow received God's providential care through the
prophet Elijah while widows in Israel went away empty handed. 2 Leprous

1 Divine deliverance was not accomplished through any pagan agent or agency. These
are systematically discredited in 1-2 Kgs and by Luke. Divine help is exclusively mediated
through Israel's prophets (cf. 11.2.2., IV.2.). The pagan gods mentioned in the OT contexts
(BaaJ,2 Kgs 5.18) and their cult personnel proved to be helpless against drought and disease; such indirect discrediting also appears behind Acts 8.7-11;14.8-13; 19.11(,28-35.
2 I have not seen R.M. Price, The Widow Tradition in Luke-Acts, SBL.DS 155 (SBL:
Scholars Press, 1997).

56

IL Gentiles prior to faith

Naaman the Syrian was cleansed in the time of the prophet Elisha when Israel's lepers were not healed. Luke does not expand on the OT narrative.
Apart from the ministries of the prophets, both of these Gentiles were
hopeless and helpless. Neither they themselves nor other Gentiles could accomplish what was done for them. Gentiles in general lacked the divine
help and revelation associated with these prophets, who were the mouth of
God from of 01d. 3
2.2. Luke 10.12-14; 11.30,32

1. In addition to temporal judgement several Gentile cities of the past are


also subject to further eschatological judgement. Without presenting a detailed list of their vices or failures 4, Luke adopts the OT rating of Sodom,
'lYre and Sidon and presupposes their depravity and candidacy for judgement on the 'fixed day on which God will judge the world in righteousness'
(Acts 17.30f).
Gentiles prior to faith of various places and times are far from acceptable but in a state that requires repentance. They come under temporal and
eschatological judgement for their failures and refusal to align themselves
with God's purpose through repentance (Luke 10.13). The general resurrection and this judgement (11.32) indicate God's claim upon and the Gentiles' responsibility to him.
2. Luke's 'tale of cities' is not all negative. It was .profitable to send a
prophet to warn the Ninevites (cf. Jonah 1.2; 3.1-4), who responded to the
sign and preaching of Jonah in repentance (Luke 11.30,32). This response,
not mentioned or commended for its own sake, is only reported to emphasise Israel's lack of repentance. It is a reference to an exceptional, surprising
event. s Due to its context and function the mention of Nineveh's repentance is one of Luke's cases where a whole community followed this summons. 6 Context and fu"nction also explain why the extent of, reason for, or
forces behind this repentance are not indicated.

3 Cf. Luke 1.70; 3.4; 4.17,24,27; G. Friedrich, ThWNT VI, 831-33. Ct. 11.2.4. on Luke
11.50.
4 Such information could have been gathered from Gen 18.20; 19.4-9,14 and from various prophetic oracles against these cities (ct. III.3.2.2.1.2.c.). Luke misses this and many
other good opportunities to exhibit a moral-ethical understanding of sin.
S The argument runs thus: If even Nineveh repented upon the inferior sign of Jonah,
how much more should Israel repent in light of the far greater sign.
6 Luke mostly reports a divided, at times even violent response to the preaching of repentance. Another exceptional community is Samaria (Acts 8.5-14). For the widely divergent assessment of Nineveh's repentance in Judaism see Ego, 'Heiden'.

2. The Gospel of Luke

57

Jonah's mission and the Ninevites' repentance implies that their life before and apart from such a change was contrary to God's demands.1 Their
response, necessary to escape judgement, was not generated through their
own recognition of their state, but was provoked by the messenger of Israel's God (cf. III.3.2.2.1.2.).
2.3. Luke 11.31

The queen of the South came from afar to hear Solomon's wisdom. This
suggests that her own realm or other contemporary Gentiles could offer
nothing comparable to this God-given wisdom, despite the proverbial 'wisdom of Egypt' (Acts 7.22). She 'responded to what God had to offer'.s For
Luke, wisdom is either an attribute of God or characteristic of people
closely related to him.9 Apart from and prior to such encounters the Gentiles had no access to divine wisdom.1
2.4. Luke 11.50f
I

God spok~ through prophets since the foundation of the world. Even before
Abraham *as.alIed or Israel established as a people (cf. Acts 7.2; 13.17),
God called prophets to reveal his will to humanity.ll Abel was the ftrst in a
long line of prophets. Though the charge of rejecting God's prophets is usually directed against Jews12, Luke mentions the blood of Abel at the beginning of human history (Gen 4.8-1O).The rejection of those who represent
God, his will and word was not limited to the people later chosen. 13
2.5. Luke 12.29f

The nations of this world are portrayed as anxiously striving after what
they are to eat, to drink and to wear (12.22), 'because they know nothing of
7 Luke does not provide material like Jonah 3.5,8,10 which would allow further conclusions.
8 Nolland, 654; cf. Fitzmyer, 936f.
9 Ct. Luke 2.40,52; 735; 11.49; 21.15; Acts 6.3,10; 7.10; Brown, BiTth, 469; SchUrmann I,
427.
10 This cautions against over-estimating Luke's view of the natural abilities of Gentiles;
ct. the failure of the wisdom-loving Athenians to understand the gospel ,Acts 17.18.
11 For the NT occurrences and definitions of the OT prophets see ThWNTVI,829-36.
On 4 Ezra 7.72 (all the inhabitants of the earth are recipients of the law) cf. Donaldson,
Paul,53.
U Cf. the listing and conclusions in Stenschke, 'Bedeutung', 125-42.
13 That mainly Jews are accused and guilty of this offence is obvious, as only they continually had prophets among them. Jesus and the Christian missionaries were rejected by
Jews and Gentiles alike (cf.III.2.1.,III.2.2.).

58

lI. Gentiles prior 10 faith

God's providential care'.t 4 Their constant and worried preoccupation with


the material necessities of human existence derives from and is indicative
of their lack of recognition of GOd:15 They did not know God as the Father
who knows and meets their needs. The providential care they did experience (et Acts 14.17) was not perceived as testimony to the true God but
was ascribed to idols (14.11-13). This preoccupation had serious spiritual
consequences, as it blinded some Gentiles to approaching judgement.
The gravity of this failure and the ensuing behaviour becomes apparent
in that it serves as the contrasting backdrop to the attitude and lifestyle required of disciples. They are to strive for God's kingdom and trust in his
provision.
2.6. Luke 17.26-29

The characteristics mentioned of Noah's contemporaries or of the inhabitants of Sod om, are not idolatry or moral-ethical sins 16, but a preoccupation
which produces and indicates spiritual carelessness and insensitivity: They
ate and drank, married and were being given in marriage, bought and sold
and planted and built, when divine judgement surprised and destroyed
people too preoccupied to recognise or care about the impending doomP
In view of Luke 12.29f their activities also appear as attempts to secure
life through their own efforts and illustrate that those trying to do so will
Plummer, 328. This statement becomes even stronger when rcavta is taken with 1:0.
instead of with -caiha: 'For after these things all the nations strive .. .'. The plural
form of the verb m~T]1:OiiOLV with the neuter plural form -ca e-frvT] is to be preferred to
the reading E1tL~"1:Ei: (textual witnesses in NTG, 202; see BDR 133.1). Says Plummer,
328: 'The plural verb shows that the different nations are considered distributively; and
the compound expresses the anxiety with which they seek. Each nation seeks laboriously
after the sum-total of these things'.
15 Evans, Luke, 529. References in Acts illustrate this Gentile preoccupation. The census and decree of Luke 2.lf for improved Roman taxation of their Jewish subjects is indirect witness to this Gentile concern; cf. the discussion in Brown, Birlh, 394f, 412-18, 547556,666f.
16 So also MarshaIl, 664. Some sins are mentioned in Gen 6.5f,1l-13;19.4-9,14; cf. 18.20.
See Schlosser, 'Jours', 19-25 for 'La specification des peches' in Jewish texts.
17 Also other authors charge the Gentiles with not knowing the judgement of God, e.g.
Pol. PhU. 11: 'gentes ... qui ignorant iudicium domini'. In a similar enumeration of activities in the pseudo-Philonic sermon De Jona (cf. Siegert, Predigten) the Ninevites deplore
their previous lack of gratitude to God: 'Welche HochzeitsgeselIschaft hat am Hochzeitstag eine Danksagung abgehalten? Bei welcher Geburt wurde dem Schopfer dafilr
gedankt, daB das Kind wohlgestaltet ist? Und Uber welchem lisch wurde Gott gedankt?'
(124; cf. Siegert, 'Heiden', 56). Gratitude towards God is emphasised in 153 (cf. Appendix 3.6.; 4.3.). Jonah's proclamation in Nineveh starts accordingly: 'Ihr Einwohner dieses
Ortes, offnet die Vorhange eurer Hochzeitsgemacher! Zieht den Br!lutigamen ihren
Feststaat aus, werft alIen Schmuck weg!' (103).
14

f{h/T]

2. The Gospel of Luke

59

lose their lives (17.33). The example of these generations again serves as a
negative backdrop for discipleship. Disciples have to guard against a frame
of mind which seems very natural (ct. 21.34). This fatal preoccupation and
the many parenetic pieces addressing the proper use and dangers of possessions indicate that Luke sees people and their spiritual perception as being
endangered by material concerns.
2.7. Luke 21.24-28

1. The nations will 'trample' upon Jerusalem. I1a"tec.o is used 'v on dem
zugellosen Hausen der Sieger in einer eroberten Stadt. Mit der Rucksichtslosigkeit verbinden sich dabei die Begriffe des "miBhandeln" und des
"verachtlich mit FuBen treten"'.1 8 It indicates the Gentiles' cruelty and failure to appreciate their status as mere agents in God's plan and their responsibility to him (ct. Luke 19.42-44). Even though they are only agents of
God's judgement, perhaps Luke also understands their attack on Jerusalem
as an act of hostility against God and his people (cf. II.3.7.).1 9
2. ~e eschatological signs and events will be perceived by and apply to all
nati~-rhey will cause great distress, fear and confusion among them as
God's intervention in history will not be understood. Only for disciples is
redemption drawing near; all others have to fear and face this day of reckoning tin-redeemed.
2.8. General references to human existence

Luke's Gospel contains material which addresses human existence prior to


faith in general terms beyond the Jew-Gentile distinction or identification
(e.g. Luke 4.4; 8.4-8,12-15; 12.13-21; 16.1-9). We have not included this material because a) all of these references appear in a Jewish context, are intended to conveyor iilustrate something for Jews, and often reflect their
Jewish setting (as e.g. Luke 10.29-37; 16.19-31; 18.9-14).20 b) In addition,
18

Cf. WB, 1281.1.y.

19 C[ Radl, Lukas-Evangelium, 102-05 and Walker,Jesus, 57-112 for Luke's view of Je


rusalem and the temple.
20 E.g. Luke 15.11-32 applied to the relationship between God and people refers to a
Jew who rebelled against God, left his privileged position, hit rockbottom and then
came to himself. In its context this parable does not portray a representative or exemplary Gentile who recognises his dire state before God, thinks of the privileges which
those 'at home' continually enjoyed and which were left behind long ago and then returns to God's father house. In addition, the point of the parable is not the spiritual development of individuals or types representative of larger groups, but the older brother's
reaction to this return. The situation and treatment of the prodigal in the Gentile country
is discussed in II.3.1. and IY.3.4.2.

60

Il. Genliles prior 10 faith

some of this material is addressed to Jewish disciples and deals with their
relationship with God and should therefore not be adduced for people
prior to faith.
Conclusion21

Gentiles prior to faith come under temporary and future divine judgement,
which implies their accountability to God and state in need of repentance
and redemption. Only through God's initiative and servants can Gentiles
receive divine provision, healing, wisdom, words, exposure of their own
state and its consequence, all benefits they could not obtain otherwise.
Gentiles fail to recognise God's providential care and try anxiously to ensure their own existence. Their attachment to this life leads to and expresses spiritual carelessness and insensitivity. They do not understand
their responsibility and role in God's plan and act correspondingly.

3. The Acts of the Apostles


3.1. Acts 2.23

The Pentecost speech stresses the Jewish character of the audience. In


contrast to this identification the adjective aVO!!O~ occurs.22 Jesus was
killed btu XEtQO~ av6!!OJv. Acts 13.28 mentions 'Pilate as the representative of btu XEtQO~ av6!!OJv. This designation refers to and defines
Gentiles as 'lawless' in the strictly privative sense of not having the law,
rather than not obeying the law. Bauer/Aland define: 'mit Bezug auf das
Mosaische Gesetz von den Heiden gebraucht als solchen. die es nicht
kennen, ohne daB ihnen daraus ein Vorwurf erwuchse'.23 Being devoid of
special revelation serves as the characteristic to distinguish Gentiles from
21 On the presentation and arrangement of our preliminary conclusions compare the
,
introductory remarks to Y.I.
22 Against Sanders, Jews, 10 for whom the Roman reference of UVOf.Lwv is 'by no means
certain in view of the similar phrase in Luke 24.7 ... which seems to refer to the Jewish
authorities'. Similarly Wilckens, Missionsreden, 125 equates this expression with that of
Luke 24.7. Both miss the preceding direct address of Peter's Jewish audience in Acts 2.22;
cf.2.14.
23 WB, 142.2.a. They list Acts 2.23 under 2.b: 'Doch auch mit dem Unterton der
Gottlosigkeit, so daB eine Annaherung an die Bedeutung 3 stattfindet'. Construction
with an a - privalivum, Vof.LO~ as 'im weiteren Sinn die HI. Schrift tlberhaupt', WB,
1099.4.b. W. Gutbrod, ThWNT N, 1079 defines aVOf.LLa as the 'objektive Tatsache des
Nichtvorhandenseins eines oder des Gesetzes ... rein feststellender Gebrauch'; et. Barrett I, 142. Delling, 'Jesusgeschichte', 381 aptly translates avof.LOL as 'Torafremde'.

3. The Acts of the Apostles

61

the Jews who had the law and the prophets to instruct them (ct. Acts 1.16;
2.28,30f; 7.38,53 and III.3.2.2.2.).
In addition to their images and idolatry, the Gentiles' 'lawlessness' also shows in their
impurity (Luke 8.32f). The presence of the swine herd identifies the Gerasenes as Gentiles. Not having the law, these Gentiles kept unclean animals.
The same is true for Luke 15.13-20. The prodigal left for a distant country (EI~ XWQav
J.LaxQav) where he attached himself to EvL1:00V 3tOAL1:00V "tiit;xwQat; ExeiVTJt; not to a Diaspora Jew). In addition, the fact that this 3tOAL1:T]t; keeps swine identifies him as a Gentile
(~6oxeLv XOLQOlJt;). However, not only dietary/purity regulations were unknown. The
treatment that the prodigal receives in this Gentile environment is in marked contrast to
the Mosaic stipulations concerning impoverished Israelites or foreigners. 14 The Jewish
father back home appears to know and follow the Law concerning treatment of his hired
workers. The prodigal remembers their 3tEQLOOEUOV1:aL aQ1:lIlv, which implies good treatment or regular payment. On the prodigal's return, a fattened calf was prepared
(15.23).25

3.2. Acts-4:~

Luke's application of Ps 2.lf to the rejection of Jesus indicates that he saw


nothing novel in the Gentile component of this event. 26 The Gentiles only
followed a pattern of behaviour according to which in the past and the present they raged and imagined vain things and Gentile kings took their stand
and their rulers gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.271his is God's assessment, as revealed by the Holy Spirit through David
(v. 25a). Gentiles are characterised by their raging pride (qJQuacroro)28, their
vain imaginations29 and their overt hostility towards and rebellion against

24 Cf. Iy'3.4.2.;Lev 19.12;Deut 24.15; Ruth 2;2 Kgs 12.14f;Jer 22.l2;Mal 3.5; Matt 20.115; Luke 10.7; Nolland, 783f; D.G. BUrke, 'Hire', 'Hireling', ISBE 1/, 718f; R.E. Youngblood, 'Work' ,ISBE Ill, 54f; C.L. Blomberg, 'Wages',ISBE IV, 1001t:
IS Presumably the father divided his inheritance (Luke 15.12; ~1.atQEIIl allows such an
understanding) according to the Law (Deut 21.17); cf.J. Becker,Jesus von Nazareth (Berlin, New York: W. de Gruyter, 1996), 325. As the older brother probably received a 'double portion',Le. two thirds of the family estate,he and the father were able to carry on.
26 Cf. III.2.1.2. and Bock, ProclamoJion, 201-08.
27 Says Kraus, Psalmen I, 16: 'Die feindlichen Machte wo lien "autonom" sein, unabhll.ngig von Jahwe und dem Reprasentanten seiner Herrschaft. Die "Bande" und "Stricke"
sind ein Bild filr die Unterordnung und Unterwerfung. Die fremden Machte wollen frei
und selbstll.ndig sein'. Cf. also Briggs, Psalms I, 14; Craigie, Psalms I-50, 65f, 69.
2B WB, 1729 translates 'UbermUtig sein, sich stolz gebarden', indicating that these Gentiles fail to appreciate their own position in relation to God; ct: LSJ, 1958: 'to be wanton,
haughty, insolent'.
29 Their xeva J.lEAe1:dv (WB, 870: 'Erfolgloses sinnen') indicates the limitations of their
natural capacities. They fail to recognise that 'all planning and effort to overthrow the divine purpose must be fruitless' (Bruce, 157). Ps 2.10 calls on these opponents aVvE1:E
3taL~e1ifrr]1:E; et: IY.3.3.1.

62

II. Gentiles prior to faith

God, his purpose and Christ. God's character and universal rule remains not
only unrecognised or unacknowledged, but is rejected in extenso.
3.3. Acts 7

Stephen's account of Israel's history contains several references to Gentiles


prior to faith.
1. Acts 7.6J,24,34[ a) Though their resistance to God's purpose is not stressed,
it nevertheless becomes apparent that the Egyptians - despite their wisdom
(7.22) - completely failed to understand and/or cooperate with God's intention to deliver his people. Gentile wisdom was inadequate to understand or
to fulfil 30 the purpose of God. 31 b) In addition to this spiritual failure, Luke
mentions the Egyptians' moral-ethical failures in oppressing the Israelites:
7.6,34: enslavement, mistreatment (OOUAQW, xux6w, xaxwa~); 19: deceit
(xm;uaoc:pttolJ.m) and enforced infanticide through exposure (cf. Luke
18.15f!); 24: injustice, exploitative oppression (clOLXEW, xu'tunoVEW ).32 These
moral-ethical failures are expressions of their spiritual failure, both categories are inextricably intertwined. Their behaviour is indicative of the Gentile
attempt to secure their own existence (cf. 11.2.5.). The Jewish response was
UtEVUYIJ.0, Moses was their AUtQWtTJ.33 For this oppression God will hold
the Egyptians accountable and judge them (XQLVW EyW).
2. Acts Z39-43. Once the Israelites had returned in their hearts to Egypt,

they immediately formed an idoP4, worshipped and 'revelled in the works


of their hands', an expression stressing the irony and foolishness of such
idolatry. Proclivity for idolatry was deeply rooted even in Israel and only
temporarily suppressed by the events reported in 7.36-38. When Israel
abandoned her special relationship with God and her favoured position of
special revelation, she 'automatically' became as idolatrous as other na-

30 Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians (7.22). When Moses employed these assets, his mission failed completely (7.24-28). These Gentile qualifications
were not what God required (7.30-34). Only once commissioned and equipped by God,
did Moses set out successfully.
31 Cf. 11.2.3. Luke later reports the failure of the wisdom of Greece to understand the
Christian proclamation (Acts 17.18).
32 Compare the Gentile treatment of the Jewish prodigal in Luke 15.15f; II.3.1.,
IV.3.4.2.
33 Cf . Zmijewski, 320; Schneider 11, 454f,460,462; Barrett 1,345.
34 Israel's idolatry and Egypt are closely linked. Israel's service of gods in Egypt is explicitly stated in Josh 24.14 and Ezek 23.3. The fL6oxo~ (Acts 7.41: fLOOXo:n;olTjoav) is related to the Egyptian worship of bulls, etc. (e.g. Apis, Rathor); cf. Gispen, Exodus, 96, who
suggests that 'The golden calf in the wilderness (ch. 32) was made perhaps under the influence of the bull worship in Egypt' (cf. also p. 293).

3. The Acts oflheApostles

63

tions. In punishment for turning away from God, he gave the Israelites over
to worship the host of heaven (ct. II.3.10.). Israel took along the shrine of
the Ammonite god Moloch, venerated Saturn like the Assyrians 35 and worshipped images like other Gentiles. Conclusions need to be cautious as
Stephen does not mention that or the Gentile nations who venerated these
idols originally. Apart from identification through their proper names, they
appear as Jewish deities.
2.1. Different types of idolatry characterise the Gentiles of different
times in Israel's,history. Worship of the created rather than of the creator
was a corniiiCm'~denominator and continuous practice among nations not
participating in salvation history. The fact that divine punishment can entail
surrender and assimilation to idolatrous worship indicates that these Gentiles were severely mistaken in their understanding of God and his proper
worship.
2.2. Dedicated idolatry appears as a consequence of divine judgement.
Possibly the idolatry of Gentiles past and present is also related to divine
punishment 36 for their prior turning away from God. Though this account
fails to explain the origin of idolatry37, it links idolatry with rejection of
God and revelation received so far and ensuing divine punishment.

3. Acts 7.48. The reason for Stephen's criticism of Solomon's temple lies in
its underlying assumptions, which are exposed and corrected: 'Yet it is not
the Highest who dwells in hand-made buildings' .38 Stephen (possibly) implied and/or ironically conceded that pagan gods do so. Zahn comments on
Stephen's argument:
daB man dies nicht von dem Gott sagen konne, der sich dem Yolk Israel offenbart hat,
sondem nur von den angeblichen oder auch wirklich existierenden Gottern der Heiden ... und von den Bildern, in welchen sie ihre Vorstellungen von diesen Gottern
verk6rpert haben. Damit ist auch gesagt, daB diejenigen Juden, die sich dem Aber-

3S Cf. G.c. Heider, 'Molech', DDD, 1090-97; M. Stol, 'Kaiwan', DDD, 899 and Borger,
'Amos 5.26'. This idolatrous (JX1JV~ is in contrast to the (JxT]~ of divine pattern and intention. God only has one axT]'Vi] "tau ftaQ"tuQL01Jj whatever else is built in addition is idolatrous.
36 Pesch 1,255:' ... nach dem Grundsatz "Wodurch sich jemand verge ht, damit wird er
gezfichtigt'''.
37 In Acts 14.15-17 worship of gods and humans is related to failure to recognise and
worship God as the true provider of everything and to the ascription of his provisions to
deities. Failure to recognise God as the creator explains the origin and expression of
Gentile idolatry in Acts 17.24f,29.
38 So BC IV, 81 (italics mine). NRSV and REB follow Dj cf. BC lV, 81;Zahn, 257, n. 69.
Our reading is required to make sense of the otherwise incomprehensible plural l(ELQOltOL~"tO~, which D failed to change to the singular.

64

IL Gentiles prior to faith

glauben an die Unverletzlichkeit des Tempels zu Jerusalem hingeben, auf die Stufe
des heidnischen Gotterdienstes herabgesunken sind.'"

This suggestion is probable in light of Luke's other references and his estimate of the Gentiles' spiritual perceptiveness. The following verses explain
why God does not inhabit such a dwelling. Gentiles failed to recognise God
the creator and his ensuing greatness and unconfinable existence, and at the
same time they are portrayed as believing that their gods live in such handmade buildings which need to be raised for them. Acts 19.24-37 indicates that
more than provision of a building is involved in Gentile worship (ct. ll.3.8.).
Every pagan shrine is indicative of their ignorance of God and of their mistaken pagan concepts of deity and its veneration. Luke's choice of word also
contains criticism of such fabrications: They are neither simply 'houses' nor
reverently 'temples' but rather XELQOltoL1'P:Otl;, which 'is used most frequently
of idolatrous temples, and has a clearly idolatrous implication' .40
3.4. Acts 8.9-11
1. While it usually is clear on which side of the Jew-Gentile divide the people on the
Lukan stage stand, for two groups of people, namely the Samaritans and the Herods, it is
difficult to assess'whether Luke saw them as Jews or Gentiles. Thus before we examine
Luke's description of Simon Magus, his demeanour and claims and the response of the
Samaritan population", we need to examine Luke's view of the status of the Samaritans
to see whether his references to them are relevant for our study. The assessment of the
Herods will be discussed in 11.3.5. and 111.2.1.2.3. Both questions are part of the larger issue of defining the boundaries of first century Judaism. The.problems involved in such
definition are well surveyed by E. Ferguson.42
1.1. Before we gather evidence for Luke's view, the Samaritan understanding of their
own identity and the general Jewish perception need to be examined.'3
a) H.G.M. Williamson concludes that 'The Samaritans have always believed that they
are the direct descendants of a faithful nucleus of ancient Israel'."
b) This is in contrast to the Jewish perception which frequently follows the tracks laid
by the account of 2 Kgs 17.45 Despite geographical proximity references to the Samaritans are relatively scarce. Sir 50.25f is perhaps the strongest statement: 'Tho nations my
soul detests, and the third is not even a people: Those who live in Seir, and the Philistines,

39

P. 258. BC W, 81 consider this possible.

BCW,81.
41 We shall briefly return to this episode in III.2.2.2., observing the overwhelmingly
positive response of the Samaritans to Philip's proclamation (Acts 8.6-8,12f). In IY.3.4.1.
we will scrutinise Simon's request for an underlying pagan religious understanding that
is still with the man who responded so positively (8.13).
42 Backgrounds, 403-06.
43 Cf. Grabbe, Judaism, 502-07 and passim; Ferguson, Backgrounds, 499-502; Koster,
Ein!ahrung, 257-59; H.G.M. Williamson, 'Samaritans', DJG, 724-28 (further bibliography).
44 p. 725; cf. Grabbe,Judaism, 503, 506.
4S er. Williamson, 725f; Grabbe, Judaism, 503f; Ferguson, Backgrounds, 378t, 499.
40

3. The Acts of Ihe Apostles

65

and Ihe foolish people that live in Shechem'.46 2 Macc 6.lf claims that the temple on Gerizim was also called the temple of Zeus Xenios by the people who lived there. In the context of rewriting OT history (Gen 34) occur strong polemics against the inhabitants of
Shechem, including warnings against intermarriage (T.12 PaIr. Levi 5-7; Jub. 30).41
c) Josephus betrays an 'evident anti-Samaritan stance'4' which appears in a variety of
references to the Samaritans. Josephus follows the account of 2 Kgs 17 concerning the
Samaritans' origin and religious orientation (ant ludo IX.14.3 288-91). Ant. XI.2
19-29; XI.4.3-6,9 84-103,114-19; X1.5.8 174f closely follow the account of Ezra
and Ne)lemiah elaborating on the Samaritans' malicious opposition. They are of a different rac (descendants of the Cutheans, ant. XI.7.2 302) and opposed to Judaism.
AnI. 1.7.2 306-12 reports the origin of the priesthood (through Manasses, a member of t e high priestly family of Jerusalem married to a foreigner and others in similar
liaisons) an of the temple on Gerizim.Ant. XII.l.1 10;XIII.3.4 74-79 note quarrels
between Jews and Samaritans as to whether the temple in Jerusalem or on Gerizim was
legitimate. This issue seems to have been the major disagreement.4'
The Samaritans courted the victorious Alexander the Great (anI. XI.7.3f 318-24).50
In this context Josephus calls the Samaritans 'apostates from the Jewish nation' and
claims of them: 'When the Jews are in difficulties, they deny that they have any kinship
with them, thereby indeed admitting the truth, but whenever they see some splendid bit
of good fortune come to them, they suddenly grasp at the connexion with them ... ' (anI.
XI.7.6 340-47). Josephus has the Shechemites deny before Alexander that they are
Jews ( 344); they rather identify themselves as Sidonians of Shechem. In anI. XII 5.5
257-64 they claim to have been colonists from the Medes and Persians, which Josephus
confirms: xat yaQ ELULV "to-U"tlOV ChtOLXOL. They claim to be 'Sidonians by origin' ( 260)
and to be distinct from the Jews both in race and customs ( 261). They explain the origin of their Jewish customs ( 259) in order then to denounce them and to request their
temple to be known as that of Zeus Hellenios.51 They choose to live in accordance with
Greek customs.

46 On the significance of Shechem and its association with the Samaritans cf. 105. ant.
ludo XI.7.6 340,342 and Williamson, 726.
47 On Jub. 30 cf. Grabbe,Judaism, 235.
48 Williamson, 725; cf. also Grabbe, Judaism, 504; Ferguson, Backgrounds, 500. I have
not seen R. Egger, JosepJrus Flavius und die Samaritaner: Eine terminologische Untersuchung zur ldentililtskliirung der Samaritaner, NTOA 4 (Freiburg, CH: Universitatsverlag; GBttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1986) and F. Dexinger, 'Limits of Tolerance in
JUdaism: The Samaritan Example', eds. E.P. Sanders et al.,Jewish and Christian Self-Definition II (London, 1981), 88-114, 327-38 (both references from Professor W. Popkes, Elstal).
4' Cf. Ferguson, Backgrounds, 500.
50 Cf. R. Marcus, 'Appendix C: Alexander the Great and the Jews', Josephus in Nine
Volumes VI, Jewish Antiquities, Books IX-XI with an English Translalion by Ralph Marcus, LCL 326 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP; London: W. Heinemann, 1937),512-32;
also containing the Graeco-Roman sources on Alexander's relationship with Jews and
Samaritans, pp. 520-23 (on Quintus Curtius, De Rebus Gestis Aiexandri Magni 4.8.9-11 cf.
Grabbe,Judaism, 504). All quotations are taken from the Loeb edition.
51 Different from 2 Macc 6.2; cf. LCL 365, note c on pp. 134f.

66

/l. Gentiles prior 10 faith

However, even Josephus does not seem to be fully consistent." He fails to refute the
Samaritans' claim to kinship with the Jews 'on the ground that they are descended from
Joseph and are related to them through their origin from him' (anI. IX.14.3 291).
Shortly after referring to them as Jewish apostates (cf. ant XI.8.6f 340-46, see also
above), he claims that they rightly deny their kinship with the Jews.
Josephus mentions two contemporary incidents of conflict between Jews and Samaritans.S3 During Coponius' administration some Samaritans defiled the temple in Jerusalem by scattering human bones in it (anI. XVIII.2.2 30). Later, Samaritan villagers murdered a Galilean pilgrim to Jerusalem (bell. ludo 11.12.3-6 232-44).54 When Cumanus,
bribed by the Samaritans (different in bell. II.12.3 233), failed to avenge the dead, the
Jews took revenge themselves, sacking and firing certain Samaritan villages, which led to
further bitter violence (ant. XX.6.1 121; for the aftermath ct: 122-36 and also bell.
11.12.4-7 234-46).
The destruction of the temple on Gerizim through John Hyrcanus in 128 RC. and the
later enforcement of religious supremacy is also indicative of the Jewish assessment. ss
If representative, these references indicate the Jewish perception of the Samaritans as a
distinct group outwith Judaism.
d) The NT references to the Samaritans occur in books 'told from a predominantly
Jewish standpoint'.56 Thus it is not surprising that Matt 10.5 differentiates between the
house of Israel and the towns of the Samaritans. However, the Samaritans are mentioned
on their own next to the Gentiles. While not belonging to Israel, they are neither included among the Gentiles.
The explanatory comment of John 4.9 notes that Jews do not share things in common
with Samaritans (as they considered them unclean).S1 The Jerusalemites charge Jesus
with being a Samaritan and having a demon (John 8.48). This charge costitutes an insult
and the combination with possession which is hardly flattering. Barrett observes that Jesus' mere denial of demon possession in v.49 could mean 'daB der Vorwurf, ein Samaritaner zu sein, mit der Anklage gleichzusetzen ist, er sei besessen'.58

s2 Cf. Ferguson, Backgrounds, 403. Cf. also Josephus' report of Hyrcanus' subjection of
the Samaritans and Idumeans (anI. XIII.9.1 255-57): while the former had their temple destroyed (nothing more reported), the Idumeans were forced to circumcision and
observance of the laws of the Jews. Were these requirements not possible or needed for
the Samaritans as they already observed both?
S3 R. Marcus, LCL 456, note b on p. 62 (on ant. XX.6.1 118) notes that 'Tacitus, Ann
xii.54, mentions the longstanding feud between the Jews and the Samaritans which, he
says, because of the contempt of both people for the procurators Cum anus and Felix,
now erupted in plunder and occasional battle'. Apparently Tadtus saw both people as
distinct groups.
54 Ant XX.6.l 118 reports several slain Galilean pilgrims; cf. LCL 456, note e on p. 63.
ss los. ant. fud. XIII.9.1 255-57 (,Shechem and Gerizim and the Cuthean natioll'); cf.
Koster, Einfilhrung, 258.
56 Williarnson, 727; et: Ferguson, Backgrounds, 499. While generally following the Jewish assessment of the Samaritans' identity as outwith Judaism, it is noteworthy that the
polemics and bitterness found in other Jewish references are absent from the NT (cf.
Koster, Einfilhrung, 259).
57 Cf. Barrett, Johannes, 250f; WilIiamson, 728; for the textual status cf. Metzger, Commentary, 206.
58 Cf. Barrett, Johannes, 353.

67

3. The Acts of the Apostles

1.2. For Luke's assessment of the Samaritans regarding their identity all three possible
views have been proposed.
Samarilans are Jews
1. Jervell argues for the Samaritans' Jewish identity5', stressing that the great turningpoint for the Gentile mission in Acts comes in chapter 10, and that the mission to
Samaria is still on the Jewish side, so that the specific links of ch. 8 are all with the earlier
part of the book.'"
Between Jews and Gentiles
For RJ. Coggins and others the status of the Samaritans cannot be decided: 'the placing of
Samaritanism by Luke-Acts in relation to the Jew-Gentile division is imprecise'.61 There
are indicators-that1hey are distinct from the Jews and at the same time not Gentiles:

')

Samaritans are nolto be regarded simply as Gentiles, and much of what Luke has to
say about them is only meaningful if seen within a Jewish context. But the distinction
between Samaritans and Gentiles is pressed too far if it leads to an obliteration of the
real difference between Samaritans and Jews. Of such a difference there is ample evidence from other sources relating to this period, and there is no need to suppose that
Luke was unaware of such differences.... It is no surprise, therefore, to discover that
in Acts it is recorded that the Spirit is given to them (8.17), as well as to the Jews (2.4)
and to the Gentiles (10.44). The unique situation of the Samaritans as understood by
Acts is well i1Iustrated.62
Samaritans are Genliles
J. Bowman and others propose that the Samaritans are Gentiles: 'In Acts the mission to
the Samaritans is the first step in the mission of the church to the Gentiles'. For Luke
'the Samaritans, who indeed do not belong to the rabbinic-Jewish community and who
according to their own self-understanding do not belong to Israel,represent an essential
part of the Gentile world .. .'.63
59 'Sheep', 117-32; cf. Coggins, 'Samaritans',43lf. Space does not permit full interaction
with Jervell's challenging proposal. I have not seen D. Ravens, Luke and the Restoration
of Israel, JSNT.S 119 (Sheffield: SAp, 1995), whose second chapter treats Stephen's
speech and whose third chapter examines Luke's stance toward the Samaritans; cf. the
review of K. Pfaffenroth in JBL 116,1997,366-68.
60 Coggins, 'Samaritans', 431. Coggins summarises Jervell's observations on Acts 9.31
where 'in a summarising statement ... Samaria is listed with Judaea and Galilee in a context which makes it very difficult to suppose that its inhabitants, least of all the Samaritans in the strict sense, could be regarded as Gentiles' (431). But the precise wording of
the verse, namely 'the church throughout Judaea, GaIiIee and Samaria .. .', does not necessarily support Jervell's case.
61 'Samaritans', 433; also his Samaritans,passim; cf. the conclusion on p.100. Similarly
Barrett 1,402: 'The NT regularly takes them as occupying a middle position, neither full
Jews nor mere Gentiles' and Wilson, Gentiles, 41: The Samaritan mission is 'the stepping
stone between the Jewish and Gentile missions'; on p.44 he refers to them as 'non-Jews'.
62 Coggins, 'Samaritans', 432f. Ferguson, Backgrounds, 501 speaks of the Samaritans'
'position of religious proximity to but alienation from Jews who looked to Jerusalem'.
63 Problem, 69f. Other proponents of this view (Jeremias, EIlis, Hahn, Cadbury) are
listed by Jervell, 'Sheep', 129, n.18. ElIis, 208 comments on Luke 17.11-19: 'the "Samaritan" is prophetic of the future response of "non-Jews" to the gospel .. .'. 1. Jeremias,
Th WNTVII, 94 notes that Acts 8 ' ... diese erste Uberschreitung der Grenzen Israels den
Ubergang zur Heidenmission darstellt'; similarly Cullmann, 'Samarien'.

68

ll. Gentiles prior to faith

In view of these divergent proposals, a careful look at Luke's references is necessary:


a) Luke apparently does not consider Samaritans to be of the same stock as Jews. Otherwise the story told in Luke 10.25-35 which positively features a Samaritan would lose
its force.1So! This also applies to the account of Luke 17.11-19, where the only one responding adequately is the Samaritan aA).0YVi]; (17.16).65 In both cases the Samaritan is distinguished from the Jewish protagonists.
b) Luke gives no indications of religious affinities between Jews and Samaritans. The
Samaritan reserve towards Jerusalem as an appropriate destination for Galilean Jews for
pilgrimage and worship which surfaces in Luke 9.53 suggests the opposite (cf. the above
reports of Josephus). Samaria is specifically mentioned as a distinct area alongside Jerusalem and all Judaea in Acts 1.8.66
c) This estimate is confirmed by the position of Acts 8.4-25 in the overall outline of
Acts. Following the geographical scope of Acts 1.B, the Samaritans appear between Jerusalem and Judaea and the ends of the world.
Against Jervell's argument that the turning point is in Acts 10, the account of Acts 8.2640 suggests that things are not that clearly cut. Also, the deliberate and systematic Gentile mission does not start until ch. 13. The prior turning of others to the Greeks in Acts
11.20 and its results (including the authenticating visit from Jerusalem) are comparable
to Acts 8.
Philip the evangelist's going to the Samaritans is apparently not as important a new
step in comparison to Peter the apostle's mission to the Gentiles (Acts 10f and its reflection in ch. 15), which required divine intervention and particular preparation of the missionary.
d) Indicators which otherwise identify Jews outside a strictly Jewish geographical setting, are missing. 67 This applies to Simon and the popUlation of Samaria. Simon's own
identity is not disclosed. This is in contrast to similar figures: Bar-Jesus on Cyprus is explicitly described as 'a Jewish false prophet' (Acts 13.6). Luke mentions 'itinerant Jewish

601 For Jervell, 'Sheep', 12B, n.11 the contrast to the priest and Levite is 'an unacceptable Jew, an individual from those despised, the sinners, within Israel'. However, otherwise Samaritans are not included among the 'sinners'. Why then didn't a tax-collector or
'sinner' appear?
6S In addition to this incident being located in the perhaps less strict 'region between
Samaria and GaJilee', their disease and the ensuing loss of ritual purity may have blurred
a separation otherwise rigidly enforced. This adjective also appears in the inscription
which forbade non-Jews to enter the Jerusalem temple: 'fLTl-!tEva [sic] eXAAOyEvfj tCJ:n:oQucr-!tm ... ' (OGIS 59B, according to Ehrenberg, Documents, No. 13B; cf. also los. bell.
ludo 11.17.4 417). That this was very much an issue in Luke's day is apparent from Acts
21.28f ("EAATlva; ... 'tOV'EcpECJLOV).
66 This probably refers not only to the Roman province of Judaea in a strict sense,
namely the countryside surrounding Jerusalem, but to all Jewish-inhabited parts of Palestine; cf. SchUrmann 1,29, n.12.
67 That areas of Palestine inhabited by Samaritans are different from Jewish regions
becomes apparent in Luke 9.52. Luke 17.11 on its own could suggest that Samaria is a
Jewish region similar to Galilee; such an impression is prevented by eXAAOYevi]; in Luke
17.17. So far in Acts the venue for preaching was the temple. Philip does not start out
with a local synagogue (cf. Acts 9.2,20) which will become the pattern of the later missionary journeys. This may allow the conclusion that there were no Jews in Samaria as
there were Jews in other cities or that this lack indicates that the Samaritans were not
Jews; but cf. Acts 11.19-26.

3. The Acts of the Apostles

69

exorcists' (19.13f), among them 'sons ofa Jewis"h high priest'. Any origin could be implied
by Simon's name as it 'was popular both among Greeks and Jews'."
e) Luke's portrayal of the Samaritans prior to faith in Acts 8 agrees with that of Gentiles prior to faith. Magic, except that practised by Jews elsewhere (Acts 13.6), occurs nowhere in a Jewish setting. Cheering acceptance of claims similar to or such as that made
by Simon occurs elsewhere in a Gentile setting (cf. Acts 12.22; 11.3.5.), yet would be unlikely in a Jewish environment (ct. the Jewish suppositions in Luke 9.8,19). The way
Philip approached the situation resembles later incidents (cf. Acts 14.8-10; 19.1lf). In
these matters there are links with the latter part of Acts (against Jervell).
'~ese

observations speak against Jervell's proposal for Luke's view. Neithpr does the evidence fully support Bowman's assessment of the Samaritaps as genuine Gentiles. For our present purpose it is sufficient to note that
oil several occasions Luke identifies the Samaritans as non-Jews or at least
indicates that they are not Jewish in the sense of other Jews. While Luke
may not have seen the Samaritans as Gentiles to the extent he considered
other non-Jews to be Gentiles, they appear to be outwith Judaism. It seems
that Coggins' suggestion of the Samaritans as somewhere between Jews
and Gentiles captures Luke's view best. 69
Due to this 'intermediate' position, we include the Samaritans in our attempt to study Luke's portrayal of non-Jews as comprehensively as possible. It needs to be remembered that due to the nature of this evidence, conclusions drawn only from this material are not ofthe same quality as others.
However, while some valuable facets would be lost, exclusion of the Samaritans from this study would not essentially affect our results.

2. Simon was practising magic70, thereby 'amazing the people of Samaria'71


and claiming that he was someone great. In response all the Samaritans,
'from the least to the greatest', eagerly listened to Simon (and his claims)
and acclaimed him as 'the power of God, that is called Great'.72 The reason

68 Cf. G. Schneider, ED NT Ill, 244.


69 Compare the detailed analysis of Luke's stance towards the Samaritans by M.
Btlhm, Samarien und die Samaritai bei Lukas: Eine Studie zum religionshis"loris"chen und
Iraditionsgeschichllichen Hinlergrund der lukanis"chen Samarientexte und zu deren IOpOgraphis"cher Verhaftung (Diss. Leipzig, 1997; to appear in WUNT).
70 See Nock, 'Paul'; G. Delling, Th WNT V, 360-63; Barrett, 'Light', 286-90. Hull, Magic,
5-72 offers a fine survey of Hellenistic magic. Cf. also the comprehensive survey of the
range, methods and material of ancient magic by T.H. Hopfner, 'Mageia', RE XIV, 30193, including various methods of forgery and tricks (cols. 391-93).
n The meaning of 3tOALV 1:fj~ !af4aQELa~ is uncertain; cf. 1. Jeremias, Th WNT VII, 92, n.
29 and Barrett I, 402f.
72 Barrett 1,407 suggests that 'it is probable that popular opinion accepted what Simon
claimed for himself'; cf. the discussion of the expression in Coggins, 'Samaritans',430f ('a
distinctively Samaritan title') and Acts 5.36.

70

ll. Gentiles prior la faith

for their overwhelming response and Simon's considerable influence is repeated in v.U: for a long time Simon had amazed them with his magic.73
3. While others on Luke's pages are acclaimed as divine, Simon made such
claims for himself and employed his magic for attaining and promoting his
own person and status (ct IV.3.4.1.). The cases of disease and possession
(Acts 8.6f), despite his otherwise self-confident claim and pretension, Si- (
mon - or anybody else - was unable to address. Simon exemplifies deceit
and exploitation of credulous people prior to faith.74

Simon is presented as a successful magician." The nature of his magic is not mentioned.
Though Luke's account is open to seeing 'den Gebrauch auBergottlicher Krafte; deren
Wirklichkeit wird keineswegs geleugnet'76, he does not ascribe demonic association or
power to Simon.77 In other cases of 'illicit dealings with the supernatural'7S Luke is more
specific in this regard (Acts 16.16; 19.14).
Barrett argues that the magic Luke had in mind (the second type of Philo's definition
in Spec Leg III.100f) was always closely related to fmancial profit: These magicians 'practised their art for what they could make out of it' .79 This suggested link between Gentile
religiosity and material interests will surface elsewhere more clearly. With Barrett's definition of Simon as a typical quack of the day, it is difficult to understand how he succeeded in attaining such influence with the whole population. His success is indicated by
reference to his 'spiritual' position rather than his material status. Luke does not hesitate
elsewhere to mention the combination of pagan religiosity and money.
G. Delling suggests that Simon's success
weist darauf hin, daB er seine Wirksamkeit zum mindesten mit samaritanischen religiosen Ideen in Verbindung zu setzen wuBte, wenn er nicht sogar sich fUr den Wegbereiter des Messias hielt. Wie vom Messias kilnnen ja besondere,sichtbare Erweise seiner Sendung auch von seinem Vorliiufer erwartet werden. so

73 According to Bauernfeind, 125 v. 11 functions as 'das kritiklose Verhalten der angehenden Christen soIl begreiflich gemacht, gewissermaJ3en entschuldigt werden' (italics
mine).
74 Barrett, 'Light', 289-91 shows how the description of Simon and other Gentiles
serves as a negative backdrop for and contrast to the Christian missionaries (summary
on p.291).
75 An instructive parallel for the nature and variety of magic, various tricks and forgery,
the fascination, credulity and adherence of the audiences and the critical stance of the
author is Lucian's description of Alexander the False Prophet; cf. Klauck, Umwelt I, 160-63.
76 G. Delling, Th WNT IV, 363.
77 Contrary to Justin Martyr, 1 Apo!. 26; cf. B arrett 1,405. Bauernfeind, 126 suggests: 'Man
wird hier nicht an einen Magier im gewohnlichen Sinne denken ... die Magie steht in engster Verbindung mit einem theologischen System und einem besonderen Selbstbewul3t-

sein',

Barrett 1,406.
'Light' ,287, drawing on Nock,'Paul'. Barrett presents a selection of passages to illustrate the ties between magic and money (pp. 287f; for further evidence see Nock, 'Paul',
165-71).
80 ThWNT IV, 363. Note Delling's own caution: 'Dagegen, daB er selbst sich fUr den
Taeb hielt, sprllche seine rasche Hinwendung zum Glauben an den Messias Jesus ... doch
kann es sich auch urn eine sprunghafte Natur handeln' (363.12-14).
78

79

3. The Acts of/he Apostles

71

Luke - also mentioning other magicians without the claims of Simon (Acts 13.6,8"';
19.19) - hints at this by citing the acclamation Simon received without elaborating on it.
If this be the case Simon deliberately exploited this expectation for his own benefit.

4. The Samaritans readily acclaimed 'a very ordinary magician upgraded so


as to appear as a divine man'82 as the great divine power and gave a position of preeminence to a man impressing them with his magic. 1. This lack
of distinction or of ability to distinguish between human and divine is a recurrent characteristic of Gentiles prior to faith (cl. Acts 14.11f; 28.6). 2. At
the same time these credulous Samaritans did not realise the true state of
affairs, namely a) the falsity and pretentiousness of Simon's magic and
claims; and b) the discrepancy between his actions andlor claims and the
continuous presence of disease and possession. This apparent contradiction
of his ability and pretension was either not recognised or did not hinder the
Samaritans' continuous fascination and acceptance of his claims (similarly
in Acts 14.8-13; 19.11-13,15f,27,35). This lack of discernment - be it due to
their own blindness or credulity or to demonic influence - bears upon our
assessment of their natural faculties.
3.5. Acts 12.20-23

Herod Agrippa I addressed the embassies of 'lYre and Sidon83 and the assembled crowds. The king's appearance and discourse was enthusiastically
received by the Caesarean ~fjllo;84, who kept shouting: 'The voice of a god,
and not of a mortal'. The ~fjllo; acclaimed the king, not the embassies who
- depending on the king for food - were directly concerned and as such
more likely to try to please or flatter the king.
Were these Gentiles merely flattering the king, perhaps hoping that they would receive a
similar favour?8S How did Herod react to this acknowledgement? V. 23 gives some clues.
81 Possibly dependent on the respective audiences, Elymas' success and influence was
.
less than that of Simon.
82 Barrett 1,407.
It! Whether their approach and persuasion (ltE[oaVtE~) of Blastus involved moral
wrong (as says ego Rackham, 181: 'in plain words they had bribed him'; Schneider 11,108,
u. 76; Haenchen, 386) is not clear; et. Barrett 1,589. If it was a case of bribery, this note constitutes a further incident of the moral-ethical failure of Gentiles; for an assessment of bribery in the ancient world ct Polybius, Histories VJ.56. On the whole incident cf. Klauck,
Magie, 51-57. I have not seen O.w. AlIen, The Death of Herod: The Narrative and Theological Function of Retribution in Luke-Acts, SBL.DS 158 (SBL: Scholars Press, J 997).
84 ct Bruce, 288 and Barrett 1,590 for the variant of D in v. 22. The majority of the inhabitants of Caesarea was Gentile (cf.l. Benzinger, 'Caesarea 10. Stratonis oder Palaestinae', RE Ill, 291-94), these Luke must have in mind with lIfi!lO~.
as Josephus and Rabbinic tradition mention the king's flatterers (cf. Bruce, 289; for
comparison with 10sephus' account see Barrett I, 589-91), Luke does not. Schille, 278
sees in v.22 'die Ubertriebene Huldigung der schmeichlerischen Menge'.

72

IT. Gentiles prior to faith

Failing to give the glory to God by accepting such honour for himself86 Herod died immediately.1l7 This dire consequence indicates that Luke does not treat the acclamation as
a mere formality which Herod courteously accepted.8" This understanding is supported
by other incidents of Gentiles ascribing divine characteristics to humans where flattery is
clearly absent (cC. Acts 14.11; 28.4-6).
.
At this point we also need to consider Luke's view of the ident;tYofHerod Agrippa I
(cC. our discussion of Luke's view of the identity of the Samaritans in Il.3.4. and that of
Herod Antipas in III.2.1.2.3.L)." While Luke's account of ActJ 26 suggests that Herod
Agrippa n (called ~YQ[;cTtas 0 ~aaIAE-us) was Jewish (26.3,26-~8)">' Luke's view of the
identity of his father, Herod Agrippa I (called "HQ~BT]S {) ~aolAE-US;) is less clear. Luke
does not note their relationship.
While the ethnic identity of Herod Agrippa I seems clear from available sources (ct
los. ant. lud. XIX.6.1-3; 7.3 293-97, 301, 331), his behaviour is difficult to assess.
Koster's summary captures both sides of the king:
'" ein legitimer Nachfahre des aiten hasmonllischen Hauses war. In Jerusalem gab
sich der Konig die groBte Mtihe, als frommer und gesetzestreuer Jude aufzutreten,
forderte die jtidische Religion nach Kraften und ging gegen ihre Feinde nach dem
Willen der religiosen Ftihrer Jerusalems vor. '" In seiner politischen Hauptstadt
Caesarea freilich spielte Agrippa den orientalischen Kleinkonig.'l

86 Nothing in Luke's account indicates that Herod intended to make a supernatural


impression on his audience, see the discussion in Barrett 1,590. Herod died for accepting
this acclamation, not for demanding or inviting it. In contrast, Christians give the glory to
God (Acts 11.18) and after a miracle do everything to prevent distraction from his glory
(Acts 3.6,12-16; 14.14-18).
Il7 The description of Herod's end, similar to the detailed description of Judas' death
(Acts 1.18) underscores the punishment involved; ct 2 Macc 95,7-11,28; Wis 4.18f; Ps 37.
For other incidents of this type of death et Bruce, 289; Schille, 276.
II.! Against Schille, 267: 'Die HUldigung entsprach also keineswegs der tatslichlichen
Einschlltzung des Kllnigs.... Die Huldigung gehorte zum Hofstil'.
89 Cf. Ferguson, Backgrounds, 394f; Grabbe, Judaism, 430-34; HengeVSchwemer, Paul,
1295; H. W. Hoehner, 'Herod', ISBE Il, (688-98) 697f and 'Herodian Dynasty', DJG, 31726; Koster, EinfUltrung, 409-11; SchUrer, History I, 442-54; Stern, 'Reign', 288-300.
90 On Herod Agrippa n et Ferguson, Backgrounds, 395; Grabbe,Judaism,435-37; H.w.
Hoehner, 'Herod', ISBE 11 (688-98) 696f; Kllster, EinfUltrung, 410f; SchUrer, History I,
471-83; Stern, 'Reign', 300-04. That Festus, shortly after taking office, consulted with a
ruler more experienced and more knowledgeable in these matters than himself (Acts
25.23-27) does not necessarily make Agrippa a Jew, though the distinction between
Agrippa and Bernice and the other guests (Gentile military tribunes and the prominent
men of Caesarea) at the beginning and in Festus' address might suggests this (v. 26: ecp'
uflwV xal flaAUTta ETtt ooli, ~aOIAE-(j 'AYQUtrta). The claim in Acts 26.26 that Agrippa
knows TtEQL 'to-U'tIllV (vs. 22f: the prophets, Moses, the Messiah and the resurrection) only
indicates thorough acquaintance with Judaism. However, PaUl's claim that the king believes the prophets (oLBa otL rtLOtE-UELS), which is not refuted in v. 28, suggest that he was
Jewish despite the fact that in Luke's brief sketch there is also a touch of the Hellenistic
monarch who substitutes outward impression for lack of real greatness (Acts 25.23: flE'tcl
TtOAA:fj<; qlaV'taoLas; cf. Pesch n, 275; Roloff, 350; Schille, 445; WB, 1701; Zahn, 793f; Zmijewski, 843). This characterisation is more developed in Luke's portraits of Herod Antipas and Herod Agrippa I. .
91 Einfilltrung, 410. HengellSchwemer, Paul, n. 1295 and Ferguson, Backgrounds, 394f
note further contradictions. Ct the detailed description by los. ant. lud. XIX.5.1-9.1

3. The Acts of the Apostles

73

This ambiguity or tension is also reflected in Acts 12. Vs. 1-4 report that in mistreating
some of the church92 and in killing James and arresting Peter, Herod wanted to curry favour with the Jews (agECTtOV ECTtLV TOr~ 'Iou1\atou:;}.93 This suggests either that a Jew (so
e.g. KBster) or a Gentile wanted to please his subjects.94 Whatever identity is implied,
Herod's procedure is indicative of arbitrariness, partiality and lack of concern for the administration of justice. He -was ready to execute innocent people to promote his own interests."
Herod's measures in v. 4 recall that of the Philippian magistrates and jailer (Acts
16.23f}; his harsh punishment of the 'innocent' guards furnishes an illustration of Luke
22.25.96 In Acts 12.11 Peter mentions Herod and the Jewish people (Ex XELgo~ 'Hg~1\ou
xat 1taO'l]C;; Tiic;; 1tgo(J1\oxLac;; TOU Aaou 1:WV 'Iou1\aLwv; cf. v. 3). While the emphasis may
simply lie on ruler and people, the position TG'JV 'Iou1iaLwv could also imply that the ruler
was not included in the Jewish Aa6c;;.
However, while portraying Herod very much like a Gentile orientalischer Kleinkonig
in Acts 12.1f,19-21 97, Luke's note that Herod did not give glory to God may imply that he
should have known the appropriate response to the acclamation, which would identify
him as Jewish or at least as acquainted with Judaism. In contrast to Simon (Acts 8.9),
Herod was immediately punished, while the Gentile crowd went free.
Due to this Lukan ambiguity regarding Herod we concentrate on Luke's portrait of
the Caesarean crowds. Their response unequivocally identifies them as Gentiles.

Though in 'allowing himself to be put in the place of God Herod ... committed the most fundamental of sins'98, the Caesareans readily ascribed di 274-356; SchUrer, History 1,446-52 (sources on p. 442, Agrippa's coinage on p. 451, n.
40); Stem, 'Reign', 293-97. While noting Herod's Syrian birth (Flacc 39), Philo clearly understands Herod to be Jewish (LegGai 261-80; cf. HengellSch wemer, Paul, n. 943).
92 Cf. HengellSchwemer, Paul, n.1283.
93 On the procedure and motivation of Agrippa's action against Christians cr. the instructive discussion of HengellSchwemer, Paul, 246-50 and n.1279.
94 This is stressed by Pesch I, 363f and Roloff, 18Sf, however without conclusions as to
Herod's identity. On Luke's pages 'pleasing the Jews' is a Gentile trait: Pilate, Felix and
Festus were more concerned with the promotion of their own interests than with the administration of justice; cf. Luke 23.23-25; Acts 24.27: {tiAWV 1:1l xagLTa xa1:at}(J~aL TOr~
'Iou1iaiOLC;;; 25.9: {tiAWV 1:0~ 'Iou1ia[oLc;; XaQtv xaTa{ti~aL. Yet unless their financial interests are at risk, Gentiles on Luke's pages appear reluctant to intervene against Christians
on their own initiative. The verb xaxow of v.I is used in Acts 7.6,19 of the Egyptian treatment of Israel. However, Barrett 1,474 notes that 'His actions in regard to James and Peter may be regarded as part of his role as the "good Jew" who would naturally be concerned to put down a heretical sect'. Cr. also Rapske,Paul, 399.
~5 Cf. Pesch I, 363f: ' ... gesetzlos-willkUrliches Vorgehen ... Der Aspekt der Willkiir
wird nun auch ausdriicklich thematisiert .. .'.
96 On Acts 12.1-4 cr. Bauernfeind, 159-65; Barrett 1,567-78; Zmijewski, 460f; on 12.19
Barrett 1,588; Zmijewski, 465. Acts 5.22-25 mentions no punishment in a similar situation
in Jerusalem.
97 Luke also portrays Herod Antipas like a Gentile ruler (cf. 1II.2.1.2.3.1.). This assessment could extend to his nephew Herod Agrippa I. Yet Luke does not note their kinship.
We include Herod Antipas in our study as a pointer similar to the one Luke provides for
Herod Agrippa I is lacking for him. Cf. H.W. Hoehner, 'Herod. VII. Herod Agrippa 1',
1SBE II, 696f.Barrett 1,575 writes: 'Luke probably thought of him as the first Gentile adversary of the church .. .'; cf. p. 573.
98 Barrett 1,591.

74

1I. Gentiles prior to faith

vine prerogatives to Herod, placed a human in a deity's position and acclaimed Herod accordingly. This spontaneous response indicates their familiar and natural pagan frame of reference, lack of spiritual perception
and inability and/or failure to distinguish between human and truly superhuman. Humans could be identified witlrur-mistaken for the gods these
Gentiles knew and venerated. For th! Gentiles on Luke's pages humans
quickly become deities and deities huthans.
The wording of the acclamation possibly indicates their polytheistic
frame of mind. Herod was identified with the appearance of a god in human form or as a god. 99 Their understanding or number of deities is variable and open to expansion.

3.6. Acts 15.20,29; 21.25


The decision in Jerusalem demanded that Gentiles 'sich ... dessen enthalten, was den Grundcharakter des Heidentums darstellte (Gotzenbeflekkung und Hurerei ... )'.1 00 The items adduced shed further light on Gentiles
prior to faith.

1. Gentiles are portrayed as worshipping idols. They not only failed to recognise and worship God, but gave the honour and veneration due to him to
their idols instead.
a) This Gentile worShip of idols (including the consumption of meat offered to them) is not seen as a neutral or harmless exercise but as an activity affecting the worshippers through incurring pollution(s) (UALayTlI.ta,
15.20). Gentiles were polluted with or through their idols and idolatry. Unfortunately there are no further indications how this pollution affects Gentiles or is related (e.g. in cause and effect) to other statements on the state
of the Gentiles.
b) 'What has been sacrificed to idols' (doooM'flvtoS; 15.29; 21.25) refers
to food offered to idols prior to consumption, a practice forming part of pagan worship of idols. 10I The food which God continually provided also for
the Gentile world (Acts 14.17) - among other provisions intended as a wit-

99 Cf. Barrett 1,590; Schneider Il, 108, n. 85; Pesch I, 367. No further identification is attempted; cf. Acts 14.12; 28.6.
100 Meyer, 278; see also Bruce, 342f and the extensive discussion, including textual variants, in Wilson, Law, 73-102.
101 Cf. WE, 446 for pagan procedures: 'Es handelt sich urn OpferfJeisch, das, nachdem
die Gotter ihr Teil erhalten hatten ... , teiIs bei feierlichem Mahl im Tempel verzehrt
wurde, teils auch auf den Markt kam ... , urn dem haus!ichen Gebrauch zu dienen' (italics
mine).

3. The Acts of the Apostles

75

ness to himself - was not only not appreciated as such but used in the worship of idols 102 and only eaten in part and after such procedures. The Gentiles' spiritual failure can hardly be conveyed more strongly. The fact that
even Gentile Christians need to be thus instructed indicates how much
idolatry permeated the Gentile world.
c) Witherington argues that lbwA6{hn;o~ does not mean meat sacrificed to an idol- as
this term was distinguishable from lEQMhrt'ov (sacred food)l03 - rather it means 'meat
sacrificed to and eaten in the presence of an idol, or in the temple precincts'I"" which
would stand pars pro toto for participation in pagan worship. The decree commands
Gentiles to refrain from 'idol worship and its various related activities'.los If that be the
case, this expression is rather another reference to the actual Gentile idolatry, not necessarily excluding our observations in b).

2. The charge to abstain from 1toQveta has often been taken as addressing
irregular sexual relations.16 As such it would be among Luke's references
I02The essential misunderstanding behind this practice is addressed in Acts 17.25.
Gentile willingness to sacrifice animals to their gods was illustrated in Acts 14.13.
103Cf WB 756
[04 'Thoughts', 237, 240, 242, 248-50 (cf. the italics in our n. 101). For the religious character of meals eaten within a temple precinct ct. Witherington, Conflict, 222. MacMuIIen,
Paganism, 36-40 describes such meals and their religious overtones.
105 'Thoughts', 249; cf. also Conflict, 188-200. Luke himself offers some illustration in
Acts 14.13,18. Against Witherington one might ask why Luke did not employ a less specifi~ word like etbwAoAa'tQta (cf. WB,446) to express this. Witherington overlooked the
extensive discussion of Wilson, Luke, 88-99 (including earlier work suggesting this) who
argues the case at greater length, with more references to pagan religious practice (cf.
nos. 84-98, p.127f; primary and secondary sources) and in the overall setting of Acts.
106 SchiJIe, 321: 'zielt auf die vom Judentum dem Heidentum gern nachgesagte :n:OQveta'; cf. F. Hauck, S. Schulz, ThWNT VI, 582f (,Profaner auBerehelicher Geschlechtsumgang'; bibliography p. 579); H. Herter, 'Dirne. Griechisch-Rtlmisch " RAC lII,l154-87
(for later Christian assessments of Gentile immorality in private and religious contexts
see cols. 1202-04) and the sexual relations associated with Gentiles in Lev 18. The discussion is summarised by Bruce, 342.
Some examples of the non-cultic :n:oQvela which Jews ascribed to Gentiles suffice. The
Jewish Sibylline Oracles charge the Gentiles with idolatry (3.548-54,605f; 5.166), homosexuality (2.73;3.185,764),paedophilia (3.185,596-600;5.166,387,430), prostitution (5.388f),
intercourse between parents and children (5.390f; 7.43-45), bestiality (5.393; cunnilingus
in 5.392?), adultery (3.595,764; 5.430), abortion/infanticide (2.28lf; 3.765),licentiousness
(2.280f); cf. J.J. Collins, 'Sibylline Oracles', OTP IT, 323, 357. Ep. Arist. 152 likewise claims:
'The majority of other men defile themselves in their relationships, thereby committing a
serious offence, and lands and whole cities take pride in it: they not only procure the
males, they also defile mothers and daughters'; cf. also Philo's description of the Sodomites in Abr 133-36 (cf. also SpecLeg III.37-45); HengellSchwemer, Paul, 66f and commentaries on 1 Cor 5.1 ("t'OLQut'I] :n:oQveia ~'tL~ oUlli; Ev 'to{~ e-&veoLV).
Pseudo Philon's sermon De Iona contains a catalogue of vices: 'Wie das menschliche
Leben in verschiedene Lebensalter eingeteilt ist, ... so verteilen sich auf ihre [the Gentiles'] Lebensalter ihre Stinden. Ihre Jugend jagt nach den Freuden des Fleisches ... '
(16f). The author charges the Gentiles: 'Ihr jagt nach gesetzeswidriger Sinnenlust, zersHirt Ehen, macht die Schtlnheit der Madchen zu Schande, versucht Mllnnern das Ausse-

76

Il. Gentiles prior to faith

to the Gentiles' moral-ethical sins and indicative of their ignorance and/or


neglect of God's will (CL EYXQCl'tELU in Acts 24.25). Yet as such relations are
not limited to Gentiles and as they are specifically addressed, the reference
is also, or more likely, to fornication in the context of paganism.1 07 Such a
matter does not need to be mentioned to Jewish Christians and follows
from the prohibition of aALoyTJf.LCt'tU 'tWV EtbwAWV, ELowA61hJ'tu and everything related to it.
.
3. Gentiles consum~'what has been strangled' and blood (CL Gen 9.4). The
Noachian and Mosaic ietary legislation and requirements are unknown to
and/or neglected by ,entiles (CL Luke 8.32f; IS. 1St). Their slaughtering
practices and their diet' betray their lack of the revelation which the Jews
had received and followed, illustrating the estimation of the Gentiles as
avollO; (Acts 2.23; CL U.3.1.). As with fornication, in addition to this dietary
failure and its conclusionS; these last two items may also reflect the sacrificial practices and rituals of pagan sacrifice. Witherington mentions occa-

hen von Frauen zu geben, wechselt Verlobungen und raubt Braute anderer' (105); of the
men it is said with reference to their wives: 'denen sie leidenschaftlich ergeben waren'
(148).
The pseudo- Philonic sermon De Sampsone describes the seductive powers of Samson's Philistine wife: 'Eine Frau errichtete die Begierde wie einen Balken, urn daran die
lliebe als Riemen anzunageln und an ihnen den Gefangenen hochzuziehen. Wie sie ihn
so baumeln lieS und seinen Widerstand mit listigen, zarten, verft1hrerischen Worten
brach, drang sie mit den Zwangsmitteln der Triebe dem jungen Mann bis ins Innerste ... '
(1). Despite some general"misogynist statements (e.g. 34), her wickedness is ascribed to
her Gentile origin (clearly indicated e.g. in 22f): 'So ist die Fremde, Simson: Zur Gemeinschaft der Kilrper ist sie allemal bereit und gewahrt dir treuIich, was nach Liebe aussieht;
in ihrer Seele jedoch bekampft sie den, mit dem sie in ktirperlicher Gemeinschaft zusammenlebt, und verteilt bereits ihr Erbe unter die Heiden' (33). 35 speaks of the 'Zauber
der heidnischen Frau'; 40 charges the woman with dissolving the marriage during the
feast through her betrayal ('du hast die Ehe schon aufgelilst; ehe du die Krone abgesetzt
hast, hast Du den Mann schon verraten') and with adultery afterwards: 'Darum hast du
auch nach den sieben Tagen nicht, wie es sich fUr eine Verheiratete gehilrt, das Ehebett
gewahrt, sondern die Ehegemeinschaft aufgeltist und zersprengt'.
107 Cf. Witherington, Conflict, 190f, 221 for the close connection between worship in pagan temples and sexual immorality: 'This common association in the larger culture would
explain why sexual immorality and idol food are also always linked in the NT (cf. Acts
15.29; Rev 2.14,20)" see his 'Thoughts', 249, n. 27 and W. Fauth, M.-B. v. Stritzky, 'Hierodulie A. VII.c-B.III', RAC XV, 76-82. Others have argued that 'marriage or sexual union
within prohibited degrees' is intended, e.g. Bruce, 342f; Schneider H, 183f; HaucklSchulz,
ThWNT VI, 592.23-26. This is unlikely as Acts 15.10 requires that the yoke of the law is
not put on the Gentiles' necks. It would be strange for :7toQv[a to refer precisely to regulations of the law.

3. The Acts of the Apostles

77

sional references to pagan priests tasting the blood of the animaLl08 Wilson
adduces much evidence and argues this case extensively.109
Thus the idolatry of the Gentiles indicates not only their spiritual failure
regarding the nature of God and of his worship. Their idolatry is also accompanied by, expressed through and linked with moral failure (fornication) and procedures in contrast to God's revealed will.1lO This link and its
possibility again indicates the Gentile ignorance of God and his nature:
While such activities may be acceptable to or required by their pagan deities, God cannot be worshipped this way. Luke not only exposes and criticises the actual idols, temples and sacrifices and the ideology behind them
(Acts 17.24f,29), but also the accompanying phenomena and manner of
such worship. Gentiles prior to faith are characterised by a fully inadequate
conception of the true God and his worship and by idolatry testifying to
their complete spiritual and moral-ethical failure.
3.7. Acts 16.20-24; 18.2,14-17; 19.33/

Acts contains several references to the anti-Judaism of the first century.l11


These references are noteworthy for Luke's portrait of Gentiles prior to

108 'Thoughts', 244, with reference to Ogilvie, Romans, 49 (cf. pp. 41-52 on pagan sacrifices and rituals); compare the vivid description of MacMuIlen, Paganism, 41, the extensive treatment in Stengel,Kultusaltertamer, 95-155 and Lucian DeSacrificiis 9,13,15.
On 'things strangled' see Witherington's note 28,p. 249.
109 Luke, 88-91, 97-99; et. IV.3.3.3.2.
110 Acts 15.21 has been taken to indicate why similar shortcomings did not occur
among Jews (e.g. Chrysostom, Homilies on Acts 33,208; cf. the different interpretation by
G.B.Stevens,following n. 4 on p.208; Roloff,233;Schneider H,l84). Through God's revelation in the law Jews knew of the appropriate worship of God.
111 Cf. Schtlrer, History Ill, 126-49 for civic status and religious practices of JUdaism in
the Diaspora. 1. Leipoldt, 'Antisemitismus', RAC I, (469-76) lists its various causes (47073); most relevant for our observations are the religious reasons (471), others are of political or economic nature (471-73); et. I. Heinemann, 'Antisemitismus', RE S V, (3-43)
13.43-14.53; 14.65-16.24, for Gentile perceptioD of and reproaches against Judaism 19.5822.68; 32.15-36.42; but see 18.37-19.20. 'Sind also die poIitischen MaBnahmen gegen die
Juden nur zu kleinem Teil aus besonderer Abneigung gegen die jlldische Religion zu erkUlreD ... ', col. 19.30-34. At grassroots level the Don-religious reasons may have been predominant, though religious and 'non'-religious causes caD hardly be separated. For religious and further reasons see also Schtlrer, History Ill, 152f (bibliography in D.1); N.R.M.
de Lange, C. Thoma, 'Antisemitismus. 1. BegrifflVorchristlicher Antisemitismus', TRE
Ill, 113-19, bibiography 118f; Rapske, Paul, 110, n. 213.
For the Egyptian oppression of Israel cf. H.3.3.1. On the Samaritan rejection of Jesus in
Luke 9.52-56 cf. III.2.1.1.4. Anti-Judaism is also apparent in the Gentile treatmeDt of Jesus and of his Jewish opponents; cf. HI.2.1.2. Does the Gentile stock farmer of Luke 15.15
deliberately assign the task of ~OOl(ELV J(oleou~ to his unwaDted Jewish appeDdage in order to get rid of him (cl. B ailey, Poet, 170)?

78

Jl. Gentiles prior 10 faith

faith. In addition to Gentile God-fearers (see III.3.3.3.3.), Luke also mentions Gentiles who despised and rejected the Jews, their faith and their God
and readily vented their disdain as opportunity arose to do so without fear
of reprisal.
1. In Philippi the missionaries were not officially charged for their Christian
activities (Acts 16.17) but were accused of being Jews advocating customs
unlawful for Romans to adopt or observe (16.20). This was enough to proceed against them. Their opponents operated 'mit ScWagwortem des romischen Nationalismus und des heidnischen Antijudaismus'.n2 Their procedure {gainst these men as Jews indicates a deep seated anti-Judaism.1l3

Th~i-Semitic

2.
policy of Claudius is alluded to in Acts 18.2. Luke's reference includes all Roman Jews. Though possibly only due to its brevity,
Claudius appears capricious. Luke does not mention the occasion of the expulsion given by Suetonius' Vita Claudii 25. 114
3. Corinth. a) Zmijewski identifies anti-Judaism in Gallio's treatment of the
Corinthian Jews (Acts 18.14-16):
So weist der die Angelegenheit van vornherein ab und erldart sich flir unzustandig.
Die Arc urid Weise freilieh, wie er dies tut - er liIBt den Juden Paulus erst gar nicht zu
Wort kommen (v. 14a) und erteilt den judo Anklllgern in hochfahrendem Ton eine
Rechtsbelehrung (v. 14b-15a) -liifJl die ganze Verachtung des romischen Aristokraten
gegenUber dem ludentum erkennen. Dazu paBt auch, daB er einen Einspruch der Juden Uberhaupt nicht erst aufkommen lilBt, sondern sie, wohl durch seine Liktoren, wie
lils/ige Slorenfriede vom Bema verjagen lilBt. l1S

b) Then 'all of them seized Sosthenes, the official of the synagogue, and
beat him in front of the tribunal' (Acts 18.17).116 Some manuscripts add
'the Jews' to btv..a/30f.lEVOL, which is unlikely as fellow Jews would hardly
112 Zmijewski, 609; cf. p. 607. Elliger, Paulus, 55-57 offers a good analysis of the events
against this background. Rapske, Paul, 120: 'Paul's Jewish credentials ... constituted a severe liability in this latently antiSemitic context'; cf. p. 133.
\13 The crowds immediately joined the cause of the upper class slave-owners. There
were no proper legal procedures, but public stripping, severe flogging and imprisonment
with further mistreatment; cf. our treatment in 111.2.2.10.4., Pesch lI, 114 and the detailed,
perhaps too positive, assessment of legal procedures by Rapske, Paul, 115-28. Walaskay,
Rome fails to deal adequately. with this hardly flattering portrayal of the Roman Empire
(only briefly mentioned on p.23).
\14 'Judaeos impulsore Chresto assidua tumultantes Roma expulit'; cf. Zmijewski, 656f;
Leipoldt, 470; Schneider 11,249, n. 17; Heinemann, 15; for the historical background see
Conzelmann, Heiden, 28-30; LUdemann, 'Judenedikt'. Compare the detailed treatment
by H. Botermann, Das ludenedikt des Kaisers Claudius: Romischer Staat und Christiani
im ersten lahrhundert, Hermes Einzelschriften 71 (Stuttgart: F. Steiner, 1996),15-49.
lIS Pp. 660f (italics mine); c[ Elliger, Paulus, 236f; Beyer, 112; Pesch lI, 151; Roloff, 273;
SchUrer, Hislory Ill, 153 and the instructive parallel in Philo, Flace 24.
116 On the background c[ Gill, 'Achaia', 448-53.

3. The Acts of the Apostles

79

beat their official in public, even if they thought he had failed in presenting
their case well.l17 Others manuscripts add ot uEUTjVE(; after mivtE(;1l8,
which better catches the sense and agrees with the accusing note that Gallio himself paid no attention to this event. Some Gentiles responded to the
contemptuous attitude towards the Jews displayed by Gallio in his handling
of their case and 'taking advantage of the snub Gallio had administered to
the Jews'1l9, vented their anti-Jewish feelings by attacking one of the leading synagogue members: 'die auf der Agora versammeIte korinthische
Menge IllSt ihren antisemitischen Emotionen freien Lauf.120
4. Further popular anti-Judaism appears in Acts 19.33f. Only there is this
anti-Judaism religiously motivated. When the Ephesian crowds realised
that Alexander was a Jew, 'und somit auch seinerseits nichts als ein Feind
der Artemis'121, they immediately responded by a two hour long frantic acclamation of Artemis (see II.3.8.).122 Their response is not ridicule or contempt of Jews and their different life-style but - so much knowledge of Judaism Luke ascribes to them - fervent affirmation of their pagan goddess
against the Jews and their God.
The attitudes and actions of these Gentiles testify to their complete failure to recognise and appreciate the origin, nature and significance of these
people and their faith present in their midst (cf. Luke 17.26-29). This failure
was accompanied by contempt and/or rejection of the people God had chosen and privileged (e.g. Acts 7.3; 13.17) and their characteristics l23 which

117 CL

Pesch II 151

118 Cf . NTG, 3'77; Metzger,

Commentary, 463.

119 Bruce, 397.


120 Pesch

H,151; Zmijewski, 660f.


121 Bauernfeind, 233. Schneider n, 277 observes: 'Der Leser erkennt, wie unbeliebt die
Juden in der Stadt sind .... Er beftlrchtete antijildische Ausschreitungen der Stadtbevolkerung', also Wikenhauser, 227: 'da es den Anschein hatte, daB der Thmult in eine Judenhetze (Pogrom) ausgehen konnte'; BC IV, 249; Klauck, Magie, 123. Why Alexander was
there or why some in the crowd gave instructions to him is not clear. Possibly they saw
him as a potential ally against Paul as there had been a clear break between the synagogue and Paul (Acts 19.9). Alexander probably wanted to make a defence before the
people, trying to protect the Jewish community, threatened as it also was by this upsurge
of Gentile devotion and anti-Judaism, by publicly dissociating themselves from his fellow
Jew,Paul.
122 Though there was disorder and a certain perplexity as to the cause of the assembly
(Acts 19.32) - its instigators did not come forward - still the crowds would not even listen to a Jew proceeding according to custom (lla1:aaEt(Ja~ 't'i]v XLea, 19.33).
123 E.g. aniconic worship, dietary legislation, Sabba th observance. CL Leipoldt, 471 and
Heinemann,4lf for the deeper roots of Graeeo-Roman anti-Judaism. Heinemann asks:
'Es fragt sieh, ob der HaB neben diesen politischen Wurzeln auch geistige hatte, ob also
die jlidische Religion Merkmale hatte, die eine besondere Antipathie auslosen konnten'
(41.43-46). The causes then listed - refusal to participate in pagan cults (42.15-20,34-41),

80

II. Gentiles prior to faith

God had revealed and commanded (cL Acts 7.38).124 The attitude resulting
from their spiritual failure and the moral-ethical sinful actions indicative of
it (e.g. ''':rC-tOO in Acts 18.17) are linked.
Instead of attraction to and appreciation of God's revelation and election, rejection of God's purpose, revelation and election characterised
these Gentiles. Against the backdrop of Luke's view of the position and significance of Israel l25 , this anti-Judaism amounts to an outright rejection of
salvation history and r~bellion against God (cf. Acts 4.25f).
This disposition renders response to the essentially Jewish Christian salvation and proclamation impossible. 126 Both instances of genuine Gentile resistance to the Christian mission are closely linked to this Gentile anti-Judaism (cL
Acts 16.20-24; 19.26,33f). As God's challenge arid correction of the Gentile
world through the poeple of Israel (its status, faith and revelation) was rejected
(cL Luke 17.26-29), more than correction is needed to alter its condition.
3.8. Acts 19.23-41

11le description of the Gentile majority response to Paul's Ephesian minis--_____tfy provides an extensive description of the religious conceptions, practices
and actions of Gentiles prior to faith.127 Several issues can be distinguished
in Luke's account of the events and vivid portrait of the Gentiles.

refusal of intermarriage (42.42-61), dietary legislation and Jewish separation (42.6243.22), and the Gentile perception of it (43.18-22) - are all directly related to the Law and
its faithful practice.
U4 Cf. Barrett I, 365f,631. God's choice of Israel and the divine origin of the Law appears throughout Luke-Acts. On Luke's view of the Law see Jervell, 'Law' and Theology,
54-75; Fittmyer, Aspects, 176-87 and Blomberg, 'Law' and 'The Christian and the Law of
Moses' in Marshall, Witness, 397-416.
125 For Israel's special position see Fitzmyer, IB8f and Aspects, 175-202; Jervell, Theology, 18-34.
126 Cf. Acts 11.26, IV.3.l.5.
127The episode is best treated in this part. Acts 19.11-20, describing the Gentile encounter with Christian salvation, is treated IlI.2.2.12. Our observations from the major
religious Gentile 'counter-attack' on Luke's pages for the Gentile encounter with Christian salVation are included here to avoid fragmentation and will be considered in the
conclusions to part Ill. aster, 'Artemis' offers good surveys of the religious background
of the episode; see also Trebilco, 'Asia', 302-57. Unfortunately, Strelan, Paul and P.A. Harland, 'Honours and Worship: Emperors, Imperial Cults and Associations at Ephesus
(First to Third Centuries C.E.)"SR 26, 1996,319-34 came to my notice too late to interact
with them (cf. my forthcoming review of the former in lBL). Cf. also M. GUnther, Die
Frilhgesdtichte des Christenturns in Ephesus, Arbeiten zu Religion und Geschichte des
Urchristentums 1 (FrankfurtJM: P. Lang, 1995) and W. Thiessen, Christen in Ephesus: Die
historische und Iheologische Situation in vorpaulinischer und paulinischer Zeit und ;z;ur Zeit
der Apostelgeschichte und der Pastoralbriefe, TANZ 12 (Ttlbingen, Basle: A. Francke,
1995).

3. The Acts of tlte Apostles

81

1. Acts' 19.23. The miniature silver shrines of Artemis, probably represented


'the goddess in a niche, with her lions beside her', were intended 'for votaries to dedicate in the temple'.1 28 Whatever their specific design and function in the cult, the market for these shrines flourished, bringing good business to the producers. A substantial trade was linked to idolatry.l29 Gentiles
were ready to acquire and use such costly items, indicating their devotion
and service to the goddess.
2. Acts 19.26j Demetrius summarised the part of Paul's proclamation
which concerned his own case: 'Hand-made gods are not gods at all'. In response to Paul's message and success Demetrius voiced a twofold concern:
a) Through Paul's claim 'this trade of ours may come into disrepute' (ct. v.
25) and b) the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be scorned and she
will be deprived of her majesty that brought all Asia and the world to worship her.130 The relation of both concerns has been understood differently.
Tho positions suffice:
See how, wherever there is idolatry, in every case we find money at the bottom of it ....
It was not for their religion, because they thought that in danger; no, it was for their
lucrative craft, that it would have nothing to work upon. m
Lukas hiltet sich, Demetrius als bloBen Rechner und seinen Glauben als bloBen
Mammonismus darzustellen.... kein Wort, das irgendwie auf mangelnde Ernsthaftigkeit deutete, seine Gottheit heiBt wirklich Artemis und nicht Mammon. Wenn es urn
die Ehre der Gottin geht, dann haben die Ktinstler, die in ihrem Dienste schaffen,
nicht als 'befangen' neutral zu bleiben, sondern in vorderster Reihe zu kilmpfen ...
Lukas weiB zu viel von dem Zauber und der Tragik der heidnischen Kunst, oder auch
von ihren metaphysischen Hintergrtlnden, um sie als 'Konjunkturkunst' abzutun.1J2

128 Bruce, 415 (further description); cf. O. Michel, ThWNT IV, 890.18-24. O. Jessen,
'Ephesia', RE V, (2753-71) 2764-66 describes little statues of the goddess. An inscription
from Tarentum reads: 'he gave a miniature shrine as a votive offering to Artemis' (from
Bruce, 415). Cf. also Guthrie, Greeks, 99-106. These shrines illustrate Paul's correction of
the pagan notions: the deity is not like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art
and imagination of mortals (Acts 17.29).
129 For egyaoia see D. Knibbe, 'Ephesos A.III.6.Ztlnfte und Vereine', RE S XII, (24897) 287.59-289.22. In addition to the silversmiths and their craftsmen (Acts 19.24,38),
.
Knibbe,288.13-25 lists four other Ephesian gUilds.
130 Bruce,417.K. Wernicke, 'Artemis Ephesia',RE I1,1385f (cf. Jessen, 2767-69), lists 33
places where the Ephesian Artemis was worshipped. For numismatic evidence CL D. Detschew, 'Artemis', RAC I, (714-18) 717 who concludes: 'Den glilnzendsten und machtigsten Kult genoB die Artemis von Ephesos ... Ihr Heiligtum zeichnete sich durch seine
Pracht und Gr6Be aus und gaIt als das erste oder zweite der Weltwunder';c( GilllWinter,
'Religion', 88f; aster, 'Ephesus'; G. Mussies, 'Artemis',DDD, 167-80.
131 Chrysostom, Homilies on Acts 42,258.
IJ2 Bauernfeind, 234.

82

Il. Gentiles prior to faith

Several observations can be made:


2.1. The artisans' wealth derived from this business (Acts 19.25); their resistance arose
precisely when these financial interests were endangered.ID Neither Demetrius nor other
Gentiles agitated against the missionaries (et. 19.9) before or apart from this threat. As
the venerated image was allegedly [)lOltETI)C; (19.35), Paul's claim concerning man-made
gods would not really apply to this image of the goddess but certainly concerned the
hand-made shrines. Demetrius also adduced the reputation and status of the trade endangered by the claim that their products are deceitful, pretentious or at best useless.
2.2. Demetrius may have presented the religious argument simply to gain stronger support than only financial or professional arguments might have achieved. Yet, in contrast
to the Philippian slave-owners, Demetrius was not addressing a public assembly or
crowds but his colleagues. Not expressing concern for their wealth or trade they responded with a decided acclamation of Artemis - as did the popular assembly later in the
theatre - which was simultaneously a declaration of their devotion, financial interests
and trade loyalty.'"
2.3. Demetrius and his colleagues are disqualified by their later lack of initiative at the
assembly. If present they failed to use the opportunity posed in Acts 19.32. What they affirmed among themselves they apparently had hesitation to propose in public. The confused assembly became a demonstration for Artemis only through Alexander's attempt
(cf.II.3.7.4.).
It seems best not to distinguish between these strands too much. Whatever devotion
there was, it was intermingled with and activated through threatened financial and professional interests. Confession and affirmation of the former was conducive for the latter.
Luke does not mention demonic intervention either in this agitation or in the ensuing
riot. Not the devil but practical concerns seem to guide Demetrlus.

a) Idolatry so permeated the Gentile world that some Gentiles were dependent for their livelihood on the worship of idols and whatever it entailed. While Gentile commitment to idolatry was notlimited to those professionally and financially involved, these appear as most committed.
b) The content of the Christian proclamation regarding idolatry and its
consequences for idol worship were understood. Nothing is said of its other
elements. Despite such understanding, not all Gentiles accepted this correction of their notions and drew consequences. It was rejected by those
materially and professionally involved in idolatry and by others. While the
success of this message among Gentiles is acknowledged (Acts 19.26) there
was no further discussion or refutation of Paul's claims in Demetrius'
speech,135 The opposite of Paul's claim (hand-made gods are/represent
gods) is not affirmed.
133 Cf. the events in Philippi, Acts 16.16-19.
134This cautions against Chrysostom's second statement (above), though he rightly
stresses the close association between idolatry and economic interests. The only other incident of genuine Gentile resistance is clearly linked to loss of income (Acts 16.16). Also
in Luke's Gospel money-mindedness and spiritual insellsitivity are linked; cf. Barrett,
'Light',286-91.
l3S Cf. Acts 6.10-7.58; 17.18-34. Bauernfeind, 234: 'Demetrius verzichtet yon yornherein
auf den sachlichen Kampf, Mann gegen Mann, Ktlnstler gegen Prophet, stattdessen greift

3. The Acts of the Apostles

83

Chrysostom observes the irony unnoticed by the speaker in affirming the


goddess whilst acknowledging Paul's impact:
For if this man is strong enough to turn away all, and the worship of the gods is in
jeopardy, one ought to reflect, how great this man's God be.... Observe how he
shewed Paul's power to be greater,proving all (their gods) to be wretched and miserable creatures, since a mere man, who was driven about, a mere tentmaker, had so
much power.136

I
I

3. Acts 19.27b. Demetrius' speech indicates two further elements of the pagan belief:
a) Great importance was attached to the temple of Artemis. 137 Being the
sanctuary of the great goddess, this building should be venerated, not
scorned. Such veneration and its preservation the worshippers perceived to
be their task. This notion indicates the Gentile perception of their deities,
their needs and adoration and their relationship with them. The God who is
beyond shrines made by hUman hands (Acts 7.48; 17.24b) was unknown
and inconceivable to them.
b) Artemis herself, acclaimed as the great goddess, should not be deprived of her majesty, rather it should be enhanced. In this assessment it is
the responsibility of humans to acknowledge and ensure the majesty and
ongoing worship of the goddess who received widespread veneration. For
Demetrius this would obviously include his provision of silver shrines.
This note again indicates the active involvement of Gentiles in idolatry
and shows that in their own estimation their religious duty is the convinced
enhancement and glorification of their idol's majesty. As the Jews in many
places worship God, so the Gentiles cling to their idols. That such allegiance
and devotion could be misplaced, inferior or even wrong Gentiles do not
recognise or consider themselves (this only happens through contact with
Judaism or Christianity). When fully operating, this mindset is inaccessible
to the challenge presented by the Christian proclamation. Gentiles are not
on neutral ground: Coupled with their failure coram Deo, they are actively
involved in a counter-programme and antidote.

er zu dem Gewaltmittel der tumultarischen Demonstration, also zu einem Mittel, das


einem Paulus gegenllber unsachlich ist'. The claims for the goddess were either self-evident or indefensible. Some arguments from the classical period which could have been
employed and were employed elsewhere in antiquity are listed by Keith, 'Issues', 308311.
136 Homilies on Acts 42, 258.
137 It is possibly this notion of a god and his or her relationship or dependence on an
earthly house that Stephen sees behind Solomon's building of the Jerusalem temple and
which he severely criticises (Acts 7.47-50). Cf. the description by L. Bllrchner, 'Ephesos',
RE V, (2773-822) 2810-13.

84

II. Gentiles prior to faith

Though a goddess, Artemis is portrayed as in need of the attention and


care of her money-minded human worshippers and at their mercy.138 Luke
leaves the expression of this conviction for the lips of her chief propagator
(cf. v. 35). This reasoning illustrates Paul's correction of Gentile 'theology'
in Acts 17.25. The convictions and practices of these Gentiles demonstrate
their complete ignorance of God and his true nature. They are blind and in
darkness (Acts 26.18).
This last observation is supported by the contrast in this episode between
God, Jesus, Paul and Artemis: The goddess is portrayed by her own adherents as in need of attention and veneration by her keepers (the function
and call of Ephesus; cf. Acts 19.35), while in her stronghold God works extraordinary miracles through the human Paul for those she could not help.
Jesus himself sees to it - drastically and perceptibly for all- that his name is
not misused by those unauthorised to do so (cf.19.13-16).
4. Acts 19.28-34. Demetrius had not suggested a particular course of action
when he was interrupted by his colleagues' acclamation ofthe deity: 'Great is
Artemis of the Ephesians'.139 Following their furious shouts Ephesus filled
with confusion and rushed together to the theatre. 140 Chaos triumphed:
Some were shouting one thing, some another; for the assembly was in confusion and most ofthem did not even know why they had come together (v. 32).
Neither arguments nor information was needed or brought forward, nor was
this possible. The crowds are vividly portrayed as violent, fickle, susceptible
and unable to conduct an orderly assembly. While paul wished to address
them, neither Demetrius nor others, though likely to be present (v. 38; cf.
24.19f), stated their case. Though not necessarily aware of the religious origin
of this tumult (v. 32), when the crowds realised Alexander to be a Jew, and as
such not a follower of the goddess 141, they spontaneously responded with a
two hour long frantic unison acclamation as Demetrius' audience had done
previously. As with Paul's proclamation (Vs. 26-28), Alexander and all that his
identity might entail for the present case was simply screamed down rather

138 Compare the completely different approach to a similar challenge by the Jew GamaIiel (Acts 5.38f; c[ Darr, Character, 116-20).
139 Cf. Jessen, 2754. Xenophon Ephesius', Ephesian Tale 1.11 mentions the oath: 'I
swear to you by the goddess of our fathers, the great Artemis of the Ephesians' (Reardon, Novels, 135); examples of similar exclamations in Bruce,417.
140 Cf. Biirchner, 2616f and W. Alzinger, 'Ephesos B.H.e.Theater', RE S XII, 1625-29.
The crowds carried away with them (OlJVQQltutOl; cf. WB, 1566, Acts 16.19f!) the supposed culpables, indicating the tumultuous and violent nature of their action. Nothing is
said of their further treatment. Cr. our excursus on Luke's portrait of Gentile crowds
III.2.2.8.2.
141 Compare the full treatment in H.3.7.4., Klauck, Magie, 123; Strelan, Paul.

3. The Acts o/the Apostles

85

than refuted.1 42 Their reaction shows how Luke perceived the entrenchment
of idolatry among the Ephesians at large.
In these few verses Luke combines with masterly strokes Gentile greed,
the assumptions and practice of idolatry, rage, violence, chaos, rioting, antiJUdaism and pagan commitment and worship into a devastating scene and
portrait of Gentiles prior to faith.1 43 Such narrative portrayals of Gentiles
and their spiritual and moral-ethical condition must not be ignored in assessing Luke's view of them (cf. e.g. 1.2.2.3.3.).
This portrayal in toto and its individual components impinge on Luke's
assessment of the natural faculties of Gentiles. These Gentiles were far
from being able or willing to consider the Christian proclamation or the
correction presented in the Christian mission. They could not intelligently
address or respond to the challenge presented to them.
5. Acts 19.35-41. In his address to the excited crowds the Gentile YQuJ.LJ.LU"tElJ!; affirmed their convictions. In the light of the situation and the
concern he voices in v. 40, his effort probably did not have a different intention. l44 His position identifies him as an educated and cultured Gen142 Chrysostom comments: 'A childish understanding indeed! As if they were afraid,
lest their worship should be extinguished, they shouted without intermission .... Children indeed, these Greeks! And their feeling was as if by their voice they could reinstate
the worship of her, and undo what had taken place' (Homilies on Acts 42,259). Keith, 'Issues', 311 speaks of a ' ... totalitarianism of a public opinion which will brook no dissentient voices to the accepted ideology, if ideology is not too grand a word to denote what
was often an amalgam of diverse traditions. Sometimes this ideology would be little
more than an expression of local pride ... But the ideology was real enough - and woe
betide anyone who seriously threatened it!'
143 Cf. our discussion of Acts 19.13-17 in 111.2.2.12. and of 19.9-20 in 1Y.3.4.3. An exception is Luke's mention of some Asiarchs. They knew where to find Paul in this situation
and urged him not to appear in the theatre (similar to the action of the disciples, 19.31).
As Luke calls them cp[km of Paul, their warning arose from a real concern for Paul's
safety. Preventing confrontation with the culprit was not merely best policy in calming
down the commotion. Though these men 'from the noblest and richest families' (Haenchen, 574, n. 1) sympathized with Paul, they were not his converts or fellow Christians despite Paul's prolonged ministry. Luke does not mention the motivation for their action.
Schneider Il, 276f suggests why Luke mentioned these men and their intervention:
'Wenn also die Asiarchen ebenso wie die Christen Paul us vor dem Piibel im Theater
schlltzen wollten, hatten sie im Namen des Staatkultes - so will der Erzlihler sagen mindestens keine Bedenken gegen Paulus und seine Botschaft'. On the Asiarchs and
their duties see Kearsley, 'Asiarchs', who argues against any identification of their office
with high priestly duties (p.366,e.g. W.M. Ramsay, 'Asiarch', DB (H) I, 172). e.G. Brandis, 'Asiarches',RE 11, (1564-78) 1571.6-11 already argued Kearsley's case.
144 Luke does not specify the relations between personal convictions or piety, the demands of office and the necessity to diplomatically address the current situation in the
clerk's speech (ct. the above portrait of Demetrius). Whatever his personal convictions
may have been, his arguments - as intended to disperse the irregular assembly as presenting an apology for local religion - are portrayed as successful with the crowds.

86

Il. Gentiles prior to faith

tile.145 Next to Demetrius' speech this is the only other occasion of a Gentile prior to faith addressing matters of pagan religion146 and the major reply and defence of pagan concepts against the claims of the Christian proclamation as perceived by Gentiles. The clerk's arguments and their underlying notions deserve full attention. How does this unique piece contribute to
Luke's estimate of Gentiles prior to faith?
Acts 19.35. Everybody knows Ephesus to be the keeper of the temple of
the great Artemis and of 'the figure that fell from heaven'.
a) That gods have temples and human care takers of these temples
(vEwx6Qo~) is taken for granted. 147 This is the understanding criticised by
Paul in Athens (Acts 17.24f). Demetrius' charge against Paul's proclamation
(v. 26) is not related to other images in the city or to worship of such in general.
For anthropological conclusions from the great goddess and her human
guardians see also 19.27; CL II.3.8.3.b.
b) Demetrius' summary of Paul's proclamation (v. 26 -probably familiar
to the clerk; CL v. 38) and its application - for good reasons - by Demetrius
to Artemis are rejected: The statue kept and venerated in Ephesus was not
human-made (flu). XELQUlV YLv6IlEVO~)148 but was flLOl'tE't~~. Any claims to
the former were simply wrong.
This description of its provenance contains the name of another god. 149

Bauernfeind,235 sees him as 'tief im Heidentum'. Both defenders of paganism have obvious secondary (primary?) motives. The clerk was not only responding to the acclamation of the crowd but aware of the origin of this commotion (Acts 19.38).
14sFor his office cf. W.M. Ramsay, 'Ephesus', DB (H) I, (720-25) 723; O. SchultheB,
'rQUllllU"tEL; ILA.3 and B.3a', RE VIl,1747-55,1765f.
146 In Acts 24.2-8 the Gentile Tertullus addresses political matters and Jewish religious
notions; cf.11.3.9. The latter also applies to the letter of Claudius Lysias (Acts 23.26-30).
,
147 The clerk affirms what is known to the audience from the inscriptions and coins of
Ephesus. WB,1087list general references to the expression and several epigraphical occur\
rences of VEIIlKOQOS relating to Artemis and Ephesus. LSJ, 1172 define it as 'title assumed
~-_by Asiatic cities in Imperial times when they had built a temple in honour of their patrongod or the emperor, as Ephesus' and list further inscriptions; e[ K. Hanell, 'N eokoroi', RE
XVI, 2424f. For the variety of tasks and great number of people involved cf. Jessen, 2758-61.
148 cr. XELQOltol-rrto~ in Acts 7.48; XUQUYllU'tL 'texVTJ~ KUt EvihJll~~IIlS avfrQumou in
Acts 17.29. This statement is ironic: Demetrius' accusation of Paul to have attacked
'hand-made gods' was not even applicable in this case, thus the whole commotion was
unwarranted.
149 LSJ, 433 render &LOltE~S as 'that feU from Zeus': cf. the references in WB, 399. The
image was not "ovQuvo-1te~~ or oUQuvofu:v 'from heaven, down from heaven' (LSJ,
1273; cf. the prepositions used in conjunction with oVQUVOS to express the same idea).As
Luke 3.22 indicates that Luke can express this idea if so intended, [)WltE~, should be
taken as LSJ suggest. For the full expression et BDR 241.7, who suggest "to &WltE'tES
iiYaAlla (a statue in honour of a god), so also LSJ, 433. Jessen, 2762 renders 'direkt vom
Himmel gefallen' While mentioning that the first image was provided by one of the Amazons (2756). Dobschiltz's section on 'Die himmelentstammten Giitterbilder der Grie-

3. The Acts of the Apostles

87

According to the composition of this adjective, the figure 'fell from Zeus'. He
provided the Ephesians with an image of (his daughter) Artemis as their object of worship.1so The clerk's defence ofthis image was within a polytheistic
paradigm. While the goddess and her image are not identified with each
other, the origin of this image warrants its use as an object ofworship.lSl
With these words the Christian challenge and correction to their beliefs
was either rejected, ignored or declared to be irrelevant. Pagan beliefs, being considered undeniable facts (v. 36), were simply affmned rather than
defended. That this very occasion could arise and this self-evident rejection
could occur and continue to be convincing even after the prolonged and intensive ministry of Paul, including daily public instruction and extraordinary miracles (Acts 19.11f, 16), and its consequences (vs. 17-20), indicates
the deep roots of paganism. Not shaken by the events these Gentiles
proved immune to the correction presented to them.
Acts 19.37. A charge for the authorities to prosecute Gaius and Aristarchus (ct. v. 29) would have been sacrilege1S2 or blasphemy of the goddess.153
chen' (Christusbilder. 1-25) discusses IiLOnE1:~5; (1. n. 2f: 'Dem griechischen SprachgefUhl
scheint bei IiLl.:7tEni5; der Gedanke an den Himmel fast nllher gelegen zu haben als der an
Vater Zeus. Letzterer findet sich mit Bezug auf das Palladion ... daneben von Personen
mit cler Deutung = IiLOYEV~5; ... ; vg!. auch -frEonEJl.:7t"to5; ... Tatsllchlich Ilberwiegt der
physikalische Gedanke den mythologischen ..... also p.14 ). He comments on the Ephesian image (see the extensive notes on pp. 3-96*):' ... die Kultbilder vom rohen Meteorgestein, dem barbarisch geschnitzten Holzbilde bis zu den vollendetsten Meisterwerken
griechischer Kunst. stetig wechselten. wllhrend der Glaube an ihren himmlischen Ursprung erhalten blieb (p. 16; cf. pp. Uf). Diipetes ward eben ein Ehrenprlldikat. welches
man einem besonders verehrten Kultbilde erteilte, sei es dass ungewohnliches Alter oder
auch aussergewohnliche Schonheit dasselbe auszeichneten' (p.17).
150 For the relationship between and combination of both gods in mythology. genealogies of the gods and the widespread archaeological evidence. see K. Wemicke, 'Artemis.
RE ll. (1336-1440) 1369.24-56. Artemis was known as the wife and more commonly as the
daughter of Zeus (for her veneration in Ephesus cf. cols. 1372f). This traditional and wide
spread combination of both deities means that Luke's readers could have picked up this
reference.
1S1 This assessment of the image and of the flawed application of Paul's proclamation
might explain why Paul was able to minister unhindered for two years and why no official steps were taken against Paul and his co-workers after the tumult.
1S2 REB. WB, 758 also suggest a wider reference for leQ6C11JA05;: 'der. welcher ehrfurchtslose Handlungen gegen das Heiligtum verllbt' (following the examples adduced
by Latte, Recht, 83-86; cf. the inscriptions from Ephesus (nos. 12 and 13); 1os. bell Iud.
y'13.6 562; G. Schrenk, Th WNT 1lI, 254.31-256.7; T. Thalheim. "1EQoCl1JALa5; YQa!Jl~', RE
VIII. 1589-90). This is likely, as theft (NRSV 'temple robbery') of holy items or temple
funds would be expressed differently (xAonTj tEQWV XQ'I]flcm.ov; cf. the discussion in 1.
Pfaff. 'Sacrilegium', RE I A, (1678-81) 1678). W.M. Ramsay. 'Churches. Robbers of, DB
(H) I,441 suggests: 'guilty neither in act nor in language of disrespect to the established
religion of our city'. Cf. the Jewish charge in Acts 6.13;21.27-30;24.6.
153 Cf. H.W. Beyer. ThWNT I, 620.24-31. As the men mentioned were earlier identified
as Cl"\JVE)(Ii~flO1J5; (rather than e.g. Cl"\JVEQY05;) and did not feature as Paul's co-workers

88

I!. Gentiles prior to faith

The former indicates once more that for this pagan understanding people
need to watch over the reputation and sanctity of the goddess' dwelling
(see above).
Aware of and identifying who started the riot, the official - not without
criticism - summoned Demetrius and other artisans to proper proceedings
(courts, proconsuls, official charges, regular assemblies). That all these recognised conventions and institutions would have been available casts further shadow on the events recorded previously. 154 The clerk's consideration
that the cause of the artisans and what became of it could not justify this
commotion155 might indicate his distance or main concern his.
This episode of resistance describes the appeal of Demetrius, the reaction of his colleagues, the loud, rash (v. 36) and violent reaction of the
crowds and the calm, enlightened response of the clerk. Despite sharp differences, these Gentiles from all levels of society, a representative selection
of Ephesians, shared their staunch adherence to pagan convictions and
their (ensuing) rejection of the Christian proclamation (exc. 19.31). That
this was done for different reasons, like~r'ferent levels of personal involvement and participation and (cf. the contrast between the crowds and
the clerk) differently expressed in word and action - not necessarily with
mutual approval, v. 36 - is only to be expected.
3.9. Acts 24.6,14-16

1\vo details in Luke's report of Paul's trial before Felix give indication of
the Gentile understanding of religion.
1. Acts 24.6. In Jerusalem Paul was accused of defiling the temple (xoworo,
Acts 21.28).156 Allegedly he did so by bringing Greeks with him to this holy
place. Before Felix, a Gentile governor, the Gentile attorney also tried to
previously (such as Barnabas or Silas) it is impossible to assess the clerk's second claim.
He referred to these men, not to Paul whose ministry some local Gentiles considered
blasphemous (v. 26).
15' On several occasions Luke refers to the legal institutions of the Roman Empire.
Next to some positive reports of their implementation and proper functioning (e.g. Acts
21.31-23.35) are many instances of moral-ethical failure of those administering justice
within this order, whatever the merit of the system itself may indicate (cf. Rapske, Paul;
Tajra, Trial).
155 Cf. W.M. Ramsay, 'Ephesus', DB (H) I, (720-25) 723 and C.G. Brandis, 'Asia. 3', RE
Il, (1538-62) 1551 for the legal consequences of spontaneous tumultuous assemblies. For
the clerk's moderating response cf. Acts 5.34-39. Luke's description of the Christian
meeting in Troas (Acts 20.7-12) contains several contrasts to the pagan assembly in
Ephesus.
156 Cf. F. Hauck, ThWNT Ill, 810.24f: 'im at.lichen Sinn der dinglichen Heiligkeitsvorstellung profanieren'.

3. The Acts of the Apostles

89

accuse Paul of attempting to profane the temple, which was a serious matter in Gentile eyes. 157 Bruce suggests that 'here the Gentile term ~E~T]A6{J)
is used in addressing Felix'.158 The accusers expected Felix to take allegation of this offence seriously (in addition to those mentioned in v. 5) and intervene against Paul following Gentile convictions concerning the sanctity
of a sanctuary and the role of human guardians in ensuring and protecting
it (e.g. preventing sacrilege or blasphemy of the deity in residence; c(. Acts

19.27,35-37).1 59

IS7That Paul was said to have done so by bringing Gentiles in the temple was conven
iently omitted. For Roman legal definitions and regulations see I. Pfaff, 'Sacrilegium', RE
nAaE~da~ YQaq:>~', RE 1I, 1529-31 discusses incidents and
shows the 'Unbestimmtheit und Dehnbarkeit des Begriffes der Asebie' (1529.40-41),for
definition and range cf. col. 1529.43-58: Zunll.chst ist es nat!lrlich direkte Verletzung der
den Gllttern schuldigen Ehrfurcht, welche als solche betrachtet wurde, sei es, daB einer
sich an den ihnen geweihten Tempel, A1tll.ren, Bildern oder sonstigen Gegenstll.nden vergriff ... , oder die zu ihrer Verebrung gestifteten Feste und Gebrll.uche entweihte, ... oder
bei Vollziehung der Opfer den vorgeschriebenen Ritus nicht beobachtete ... oder die
Existenz der vom Staat anerkannten G!ltter in Frage stellte und ketzerische Ideen
liuBerte und verbreitete ... '. For the other charges against Paul see Rapske, Paul, 160-62.
Rapske observes that 'Thanks to Tertullus' masterful presentation, the charge and its
proofs appear to have been stripped of much of their distinctively Jewish or theological
character and reconstructed in such a way as to appeal to Roman legal sensibilities and
administrative concerns'.
158 p. 477; but compare the references to Jewish literature in WB, 277; Spicq I, (284-86)
284, n. 3. Rapske, Paul, 162 suggests that ~E~TJ).iiJaaL is fittingly chosen as it is more
broadly secular', and observes that 'Tertullus failed to explain what he meant'. Would
this have been necessary? Rapske indicates that such an explanation would not have
been advantageous at a Gentile court. Tajra, Trial, 123 also claims that the 'more secular
word ~EflTJ).6OJ is used as the setting is that of a Roman court of law', though both of his
examples are biblical with reference to the temple in Jerusalem (Ezek 23.38f; Matt 12.5).
F. Hauck's suggestion 'Entweihung ... im Sinne der at.lichen HeiJigkeitsauffassung'
(ThWNT I,605.10f) is unlikely on the lips of a Gentile addressing a Gentile.
IS9 Tertullus (Acts 24.6b) cleverly omits the tumultuous events recorded in Acts 21.30.
Felix would not only follow Gentile notions but also consider the poten tial such profanation would have for rioting in Jerusalem. In Tertullus' accusation of Paul some manuscripts (cf. NTG, 395, the discussion in Metzger, Commentary,490; BC W, 299f and Zahn,
776f; on Itala see Bruce, 477; also with references to Josephus) add the following different version of events between Acts 24.6 and v. 8: 'and we would have judged him according to our law. But the chief captain Lysias came and with great violence took him out of
our hands, commanding his accusers to come before you' (NRSV note). The violent action (fLEta 1tO)'Aij~ ~[as) ascribed to Lysias need not concern us as an instance of Gentile
moral-ethical failure, as Luke's readers are informed of the true circumstances of Paul's
arrest (Acts 21.30-36: Paul's arrest: btEAci.~Eto auto;:;, v. 33; ota -citv f\lav toii oX).ou, v. 35).
It is the Gentile Q~tOJQ Tertullus who - even more so in the variant reading - readily
twists the truth to establish the case of Paul's opponents through a false presentation of
the events. Bruce, 477 comments: ... the reproachful reference to the tribune's "great
violence" in resCUing Paul is an amusing travesty of the facts reported by Luke' (see

I A, 1678-81. T. Thalheim,

90

1I. Gentiles prior to faith

Adapting to Felix's Gentile understanding, Paul refuted the charge of


profanation, claiming that he was ,;yvLa~Evov (ayvt!;w, 24.18) involved in a
Jewish ritual and merely purifying himself. l60 His behaviour was fully appropriate for the venue, even praiseworthy, not attempted sacrilege.
2. Acts 24.14-16. Paul stressed before this Gentile that he worships the God
of the ancestors and believes 'everything laid down according to the law or
written in the prophets'. Paul decidedly identifies himself with Judaism, a
religion whose practice was recognised by Rome. 161
a) For this understanding, religion and its practice was a merely non-transcendent set of customs of certain people (et. Acts 16.21: il-&rj, III.2.2.10.3.) that
can be recognised or rejected by others and as such within the domain of imperial legislation. That their practic~ does or should reflect a relationship
with transcendent entities or that such is desirable was secondary. The antiquity of a religion, referred to in Pauljs mention of the ancient documents of
'the law and the prophets', made-fudaism more acceptable in Gentile eyes.
The antiquity of a religion mattered more than its truth.
b) Paul's testimony presents a marked contrast to this notion of religion.
Paul followed the God of the Jewish fathers, not their il'fhl. He was committed to documents of divine origin: Revelation 'established' the Jewish faith,
therefore it was beyond origin in human imagination and human approval.
In God's perspective there were righteous and unrighteous people (a5txoc;,
not aaE~r,c;). Criteria of divine assessment transcend obedience to customs,
cult regulations or cult related offences (Acts 24.6; cf.19.26f.37) but address
concrete moral-ethical behaviour. The eschatological events demand a
clear conscience, again emphasising behaviour. Later Felix realised that
Paul's proclamation was completely different from religion in this Roman
legal sense. It required personal commitment and radical changes in all areas of life to escape future judgement (Acts 24.24f; cf. III.2.2.13.).

Bruce,477 on Tertullus' use of the word blQa-n,oafLcv to describe the Jewish procedure
and also for Lysios' presentation of 'the details of the incident to his own advantage' in
Acts 23.27,p.472).
160 Cf. Acts 21.26. For Graeco-Roman usage and notions see F. Hauck, ThWNT I,
123.10-17 and WiIliger, Hagios. Ct Schneider n, 349; Rapske, Paul, 163; Tajra, Trial,128:
'He was observing a prescribed Jewish rite in full accordance with the Law's precept.
Paul rejects the charge of defiling the sanctity of the temple as totally unfounded'. On
this passage, Paul's trial before Festus (Acts 25.23-26.32, III.3.2.1.3.) and the trial of Jesus
(Luke 23.1-25, 11.2.1.2.2.-3.) ct G. Holtz, Der Herrscher und der Weire im Gesprach: Studien zu Form, Funktion und Situation der neutestamentlichen Verhorgespriiche zwirchen
jUdischen Weisen und Fremdherrschem, Arbeiten zur neutestamentlichen Zeitgeschichte
6 (Berlin: 1nstitut Kirche und Judentum, 1996).
161 Bruce, 479j Tajra, Trial, 13,127.

3. The Act!" of the Apostles

91

3.10. Acts 2Z29

Luke reports that during the fourteenth night the sailors suspected that the
ship was nearing land. In fear of running against a rocky shoreline they lowered anchors. This done, the sailors T]U!;oV"to for daylight. How should E'iixo~aL be translated? LSJ offer two different translations.1 62 Zahn presents
one option and translates: ' ... und den Anbruch des Tages herbeisehnten'163,
similarly Smith: 'wished' and were anxiously 'longing for day'.1 64 In contrast, the NRSV presents the dictionary's other option and translates 'and
prayed for day to come'.l65 Marshall combines both possibilities: 'to long
and pray for light to appear' .1 66 Though a certain conclusion is probably impossible, we believe this undecided matter can be taken further.
W. Kroll's entry on ancient navigation mentions the dangers involved
and surveys various religious responses to them: Safety on the sea was
sought through sacrifices before departure, vows were made before the
journey or in moments of great danger and prayers and sacrifices offered
to the gods of the sea.1 67 'Es wird Sitte, bei drohendem Schiffbruch sein
Haar den Gottern zu weihen' .1 68 Votive gifts of those surviving shipwrecks
are known.1 69 Once a journey was completed sacrifices of gratitude were
presented.

161'EUxollaLl.1-3', 739; cf. H. Greeven, ThWNT Il, (774-806) 774-76.


163 P. 835f. Others are e.g. Pesch, Weiser, Meyer, Bruce, Bauernfeind, Schneider, BC IV.
The alternative meaning is not even discussed. Greeven notes that EiiXOllaL appears also
'isoliert, so daB man keine religiose Beziehung anzunebmen braucht, wenn sie auch
moglich ist'. On the occurrence in Acts 27.29 he comments 'ohne daB damit gesagt wlire,
die sehnsllchtige Erwartung des Tageslicbtes hlitte in Gebeten oder Gel!lbden Ausdruck
gefunden (776.21-23). Rackham, 489 also translates 'longing for day', yet comments in n.
1: 'The Greek word primarily means praying: Here it must denote the ardent longing for
the dawn, which they could hardly have hoped to accelerate by prayer'.Whetber desperate sailors would have entertained such rational consideration is questionable.
16<4 Voyage, 130, 134. Rapske, 'Acts', 34 has 'waiting'.
165 So also NEB and REB. For pagan prayer cf. Greeven, 776.29-782.15; cf. Th WNT
X.2, 1091-93; HeiIer, Prayer, 74-86; Stengel, Kultusaitertamer, 78-82; E. von Severus, 'Gebet I. A.I-lI', RAC VIll, (1134-1258) 1134-62 and O. Michel, 'Gebet II (Ftirbitte). 11.
Griechiscb-Romisch', RAC IX, 11-13.
166P.412.
167 'Schiffahrt. 4. Gefabren', RE Il.A, (407-19) 412-14, here 413.55-414.9 (with references); ct. the material in Stengel, Ku!lusaitertUmer, 135 (cf. his n. 10) and W. Kroll,
'Seeraub', RE lI.A, 1036-42.
168 Col. 413.13-15. Vows of thank-offerings also occur in Jonah 1.16 (after the storm
ceased).
169 Col. 413.lf: 'In der Praxis waren sie ofiers von Bildem des Unfalles und der gtittlichen Hilfe begleitet'. Compare the inscription from the temple of Pan in EI-Kanais
(Cll II, no. 1537): 'Praise be to God, Theodotus (son of) Dorion, a Jew, saved from the
sea', according to HengeIlSchwemer,Paui, n. 399. Josephus has the distressed sailors 'vow

92

Il. Gentiles prior 10 faith

Pagan notions and practices permeated the seafaring of Gentiles prior to


faith. An ancient sea journey was a religious undertaking. Therefore it is
more than likely that the Gentile sailors on Paul's ship prayed, especially in
view of the prolonged desperate situation described in detailPo In this lifethreatening moment they looked for supernatural help.l11
Some of the possible literary precedents to Luke's account also suggest taking lliil(o~UL
as a reference to prayer.l~ Jonah was commanded by the Gentile captain to call on his
god (Jonah 1.6). Once told who is behind this storm (vs. 9f) the sailors cried out to the
Lord (v. 14). Following the ceasing of the storm they feared the Lord with great fear, sacrificed sacrifices an~rayed prayers (eii!;uVl:o EUl(UC;, 1.16).17J On Acts 27.29b Bruce re-

\
thank-offerings (l(UQ;T]QLOUC;) if they escaped the sea' (ant. lud. IX.I0.2 209). Their
response (prayer, casting lots; cl. Josephus' note: 'they began to suspect, as is natural - wC;
EvOEXE1:UL, so the translation of R. Marcus -, that one of the passengers was the cause of
the storm .. .', elc.) is indicative of the religious overtones of ancient seafaring. The religious significance of ancient seafaring is also indicated by the fact that some ships were
named after deities; compare the lists of known ship names in E Miltner, 'Seewesen', RE
S V, (906-62) 947-56. It contains the gods Castor and Pollux (cols. 953, 955) but not the
combination liLOmtOuQoL (cl. Acts 28 ..11), but cf. col. 947.26f.
170 Compare Aelius Aristides' account of a storm at sea (Orationes 48.62, mentioned
by Kroll, 'Schiffahrt', 412.36f; cl. H. Gartner, 'Aristeides. 3', KP I, 557-59) in which sailors,
thinking that they and their ship would be lost, sprinkled ashes on their heads. Parallels
to Acts 27 are listed by van der Horst, Aelius Arislides, 43f
171 Cf. Luke 8.24; Pss 107.23-32; 18.16; 104.7; 106.9; Nah 1.4; SchUrmann 1,473-79.
l7Z Bruce, 'Acts!ANRW', 2578 suggests that the account of the shipwreck shows 'some
dependence on the Septuagint account of Jonah's abortive Mediterranean voyage
(Jonah 1.4ff)'; for a more general discussion see Rosner, 'Acts'. For parallels in GraecoRoman accounts see Robbins, 'We-Passages' and 'Land', 217-34 and the essays of R.P'C.
Hanson, D. Ladouceur, R. Merkelbach, G.B. Miles - G. Trompf and P. Pokorny listed by
Weiser, 363; cf. Rapske, 'Acts', (22-47) 43-45.
173 On the threefoldjigura etyrnologica see BDR 153. In Luke's account Paul appears
almost as a contrast figure to Jonah. Compare the description of the sailors in the
pseudo-Philonic sermon De Jona 28-54 and in Ios. ant.lud. IX.10.2 209-12. Josephus
clearly pictures the sailors at prayer (EUXa.C; E;tOLQ"iiV1:o). De Jona also depicts the sailors
as praying: 'Nun lieS der Steuermann das Ruder los und die Seeleute ihre sonstigen
Gerate, und sie breilelen die HiJnde aus ,urn Gebet. Doch auf ihr Gebet hin beruhigte
sich der Sturm keineswegs ... ' (28). However, it is difficult to discern whether the author
sees the sailors as Gentiles. Siegert, 'Heiden' ,54 also notes that neither the sailors nor the
Ninevites are called Gentiles. Though Jonah asks for the ship's destination, the reference
to Tarshish (Jonah 1.3) is omitted (24). When Jonah finally arrives in Nineveh, the
preacher simply says' ... gelangte er zu den Menschen' (102).
Their gesture of prayer points in either direction. E. van Severus, 'Gebet 1', RAC VIII,
(1134-1258) 1167 notes on Jewish posture and gestures:' ... vor allem betete man wie im
ganzen Orient und im antiken Mittelmeerraum mit ausgespannten und erhobenen Hlinden. On Graeco-Roman customs he writes: 'Wie bei den Griechen (s.o. Sp. 1141.1143)
war auch bei den Rllmern das Erheben der ausgestreckten Hlinde der alltllglichste und
einfachste Gebetsgestus ... ', col. 1158. Different from the LXX (&VE~O(J)V eKUITtOC; 7tQOC;
1:QV ihQV U\J1:WV, Jonah 1.5) the deity they addressed is not identified as pagan (d
Siegert, 'Heiden', 54). However, the sailors charge Jonah: 'Los, steh auf, schUttle den

3. The Acts of the Apostles

93

fers for the idea to Homer: 'many of the concepts, and in some respects much of the
wording, of the Odyssey became part of a literary tradition in nautical matters'.'74 These
references indicate that in the Odyssey navigation is overloaded with religious ritual and
symbolism and accompanied by prayer.''' This would not necessarily be the case in the
first century A.D., nor likely to occur in everyday navigation among professional and less
eloquent sailors. However, it is likely that this rich heritage should surface in exceptionally drastic circumstances and determine behaviour.
The reference in Acts 28.11 to the figurehead of the Dioscuri, the 'unzertrennliches
Ritterpaar in jeder Not, zumal in Kampf und Sturm'176 and recognised 'HeIfer in
Seenot'177, possibly indicates the gods to whom the sailors prayed.

Schlaf ab und bete zu deinem Gott' (35; cf. LXX: ErcLKaAoii 'tov (}eov cr01!). The use of the
possessive may suggest that Jonah's god was different from theirs.
The sailors are credited with spiritual perception: 'Nun sahen die Lenker des Schiffes
ein, daB das Gebet durch SUn den vereitelt wurde, und sie strengten eine Untersuchung
an iiber die Taten jedes einzelnen' (41; cf. Siegert's conclusions in 'Heiden', 54). God revealed Jonah's secret to the captain of the ship (44) and used the casting of lots through
the sailors: 'So wird Gott durch das Los /rommer Manner zum Richter' (46).
Before throwing Jonah over board, they assure him: 'Nun sind wir aber nicht begierig,
guter Mann, jemanden sterben zu sehen oder gar, wie manche geborenen Rohlinge, uns
an der grausamen Hinrichtung eines Menschen zu weiden. Wir wo lien nur das Unheil
abwenden, das uns rings umlauert' (48; cf. Luke's ~6:Q~aQoL in Acts 28.2,4). This comparison does not - unlike that in Luke 12.30 - refer to Gentiles, which might be expected of
Jews. They do not call on God or deities as their witness: 'Zeugen sind der schwarze Himmel Uber uns und die freundliche Erde mit ihrem festen Boden;Zeuge ist das Meereselement, das dies en Sturm IIber uns brachte' (50; cf. OT instances where elements of nature are called upon as witnesses, e.g. Deut 4.26; 30.19; 31.28; 32.1; Isa 12; Mic 6.lf; however H.W. Wolff,Dodekapropheton 4: Micha, BKAT X1V/4 (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1982), 146f also notes this feature in Canaanite inscriptions).
The sailors go on to justify their impending action: 'Nicht weil wir Rauber oder Unmenschen waren, werfen wir einen aus dem Schiff; wir gieren auch nicht nach deinem
Gepllck' (51; cf. Acts 28.2). They continue 'Doch ist uns, die wir aus /remder,feindlicher
Hand schon 6fters lebendig entkommen sind, der elende Tod hier auf dem Schiff keine
unabweisbare BUrde des Schicksals' (51). The combination offremd andfeindlich is possible on the lips of Gentiles and of Jews (cf. O:iJ.OYEV~\; in Luke 17.18, ;EvO\; in Acts
17.18,21, ciiJ.6tQLO\; in Acts 7.6; 1 Clem. 7.7 says of the Ninevites: ciiJ.O'tQLOL "toii (}EOii
OV'tE\;). The same holds true for their wish: 'Moge ein Engel der Unterwelt od er vieIleicht
sogar ein stummes Seeungeheuer deine Seele anvertraut bekommen' (52; cf. 1. MichI,
'Engel I (heidnisch)" RAC V, (53-60) 55f 'Angeloi der Unterwelt' and idem, 'Engel IT
GUdisch)'. RAC V, (60-97) 76f 'Engel bei Tod und Gericht'.
m Acts, 523; e.g. IlI.158f, 178; 1'1.360-66.473-80; IX.142f; XIII.50-55; cf. also Bruce,
'Acts/ANRW', 2578.
175 On prayer in Homer ef. E. von Severus, 'Gebet I'. RAC VIII, 1139-41.
176 E. Bethe, 'Dioskuren', RE V, (1087-1123) 1087.29-31; cf. H. v. Geisau, 'Dioskuroi',
KP 11, 92-94.
177 Bethe, 1096.55f (cf. col. 1094.17-59). From the fifth century this side of their function
comes to the foreground; cf. W. Kraus, 'Dioskuren', RAC Ill, (1122-38) 1131; Jaisle,
Dioskuren and v. Geisau, 93 for literary references to this predominant function. We return to these deities in III.2.2.14.

94

lI. Gentiles prior to faith

Provided this is the right meaning of Luke's EUX,OflUt, this is Luke's only example of Gentiles at prayer.
a) Unlike some of Luke's previous portrayals of Gentile religion, this
note may indicate a personal relation of Gentiles with their gods. They consider them present, listening to their pleas and able to intervene, and expect
them to do so. Their prayer is mentioned only at the most dire moment.
b) But the account continues. Following their prayers the sailors became
active and under pretext tried to set out at night to escape from the ship.
Apparently their prayers for daylight did not provide the needed assurance. The action may indicate doubt that the deities addressed would interveneps The sailors whose skills alone could possibly save the whole ship
were concerned only about their own survival and ready 'so ihren Schiffsherm; das Militiir nebst den 'iibrigen Passagieren und das Schiff selbst
ihrem ~;hicksal zu tiberlassen'.179 Their religious convictions and prayers
did not rffect their actions. Their prayer and behaviour is in contrast to
Paul's c;oncern and action in Acts 27.33-36. Paul's prayer and symbolic
breakmg and eating of bread in the presence of all encouraged everybody
.
and made them eat.
3.11. Acts 28.4-6
1. The natives of Malta showed the shipwrecked travellers unusual kindness in kindling a fire and welcoming all around it. ISO As Paul laid wood on
the fire, a viper fastened itself on his hand. The 'barbaric' islanders lSI
ascribed this event to the efficacy of the goddess of Justice: 'This man must

178 Chrysostom, Homilies on Acts 53, 316 notes that their action indicates their disbelief of Paul's prediction (Acts 27.24).
179 Meyer, 452. He continues' ... wie leicht lilsen sich bei gemeinen GemUthern in soIchen Lagen lebensgef!1hrlicher Ungewissheit die Bande der Treue und Pfiicht, wenn auf
Kosten derselben eine sichere Rettung eriangt werden kann'. Chrysostom, Homilies on
Acts 53,317 calls the sailors 'a reckless sort of people'.
180 For the location of the island see Rapske, 'Acts', 37-43. For the presence or absence
of snakes on the island and their kind see Smith, Voyage, 148f,65f; cf. H. Gossen, A. Steier,
'Schlange (zoologisch)" RE II A, (494-520) 497.3847. On ancient beliefs of their perilous
nature see cols. 498-500, for their significance as omen cf. cols. 507f and in popular belief
cols. 517f. The ExLOVct is treated in cols. 537-43.
181 With the expression ~a!!~ct!!OL Luke indicates that these were uneducated people;
cf. W. Ruge, 'Barbaroi', RE II, 2858.50-63; Smith, Voyage, 163-65; Pesch 11,297. In light of
Luke's presentation elsewhere Bruce's statement (532): 'Only ~a!!~ct!!ol., in Luke's
judgement, would say anything so foolish' is inappropriate. The scope and intensity of
Gentile religion is not correlated with status or education. In addition, these Gentiles are
portrayed as thinking of I'l.lxl], not of one of their autochthonous deities; cf. H. Baiz,
EDNT 1,198; J.JUthner, RAC I, 1173-76; W. Speyer, 1. Opelt, 'Barbar',JAC 10, 1967,25190.

3. The Acts of the Apostles

95

be a murderer; for though he has escaped from the sea, "Justice" has not allowed him to live' (28.4).
6.LKT] was a personified abstract deity associated with vindication.1 82 The
goddess pursues 'the wrongdoers and takes revenge for crimes that have
gone undetected and unpunished by humanjudges'.183
a) The Gentile islanders believed in this deity, her presence and intervention in human affairs, therefore it was impossible to escape divine judgement. 184 A common event, like the snake bite, was immediately interpreted
within their pagan frame of reference and associated with one deity of the
pantheon.185 The existence and power of these gods to accomplish their purposes is presupposed. 186 The idolatrous disposition ofthese people is evident.
b) Following their own paradigm, these Gentiles completely misjudged
Paul. Paul was not only not a murderer but had been fully vindicated by
God in the previous narrative (ct. Acts 27.9-11,21-26,44) and been commissioned and authenticated as God's servant. God already had announced
that Paul would arrive in Rome (23.11; 27.24).
c) Within the context of complete spiritual failure, Luke reports the islanders' ov 't~v 'tuxoiiaav qJLAav1'tQwnLav (28.2). Such reception of shipwrecked
travellers was not obvious. W. Kroll notes one potential reception: 'Auch dem,

182 E. Berneker, 'Dike', KP Il, 24-26 summarises and explains the origin and development of this personification. See also Latte, Religionsgeschichte, 300,321-24; Nilsson,
Geschichte 1,343,589,711,714,776 and on personification p. 20lf,21l,488 and Zeit, 198200. Nielsson, Geschichte II,347 also mentions the abstract deities of Dikaiosyne, Eleos,
Homonoia, Pronoia and from an Orphic hymn collection Dike, Nomos, Eniautos, Penteteris and Arete. Cf. G. Schrenk, ThWNT II, (180-83) 183.20f,48f; Hirzel, Themis,56-227;
O. Waser,RE V,574-78.A similar case of personification was the mistaken 'Avcl!naa~ in
Athens, Acts 17.18.
183 P.W. van der Horst, 'Dike', DDD, (476-80) 479: 'The people ... evidently draw from
the fact that Paul was attacked by a deadly poisonous reptile the conclusion that the goddess of justice has finally caught up with him'. Paul's survival has been seen as part of
Luke's strategy to vindicate Paul; et. the discussion of these proposals and further criticism in Rapske, 'Acts', 43-46.
184 Their conviction is not necessarily wrong (cf. Luke 13.3-5). It becomes problematic
once such justice is no longer an attribute of God but a deified principle of its own. The
often adduced inscription of the poet StatylIius F1accus (e.g. by Pesch n, 298, n. 10; cf.
AGr Il, 1957, VII, no. 290) offers a parallel in that somebody who escaped from the sea
was bitten to death by a snake. In the section quoted by Pesch this event is not explained
with reference to t.tXl]. Anticipated divine retribution might explain the reaction of the
Philippian jailer, Acts 16.29; cf. Pesch 11,116.
185 Against Cluysostom,lfomilies on Acts 54, 321.
186The presence of diseases which remained to be healed by Paul and his God did not
impinge on their convictions. If a goddess was quick to intervene against a murderer, why
did she or other gods fail to deliver their devotees from such suffering? This is a recurring observation; cf. Acts 8.6-10, 11.3.4.4.; 19.11f. Even after Paul had successfully addressed these diseases there was no spiritual response (cf. 1112.2.15.1.).

96

II. Gentiles prior to faith

der glUcklich an die Kiiste gelangt war, drohten weitere Gefahren von Strandriiubern' .187 Spiritual failure and moral-ethical demeanour are not necessarily linked.l 88
However, their CfJLAuv{}Qw:n;iu should not be overestimated. With 276
people landing on their shores, including soldiers, the rural islanders were
likely to be outnumbered and did not have much of a choice but to show
hospitality (despite Acts 27.33). Possibly their behaviour was not based on
humanitarian concerns l89 but derived from their belief in .1.ixTJ: should they
fail to perfonn their duties of hospitality, the ever present goddess might
turn against them.
2. But Paul suffered no hann.1 9o After waiting and seeing that contrary to
their expectations, nothing unusual happened, the islanders changed their
minds. Yet the presumed murderer, now vindicated, was not simply recognised as an innocent man but taken to be the appearance of a god, who
through his survival of the bite had provided proof of his immortality.
a) Just as Dike was thought present and active among them, this event
\\was likewise interpreted in pagan categories. Bauemfeind comments:
___ ~'

Urn das qeschick des seltsamen Fremdlings zu deuten, mUssen die Einwohner weit
ins Metaphysische greifen; das ist bezeichnend, wenn ihre Vorstellungen auch lediglich urn heidnische Giittergestaiten kreisen.19I

187 'Schiffahrt',RE Il.A, (407-19) 413.24-26; compare the reference to robbers in Robbins, 'Land', 222 and the Roman legal regulations in E. Weiss, 'Naufragium', RE XVI,
1898f. Tertullian reports how donations of Christian communities were also used to support shipwrecked persons (item naufragis, Apologeticum 39). To adduce this in his apology, such help must have been an unusual expenditure among non-Christians. With reference to Jiithner,Hellenen, Schille, 471 speaks of a 'Motiv der freundlichen Aufnahme bei
Barbaren'. I could not ascertain this claim. Dio Chrysostom (Euboica, Oratio 7.2-10)
provides a fine parallel of friendly reception following a shipwreck. The crew of the
wrecked boat was immediately received by fishers. Dio followed the native hunter whom
he met on the beach without fear of any treachery (7.8; on his offer of hospitality, see
Norden, Theos, 313. p. 83, n. 181). Cf. the scruples Josephus (ant. lull. IX.10.2 212) ascribes to the Gentile sailors in throwing overboard Jonah, 'who was a stranger and had
entrusted his life to them'.
188 Though Chrysostom,Homilies on Acts 54,321 in his over-positive assessment of the
islanders rightly notes that they did not assail Paul, neither did they come to his aid after
the bite; cf. GossenlSteier, 500.29-504.53 for the various treatments of snake bites known
and applied in the ancient world. This is in striking contrast to Paul's subsequent healing
ministry (Acts 28.8f) and the previous examples of Christian response to disease and accident (Acts 3.2-8; 20.9-11). For positive reference to Gentile moral-ethical behaviour in
28.7,10 cf. III.2.2.15.1, IV.3.4.6.
189 Chrysostom, Homilies on Acts 54, 321.
190 Cf. ancient descriptions of the symptoms following the snake's bite, summarised by
GossenlSteier, 540. Paul's ministry on the island (Acts 28.7-10) and the islanders' continued spiptual failure is treated in III.2.2.15.
191P.277.

4. Conclusion

97

Such categories were immediately and consistently applied. Both, the initial
assessment and the revised estimation of Paul (now a god like Dike or others), indicate how mistaken Gentiles could be. When forced by the course of
events to revise their earlier incorrect assessment, the result was not closer to
the truth, but rather more blasphemous and idolatrous. The miracle was recognised but not appreciated as a correction or challenge to their notions
(e.g. concluding to Paul's innocence or divine protection). Rather it was interpreted in accordance with and to affirm these notions. This recurring observation restrains optimism concerning Gentile natural faculties.
Though the islanders thought Paul to be a god, neither acclamation nor
intention and/or preparation to worship is mentioned as in Acts 12.22 or
14.11.192 Paul received no further attention, nor were his services required.
Only after the random healing of Publius' father other sick islanders came
to be cured (28.9). As readily as his divinity was acknowledged, as easily
was recognition or veneration of him as such neglected. As nothing was
done about a murderer in their midst (<pOVEU~; et <p6vo~ in Luke 23.19,25),
nothing happened when the same man turned out to be divine.
b) For these Gentiles a boundary between humans and (a multiplicity of)
gods is non-existent or at best fluid. This indicates their lack of apprehen.
sion of the true God, of humanity and their relation to each other.193

4. Conclusion

Luke describes a wide range of Gentiles prior to faith who differ in time,
national and ethnic background, social status, education and level of civilisation. The amount and nature of what Luke mentions of these Gentiles is
subject to his main purposes. Except for the general statements in Luke
12.29f and Acts 4.25f, our conclusions must be based on his portrayal of specific Gentiles. This has two consequences: a) Not all the strokes of this portrait necessarily apply to all Gentiles; some may even appear self-contra-

112 Neither is there the typical reaction of the missionaries to divine acclamation (cf.
Acts 14.14f). Pesch (1l,298) suggests: 'Ihr Urteil wird nieht ausdrucklich korrigiert wohl auch deshalb, weil es weiter keine Folgen zeitigt', more likely such reaction is lacking because their deliberations were unknown to Paul. See F. Pfister, 'Epiphanie', RE S
IV, (277-323) 316-19 for pagan responses to epiphanies. In light of these examples the
apathy of the islanders is surprising.
193 Cf. W.M. Ramsay, 'Religion of Greece and Asia Minor' ,DB (H) V, (109-56) 154. For
further conclusions see 11.35. Luke's two other cases of Gentile identification of humans
as divine in connection with a miracle (Acts 14.10f; 16.26-30; et Pfister, 312-14 for pagan
examples) will be treated in 1II.2.2.

98

Il. Gentiles prior to faith

dictory. b) Because Luke does not judge all Gentiles alike and allows for diversity, his portrait appears true to life. Luke allows for exceptions.
Despite the limited evidence and its diverse nature, Luke's Gentiles still
share some common characteristics. Our conclusions from Luke's direct
references to his view of Gentiles prior to faith can be summarised under
some closely interrelated headings.
1. Ignorance of God
The religious practices of Gentiles with their underlying assumptions (see
2.) and their lifestyle and behaviour bear witness to their ignorance of God
and their lack of revelation. Gentiles are explicitly labelled as devoid of
special revelation (not having the 'Law'; Acts 2.23). Only through God's initiative and servants did Gentiles receive or come to receive what they did
not have themselves (Luke 4.26; 11.30,32) and could not obtain elsewhere.
They did not know of, or experience, the provision, revelation and salvation
Israel had through prophets like Elijah and Jonah or in Solomon's wisdom
(11.31). Even Israelites quickly became again like the Gentiles once the impact of their encounter with God faded (Acts 7.39-43). What Gentiles
lacked was beyond their reach. What revelation was given before the establishment of Israel (Luke 11.50) was lost or perverted. Their own wisdom
was of no avail in recognising or accomplishing God's purpose (Acts 7.22).
Not knowing God and his providential care, anxious concerns for material needs and efforts to ensure their own existence characterise Gentiles
(Luke 12.30). Such efforts become sinful when an expression of this failure
,_arulJ~dependence. Gentiles exemplify people so attached to this life, its activities~nd duties, as to forfeit or overrule spiritual sensitivity.
!
2. SpiritUal incapacity
In addition to or - possibly as a consequence - of their ignorance of God
Luke's description indicates the extent to which Gentiles prior to faith
were spiritually incapacitated. Gentiles misconceived the nature of God,
his worship and their relation to him and the nature of his rule over his
world.
2.1. Idolatry: Ignorance of God and his proper worship. Gentile ignorance of the true God and his proper worship and spiritual incapacity are
evident from the deities they knew and venerated instead. The theory and
practice of idolatry, the fabrication, presence and worship of idols witnesses
to and expresses this failure.
a) Gentiles of various nationalities and eras ofthe past and present (Acts
7.40-43; 19.23-37) shared this common denominator. In addition to handmade artefacts the created universe was worshipped (7.43). These deities
and their worship had a devout and fierce following and permeated all as-

4. Conclusion

99

pects of the Gentile world (Acts 15.20; 19.24-28,34-37; 28.4-6). Some Gentiles received a living from such worship (19.24-27); they and those in official positions are introduced as the staunchest supporters of idols.
Gentiles perceived their deities as dwelling among their worshippers
who had to keep them (Acts 7.43; 19.35; cf.17.24f,29). The gods were in the
hands and at the mercy of their human devotees, who raised and protected
their temples against defilement and enhanced the god's reputation. Every
sanctuary and the worship associated with it witnessed to the Gentile ignorance of the true nature of God. The futility of such worship or the inability
of their gods to intervene (7.41,48f; 19.35) or their other inadequacies
(19.12f; 27.20) were not recognised. The notions behind their worship and
its actual practice was in contrast to what God requires.
b) Linked to the ignorance of God and idolatry was the Gentile inability
or failure to distinguish between human and divine (Acts 8.9-11; 12.20-23;
19.35), as the perceived deities are so human - needing and appreciating
housing, attention and protection.
c) Their polytheism and idolatry was accompanied by magical practices
(Acts 8.9-11). Gentiles fell prey to magicians even though they failed to address their real needs (8.7).
2.2. Lack of positive references. In addition to Luke's description of the
Gentile failure and consequent spiritual condition, it has to be noted that
there are no positive indications for any genuinely Gentile recognition or
worship of God. The Gentiles who knew and feared God prior to the arrival of the Christian mission did so through the testimony and mediation of
the Jewish prophets or Judaism (cf. Y.1.8.). The Gentiles' incapacity to recognise God's nature expressed in his providential care is also evident from
their worried and anxious striving to ensure their own existence (cf. 114.1.)
2.3. Rebels against God. The spiritual condition of Gentiles prior to faith
is not only apparent from their ignorance and idolatry but also from their
rebellion against God and rejection of his purposes. a) Gentile nations are
portrayed in joint open rebellion against God and his rule (Acts 4.25f). The
nature of God's rule over them and its beneficiary character is not appreciated (cf. ayu{}ougywv ouguVO{}EV, 14.17). Its rejection led to other centres
of value and loyaJty.194 That Luke could re-apply and expand this estimation of Gentiles to the rejection of Jesus (4.27) indicates that he considered
this attitude and conduct a lasting characteristic. Because of their ignorance
of God's nature the futility of such attempts is not realised. The attempts
are indicative of previous failure to recognise God. b) The Gentile rejection
194 My thinking was enriched by Niebuhr's discussion (Monotheism,16-31), whose terminology I have employed. For the heading 'Rebels against God' cf E. Brunner, Man in
Revolt.A Christian Anthropology (London, New York: Scribner, 1939; trad. o. Wyon).

100

lL Gentiles prior to faith

of God's rule and purpose is also apparent in their anti-Judaism (ct. their
treatment of Jerusalem, Luke 21.24-28,112.7. and the discussion in Y.1.2.).
The behaviour of the _Gentiles in Luke 21.24-28 indicates their failure to
appreciate their role within God's history in ruthlessly over-stepping their
commission.
2.4. Response to challenge and correction. When confronted with special
revela tion (e.g. with Judaism or with miracles), such challenge and correction
oftheir convictions (Acts 16.16-21;19.26,33f;28.5f) was a) interpreted in their
own frame of reference to affirm their convictions (28.6; ct.14.10f); b) blindly
and on occasion violently rejected for different reasons (16.19; 19.24-28,34)
or refuted intellectually (16.20f; 19.35-37). In these responses their own notions or customs were decisively affirmed (16.21; 19.35f). These Gentiles
were blind to their true state and immune to its exposure and correction. Exceptions are the Ninevites and the God-fearers (cf. Y.1.8.).
In view of the plight of their ignorance and various spiritual failures and
their response, a solution consisting only of correction would be inadequate.
God's direct intervention is required for the salvation of such people.
3. Moral-ethical sin(s)
References to Gentile moral-ethical behaviour without connection to their
response to salvation are rare. 195 This dearth of negative and positive references to Gentile moral-ethical behaviour is due to Luke's subject matter.
3.1. In the context of idolatry fornication and greed appear (Acts
15.20,29; 19.24-27). The Gentile sailors intended to escape from the shlp to
save themselves, leaving the passengers to their fate. Other moral-ethical
failures mentioned or displayed in these direct references to Gentiles prior
to faith, like the violence against Jerusalem (Luke 21.24-28), the Egyptian
enslavement and ill treatment of the Israelite strangers in Egypt (miQOLKO(;,
Acts 1.6f}a~d the violent outbursts of anti-Judaism, are closely related to
and expressive of spiritual failure.
3.2. The spiritual failures of Gentiles do not necessarily entail moral-ethical failure. Luke also notes the unusually friendly reception given to Paul
and his companions on Malta (Acts 28.2).
4. Under divine claim and condemnation
a) Despite these deficiencies and failures Gentiles were under God's claim,
accountable to him and expected to meet his demands. Except for 'lYre and
Sidon, Luke indicates how God's demands were or could have been known
to them, namely through Noah, Lot, Jonah and Solomon. For their failures

195 Cf. Y.15. Where material included here has such connection, the incidents are considered in III.2.2.17.1.

4. Conclusion

101

these Gentiles came and come under temporary and eschatological divine
judgement (Luke 10.12-14; 11.30,32; Acts 7.7). That for this "XQLULS" Gentiles
will be resurrected emphasises their accountability.
b) In light of their failure before God and these judgements, Gentiles
need repentance and salvation. Gentile responses to divine judgement varied: While the Ninevites repented at Jonah's mission and proclamation (not
at their own insight; cf 2.2.), the contemporaries of Noah and Lot in their
carelessness and/or refusal to act did not become unsettled by the impending doom. They either failed to recognise their own precarious state (indicating the inadequacy of their natural faculties) or the summons to repentance, and with it the condemnation and correction of their previous attitude and behaviour was rejected.
c) In Luke's references to judgement over Gentile cities of the past no distinction is
drawn: either all the inhabitants were punished (explicit in Luke 17.29::n:civta~) or all repented. The evidence of later parts should clarify whether this lack of distinction is entirely or primarily due to the brevity and intention of these references or whether such
lack indicates that all Gentiles need repentance to escape judgement irrespective of the
variety among them.
d) In punishment for her apostasy Israel was given over to idolatry (Acts 7.39-43).
Idolatry itself and God's continuing toleration of it may be an act of divine punishment.
Gentile idolatry may likewise be related to previous punishment for their apostasy. Possibly such apostasy, punishment and idolatry impinge on the Gentiles' spiritual capacities
for them to no longer perceive the true state of affairs and the futility of their idolatry.

Though Luke mentions possessed Gentiles, the devil or demons are remarkably absent from these direct Lukan references to Gentiles. Gentile
failure and its various manifestations (e.g. the fierce devotion to Artemis,
Acts 19.27,34) is neither related to nor explained with recourse to such. 196
In this second part we have gathered what could be gleaned from what in
their majority are remarks 'in passing' on Gentiles. Already a fairly coherent portrayal of their state has emerged. Nevertheless, as the condition and
plight of Gentiles is not Luke's main concern, we could produce only a
torso. These initial impressions need supplement and correction through
clues from the more comprehensive and deliberate portrait of the Gentile
encounter with Christian salvation. What can be concluded from the remedy offered and the solution accomplished in salvation to the plight
thereby addressed? A vast field awaits us.

195 Cases of possession of Gentiles and of demonic manifestations will be treated in


part III; ct Luke 8.26-39; Acts 8.7; 16.16-18; 19.13-16; full conclusions in III.2.2.17.2.

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation


1. Introduction
Since Luke is not primarily interested in people's spiritual and moral-ethical condition prior to their encounter with the salvation which is his main
focus, it is not surprising that the former topic is only rarely directly addressed. Now we examine Luke's descriptions or remarks on the Gentile
encounter with salvation. neatment of the most extensive material for our
quest will be accomplished in two steps:

1. We start by looking at the instances where Gentiles encountered God's


salvation in their contact with John, Jesus and the Christian proclamation
through the Gentile mission. From these encounters we draw conclusions
as to the state of Gentiles prior to faith. How or why did Gentiles receive or
need to receive God's saviour and salvation? As only such conclusions are
our present interest, these encounters need to be examined only in so far as
they contribute to it. Again we follow the sequence of Luke's narrative
(ill.2.1. Luke's Gospel, 1lI.2.2. Acts).
2. We shall continue with Luke's statements relating to the salvation of Gentiles (III.3.). What does Luke directly or indirectly indicate on the state of
Gentiles prior to faith? Why, from what fate or condition, or from whom do
Gentiles need to be saved? What can be gathered from Luke's description
of divine and human activity in the Gentile appropriation of salvation to
shed light on their condition prior to faith? What does the nature of this salvation indicate for the plight it seeks to address? We shall include some
statements beyond the distinction Gentile-Jew, which - even when appearing in a Jewish context - also apply to the Gentiles.

104

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation


2.1. Luke's Gospel: contacts between Jesus and Gentiles 1
2.1.1. Gentiles and the ministry ofJesus
2.1.1.1. Luke 6.17-19

The Sermon on the Plain was delivered before people from 'all Judaea, Jerusalem and the coast of Tyre and Si don '. Marshall observes that 'the construction suggests that Jews from that area are meant, but "lYre and Si don
are so much a symbol of heathenism (10.13f.) that perhaps Gentiles are
meant'.2 Though Luke does not mention that the crowd wanted 'to hear the
word of God' (cf. 5.1), they came to hear Jesus, to be healed of their diseases and to be delivered from unclean spirits.
If Gentiles were among the crowds (at considerable distance from the
Phoenician :rtuQuA.tu), they overcame their own pride, possibly anti-Judaism, and the Jewish antipathies to receive what they themselves or other
Gentiles could not offer: the teaching of Jesus and his power to heal their
diseases and deliver them from unclean spirits (cf. Luke 6.18f). Such teaching they lacked; what they experienced though was disease and demonic
bondage against which they were helpless. 3 This possible mention of Gentiles may indicate their future receptiveness to the Christian mission. 4
2.1.1.2. Luke 7.1-10

A Gentile centurion5 employed Jewish elders to ask Jesus to heal his slave.
Probably he was not a God-fearer like Comelius (Acts 10.2), 'for when such
1 The incidents treated in this section include the contacts of Gentiles with Jesus in his
saving role (mainly in III.2.1.1.), but are not limited to those (cf. III.2.1.2.).
2 P. 242; et Evans, 322; more definite for Gentiles Fitzmyer, 624; Ernst, 165. Cf. Luke
4.14. Dahl, 'People', 324f argues against the inclusion of Gentiles because of the occurrence of ~a6~ in v. 17; cf. Luke 2.30-32; H. Frankemlme, EWNT II, (837-48) 839,2: 'Das
Bedeutungsspektrum vom~. reicht im NT van a) Yolk, BevlJlkerung, Leute, Volksmenge
... - ohne jegliche nation ale Nuance - !Iber b)~. als t.t. fIIr Israel als Gottesvolk .. .'. His
discussion of occurrences in Luke-Acts (843-45) misses Luke 6.17; cf. col. 845. Cf. also
King, 'Universalism'.
3 This conclusion reminds one of the assessment of Gentile wisdom in Luke 11.31;
Acts 7.22 and Simon's and the Samaritans'lack of power over diseases and unclean spirits, Acts 8.7; cf. Acts 14.8; 19.11f;28.8f. Luke 6.18 suggests that the Gentiles did not come
as mere spectators. Miraculous events or their report attract Gentile attention; cf. Luke
23.8; Acts 8.6-11; 28.9.
4 With Fitzmyer, 624; SchUrmann I, 321~ 266f.
S For his identity see Burchard, 'Matthaus', 278-88; Walaskay, Rome, 32-35. Burchard
(279) shows that the centurion was not a Jew (279; against Catchpole, 'Faith', 519, 527[,
539). Wegner also suggests Gentile identity (Hauptmann, 60-72,255-61,372-75; cf. pp. 6669 for Luke's other, definitely Gentile, centurions).

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

105

a title is applicable he (Luke) uses it'.6 Beyond his introduction as: 'worthy
of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built
our synagogue' nothing is said about his convictions. Nothing in the centurion's description as a man of 'friendship, respect for authority, and piety'
necessarily points to spiritual perceptiveness.7 Yet - though <pxOOOIlTJOEV
does not necessarily imply that he donated the building8 - such activity illustrates his uYCl3tTJ and sympathy with Jews. In not asking or demanding
Jesus to enter his house he displayed respect for Jewish customs. 9
The account follows Luke 6.17-49. Immediately after this sennon Jesus entered Capernaum (7.1). The centurion's request could be seen as a response in faith to this and similar teaching. He displayed some of the attitudes demanded by Jesus (6.20,27: ayrutQ'tE
'toilS exf}Qoils UJ.lWV .. ayrutfl. YCxQ'to E~OS ~J.lLV; cf. 7.51; 6.30,35,45), desired to hear a
word from Jesus and relied upon it (6.47). According to Luke's account a Gentile was the
first after the sennon to respond by trusting Jesus and believing in his intention and
power to save.

In considering himself unworthy of Jesus' intervention, he demonstrated


humility.10 He approached Jesus with a need which neither he nor others
could address and was commended for his exemplary faith that Jesus could
heal his servant through the mere power of his word. Luke may also relate
this faith to the previous miracles in Capernaum. ll Surpassing them, the
centurion recognised the absolute authority of Jesus and believed that Je6 Walaskay, Rome, 32 (for references see p. 83, n. 94); Wegner, Hauptmann, 261, n. 36;
Marshall,279.
7 Walaskay, Rome, 34; in contrast to the description of CorneIius in Acts 10.2,22.
WalaskaY,33 links the building of the synagogue to Augustan religious restoration. It is
doubtful whether Luke was aware of this.
s So F. Bovon, 348 (et. his nos. 23f; Bovon takes the officer to be a God-fearer) and
Walaskay, Rome, 32: 'wealthy enough to build a synagogue'. The centurion need not have
donated the funds to build the synagogue, he also could have ordered his soldiers to assist in the building of the synagogue. There is evidence that Roman soldiers were involved in the construction of buildings for civil purposes. Davies, 'Life', 329-331 lists various public works, including temples, erected by Roman soldiers and describes the duties
of a Roman commander towards the community.
9 In contrast to the Gentile 'employer' of the Jewish prodigal in Luke 15.15. Cf. Tannehill,Luke,114; Catchpole, 'Paith',535.
10 This confession is in contrast to the principle by which the Jewish delegates assessed
and recommended him, Luke 7.4f; cf. 18.9-14. This Gentile displayed a different attitude
from the demand for such a sign in Nazareth (4.23). His action is expressive of his care
and affection for his servant (et. Schllrmann I, 391; Marshall,279), not of other concerns
(e.g. financial loss through the death ofa valuable slave) and an example ofmora\Iy commendable behaviour of Gentiles.
11 Luke 4.23,31-41. These miracles answer the question raised by O'Rourke ('Military',
228): 'what would have moved a pagan to seek the help of a Jewish preacher and wonderworker?' Luke records several instances which suggest that supernatural events
made a strong impression on Gentiles, e.g. Luke 6.17-19?; 835,37; 11.30,32; 23.44-47; Acts
8.6-11.

106

llf. The Gentile encounter with salvation

sus could heal even when physically absent (Luke 7.7f; cf. 4.39f). His faith
amazed Jesus: 'Not even in Israel have I found such faith'.12 The report
does not include the officer's reaction to the healing, his salvation or ensuing discipleship.
This incident demonstrates that exemplary faith on the part of a Gentile
living in the Jewish context and familiar with Judaism was possible. We return to the significance of the God-fearing Gentiles, and to the observation
that Gentiles who already had various degrees of contact with Judaism
were the Gentiles most responsive to the Christian proclamation (ct.
III.3.3.3.3.).
2.1.1.3. Luke 8.26-39

An incident during the ministry of Jesus directly involving Gentiles took


place in the region of the Gerasenes, in Gentile territory.13 The presence of
swine indicates that the inhabitants of this area were probably not Jews.14
1. A former resident of Gerasa met Jesus.1 5 His dire condition is described
in detail. He was possessed by many demons who had seized him many
times. For a long time he had worn no outer garment. 16 He lived in the city's
necropolis. It seems that prior to the exorcism demons so controlled the
man that they answered and spoke out of him. His countrymen tried to
keep him under control by binding him with chains and shackles. Those he
would break and be driven again by the demons into the wilderness away
from other people. How the man became possessed is riot mentioned.
a) Though Satan is not mentioned, this Gentile was fully under his power
(ct. Acts 26.18). He was under such domination that he could neither help
nor deliver himself. This is probably the most destructive case of demon
possession that Luke reports in detail.
12 C[ Tannehill, Luke, 115.
13 Cf. Hengel, 'Geography', 33. It is not clear that (%V1:l3tEQa Tii~ ra~lAala~ implies that
Luke 'takes pains to locate' the area as close to Galilee (Fitzmyer, 189). The location cannot be the Hellenistic city of Gadara, even if it had given its name to a region. Luke 8.34
does not indicate a longer journey to this city. The closeness of the incident to the waterfront has to be considered.
14 Cf. 11.3.1. Against Jeremias, Promise, 35 who claims 'here, too, he found a mixed
population, of whom the great majority, nevertheless, especially in the country, practised
Jewish religion .. .', with reference to A. AIt, 'Statten' who allegedly 'proved that we have
no evidence that Jesus ever went beyond the boundaries of the Jewish population'.
IS Though Jesus interacted with Gentiles when they met him (Luke 7.1-10), Jesus did
not go out of his way to meet them. Possibly this one exception was made to meet the
dire need of this man, while not reaching out to the whole community. Luke's two cases
of possession involving violence to others than the victim himself are found in Gentile
locations; cf. Luke 8.29 (1); Acts 19.16.
16 A L)LCt1:LOV; later he is L)La1:LOilEVO!;; cf. Acts 19.16; 9.36,39.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

107

b) Nothing indicates that the other Gerasenes were also somehow recognisably associated with demons: the demoniac was one among many
Gerasenes apparently not to this extent or not in this manifest form under
demonic influence. Their initial reaction to Jesus differed from the man's
reaction. Yet the description of the demoniac's condition also reflects upon
his countrymen. Whatever was undertaken by them to subdue this man
and/or secure their own peace proved useless. They were completely helpless against this demonic possession and its manifestations. The means they
previously applied and the futility of their efforts explains their later terror.
These Gentiles could help neither themselves nor others in such bondage. 17
2. This impression is confirmed in the actual encounter with Jesus and exorcism. Seeing Jesus the man fell down before him and shouted: What have you
to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment
me. IS No such reaction of the now threatened demons against other Gentiles
or their previous efforts at restriction was reported. Gentile efforts failed to
impress them. The destructive nature of these demons again became evident
as they entered the swine and drowned them. Permitting the demons to enter
the swine was at the same time a crushing verdict against the livestock of
'lawless' Gentiles: What they treasured, ate and lived off otherwise was useful only to contain and dispose of exorcised demons.
3. Hearing how the demoniac had been delivered and finding him restored
with Jesus, all the people of the surrounding country !pol3qJ J.1EyaAqJ
O'UvdxoVto and asked Jesus to leave them,19 There was a) no expression of
gratitude (for the actual deliverance of the man or for 'clearing the area' of
a potential threat; ct. Acts 28.10); b) no recognition of divine action or ac17 This Gentile helplessness possibly explains the presence and popularity of Jewish
magicians and exorcists among Gentiles (Acts 13.6;19.13). Appearing also in and outside
Capernaum's synagogue (Luke 4.33-37,41), demons and demon possession were not an
exclusively Gentile phenomenon.
Another reference to non-Jews and demonic power may be mentioned. The exact location of the Pharisees 'warning' Jesus is unclear (Luke 13.31-33; CL 13.22). Jesus was travelling from Galilee (9.51)-to Jerusalem (cf.Schnackenburg, 'Lk 1331-33',229-31). Unavoidably the journey took him either through Gentile Decapolis or Samaria (cr. Oxford
Bible Atlas, 86 (x-y, 3-4); cf. Luke 17.11). Jesus summarised his ministry as one of 'casting
out demons and performing cures'. That some of the beneficiaries were Gentiles or Samaritans is likely. Acts 1036 mentions Jesus' proclamation of peace 'in the first instance
between men and God' before his ministry is summarised as healing all "tOU!; KU"tU,'hJvumeuolJivou!; 1.111;0 "toii llLU/3oAou (10.38; cf. Barrett I, 521,525). This summary describes Jesus' ministry Ev "t" "tfi XWQQ. "twv 'Iou~a((j)v (1039).
18 The demon is sensing the threatening presence of Jesus and wants 'to preserve distance and be left alone', TannehiJI,Luke, 89, also p. 94.
19 This 'cultured' rejection of Jesus due to their fear, is in contrast to Luke 4.29f and to
other cases of Gentile rejection.

108

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

clamation of Jesus (cf. Luke 8.28, the ChoTschliisse in Jewish settings20 and
Acts 14.11); c) no further healings as other diseased or possessed came or
were brought (e.g. Luke 5.15; Acts 28.9). There is a contrast between the demons and the Gerasenes: In their confession that Jesus was related to the
most high God in a special way21, these demons immediately recognised
what remained hidden from the Gerasenes even after the miracle. They
completely failed to appreciate the significance of the event. Their failure
becomes more evident as Luke's narrative continues; cf. Luke 10.17f; 11.1423. Their only reaction to the events is a true Heidenangst (8.35,37).22
4. Jesus' commission of the man suggests that the other Gerasenes needed to
hear the proper interpretation of the events - namely that Israel's God had
procured his deliverance and restoration (Luke 8.39) - to overcome their
fear and/or to prevent wrong conclusions from the miracle according to their
own pagan frame of reference. 23 The provision of this 'prophylactic' in a region of no further ministry and the unusual refusal of his offer to follow Jesus
(cf. Luke 5.10,27; 8.2) emphasises the necessity of the man's testimony to his
Gentile community and indicates their inability to draw adequate conclusions from the event on their own. They had to be proclaimed to them.
Though nothing is reported about its outcome, the provision of exogenous
correction and instruction suggests that neither is considered futile.

20 E.g. Luke 4.36,42!;5.26; 8.25. Luke 7.16likewise reports fear, but this is accompanied
by glorifying God.
21 Demonic recognition and confession of Jesus' true identity is a recurring theme (cl
Luke 4.34; Acts 16.17; 19.15).
22 Nothing indicates that they feared the return of the demons (cf. Luke 11.24-26).
Compare the response in Acts 16.29 (rnQoll0C; YEV6IlEVOC;). Possibly due to this fear,
Luke does not report anger over their considerable losses or intention to 'prosecute' Jesus for property damage. This is noteworthy in light of the two instances in Acts of genuine Gentile resistance to the Christian mission which are both motivated by greed (Acts
16.19; 19.25-27). Though their loss would be motivation for their requesting Jesus to
leave and though Luke elsewhere is concerned with the influence of material possessions, he does not indicate that 'Preferring their swine to Christ, they felt that His presence was dangerous to their greed', Farrar, 224. Luke's stress is on their utter fear. Luke
occasionally refers to people's physical or emotional state to explain their failure (cf.
Luke 22.45;24.41; Acts 12.14).
2J E.g. one of their gods healed the man, the spirits left through their own incentive in
favour of the swine, or conclusions comparable to Luke 11.15-18. Luke records Jewish
and Gentile mistaken conclusions from miracles (Acts 14.11; 28.4-6; cf. 8.18f in IY.3.4.1.).
Despite the Jewish example in Luke 11.15-18, on some occasions Jewish witnesses drew
at least commendable conclusions from Jesus' miracles by associating them with God
(e.g. Luke 7.16; 9.43; cl Ernst, 187; although their conclusions were still inadequate as
they failed to recognise Jesus' true identity;cf. Acts 3.8-10;5.12-14). In places of previous
proclamation the Gentile response to miracles was different; cf. Acts 8.5-8: tYEVE"tO M
1tOA~ XUQa; 19.9f,17.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

109

Neither the demoniac Gentile himself nor other Gentiles were able to address or change this plight. When Jesus did so, their response was not recognition, gratitude or an invitation to continue his ministry. These Gentiles failed
to appreciate Jesus' identity,ministry and its significance and struck with fear
they sent Jesus away. Unable to interpret correctly the miraculous restoration themselves, they had to be told that Israel's God was at work among
them. He could do what neither they nor their gods could accomplish.
2.1.1.4. Luke 9.52-56

On one other occasion Jesus intended to enter non-Jewish territory. Travelling to Jerusalem he wanted to spend a night in a Samaritan village. Luke
indicates elsewhere that there was some contact between Samaritans and
Jews (Luke 1O.33-35?; 17.11-16). Hospitality was refused not because of a
general anti-Judaism, but for the reason specifically indicated: 'because his
face was set to go to lerusalem'.24 Jesus was not primarily rejected on account of his Jewishness but on account of his goal. Whether lerusalem or
Mount Gerizim was the appropriate place for the worship of God was perhaps the main point of contention between Samaritans and Jews.25
Samaritans were among the crowds from 'all Judaea,Jerusalem and the coast of Tyre and
Sidon' witnessing the ministry of Jesus (Luke 6.17) as 1taOTJ~ Tii~ 'Ioll&ata~ includes
Samaria26: Jesus' acclamation as a great prophet and the conclusion that God has looked
favourably on his people following the raising at Nain (0 Myo~ o-o'tO~) 'spread throughout Judaea and all the surrounding country' (Luke 7.17).r'

Though probably interested in Jesus and ready to entertain him, they did not
receive him for the goal of his journey: 'Thus they reject him because of a basic lack of understanding of the divinely determined destiny which Jesus

24 No reference is made to the problematic relationship between Jews and Samaritans;


cf. e.g. John 4.4-42, though this specific reason is indicative of the general Samaritan antiJudaism. Cf. the detailed treatment by M. Bohm, Samarien und die Samaritai bei Lukas:
Eine Studie zum religionshistorischen und traditionsgeschichtlichen Hintergrund der
lukanischen Samarientexte und zu deren topographischer Verhaftung (Diss. Leipzig,
1997),148-72.
25 Ct e.g. Schtlrer, History 1I, 15-20; R. Bach, C. Colpe, 'Samaria ',RGG V, 1350-55; R.T.
Anderson, 'Samaritans',lSBE IV,303-08.
26 'In a wider sense 'Iolloaia is used of the region of Palestine, the area inhabited by
Jews, thus including GaIilee and Perea along with Samaria,Idumaea, and the coastland
.. .', O. Betz, EDNT 1I, 191.2b.4b; SchUrmann 1,29, n. 12.
27 See also Luke 4.14b,37;5.15;Schtlrmann 1,403. The identification of Jesus as a great
prophet (7.16) would have aroused Samaritan interest, since they accepted the Pentateuch,containing the promise of De ut 18.15; cf. Acts 322;7.37.

110

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

must fulfil in Jerusalem'.28 This destiny had just been revealed to the readers
in the transfiguration (Luke 9.31) and passion predictions (9.22,44).29 God's
purposes with Jesus in Jerusalem and the nature of his mission were beyond
the apprehension of these Samaritan villagers. Their rejection of Jerusalem,
kept them from receiving and supporting Jesus and his mission. Their moralethical failure to grant hospitality is an expression of their spiritual failure. 3D
2.1.1.5. Luke 10.1

Jeremias concluded from Luke 10.1 that for Luke 'already during Jesus'
lifetime the disciples have been sent to the Gentiles .. .'.31 Luke is thought
to indicate this through the number of disciples sent out, which could refer
to the Jewish number of the nations of the world.32 Yet the instructions they
receive are more understandable in a Jewish context (e.g. the shaking off of
dust, 10.11).33 The missionaries are to enter houses and eat whatever is set
before them (10.5-8). If this stipulation was already meant to bring about
contact with Gentiles, the reservation displayed in Acts 10f would be difficult to understand. 34 Being sent in pairs, the disciples could no longer reach

28 Tannehill, Luke, 230. The rejection of Jerusalem itself may betray their ignorance of
God's purposes; cf. 11.2.7. On Jerusalem in Luke-Acts cf. L. Hartmann, EWNT 11, (43239) 436f; Walker,Jesus, 57-112.
29 The villagers shared their failure to understand the mission of Jesus with Jesus' Jewish disciples (Luke 9.33,45; 18.34; 24.2527,44-47).
30 Compare the hospitality granted by the Maltese islanders (Acts 28.2, III.2.2.l5.1.; cf.
also IV.3.4.6.). The proximity of the parable of the compassionate Samaritan (Luke
10.29-37, the Jewish victim travelling from Jerusalem to Jeridlo) may serve to prevent
mistaken characterisation: Unless it had to do with journeys to Jerusalem (including the
mission of Jesus), Samaritans were hospitable, even outside their territory (cf. our considerations in 11.2.8.).
31 Promise, 34; cf. his discussion pp. 33f,24f. On p. 24 Jeremias refers to Luke 10.1 as a
'secondary doublet of 9.1', concluding: 'The fact that Jesus, during his lifetime, sent his
disciples to Israel alone ... '. Also from the development in Acts Jeremias concludes: 'This
state of affairs makes it improbable that the activity of the disciples during Jesus' lifetime
was directed toward the Gentiles' (25). These quotations appear in a section entitled 'Jesus forbade his disciples during his lifetime to preach to non-Jews' (19-25).
32 For discussion, references and an alternative cf. the discussion in Evans, 444f; Nolland, 549f.
33 Cf. Marshall,354; Cadbury, 'Dust', 269-71.
34 If Gentiles were included, Luke also refers to them metaphorically as wolves among
whom the disciples are sent like lambs (EV fLEOCP }.;Ux(J)v, Luke 10.3; cf. Acts 20.29;Pss.Sol.
8.23; Herod is called an U)'W1tT];; Luke 13.32). Nolland, 551 notes that 'sheep and wolves
imagery is found in connection with Israel among the nations', but considers its presence
here unlikely. Cf. SchUrmann II.1, 6lf; Fitzmyer, 847; Hahn, VersUlndnis, 113; 1. Jeremias,
ThWNT T, (342-45) 344.13-22; Spicq I, 51H (French ed.); G. Bornkamm, ThWNT lV,
(309-13) 312.9-14; W. Richter, 'Wolf ,RE S XV (1978), (960-87) 981-87.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

111

seventy nations. Marshall noted that the 'purpose of the pairing ... was not
merely to provide mutual comfort and help, but also to give attested, binding testimony' .35 Provision of two witnesses would be more pertinent in a
Jewish setting, where these were required in judicial matters (Deut 17.6;
19.15). It is thus preferable to see in their mission 'a foreshadowing of the
later evangelism by the church in the world'.36
2.1.1.6. Luke 17.11-19

A group of lepers 37 asked Jesus for mercy. Addressing him as 'Master' they
all recognised his authority and followed his instructions. Yet only the Sa-

maritan aUoyviJ~ returned, recognised that God was at work and praised
him, fell at Jesus' feet and thanked him. Acting upon Jesus' command and
implicit promise of healing 'saved' this man from his disease. Yet this Samaritan 'in his dealings with Jesus experiences an encounter with God ....
only this one makes a public identification with what God is now doing in
Jesus'.38 His response was 'the necessary response of gratitude and faith'.39
The scope of salvation in Jesus' answer (17.19b) transcended physical
restoration. 4o While the other lepers were also healed (v. 17), this man was
saved by his faith (ct. Acts 2.21). a) This man needed and received salvation
beyond his disease, something the others still lacked. This salvation addressed his relationship with God. Previous references to Gentiles and
their fate also suggest this to be salvation from judgement. b) In contrast to
the Gerasenes and the other lepers, through witnessing his healing (t6wv
(l1;L Leith]) this Samaritan understood that God was at work in the ministry
of Jesus and identified himself with this ministry. In contrast to other Samaritans (Luke 9.53) he was not restrained by Jesus' destination (17.11).

Marshall, 416 with reference to Jeremias, 'Sendung'.


Marshall,415;cf. Evans,445.
The composition of this mixed group is not indicated. It might have included more
than one Samaritan since the location is the region 'between Samaria and GaIilee' (Luke
17.11). Cf. Bruners, Reinigung, 103-18 for the parallels of this account to that of
Naaman's healing mentioned in Luke 4.27; cf. NoIland, 845.
38 N oIland, 848; cf. Horst, Proskynein, 22lf.
39 Nolland, 848; cf. Schna.ckenburg, 'Lk 13.31-33', 230f.
40 er. Marshall, 652; Fitzmyer, 1156; Emst, 366. This interpretation is supported by
Luke 7.50; A woman, introduced as 'a sinner', came to Jesus likewise to express her gratitude. She heard the same words of assurance without previous reference to healing from
a physical problem.
35

36

37

112

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

Conclusion

Conclusions from such a limited number of instances must be tentative.41


1. 1\vo non-Jews received from Jesus the help they asked for relating to disease and both are recommended for their faith (Luke 7.2-10; 17.12-19). Both
believed that Jesus could intervene where human help was of no avail. Their
confidence in his authority and grateful recognition of the divine nature of
Jesus' intervention was exemplary and in contrast to Jewish unbelief
For both men previous contact with Judaism is mentioned: The centurion took an active
interest in Capernaum's Jewish religious life. The Samaritan, living in a region 'between
Samaria and Galilee', was in the company of Jewish lepers and apparently willing to join
his fellow sufferers in seeing a Jewish priest to have their regained cleanness attested.
This observation recurs in Acts: Among Gentiles already in contact with JUdaism response to the mission was far greater. Severe misunderstanding of the works or message
and rejection of the missionaries occurred where such prior contact was lacking.

2. The repentance of Nineveh followed Jonah's call to repentance (Luke

11.29-32). Nothing similar is reported for Jesus' ministry to Gentiles. Gentiles within Jewish territory received no proclamation directed exclusively
to them. Possibly they were among Jewish audiences (6.17). When Jesus
ventured outwith Jewish territory he and his mission were rejected and
such proclamation was impossible: Jesus was asked to leave (8.37) or not
received (9.53). Both responses of Gentiles not in contact with and/or rejecting Judaism followed from and indicate the spiritual failure of those involved: From the miracle the Gerasenes failed to draw right conclusions as
to God's working in Jesus (8.39; cf. 7.15) and the beneficent nature of his
mission. What was divine authentication and a sign of the coming of the
kingdom only caused great fear. The Samaritans failed to appreciate God's
purpose behind Jesus' journey to Jerusalem and rejected Jesus for faithfully
following his mission. Immediate rejection rendered address or correction
of these misconceptions impossible. This cautions against overestimating
the significance of correcting Gentiles. That correction and instruction was
necessary and not completely futile is suggested by the commission of the
healed Gerasene.
3. In three incidents healing occurred (Luke 8.36; 17.19; 7.10). Salvation was
experienced in a comprehensive sense: 'the use of uCP~(j) ... in healing stories ... already suggests a connection between healing and God's redemptive purpose in all its aspects'.42 These Gentiles had needs and only Jesus'

41 Jeremias, Promise, 34 concludes from this scarcity of material on Jesus and Gentiles
to Luke's trustworthiness.
42 Thnnehill, Luke, 87.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

113

saving intervention could achieve what they themselves or other Gentiles


could not attain.
2.1.2. Gentiles and the death ofJesus

After these encounters of Jesus with Gentiles in Galilee and on the way to
Jerusalem, we now turn to the Gentile involvement in Jesus' death. The
passion narrative has often been studied to assess whom Luke considers responsible for the death of Jesus. Many draw the conclusion that Luke tends
to exculpate the Romans and to put the lion's share of the blame on the
Jews. Examples of such conclusions are the studies of P. Winter, I Neyrey
and IT. Sanders. 43 In order to argue their case, some studies reinterpret or
ignore Luke's references to the Gentile involvement and guilt. Concentrating on these references, we need to assess interpretations which suggest
Gentile innocence.
The question is urgent as its results have been employed, following a
wider development in NT studies, to charge Luke with anti-Judaism. 44 This
wide field is beyond our scope, yet in focusing on what Luke says about the
Gentile involvement in and their responsibility for the death of Jesus our
conclusions will contribute to this discussion.
2.1.2.1. The third passion prediction and its fulfilment (Luke 18.32[;
23.26,3336-38)

1. Luke 18.32f The first passion prediction focuses on Jewish activity: Jesus
would undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests
and scribes, and be killed ... (Luke 9.22). Then Jesus simply announced that
the Son of Man would be betrayed into xetQa~ uvtl-go.m;wv (9.44). In the
third prediction Jesus announced: 'The Son of Man wiIl be handed over to
1:ot~ E'frveow' (18.32). In contrast to the first prediction, the latter two do
not mention Jews on their own.
The third prediction describes the procedure of "tot~ EirveOLv in detail.
Once Jesus has been handed to them, they will not give him a proper trial,
acquit or defend him against his accusers, nor wiII they simply execute him
but they wiIl treat him scornfully: They will mock, insult and spit on him
43 Winter, Trial (on Winter cf. Catchpole, TriaL,208-20 and passim); Neyrey, Passion;
Sanders, Jews. Fitzmyer, 1209 identifies 'the tendency in the Lucan passion narrative to
play down the involvement of the Romans'; similarly Wilckens, Missionsreden, 125, n. 2.
Cf. the judicious overview in Brown, Death, 389f; his n. 140 lists further scholars.
44 Cf. Rese, 'Juden', 61-79; WeatherIy, Responsibility and 'Anti-Semitism', DJG, 13-17;
Green, Theology, 68-72; Fitzmyer, Aspects, 175-202; specially with regard to the passion
narrative ef. Betz, 'Probleme',566-70 and Otte, 'Neues'.

114

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

(EflJtuL~oo, ElllttUOO, u~QL~oo). Then, after they have flogged him (IlUCTtLYooo),
they will kill him (emox"CEvoUOLV). This last third person plural active form
and the general designation "Col~ iHhrEOLv indicate that not only Pilate is involved. The nations are made responsible for the death of Jesus and its ignominious nature. Jesus will not only be executed but be treated and killed most
scornfully.
Trying to eliminate Gentile complicity in the death of Jesus, Sanders
claims that in this third prediction Luke 'confused this recognizedly necessary saying beyond comprehension, so that the readers cannot tell who the
subjects of those verbs are'; not even the disciples understood what Jesus
meant (Luke 18.34). Luke 'does not intend to have Jesus prophesy his
death at the hands of Gentiles'. 45 1\vo observations on this proposal suffice:
a) Readers would assume that the last suitable noun, namely "Col~ iHhrEaLV,
is the agent behind the activities expressed by the three third person singular passive verbs. 46 No other noun in the preceding verse or context is suitable. FIrst-century Jews would have had few hesitations in associating such
activities with the Gentiles. 47 b) The disciples' failure to understand the necessity of the passion is a much larger theme, not limited to this allegedly
confused prediction. 48 .Sanders' verdict seems biased through a prior decision for Jewish responsibility and guilt.
The prediction with its references to Gentile involvement in the disposal
of Jesus is reflected in the report of its fulfilment. Both should be seen together.49 We now turn to Luke 23.26-52. The preceding account of Gentile
action (23.1-25) - also fulfilling the prediction - will be dealt with in
1II.2.1.2.2.-3.

2. Luke 23.26,33/,36-38. We suggest that these verses point up 1) the active


Gentile participation in the death of Jesus announced in the prediction and
2) the nature of this participation. a) Roman soldiers 'paraded' Jesus, carrying his own heavy cross, through the bustling streets of Jerusalem. 50 On the
Jews, 13; cf. the refutation by Weatherly, Responsibility, 90-92.
Cf. the discussions of MarshalI, 690f; Plummer, 428; Evans, 655; Nolland, 895.
47 CtII.3.7.
4!! Cf. Luke 9.33,45; 24.25-27,44-47.
49 That Luke overlooked or deliberately constructed a contradiction is unlikely, for
Luke was concerned to show that the prophecies of Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection were fulfilled; see Frein, 'Predictions', 28-31. Admittedly the Gentile involvement of
the prediction could have been identified more clearly in the account.
50 Cf. Brown, Death, 912. True to the prediction of Luke 18.32, the Gentile involvement
begins once Jesus has been handed over to them (1toQO/lO{hjOE'tOL). According to Luke,
Jesus was arrested by Jews (Luke 22.47,52 no mention of soldiers). John's account may
imply Gentile involvement by listing ~ 01tELQa xal (, xLJ.LaQX0<; among the force arresting
Jesus (John 18.3,12).
45

46

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

115

way they seized Simon, another Jew, to carry the cross, an action which
identifies them as Romans, 'who alone had power to impress men for service in this way'.S1 b) At the place of execution they crucified JesusS2 between two criminals, adding to his shame and fully expressing their scorn
for him.s3 c) Contemptuously going beyond their orders, the soldiers cast
lots under the cross to divide his clothing, possibly leaving Jesus naked.54
d) Later the <TtQCl'tLOrtClL, a word directly identifying the subject behind the
third person plural references, mocked Jesus (E!lJtCli~w) by teasing him as
the king of the Jews. 55 The scoffing soldiers came up to him and offered Jesus sour wine. The prior mention of mockery indicates how Luke understood this gesture.56 The content of their verbal mockery, namely the apparently powerless king of the Jews on a Roman cross, and their scornful treat-

51 Marshal!, 862f; Blinzler, Prozej3, 429 and Brown, Death, 856-59,911-15 defend why
the reference in 23.26 is to the Roman soldiers mentioned later; cf. other commentators
listed by Fitzmyer, 1496f. 'E1tt.Aa~6!lEVoL, the fifth word of this account identifies the subject behind the third verb. Fitzmyer dismisses attempts to identify the subjects behind the
verb form: 'In the Lucan story the (Roman) soldiers will appear eventually (vs. 36,47),
but to read them into this vague assertion is to miss the point of the way Luke is handling
the passion narrative'. But in the light of the prediction and its partial fulfilment in the
previous account, readers would be looking for Gentile involvement. As Luke assumes
in Acts acquaintance with Roman law and legal procedure for his readers, this detail of
seizure identifying the antagonists would have been unlikely to be lost on them.
52 Cf. Brown, Death, 945-52, 1088-92 for the technical details. Ernst, 485 discusses why
no detailed description is given (for such see Blinzler,Prozej3,357-84) and suggests that
also the mode of execution indicates non-Jewish involvement. Against Bammel's argument for Jewish crucifixions ('Crucifixion') see Reinbold, Bericht, 261, n.114.
53 Cf. Brown, Death, 968-71. For the pivotal ancient values of honour and shame see
Malina! Neyrey, 'Honor'.
54 Cf. Blinzler,Prozej3, 368f; Reinbold, Bericht, 271, n.147 and the discussion in Brown,
Death, 952-55; Rapske, Paul, 297.
55 On such mockery in the ancient world cf. Brown, Death, 87377; on vs. 36-38 see pp.
996-97,1026-29. Philo's (Flacc 33-38) report of the mockery of Agrippa I by the Gentile
population of Alexandria on his arrival in A.D. 38 offers interesting parallels with the
mockery by the Gentile soldiers in Luke; cf. HengellSchwemer, Paul, n. 943 and D.R.
Schwartz, Agrippa I: The Last King of Judaea, TSAJ 23 (Ttibingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1990),
55f, 67-70, 74-77.
56 H.W. HeidJand, ThWNT V, 288.37-44 suggests that Luke 23.36 'hat die Minderwertigkeit des 51;0; als billiges Volksgetr!ink im Auge (ct. 288.3-5) '" Die Triinkung ist selbst
eine Verhohnung: einen Siiuerling reicht man dem Judenkonig', 289.4-7; his second observation stands independently of the first identifica.tion. So also Brown, Death, 997:
'their offering of cheap wine is a burlesque gift to the king', on 51;0; see his n. 39; ct. the
discussion in Fitzmyer, 1505; Marshall, 870. Marshal! draws attention to Ps 69.21 LXX,'in
the light of which the act could be understood as hostile'; cf. Heidland, 289.7-12; Brown,
Death, 997, n. 39, 1058f, 1063f. Ernst, 486 suggests: 'Der als BeUiubungstrank gedachte
Schluck Essig (vg!. Mk 15.35f) wird von Lk als eine gefUhllose Verlangerung der
Todesqualen gedacht'.1t is not indicated whether Jesus actually had a chance to or did
drink any of it (cf. Matt 27.34; Mark 15.23,36; John 19.28-30).

116

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

ment of him also points to their non-Jewish identity.57 Their mockery echoes the official Roman titulus and estimate of Jesus. 58 e) Luke 23.47 mentions a Roman EXU1;OYtC(QXT]~ commanding the execution platoon.
3. Conclusion. 1. In the third prediction and in this latter part of the account
of its fulfilment, Gentiles were clearly involved. The titulus also clearly indicates that though Pilate gave in to popular demand,Jesus was nevertheless
crucified under Roman authority. The Romans had passed the verdict and
following the execution the body of Jesus was at their disposal (cf. Luke
23.52; see below). Being the 'Vollstrecker des Willens der schuldigen
Juden'59, they were as much committed and accountable participants. 2. The
Gentiles did not simply execute Jesus in fulfilment of the passion predictions. A range of expressions in the prediction6o , the details of the account 61
and the mode of execution emphasise the utter contempt with which these
Gentiles did so. Jesus was made to suffer 'the most pitiable of deaths', 'the
worst extreme of tortures inflicted on slaves' .62 This attitude surfaces again
when we turn to the main Gentile protagonists of the passion narrative.
57 Jewish mockery points in a different direction (Luke 22.64;23.35). The content is neglected by Walaskay, Rome, 45 who considers the identity of the soldiers far from certain:
'Luke is implying that the soldiers were either the temple police or Herod's palace
guard' as 'Both groups have already mocked Jesus'. a) Any identification of the soldiers
has to reckon with the right of seizure exercised in v. 26 and the mode of execution. b)
Why members of yet another group, namely Roman soldiers should or would not likewise ridicule their victim is not explained. c) Why Pilate would employ Herod's Jewish
palace guard (if Jewish it was) rather than his own soldiers is not considered. In view of
Herod's unwillingness to condemn or acquit Jesus (Luke 23.11) and of Jesus' popularity
in Galilee it is unlikely that the 'tE1:Q6:QX"~ of Galilee would allow himself to be associated with Jesus' execution through unnecessarily providing Pilate with the manpower to
do so.
58 Cf. Marshall, 870; Brown, Death, 962-64. Suetonius, Caligu/a 32.2 mentions a titulus
qUi causam poenae indicaret. Against Sanders, Jews, 15, 227f, I do not understand why the
'''Gentileness'' of the soldiers' mocking statement derives from their reading the label,
not from their natural disposition to talk that way', p.15. The religious leaders read the
same sign and yet mocked differently.
59 Wilckens, Missionsreden, 125, n. 2.
60 Cf. ~f1l'ttti~w, "~Qi~w, E}ll't't'llW, f1tt01:tyow.
61 ef. ~AttOCP"f1EW, E;ou{levEW, bq.l.1!X1:1lQi~w.
62 los., belL Iud. VII.6.4. 203; Cicero, In Verrem V.66,169f: 'servitutis extremo summoque supplicio', both quotations from Fitzmyer, 1503. Cicero accused Verres not only of
having crucified a Roman citizen but also of the place of execution (spectet patriam; in
conspectu legum libertatisque morialur) which added more cruelty to the punishment.
The criminals crucified with Jesus could be understood similarly. Cf. Bammel, 'Crucifixion', 164f: 'a particularly gruesome form of execution'; H.E Hitzig, 'Crux', RE N, 1728-31
for other contemporary estimates, 'die Strafe gilt als besonders schmachvoll', 1129; Kuhn,
'Kreuzesstrafe', 685-767 (for the 'Schilndlichkeit der Kreuzesstrafe' see pp. 758-67); cf.
Brown's bibliography on ancient crucifixion (Death, 885-87). Hengel's chapter headings
sum up the nature of this punishment: 'Crucifixion as a "barbaric" form of execution of

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

117

a) Probably these soldiers gave Jesus the kind of treatment they would
have given to any Jewish prisoner with such a titulus. Their cruel treatment
in and surrounding the crucifixion is indicative of their wickedness, moralethical failure and of the wider Gentile anti-Judaism (ct. II.3.7.).
b) In addition to this general failure, their treatment of Jesus in this way
indicates that they completely failed to recognise the nature of Jesus' identity and mission.63 Despite all that was known about Jesus and even after
his prayer for them, they still treated him with disdain. 64 Their treatment of
Jesus is in full contrast to what could be expected from his previous characterisation. He who went about doing good and with whom God so manifestly was (Acts 10.38) was treated and killed in the most ignominious way.
c) The wording ofthe titulus indicates not only the Gentile contempt for
Jesus but also their lack of comprehension who Jesus was and how God's
rule over his people would express itself 65 Jesus never pretended to be king
of the Jews or king of the Jews only. Certainly he was not a king in the Gentile understanding (ct. Luke 7.25; 22.25).
2.1.2.2. Pontius Pilate (Luke 3. It, 13.1; 23.1-7,12-25,52)

That the Gentile Pilate was to play a crucial role in the events surrounding
Jesus' death is already indicated in Luke 20.20. The religious leaders watched
Jesus carefully to trap him and 'hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor'. Once this had happened, does the account of the following events reflect what was said about Gentiles in the third prediction?

the utmost cruelty'; 'Cruciftxion as the supreme Roman penalty'; 'Crucifixion as a penalty for rebellious foreigners, violent criminals and robbers'; 'The "slaves' punishment'"
(Crucifixion, 22-38, 46-63; cf. Hengel's bibliography pp. 91-93); cf. I. Pfaff, 'Supplicium',
RE IV A, 95lf for other modes of Roman capital punishment which could have been applied. It has to be noted that this form of execution for Jesus was demanded by the Jews
(cr. Luke 23.18,21,23).
63 In addition to the information on the titulus the soldiers had probably heard who Jesus was considered to be and what he had done in all Judaea and in Jerusalem. His following and the unusual address to the crowds on the way to Golgotha (Luke 2327-31),
his prayer for them and the mockery of the Jewish leaders (23.34f) would have been a reminder of the unusual case at hand. Yet none of these events restrained them.
64 Though Jesus' prayer (Luke 23.34a, for its textual status see Fitzmyer,1503; Brown,
Death, 975-81) possibly allows for a wider reference than the soldiers,in its context it refers to the soldiers: These men did not 'understand that they were doing this outrage to
God's Son', so Brown, Death, 973f, against Fitzmyer. The prayer immediately follows the
act of crucifixion before further activities of th e soldiers are reported.
65 Luke 2337 indicates that the tilulus is to be understood in this way; er. Ernst, 486.
Marshall, 870 refers to it as a 'climax to the mockery'.

118

Ill. The Gentile encounter will! salvation

1. Luke 3.1t; 13.1. Following his introduction as Roman governor of Judaea


in the synchronism of Luke 3.1 the later note is indicative of Pilate's administration. Pilate had mingled the blood of some Galileans with that of
their sacrifices. This incident probably happened during Passover celebrations. If these pilgrims had or were just about to slaughter their sacrificial
animals, the location must have been the priestly forecourt of the temple. 66
This event shows that already prior to the trial of Jesus, Pilate was not
too scrupulous about the limits of his jurisdiction. If this reconstruction of
the location is correct, the incident also shows that Pilate had little respect
for Jewish religious regulations or customs. If Pilate had people murdered
right in the forecourt, thus defiling it67 , he was unlikely to take great pains
to appreciate the intricate religious nature of a case like Jesus'. That the
Jewish leaders tried to adduce non-religious evidence confirms this estimate of Pilate (e.g. Luke 20.20-26). Luke 13.1 testifies to Pilate's cruelty,
moral-ethical failure and his assessment of Judaism. This incident and his
treatment of Jesus and of his Jewish accusers also exhibits Gentile anti-Judaism. 68 Whatever the exact circumstances, this note is a bad omen for Jesus' encounter (23.6: raA.LA.at6~ eotLV, also 22.59) with Pilate.

2. Luke 23.1-7. Though these verses are of a summary nature and intended
to show that the charges against Jesus were baseless and quickly recognised
as such by Pilate, they also shed some light on Luke's portrayal of Pilate's
attitude and procedure in this alleged 'trial'.
Once Jesus was handed over to him and accused before him, Pilate took
the charges of the assembly (Luke 22.66) at face value (23.3a), though 'A
Roman court would not have been content with any other than its own investigation'.69 Pilate neither ordered such an investigation nor asked the
accusers for witnesses or evidence for the initial accusation and that of v. 5.
The content of what Jesus was supposed to have claimed - carefully designed by the accusers to cause an impact - was of no interest to Pilate. After asking Jesus only one question based on their accusation, which re-

66 For the circumstances cf. Nolland, 717f; Marshall, 553; Fitzmyer, 1006f and Blinzler,
'Niedermetzelung'. For Galilean rebelliousness against Rome cf. Talbert, 19Of; F. Loftus,
'The Anti-Roman Revolts of the Jews and the Galileans',lQR 68,1977,78-98.
67 Cf. Ernst, 312: 'Nach jUdischer Vorstellung kommt zum Verbrechen des Mordes noch
das Sakrileg der Tempelschiindung hinzu. Die Szene wirft ein bezeichnendes Licht auf
die Brutalitat des romischen Statthalters'.
68 Walaskay, Rome, 23f, 42 fails to deal adequately with this note.
69 So Walaskay, Rome, 40. Compare the Roman legal procedure described in Acts 24.122 and ch. 25. On readers appreciating this kind of material Pilate's neglect would not
have been lost. On the whole Roman trial cf. S. Legasse, Le Proces de Jesus: L'Hisloire,
LeDiv 156 (Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 1994), 87-155.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

119

answer 70 ,

ceived an ambiguous
Pilate was decided. Evans notes that 'there
is no interrogation of such a kind as to constitute a real cognitio, to justify
the words after examining him in v.14, and to lead to Pilate's conviction of
Jesus' innocence'.71 Jesus was not given an opportunity to defend himself
(ct Acts 24.10; 25.16).
As governor and presently in Jerusalem,Pilate would not have been exclusively dependent on the accusers to come to a conclusion. That he considered Jesus harmless is evident
in that he did not take up the other charges brought forward. Neither did Pilate intervene when Jesus was teaching in the temple for several days and enjoyed great popularity. That the Romans were quick and capable of interfering with unusual or unwanted
events in the temple is illustrated in Acts 21.31.72 The imprisoned Barabbas exemplifies
how Pilate dealt with people who were or at least were under suspicion of being insurrectionists and murderers. Pilate did not perceive Jesus as such.

Pilate took neither the accusing assembly nor Jesus seriously. Pilate did not
acquit and release Jesus and dismiss his accusers, which should have followed his declaration of innocence. Even after the fresh charges of v. 5,
which he must have considered baseless - as we may conclude from his tolerance of Jesus' public ministry in Jerusalem - Pilate still could have done
SO.73

As a consequence of this careless procedure,Pilate only heard by chance


that Jesus was from GaliIee.74 It is only then that Pilate inquired whether
Jesus actually fell under his jurisdiction, a matter previously not of interest
to him (ct Luke 13.1). Having ascertained his Galilean origin, Pilate sent

70 On Jesus' answer cf. Evans, 847f. Jesus had answered Pilate's question; only on
Herod's later questioning of Jesus does Luke note (23.9): ou6ev CmExg[vm:o aU1:~,
against Hoehner, 'Why', 84. In Luke's account Pilate is not 'exasperated because Jesus
would not answer him '. Pilate's question was probably sarcastic and contemptuous: 'Are
you the king of the Jews?', addressed to a Jew tried at a Roman court and accused by fellow Jews.
71 p. 848. Reinbold, Bericht, 26lf notes that different regulations of cognitio applied to
non - Roman citizens (description and examples, n. 118). Though Pilate might have legally proceeded as he saw fit, the precarious situation demanded different procedure.
72 Incidents 2 and 3 of Pilate's interventions listed by Fitzmyer, 1007 indicate how
Pilate dealt with people or events suspicious to him. Possibly such interference was already demonstrated when Pilate had the Galileans killed perceiving them as a potential
threat;c[ Blinzler, 'Bemerkung',27.
73 For Pilate's other options see Walaskay, Rome, 40 and Acts 23.23f; 24.22f.
74 Against Hoehner, 'Why', 85, n.10 for whom 'personal particulars came at the beginning of the proceedings.... Since it was the normal procedure, Luke would have had no
interest in writing it'. If such particulars were properly taken, neither Pilate nor his officers paid attention to them as Pilate heard of this only in v. 6 (cf. Acts 23.33f and
Hoehner, 'Why', 87). Reinbold, Bericht, 261f cautions against conclusions from normal
procedUre.

120

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

Jesus and his accusers off to Herod. Hoehner comments75: 'It appears, then,
that Pilate was under no obligation to hand Jesus over to Antipas. On the
contrary, he did this of his own volition .... He does so to free himself from
an awkward case'.76 According to Hoehner in this way Pilate would (1)
save face, because 'To give in to the Jews would be a sign of Roman injustice and a weakness on Pilate's part. To withstand the Jews might well have
spelled trouble, as it had previously' and (2) 'ingratiate himself with Antipas'.77 In the latter he succeeded (Luke 23.12). With this move Pilate 'had
nothing to lose and everything to gain' (p.90).
In this opening scene Pilate appears as a quick and careless judgeJ8 Far
from concerned with the administration of justice, he intends to use this
case to promote his own goals. From the very beginning Pilate failed to act
on his own conviction (Luke 23.4). His handling of the case demonstrates
Pilate's undisguised contempt for accusers and accused alike.
3. Luke 23.13-17. When Herod returned Jesus (23.11), Pilate summarised
his previous proceedings before the earlier accusers. He claimed to have
examined Jesus and found him not guilty of any of the charges his audience
brought against him. Unless 23.3 summarises longer judicial procedure, this
claim is faise and his audience would recognise it as such. Only taking up
one charge superficially, Pilate was far from having examined the several
charges brought forward in vs. 2,5. He did not clarify Jesus' answer.
Pilate then repeated his own previous verdict and announced and affirmed Herod's equivalent verdict: Jesus had done nothing to deserve
death. Though Jesus was found innocent of any charge brought against him
by Pilate (v. 14) and Herod, under whose jurisdiction Jesus properly be-

75 Hoehner, 'Why', 88-90. Hoehner summarises the debate on forum delicti or forum
domicilii in the early principate. Schneider, 'Verfahren', 127[, denying the historicity of
the scene, does not think an answer can be found. Walaskay, Rome, 42-44 surveys five
theories for the reason of this transferral. Walaskay's own suggestion is unlikely in view
of Luke's use of sources elsewhere. IT Luke is not following tradition, Walaskay has to answer why Luke's two Herodians (and Roman governors!) turn out so differently.
76 So also Plummer, 522; Blinzler, ProzejJ, 284-88. Mommsen argued for a legal obligation of Pilate to do so; according to Schneider, 'Verfahren', 127,n. 84
n With reference to Luke 13.1 (cf. Schneider, 'Verfahren', 127,n.84;so E. Stauffer and
A.N. Sherwin-White; cf. Blinzler,ProzejJ, 291) and the setting up of votive shields in Jerusalem; cf. Philo, LegGai 299-305.
78 This verdict applies whatever Pilate was legally allowed to do in examining a nonRoman citizen. Cf. the characterisation of Pilate in Blinzler, ProzejJ, 284. Compare
Walaskay's apt observations on the deficiencies in Pilate's procedure (Rome, 40f). But it
is difficult to follow Walaskay's conclusion (also in light of Luke 13.1) that 'Luke has
done his best to show the innocence of ... Pilate .. .' and intended to help the church to
better appreciate 'the fairness of the imperial judicial system'. This account hardly fosters such goals.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

121

longed, Pilate still intended to flog Jesus prior to release (23.16,20,22),79


This intention recalls the prediction (fJ.aO'tLyciJoaVtE!;, - ltaLOEuoa!;') of the
Gentiles' contemptuous treatment.so In this middle scene Pilate misrepresented his previous action, again failed to act on his own judgement and determination and continued in his disdain for Jesus.
4. Luke 23.18-25. Then the religious leaders and people demanded that Jesus be executed and Barabbas be released. Barabbas had not been mentioned previously, neither are there any explanations why the people would
or could demand the release of another prisoner (see treatment below).
With Barabbas Luke introduces a legitimate prisoner of Pilate whom - for
the reasons mentioned - Pilate did not want to release. Following his own
interests - namely wanting to release the harmless Jesus brought to him unsolicited by the Jews instead of the dangerous insurrectionist and murderer
whom Pilate wanted off the streets, not in order to administer justice to Jesus - Pilate tried to reason with the crowds. This attempt was recognised by
the Jews and Pilate's suggestion was screamed down by their demands for
Jesus' crucifixion.
Once their shouts abated, Pilate inquired: 'Why, what evil has he done?'.
When the charges against Jesus were presented earlier (23.2), Pilate did not
take them serirlUsly or investigate properly. In the light of his contemptuous
anll careless previous procedure it is not surprising that Jesus' opponents
resorted to screaming Pilate's question down. Si This precarious situation
was largely due to Pilate's previous indifferent attitude. A second time
Pilate affirmed that he had found no grounds for a death sentence 82 and repeated his intention to flog and release Jesus - unwanted by Pilate and the
Jews - rather than Barabbas whom they wanted and demanded. But the assembly kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that Jesus should be crucified (cf. alQC1l,23.18) and eventually their voices prevailed. Instead offollowing his earlier declarations and intentions to release Jesus, Pilate's verdict now simply followed popular demand.

79 Compare Rapske's instructive note on 'Nakedness, Flogging and Shame'. Paul, 297f
(for the Graeco-Roman context); Walaskay, Rome, 44; cf. the combination of EJ.UtaLYJl6~
and J.LO:crtll; in Heb 11.36 and EIlingworth, Hebrews, 629 for the Jewish context.
BC The lack of a Roman mockery scene in Pilate's court is made up by Pilate's treatment of Jesus and by the mockery of the Roman soldiers (Luke 23.36f). Not only did
such mocking happen at the high priestly house (22.63) and at Herod's court (23.11;
against Walaskay, Rome, 43).
SI Pilate's incorrect presentation of his previous measures in 23.14 and Herod's failure
to take their accusations seriously would have added to their frustration.
S2 PiIate no longer refuted all their charges as previously (cf. 23.4,14); he conceded now
- without proper investigation - that Jesus had done things deserving punishment other
than death penalty.

122

Ill. The Geneile encouneer WIlt. salvarwn

Pilate, the Roman governor, released the insurrectionist and murderer


whom the people demanded (his offences, v. 19, are repeated in v.25) and
handed Jesus over for execution (JtaQuO(OUJIlL83 ), as the people wished
though Pilate had thrice declared him innocent. Through his previous failure Pilate had but himself to blame for the delicate situation he put himself
in. Pilate was not simply an instrument of the Jews; he accepted the wrong
verdict of the people. Far from exonerating him 'Pilate appears all the more
culpable for having knowingly turned an innocent man over to execution .
... Pilate's pronouncement vindicates Jesus, not the Roman administration'.84 Pilate emerges from this trial as weak, fickle, unconcerned about
justice and even foolish.S5 The curtain falls on a final scene that could
hardly be more critical of Pilate.
Though Luke is ready to excuse or explain the failures of some Gentiles
(23.24a; et. ayvOLu, Acts 17.30), he shows no trace of excusing Pilate. Pilate
acted neither out of fear nor out of ignorance. If Luke intended any exculpating element in the presentation of the events it concerns the tumultuous
behaviour of the leaders and the croWd. Though the outcome of the events
reflects what the accusers had in mind from the beginning (cf. Luke 19.47;
22.2), they resorted to a public demonstration and tumultuous shouting
only once their previous attempts to follow recognised and proper ler[al procedure, had been frustrated by the improper procedures of two courts. In
view of Pilate's carelessness and con tempt for them and their case, they had
little choice in the matter.86In Luke 23.1-25 the behaviour of the Jews is explicable through Pilate's and Herod's failure, which is not justifiable. At the

8'J Weatherly, Responsibility, 96 concludes his study of :n:uQu1)[bwfLL in Luke's volumes:


' ... each time :n:uQu1)[bwfLL appears with a personal object in Luke, it connotes at least callous disregard and at most outright hostility toward its object (Luke 12.58; 20.20; 22.4,6;
23.25). Given the circumstances of Pilate's handing over of Jesus and the consistent use
of 1tuQub[bwfLL earlier in the narrative, the word may carry this sinister connotation in
Luke 23.25'.
84 Weatherly, Responsibility, 95 and n. 2.
as In his 1950 painting Christ Delivered to the People (oil on canvas, 69 x 149 cm, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh) S. Spencer (1891-1959) depicts in the
centre the people leading Jesus away from the place of trial. In the left top corner Pilate
appears. In contrast to the white cobble - stone ground in the rest of the painting (John
19.131), Pilate sits on a da~k red and black chess-board patterned floor. Between his legs
is a wash basin, he dries his hands with a towel (Matt 27.24). On his head Pilate wears a
jester's cap with three over-size bells. Pilate sits like a puppet, his eyes emptily staring in
the distance. Spencer's depiction of the scene is influenced by several accounts. However,
the portrayal of Pilate as a jester does fit the Lukan picture of fatal neglect and carelessness in Jesus' trial well.
86 Cf. the contrast to Acts 19.28-41: In this pagan idolatrous setting the completely confused tumultuous riot arose immediately. Later the Ephesians are reminded and called to
regular legal procedures.

2. The GenuLe encounler Wl.th sa/vatlolI

123

same time the Jewish choice of Barabbas and their demand for Jesus' crucifixion is far from flattering.
5. Luke 23.52. Weatherly concludes from the observation that Joseph went

to Pilate to ask for Jesus' body:


If Pilate is the authority who disposes of Jesus' body, it can reasonably be assumed
that Pilate is the authority under whom Jesus is executed. Indeed, it is the plan of the
conspirators from the beginning to turn Jesus over to the 'rule and authority of the
governor' (20.20, Luke only). Pilate's concession to the will of the Jerusalemites ...
does not therefore appear to be an abdication of his authority in Jesus' execution; it
indicates weakness, not innocence. Rome continues to exercise the final control. 81

6. Further observations
6.1. It was of little comfort to Luke's church to know 'that Roman magistrates are just in their judgements'BB, if such magistrates could completely

overrule their judgements on popular demand. In addition, Jesus' trial was


far from just. Not only was justice denied to Jesus, but Barabbas was released. Jesus, against whom no charges demanding a death sentence could
be brought forward in Pilate's own estimate, was immediately handed over
for execution89 , while Barabbas was released from prison. Though charged
with serious offences, Barabbas had only been BV "tti q:lUA,!lXti. Even such
treatment was denied to the innocent Jesus.
Defending Pilate, Walaskay also suggests that Luke did not consider the
events of Luke 23.1-25 it completed trial90 and that Luke wanted to show that
'Pilate could not discover enough evidence, either in the Jewish charges or in
Jesus' reply, to proceed with a criminal trial' .91 Even if correct, these observations are far from exculpating Pilate and would only underline the illegitimacy of Pilate's final verdict. It was not that after proper procedures the verdict happened to agree with popular demand, rather popular demand became the verdict without the completion of proper procedures.
6.2. Luke describes proper Roman judicial procedure and also its failures
in Acts.9:/. It has to be taken into account that Paul was tried as a Roman citizen (Acts 21.39; 22.25f), which was not the case with Jesus. J. Becker notes:

87 Weatherly, Responsibility, 96f That PiIate is the authority for Jesus' execution also
becomes evident from the content of the titutus; against Schneider, 'Verfahren', 12l.
88 Walaskay, Rome, 42 (italics mine).
89 Thus Barrett I, 195 is only right in his first claim: 'Luke emphasises Pilate's reluctance to condemn and execute Jesus'.
90 Rome,44.
9i Walaskay, Rome, 40.
92 These include Felix's corruptness (Acts 24.26), Felix's and Festus' partiality in their
desire to please the Jews (24.27; 25.9) and the failure of the Roman tribune in Jerusalem
(22.24-29). The officials in Philippi did not give Paul an opportunity to defend himself
and had him flogged and incarcerated without proper trial. Gallio likewise treated the

124

III The Gentile encounter with salvation

Zudem besa13 ein Prafekt ... das Recht, ohne durch die romische Proze13ordnung gebunden zu sein, gegen lib er Provinzialen, die kein riimisches B!lrgerrech t besaBen (peregrini), in einer Anhiirung nach eigenem Gutdiinken zu verfahren (cognitio) und
dann ein Urteil zu fail en."

However, Luke's report of the measures taken by others in Pilate's position


indicate what steps Pilate, though legally not obliged to do so, still could and
should have taken just before the Passover and concerning an accused as
popular with the people and as controversial for the Jewish leadership as
Jesus was. Against this background Pilate's procedure regarding Jesus appears even bleaker:
(1) Pilate failed to remove Jesus from Jerusalem to Caesarea, his usual
town of residence 94, to guarantee Jesus' safety and to allow examination
and a proper trial without excessive public pressure (Acts 23.12-35).
(2) Pilate did not require the accusers to present their charges properly,
nor was Jesus given an opportunity to defend himself adequately. This is in
contrast to the procedures of Felix according to Acts 24.1-2l.
(3) Pilate did not adjourn the trial to gather evidence properly in order
to decide the case as Felix did (Acts 24.22) or to allow emotions to cool off.
(4) Pilate did not consult a Jewish specialist in these matters. Festus presented Paul to Agrippa (Acts 25.13-26.32). In transferring the case to
Herod, Pilate did not intend to consult Herod, but to hand Jesus over to his
jurisdiction. 9s Pilate did not make the great effort Festus made to bring
Paul's case to a proper conclusion (Acts 25.13-27).
(6) If Pilate found the case too delicate or difficult for him to decide, he
did not consider referring the case to a higher court (A~ts 25.11).96
Also in view of the procedures adopted by other Romans in similar circumstances, it is unlikely that Pilate was a helpless puppet of the Jews.

Jewish accusers and the accused contemptuously (Acts 18.12-17; cf. Zmijewski, 660f); cf.
II3.7.1.and 3.
93 Jesus van Nazaret (Berlin, New York: W. de Gruyter, 1996),430 with reference to Th.
Mommsen, R(jmisches Strafrecht (1899), 229ff, 142ff,340f; cf. Otte, 'Neues', 1024. The verdict of crucifixion corresponds with this assessment of Jesus' legal status; cf. Becker,
p.438.
94 Cf. Blinzler, 'Geschichtsrahmen', 27. Barabbas was only held captive in Jerusalem.
9S Against Radl, 'SonderUberlieferungen', 139f; cf. the discussion of Herod's function
in N olland, 1122f. On Festus and Agrippa see Hoehner, 'Why', 89, D. 33. These latter incidents - not Luke's passion narrative, if anything in Luke's volumes is meant to do so may help the church to 'better appreciate .,. the "fairness" of the imperial judicial systern', so Walaskay, Rome, 41 who claims this for Jesus' Roman trial.
96 Walaskay, Rome,40 excludes this option,yet on p. 89,n.11 he writes 'Though it was
not mandatory to do so in Jesus' case, Pilate, if he desired, could have consulted Rome
about the trial ... '.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

125

6.3. Our impression is furthered by three brief observations arising from


comparison with the Johannine passion account. As Luke might not have
known of these details, the observations carry less weight.
(1) Luke does not report that the Jews tried to put pressure on Pilate by
threatening to report the matter to the emperor as in John 19.12.97 According to Luke's report, Pilate acted under no such additional strain. It was his
free decision. TIlls agrees with the absence of any excuse.
(2) Luke does not explain Pilate's release of Barabbas by citing the Passover custom as do John 18.39; Matt 27.15 and Mark 15.6. Unless it is already known to them, Luke's readers are not told why Pilate would release
a man imprisoned for serious crimes simply on popular demand (Luke
23.18).98 It appears as an arbitrary action. Pilate does not refute the legitimacy of their request. Pilate simply released an insurrectionist and murderer (23.25, whose crimes in the capital, v.19, definitely brought him under
Pilate's jurisdiction), while the man whose previous activities in the temple
Pilate had tolerated, was executed. This procedure will make Luke's readers very suspicious of Pilate.
(3) In John's report Pilate questioned Jesus repeatedly about his identity
and mission and endeavoured to give him a proper trial (18.33-19.10). Such
effort is absent in Luke's account.
In the light of our conclusions, Sanders' reconstruction of Luke's strategy
is questionable:
Better, in the passion narrative, to do just enough reWriting to emphasise Gentile innocence and to imply Jewish guilt. Thereafter, in his freer compositions, he could ac
cuse Jews directly and explicitly."

Luke is far from emphasising Pilate's or any other Gentile's innocence.


Had this been Luke's intention, he failed badly.
7. Conclusion. The course of the Roman trial of Jesus was as much a fulfilment of the passion prediction as was its outcome and the execution of Jesus. Pilate's disdain of Jesus becomes evident from the fact that he did not
97

Cf. Philo, LegGai, 301(

Later scribes inserted civuyx1]v fJe e1xev ci:rtO~:UELV a\rto~ xa'tcl EOQTiJV Eva (as v.17;
or added this phrase after v. 19) as an explanation; c( NTG, 238; GNT, 309; Metzger,
Commentary, 179f ('a gloss, apparently based on Matt 27.15 and Mark 15.6'); Fitzmyer,
1485f; Brown,Death, 794 ..
99 Jews, 15. Similarly Walaskay, Rome, 44: 'Pilate and Rome are ultimately innocent of
Jesus' blood, Herod must bear responsibility for Jesus' shame, and the leaders of the Jews
are responsible for his death'. Reinbold, Berich!, 286 claims 'Die Geschichte [Lk 23.616]
ist im Rahmen lukanischer Redaktion hervorragend verstilndlich: Sie hat eine juristischapologetische Funktion ... '. In his all too brief treatment of two pages he overlooks crucial issues and concludes over confidently: 'Ansonsten ist die Szene ganzlich typisiert; sie
ist an den entscheidenden Stellen vollig inhaltsleer', p. 286.
98

126

111. The Gentile encounter with salvation

grant Jesus a proper triaL The same contempt for his Jewish accusers is evident in that he did not take them and their accusations seriously. Though
recognising Jesus' innocence of the charges brought against him, Pilate did
not act upon this correct insight. He did not release him and still wanted to
have Jesus flogged. Fmally he allowed popular demand to overrule his recognition and previous decision. Pilate only became serious when in a delicate situation of his own making. Even then Pilate only fought to keep his
opponent Barabbas bolted and barred, not to grant Jesus justice. The little
that Pilate recognised of Jesus made no difference in his consistent pursuit
of his own interests (cf. the sending to Herod), leading to a complete denial
of justice. Pilate completely failed to appreciate the identity and mission of
Jesus despite all that he, as governor, would have known about him. That integrity was not pivotal in Pilate's administration of justice is seen in his misrepresentation of his own procedure. A bleak picture of cognitive and
moral-ethical failure, of the unvarnished self-interest and of the anti-Judaism of this Gentile emerges from Luke's account.
2.1.2.3. Herod Antipas (Luke 3.19[; 9.7-9; 13.31[;23.7-12)

2.1.2.3.1. To begin with we again have to consider whether Herod Antipas


can be legitimately included in our study of Gentiles prior to faith (cf. the
discussion of the Samaritans' identity in 11.3.4. and that of Herod Agrippa I
and II in I1.3.5.). Whether Antipas actually was or was considered to be a
Jew is difficult to assess.1 oo
a) Considerations of Herod Antipas' ethnic background start with his grandfather Antipater and father Herod the Great, who were of Idumean origin101, which is said to have
stuck with Herod: 'Obgleich er die Institutionen der jlldischen Religion tatkraftig
fOrderte, vergaB man nie, daB er ldumlier war .. .'.102 The fact that Antipas' mother

100 On Herod Antipas ef. Grabbe, Iudaism, 425-28 and passim; Hoehner, Herod Antipas; idem, 'Herod', ISEE II, (688-98) 694-96 and 'Herodian Dynasty', DIG, 317-26;
Koster, Einfilhrung, 406f; Schllrer, History 1,340-53 (listing all ancient soures, p. 340);
Stem, 'Reign', 283-87.
101 los.ant. lud. XIV.I.3 9; bell. 1.6.2 123 (said of Antipater);ef.LCL 365, notes band
con p. 452f. Herod the Great's behaviour was ambiguous:while e.g. he rebuilt the temple
in Jerusalem, he also promoted pagan cults in his realm and elsewhere (cf. e.g. ant. XV.8J
267-76; xv.11.1-6 380-425; XVILlO.3 44; bell. U.3.1 44; et. Hoehner, DIG, 32Of.
For the contemporary assessment of Herod the Great cf. Hoehner, ISEE II, 688-94 and
DIG, 317-22; Koster, Einfilhrung, 402-06; Schalit, Konig, 40-52, 646-75; Schlirer, History I,
296,207,234, n. 3; Stem, 'Reign', 216-82. I have not seen P. Richardson, Herod: King of the
Iews and Friend of the Romans (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996).
102 Koster, Einfilhrung, 405; so also Hoehner, DIG, 319. Josephus reports that Herod
was rejected as king because he was a commoner (tIlLwtT]\;) and an Idumean, that is a
half-Jew (,IlloufLalcp, tOUtEcr'tLV 'lifLLLOullaLcp). However, elsewhere Josephus reports that
'The Jews claimed that they had the precedence because the founder of Caesarea, their

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

127

Malthace was of Samaritan origin did not help either (Ios. bell. lud. 1.28.4 562; cf. Acts
16.1-3). Thus through his ancestry Antipas' Jewish identity was more than dubious.
The references to Herod Antipas' behaviour are twofold. While sources witness to his
regard for JudaismlQ3, they also note his blatant disregard for the law and customs lO4 and
his Hellenistic sympathies.11lS
b) Luke never directly indicates his view of Herod's identity. In Luke's synchronism he
is introduced as 1:'tQU(iQJ("~ of Galilee (Luke 3.1). In this enumeration Herod follows
Pilate and precedes his brothers before Israel's religious leaders appear. The list moves
from political to religious leaders and from Gentiles to Jews. However, where exactly between TIberius and Caiaphas is the line of demarcation?
Another possible indicator of how Luke perceives Herod is found in Acts 4.27: both
Herod and Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, had gathered together
against Jesus (see III.2.1.2.5.3.). If the relation within this compilation does not follow a
chiastic pattern (a b b' a'), Herod would be counted among the Gentiles. However, association of Pilate with the Gentiles is more natural and Luke may not have intended any
specific relation between the individual and corporate pairs of opponents he mentions. I06
Still Barrett suggests: 'PiIate undoubtedly represented the Gentiles; Herod might have
wished to be regarded as a Jew, but Luke probably thought of him as a Gentile ruler'.I07

king Herod, had been of Jewish descent; the Syrians admitted what they said about
Herod ... ' (ant. XX.8.7 173; cf. bell. II.l3.7 266). Ant. XIII.9.1 257f reports the
Idumeans' forced conversion to Judaism and its lasting effect (xaxEi:vo~ mhot,; 0 :(Q6vo~
~QJ(ev wlTte eIvm 1:0 Aomov 'Ioul\a[ou~). This agrees with Josephus' favourable epilogue
on Antipater in ant. XIY.11.4 283.
103 Herod regularly visited Jerusalem, especially at the festivals, demonstrating his respect for the Jewish faith; e.g. ant. XVIII.5.3 122; CL Stern, 'Reign', 286; Grabbe,Judaism, 428; cf. Luke 23.7: could Herod's desire to see Jesus (Luke 9.9) have contributed to
his presence at this particular Passover? Fitzmyer, 1481: 'one wonders about his Jewish
allegiance'. Cf. HengellSchwemer, Paul, 71 for the importance of circumcision to the
Herodian dynasty. 'Antipas, together with his brothers, brought a successful complaint
against him (pilate) over the erection of an offensive votive shield in the palace at Jerusalem', SchUrer,History I, 343 with reference to Philo's LegGai 299-305. In contrast to his
brother Philip, Herod did not have his own image stamped on the coins he issued; CL
Stern, 'Reign', 286; on Herod's coinage cf. SchUrer, History 1,343, n. 16.
104 E.g. his marriage to a Nabatean princess and preparations to divorce her to marry
his niece Herodias, who was his brother's wife (against e.g. Lev 18.16;20.2l;cf. Luke 3.19;
ant. XVIII.5.lf 109-19,136; Ferguson, Backgrounds, 458; Hoehner, DIG, 323; Koster,
Ein{Uhrung, 407; Schtlrer, History I, 344; Stern, 'Reign', 284). Josephus comments on
Herod's favourite foundation: 'For the knew that this settlement was contrary to the law
and tradition of the Jews because TIberias was built on the site of tombs that had been
obliterated, of which there were many there' (ant. XVIII.2.3 38). While TIberias also
had its ;tQooeuJ(~ (Ios. vita 277), Herod's palace in TIberias 'contained representations
of animals - such a style of architecture being forbidden by the laws' (Ios. vita 65, 67
for the Greek inhabitants of the city).
105 Cf. the two inscriptions mentioned by Stern, 'Reign', 285 (OGIS 416 and 417,
quoted by Schtlrer, History 1,341, n. 1) and the foundation of TIberias on the 'organisational forms of the Hellenistic polis on the model they had assumed under the Roman
Empire'; Stern, 'Reign', 286; Schtlrer, History I, 342f; II,178-80.
10~ Radl, 'Sondertiberlieferungen',138 concludes: 'lliBt sich die Prophetie auf die Heiden mil dem romischen Statthalter als Reprllsentanten und auf die Stllmme Israels mit
dem jUdischen "Ktlnig" beziehen'.
107 1,246.

128

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

Schneider relates v.27 to the previous verse and concludes: 'Als Exponent der Konige
wird Herodes, a1s der der aQXovt~ Pilatus angesehen,,,08 While in Ps 2.1f (Acts 4.25f,applied to the present situation in v.27f) the 'kings' clearly refers to non-Israelite kings (see
II.3.2.), in Luke's use of the passage a Jewish king could be included as 'Messiah' no
longer refers to an anointed Jewish ruler.

c) However, while these Lukan references are unclear, in the trial scene
and the other references we survey below, Luke portrays Herod very much
as a Gentile orientalischen Kleinkonig. 109 This portrait, which in the absence of direct indicators, suggests Herod's Gentile identity to Luke's readers, consists of Herod's taking of his brother's wife, his arrest and execution
ofJohn (ciIos. ant. ludo XVIIL5.2 117-19), his denial of the possibility of
a resurrection, his perception about Jesus and his procedure in the examination and mocking of Jesus (see below for detailed discussion). While
traits similar to Herod's are elsewhere ascribed also to Jews llO , their combination and the similar portrayal of Herod in other sources justifies the
above designation.
Herod betrays characteristics elsewhere ascribed also to Gentiles (denial
of a resurrection, Acts 17.18,32; 26.23f). Herod's treatment of John and Jesus furnishes a suitable illustration of Luke 22.25: ot ~a(JLt..Et~ ,;wv H}vwv
XUQLE'IlOUUW alJ'twv. Thus Barrett's verdict that Luke probably thought of
Herod as a Gentile ruler is sustainable.
Due to the ambiguity of Herod's origin and behaviour reflected in other
sources, to Luke's manner of portrayal of Herod and to absence of direct

108 1,358. Luke refers to Antipas as 'tE'tQaaQX"~ (Luke 3.19; 9.7; Acts 13.1;'tE'tQaaQxEOl
in Luke 3.1; no title: Luke 8.3;13.31; 23 ,7f,1lf,15) , not as ~aOlAE-u~ as in the designation of
Herod the Great (Luke 1.5) and Herod Agrippa (Acts 12.1). The lack of royal designations makes Schneider's claim 'Reprasentant der "Konige der Erde" war gemliB Lk 23.612 Herodes' (1,358) doubtful.
109 We borrow the term from Koster's description of Herod Agrippa I (Einfahrung,
410). On Antipas Koster, 406 writes: 'Er war der getreue Sohn seines Vaters, verschlagen
und grausam, aber auch prachtliebend, doch ohne wirkliche GroBe' (so also SchUrer,
History 1,341). Mark 6.14-29 offers sinister confirmation of Luke's portrayal (et SchUrer,
History 1,346-48). Josephus furnishes a similar portrait: ant. lud. XVIII.2.3 36-38
(Stern, 'Reign', 286 comments on the foundation of TIberias ' ... by royal order in accordance with the practice of HelIenistic sovereigns'), the circumstances of Herod's courtship
and marriage to Herodias in XVm.5.1 109-12 (cf. Ferguson, Backgrounds, 458) and
his account of the ministry and murder of John in XVIII.5.2 117-19 (fear of sedition as
Herod's motivation 119).
110 For adultery cf. Luke 16.18, for the arrest and execution of John cf. the Jewish persecution of the prophets (survey in Stenschke, 'Bedeutung'; also Jewish kings persecuted
OT prophets, e.g. Jeremiah. However, other than Herod, active resistance to John is not
noted; cf. Luke 7.29f). The denial of the possibility of a resurrection Herod shares with
the Sadducees (cf. Luke 20.27; Acts 4.lf; 23.6-10). For his perception of Jesus as a miracle
worker or magician cf. Luke 4.23; 11.16,29 (1); for his procedure in the examination and
mocking of Jesus cf. 22.63-70;23.35,39.

129

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

indicators, e.g. similar to that which Luke provides for Herod Agrippa's
Jewishness in Acts 12.23 (ci II.3.5.), we include Herod in our endeavour to
study Luke's portrayal of non-Jews as comprehensively as possible. The nature of this evidence renders conclusions drawn only from this material inferior to others. However, while valuable facets would be lost, exclusion of
Herod from this study would not essentially affect our results.
2.1.2.3.2. Before we consider the actual trial scene Luke 23.7-12 we briefly

survey Luke's previous references to Herod.


1. Luke 3.19/ John publicly rebuked Herod for his adulterous relationship
with his brother's wife. In response Herod added John's incarceration to all
the other evil things he had done. Later John was even executed.1l1 Whatever role political expediency112 played in Herod's move, Luke sees sin in
John's imprisonment, as in Herod's adultery and in the reference to
Herod's many evil deeds (KaL 1tEQL mlV"tOlv cbv btOLTJUEV 1tovTJQwv).l13
However, being directed against God's agent (e.g. Luke 3.3-6; 7.24-28),
Herod's action against John clearly has a spiritual dimension.
The contrast in the chapter is strong. While the people came to John and
asked for instruction on what is right, repented and were baptised, the ruler
arrested John when he dared to rebuke him.114 The moral challenge and
correction which Herod received through John for all his sins was rejected
straightaway and the corrective was removed and killed: 'Opposition and
rejection is by those who do not want to hear the truth'.115 If Luke considered Herod Antipas a Gentile, this brief reference - not a visit from wise
Gentiles as in Matthew 2 - is the very first Gentile response to the salvation

111 In Luke's account John's murder is fully and only Herod's responsibility; cf. Mark
6.14-29.
112 Cc. Fitzmyer, 477:' ... in contrast to the political motivation for John's imprisonment
supplied by Josephus'; more detailed in Schiirer, History 1,345f (both with reference to
ant.lud. XVIII 5.2 117-19). cc. Acts 24.27;25.9; 12.3.
113 This is one of Luke's few instances where a specific moral-ethical sin and general
WB,
moral-ethical sins are mentioned and clearly identified as such (1:0 :n:OVTJQov);
1385C.2.c. Luke does not identify the other 'many transgressions'. If Luke had a moralethical concept of sin (cf. Conzeimann, Mitte, 212f), he misses a fine opportunity to draw
a catalogue of vices (cf. Luke 22.25f and what is reported of Herod in Schllrer, History I,
340-52).
114 Cf. Ernst, 115; Sch1lrmann I, 184: 'Der Kontext stelIt die Unbu13fertigkeit dieses
Konigs in starken Gegensatz zu der (anfanglichen) Umkehr- und Glaubensbereitschaft
des Volkes: hier ist Unbuflfertigkeit van Anfang an, die durch den BufJruf nur nach
gesteigert wird' (italics mine). If Luke portrays Herod as a Gentile, as we argued above,
the contrast is also one between Jews and a Gentile. The Jewish picture is differentiated
in Luke 7.29f.
lIS Nolland, 156.

cc.

130

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

which Luke describes. 116 In its light it is unlikely that Luke thought that
people only need correction.
2. Luke 9.7-9. When it was claimed by some that this John had been raised
from the dead, Herod - unaffected by these opinions and having 'keine
Gewissensnote wegen Johannes'117 - simply affirmed that he had beheaded
John. Herod was full of confidence in his enlightened Hellenistic world
view and own sense of judgement: 'Er selbst hat ihn hingerichtet, eine
Wiedererweckung kann es filr den aufgeklarten Mann von Welt darum
nicht geben'.118 Therefore Herod could quickly dismiss what was assumed
by some Jews 119 , even though he had heard all that had taken place, which
included the raising of the widow's son and of Jairus' daughter.12o For the
same reasons Herod did not think worthy of consideration or refutation
the other estimates by the people (the appearance of EJijah or the resurrection of one of the ancient prophets).
Despite all he knew of the miracles of Jesus, Herod denied as a matter of
principle what these popular opinions held in common: 'Jesus ist zwar eine
Prophetengestait, aber eine solche, die aus einer anderen Welt kommt: ein
Auferweckter oder ein vormals Entriickter und nun "Erschienener"'.121
Though these are inadequate propositions regarding Jesus, the Jews considered possible such resurrections and appearances.1 22 Luke would rather
wonder with Paul: 'Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God
raises the dead?' (Acts 26.8).123 Herod's Gentile paradigm excludes a priori
the later resurrection of Jesus; in this paradigm properly executed people
simply do not come back to life.

116 Previous references to Gentiles are Luke 2.1f,32 and the synchronism of 3.1.
117 Conzelmann, Mitte, 44; against Schllrer, History 1,349. For a clear case of remorse
see Luke 22.61.
118 Cf. Ernst, 224. Schiirmann 1,508: Luke 'zeichnet ihn ... als so hellenistisch-aufgekllirt, daB er die Volksmeinung, Johannes sei von den Toten erweckt, keinesfalls annimmt: "Johannes habe ich enthaupten lassen" - der ist totI'; et the characterisation of
Herod by Blinzler, Prozefi, (287-89) 288.
119 The people's belief about John is not necessarily a 'very ill-informed piece of popular superstition' ,Marshall, 356; cf. also p. 357. This belief does not need to imply the reincarnation of John in another person; cf. SchUrmann J,506f.
)20 Luke 7.11-17; 8.40-42,49-56. These raisings explain Herod's desire to see Jesus (with
Schiirmann 1,506 against Ernst, 223: 'allgemeine AnknUpfungsfloskel ohne konkreten
Bezug').
121 SchUr mann 1,507.
122 E.g. Luke 7.11-17; 8.40-42,49-56 (raisings); 9.28-36: Elijah and Moses do actually appear in the same chapter!; (22.43f?); Acts 5.19 (angels appear); etc.
123 Again Gentiles of the ruling class are addressed. With the exception of the Sadducaeic Jewish ruling class (Luke 20.27) only Gentiles deny the possibility of a resurrection
or ridicule it.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

131

Such a priori exclusion occurs again. Paul's Athenian audience misunderstood andlor
ridiculed the proclamation of Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 17.18, 20,31f).'l< Also Festus shared Herod's enlightened pagan estimate of resurrections. When hearing first
about Jesus' resurrection from a discussion among Jews, Festus himself describes his reaction as perplexity on how to proceed in such matters: ... lIat ltEQ' "tWO!; 'Ir,ooi:i "ti}vTllIo"tO!; DV E<jJaOllV 6 IIav}.o!; ~fjv. dn:OeOVI-'EVO~ I5E iyw (Acts 25.20; cf. in Luke 9.7
liLrutOQEIIl). When Jesus' resurrection was mentioned again by Paul in his presence (Acts
26.12-15,23: El ltQw"tO!; E; clvaO"taolIl!; VlIQWV), Festus exclaimed that Paul was out of
his mind (26.24: !1atvTI IIai:iAE ... El!; flavtav ltEQL"tQE1tEL}.12S This widespread cognitive
failure of educated Gentiles to understand the core of the Christian proclamation would
hardly be overcome by correction alone.

As Herod confidently dismissed these suggestions, he was left perplexed as


to (bLT]:rtOQEL) who this was about whom he heard these things. While a few
verses later the Jewish disciples correctly identified Jesus' identity (Luke
9.20), and the Jewish people at least employed valid categories to explain
for such miracles or were able to draw on examples from the past, Herod
was simply 'in groBer Verlegenheit'126 before Jesus and his works. This upper-class educated Gentile was at a complete loss to comprehend the miracles, identity and mission of Jesus within his enlightened Gentile frame of
reference and understanding. Such a minds et, with its presuppositions and
limitations, is shown to be inadequate to appreciate and appropriate God's
salvation.
Herod sought to see Jesus (Luke 9.7). His motivation is identified in
Luke 23.8: 'it reveals nothing of any belief in him, only curiosity'.127 Despite

124 Cf. Zmijewski, 639,646f: 'auch bei den Griechen die Auferstehungsbotschaft zum
entscheidenden AnstoB, der die Ablehnung auslost '" Die Auferstehungsbotschaft ist
eben filr so1che empirisch und zudem dualistisch denkenden Griechen Hicherlich'; cf.
III.2.2.11.
125 Cf. Zmijewski, 849: 'Der Einwurf des Festus ... macht deutlich, daB er, der pragmatisch-ntichtern denkende Heide, die christliche Auferstehungsbotschaft als Irrsinn einsch1ltzt, der aus einem tlberm1lBigen Studieren resultiert und dem gesunden Menschenverstand widerspricht'; Weiser, 361; Schneider n, 376. The responses to miracles of less
enlightened Gentiles in Acts 14.11; 16.30?; 28.6 were equally invalid. Within their pagan
paradigm they reckoned with and accepted the appearances of deities in human form
without their prior death. For a survey of various Jewish convictions see G. Barth, 'Umstrittener Auferstehungsglaube', in Bormann, Propaganda, 117-32.
126 EWNT T, 746. Luke 3.19f and 9.7-9 possibly suggest a nexus between previous
moral-ethical and spiritual failure and ensuing lack of spiritual apprehension: Herod was
unwilling to follow John's call to 'prepare the way of the Lord' (Luke 3.4-6) through repentance and its worthy fruits. As he refused and rather executed the one who exhorted
him, Herod, while amazed at Jesus' deeds, was pU7.z1ed about his identity. Once they met,
Jesus had nothing more to add in word or deed to John's appeal. Refusal of repentance
with ensuing change of behaviour prevents response to God's salvation.
127 Fitzmyer, 759; Marshall, 357: 'a feeling prompted by curiosity or malice, not by
faith'; cf. Ernst, 224.

132

Uf. The Gentile encounter with salvation

this desire, and although he was in an excellent position to do so, Luke reports no effort of Herod actively to find out more. Only once Jesus was sent
by Pilate Herod got to see Jesus.
Herod had no regret for his murder of John and excluded the mere possibility of events that Luke reports and beliefs pivotal for him.128 Herod's
moral-ethical disposition, violent refutation of correction, deficient spiritual recognition and failures and lack of determination could hardly have
been sketched more sombrely.
3. Luke 13.31/ Luke knows of reports to Jesus that Herod wanted to kill him. Herod's

desire to see him (9.9) had supposedly given way to a desire to kill him. Yet it is very
likely that the religious leaders who warned Jesus, but were not disposed favourably toward him (1l.53f), fabricated Herod's evil intent in order to induce Jesus to leave
Herod's domain. l29 It is difficult to understand how these Pharisees would have known
about Herod's real intentions and, if they had, why they would have wanted to warn Jesus\30, as Herod's intent was in line with their own aims. On Luke's pages Jesus had not
challenged the ruler for his transgressions as John had done. Herod's desire to kill Jesus
is also improbable in the light of 23.7-15. Unless Herod is portrayed as fickle - improbable in view of his reaction in 9.7-9 - it is unlikely that Herod would have missed the
chance given to him had the intentions of 13.3lf been serious. The course of the Jerusalem examination is difficult to reconcile with the supposition of an accurate report in
13.31. Therefore. Herod's alleged murderous intention is neglected for our purpose.

Within this reference to Herod is the note that Jesus called him a fox.m
Whether it conveys Herod's weakness and insignificance ('the mean and
paltry man as opposed to the lion'132) or craftiness and slyness133 , both
meanings suggest that divine assessment of Herod is in contrast to his
claims and self-confident behaviour in Luke 3.19f; 9.7~9; 23.7-12. Either a
sinful character trait is directly addressed (CL 3.19f) or an, equally unacceptable attitude of pride and arrogance is indirectly addressed: Herod is not
what he thinks himself to be.
Wellmann notes that foxes were hunted as 'Rliuber des Federviehs',134 A

128

ct Fitzmyer, 192-97; Marshall, 'Resurrection'.

129 This

position has been argued in detail by Denaux, 'I:hypocrisie';against e.g. Darr,

Character, 106; SchUrer, History f,349.


130 Previous

occurrences of the Pharisees point in the opposite direction; cf. Scbnackenburg, 'Lk 13.31-33',232; cf. his treatment on p. 233.
\31 On the ancient meanings of this metaphor see Schnackenburg, 'Lk 13.31-33',233;
WB, 81; Nolland, 740; Fitzmyer, 1031 and the extensive treatment by Darr, Character,
139-46 (suggestingfourcharacteristics for the fox); cf.M. Wellmann, 'Fuchs',REVll, 18992.
132 Evans, 561; cf. Marshall, 571.
133 Wellmann, 191.22-26: 'Verschlagenheit und Bosheit'; 189.65-67: 'Die wissenschaftliche Zoologie des Altertums charakterisiert ihn als ein verschlagenes ... Sllugetier'.
134 Col. 190.61. In the same column Wellmann notes on the fox (10-14): 'Er nllhrt sich
von GefJUgel ... ', adducing several literary references. Darr, Character, 140f ( and others)
already noted that the metaphor may concern the fox 85 a predator: 'A fourth trait attrib-

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

133

third possibility is that the designation 'fox' is meant to accuse and indict
Herod for having in a fox-like manner carried away and killed the innocent
and defenceless John. This suggestion is supported by the immediate context: In 13.34 Jesus speaks about the gathering of Israel with another metaphor 'a hen gathering her brood under her wings'.135 Both metaphors could
be related: While Herod the fox carried away the fowl, Jesus intended to
gather Israel as a hen would protecting her brood. 136 That Jesus would have
left Herod's deed,knowing at least of John's imprisonment (7.18-23), without comment, once occasion arose to do so, is unlikely. Darr concludes:
At this point, the reader's hypothesis is that the primary thrust of Jesus' comment is to
identify and condemn this Galilean tyrant as one o/the earthly powers who oppose the
implementation o/the divine plan by destroying God's agents. m

This interpretation of the metaphor agrees with the characterisation of


Gentile rulers in Acts 4.2Sf (et 11.3.2.) and Luke 4.5t
2.1.2.3.3. Luke 23.7-12
1. Once Jesus was sent to Herod to be tried under his jurisdiction, Herod
was very glad. He had wanted to see Jesus for a long time (Luke 9.9; cf. 9.7),
hoping to see Jesus perform some miracle. Herod used this unexpected opportunity and curiously questioned Jesus at some length. BlinzIer observes:
Und gerade das ist fIlr den leichtfertigen Ftlrsten bezeichnend, daB er sich zunlichst
nur fiir den Wundermann interessiert und gaoz zu vergessen scheint, warum Jesus ihm
vorgeftlhrt wurde. Mit vielen Worten drang er in ihn, urn Nliheres tlber seine geheimnisvollen Krlifte zu erfahren und womilglich selbst Zeuge eines Wunders zu werden.
Er stellt Jesus auf eine Stufe mit den Goeten und Gauklern, die damals dem Hofpublikum die Zeit zu vertreiben pflegten. Man wird sich den FUrsten also nicht als dUsteren Inquisitor,sondern eher launig,jovial,herablassend denken mtlssen.13S

From the sequence of vs. 9f (cf. the contrast in 23.2f), Herod's questioning
did not serve to substantiate the charges brought forward against Jesus by
the chief priests and scribes. 139 Like Pilate, Herod did not take Jesus' Jewish
uted to foxes was the inclination toward destructiveness and rapacity. This pejorative notion was probably based on the actual experiences of farmers and herdsmen who often
lost crops and livestock to these common predators' (italics mine).
135 ct Fitzmyer, 1036.
136 Cf. Darr, Character, 145f; cf. p.146 for Luke 13.35a and its relation to foxes.
137 Character, 145 (italics mine).
138 ProzejJ, 289. Cf. also F.G. UntergaBrnair, 'Zur Problematik der lukanischen Passionsgeschichte: Jesus vor Herodes (Lk 23.6-12)" Schrift und Tradition. FS 1. Ernst, eds. K.
Backhaus, F.G. UntergaBmair (paderborn, Munich,Vienna: R Schilningh, 1996),273-92;
for bibliography on 23.7-12 see Schneider, 'Verfahren',1l9, n.43.
139 Nolland, 1123 argues for a close nexus of v. 9 and 10: 'Jesus is questioned by Herod
about the accusations leveled at him by the chief priests and scribes'.

134

Ill. The Gentile ellcounter with salvalioll

accusers and their charges seriously. Despite their vehemence, nothing is said
of any interaction with them. Herod simply ignored them while pursuing his
own interests: His goal for this encounter was not a fair trial or administration ofjustice to his subject. Initially he rather wanted to see some good performance of Jesus140 and to satisfy his curiosity. When this failed he did not
examine the charges brought against Jesus or question him but turned to
ridicule and entertainment at Jesus' expense. In addition to portraying his
moral-ethical failure as a judge (ct. Luke 18.1-8), Herod's behaviour indicates that he again failed to appreciate Jesus' identity, the aim of his mission
and the occasion and purpose of his works (cf. Luke 5.26; 7.16; 11.16,29-32).
As Blinzler indicates, Herod understood Jesus and his ministry naturally
and only according to his own pagan categories. As these were insufficient
and misleading, Herod completely failed.
2. As Jesus failed to comply with Herod's ideas of the nature of their encounter141 , Herod's attitude changed quickly. He and his soldiers started to
treat Jesus with contempt (tl;O'IJitevEo) and to mock him (t!l:n;aL~o) - illustrating and fulfilling the prediction of Luke 18.32 - even though Herod
found nothing in the accusations brought against Jesus (23.15). Nolland observes that such 'Mockery is no statement of innocence; it looks rather
more like a measured strategy, designed to undermine the public image of
Jesus without creating a direct confrontation'.1 42
The accused now also served Herod's previous wish and idea of entertainment in a different way: 'He treats Him as a crazy enthusiast, and gives
a mock assent to His claim to be king'143, probably presented by the accusers (ct. 23.2). Deriding and shaming the alleged pretensions of Jesus, Herod

140 His categorical denial of a resurrection (Luke 9.7-9) might imply that Herod did not
count upon a supernatural miracle but some kind of magic trick or sleight-of-hand. As
such he would have understood a real miracle. The Jewish magician Elymas of Sergius is
a parallel (Acts 13.6).
141 See Darr, Character, 163. Luke provides no explanation for Jesus' silence. Some indications are given: a) Jesus even condemned the Jewish generation asking for authenticating signs, not for entertainment (Luke 11.29). Herod never desired a sign that would
authenticate Jesus for him. Says No\1and, 1125: 'Jesus was critical enough of those who
demanded signs as proof ... , but Herod was a step further away; he simply hoped he
might see a good show'. b) John.'s previous indictment of Herod's sins and his call to repentance were still valid, though unheeded. Jesus had nothing to add to it. For other explanations see Nolland, 1124f.
142 P.1122. Compare the Graeco-Roman examples listed by Rapske, Paul, 283-312,pa5-

sim.
143

Plummer, 523; compare the fine portrait of the scene by Blinzler, Pro~ef3, 289f.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

135

44

had an elegant robe put on him.1 Herod failed to realise Jesus' real kingship far beyond his own tetrarch's petty glory.1 45 To the very end Herod
sought to get entertainment out of this encounter; if Jesus refused to provide amusement, Her~d would see to it himself. Herod's scorn and contempt, his complete failure to understand the kingship of Jesus and his obsession with tasteless entertainment add to the spiritual failure indicated
previously.
3. Fmding that Jesus had done nothing to deserve punishment146 , Herod,
like Pilate, failed to release him.147 After this humiliating display and still
unexamined charges, Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate, likewise freeing 'himself of an awkward case'148, though Pilate had explicitly acknowledged
Herod's power of jurisdiction. Sending Jesus back to Pilate, Herod served
his own interests while relinquishing his right of jurisdiction and failing to
protect one of his subjects. Herod 'avoided direct responsibility for the
death of Jesus, and yet, by mirroring Pilate's indecision (both turn over Jesus rather then protect him) and backing him on Jesus' innocence, he
makes a powerful friend'.1 49 Herod again failed as a judge in pursuing nothing but his own agenda.
4. Pilate and Herod became friends (Luke 23.12)130, not by joint projects for the benefit
of their subjects or by common virtue. Both pursued and achieved personal goals. Their
friendship started the very day of their mutual denial of justice to an accused they both
considered innocent and of their mutual scornful treatment of his Jewish accusers. The
position of this note after vs. 6-11 indicates the relation of that friendship to their mutual
moralethical and spiritual failure. This comment adds to the character-sketches of both
men, to Luke's estimate of Gentile rulers (Luke 22.25; Acts 12.20;24.25-27; 25.9) and prepares for Acts 4.27.151

1401 Cf. Nolland, 1124: ' ... the mock investiture was the beginning point for the treatment with contempt and ridicule'. Such mockery was to point up 'the contradiction between grand claims and what appears to be powerlessness', Nolland, 1125. Blinzler,
Prozej3, 290: 'den als Spottkonig ausstaffierten ... durch die Spottkleidung deutete er an,
daB er den Mann eher fUr 11I.cherlich als gefll.hrlich halte'; cf. Brown, Death, 760-86,863-77
and the instructive parallel in Philo, Flacc 36-38.
14S Ct. Blinzler, Prozej3, 289f.
1.6 Cf. Luke 23.15; Walaskay, Rome, 12f; Darr, Character, 162-65.
147 Hoehner, 'Why',90 seems to claim that Herod's agreement with Pilate on the innocence of Jesus would absolve him from the responsibility of Jesus' death. Although it was
Pilate who eventually ordered Jesus' execution, Herod failed to acquit and release him.
Had this happened, Pilate would not have condemned Jesus.
148 Hoehner, 'Why', 88.
149 Darr, Character, 166; ef. Plummer, 523; Nolland, 1125.
ISO For their former enmity and the possible relationship to Luke 13.1 ef. Fitzmyer,
1482; Marshall, 857; Blinzler, Prozej3, 291.
IS1 These functions cast doubt on Fitzmyer's listing of this verse among 'Luke's inconsequential explicative notes' (1482). Wiefel, 391 (following M. Dibelius and Hl. Cadbury,
see Walaskay, Rome, 43,90, n. 22 for summary and other suggestions) provides no argu-

136

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

In this final scene of Luke's portrayal of Herod his response appears in


stark contrast to all the reader knows about the identity and miracles of Jesus, the nature of his kingdom and to the Jewish and Gentile examples of
positive response to him. Herod's shallow curiosity, his lack of comprehension of Jesus and his ministry and understanding of it in pagan categories,
his failure in administering justice and his contemptuous treatment of accusers and accused alike, his consistent pursuit of his own interest, his obsession with entertainment at any price and his disdainful mockery are indicative of a moral-ethical and spiritual disaster beyond or hardly amenable to correction.
If Luke indeed considered Herod to be a Gentile, no other Gentile is mentioned as often as Herod, nor are the references as evenly distributed in
Luke's Gospel as those to Herod; for no other Gentile is the moral and spiritual portrait so devastating. Whether Jew or Gentile, Luke's characterisation
of Herod alone casts doubt on some proposals for Lukan anthropology.
2.1.2.4. The Roman centurion (Luke 23.47)

Luke mentions a Roman ExatOvtaQXTl~152 witnessing the crucifixion and


its aftermath. It is unc1ear153 whether the centurion heard Jesus' prayer of
forgiveness (Luke 23.34) or his conversation with and promise to one of the
criminals (23.39-43) who already attested Jesus' innocence (ouMv (hmtov
EltQa;Ev).154 The officer surely a) perceived the three hours of darkness
during the brightest hours of the day155, b) witnessed Jesus' manner of suffering this most cruel punishment156 and c) heard his loud cry before his
death: 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit' (23.46) which indicated 'the steadfastness of Jesus' commitment to God in the midst of his
suffering'.157 Taken together these events vindicated Jesus and generated a

ments for his claim 'Die Notiz ist fraglos unter dem EinfluB von Ps. 2.2 ... zustande gekommen', similarly WalasKay, Rome, 43. Barrett 1,247 commen 15 tha t 'it would be unwise
... to say that Luke invented it in order to demonstrate a fulfilment which he does not
trouble to mention'; cl. also Blinzler's criticism in Pro'l.ejJ, 292.
15~ For his Roman identity see Blinzler, ProlejJ, 429, n.14.
153 Due to the expression ldwv ... 'to YEVOfLEVOV.
154 Against Fitzmyer, 1519.
155 Cl. Pobee, Trial, 95f,100; Sawyer, 'Eclipse'.
156 ef. H.F. Hitzig, 'Crux', RE IV, 1728.36f;1729.lf;1731.17-23; Kuhn, 'Kreuzesstrafe',
751-57. Jesus did ~g. not retaliate when abused by the religious leader and soldiers (cf. 1
Pet 2.23); compare the contrasting description of the usual behaviour of crucified people
in Blinzler, Pro'l.ejJ, 373 (cl. Luke 23.39). Blinzler speaks of Jesus' 'beispieUoses Sterben'
(374).
157 N oUand, 1159. Similarly Zahn, 706: 'Das von Kraft und Zuversicht zeugende Leiden
Jesu .. , macht auf den ... Centurio einen so tiefen Eindruck .. .'.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

137

recognition in the centurion. He praised God by attesting to Jesus: 6


clv/}QO>ltOIO o1'i-r:olO 6(xaLolO.
1. The centurion did not address the God of Israel (EM1;a~ev 'tov {l-e6v Af.-yWV) as Jesus
had done (23.46: e'bu:v ... mheQ). Luke presents him praising God through or by his attestation lSS though the centurion himself was unaware of this significance of his statement. This is also apparent from his lack of any further action (see below). It is not indicated that he was a God-fearer and otherwise praying to God (ct Acts 10.1f: ae6f1vo~).
Lukan prayers in the infancy narrative and elsewhere need to be compared,specially the
close parallel in Luke 2.28f: eUMYTJOev 'tov i}eov xat Elm:v ... Man;o'ta.

2. N oUand, among others, argues that aLxaLo~ should be taken in its normal Lukan sense
of 'righteous'.I" We summarise his arguments: Luke never uses aLxaLo~ meaning 'innocent' elsewhere. Immediately after this occurrence Joseph is described as good and
6txaLo~ (Luke 23.50). The context suggests 'that the statement about Jesus as 6[)(aLo~ is
something about which God can be glorified'. Nolland rightly asks: 'Is God glorified by
the discovery that an "innocent" man has just been executed? Normally in Luke people
praise God when they recognise that God has been at work in and through Jesus'.\6Il In
addition, Luke here uses 6[)(aLo~ rather than the expressions employed by the criminal
or Pilate to attest Jesus' innocence; this is unlikely to be merely stylistic variation.

This Gentile drew a right conclusion. Through the miraculous darkness, Jesus' extraordinary mode of suffering, his prayer and death the officer came
to realise and acknowledge the righteousness of the man whose execution
he just oversaw161 : Jesus 'was a good man, and quite right in calling God His
Father'.162 The second half of this quotation probably credits the officer
with more than Luke wants to ascribe to him. The spiritual insight of the
centurion should not be overestimated.1 63 As the significance of the death

\SS Cf. BDR 418.5; c[ Fitzmyer, 1515: ' ... he "glorified God", as he acknowledged ...
the centurion's declaration of Jesus' innocence constitutes his glorifying God'.
159 Pp. 1158f. Following Kilpatrick (,Theme'; summary in Nolland, 1158; Doble, 'Problem', 321f), 6l)(aLo~ was often taken to mean 'innocent'. Nolland, 1159 also summarises
and critically evaluates Sylva, Temple' and Matera, 'Death' ,481-85. In Acts 0 6[xaLo~ becomes a christologica1 title (3.14; 7.52; 22.14). Fitzmyer, 1520 argues for two levels of
meaning: 'On the lips of the historical centurion, dikaios would have meant innocent. ...
but at Stage III [ct his p. viii] one can ask whether Luke may not have meant more .. .'; cf.
Brown, Death, 1163-67. A full discussion of aLX(lLO~ and its meaning, place and contribution to Luke's theology is provided by Doble, 'Problem' and Paradox, 25-160.
160 Cf. Luke 2.20;5.25f; 13.13; 17.15; 18.43;Acts 4.21; 11.18; 21.20. Fitzmyer,586: 'a characteristic reaction of persons in Luke's Gospel'; Marshall, 876: Glorifying God 'is a favourite cukan reaction to a revelation of divine power and mercy, and the estimate of Jesus which follows can be regarded as a praise to God for the way in which Jesus died'.
16\ Cf. Brown, Death,1166. The officer came from commanding Jesus' execution to acknowledging the righteouSness of the executed. With his previous actions and words he
failed to praise God and to recognise the nature of Jesus and of his death.
162 Plummer, 539.
16] So also Blinzler, ProzefJ, 374: 'Man bnlucht diese AuBerung gewiB nicht als ein
volles christliches Bekenntnis zu nehmen'. For its function in Luke's narrative see Blinzler, ProzefJ, 374; Brown, Death, 1164-67, for its significance for a Lukan theologio crucis

138

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

of Jesus and its interpretation is not a strong Lukan concern, it is unlikely


that Luke put crucial interpretations of the event on the lips of Jesus' chief
executioner. For Luke, Jesus' vindication is his resurrection. This caution
also applies to statements like: 'Jesus was no criminal but had died in accordance with God's will'I64, or, Jesus, not those accusing, condemning and
executing him, 'stands in the right relationship with God'.165 Possibly all
that the officer realised and that Luke wants him to express was that the
mockery of the Jewish leaders and of his soldiers, quite apart from appreciating the theological content of the former, was misplaced.
The context confirms our minimalist approach. There are no indications
of faith in Jesus beyond this acknowledgement, no reactions or further
steps such as remorse for his personal involvement (cf Luke 22.62), confession (cf. 15.18,21; 19.8), conversion166, the provision of a decent burial for
Jesus 167, etc. are reported for the centurion. This lack is difficult to explain
when his words are overemphasised.
1. The Jewish crowds also witnessed what had taken place and beat their breasts (Luke
23.48). Though as a sign of remorse or repentance their action is probably over-interpreted"", nothing like their reaction, whatever its exact nature, is suggested for the Gentile centurion.'69
2. For evaluation of his acknowledgement, comparison with earlier incidents of individual Gentiles responding positively to Jesus is instructive. His reaction was neither that of

see Doble, Paradox, 226-44. Apparently not all who magnified the name of Jesus in
Ephesus (Acts 19.17: Efl.Eycu.'liVETO) after 19.16 became Christians (19.18).
164 Plummer 539
165 Nolland, i159: with reference to Matera, 'Death',483. Fitzmyer, 1515 claims: ... he
recognises the meaning of the innocent death in God's plan'. Such far-reaching recognition of the plan of God and the significance of Jesus' death is not necessarily implied.
Similarly also Brown, Death, 1163-67.
166 Ernst, 490 discovers in this note 'Erstaunen, Ergriffenheit, und Bekehrung'; similarly also Brown, Death, 1166f.
167 This task is left to the Jewish council member Joseph and the disciples (Luke 23.5056).
168 Cf. Ernst, 490: 'in den Augen des Lukas sind sie ergriffene Zuschauer, die nicht nUT
Mitleid zeigen und Thauer, sondern spontan auch den Willen zur Lebenslinderung zum
Ausdruck bringen. Das "an die Brust schlagen" (18.13) ist Zeichen der Zerknirschung
und Ausdruck der Reue und frommen Verehrung' (similarly Grundmann, 435f ' ...
Trauer,die zur Umkehrfilhrt' and Brown,Death, 1167f: 'like the publican they beat their
breasts, implicitly signifying, "Be merciful to us sinners"'; for textual variants cf. p. 1168f.
Cf. Marshall, 877: 'the action is a simple expression of grief at the death of a victim of
execution, perhaps grief at his undeserved death; to read repentance into it is unjustified'. Fitzmyer, 1520 and NolIand, 1159 are undecided.
169 Against Brown Death, 1168 who suggests that 'The conversion of the crowds is not
a conversion on the level of that of the centurion, for they neither glorify God nor confess Jesus'.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

139

his comrade in Capernaum (Luke 7.1-10), nor of the healed Gerasene (8.35,38), nor of
the restored Samaritan (17.15-19).170
3. Other commendable responses of Gentiles are also tied to supernatural events, e.g. the
repentance of the Ninevites occurred in response to the sign of Jonah (Luke 11.30,32;cf.
Acts 19.17-20). Luke's Gentiles generally responded to supernatural events, though usually within their frame of reference (Acts 14.11; 28.4-6).171 Yet they also gullibly accept
magic or forgery which was far from divine or truly miraculous (Acts 8.9-11; 13.6-8).
Walaskay argues that Luke 'uses the explicit statement of the centurion to further exculpate the Romans .... This centurion gives the final Roman verdict ... : "This man was
truly innocent"'.172 In its present context immediately following the death of Jesus, the
centurion's declaration is far from achieving this purpose. Rather his statement contains
the realisation that something had gone wrong! Jesus received something which he did
not deserve. Though Pilat~ repeatedly found Jesus innocent, he still condemned him to
death. This is the otJicwl and final Roman verdict.17J

2.1.2.5. The death of Jesus in retrospect (Luke 24.7,20; Acts 2.23; 4.25-27)
Luke 24.7. In the passion predictions Jesus was said to be handed over

El~

XEtQ<l~ avfrQWltOlV and "tot~ e-&vEOLv (9.44; 18.32). Following the description

of the circumstances of this It<lQa.bOOL~, Luke adds yet another characteristic to those involved in Jesus' death to further modify the XEtQ<l~ av{}QWltOlV. The angels declare that Jesus had to be It<lQ<l60{}fjV<lL el~ XE1Q<l~
avfrQWltOlV a,uaenoAwv.174 Though this designation of the participants also
includes Jews, the Gentiles Pilate and Herod with their subordinates demonstrated their sinfulness in their various moral-ethical and spiritUal failures surrounding the death of Jesus ap.d are now declared to be sinnersP5
People in general are sinners. The implicit understanding of sin is defined

l70The centurion did not react like the Philippian jailer, who witnessed the miraculous
vindication of his prisoners and immediately inquired what he must do to be saved (Acts
16.30).
171 Such a response is precluded for the centurion by the Jewish setting: Jewish Jesus
prays to the Jewish God outside Jerusalem in the presence of Jewish crowds.
tnRome, 45.
173 Fitzmyer, 1519 recalls the centurion's position: ... he is a mere subordinate, for
Pilate is in the pretorium'. The official verdict is alluded to in Luke 23.52: Pilate, under
whose authority Jesus was crucified, decreed over Jesus' corpse (cf. above for Weatherly's observation on 23.52).
174 Omitted by Codex D and ltala;NTG, 242; cf. Mark 14.41.
175 Evans, 896 sees the expression as probably referring to Jews, 'who in Acts 2.38 are
exhorted to repent of the crucifixion'. Sanders, Jews, 10 without further discussion takes
it to refer to the Jewish authorities. Meyer, 571; Weiss, 635; Godet, 585; ElIis, 272; Leaney,
292 (with reference to Jewish parallels) take it to refer to Gentiles. No longer is ufluQ"tooM~ used as previously in the context of an inner-Jewish debate, e.g. Luke 5.8,30,32;
18.13; cf. Green, Thf!ology, 84-86 and the discussion in Neale, Righteous, 68-97,152f who
assigns Luke 24.7 among 'other places in Luke afluQ"tooAot is nothing more than a term
of derision'.

140

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

by their action of crucifying Jesus: 'Die Sunder sind hier nicht die Heiden
im Gegensatz zu den Juden, sondern die Menschen im Gegensatz zu Gott
und seinem Gesandten'.176 This understanding of sin Is inners and its implications transcends an moral-ethical understanding of sin.
Luke 24.20. The disciples reported how the chief priests and leaders
handed over Jesus for the sentence of death. Doing so ECTtauQ(J)crav ain:6v,
they 'had him crucified')77 In the preceding chapter the reader learned
who was involved: the religious leaders handed Jesus over to the Romans to
have him condemned. Once this occurred, the Romans carried out their
own sentence. Mention of Pilate and the Romans beyond reference to the
mode of execution is unnecessary or even tautologous. 178
Acts 2.23 again mentions the Gentiles and their contribution to the murder of Jesus. He was crucified and killed c5ui X.ElQo~ UVO!l(J)v)79 The Jewishness of the audience is emphasised in 2.22, in opposition to this group avo!l0~ occurs referring to Gentiles. ISO The passion account indicates that the
Gentiles were not mere Jewish instruments but fully responsible and committed participants.
1. Luke's stress on the Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus in Acts 2.36; 3.15,17 derives from the audience of these charges: Peter addresses Jews to lead them to a proper
recognition of their involvement in the rejection of Jesus. Elaboration on the Gentile involvement in Jesus' death would not further this goal. Therefore Pilate's participation in
the event (3.13) is only mentioned in passing. When the guilty Jerusalemites (cf. Luke
23.13,23) are no longer addressed, the presentation is more balanced. 2. Within the
church Jewish and Gentile responsibility appears balanced (Acts 4.25-27).3. In Pisidian
Antioch Paul simply reported how the 'residents of Jerusalem and their leaders' condemned Jesus. m Though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate

176 Blinzler, Prozef3, 430

(italics mine). This understanding is spelt out in Acts 4.25-27.


Fitzmyer, 1564.
178 It is not surprising that disciples who from the early Galilean days onward knew of
the hostility of the religious leadership towards Jesus would mention them in a summary
as chief agents; against Sanders,lews, 10 (also pp. 229f). Sanders rightly observes that 'it
is probably not Luke's intent to absolve "the people" of guilt' and provides good explanation for the disciples' shortened version of events (p. 68).
179 In Luke 22.37 iivOfLO~ it is better translated as 'criminals'; cf. WB, 143.3. lbis also
seems to be the sense in Isa 53.12; cf. Bock, Proclamation, 137-39. Acts 13.28 mentions
Pilate as representative of the clv6fLOlV. For the theological significance of this designation cf.II.3.1.
180Wilckens, Missionsreden, 125 equates this expression with that of Luke 24.7
(Civfrg<OltOL clfLagtOlAot). This misses the preceding direct address of Peter's Jewish audience; against Sanders,Jews; 10, for whom the identification of clv6fLOlV as referring to the
Romans is 'by no means certain in view of the similar phrase in Luke 24.7 ... which seems
to refer to the Jewish authorities'.
181 The contrast no longer is 'you did - but God' (Acts 2.23: clvElAatE; 36: "(Let,. Em:a"UgwOatE; 3.14f: "(LEr~ TJQv,;oao{}E, uti)oaa{}E, cl:n:ElttELvaTE).
177

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

141

to have him killed (Acts 13.28/)182 and Pilate granted their request.l'" Weatherly concludes: 'The text betrays no interest in protecting Pilate from a share of the responsibility,
though clearly it is primarily concerned with the responsibility of Jerusalem'.'" 4. Neither Jews nor Romans are charged in Paul's temple speech or his defence before Festus
(ct 26.23). The stress in ascribing responsibility depends on the occasion and audience
when the topic is addressed.'8S

Acts 4.27 applies the preceding quotation to the united action of Jews and
Gentiles against Jesus. God's authorised assessment of the Gentile world at
large (Ps 2.1f)186, is now extended to include Jews and applied to the recent
events. In truth, both Herod and Pontius PiIate187, with the Gentiles and the
tribes of Israel gathered together against God's holy servant and anointed
one.

1. Gentiles and Jews are portrayed as co-operating in this united hostile


gathering. 18B Our previous observations on the passion narrative have
182 Luke reports how the crowd directed its demands 'm;a1igou' at Pilate, indicating
their expectation that he would be the one to crucify Jesus; et Weatherly, Responsibility,
96. Sanders, Jews, 14 exculpates Pilate: 'Luke gives no indication that Pilate acceded to
this request'. While this is correct, the reader knows the whole of Luke 23, also Acts 13.29
sufficiently indicates that PiIate granted their request and had Jesus executed.
The considerable change in reference of the third person verbs in 13.29 from the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders (d JtJ..tigwoav, e-UQcv'te; il'tljoavco, v. 27f; E'tEAeOaV,
v.29) to the unnamed Joseph of Arimathea (xaiteAOvcE; ... E-Ihjxav plural; cf. Luke 23.53
third person singular verbs!) cautions against far-reaching conclusions from the occurrences of third person plural forms in the actual passion narrative (Luke 23.13-35; cf. e.g.
Walaskay, Rome, 44f).
183 et Barrett 1,641. It appears here as if without Pilate's consent they could not have
killed Jesus.
184 In contrast to Jerusalem, in Pisidian Antioch the report of the circumstances of Jesus' death did not provide the basis for a call to repentance, rather they have become part
of Jesus' biography from which, as a whole, the audience is challenged to faith (Acts
13.38f).
185 This occasional character of the reference to the responsibility for the death of Jesus is repeatedly overlooked by Sanders, Jews, 13-15,240 who claims that from 'the Emmaus Road account, the accusations against the Jewish authorities become explicit and
remain so throughout Acts', p. 15. Sanders explains these differences between the passion narrative itself and these later charges with reference to Luke's anti-Jewish handling
of sources, p. 15.
186 Spoken by the Spirit through his servant David; ct our discussion of this quotation
in II.3.2.; cf. III.2.1.2.3.
!B7Luke identifies the plural form oL agxovce; of the quotation with Pilate, not with
the Jewish religious leaders whom he elsewhere designates by this expression (Luke 14.1;
23.13,35; 24.20; Acts 3.17;4.5,8; 13.27). For a more extensive treatment ofthis observation
see Weatherly, Responsibility, 92. A statement of the rebelliousness of the Gentile world is
expanded to include Jews; Luke does not expand a statement on Jewish obstinacy or one
related to the rejection of the prophets to include Gentiles.
188 Against WiIckens, Missionsreden, 133: 'Von einem Zusammenwirken beider in der
Tlltung Jesu ist nicht die Rede'. EVen the current threats to the church (reported in ch.4
and of Jewish origin) are associated with both groups ('tci; emEv..ci; av'tci.iv).

142

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvalion

shown this summary statement of international, inter-ethnic and inter-religious co-operation against Jesus to be in agreement with the narrative. Also
in the light of Pilate's and Herod's portrayal and of the note of their nascent friendship (Luke 23.12), the charge of hostile cooperation is not unexpected. After repeated emphasis on Jewish guilt in the rejection of Jesus
(see above, occasioned by the audience of these charges!), this is - following the third passion prediction - Luke's most direct accusation of Herod.
Pilate and their subordinates of their involvement in the rejection of
Jesus.1 89
2. In addition to indicating co-operation, this verse also offers a theological
interpretation of the passion events. In contrast to those praying (Acts 4.2430), (Jews and) Gentiles failed to recognise, appreciate and honour Jesus,
his identity, position, and mission. Their gathering and ensuing action was
not mere moral-ethical failure, they plotted and rebelled against God's
anointed. Through use and application of the quotation the present Gentile
participation in the rejection of Jesus, far from being downplayed or excused, is understood as yet another act of the direct Gentile rebellion
against God known from the past.
Further incidents of this co-operation and rebellion are described later
in Acts. Jewish-Gentile united resistance surfaces again in their co-operation against Jesus' followers. The Gentile intervention against the Christian
mission, which was likewise divinely appointed, indicates further Gentile
rebellion against God. Luke sees Gentiles of the past and of the present in
rebellion against the representatives and means of God's saving purposes.
This assessment points to a deep spiritual failure and need of the Gentiles.
After the passion narrative it is not surprising that Luke 'does not say here what any of
the parties mentioned did to Jesus'.19O Though Sanders claims rightly that 'This passage
could ... hardly be cited as evidence that Luke intended to designate the Romans and
not the Jews as the executioners of Jesus', the passage describes both groups as sharing in
the rebellion against God. In the light of Acts 4.27 it is wrong that nowhere 'does Luke

189 Before the prayer goes on to identify the culprits in an encompassing universal
manner (cUv ffrvEOLV), God's sovereignty and role as creator is acknowledged (Acts

4.24). Walaskay, Rome, 43 argues that when quoting Ps 2.lf in Acts 4.25-27, Luke only

states 'exegetically that all the powers of the world were arrayed against Jesus' and the
verses are dismissed (cf. our n. 151!). Thus W. concludes that 'Pilate and Rome are ultimately innocent of Jesus' blood' (44). Yet whether Luke reports what he takes to be historical events or merely states 'exegetically', his readers would understand Luke as holding both Jews and Gentiles accountable for Jesus' death. Against the older view adopted
by Walaskay, the historicity of the scene in Luke 23.7-12 is defended by NoUand, 1122;
Blinzler, Prozep, 292; Hoehner, Herod, 227-30; cf. also Marshall, 854f. The passage should
not be dismissed that quickly.
190 Sanders,Jews, 14, also for the following quotations.

2. The Gentile encounter wilh salvation

143

stray from his consistent portrayal of the Jewish religious authorities as those who plotted and carried out the crucifixion of Jesus ... '.

3. Both groups were God's instruments in fulillling his predetermined purposes (Acts 4.28: <Saa ~ XEtQ aou Kat 1] ~OUAi] :7tQOWQLaEV YEVEo{}m),191
Sanders tries to use this note to diminish the force of v. 27,192 Yet for Luke
human responsibility and guilt and the fulfilment of the plan of God go
hand in hand. Unconscious fulfilment of the plan of God does not absolve
the Gentiles from guilt.
Jesus' prayer indicates that such involvement incurred guilt requiring forgiveness (Luke
23.34).193 In Luke 2124-26 the Gentile treatment of Jerusalem, though a fulfilment of all
that is written (21.22), is followed by judgement over the nations (distress, confusion,
fear).194 Jews are indicted for their contribution to fulfilling this plan, called to repentance and threatened with judgement.'9s

Conclusion

Luke describes the Gentile participation in the death of Jesus and its nature. He ascribes to the Gentiles a significant share of the responsibility and
guilt. Therefore Luke's passion account should only be called 'anti-Jewish',
if one is to add that it also is 'anti-Gentile': Jesus was rejected and murdered at the hands of Jews and Gentiles together (Luke 18.32 (24.7); Acts
4.25-27). These two summary statements of participation and responsibility
bracket and summarise the account of the events. The mixture of positive
and negative Gentile responses to the ministry of Jesus has in the passion
prediction, its fulfilment and retrospective assessment given way to a bleak
negative portrait.
Luke's report indicates the moral-ethical failure of Gentiles. They denied
Jesus justice while releasing a murderer, they followed their own interests,
mocked and ridiculed Jesus and failed to take his Jewish accusers seriously.
Though Gentiles affirmed Jesus' innocence against his Jewish accusations,
they nevertheless co-operated to do away with him against this better
knowledge. While it is conceded that the people and leaders of Jerusalem

191 We turn to the question of divine predestination in the salvation of Gentiles in


IlI.3.3., where these references to God's plan and predestination in other areas need to
be considered, though predestination in one area does not necessarily imply its occurrence in the other.
192Jews, 14; for a summary of Sanders' arguments and refutation see Weatherly, Responsibility,92-94.
.
193 For its textual status and discussion see Fitzmyer,1503f; Brown, Death, 973-81.
194 Cf. II.2.7.; Fitzmyer,1350; Noliand,1005f.
195 Cr. Luke 23 .28-31; Acts 2.23,3640; 3.13-15,17-19,26; ct Barrett I,142f,154,156, 201-03.

144

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

have acted out of ignorance (c'iyvOLU, Acts 3.17; 13.27), these Gentiles acted
against their knowledge of Jesus' innocence.196 Their share in the events
and of the responsibility is not less despicable. Upon recognition of failure
by one Gentile participant (Luke 23.47), no steps were taken. The Gentile
treatment of and contempt for Jesus is embodied in their mode of execution and its realisation: they inflicted upon Jesus the cruellest and most
shameful punishment with all this entailed.1 97
The Gentile treatment of Jesus is also indicative of their spiritual failure.
The Gentiles involved completely failed to recognise Jesus' identity, the nature of his claims and his mission. In view of all that Luke wrote about Jesus
prior to the passion account a more extensive misapprehension (not just
lack of apprehension) and mistreatment of Jesus is hardly conceivable.
Their action is interpreted as a sinful rebellion against God (Luke 24.7;
Acts 4.25-27). The moral-ethical and spiritual failure of the two individual
Gentile protagonists in their treatment of Jesus agrees with Luke's previous references to them. 19B
The passages on the Gentiles and the death of Jesus indicate the complete moral-ethical and spiritual failure of the Gentiles involved. Such misapprehension and the ensuing demeanour indicate a serious spiritual deficiency and preclude linking Luke's soteriology closely with the natural capacities of Gentiles. The picture emerging from the Gentile encounter with
Jesus fully affirms our previous observations on Gentiles prior to faith.
2.2. Acts; The Christian Mission and the Gentiles
2.2.1. Introduction

In Luke's Gospel the number of incidents of Gentiles meeting Jesus or the


salvation he came to bring are limited. At its end the disciples are charged
with the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness in Jesus' name to all
nations (Luke 23.47). The opening verses of Acts pick up these threads: The
196 The textually dubious concession of ignorance ov yag OroaoLv 'tL l'tOLOiiow in Luke
23.34 refers to 'the Romans who physically affixed Jesus to the cross but did not understand that they were doing this outrage to God's Son', Brown, Death, 973. It is problematic to apply this concession to Pilate and Herod who both held Jesus to be innocent, or
to expand it to the soldier's following mockery (23.36f); against Brown, Death, 973-75
who suggests a wider application of the concession and quest for forgiveness.
191 Against Schlitz, Christus, 31,36f; though we agree with his assessment on p. 41: 'das
Sterben Jesu als Konkretisierung einer bis ins lluBerste gehenden Abweisung und Verwerfung jenes Jesus von Nazareth dar'.
198The consistent depiction of both men illustrates Luke 22.25 (both 'E!;ovOLal;ov'te~
XlJgLeUOVOW' over John and Jesus; cf. Fitzmyer, 1416f). The attitude and demeanour of
Gentile rulers serve as a negative example in paraenesis.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

145

disciples will be Jesus' witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1.8). In this
section we study the encounters of Gentiles with salvation and the Christian message. Again our concern is: what can be concluded from their reaction and response to their state prior to faith?
In addition to these incidents we shall gather into one excursus the references to Luke's
portrayal of the nature and behaviour of Gentile crowds. l " This section includes the missionaries' encounters with the demonic in various fonns regarding Gentiles. We have not
presented this material in a section of its own for two reasons: a) As we include these instances in this section, deal with Luke's references to the devil and the state of Gentiles
in III.3.2.1.2.3. and discuss Luke's view of demonic interference in the Gentile appropriation of salvation in III.332.4., further fragmentation is not advisable; cf. 1.3.3. b)
'freatment in the present section follows Luke's thought. The devil, demons, possession,
ete. do not occur for their own sake but only as linked to salvation and deliverance. Our
observations from these incidents and our previous insights (including Luke 6.17; 8.2639; Acts 8.7-11) will be summarised in III.2.2.l7.2.

2.2.2. Philip's ministry in Samaria (Acts 8.4-13)200

Philip was among those going from place to place EuaYYEAL~6JlEVOL -rQV
.A.6yov. Yet to the Samaritans EX~Q\JaaEv a\,..cor~ -rov Xeun:6v. This title,
used with the definite article, suggest that such a figure was known and ex"
pected by this audience. 20l The crowds listened eagerly as they witnessed
Philip's signs (v. 7). Great joy arose. They believed Philip's proclamation of
the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus as .the
Christ202 and were baptised. Even Simon believed, was baptised and stayed
with Philip (:TtQoaxaQ"tEQwv; et. Luke 8.38)203, greatly amazed at the signs
that took place.
199 III.2.2.8.2., conclusions include the relevant material from 11.3.4.-11.
200 We already studied Simon's demeanour and claims and the quasi-idolatrous response of the Samaritans which forms the negative backdrop to Philip's ministry and
proclamation and its reception (Acts 8.9-11, II.3.4.). In IY.3.4.1. we shall examine Acts
8.18-24.
201 ct. the different designation of this person in Athens (Acts 17.18). Luke did not
mention such Samaritan expectations previously (et. John 4.25). Probably Luke 17.11-19
does not contain messianic overtones. On Samaritan messianic expectation see Dunn,
Baptism,63 and Macdonald, Theology, 362-71, 458 and his General Index s. v. 'Messiah',
'Taheb', 476.479.
202 ct. Pesch 1,273; Barrett 1,408: 'Attention continued and at a certain point became
faith ... The name of Jesus is a tenn for the active power of Jesus, visibly at work in the
healing of disease and in the spiritual healing also'. Dunn's rejection of the genuineness
of their conversion (Baptism, 64), though attractive for vs. 12f, becomes problematic
later: the apostles seem to assume the Samaritans' genuine conversion,no re-evangelisation or correction is mentioned before the apostolic prayer, laying on of hands and reception of the Spirit. The latter would hardly have been fooled.
203 Cf. Taeger, Mensch, 117,n. 457 (on :7t!!OOeXEW see pp. 152f,214).Dunn, Baptism, 65f
argues against Simon's genuine conversion. Ct. Marshal!, Power, 97f, 238, n. 15; Pesch I,

1.46

Ill. The GerllLie encou/lIer

WHiz salvaLLuri

The insertion (8.9-11) compares and contrasts these events with their
previous response and allegiance to Simon: 'they listened eagerly to Simon
because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic'. Their former
response and allegiance does not mar their positive response to the gospe1.204 The Samaritans did not believe in Philip or his works among them
but in him as EiJaYYEAL~0/lEVq>.20S They believed Philip the evangelist who
came with a different message, pointed away from himself and to the kingdom of God and Jesus and did not claim that 'he himself was someone
great'.206 This is in contrast to their previous demeanour when they followed Simon's person and claims. Despite their previous devotion to and
acclamation of Simon, they did not acclaim Philip as an even greater manifestation of the power of God (ct Acts 14.11).
This exemplary response is somewhat surprising in view of their depiction prior to faith.207 The Samaritans understood the Christian proclamation, rightly appreciated the accompanying signs and believed that Jesus
was the Messiah. Does Luke explain this? These Samaritans had Jewish
neighbours and interacted with them (et Luke 9.52-56; 17.11; Acts 9.31)
and shared elements of their faith and their messianic expectation (ct Luke
17.13-15). In addition, it can be assumed that at least some of them were familiar with the teaching and works of Jesus. 20B Persuaded by Philip's proclamation and the superior miracles in its support (which amazed even
magic Simon himself, 8.13), they realised that the Jesus whom Phili"p proclaimed as Christ was the real Messiah, not Simon whom all of them had
mistakenly identified as such or a similar figure and who only now was unmasked in his pretensions through his lack of power over demons and disease.1\vo conclusions arise:
274f and the discussion in Barrett 1,409. Dunn, Baptism, 63 also suggests that there are 'a
number of reasons for believing not only that their response and commitment was defective, but also that Luke intended his readers to know this'.
204 Against Dunn, Baptism, 64t.
205 Barrett 1,408; cf. the conclusions of Dunn, Baptism, 65.
206 Taeger, Mensclt, 214 says: 'Ein Blick auf 8.5ft. zeigt, daB zwar die Menge gleichermaBen auf Philippus und Simon achthat (Y. 6.10f.), aber im Fall des Christen Philippus
richtet sich das Interesse auf das, was dieser sagt, und dadurch werden die Leute gewonnen (Y. 12), wahrenddessen Simon die Aufmerksamkeit wohl fUr geraume Zeit durch
seine Zaubereien auf sicb, seine Person, ziehen kann, docb gegen die christliche VerkUndigung letztlich nicht ankommt'. Similarly Pesch I,274f.
207 'Es handelt sich urn einen Massenerfolg, wenn auch 1tav1:~ hyperbolisch zu verstehen ist', Bauemfeind, 139. All the way through the subject of the third person plural
verbs (btL<TtEllaaV, E~a1t1:[!;OV1:o) is 1taV1:E~ cmo !1L"Qou EW'; jJ.Eyw..OlJ. The apostles heard
that Samaria had accepted the word of the Lord (8.15). Acts 9.35 reports a similar mass
conversion through a miracle in Jewish Lydda; cf. Schwartz, 'Peter', 392f and the repentance of the people of Nineveh (Luke 11.32).
208 Cf. Luke 6.17, III2.1.1.1. and 4.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

147

1. As with Jews and God-fearers, among these non-Jews with such 'messianic' categories for understanding the true identity of Jesus the proclamation was properly understood and gained considerable following. Where
those categories are lacking, the picture is drastically different.
2. Philip's proclamation and ministry was necessary to provide the correct identification of the Messiah, unavailable and unattainable otherwise,
and to expose the previous blunder, which remained not only unrecognised
but was strongly believed. They had listened eagerly because over a long
period of time Simon succeeded in amazing them with his magic (Acts
8.11).209 It was only this message and ministry which exposed and overcame their mistaken veneration of a deceitful fellow-human being. Though
the above factors explain their exemplary and overwhelming response,
they previously failed to affect the Samaritan assessment of Simon; perception of the real state of affairs, encompassing salvation and correction,
came only with the Christian proclamation.

2.2.3. The Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8.26-40)

While not designated a God-fearer, this Ethiopian made a tremendous effort to find GOd. 21O He undertook a long and costly journey to worship in
Jerusalem. Even on the journey he read the Scriptures. Among the Gentiles
were people highly committed to searching for God and who were searching in the right direction (ct: III.3.3.3.3.).
This royal treasurer was educated and of high social status. 211 He was
committed and had been a long time 'on the right track', he was looking at
the right source and was reading it with care; yet even he failed to understand scripture on his own: 'Wirklich verstehen kannen den Propheten Jesaja nur die, denen das reehte Schriftverstandnis gegeben ist, die Christen.
Nichtchristen bedilifen der Anleitung zum Verstehen, der Belehrung'.212

209 According to Bauernfeind, 125 this note serves to: 'das kritiklose Verhalten der
angehenden Christen soIl begreiflich gemacht, gewissennaBen entschuldigt werden'. I
210 For the discussion of the man's religious status and the significance of this passage
in the structure of Acts (relation to 10.1-11.17) cf. Taeger, Mensch, 209f. On the purpose
of the eunuch's visit cf. n.R. Schwartz, 'On Sacrifice by Gentiles in the Temple of Jerusalem', in idem, Studies in the Jewish Background of Christianity, WUNT 60 (Ttibingen:
J.C.B. Mohr, 1992), 102-16 and HengellSchwemer, Paul, n. 345.
211 Cf. Miiller, Lesen, 9,163, n.11.
212 Taeger, Mensch, 212 (italics mine); cf. MUller, Lesen, 10r. In this the Ethiopian was
no exception. Jesus had to open the eyes of the disciples to the necessity of his suffering
which was foretold by Scripture (Luke 24.25-27,44-47; for the parallels between Acts 8
and Luke 24 see Lindijer, 'Encounters'). The devout assembly on the day of Pentecost
failed to recognise the fulfilment of Scripture among them. The apostles argued continuously from Scripture that Jesus was the Messiah. Their message was not self-evident even

148

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

Even when asking the right questions, he failed to find answers by himself213 God provided this essential ingredient: Philip started with the explanation of this scripture and proclaimed the good news. It was only after his
questions were answered and the good news was shared with him that, in
accordance with the proclamation and reception of Jesus as good news, he
continued his journey rejoicing. This provision and its necessity indicates
the spiritual deficiency even of Gentiles who were already attracted to Judaism. Even such 'promising' Gentiles failed to understand God's special
revelation.
Despite this deficiency Luke stresses that Gentiles already acquainted with Judaism and
its Scriptures were the Gentiles of most positive response. The mission had its greatest
success among them (cf IlI.3.3.3.3.). Once it ventured beyond these confines of knowledge and acceptance of Scripture, this vital backdrop was lacking and severe misunderstandings occurred. 214 This silent but forceful tribute must not be overlooked in assessing
Luke's view of ludaism. Taeger writes:
Die Voraussetzungen filr ein erfolgreiches Bekehrungsgesprlich werden deutlich: auBer der in diesem Fall gegebenen gemeinsamen Basis der Schrift, der Bereitschaft,
sich belehren zu lassen, Interesse und Offenheit.21$
Except for the God-fearers, this common basis is not shared with Gentiles. 216 When
Scripture was shared with them in speeches based on Scripture (Acts 14.15-17; 17.22-31),
the response of Gentiles was at best limited. Likewise, except for God-fearers, Taeger's
other three ingredients (readiness to be taught, interest and openness) hardly occur. This
encounter is exceptional.

2.2.4. The conversion ofCornelius (Acts 10.1-11.18)


2.2.4.1. Cornelius and his preparations

Cornelius is characterised through his qualities (1), his prompt response (2)
and welcome of Peter (3).
1. Acts 10.2,22. Cornelius is introduced as an exceptional Gentile: He was a
devout (EUcrE~Tj~) man who feared God with all his household, gave many

for the serious yet unbelieving readers of Scriptures. Even once openly proclaimed, it
was not accepted by all. More than mere information was involved. Luke repeals differences between various people: All those familiar with Scripture first need their eyes
opened to fully appreciate it.
213 MUller, Lesen, 12. Compare his Lukan 'Lesemodell', pp. 84-92. In his all too brief
treatment Mtlller does not draw anthropological conclusions from Acts 8.26-40; cf. my
review in NT 39, 1997, 197-99.
214 Lindijer, 'Encounters', 84: ... it is to be found in the Old Testament; all people who
are on their way, Jews as well as Gentiles, must go via these Scriptures'.
215 Mensch, 212.
216 Gentiles lack special revelation; cf. 11.3.1., III.3.2.2.2.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

149

aims and prayed constantly to God. V. 22 further characterises him as


~txaLO~, God-fearing and well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation.
4>o~eLo{}aL with God as object also occurs in Acts 10.35; 13.16,26.
Whether the expression is used here as a technical term or as a description
of piety nee\i not concern US. 217 Unless the expression itself identifies him
as 'attached or favourable to the synagogue'2ls, such adherence is not explicitly stated. 219 Yet his fear of God and prayers to God clearly indicate his
Jewish orientation. Almsgiving and prayer were crucial expressions of Jewish piety220 and indicate the seriousness of his commitment. 221 Through his
contact with Judaism, Cornelius knew of, feared and revered God. F. Blass
rightly notes on ~LXaLO~: 'sensu Iudaico, observans praecepta Dei'222, again
stressing the Jewish connection. dLXULO~ was previously applied to commendable Jews (Joseph223, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon; Luke 23.50; 1.6;
2.25). They rejoiced over the coming of God's salvation (1.77-79; 2.3032). 224 1his characterisation does not preclude the need of salvation; rather
those thus qualified immediately welcomed the good news of its arrival.
Luke has previously introduced other Gentiles of exemplary response
and piety (Luke 7.1-10; 17.11-19; Acts 8.26-40). They had in common that
they were already associated or familiar with Judaism. They shared essential parameters for understanding the Christian proclamation. These commendable Gentiles appear in contrast to the usual characterisation of Gentiles prior to faith.

217Barrett 1,499-501 discusses the expression and concept. See also K.G. Kuhn, H.
Stegemann, 'Proselyten' ,RE S IX,1266; Blue, 'Acts', 17&-83; Gempf, 'Appendix'; SchUrer,
History Il1.1, 150-76. For Graeco-Roman occurrences of E-UOE~';~, K"tA. cf. W. Foerster,
Th WNT VII, 175-78, NT occurrences on pp. 180f.
218 Barrett 1,500.
219 Neither is his attendance necessarily implied in the expression "tq) Aaq) for the recipients of his alms. On his fasting, mentioned by some manuscripts, see Taeger, Mensch, 60,
n.230,
220 Cf. Schneider n, 65, 'n. 48; R. Bultrnann, ThWNT Il, 483 and the excursus 'Die
altjUdische Privatwohltlltigkeit', SIr.-B. IV.l ,536-58. For a comparison of Cornelius' prayers in 10.2 and 10.46 cf. Horst, Proskynein, 247.
221 Schneider n, 65: 'Er gehort nicht nur zu jenen heidnischen Sympathisanten der
jiidischen Religion, sondern tut sich auch in der Frommigkeit hervor, indem er Almosen
gibt und bestllndig betet'.
222 Acta, 127; similarly Pesch 1,340 "'fromm" im Sinne der atl. jiidischen Tradition';
against Taeger,Mensch, 60f, n. 231 who proposes a 'nattirliche Gerechtigkeit'. On the nation of 'righteous Gentiles' see also Donaldson, Paul, 65-69.
223 Fitzmyer, 1526: 'an upright and law-observing Jew'.
224 Cf. Brown, Birth, 257f, 267f (n.13!),452f,625. Such previous occurrences define the
meaning of the word and guide the readers. These righteous Jews are also characterised
by their observance of the Law; ct Acts 13.39.

150

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

Likewise Cornelius' firm Jewish orientation is the backdrop to our passage. It is not any arbitrary type of EuaE~ELa, of which Luke also knows
(Acts 17.23; 19.27; EuaE~Eoo, aE~CLaf.LCL), which leads to such positive assessment It was Cornelius' prayers to the living God and his alms to the Jewish
people225, following Jewish practices of piety and charlty226, that were recognised by God; not any Gentile prayer, piety or charitable expression. 227
Cornelius was not a devout pagan and benefactor like others in Caesarea. 22S Cornelius is not a typical Gentile, but as Jewish as a Gentile can be
without ceasing to be Gentile. It was this concrete example that led to Peter's conclusion in Acts 10.35.
Taeger suggests that EuaE~~~ 'bezeichnet eine personliche Qualitat. Neben und zusatzlich zu CPO~O'\if.lEVO~ stehend (10.2), solI damit der lobenswerte religiOse Eifer des Heiden unterstrichen werden'.229 Yet as we have
seen this lobenswerte religiOse Eifer des Heiden is exclusively expressed
within Judaism. This invalidates Taeger's conclusion: 'Indem er so den ersten Heiden, der in die Gemeinde aufgenommen wird, als "fromm" bezeichnet, wilrdigt er zugleich eine Religiositat, die man nicht nur als ohnehin mit einem Fast-Jude-Sein gegeben begreifen muB'Po An assessment
like Acts 10.4 is never extended to any Gentile religious activity.
2. Acts 10.4,7/,33. Though terrified by the vision, Cornelius responded in an

exemplary fashion to the angel. Cornelius' character is further shown in his


immediate obedience. Unlike Zechariah (Luke 1.18,20) or Ananias (Acts
9.13f), he neither voiced objections nor asked questions..
An euae~~'; soldier was sent immediately. Cornelius was unlikely to send someone not
sharing his outlook (cf. Acts 10.2: aVv navtL 1:4"1 0(;(4> au"J;Ou). This excludes the pagan

22S So Pesch 1,336; Conzeimann, Milte, 153,n.1;Blue, 'Acts', 182: 'publicly known in the
Jewish community as a benefactor'. For Caesarea's considerable Jewish population cf.
SchUrer, History Il, 115-18; I. Benzinger, 'Caesarea 10. Caesarea Stratonis od er Palaestinae', RE [Il, 1291-94; Levine, Caesarea, 22f, 61-106 and Roman Caesarea, 40-45.
226 Note the time of the vision; cf. Acts 3.1. Weiser,154: 'Der Hinweis auf die neunte
Stunde, niimlich eine Gebetszeit, hebt ebenfalls die religiose Disposition des Kornelius
hervor .. .'; for Jewish customs of prayer cf. Safrai, 'Religion', 800-04.
227For Gentile charity cf. Bolkestein, Wohlliitigkeit; Danker, Benefactor, 317-416.
Danker sees in Cornelius a 'typical Graeco-Roman benefactor' (445).
22lI On Caesarea cf. Schilrer, History ll, 115-18 (bibliography p. 115, n. 155); Benzinger,
'Caesarea'; Levine, Caesarea, 15-22; on the city's pagan community ct pp. 57-60 and
Levine, Roman Caesarea, 18-23.
229 Mensch, 60-62. We disagree with Taeger's (Mensch, 61) interpretation of this word in
Acts 17.23: 'Paulus tadell nicht die Religiositat der Athener, sondern nur deren falsche
Ausrichtung. Zweifellos bezeichnet das eUOe~eLV hier etwas Positives, das Verhalten der
vorglaubigen Athener, an das der Missionar ankniipfen kann'.
230 Taeger, Mensch, 62.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

151

connotation this expression can also carry.m Full of expectancy Cornelius gathered a
large audience, believing 'that the divine message was not for him alone'.232 This gathering was already before God and eager to listen to all that God had commanded Peter to
say (10.34). Through the vision Cornelius recognised that Peter's message came from
God. A better point of departure can hardly be imagined. The contrast of this scene to
Acts 17.19-21 is striking.

3. Acts 10.25f Upon Peter's arrival Cornelius fell at Peter's feet and worshipped him (NRSV). That a more than acceptable gesture of welcome or
honour was involved in Cornelius' proskynesis233 is also apparent from Peter's response, which clearly upheld the distinction of divine and human.
Peter's verbal rejection of such adoration was accompanied by his action to
counteract the wrong intention.234 Luke repeatedly describes Gentiles
ready to give to other humans or to receive for themselves divine acclamation.235 In this exciting moment this failure surfaced in the otherwise im-

231 Acts 17.23; 19.27; cf. the discussion in Barrett 1,499-501. W. Foerster, ThWNT VII,
177.9-14 notes for Hellenistic Roman times that 'der weitere Bedeutungsumfang, nach
dem E-uoE~eLa allgemein die ehrfurchtsvolle Haltung zu den Ordnungen des Lebens
bezeichnet, ist dem Wort nicht verlorengegangen. So wird E-uoE~ELa in dieser Zeit auch
vom Verhalten .,. der Sklaven zu ihrem Herrn, der Legionen zum Kaiser .,. gebraucht';
similarly P. Fiedler, EWNT 1I, (212-14) 213 foI' Acts 10.7. Probably the religious connotation of its occurrence in 10.2 would lead the reader to assume the same here. Foster, 'Sergius', suggests that this devout soldier might have been crucial in preparing Cornelius for
Christianity.
232 Barrett 1,513.
233 Barrett I, 513f: 'considering him to be more than man'. For its significance in a pagan setting see Horst, Proskynein, 55-57, 116-121., 173, 191.
2J~ Though Peter performed real miracles (Acts 3.4-7; 5.12-16; 9.33f,40), he rejected
such homage. Peter's humility is in contrast to Simon's proud claims and Herod
Agrippa's acceptance of divine acclamation (Acts 12.22f). Peter's declaration of their
common humanity points to that of the missionaries at Lystra who rushed among their
'worshippers' to render worship and sacrifice impossible. The occurrences of nQoOltUVEW
in the LXX (cf. Horst, Proskynein, 25, 28, 52f, 61-67, 94[, 121-28, 135, 139, 142, 148-50) indicate that this gesture in itself is not necessarily pagan. Jews not only 'go down on their
knees' before God but occasionally also - like Cornelius - before other people, e.g.
prophets: the company of prophets saw Elisha and nQoOEltuVTJoav alrt(fl bd 1:~V yiiv (2
Kgs 2.15). Obadiah EnEOEV Ent nQcownov autoii before the prophet Elijah (1 Kgs 18.7;
Ios. ant. [uti VIII.13.4 331 reads nQoOElt-UVTjoev a-utcv; for further occurrences in Ios. cf.
Horst, 63f, 113-15, 126f and index, pp. 31Bf). The third captain sent to Elijah EXal-l"IjJEV Ent
1:0. ycvata autoii xm:EvavtL 'Rktou (2 Kgs 1.13; cf. Horst, lI5f). In none of these cases
was the gesture refused or criticised. In contrast, Peter's rejection of Cornelius' gesture
suggests that more than an expression of respect or honour was involved. Th us our argument for its pagan background.
2JS Compare Simon's claims and the recognition he received in Samaria (Acts 8.9f), the
acclamation of Herod Agrippa as divine (12.22f), the Lystrans' acclamation of the missionaries (14.11), possibly also the jailer's address of the vindicated missionaries as
ltUQLOL (16.30) and the considerations of the Maltese islanders (28.4-6).

152

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

Cornelius. 236

peccable
He now reacted in pagan categories to the vision
and the man it announced. Though he had already come a long way from
paganism, this Gentile response was still with him.237
The one pagan element surfacing in Cornelius' depiction is corrected
forcefully. This forbids overestimation of Cornelius' characterisation as
M'XaLoC;. The immediate correction of this failure forbids the conclusion
that the positive references to his piety also apply to pagan piety. Luke
clearly rejects the latter; where elements of it appear, they are immediately
refuted.
Such pagan misconceptions and responses were not automatically corrected or irrevocably deleted through prolonged association with Judaism
and its Scriptures. What was appreciated did not necessarily challenge or
replace deep-rooted pagan paradigms, nor did it prevent their recurrence.238 The Gentile receptivity to correction is limited. Peter's speech
contains further corrections of pagan concepts (CL III.2.2.4.3.)
2.2.4.2. Peter's surprised conclusion (Acts l0.34f)

Through God's supernatural arrangement and preparation of this encounter, Peter understood that God shows no partiality to the Jews: 'Gott schaut
bei der Zuwendung seines Heils nicht darauf, ob jemand Jude oder Nichtjude ist, sondern in jedem Yolk ist ihm willkommen, wer ihn fUrchtet und
Gerechtigkeit ilbt'.239 How is Peter's statement to be understood?
1. Cornelius was introduced as such a God-fearer; Peter's audience consisted of such. The singular references to God - "tov fteov, CLtJLOV, Acts
10.2,35 - indicate that this statement does not acknowledge any sort of pi236 Cf. Horst, Proskynein, 246f: 'bei der noch heidnisches Empfinden der Menschenvergotterung durchbricht ... diesen heidnischen Gehalt seiner Proskynese'. Though the previous description of the Jewish orientation of Comelius' piety and lack of explicit correction
demand caution, Horst suggests 'hellenistischen Stimmungsgehalt' for the vision itself: 'Sie
ist auf seinem religiosen Heimatboden die Epiphanie eines 1!aumorakels, deren Weisung
auch entsprechend mit ~XQl]lla'tLa&rj wiedererzahlt wird (22) .... daB Cornelius in diesem
FaIle eine Selbstverstiindlichkeit darin sehen muS, vor dem ihm durch das Traumorakel
bezeichneten Manne, selbst wenn es ein Jude ist, die tiefste Form der Proskynese zu
vollziehen, als ob die Gottheit selbst in Petrus gegenwlirtig ware, da ja sein Erscheinen
die Erfilllung des Orakels anzeigt'.
237 Horst, Proskynein, 247 comments: 'Diese Mischung von jildischem und noch heidnischem Empfinden bei einem qJo~oullevo~ 'tov {tEOV ist durchaus bezeichnend'.
238 Cf. Lieu, 'God-Fearers', 333f; the initial depiction of Comelius would call in question some of Lieu's observations.
239 Weiser,156; Schneider 11,75: 0 qJo~ouIlEvo~ a:tHOV is 'nicht terminologisch, sondern
im Sinne des atl. Frommigkeitsideal zu verstehen'; cf. H. Balz, ThWNT IX, 197-99,208f.
Weiser, 157 writes: 'Auch in dem biblischen Ausdruck "Gott fOrchten" dominiert nicht
das schreckhafte Element, sondern die Bedeutung: ihn im Vollzug seines Willens ehren'.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

153

ety andlor fear of gods or of the numinous. On Luke's pages only Gentiles
associated with Judaism already know and fear God. Cornelius, from whose
case Peter drew this conclusion, represents this group, not the Gentile
world at large.
2. 'EQYCl~6f.'EVOL 5LXClLOoVVTJV refers to moral-ethical behaviour like that of
Cornelius which was previously defined in Jewish categories. People like
Cornelius were EQYCl~6f.'EVOL 5LXClLOOUVTJV. 240 That this characterisation
does not negate the need of salvation becomes apparent in Cornelius' pagan reception of Peter. Peter's conclusion is not a general assessment of
Gentile ethics but an acknowledgement that the group of people fulfilling
these requirements is not confined to ethnic Jews. Luke introduced several
non-Jews who feared God, did what was right and were accepted by God
(Luke 7.1-10; 17.11-19; Acts 8.26-40).
3. The context also indicates how 5EX"t'6~ is to be taken. God recognised Cornelius' attitude and deeds: 'God looks with favour upon those who so far as
they know him fear him, and so far as they know what righteousness is practise it'.241 Yet in themselves this attitude and deeds were not sufficient Despite Cornelius' devotion and correspondent lifestyle, God arranged that
Cornelius heard the gospel. 242 Cornelius heard in the vision that he and his
household will be savecf243 through hearing and accepting the Christian message (Acts 11.14: Q~f.LCl"tCl ... Ev o~ oc.o1'HJcrn). Cornelius still needed salvation.
The Spirit only came upon the audience as they heard that forgiveness of sins
through Jesus' name is available to those who believe in him.244 Severianos
of Gabala concludes: oux E\.:n;EV, EV :7tClV"tL e-BvEL " :7tOLWV 5LXClLOcruVTJV
aW~E"tCl1., uAAa 5E~"t6~ EU"tL. "tOU"tEU"tL, a!;LO~ YLVE"tClL "tou ~EX'fiiiVClL.245 Peter's
programmatic statement foreshadows the course and results of the Gentile
mission and should be understood in light of the following chapters (cf. the
enumeration and conclusions for the God-fearers in III.3.3.3.3.).

240 Says Weiser, 156: 'Der positive Teil ist in Anlehnung an die religiose Charakterisierung des Komelius (10.2,4,22,31) und an Ps 14.2 LXX forrnuliert'.Ps 14.1 LXX asks
who may abide in God's tent and who may dwell on God's holy mountain. Similar to
Acts 10.34, the answer (v.2) does not follow ethnic categories: '1togElJ6J.1vo~ ii~w~o~ xat
gya~6~Evo~ c'lLXaLOoVVI']V,AaAWV aAijitELav EV xagc'lL\l airtoil'.
241 Barrett 1,498; et. Acts 10.4.
242 Barrett I, 503 observes: 'God is about to take action on behalf of Comelius by
bringing him within reach of the Gospel. He does this, one might say, because Comelius
has shown by his devotion and his charity that he deserves it' (italics mine).
243 Iwi}ijan is passive. There is no indication that this proclamation will merely present
the opportunity to respond; cf. Acts 2.40: be saved (awit-rj"tE); 16.30.
244 Ct. Dunn, Baptism, 79-82.
24S 4.15. century A.D. (cf. A. Olivar, LThJ(2 IX, 698f), in Calena on Acts 10.4 (from Cramer, Calenae Ill, 173).

1..)4

111. Ihe GenLlie encounler wuh saivallon

2.2.4.3. Peter's proclamation and its consequences

1. Acts 10.36-43. Some comments on Peter's proclamation suffice. 246


1.1. The affirmation of the universal lordship of Jesus (Acts 10.36:
ltavtwv XUQLO~) contains criticism of Gentile notions: Such correction was
probably not misplaced before a Gentile audience, whose best representative had just betrayed Gentile misconceptions. Barrett calls it a 'not
unfamiliar phrase ... and Luke's readers may well have met it in both religious and political settings'.247 This designation ofJesus (cf. the summary of
the Christian proclamation in Acts 11.20: E-uaYYEALtOf.!EVOL "tov XUQLOV '1'1]crotiv) challenges and corrects Gentile notions: Jesus, and no pagan deity or
mortal is the nclv-rwv "vQtO~.248 Set in the Eastern Mediterranean and in
the house of a Roman officer, this christological title could be a refutation
of the developing Emperor cult. 249 The nature of this correction illustrates
Gentile failure; its necessity indicates their spiritual state.250
1.2. The message that was to save the audience (through hearing and accepting it, Acts 11.14) was essentially a summary of Jesus' life and an interpretation of its significance. The shape of Peter's sermon reflects that 'there
is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given
among mortals by which we must be saved' (Acts 4.12). Peter elaborates on
this name. Saving knowledge of this kind is inaccessible to Gentiles. Only
the Christian proclamation can bring it about. It cannot be attained in any
other way.
1.3. The risen Christ commanded the apostles to preach to the people of
Israel (Acts 10.42). Yet as Jesus was ordained as judge of the living and the
dead251, the scope widens beyond Israel.

For conclusions from etQTtvTt in Acts 10.36 ct. III.3.2.2.4.


1,522, with quotations from Plutarch and Epictetus.
248 Cf. Strecker, Theologie,424 on Acts 7.59f; 11.17,20; 16.31; 20.21; WB, 933.2.b.; W.
Foerster, ThWNT II, 1045.14-1056.26 (Gotter und Herrscher als KUQLot); Spicq III,34446,350 for Graeco-Roman occurrences; E. Williger, 'Kyrios', RE XII, 176-83; D. Zeller,
'Kyrios', DDD, 918-28; J.w. van Henten, 'Ruler cult', D DD, 1342-52; D.L. Jones, 'Christianity and the Roman Imperial Cult',ANRW /1.23.2, (1023-54) 1024-28; Klauck, Umwelt
II, 17-74. The classical contribution of DeiBmann, Licht, (263-77) 263, speaks of a 'polemischen Parallelismus zwischen Christuskult und Caesarenkult'; cf. also Bousset, Kyrios,
240-46.
249 Cf. Fitzmyer, 20lf; cf. EWNT II, (811-20) 813, 819f.
250 This failure consists in ascribing characteristics or honour - only appropriate for
God or Jesus - to human beings (cf. III.3.2.2.2.1.).
251 Weiser, 158 observes: 'aber die Richterfunktion Jesu erstreckt sich auch auf aIle
Menschen (17.31). Der Gedanke der Universalitat des Richter-Seins Jesu beriihrt sich
mit der Universalitat des Herr-SeinsJesu Vers 36b ... '.
246

247

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

155

Delling suggests that this reference to the last judgement may have been
included specifically for the Gentile audience:
Beide,Juden und Heiden,haben BuBe und Vergebung notig angesichts des kommenden Urteilspruchs.JUdischen Horern ist der Gedanke eines eschatologischen Gerichts
nicht fremd; vor heidnischen Hiirern wird er betont (in 10.42 konnte Lukas bei seiner
Einfuhrung an die noch heidnischen Horer denken, den en die judische Eschatologie
weniger bekannt sein mag als der Monotheismus und die Ethik des Judentums ).252

The universalistic vein continues: navra 'tov :Ttw'tEuov-ca E~ a:u'tov may receive forgiveness of sins through his name (Acts 10.43).253 This is the climax
of the speech and point of divine interruption. The presence of sins and the
availability of forgiveness applied also to Peter's immediate audience. The
narrative assumes their response in faith to this offer. Acts 11.1-18 summarises the Gentile acceptance of the word of God. They believed in Jesus and
received this gift.
These verses permit several conclusions: The offer of God's forgiveness
to all people implies that sins are a universal human characteristic. 254 Any
attempt by Gentiles to propitiate for or otherwise deal with sin on their
own is dismissed. Removal of sins only comes through faith in Jesus. The
need and urgency of this forgiveness arises from the fact that God already
ordained Jesus to be the universal judge to whom all people are accountable.255 Unforgiven sins will lead to condemnation.
1.4. Cornelius, though positively described earlier and already 'fearing
God and doing what is right', had sins and had to hear of and appropriate
this salvation to obtain forgiveness. 256 With Cornelius, well prepared
through his association with Judaism, the proclamation fell on ready
ground, though some Gentile misconceptions still needed correction (cf. his
proskynesis, possibly a pagan understanding of lordship and lack of eschatology). Only through the present forgiveness of their sins through faith in
the Christian message, were Cornelius and his household saved from condemnation in the future judgement (Acts 11.14).
2. Acts 10.44-48. The Spirit fell on all who heard the word and authenticated
the identity of the new believers. Though otherwise commendable, the

91; cf. Barrett 1,528 and Acts 17.31.


Cf. Bock,Proclamation, (230-40) 237f.
Cf. Dupont, 'Conversion', 62f; 1. Navone, Themes of St. Luke (Rome: Gregorian Up,
1970),38-46.
255 Cf. Dupont, 'Conversion', 76.
256 Cf. Dupont, 'Conversion', 65f: 'Even when the apostolic preaching does not make a
special point of the pagans' sinfulness, yet it spontaneously conceives their conversion as
an act of repentance,so evident is it to the Jewish mind that all pagans are sinners'.
252 Kreu;z:estod,
253

25~

156

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

audience did not have this holy Spirit previously; CL IY.3.1.1., IY.3.2.1. They
had to receive it ab extra.
3. Acts 11.18. The believers in Jerusalem concluded that God has given to
the Gentiles (as Gentiles) the repentance that leads to life. 257 This concluding
interpretation of the event deserves careful study. We need to engage at
some length with the proposal of H. Conzelmann, as a) many scholars followed him in this (see below) and b) his proposal impinges on Luke's view
of the Gentile appropriation of salvation which will be our subject in sectionm.3.3.
Conzelmann argues, in short, that when Luke speaks of God 'granting
repentance' C-t~V ~"tclVOLUV ec5wKEv) itis not repentance itself that God
gave and needed to give. Rather God provided an opportunity for repentance, e.g. by bringing about the contact with the Christian proclamation. 25B

This proposal raises important issues for Lukan anthropology: Do people


need to receive repentance from God or can they repent of their own, once
the opportunity is made available? To clarify matters, we examine Conzelmann's argument in detail.
3.1. Conzelmann observes that the expression OOiivaL f.LE"tclVOLUV occurs
only here and in Acts 5.31, in which 'die f.LE"tclVOLU als Heilsgut, nicht als
Bedingung und Leistung erscheint'.259 Conzelmann initially identifies
f.LE"tclVOLU as a Heilsgut260 which is the plain meaning of both occurrences.
Yet he continues: 'Er [this expression] erweist sich bei naherem Zusehen
als gelaufige Redensart, deren ursprilnglicher Sinn nicht mehr gegenwartig
iSt'.261 Conzelmann does not explain how Luke's readers would have recognised that the traditional sense is no longer present.
3.2. Conzelmann then also finds the same use of the expression 'als
gelaufige Redensart, deren ursprtinglicher Sinn nicht mehr gegenwartig
iSt'262 in 2 Tim 2.25 and Pol. Phil.ll.4.
3.2.1. 2 TlID 2.25 speaks about Christian opponents (like those mentioned
in 2.171) who should be corrected with gentleness, because 'God may per-

251 Conclusions from the qualification of repentance as leading to life appear in


I1I.3.2.2.5.
258 Mitte, 92,214, n. 1; c( also Conzelmann,Apostelgeschichte,47 on Acts 5.31: 'Lk meint
- trotz der Ausdrucksweise - Gelegenheit zur BuBe, nicht, daB die BuI3e aIs solche Geschenk Gottes sei'.
259 Mitte, 92, 214, n. 4: 'Hier ist die BuBe als das geschenkte Heilsgut verstanden'. Conzelmann continues: 'In Anlehnung daran stehen lihnliche AusdrUcke Le 24.47 und act
13.38.... Act 13.38liegt popularisierte paulinische Terminologie vor'.
260 Later he writes: 'Der. alte, umfassende Sinn erscheint noch in Ausdrlicken, die Le
aus der nadition Uberkommt: act 5.31 und 1U8', Mitte, 214.
261 Milte, 92,214, n. 4; cf. Conzelmann, Aposleigeschichte, 47.
262 Mitte,92.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

157

haps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth'. These opponents were held captive by the devil to do his will. In the light of this captivity and its consequences they needed to be given repentance itself
3.2.2. Polycarp closely reflects this situation and wording: quibus det dominus paenitenliam veram. However, Pol. Phi!. 112 seems to suggest that the avaritia of Valens and his
wife which needs repentan.ce had consequences which require more than an opportunity
for repentance ('ab idololatria coinquinabitur et tarnquam inter gentes iudicabitur, qui
ignorant iudicium domini').
3.2.3. In n. 4 on p. 214, Conzelrnann adds Barn. 16.9,!LE"t<ivOL(lV ()t.sou~ 1]!LLV. The surrounding context (16.7-9) and the immediate description of God's activity indicate more
divine involvement than provision of an opportunity: God 'fUhrt die vom Tode Geknechteten, indem er uns die TUr des Tempels, d.h den Mund, offnet (un d) uns BuBe gibt,
in den unverganglichen Tempel'.w Bam.16.9 begins with God's calling according to his
promise (T) xAfjm; (lu"to'ii tfj~ bt(lyyEll(l~).

Against Conzelmann we affirm that the original sense of the expression is


alive in these examples. 264 This negative conclusion regarding Conzelmann's supporting evidence casts doubt on his assessment of this expression. How does he think Luke and his readers understood this expression?
3.3. Conzelmann proposes that Luke understood the traditional expression as 'die Gelegenheit zur BuBe ist gegeben'.265 Before we turn to these
passages from Acts, we examine the references which Conzelmann adduces
to support his interpretation of OOUVaL flE1:cXVOLaV as the opportunity for repentance. Conzelmann refers to the Jewish origin of this expression.266 We
begin by examining his examples.
3.3.1. Only Wis 12.1O,19f combine /.lE1:aVOLa and OLOOJflL in the LXX. Wis
12.10 explicitly refers to an opportunity for repentance: EOLOO1J~ -r6nov
IlE1:avota~. This 1:o:rtDV 1l1:avota~ was futile: In judging the Canaanites before the conquest little by little, God gave them an opportunity to repent,
though he knew that their origin was evil and their wickedness inborn and
that their way of thinking would never change. For people thus qualified
the mere opportunity for repentance was insufficient.
In contrast, God has fIlled his children with good hope because he gave
them (OLooi:;) EnL clflaQ1:1jllaO'LV IlE1:cXVOLaV (12.19f). This gift is the founda-

26] Dad. D.A. Koch, in Lindemann,Apostolische Vilter, 67.


2114 These references for which we proposed the traditional usage occur in writings
most likely written after Acts; et. Bruce, 9-18 pace Schnelle, Einleitung, 303f,383-85. Polycarp's letter is usually dated to 135 A.D.; c( Lindemann,Apostolische Viller, 242; P. Meinold, 'Polykarpos', RE XXI, (1662-93) 1687.53-56; Altaner, Patrology, l11.
265 Mitte, 214, n.1; c( p. 92 and Apostelgeschichte,l11. Similarly Schneider n, 84; I, 396,
n. 94; c( Wilckens, Missionsreden,lB2.
266 Mitte, 92, n. 1.

158

1I1. The Gentile encounter with salvation

tion oftheir hope. A "C6no~ is not mentioned. Wis 12.19 relates God's gracious
dealings with Israel. Wis 12.20 returns to the Gentile nations: God punished
with such great care and indulgence the enemies of his servants and those deserving of death, granting them only XQ6vo1J~ Kat "Conov to give up their
wickedness (6L' mv cmaAAaywoL "Cij~ KaKta~; following the NRSV). While
God severely punished Israel's enemies he chastened Israel in mercy (vs.
21f). While Israel was given repentance for her sins, the nations were merely
granted time and opportunity to give up their wickedness. God gave to Israel
what merely was a futile opportunity for others. Both ideas, 'granting repentance' and 'granting an opportunity for repentance' not only appear as different concepts but are also expressed differently.267
This sharp and far-reaching distinction between God's dealing with Israel and the Gentiles in Wisdom indicates how revolutionary the events of
Acts 10-11 and the conclusion of Acts 11.18 were: Through these events the
believers concluded that God no longer grants to Gentiles only an ultimately meaningless opportunity for repentance but repentance as a
Heilsgut itseli They now receive what they could not obtain previously (cf.
the analysis of the Gentile state in Wis 12.10f).
The occurrences of1:ono~ (19 in Luke, 18 in Acts) indicate that this word
was at Luke's disposal. Though usually not occurring in the figurative sense
of opportunity, this is the case e.g. in Acts 25.16: the accused is given the
n'mov"CE cmoAoyLa~.268 Luke was able to express the idea of providing an opportunity for something if he chose to do so. He was not tied to traditional usage to express something he did not really mean. Against this Jewish backdrop the lack of1;ono~ in Acts 11.18 is significant and seems deliberate.
3.3.2. Sib. Or. IV.166-69 exhort:
Stretch out your hands to heaven and ask forgiveness for your previous deeds and
make propitiation for bitter impiety with words of praise. God will grant repentance
(~o,,; bWOEI I1E"tuvoluv) and will not destroy.'"

A time or opportunity for repentance is not mentioned. God's readiness to


give repentance is the foundation of this summons. The systematic or
chronological relation of this gift and human response is not addressed.
3.3.3. According to 1QS 3.1 whoever declines to enter into the covenant of
God (2.25) 'loathes the. restraints of knowledge of just judgement. He has not

267 Cf. Winston, Wisdom, 43-58,241, 243f; Reese, Influence, 19, 116,128; Goodrick, Wisdom, 262f, 269f.
268 Cf. Schille,444: "tono,,; 'von der Gelegenheit'; WE, 1640f.2.c. has 'Moglichkeit, Gelegenheit, AnlaB.
269 Translation according to J.J. Collins, OTP I, 388.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

159

remained constant in the transformation of his life and shall not be counted
with the upright'. This reference does not relate human and divine activity in
this process of transformation. It refers not to repentance or conversion but
to an ongoing process of sanctification according to the community's ideals.
Whoever declines to enter obviously forgoes this opportunity.270
3.3.4. Philo writes that God does not visit with his vengeance even those
who sin against him, immediately, but that he gives them time for repentance, and to remedy and correct their evil conduct (All III.106). But again,
Philo is more specific than Luke's OOUVUL IlE"tclVOLUV: McSwm xeovov Et~
IlE"tclVOLUV. 271

3.3.5. Conzelmann adds two further references in his commentary.m Neither of them is a
real parallel as they refer to humans giving opportunities for change of mind. Vespasian
and Alexander could hardly have done more than offer such opportunities.Josephus describes how Vespasian advanced to the borders of Galilee: there he camped and showed
his army to the enemy, in order to frighten them and to afford them a season for repentance (llE"taVOLU~ "aLQov llLllo1i~) before it came to battle (belL ludo I1I.6.3 127f; cf.
VI.6.2 339: Vespasian first ravaged Galilee and thereby gave the Jews time for repentance: ~mllLllou~ "IlLV XQovov d~ llE"taIlEAElav). The KaLQO~ for repentance is explicitly
mentioned. Plutarch reports how Alexander 'arrived before Thebes, and wishing to give
the city still a chance to repent of what she had done (llLllout; EtL 1:WV nEnQaYIlEvwv
IlE1:UVOl.(1v), merely demanded .. .' (Vitae,Alexander 11.4). Here a time,space or opportunity, elc. is not explicitly mentioned. Yet it is implied as Alexander could not have done
more.
3.3.6. There are further examples where an opportunity to repent is explicitly identified
as such. In 1 Clem. 7.4 the blood of Jesus has given to the whole world the grace of repentance (!LE1:aVoLa~ XUQLV "mjveYKEv). God has given to generation after generation
IlE1:avola~ 1:onov, to those who wanted to turn to him (7.5). This is illustrated in 7.6f by
the examples of Noah's preaching of repentance to his contemporaries (cf. Luke 17.26f)
and Jonah's announcement of a catastrophe in Nineveh and their exemplary response. In
the proclamation of these men this 1:cn:ot; was provided. m The church in Thyatira was
granted by God time to repent of her fornication (Rev 2.21: ellwxa aU1:fj XQcvov Lva
IlE1:aVo~crn).

In another case 1:ono~ and IlE1:uvOI.a occur without ll[llwIlL: When Esau wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent (Heb 12.17:
IlEtavo[ac; yaQ 1:cnov OUX EVQEV)P' Those scorning God's law while they still had free-

270 Similarly Cornelius shaped his life according to JUdaism. Yet this process of assimilation - the reality and limits of which Luke describes - was not the repentance that led
to life and was not followed by reception of the Spirit.
271 Greek text according to Conzelmann, Mitte, 92, n. 2. In SpecLeg 1.58 Philo describes
people who 'have gone to such a pitch of extravagant madness, that they have left themselves no retreat or way to repentance (avaxwQTJoLV E~ IlE1:uvmav), but hasten onwards
to the slavery and service of images made by hand'.
zn Apostelgeschichte, 47.
273 Livy offers two remote parallels in Latin: 'neque locus paenitendi ... relictus'
(XXIV.26.15, 'no chance left for a change of mind'); 'paenitentiae relinquens locum'
(XLIY.IO.3, 'abandoning the chance for a change of mind').
27' Cf. the discussion in Ellingworth, Hebrews, 668f.

160

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

dom, and did not understand but despise it while an opportunity for repentance was still
open to them (et cum adhuc esset eis apertum paenitentiae IOCUS)V5, must in torment acknowledge it after death (4 Ezra 9.11f).2 Apoc. Bar. 85.12 twice mentions that the opportunity for repentance with other things will not longer be available.v

These references indicate that elsewhere God's provision of an opportunity


or time to repent is directly expressed. These references do not support
Conzelmann's case. Therefore, where not modified by additional expressions such as 't6:7to~, Xa.lQ6~, XQ6vo~, repentance as a Heilsgut deserves full
consideration. The examples from Wis 12.10,19f indicate that the presence
or absence of such additions can be significant. Now we inquire whether
Conzelmann's claim for the two occurrences of 60uvaL IlE1:uvmlv in Acts
stands up to scrutiny.
3.4. Acts 5.31. ConzeImann dismisses the presence of the old traditional
sense ('BuBe als das geschenkte Heilsgut') for this verse: 'Neben act 5.31
steht V 32, wo der Gehorsam als Bedingung verstanden ist'.277 Presumably
Conzelmann argues: because reception of the Spirit follows obedience in v.
32, the f.LE'tUVOLl of the preceding verse cannot be a gift but only an opportunity for repentance which the same obedience must lay hold of, ie. in repentance obediently using the opportunity God is granting. 278 This construction, whether fully reflecting Conzelmann's thought or not, invites
consideration.
3.4.1. Forgiveness of sins and reception of the Spirit is otherwise linked
to faith and not obedience, though possibly faith could be understood as
obedience to the proclamation. Peter claimed the need to obey (3tEL{}lQXEW) God rather than men (Acts 5.29). This the apostles did. The present
participle 1:ot~ :7tEL{}aQXouOLv in 5.32, on which Conzelmann's argument
hinges, characterises Christians who obeyed God's purposes, in contrast to
275 Die Esra-Apokalypse (lY. Esra) , ed. B. Violet, GCS 18 (Leipzig: J.e. Hinrich, 1910),
260. The English wording follows B.M. Metzger, OTP I, (516-59) 544. A.FJ. Klijn, Die
Esra-Apokalypse (lY. Esra), GCS (Berlin: Akademie, 1992), 75 renders: 'als ihnen noch
die Stelle der Reue offenstand'. In Apoc.Abr. 31.6 God says: 'For I waited so they [the
Gentiles;cf. 31.lf] might come to me,and they did not deign to' (OTP 1,705); cf. Donaldson, Paul, 54.
27. Cf. A.FJ. Klijn, OTP I, (615-52) 65l.
277 Mitte, 214, n. 1.
278 Here and in his commentary (Apostelgeschichte, 48) Conzelmann fails to argue
clearly his case. Schneider 1,396, n. 94 follows Conzelmann. With a quotation from him,
Schneider affirms the traditional sense of l.I.E"taVoLa. Against this meaning Schneider
writes with reference to Wilckens, Missionsreden, 182: 'Nach Lukas schenkt Gott
Gelegenheit zur 1.I.E."tavoLa ... und die Stlndenvergebung'. No attempt is made to argue
the absence of this traditional sense in Acts 5.31. Why Luke does not express what is
claimed to be his conviction is not discussed. On Acts 11.18 Schneider 11, 84 simply concludes: 'DaB Gott ihnen die 1.I.E."tavoLa geschenkt babe, ist im Sinn von 5.31 zu versteben:
Gott gew!lhrt ihnen Gelegenheit zu BuBe und Umkebr (vg1.17.30)'.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

161

what their audience has done and is presently accused of (5.30). Peter compares the Jewish leadership (traditionally endowed with the Spirit, but now
disobedient) and obedient Christians; he is not speaking about the conditions for receiving the Spirit (ct. 2.38!) or evangelising in 5.31. Yet even if
the Spirit's initial bestowal were dependent upon obedience, this would not
necessarily allow for a subtle deduction for repentance and forgiveness in
the preceding verse where no such condition is mentioned: The object in v.
31 is not "tot; ltEL{}aQxo"iJoLV or "tot; ltLO"tEuo"iJOLv, x"tA. but Israel (cf. the object "tot; E-frvWLV in 11.18).
3.4.2. Conzelmann overlooks the second divine gift of v. 31: God gives Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. Though God could provide only an
opportunity for the former, he has to give the latter, as people cannot forgive their sins themselves. 279 That the verb is to be taken in different senses
for the former and latter object is not indicated. J. Behm notes: 'Die Stindenvergebung ... erscheint aber auch als eschatologisches Heilsgut neben
der I1E"tclvOLCl (Ag 5.31); eine Bindung der Vergebung an die Umkehr wie im
Judentum besteht nicht.'280
3.4.3. In Acts 5.31 God is not the agent granting repentance. Rather God
exalted Jesus as Leader and Saviour that he might give repentance and forgiveness. 281 'It is not enough that God should grant forgiveness to those
who repent; he first makes repentance possible': 'The work of the saviour is
said to issue in repentance and the forgiveness of sins'.282 For Jesus' new
role as saviour to be significant, he needs to give more than an opportunity
for repentance. As God's appointed saviour he will give repentance itself
and forgiveness of sins. 283
7:/9 Schneider n, 396 avoids this dilemma by translating [)[[)OlfLl as 'to offer'. Wesley,
Notes, 412 argues for a distinction in this verse: 'Hence some infer, that repentance and
faith are as mere gifts as remission of sins. Not so: for man co-operates in the former, but
not in the latter'. He does not comment on this issue in Acts 11.18.
280 ThWNT IV, (999-1001) 1000 (italics mine). The combination of both repentance
and forgiveness also appears in Luke 24.47, for which Conzelmann also claims a 'feste
Redeweise, deren Sinn nicht mehr gegenwlirtig ist' (Mille, 214, n.I). Schneider, I, 396, n.
94 takes Luke 24.47 as one of the proofs that 'Nach Lukas schenkt Gott Gelegenheit zur
fLll"tUVOl(l und die Siindenvergebung'. Thyen, SUndenvergebung, 133f proposes for the
combination ~Wt"t\OfL(l fLE"tclVOl(lS IllS a<pEolv afL(lQ"tlwV (Luke 3.3): 'Durch das Hendiadyoin "BuBe und Vergebung" ist dabei nichts Geringeres als das endzeitliche Heil
beschrieben' (Cf.p.137,n.1!).
281 Like in Luke 1.77 (OOltl]QLaS .,. Ev a<pt\oEL afL(lQ"tLwV au"twv), salvation (Jesus the
Saviour) is linked with the forgiveness of sins. Therefore parallels in which God grants
repentance need to be used with caution for this reference (et. Acts 11.18).
282 Barrett I,290f.
283 The apostles had appeared before their present audience previously (Acts 4.5-12).
They already provided them with an opportunity for repentance by charging them with
their rebeIlious counteraction of God's intention and announcing that salvation would

162

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

Recalling our conclusions from the references which Conzelmann adduces, we saw that his dismissal of the traditional sense - repentance as
Heilsgut - behind Acts 5.31 is far from compelling. Our own observations
led us to affirm the opposite. With these results we return to
3.5. Acts 11.1B. What is said explicitly about an opportunity for repentance elsewhere, Conzelmann assumes for this verse. Luke does not mention such an opportunity or time for repentance. Elsewhere it is clearly indicated and not left for the reader to conclude. Nothing in Luke's account
suggests that God gave anything but repentance itseli Our above consideration of the whole event and the context of 11.18 rather suggest that
more than provision of an opportunity was involved (10.44; 11.14f): no sins
of the audience were addressed, nor was a call to repentance presented, nor
is it said that the audience made use of this 'opportunity' for repentance
provided for them. Yet God's forgiveness of sins through Jesus' name occurs. Before any opportunity could be presented the Spirit fell on the audience. It was God's gift (t~V LOT\V bOlQECtV Eomuev a\,.to~) of the Spirit that
made Peter's audience in Jerusalem conclude that God must also have
given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life (11.17). It seems
that for Acts 11.18 Conzelmann has not proved his case.
There are no reasons to doubt the 'traditional meaning' of the expression for these Lukan occurrences: The repentance that God gave to the
Gentiles was a Heilsgut. Pesch rightly speaks of repentance as a 'Geschenk
Gottes'284 which Gentiles need. Against the background of Solomon's Wisdom this is a significant conclusion: God not only gave Gentiles the opportunity of repentance as he did in the past, in Jesus he gave repentance itseli

be found only in Jesus. Their audience did not make use of this opportunity. More than
the provision of opportunity seems necessary.
284 1,347. Similarly Dupont, 'Repentir', 447: 'Le repentir est un don de Dieu; c'est sa
grace qui l'eveille dans les coeurs, leur ouvrant par la l'acces de la vie eternelle'; cf. Dupont's discussion of 'L'action de la grace', pp. 447-49 and 'Conversion', 75f: 'God's gift is
eternal life, but also and prior to that the repentance which gives access to life'. On God
bringing people to repentance ct also HengellSchwemer, Paul, 74. Compare the conclusions of Siegert, Kommentar, 309 for the pseudo-Philonic sermons De Iona and De
Sampsone: 'Da:r1lber hinaus bietet De S. 3,6 und 24-26 eine ausdrllckliche Lehre von den
Gnadengaben, die jeglichen Verdienstgedanken beiseite Hillt ... Nicht nur Leben und
Menschsein sind Geschenke Gottes ([De Iona] 97f.; 120), sondern sogar die Werke der
BuJ3e, genannt "Frllchte der Frommigkeit", werden mit auf Gott zurtickgefllhrt ( 216f;
vg\. 154),. In his study 'Heiden',55,Siegert concludes: 'In einer nicht aufgeteilten Einheit
des Geschehens ist auch ihre Antwort mit Gottes Werk. Das ist ... die eingangs genannte
Frucht der goUlichen Gerechtigkeit ( 216)'.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

163

This conclusion reminds one of Luke's many references to things or privileges beyond
human reach which God or Jesus bestows (e.g. knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom
of God, Luke 8.10). Our survey of these in II1.3.3.2.2.10. will show that repentance as a
Heilsgut is but one of many gracious divine gifts to humanity.

3.6. Luke's calls to repentance. Before we return to the next Gentile encounter with Christian salvation, an issue connected with Conzelmann's
proposal needs attention. He concludes his brief survey: 'Wie Lc den
tradierten Ausdruck versteht, zeigt die interpretierende Wiedergabe act
17.30: die Gelegenheit zur BuBe ist gegeben'.285 Though Conzelmann's interpretation, use of this verse and deduction to previous references are
problematic286 , he raises a significant issue. While Luke twice calls repentance a divine gift, he also includes calls for repentance (e.g. Luke 13.3,5) or
even the universal command repent (Acts 17.30; cf. Luke 24.47). How can
what is called a gift be commanded at the same time?
Not seeing or recognising this tension, Luke does not systematically relate both aspects. Possibly Luke thought that those responding to this invitation are those to whom faith, repentance and conversion has been
given. 2S7 Some aspects need notice.
a) While attribution of repentance or conversion to divine activity similar to Acts 11.18 does not happen regularly, the programmatic character of
Acts 11.18 and its purpose should not be overlooked. In order to justify the
Gentile mission - an endeavour reflected in the whole account of Acts
10.1-11.18 - in this extensive report Luke ascribes the moving force behind
the Gentiles' conversion to God: The lerusalemites rightly concluded that
it was by God's will and initiative that the Gentiles were saved.
b) There are other indicators that this attribution is not simply traditional, a pious convention or one demanded by Luke's purpose at this par-

285 Mitte, 214, n. 1. Conzelmann's following references to Philo and 1 Clem. 7.4 have
been treated above. He also refers to Herm. Sim. VIII.6.lf. Hermas does not speak of an
opportunity for repentance either. Rather God's gift of the Spirit to some people is explained by the worthiness of the recipients: EOWKEV :7tVEuJ!a 'tot; a;ioL~ ouaL J!f.'taVOLa~.
This is expounded: God 'tou'tOt; /iEOWKE 't~v J!E'tcivoLav who wanted their hearts to become clean and wanted to serve him with all their heart. Reception of repentance is explicitly linked to spiritual disposition.
286 In Acts 17.30 repentance is not given (OOUVaL) as in 11.18, but explicitly comrrumded
by God (1tagayytAAw); cf. Fitzmyer, 151,160. The mere fact of this command seems to legitimise Conzelmann's interpretation. Yet the context of this command portrays God as
the active creator and sustainer throughout history. Previous Gentile response to him
and his manifestations is judged inadequate and is corrected. This preparation for the
command needs to be taken into account: following this continuous precedent, God will
also be active to procure the repentance he commands. If left to humans, chances of their
proper response to this command are minimal.
287 Cf. Dupont, 'Repentir', 447.

164

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

ticular juncture of his narrative. 2BB We shall return to these issues in our
treatment of Luke's view of divine and human activity in the Gentile appropriation of salvation in III.3.3.
c) In this context it is noteworthy that despite the charge of preaching repentance to all
nations (Luke 24.47) the imperative to repent is rarely presented to Gentiles. The Christian message or its proclamation is usually described otherwise. In Luke 10.13 and 11.32
Jesus speaks to Jews of the hypothetical or factual repentance of Gentiles cities. In Acts
26.20 Paul summarises his ministry as a call to testify repentance before God without direct application to his Gentile audience. Acts 17.30 mentions the command of universal
repentance but - though that is implied - does not directly apply it to the Gentile audience. The only direct command to repent given to a non-Jew is the charge to Simon as a
believer (Acts 8.22: fLE'taVOT]oov).2B9 Is this absence of direct imperatives linked with the
understanding of repentance as a Heilsgut?

2.2.5. The mission in Antioch (Acts 11.19-26)


The good news of the Lord Jesus was proclaimed to the Hellenists of Antioch.29o In contrast to Cornelius, no prior contacts with ludaism are mentioned. 291 The hand of the Lord was with the missionaries and 1toJ..:u~ .
aQvfr,...o~ (cf. 11.24: c5x.J...o~ i.xuvo~) believed and turned to the Lord.
Barnabas saw 'the grace of God' at work.
1. The outcome - mentioned thrice - is not explained by or attributed to the
Hellenists' particular responsiveness, insight and reasoning or the mission-

Cf. Dupont, 'Repentir', 447-49.


These are all occurrences of fLE'tavow with reference to Gentiles; fLE'tclvOLa occurs
in Acts 11.18; 20.21; 26.20. Only the last occurrence is before a Gentile audience, again
without immediate application. Lack of imperative appeals also applies to similar verbs.
Gentiles are only once directly commanded to turn (away from idols, 14.15: EltL01:QE!pELV).
The occasion of the short address required such an imperative; cf. Barrett 1,680:' ... God
has patiently waited for the present moment in which he makes turning possible'. The
Philippian jailer was commanded to believe in order to be saved (16.31: ltL01:ElJOOV).
Later he and his household rejoiced that they had become believers in God (16.34: ltEltLO1:EUlUbt;; not: 'that they believed', but 'er frohlockte, gliiubig geworden zu sein', BDR
415.1).
290 Some important manuscripts read mT]V as in Acts 19.17; 20.21 (cf. GNT, 461); for
discussion see Barrett I, 550f; Metzger, Commentary, 386-89; ct Hengel/Schwemer, Paul,
85f on the identity and ministry of the 'EUT]vL01:at. The non-Jewish identity of this audience is established througli the contrast to 'Iou~a(oLt; in Acts 11.19.
291 For the substantial Jewish community in Antioch see Barrett I, 549; Kraeling, 'Community'; Meeks, 'Jews', 2-13; Schiirer, History Illl, 13; I. Benzinger, 'Antiocheia 1. Am
Orontes', RE I, (2442-45) 2443.44-51; further literature in HengeI/Schwemer,Paul, n. 949.
For the various pagan cults see J. Kollwitz, 'Antiochia am Orontes', RAC I, (461-69) 463;
Barrett 1,549; I. Benzinger, 2443; see also idem, 'Daphne. 3', RE IV, 2136-38;cf. IV.3.3.3.2.
On the origin of the Christian community in Antioch and the early contacts of the missionaries to local synagogues and the following development cf. HengellSchwemer, Paul,
196-98,200.
288
289

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

165

aries' skills, but was due to God's gracious intervention (the presence of the
hand of the Lord and the working of God's grace).292 'It was this that
caused the conversion .. .'.293 Responding to this, Gentiles did believe and
turn to the Lord. As in Acts 10.1-11.18, God's activity in the nascent mission
is stressed.294 God was at work not only in missionary endeavours specifically directed by him (as with Cornelius), but also when Christians ventured out without specific guidance. The stress on divine intervention suggests that what the missionaries could contribute, namely preaching the
good news of the Lord Jesus (11.20) - thus providing the opportunity for
repentance - is not sufficient in itself. For Gentiles merely to have this opportunity is likewise insufficient.
2. Previously these Gentiles did not know God or believe in him. They were
in a position from which they had to turn to him: 'The image is that of a
man retracing his steps: a person who was walking away from God has
changed direction and is now coming back to him' .295 As nothing is said of
typical or particularly severe Gentile moral-ethical or spiritual failures, this
seems to be a general assessment of Gentiles. This lack of relationship with
God and their alienation from him only changed once the gospel was
brought to them, their previous notions were challenged (cf. the Lord JeSUS 296) and God graciously intervened.
Also Gentiles for whom no previous association with Judaism is mentioned became Christians. Extensive response among Gentiles without
such previous association is unusua].297 Here mass conversion occurs in
conjunction with the emphasis on divine activity. It seems that without this
intervention no ground can be won.

Cf. Pesch 1,352; Dupont, 'Conversion', 69-79.


Barrett r, 552; cf. Dupont, 'Conversion', 74-76.
294 This emphasis in the immediate context of Acts 11.18 questions Conzelmann's interpretation of t')ouvaL !1E"tD.VOLaV, while repentance as a Heilsgut in 11.18 is in line with
the stress of the following pericope.
29S Cf. Dupont, 'Conversion', 79 (-81) (italics mine).
296 On the proclamation of Jesus as Lord cf. II1.2.2.4.3.1., the apologetic thrust of e:uayYEALOV is discussed in III.3.2.2.2.1.
297 Acts 11.21,24 challenges JerveU's claim that for Gentiles not related to Israel no accounts of mass conversion are found ('People', 44t); it is precisely such an account! Acts
14.21 is a further example or many conversions without the explicit mention of previous
association with Judaism. Not all Gentile Christians were previously associated with Judaism. Cf. also 1y'3.3.3.2. on Acts 11.23 and ry'3.3.1.2.1. on 11.25f.
292
293

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Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

2.2.6. Sergius Paulus (Acts 13.6-12)

2.2.6.1. Sergius Paulus is the first Gentile contact of the first missionary
journey. He is described as (JlJVE't6C;. This adjective has been understood differently: For example Bauernfeind takes it positively to mean 'fUr wahre
Glaubenseinsicht aufgeschlossen', while Bruce simply renders: 'a man of
good sense',298 Sergius wanted to hear the Christian proclamation. How is
his interest to be understood? Was it personal religious interest or part of
his duties as governor?
The meaning of auvE't6c; becomes clearer once Elymas appears. Sergius
kept and entertained such a man at his court. 299 As becomes evident, Elymas was not without influence. Thus Bauemfeind over-interprets auvE't6c;.
Bruce's assumption, immediately following the above rendering, that this
characterisation means that Sergius was 'not too susceptible to the magician's persuasiveness '300 needs to be modified in light of vs. 8-11, where the
missionaries estimated the situation differently. Barrett rightly suggests a
closer relation between both men. Elymas feared Sergius' conversion because that 'would no doubt have meant the end of his employment
(whether because the proconsul no longer believed in sorcery or because he
thought the missionaries more powerful sorcerers)'.301
Sergius is portrayed as superstitious. This educated upper-class official
also failed to realise that this magician was a fraudulent false prophet and
that though he called himself Bar-Jesus, he was actually a son and servant
of the devipo2 Like the gullible Samaritans (Acts 8.9-11), Sergius fell prey
to and financed the demonic magic and false claims of Elymas. 303 On his

298 P. 297. Other commentators are Haenchen: 'fUr die christliche Verkilndigung offen';
Roloff,198: 'nicht nUT unverbindliche religiose Neugier' (Roloff's treatment is far too
positive); Stiihlin: 'echtes religioses Interesse und BedUrfnis' (al\ quotations from Zmijewski, 488, see discussion there). Cf. also Nobbs, 'Cyprus', 282:'a man of ability or understanding'; Pesch n, 24: 'ein gesundes Urteilsvermogen, eine vernUnftige Offenheit'; LSJ,
1731: 'intelligent, sagacious, wise'.
299 Roloff, 198 calls Sergius Elymas' 'Brotgeber and Gonner'.
lOO Bruce, 297.
301 Barrett 1,616 (italics mine). The italicised words at least indicate Sergius' susceptibility. Barrett's second option is unlikely in light of the stress of Acts 13.12: Sergius is El!.Jt},,"006\lEVO~ btt
O,Oaxti 'tOU xUQLou. Potential or real loss of power and influence is
also the motivation behind other Lukan cases of resistance; c( the description of Elymas
by Zmijewski, 488.
302 Garrett, Demise, 85; for the 'kontrastierende Anspielung' with his name see Zmijewski,489.
303 Barrett 1,617 reconstructs Elymas' position and practice from Acts 13.10: ... illicit,
and probably profitable, dealings with the supernatural
fraud, by making money by
To practise deceit and fraud is to be an enemy of
deception and trading on credulity
uprightness' (italics mine); cf. Lieu, 'God-fearers', 341f for pagan response to magic and
00.

'n

00'

00'

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

167

own Sergius was unable to recognise Elymas' true identity or fraud. Not
only was he far from attaining 'wahre Glaubenseinsicht' (Bauernfeind), he
ended up with the complete opposite of what is desirable from a Christian
perspective.304 Sergius is a Gentile prior to faith in contrast to Gentiles like
Cornelius who had already come a long way in the right direction.
In the light of this narrative characterisation - neglected by the positive interpretations of O1JVE't6~ and assessment of Sergius - it seems best to relate
this adjective to his political conduct: As governor he 'at least wished to satisfy himself that what they were propagating in public was not subversive' .305
He wanted to hear from the missionaries and before trouble broke out.
While Sergius heard the Christian message Elymas opposed the missionaries and tried to turn Sergius away from the faith. The missionaries' stern
reaction and the punitive miracle indicates how serious this threat and possibility was taken. Being turned away from accepting the faith was possible
and constituted a real danger: that the intelligent Sergius would obviously
and naturally come down on the side of the Christian proclamation once he
heard it, was not assumed. The immediate execution of the curse revealed
to Sergius the true prophets. The miracle elicited faith in the proclamation. 306 Sergius was astonished at the teaching about the Lord: 'Mit dies em
Hinweis auf die den Menschen uberwiiltigende und zur BufJe bringende
Wirkmacht der "Lehre des Herm" erreicht die Erziililung einen "kronenden AbschluJ3"'.307

miracles. Hengel/Schwemer, Paul, 69 suggest that Elymas, the 'Jewish seer and miracle
worker' was an advisor to Sergius; cf. also Breytenbach, Paulus,passim. For studies on
Sergius Paulus cf. HengeVSchwemer, Paul, n. 363; Breytenbach, Paulus, 38-45. For the
Gentile estimate of and interest in Jewish magic ct. Acts 19.13f and HengellSchwemer,
Paul, 70 and nos. 37lf.
304 Sergius shared the darkness and blindness which Elymas expressed and for which
he was punished; cf. Zmijewski, 490; 'die Strafe (Erblindung) dem Vergehen (CCgeistige
Verblendung") entspricht ... Elymas ist ... geistig blind, macht andere geistig blind .. .'.
305Bruce, 297. Pesch's suggestion (II.24), 'Ober seinen jildischen Magier hatte der
Prokonsul moglicherweise bereits Beziehungen zur jildischen Synagoge, an welche die
Missionare anknilpfen konnten', is unlikely. EVen if such a magician should be tolerated
by the synagogue, Elymas is also characterised as a false prophet. Where such contacts
existed, Luke usually mentions them. No synagogue or ministry to Jews is mentioned for
Paphos (ct. Acts 13.5; ct. Zmijewski,487). W.M. Ramsay, 'Religion of Greece and Asia Minor', DB (H) S, (109-56) i55 suggests that 'to the educated observer in contemporary
Graeco-Roman society, such as Sergius ... he [Paul] seemed to be a new teacher of philosophy, more or less impressive in himself, but not essentially different in type from
scores of other lecturers who were striving to catch the ear of the educated world'.
.
306 For the close relation of miracle and Christian proclamation see Dupont, 'Conversion', 72-74. The miracle also exposed Elymas as a fraud who had to capitulate; cf. Garrett, Demise, 83.
307 Zmijewski, 490 (italics mine).

168

11/. The Gentile encounter with salvation

2.2.6.2. 1. Acts 13. 1 Of. When the mission addressed the first representative

of the oLxOUIlEVTJ - administering a fraction of the authority which the devil


-granted to the Roman empire (Luke 4.5f; ct. III.3.2.1.2.3.1.) -, the devil
struck back in Elymas' attempt to turn Sergius away from the faith.30B Elymas' true spiritual and moral-ethical identity, inextricably intertwined, were
revealed: He was a son of the devil, an enemy of all righteousness, full of all
deceit and villainy, unceasingly making crooked the straight paths of the
Lord. As the Spirit initiated the mission (Acts 1.8; 13.2,4), so the devil instigated this resistance to keep sway over the people in his dominion (ct: Acts
26.18).

Though Gentile resistance to the mission is also accounted for differently309 and though Taeger rightly observes: 'Wenn in der Apg eine erfolglose Verkllndigung geschildert wird, geschieht das ohne Verweis auf den
Teufel'310, in the light of Acts 13.10-12 such encounters and instances of
Gentile resistance were not devoid of demonic influence. The position of
these verses is noteworthy. Garrett explains their significance:
... at the outset of the endeavour to which Paul had been called by Jesus himself....
Jesus had commissioned Paul to open the eyes of the Gentiles, that they might turn
from darkness to light and from the authority of Satan to God. But if people's eyes
have been 'biinded' by Satan's control over their lives, how can Paul open them? Or,
to use Luke's other metaphor (Luke 8.11-15), if the devil desires to snatch away the
newly planted word, how can Paul stop him? The answer is that Paul must himself be
invested with authority that is greater than Satan's own.311

This investiture released Gentiles from the power of Satan. Previously


Gentiles were under his dominion and unable to change their plight. When
Gentiles became Christians, it was the greater divine authority that re-

308 For the significance of the event see also 111.3.3.2.4.2. Though Elymas' personal motivation is not explicity stated, it can be concluded; cf. Barrett I, 616:' ... acceptance of the
Christian message would no doubt have meant the end of his employment'. Such safeguarding of his own existence, status and material interests made Elymas a ready and effective instrument for the devil. For the characterisation of Elymas and the contrast to
Paul cf. Garrett, Demise, 8ot. Such counter-attack is not noted when other men in a similar position came in contact with the mission and proclamation. Is it presumed in these
later cases or was demonic intervention unnecessary: the Philippian praetores, Gallio, Felix, Festus, ete. (cf also Pilate) rejected the mission through their own character, attitude
or moral-ethical failures? None but Sergius is designated auvE1:0!;.
309 Gentile resistance follows Jewish instigation or is triggered by the success and impact of the mission, e.g. loss of or threat to financial interests. Does Luke offer a variety
of such reasons, is it always the devil alone (no other reasons mentioned though discernible in the text) or the devil (not specifically mentioned) and one or more other factors
which are mentioned?
310 Mensch, 76.
311 Demise, 84; cf. p. 86; Taeger, Mensch, 76. This emphasis may explain why little is said
about Sergius and the consequences of his conversion.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

169

leased the captives. The devil was behind efforts to thwart the mission.
Luke probably assumes his presence in other encounters of Gentiles with
salvation in defending his realm. Yet despite Paul's greater divine authority,
not all Gentiles of a particular location were released from this dominion.
The first encounters of Gentiles with salvation set several parameters: God gives repentance, his hand procures conversion, the Spirit initiates the systematic Gentile mission,
ete. In this episode Luke intimates that more than human factors were involved in the
Gentile encounter with salvation and that superhuman forces are opposed to the Gentile
mission. Neither proclamation nor conversion occurred in a merely human, neutral setting; rather they appear in a dualism between God and Satan. Luke does not elaborate
on this theme and reference to the demonic is limited in the report of the actual Gentile
mission (cf.III.2.2.17.2.).
The hand of the Lord was against Elymas and he became blind. Mist and darkness
came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him. The man associated
with the devil groped in the physical blindness and darkness reflecting his spiritual
state.m A similar combination recurs for Gentiles in Acts 26.18; cf. III.3.2.1.

2. Also in the explanation of the parable of the sower (Luke 8.12) Luke
mentions Satanic interference with the human response to the word of
God. Due to its general character this note also applies to Gentiles. The
word remains without any impact when, after hearing, the devil comes and
snatches it away from peoples' hearts so that they may not believe and be
saved. The devil does not turn them away from believing as in Elymas' attempt, but rather by removing the word he withholds the opportunity of
starting to believe (mm:cUOavtE~).313 The word is not neglected, but taken.
It is a 'teuflisches Werk, welches das Verderben des Menschen zum Ziel
hat'.314 Apart from Satan's power and influence over people, asserted or
manifest otherwise, Luke does not explain how such far-reaching intervention is possible.315 No reference is made to the spiritual or moral-ethical
disposition of these hearts (cf. Luke 8.15).
312 Zmijewski, 490: 'Elymas ... ist geistig blind, macht andere geistig blind und wird zur
Strafe dafiir vorUbergehend auch leiblich blind'; Garrett, Demise, 83.
3\3 Estrada-Barbier, Sembrador, 170. Against Ernst, 207: 'die dem Feind des Gotteswortes, dem Teufel, nicht genllgend Widerstandskraft entgegensteIlen. Sie hilren die
Predigt und sind auch bereit, die Saat aufgehen zu lass en, aber am Ende sind sie doch zu
schwach'; similarly Brown,Apostasy, 119: 'when someone thrusts aside the word of God
in unbelief (Acts 13.46), the devil is said to take the word away from his heart (Luke
8.12)'; cf. pp. 121, 138, n. 604.
314 Ernst, 207;ci Dupont, 'Semeur', 99-102, 108. Theger, Mensch, 76, 71 writes:' ... in der
Gleichnisdeutung, die den MiBerfolg der Verkllndigung bei bestimmten Menschen erklliren
will und deshalb mil einer erfolgreichen Aktivitlit des TeufeIs ... rechnet ... Bei seinem
Werk der Verhinderung der Glaubensannahme (vg!. Apg 13.8,10) reicht der EinfluB des
Teufels bis ans menschliche Herz. 8.12 blickt voraus; in der Zeit der Mission ist mit dem
Teufel zu rechnen'.
31S Estrada-Barbier, Sembrador, 172. For Luke 'el acento se pone en el hecho de que ha
sido arrancada del coraz6n de 105 hombres'; cf. Dupont, 'Semeur' for the Lukan empha-

170

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

This complete removal applies only to some people as Luke also describes three further responses where the word is left to germinate. Apart
from the demonic removal, the seed starts to groW.316 Were it not, it would
seem, for the devil's intervention, all people would - at least initially - respond positively to the word. Baumbach argues
daB Lukas hier den Verlauf der christJichen Mission in dieser vom Satan beherrschten
Welt andeuten will. Der Satan fungiert dabei als der Feind der christlichen Mission,
der zum Unglauben und damit zum AbfaJl und Verderben verfUhrt. ... demzufolge gehort aJles, was in den Versen 1214 als Gegensatz zur christlichen Missionverktindigung herausgestellt wird - Teufel (v. 12), Versuchung (v. 13), Sorgen, Reichtum und
weltliche LUste (v. 14) - engstens zusammen, wie ja auch diese drei 'Gruppen' von Menschen gemeinsam der prinzipieJl andersartigen vierten 'Gruppe' gegentiberstehen.317

Though rightly drawing attention to the special character of the fourth


group, this interpretation does not do justice to the different point of departure shared by the other groups. For group two demonic involvement is not
mentioned, though previously the devil has been associated with temptation.318 Though demonic influence appears elsewhere with the concerns of
v. 14, it is absent in the interpretation of the parable.319 We examine the
spiritual threats of v. 13f in IY.3.3.3.
Though according to Luke 8.12 people fail to respond to the proclamation through Satanic intervention, his activity is not regularly mentioned in
Acts to explain lack of response to the Christian message. Acts 13.8-11 is
sis in the interpretation of the parable. Dupont, 102 refers to Luke 8.lf. What had been
given to the disciples is not denied to others by God: 'C'est le diable,et non Jesus, qui est
responsable de l'incredulite des gens qui n'accueillent pas la parole de Dieu; c'est lui qui
cause leur perte'. Garrett, Demise, 130, n.17 suggests that Satan's vested interest in idolatry accounts for his opposition to mission efforts. Her construction of the Lukan view of
the devil renders specific explanation unnecessary: ' ... Luke regards Satan as a powerful
being with much of the world under his authority. He controls individuals by means of
sickness and demon possession. He controls entire kingdoms, whose inhabitants live in
the darkness of idolatry, worshipping Satan and giving him the glory that is due God
alone', Demise, 43.
316 Taeger, Mensch, 24f in contrasting the heart of Luke 8.12 with that of v. 15, overlooks the fact that the quality of the latter heart ('sofern es "fein und gut" ist, den Menschen positiv fUr seine Begegnung mit der VerkUndigung pradisponieren') is connected
to perseverance, not to the initial response.
317 Verstiindnis, 178.
318The devil tempted Jesus, Luke 4.2,12; cf. Luke 11.4.
319 Satan is mentioned in close context with Judas receiving money for betraying Jesus
(Luke 22.3-5) and he filled Ananias' heart in keeping back part of the proceeds (Acts
5.3). Taeger,Mensch, 76, n. 299 notes: 'DaB die Zeit der Kirche genereJl eine Zeit der Versuchungen sei (so oft, z.B. SchUrmann 1,216; ... ) ist bei Lukas keineswegs betont. In der
Apg wird der Satan als Versucher Uberhaupt nicht zum Thema .. .'. Taeger's cautions are
legitimate. Luke refers to persecution of Christians without reference to the devil, Acts
20.19; cf. Luke 11.4. Acts 5.3 remains exceptional. Baumbach, Verstiindnis, 178 summarises the relations of Luke 8.12-15 to Acts.

2. The Gentile encounter wiLh salvation

171

the only incident where what was stated in Luke 8.12 is illustrated in an attempted practical outworking and identified as such.
2.2.7. Pisidum Antioch (Acts 13.14-52)
1. Many devout converts to Judaism (,tmv (JE~OIlEVo)V JtQ0O'TlA:lJ'tOlV) from
the synagogue responded to the Christian proclamation. Already associated with Judaism, they understood the message and adhered to the missionaries. Among these Gentiles response was greatest,320 Then almost the
whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord, which indicates curiosity
and interest also among Gentiles previously not associated with Judaism. 321
2. The missionaries justified their move to the Gentiles with Isaiah 49.6. 322
Their message was to be a light for the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the
ends of the earth. 323
The nations' misconceptions of God and their subsequent worthless and often senseless
idolatry were repeatedly described satirically in Isa 40-48.l2' The nature, extent and consequences of the darkness to be enlightened became apparent. Prior to this light, the
Gentiles were xa~fLivoL Ev OX6'CEL (Isa 42.7). They had neither light nor salvation, which
are closely linked in the quotation. Uke Isaiah's evidence for Gentile darkness, Luke
supplies several incidents to iUustrate the darkness here implied and then explicitly
stated in the similar statement of Acts 26.18. Stegemann concludes:
'Ucht der Vlllker' ist also bei Lukas das in der Auferstehung des Messias und OIJ)'C~Q
Jesus verbilrgte und in ihm als n:Qiii'Co~ Er; aVam;aOEIJ)~ VEXQWV schon realisierte Heil
(OOJ~QLOV) Israels, in dem sich die nationale Hoffnung des Gottesvolkes auch den
Heidenvolkern mitteilt. Inhaltlich ist es die Auferstehung van den Toten, die auf 'ewiges Leben' zielt.'2S

320 Cf. 111.3.3.3.3.; for the exhortation of Acts 13.43 cf. 1V.3.3.3.3.
321 CL Pesch n, 41. For the local pagan religion see G. Hirschfeld, 'Antiocheia Pisidiae',
RE l, 2446.30-37; Ramsay, Cities, 285-96; GilllWinter, 'Religion', 89.
322 Cf. also Isa 42.6f and Luke 2.32; cf. Barrett 1,658. Stegemann, 'Ucht', 81-83 summarises discussion of Isa 42.6; 49.9 and the significance of these references in Isaiah's context.
323This quotation contains polemic against imperial or pagan religious claims: true
light and oOJ'tT]QLa come exclusively from the God to the ends of the earth. Cf. K.H.
Schelkle, EWNT Ill, 782, 784f; Strecker, Theologie, 130f; Spicq III, 347-49, 351-53; Winter,
'Cult', 94 refers to 'the major Julio-Claudian imperial temple at the Roman colony of
Pisidian Antioch dating from the middle to late Augustan period'; cf. Ramsay, Cities, 28596 for the religious and political self-understanding expressed on the city's coinage, for
the temple mentioned by Winter, pp. 294L
324 Cf. Isa 41.4; (42.17); 46.lf (also 37.12).
325 'Ucht', 95. Stegemann's considerations ('Licht', 84-87) to whom OE in the quotation
refers, do not affect our conclusions for the Gentiles.

172

IlL The Gentile encounter with salvation

Against Stegemann, salvation is not so much the resurrection of the


dead326, as rather the prospect of a verdict of eternal life at the judgement
following this resurrection. This is the eternal life rejected by the Jews and
then received by Gentiles (Acts 13.46,48).327 Without God's light and salvation, Gentiles will not have eternal life, and remain under eschatological
judgement. Gentiles are in a condition requiring the light of the word of
God and God's salvation.328 They did not have this light and were unable to
produce it on their own, to change their plight or to reach this salvation and
life through their own efforts or insights. Only God's intervention brings
salvation and eternal life.
3. The Gentiles were glad and praised the word of the Lord. Many Gentiles
believed and the word of the Lord spread throughout the region. 329 Reminiscent of the references to divine activity in Syrian Antioch, belief is credited to divine predestination (13.48), not to the Gentiles themselves.3 3o
In addition to this attribution, it should be noted that many local Gentiles had previous links to Judaism, some had even converted. This encounter occurred in a Jewish setting (on the Sabbath, in or around the synagogue ).331 Jews and Gentile associates were in the audience, preventing any
Gentile misunderstanding of the message. Gentiles hostile to Judaism
would hardly have noted the earlier events or attended the synagogue.
4. The malignant Jews won over the devout women of high standing of the
Gentile associates of the synagogue332 and, probably through them, "tou~
JtQro"t01J~ "tfj~ Jt6A.E(o~. It is unlikely that these men were also adherents of
the synagogue, as EuaX~!lOva~ describes the women.
Barrett notes 'that the JtQW"tOL were probably Roman magistrates; some
of the leading families are known to have been associated with the cult of

326 The resurrection of Gentiles was implied previously; Luke 11.3lf; 13.2Bf. Jesus is the
judge of the living and the dead, who will be raised for this occasion (Acts 10.42); cf. also
17.31.
327 For further conclusions from this expression as to the state of Gentiles prior to faith
see III.3.2.2.5.
328 Cf. our full treatment of Gentile darkness in III.3.2.1.2.2. and of judgement over
Gentiles in III.3.2.2.1.
329 Cf. Ramsay, Cities, 29Bf for the overwhelming reception.
330 Cf. the extensive discussion in III.3.3.2.2.3.
331 So Barrett I, 655; cf. Pesch n, 45. For Jews in Pisidian Antioch see Ramsay, Cities,
255-59. No miracles are recorded.
332 For their identity see Barrett I, 659f; Kee, News, 88, 115, n. 6. On the female Godfearers mentioned by Luke in Acts 1350; 16.13f; 17.4,12 cf. HengellSchwemer, Paul, 66f and
their nos. 352,382. They survey the whole range of female God-fearers in various sources
and conclude: 'Luke, who in Acts often emphasizes the importance of prominent women in
connection with the synagogue, gives a completely accurate picture of the situation', p. 68.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

173

the god Men and may have attacked Paul and Barnabas because they were
a threat to the cult'.m Though otherwise mentioning pagan deities or their
worship, Luke does not note such a connection. Unless pagan loyalty is assumed by the readers, in Luke's presentation these men followed the Jewish instigation without motives of their own.334 Not recognising the Jewish
tfjAO\;, manipulated by Jews against the Jewish missionaries and lacking
discernment of their own, they made persecution possible and thus helped
in expelling the missionaries. In contrast to those who became believers,
they remained in darkness and acted accordingly.335
The persistent Jewish influence on Gentile devout women indicates that
not all Gentile associates of Judaism became Christians. Apparently Luke
does not assume that all Gentile associates were among those predestined;
et. III.3.3.3.3.
2.2.8. !conium (Acts 14.1-6)

2.2.8.1. 1. Through proclamation in the synagogue many Greek associates


of JUdaism became believers. In this context preaching was successful.
Whether there was any impact beyond these adherents 336 is not indicated
(ct. Acts 13.44). The unbelieving Jews were without any reported efforts
able to stir up (EJ'tEYELeCO; ct.13.50) and 'poison' (xax6co)337 the mind of the
Gentiles against the Christians.338 Though the missionaries remained for a
333 I, 660. For the extensive cult of Men in Pisidian Antioch see GilllWinter, 'Religion',
89, noting that 'members of the local social elite seem to have held priesthoods' (literature in n. 54, more generally on Men et w. Fauth, 'Men', KP Ill, 1194f); cf. A. Lesky,
'Men', RE XV, (689-97) 692ffor the cult of the god in Pisidia and Lycaonia (,Die wichtigste Kultstlltte des Landes ... ist Antiocheia'); extensive description of the local sanctuary
in Lane, 'Men'.
334 Ramsay, Cities, 313f suggests political charges against the missionaries which caused
the magistrates' intervention. While demonic influence is not explicitly mentioned, it
probably can be assumed in view of Acts 13.8-12. Acts 13.45 indicates the Jewish motivation.
33SFor portrayals of the Gentile crowds, their character, fickleness and actions see
III.2.2.8.2. Cf. the different picture in Acts 16.19-24 and 18.12-17; cf. n.3.7. Either through
their own anti-Judaism or through co-operation with Jews the Gentile local elites mistreated the missionaries (exc. Acts 19.31).
336 Zmijewski, 525; Trebilco, Communities, 150.
337 Cf.Zahn,460,n.53. Trebilco, Communities, 173-84 draws conclusions from this ability regarding Jewish-Gentile relationships. How this was done is perhaps illustrated in
Acts 19.9: xaxoAoyouvr:E!; n;v OOQV EvWltlOV 'tou 7tATrIl-01J!;. According to Acts 14.2 no
factual refutation of the missionaries was attempted. The Jewish resort to different
means indicates their estimate of the Gentiles and of their ability to appreciate Judaism
and the Christian proclamation. Effort to turn Gentiles away from the faith was previously ascribed to a Jew (cf. Acts 13.6-8).
3J8 See Barrett I, 668; Pesch I1,51 includes unconverted God-fearers.

174

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

long time and boldly spoke for the Lord, who testified to the word of his
grace by granting signs and wonders, their ministry only superficially affected the 'poisoned' Gentiles. The population was divided, some siding
with the Jews, some with the missionaries. Then both Gentiles and Jews
with their rulers (aQx.ovtE~) attempted to mistreat and to stone the missionaries.
2. Though Schneider rightly observes: 'Den unglli.ubigen Juden wird die Verantwortung fUr die Verfolgung der "Apostel" zugeschrieben. Sie "machten"
die Heiden erst "bose"'339, it needs to be added that the Gentiles were easily
convinced by them and willingly joined this Jewish initiative. They neither remained neutral nor defended the missionaries. The Gentiles were as guilty as
the Jews. In a sense their co-operation was worse than the Jewish instigation:
while the Jews understood what they were rejecting and why, the gullible
Gentiles joined them without interest of their own or understanding of the
occasion.
3. The Gentiles' susceptibility to the Jewish 'poisoning' was accompanied
for some of them by complete lack of response to the message and the miracles. Although it was forcefully authenticated among them and though
they were themselves among the beneficiaries of these miracles, these Gentile residents without association to the synagogue rejected the word of
God's grace outright.34o No factual refutation of the missionaries was attempted. These Gentiles sided with the Jews against the mission. The Gentiles who sided crUv tOL\; cmoo-cOA.OL\; did not believe (14.1). The missionaries could not rely on them to frustrate the attempts of the other Gentiles.
Their adherence did not transcend superficial fascination with the miracles
(ct: 8.9-11).
4. As in Acts 4.25-27, Jews and Gentiles with their leaders conspired against

the mission. Both the Gentile leaders and residents rejected what God had

339 Schneider lI, 151. Luke does not mention the various local pagan cults (cf. Ramsay,
Cities,330-34) or loyalty to them as a cause for Gentile resistance. In Luke's presentation
it seems that by and large pagans do not initially realise the challenge to their religions
contained in the message and ministry of the Christian mission.
340 Zmijewski, 525: .... bestiitigt es gegenUber moglichem Zweifel und faktischer
Bestreitung ... als wahr und damit heilbringend ... '; cf. Dupont, 'Conversion', 72-75 for
the relation of the miracles to the resurrection. To deny or neglect these miracles is to reject the 'proof of the glorious condition to which God raised Jesus at the resurrection
and in which he continues to exist'.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

175

initiated (13.2f). 'Y~QL~ELV341 and A.Lf}0~oAEi:v342 indicate their contempt and


hatred for the missionaries and their message.
The Christian proclamation and message of God's grace was not accepted despite miraculous signs. Some Gentiles received it with contempt,
others failed to draw consequences from what they heard, saw and only
outwardly adhered. Their susceptibility to faith-preventing influence, lack
of response and passionate and contemptuous treatment of the missionaries testifies to a Gentile state which needs more than correction. Information and correction on their own were insufficient. The only Gentile converts were already associated with the synagogue. 343
2.2.8.2. Luke's portrayal of Gentile crowds
In addition to the positive portrayal of some individual Gentiles and of
groups of Gentiles associated with Judaism, Luke's portrait of Gentiles
prior to faith contains several scenes of Gentile crowds without such association.
Next to typical Gentile characteristics such as idolatry, Gentile crowds
are mainly characterised by their susceptibility to manipulation and ensu-

341 Cf. G. Bertram, ThWNT VIII, 305.22f: 'beschimpfen oder miBhandeln'; Rapske,
Paul, 283-91. <Y~QU;LV recalls the Gentile treatment of Jesus, predicted in Luke 18.32
and illustrated throughout the passion narrative. What Gentiles did to Jesus was extended to the missionaries. A more cultured contempt characterises the majority response to the Christian mission in Athens (Acts 17.18,32).
~2 With Zahn, 463, n. 62 we take >"L-frO~OAEtV as throwing stones at the missionaries in
contempt, not as an intended capital punishment. 'Daf3 bei AusbrUchen wilder Leidenschaft, des Hasses oder der Verachtung dos Volk im Altertum mU Stein en war[, ist eine in
den verschiedentlichen Quellen hiiufig bezeugte Tatsache ... Steinigungen als Folge des
Wutausbruches beim Volke', writes 1. Pfaff, 'Lapidatio', RE XII, (775f) 775.33-37,776.3f
(italics mine); against W. Michaelis, ThWNT IV, 217.27: 'dagegen 14.5 wohl Steinigung'.
Stoning as a form of punishment related to religious crimes was known among Greeks
and Romans (cf. Michaelis, 271.5-16; K. Latte, 'Steinigung', RE III A, 2294f; Hirzel, Strafe). Acts 14.5 reports popular action rather than official Gentile requital e.g. of a sacrilege against one of the local deities (cf. Ramsay, Cities, 330-34) or whatever else the Jews
may have brought against the missionaries. AL{j-o~oAlv and iJ~Ql~LV cannot be assigned
to Jews or Gentiles respectively.
3~3 In Oerbe the missionaries proclaimed the good news and made many disciples
(14.21; cf.14.6). Though this summary neither mentions contact with a Jewish community
or influence nor any resistance (cf. Barrett 1,685), from the pattern in Acts (13.14; 14.1)
and from what is known of the area (cf. W.M. Ramsay, 'Oerbe', DB (If) 1,595; 'Galatia',
DB (H) ll, (81-89) 85,88 (,Galatians',DB (H) ll, (981-93) 992f); 'Lycaonia', DB (H) 1II,
(174-76) 176; Cities, 399f; Schiirer, History Ill,34) regarding the considerable Jewish
presence and its significance in the area, it is likely that the 'many disciples' were Jews or
God-fearers.

176

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

ing violence. 344 Luke shows repeatedly how quickly Gentiles could join a
cause or change their mind when won over by others.
1. The magician Simon was able to captivate the Samaritan crowds with his
sorcery (cf. II.3.4.).
2. Luke reports two cases of genuine Gentile resistance to the mission involving crowds. Without any indicated interest of their own or demand on them
to do so, the Philippian crowds joined the upper-class slave owners in attacking the Jewish-Christian missionaries, Acts 16.22; cf. II.3.7.1., III.2.2.10.3. The
Ephesian crowds joined the cause ofthe silversmiths (19.28f;cf. II.3.8.). Their
portrayal is rather negative. In both accounts Luke notes violence and strong
undercurrents of anti-Judaism. 345 The latter incident also testifies to the
crowds' idolatrous commitment.
3. Due to the course of the Christian mission, Luke more frequen tly reports
how Jewish rejection of the mission resorted to and easily procured Gentile
support for its cause. Gentile crowds were readily susceptible to Jewish instigation and became hostile in attitude and action. 346
Some of the residents of Iconium sided with the Jews. With them the crowds and their
leaders wanted to mistreat and stone the missionaries. Though some of the Gentiles
sided with the missionaries they did nothing to support or defend them against the hostile crowds. Hardly convinced that Paul was not divine, the Lystran crowds were easily
won over by Jews and assisted in stoning Paul (Acts 14.19). The unbelieving Jews of
Thessalonica formed a mob, recruiting some Gentile avliQa~ 'nva~ 1tOVT]QOU\; from the
market place, and together they were easily able to throw the city into an uproar (17.5).
Such ruffians were readily available; Luke reports no effort on the side of the Jews to
persuade them to join their cause. The Beroean believers immediately acted on the arrival of Jewish opponents (17.13), probably in anticipation that even Jews from another
city could stir up the Gentile crowds of their city with matters of Jewish religion. The
availability and susceptibility of crowds for that purpose is presupposed. The various
Gentile crowds were ready to use violence.

Despite the anti-Judaism displayed by Gentiles elsewhere, these Gentiles


joined Jews. They failed to realise the similarity between Judaism and the
Christian mission (cf. Acts 16.20f). Luke's only instances of Gentile co-operation with Jews are the murder of Jesus and the persecution of the di-

344 The Gentile crowds in Caesarea acclaimed Herod as divine of their own accord. The
Maltese islanders changed their mind and identified Paul as a god without any persuasion from outside. Both instances illustrate their spiritual failure.
345 Cf. the comments on these incidents and the discussion of Gentile anti-Judaism in
II.3.7. Philo's negative portrayal of the Gentile crowds of Alexandria during the visit of
Herod Agrippa I provides an instructive parallel (Flacc 29,33f,36-41).
346 Also the leading men of Pisidian Antioch are won over and become instruments of
Jewish jealousy (Acts 13.45, III.2.2.7.4.). Gentile susceptibility is not limited to lower
class mobs.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

177

vinely-ordained Christian mission. Where Gentiles refused to co-operate


the picture is equally negative (18.12-17; 19.33f).
4. These Gentile crowds joined Jews or other Gentiles without understanding or pursuit of personal goals. Lack of orientation and discernment
in spiritual and moral-ethical issues becomes apparent. Gentile resistance
and united resistance against the Christian cause was easily achieved: Luke
reports no incident of Gentiles or Jews trying in vain to instigate Gentiles
to join their cause against the Christian mission. Gentile crowds were fickle
and violent. Whether Gentile crowds rejected the Christian mission for its
Jewish origin out of their anti-Judaism or joined Jews in their rejection of it,
they sooner or later did reject it. This paradox stresses the blindness and rebellion of these Gentiles. 347 While Luke reports positive encounters of individual Gentiles with Judaism or with Christian salvation and recognises individual Gentiles with morally-ethically commendable traits, Gentile
crowds are consistently 'bad news'.
These susceptible, unruly and violent crowds present an unrestrained humanity, what Gentiles were like once the safeguards of law, order and impending punishment were momentarily threatened or removed. Here Luke
is reminiscent of Thucydides, for whom the true nature of people was displayed under such exceptional circumstances (e.g. the plague in Athens or
the civil war in Corcyra; History of the Peloponnesian War 1.47-55; rII.6985). What Thucydides states about human behaviour in and following civil
wars applies also to Luke's picture of crowds:
Then, with the ordinary"conventions of civilised life thrown into confusion, human nature, always ready to offend even where laws exist, showed itself proudly in its true
colours as something incapable of controlling passion, insubordinate to the idea of
justice, the enemy of anything superior to itself, for, if it had not been for the pernicious power of envy, men would not so have exalted vengeance above innocence and
profit above justice.'"

347 The crowds' anti-Judaism, susceptibility and ensuing action are never explicitly associated with demonic influence,e.g. in the manner of Luke 22.3.
348 Ill.B4 (trad. R. Warner); cf. also I.52f; Finley, 'Introduction', 23-25,3lf and Butterfield, Christianity, (26-47) 30-32. For Thucydides' anthropology see 0. Luschnat, 'Thukydides', RE S XII, (1085-1354) 1224, 1231-36, 1241,1251-57 (extensive survey of research);
MOri, 'Beitrag'; Stahl, Thukydides. Cf. also Polybius' estimate (Histories VI.56):' .,. the
masses are always fickle, filled with lawless desires, unreasoning anger and violent passions ... ', quoted according to Polybius: The Rise of the Roman Empire: Translated by I.
ScolI-KilverJ, Selected with an Introduction by EW. Walbank, Penguin Classics (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979),349.

178

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

2.2.9. The events and speech at Lystra (Acts 14.7-20)

Our survey of research indicated that the speech contained in this passage,
due to its form and its similarity to the Areopagus speech, has received a
fair amount of attention. We saw that both speeches were often studied in
isolation from their narrative contexts, which were neglected as less promising ground for Lukan theology. Against this background we want to treat
the whole incident, including the speech, in the place where it is found in
the overall narrative. We follow the summons of ParsonslPervo: 'The
speeches belong to the narrative and must be analysed in this context
rather than as detachable entities'.349
2.2.9.1. Initial proclamation and healing (Acts 14.7-10)

1. Paul and Barnabas fled to Lystra, Derbe and the surrounding Lycaonian
country. So far the missionaries had contact with and success among Jews
and their Gentile associates. 350 No further contacts with Jewish synagogues
are mentioned for this area. 351 They were 'on their own' in this barbaric
backyard of the empire352 and continued their nonnal task: euayyeALf;6fLevOL ~aav353, like the apostles and others before them.3 54 Luke does not
further elaborate on their message. The reader is left to assume that they
preached the same good news to these Gentiles as Peter preached to Cornelius and as was proclaimed in Antioch (Acts 11.20).355 Previous objects
349 Rethinking, 85; et: Lehrle, 'Predigt' ,55. This portrayal of Gentiles prior to faith follows
their characterisation in 24 chapters of Luke and 13 of Acts. For the methodological sign ificance of Luke's narrative sequence see Darr, Character, 16-59. For the whole passage cf.
also M. Foumier, The Episode at Lystra: A Rhetorical and Semiotic Analysis of Acts 14:720a, AmUSt.TR 197 (New York, Washington D.C./Baltimore,Boston: P. Lang, 1997).
3S0 Cf. Acts 13.5f,14; 14.1; exc. 13.6-12.
3S1 Cf. Haenchen, 431. It would seem unusual for Paul to miss a synagogue if there was
one. Even after persecution and expulsion from Pisidian Antioch, the missionaries immediately made contact with the Jewish community in lconium. Among the Gentiles associated with both communities they had considerable success. It is therefore unlikely
that they deliberately fled into exclusively Gentile territory. If that were the case, the
events in Lystra would indicate that the absence of Jews did not mean the end of problems. Acts 16.1 mentions Timothy's Jewish mother in connexion with Lystra; for a Jewish
community see Riesner, Frllhzeit, 243f,247.
3S2 Zahn, 469: ... die Hellenisierung der Volksmassen in Lykaonien viel weniger vorgeschritten war, als in den bisher von den Missionaren besuchten Stildten'; cf. W.M. Ramsay, 'Lycaonia',DB (H) Ill, (174-76) 176.
3S3This summary is confined to proclamation in contrast to the summaries of the
longer stays in Iconiurn and Ephesus, Acts 14.3; 19.9-12.
3S4 Cf. Acts 5.42; 8.4,12,25,35,40; 11.20; 13.32.
355 Acts 13.16-41 exemplifies Paul's preaching on his missionary journeys and is to be
assumed for similar occasions. Luke's two speeches before Gentile audiences follow

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

179

of E{,UYYEA.L~W guide the reader (Acts 5.42; 8.4,12,35; 10.36; 11.20): the good
news of the Lord Jesus was proclaimed to Gentiles.
This is confirmed by the conclusions regarding the content of the Lystran good news
which can be drawn from Acts 14.9. The proclamation contained references to the life
and ministry of Jesus similar to Peter's speech (10.34-43):' ... how Jesus went about doing
good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil .. .'.'S6 That the lame man believed
in the continuing power of Jesus to heal through the missionaries may indicate that the
proclamation included Jesus' resurrection and commission to evangelise. For Gentile
Athens the standard proclamation to Gentiles is summarised as 'the good news about Jesus and the resurrection' (Acts 17.18).

Despite repeated rejection by Jews and Gentiles, the missionaries remained convinced of the content and necessity of their message. Luke describes their perseverance with fun sympathy and approval. Gentiles
needed this good news of the Lord Jesus and needed to have it brought to
them as they could not find it in themselves or elsewhere in the pagan
realm. The salvation it announces is found in no other name (Acts 4.12; cf
1II.3.2.3.).

2. In Lystra a cripple from birth listened to the proclamation. Of an the people listening (d Acts 14.11), only this man responded in faith. 357 He understood enough of the missionaries' initial and intended proclamation in
Greek to respond. 358 The reaction to the miracle indicates that the proclamation of the good news was not understood by the crowds.
Healing and/or salvation could be implied in aw{l-ijvaL. That this man had
nLO"tLv "tou aw{l-ijvaL possibly indicates that beyond the likely reference to
Jesus' healing ministry (10.38: La0f.taL), the missionaries proclaimed Jesus as
aw"tTJQ. 359 Luke elsewhere employs laof.tUL to describe mere physical healing.3 60 As faith and salvation are also linked where no physical need occurs,

brief references to the 'normal' proclamation of the Christian message and they correct
Gentile misunderstanding of the missionaries' identity or of that original message.
356 Cf. Marshall, 236; Barrett I, 524. ALfjf,.rn should be taken as a complexive aorist,
emphasising (with the present participles eUE'1YE1:WV and tWJ.LEVO~) that 'the ministry regarded as a whole was made up of a continuous series of acts of beneficence', Barrett I,
525; cf. BD R 332.2.
357 Usually report of proclamation is followed by a report of the response, see e.g. Acts
14.1. Only in 14.20 does Luke mention further believers. The missionaries returned to
Lystra to strengthen the believers; cf. Acts 14.21-23; 16.1-3.
358 From this observation it is safe to conclude with Gempf,Appropriateness, 202: 'Presumably the crowds mentioned would have been able to speak and understand their 10callanguage and some Greek at least .. .'; cf. Haenchen, 431.
359 Gempf, Appropriateness, 217; Haenchen, 431: ':n:LatLV "to-O ooo-flijVaL ... presupposes
that Paul has been speaking of Jesus as ooo"t1]'1'; cf. Luke 2.11; Acts 5.31; 13.23.
360 Exc. Acts 28.27, when quoting Isa 6.10.

180

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

his faith likely went beyond faith 'to be healed'.361 This man was probably
one of the disciples mentioned in Acts 14.20. 362
In contrast to Gentiles already associated ~ith JUdaism (cf. e.g. the great
number of Greek converts in the synagogue of Iconium, 14.1), the proclamation in thoroughly pagan Lystra evoked only minimal response. The vast
majority remained unaffected by the good news. The only response recorded at this point in the narrative came from a lame man who believed in
the good news of Jesus the saviour and benefactor. The careful description
of the man's state and its duration363 demonstrates that neither he himself
nor other Gentiles nor the gods known and venerated in Lystra were able
to deliver him. In his desperate situation the impotence of Gentile deities
has become apparent. 364
2.2.9.2. Acclamation and Preparation

(Ac~

14.11-13)

Witnessing the miracle, the crowds jumped to false conclusions regarding


the identity of the missionaries and shouted in Lykaonian: 'The gods have
come down to us in human form' (cf. Acts 12.22). Quickly the alleged gods
were identified with deities from the traditional Greek pantheon365 by the

361 Cf. Luke 7.50; 8.12; Acts 15.11; 16.31; coupled with disease: Luke 8.48,50; 17.19;
18.42.
362 This need not imply that the man understood the full implications of Christian salvation; cf. Barrett 1,675. Only after the correcting speech and the interval before the arrival of the Jewish opposition Luke mentions Gentile disciples. However, this does not
indicate that the prolegomena contained in the following speech were fundamental to a
proper response to the good news proclaimed initially.
363 Cf. Barrett I, 674; Zmijewski, 533 for the functions of this description; cf. Luke 8.43
(cf. Sch!lrmann I, 490f); Acts 3.2.
364 Luke does not explicitly link this personal need and his faith. Breytenbach, 'Zeus',
401 mentions an altar inscription in Iconium which calls Zeus OOO-n1g. Possibly there is
implicit polemic: Though Zeus and other deities were known and worshipped as ooo'tT)g
(cf. Deissmann, Licht, 292, 311t), they all failed to procure ooo'tl]gLa for the cripple (for
Hellenistic rulers and other human saviours see Wendland, Kultur, 119, 126, 132, 148,
221). This contradiction went unnoticed. For pagan miraculous or divine healing cf. Kee,
Medicine, 27-94; R. Herzog, 'Asklepios', RAC I, (795-99) 795-97 and idem, 'Ant', 720-24;
E. Thraemer, 'Asklepios. 2', RE 11, (1642-97) 1655-62,1677-90; F. Kudlien, 'Gesundheit',
RAC X, (902-45) 920-29; J.H. Croon, 'Heilg5tter', RAC XIII, (1190-1232) 1215-19.
315 On these identifications Gill/Winter, 'Religion', 84f (similarly Gempf,Appropriateness,205f) conclude: 'Thus Paul and Barnabas are quite likely to have come across a local Lycaonian cult, which itself recast the nature of the deities in the language of the classical world; there is no reason to suppose that Luke presented these gods "in terms of the
Greek gods with whom his readers would be familiar'" (inclusion from Marshall, 237;
against Zahn, 471). For occurrences of both gods in and around Lystra see Hansen,
'Galatia', 393; Gempf, Appropriateness, 205.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

181

Lykaonian speaking people of a Roman colony.366 This combination provides a fine example of pagan syncretism. Luke provides reasons for this
'functional' identification: Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called
Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. Immediately the priest of Zeus,
whose temple was outside the city367, became active. He brought oxen 368 to
the gates 369, because he and the crowds wanted to sacrifice to the incarnate
deities in their midst.37o
These events allow several observations on these Gentiles.
1. Idolatry and pagan conviction were deeply entrenched. There was a local
priest and a sanctuary of Zeus. As in their everyday routine so also under
exceptional circumstances these Gentiles were devoted to and ready to

366 Cf. GillfW"mter, 'Religion', 82; Gempf, Appropriateness, 202.


367 Cf. GilllWmter, 'Religion', 84, n. 22. For an Augusteum in Lystra and its relation to
the sanctuary of Zeus see Lake, 'Route', 226.
368 Cf. Breytenbach, 'Zeus', 402f on bulls as sacrificial animals and their close relation
to and use in the worship of Zeus. His observation of the 'weitverbreitete Verbindung
zwischen dem Wettergott Zeus und dem potenten Stier im Taurusraum' (p. 402) will become important for v.17: 'lm Zuge der Hellenisierung alter religiiiser Vorstellungen wird
der Wettergott im Raum d~r Tauruskette mit Zeus identifiziert. Hier weist der Stier Zeus
als Gott des fruchtbringenden Sonnenscheins und der Gewitterstiirme aus. Es ist weiterhin auch iiber den anatolischen Raum hinaus belegt, daB Zeus Stiere geopfert wurden,
damit sieh seine FlIhigkeit, Fruehtbarkeit und Waehtum zu sehenken, vermehrt' (402f; ef.
my forthcoming extensive review of Breytenbaeh,Paulus in CV). For an ox prepared for
sacrifice with garlands cf. the photograph and discussion in Eltester, 'Schiipfungsoffenbarung', plate I, picture 2 and p.104, n. 3.
369 For GillIWinter the gates are likely to be those of the precincts of the temple of
Zeus: 'It was here, within the sacred area, that the sacrifice would take place', 'Religion',
85; similarly Ramsay, Traveller, 119. Yet as the missionaries were in the town, it is also
possible that the animals were brought to the city gates from the temple 1tQo 1t6Aew~;cf.
Meyer,263.
370 There need not be implicit irony in the observation that though Hermes performed
the miracle, the priest of Zeus was about to bring an offering; against Zahn, 473: 'FUr eine
Tat des angeblichen Hermes wird dem angeblichen Zeus ein kostbares Opfer bereitet!'.
It is not said that the offering will be to one god only. There might have been only a sanctuary and priest to Zeus in Lystra, and there was a strong perceived relation of both gods
in the .area. Cf. HengeVSchwemer, Paul, n.l09S on the significance of Hermes in the area.
On the intention of the priest of Zells to offer sacifices to the missionaries, the authors
note: 'This is a quite irreplacable authentic feature, since in this way the priest of Zeus
wants to steal a march on the priest of Hermes, who represents the chief god and is of
higher rank'. If that were the case, this remark adds to Luke's satirical description of pagan notions and veneration and is further evidence of the Gentile readiness to use religion to promote personal interests. Breytenbach, 'Zeus', 400f gathers proof for the gods'
association of the gods in the area and concludes that both. the Philemon and Baucis
myth and Acts 14.12 reflect 'Lokaltradition' (401). For other local links to these deities
see GillIWinter, 'Religion', 82, nos. 19-21.

182

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

demonstrate this commitment.371 They did not shy away from cost or lack
loyalty to their deities. Their spontaneous response to what they perceived
to be a theophany, authenticated by a miracle372, testifies to their enthusiastic dedication. This is not surprising in light of Breytenbach's reconstruction
of the significance of Zeus in the central Anatolian religion: 373
Ftlr die Kaiserzeit lllBt sich nun nachweisen, daB es in Phrygien, Pisidien und Isauria
Zeusverehrungen gab, die seine Funktion als Wettergott besonders betonen. Dies
sieht man z.B. an den Zeusabbildungen mit Blitz auf den kaiserlichen Mtlnzen aus Isaurien und Lykaonien - Illndlichen Gegenden des trockenen Zentralanatoliens, wo
man fUr die Ernte auf den Regen angewiesen war.

Zeus' responsibility extended beyond matters of weather. Again Breytenbach:


Zeus wurde in Angleichung an den Wetter- und Vegetationsgott des hethitischen Pantheons vom ursprtlnglichen Wettergott zum Gott des Wachstums. In den Abbildungen
fallen vor all em das Getreide und die vom Menschen verzehrbaren Frtlchte auf. .. ,
Zeus ist derjenige, der Frtlchte und Ernte gibt .... der Wettergott Zeus, der die Jahreszeiten kontrolliert, gleichzeitig als Vegetationsgott verehrt wurde.
Following Gill/Winter who write that 'the priest of this cult was probably not somebody
who had a lifelong role asa priest; rather it would be a member of the local urban elite
who was fulfilling the role for a set period of time'm, a good number of people would
have been consecutively involved. The priest probably provided for the animals and garlands from his private means.m

371 Codex Dreads btdroELv for the intention of the priest(s). Ramsay, Traveller, 117
translates this compound as 'to make sacrifice beyond the usual ritual' and comments:
'extra beyond the ordinary ritual which the priests performed to the God'. LSJ, 635 also
offer 'sacrifice besides or after' would allow for this interpretation. Regular offerings are
implied by the presence of the priest and the swiftness with which preparations were
made. For discussion see Bruce, 322 and Kilpatrick, 'btL'lhiEW', 151 who suggests that
btL%EW denotes a pagan sacrifice: 'Sacrifice is offered either by a pagan or to others
than the God of Israel or otherwise unlawfully'.
m Lane Fox, Pagans, 100 writes: ' ... they had to be convinced before they jumped to
the wrong conclusion: the "barbarians"were not deceived without reason'.
373 'Zeus', 404-07, quotations from 404f. For references see Breytenbach's extensive
notes. The literary evidence and the various archaeological data for the popularity of
Zeus explain the identification with those gods in this particular area. The ensuing address by the missionaries specifically challenged and corrected these local associations
and identifications. Whether a special god with healing competence and thus more likely
to be credited with a healing miracle, was venerated locally is unknown; cf. Gempf, Appropriateness, 204.
374 'Religion', 82f; further material on priests of Zeus in this area in Breytenbach,
'Zeus', 40lf. This succession of office holders could explain the D reading which has several priests coming with the people to sacrifice; c[ Bruce, 322; Gempf, Appropriateness,
209, n. 24. Luke previously mentioned leading men of Gentile cities who became active
in religious matters (Acts 13.50; 14.5).
375 Cf. Gill/Winter, 'Religion', 83. The plural 'tauQo\J~ would indicate an affluent man.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

183

The nature of these Gentiles' religious devotion and outlook also becomes
apparent in that the earlier proclamation failed to produce any results and
in that their reaction to the miracle was contrary to all that was probably
known about the missionaries and to anything the missionaries would have
said. 376
Haenchen has argued that Luke is deliberately silent about the first message in order to avoid an allegedly insurmountable contradiction: ' ... a
preacher who proclaims a new faith, inveighing against old gods could not
be mistaken by his hearers for one of those very gods!' .377
Gempf writes in response:
In a culture in which syncretism was a way of life, it should only be expected that the
Lystrans initially misunderstand Christianity's exclusivity and attempt to incorporate
new religious data (and persons) into their obviously flexible system'.'78

Rather, Luke deliberately describes the paradox of how these Gentiles


adopted the emissaries of a radically different God into their existing paradigm and thus neutralised the challenge their message presented.
2. The miracle was not taken as authentication of the missionaries and a vital
component of their message which was to be embraced in response, but was
immediately and quasi-naturally interpreted within their pagan framework
(cf. the functional identification). They rightly associated the miracle with the
supernatural (not as an act of magic or sorcery, unlikely in view of Acts 14.8!)
and ascribed it to their incarnate deities and so identified the human miracle
workers. Even after hearing the initial proclamation of the gospel this miracle only affirmed their pagan outlook and nourished and deepened idolatrous commitment rather than weakened it by showing up the impotence of
their pagan deities. The challenge and correction to their pagan paradigm
contained in the proclamation and in the reality and grandeur of the miracle
failed to affect these Gentiles. 379 This complete failure indicates that more
than such correction is necessary for the salvation of Gentiles.
3. On 'ot -frEot 6f.LOLw-frEVtE~ c:'tv-frQOO:rtOL~' GilllWinter comment: 'the people
expected the gods to be anthropomorphic' .380 Though 'expected' is possibly
376 This observation lets Gempf,Appropriateness, 202 question 'their degree of fluency
even in Greek',yet the reference to the Lykaonian vernacular is an explanation why the
missionaries initially did not realise what response their miracle elicited.
377 Gempf,Appropriateness, 208, quoting from Haenchen,43l.
378 Appropriateness, 208, see also p. 217; ct: U. Wickert, 'Kleinasien', TRE XIX (1990),
244-65.
379The miraculous punishment of the opponent of 'tov "J..6yov 'tou {leou was understood by Sergius as authentication of'tfi 1iL1iaXfi 'tou K1JQt01J (Acts 13.11f). Sergius was
'able to put things together', which Souter, Lexicon, 248 indicates for 01JVE't6~.
380 'Religion', 82;cf. Lane Fox, Pagans, 100.

184

IlL The Gentile encounter with salvation

too strong, there was no hesitation to assume, recognise and worship deity
in human form. This readiness is also illustrated by Luke's other instances
of Gentiles crediting people with divinity (Acts 12.22f; 28.6-8; cf. also 10.25;
16.29f).381 The missionaries were identified with pagan deities. Polytheism
was the spontaneous and natural frame of reference. The exclamation and
ensuing activity indicate fundamental lack of understanding of the uniqueness and true nature of God and the cognitive failure and blasphemy behind their idolatrous dedication.
Local dedication and possibly also the expectation of such an event may have been increased
by the legend, originating from this region, that Zeus and Hermes had visited Phrygia previously.382 A 'thousand homes' (627f) refused them a place to rest until Philemon and Baucis
invited them in. Rejection brought punishment on other villagers. 'If the local people had
failed to honour the gods as gods on their previous visit, they were anxious not to repeat the
error'.383 In avid's myth the gods - ofLoLw{tiVte~ Iiv6-QOJTIOL~ - indicate their identity
through a miracle.3" Philemon and Baucis saw this strange sight with amazement and fear,
and with upturned hands Baucis and 'the trembling old Philemon' (preces limidusque,682;cf
Acts 16.29) both uttered a prayer. Only as the main course of the meal was about to be
butchered did the gods reveal: di sumus. This background could explain why the crowd took
the missionaries to be gods rather than human exorcistslwonder-workers3M and also why
similar miracles in a Gentile environment did not yield this response (e.g. Acts 19.11f).386

381 Cf. W.M. Ramsay's section 'The worship of living men as deities' in 'Religion of
Greece and Asia Minor', DB (H) S, (109-56) 154; Pervo, Profit, 65.
382 avid, Metamorphoses VIII. (617-724) 627! avid stresses in the introductory verses
that his account follows local tradition. Lelex, the source and narrator of the account
(617) has himself seen the spot (ipse locum vidi, 622) and assures: 'Even to this day the
Bithynian peasant in that region pOints out two trees ... These things were told me by
staid old men who could have had no reason to deceive. With my own eyes I saw votive
wreaths hanging from the boughs ... ' (719-23). The tradition might have been kept alive
as a welcome aetiological explanation for the presence of a lake (see 624f,690-97) in an
otherwise dry area. Caution in the use of this legend is required as avid's location is simply the colles Phrygiis (621). Zahn, 473, n. 81 tried to identify details of avid's account
(624f) in the vicinity of Lystra. Hasty use and identification is criticised by Lane Fox, Pagans, 99: 'On the thinnest evidence, this myth has been located by modem scholars near
Lystra and accepted as the source of Acts' incident'.
383 Marshal!, 237; cf. Pervo, Profit, 64f.
38~ 'Meanwhile Philemon and Bauds saw that the mixing-bowl, as often as it was
drained, kept filling of its own accord, and that the wine welled up of itself; ct 1 Kgs
17.14-16, referred to in Luke 4.26.
385 However, also the nature of the miracle (against the backdrop of Acts 14.8) would
sufficiently explain for their reaction. Lane Fox, Pagans, 100 sees a potential reason for the
missionaries identification in the manner in which these gods were locally portrayed: 'on a
sculptured relief, we can see how people locally pictured these divinities, round-faced and solemn, with long hair and flowing beards, a searching gaze and the right hand held prominently
across the chest. Such a Zeus looks uncommonly like our image of a wandering Christian holy
man .. .'; cf. Acts 14.9. There is too much of 'our' or Lane Fox's image in this suggestion.
386These observations contradict Lane Fox's claim: 'In the view, then, of an early
Christian, pagans might think at any moment that they were seeing and welcoming a god
.. .',Pagans, 101.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

185

In response to this situation and these failures the following speech was delivered. But it was not merely to address and, if possible, to correct a series
of inadequate Gentile religious concepts; Paul spoke to prevent his audience from blasphemously worshipping him and Barnabas. 387
2.2.9.3. Barely successful corrections (Acts" 14.14-17)

Such complete misunderstanding, fervent intention and preparations required poignant correction.
1. The realisation of the missionaries led to two unmistakable gestures of

refutation: they tore their c1othes 3BB as 'an expression of revulsion at a blasphemous attempt to regard men as divine' and' ... the swift rush ... into the
crowd was their attempt to avoid being reverenced as gods and so committing sin against the true God'.3B9 The speech is set on this ironic stage: with
torn clothes the alleged gods, alias Jewish missionaries, were amidst their
devoted Gentile worshippers trying their best to prevent their veneration.390 A short explanation and exhortation accompanied these gestures.
Acts 14.15. In contrast to what the Lystrans assumed (6!lOLo){}ME~) and
did, the missionaries expressed their indignation Cd 'tuu'tu 1tOLEL'tE)391 and insisted on their own humanity: 'We are merely mortals like you (6!lOL01tu{}ET~)
392, who should have been and should now be recognised as of the same human nature. Such recognition of them and all other humans forbids all Gentile attempts at acclamation and worship. The distinction between truly di-

Cf. Lerle, 'Predigt', 54f.


and Graeco-Roman parallels see Gempf,Appropriateness, 211.
So Marshal!, 237. Similarly Bruce, 323: 'The action indicated their horror at blasphemy'. Marshall suggests that 'The use of the term apostles ... is perhaps meant to stress
the role of Barnabas and Paul as mere messengers of God'. The Lystrans failed to recognise this. Gempf, Appropriateness, 200 notes 'the interesting and ironic twist of the "sen t
ones" being mistaken for gods themselves'. On the use of futOO'tOAO: in Acts 14.4,14 see
Barrett I, 666f, 671f, 678f.
390 Chrysostom contrasts the reaction of the missionaries to those acclaiming them:
'But if it had come to be in the power of anyone of those senseless people ... to do anything like it, would he not straightway have looked for an altar and a temple to be reared
to him, and have wanted to be equal with the gods?' (Homilies on Acts 4, 31).
391 WB, 1208.1.b.~. note that 'eine verllchtliche Nebenbedeutung' is assumed by commentators for OV'toq, cf. Luke 1530; 18.11; Acts 4.17; 17.18. BDR 290, n. 1 limit this usage to present persons. The address with merely avllQE: indicates a distance not felt with
Jewish audiences (cf. Acts 17.22;27.10,21,25) where a/lEAqJol is often added.
392 Zahn, 476, n. 89: '''in alIen wesentlichen Eigenschafien wie andere Menschen
geartet" im Gegensatz zu Gatt oder den Gottem'; cf. Gempf, Appropriateness, 213;
Bruce,323; W. Michaelis, ThWNT V, 938.41-939.3.
387

388 For Jewish


389

186

1JI.

The <Jellcile en.counter wLlh saivallon

vine and human, non-existing or severely blurred in their admirers' minds,


was clearly affirmed. 394
This passage may provide an indirect but trenchant criticism of the ruler cult (cf. our n.
248, p.154). No human beings, whatever their appearance or claims (cf. Luke 7.25; Acts
12.21), can transcend their OflOlOltO:frO<; with fellow humans, and therefore do not deserve worship. If this refutation applies even to those healing the lame and crippled from
birth, how much more does it apply to unwarranted claims! In combination with Acts
12.22f the message is unmistakable. 'OflOLOlta-81\<; may also imply criticism of Gentile
concepts of divine nature. Because the missionaries have affections just like other people, they cannot be divine. Therefore deities which in many ways resemble humans cannot be divine either (cf. Acts 7.48-50; 17.24f).

After dismissing humans as deities, the missionaries address traditional


Gentile deities. Though mere mortals, the missionaries had good news to
deliver: the Lystrans should heed it and turn away from their worthless
things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea
and all that is in them. 395
1.1. 'These pagan gods are "vain things" (toun.ov tWV fJ.utuLrov), in contrast with "a living God", the implication being that pagan gods were not
living, and that they could not intervene in the affairs of men'.396 MutaLrov
refers to the gods mentioned and to everything associated with their worship (the te~ple397, its personnel and the sacrifices).
MutatO<; is a common and derogatory term in the LXX. Some examples suffice: apostate
Israel ran after vain things and has herself become vain (Jer 2.5); they provoked God to
anger with their carved things (tOL<; y).,um:o~) and flataloL<; u).,).,OtQlOL<; (Jer 8.19). Unless
God intervenes 'the mouth of the Gentiles will be opened to speak the praises of vain
things (j.tatalwv) and that a mortal king should be admired in eternity' (Est 4.17p. LXX;
cf. Acts 12.22!). 'Let not the vain-minded [referring to Gentiles] praise their vanities (j.tT]
tot<; flataloL<; ot flatat6QlQOVE<; ... ) at the destruction of your beloved people, saying 'Not
even their god has rescued them'" (3 Macc 6.11)."3 Mutato<; and other words of the
speech (oj.toLo:rta{hi<;, EvaYYE)"l~Eu{}at, E:rtLOtQEQlELV, EVQlQOcr\JVT], 0 '/reo<; ~wv) indicate
that Luke's choice of terminology 'auf einer Linie mit dem Sprachgebrauch des griechisch-sprechenden Judentums liegt'."g
394 Cf. Lerle, 'Predigt', 47 and Acts 10.25[ The same attitude was displayed by Peter in
Acts 3.12; cf. Barrett 1,192. On Acts 16.31 see III.2.2.1D.4.
395 This epithet of the creator God alludes to the LXX (Exod 20.11; Ps 146.6; cf. Acts
4.24; 17.24). In their correction and instruction of their Gentile audience the missionaries
repeatedly alluded to the OT. This is rightly emphasised by Lerle, 'Predigt'.
396 Gill/Winter, 'Religion', 85.
397 Cf. Acts 7.48 and the characterisation of the Gentiles in 15.19;etc.
398 See further O. Bauemfeind, ThWNT IV, (525-30) 526.52528.6,528.23-31. H. Balz,
EDNT II, 396 writes: 'everything else connected with pagan gods and their images was
considered flUtato<; (Hos 5.11; Isa 2.20; ... ; 2 Chr 11.15) .... In the NT fl(ltata include
every false worship directed toward the veneration of humankind rather than the true,
living God'. For discussion and references cf. Breytenbach, 'Zeus', 397 and nos. 4-11.
399 Breytenbach, 'Zeus', 397; cf. also Lerle, 'Predigt'. These pointers to the conceptual
background need to be remembered for the interpretation of the Areopagus speech.

2. Ihe

Gentile encounter wIth salvation

187

This designation entails a verdict over the intellectual and spiritual faculties of the worshippers: They venerated with dedication and effort such
vanities without recognising their lack of life and power and their worthlessness. 4oo
2. The pagan deities with their temple outside of the city4C)1 and special per-

sonnellooking after their well-being are contrasted with the living God, the
creator of all things. His creation and continuous providential care testify
and prove that he is alive (cf. Acts 14.17, see below).402
This living creator-God was known and worshipped among Jews. God is Lord of heaven
and earth (Luke 10.21).'03 The maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in
them, is addressed as the creator in a context that affirms his special revelation (6 ...
E!JtWV, Acts 4.24) and supremacy and the accountability of the Gentiles (4.26)."'4 God,
whose throne is heaven and whose footstool is earth, does not need the kind of house
that human hands could erect, for his hand made all these things (7.48-50). God made all
nations with a specific purpose in mind (17.26).

Nevertheless, this living God and creator was unknown among the Gentiles. His very existence and nature needed to be proclaimed. They had
failed to recognise him (see below). The proclamation of God the creator
challenges Gentile cosmology. Meyer notes on 8~ E1toLrlOE: 'bedeutsame
Epexegese des ~G)V"ta, wodurch die !J.at!lL6tT)~ der polytheistischen Vergotterung einzelner Naturkrafte sehr fUhlbar gemacht wird'.405
3. These failures are the sad tidings, against which the Lystrans heard the
good news that turning to a living God was not only necessary but possible. 406 In their natural state they were away from God and in a position
which required turning to God.
Gentiles revered worthless idols while the living God and his nature
were not recognised despite his creation. This idolatry and failure indicate
the Gentiles' spiritual state of blindness and darkness: not only did they fail

400 The cripple was one proof of the ~a"taL6"tT]C; of their gods. The same irony occurs in
Ephesus: while Artemis received fanatical devotion, Paul healed the sick and the name of
Jesus drove out demons (Acts 19.11-16; cf. 8.6-12; 28.4-9). Jewish exorcists were welcome
while otherwise Jews were' not appreciated (19.13f,33f).
<101 Meyer,263 observes: 'Der Ausdruck ... erklart sich aus der heidnischen Vorstellung,
dass der Gott selbst in seinem Tempel gegenwartig ist ... '.
402 Breytenbach, 'Zeus', 397f traces the Jewish background of the expression 0 {tEac;

~Oiv.
403 Cf. Luke 11.40; No\land, 664: ' ... God who is creator of the human agent ... '; cl.
Schl1rmann ILl, 310.
404 Cf. Barrett 1,243. A remarkable parallel is Hezekiah's prayer in Isa 37.16-29. On
God the creator see also Schnelle, Anthropologie, 14-22.
4OsP.264.
<106 ct. Gempf,Appropriateness, 213, also Acts 26.18; 1 Thess 1.9.

188

IlL The Gentile encounter with salvation

with their natural faculties or insight to recognise and serve the living God
- far from remaining 'neutral', they were turned away from him and worshipped vain idols. The existence and nature of the previously unknown living God and the possibility now to turn to him is truly good news and a necessary part of the proclamation. Knowledge and worship of him was nonexistent, both had to be announced to these Gentiles.
Acts 14.16. In the past God allowed all nations to go on their own way.407
The Gentile nations are under God's claim and in an accountable relation
to their creator: That God did not prevent them from going their own way
'does not mean that they have ever been out of his jurisdiction - they are
still under his sovereignty'.40B Acts 14.16 suggests that without continuing
divine intervention, Gentiles by nature follow or continue on their own
ways further away from God, rather than remain on or even find God's
way. They were not only on the wrong way but continually progressing on it
ever further away from God. Their own ways, characterised by false understanding of the world around them and of their relationship with God and
by various spiritual and moral-ethical failures, led to the spiritual condition
described in the previous verse. They needed to turn away from their position of ignorance of God and away from him and from their idolatry. For
Luke, only Gentile Christians became wayfarers on the way of the Lord (cf.
IV.3.1.3.).
Acts 14.17. Though the Gentiles had abandoned God to embark on their
own ways and though God did not prevent them from following these own
ways, the living God had not left them without testimony to himself through
his gracious and all-embracing kindness to all people: rains from heaven and
fruitful seasons, to fill them with food and their hearts with joy.409
What happened to this natural revelation?
1. Despite his revelatory provision which was to witness to him, people
failed to recognise God. They did not understand God's revelation in and
purpose behind these provisions. It has been misread and perverted, not
because of its inadequacy, but due to human inadequacy and failure. The
previous verses indicate the extent of the Gentile failure before natural
revelation.

407 Bruce, 324 comments: God 'overlooked their errors insofar as these arose from ignorance of his will'. Though eschatological judgement has not yet come, some Gentiles of
the past came under temporal judgement (Luke 10.13-15; 17.27-29).
408 Gempf,Appropriateness, 215.
409Por OTand possible Graeco-Roman parallels see the discussion in Gempf,Appropriateness, 216; Theger, Mensch, 24, n. 76. Lagercrantz, 'Act 14.17',87 translates: 'Da er
euch fruchtbares Wetter durch Regen vom Himmel gegeben und eure Herzen mit Preude llber Nahrung erftIllt hat',

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

189

2. Zahn notes the consequences of this failure: 'An dieser Gottesoffenbarung haben alle Menschen Teil, so daB'sie unentschuldbar sein und BuBe
tun mfissen, wenn sie dem giitigen Gott nicht die ihm allein gebiihrende
Ehre erweisen'.410 This failure brings Gentiles under divine judgement.
3. God's revelatory providential care not only failed to procure recognition and worship of himself, but the very opposite of his intention occurred:
instead of recognising this testimony, turning to and worshipping God, the
Lystrans had attributed to their worthless idols what God had provided.
These vanities they knew and venerated. By attributing the miraculous
healing to their gods and by their readiness to worship men, the audience
indicated their failure to comprehend and apply God's testimony concerning himself in natural revelation.
4. This statement contains further correction of Gentile notions and instruction in the true state of affairs: The one God is the one source of these
provisions. He gives rain and fruitful seasons oUQ<xvo-frev. Because God is
alive and not living in hand-made buildings, he can do so.
Breytenbach proposes specific local polemic: the living God and creator
is the one granting fertility, not the various local fertility gods who came to
be associated with Zeus: 411
Der lebendige Gott ist 0 aya{}ouQYwv, nicht ZEil~ KaAal<ayatJ-6~. Er ist der wetterbestimmende Himmelsgott,der durch Regen fruchtbare Zeiten gibt ((iLlioil~ .,. xaLQoil~
l<aQ:rco<p6Qou~) und eben nicht Zeus, der auch in Phrygien, Pisidien, Isauria uod Lykaonien als Wettergott verehrt wurde und fUr den in Ostphrygien die Namen KaQ:rcoM'tTj~, 'E:rcLxaQ:rcLo~, EiixaQ:rco~ und sogar KaQ:rco<p6QO~ belegt sind. Vom lebendigen
Gott, 0 {}E6~ 7;wv kommt das Wachstum und die Nahrung und nicht vom Himmelsgott
Zeus, der als wetterbestimmender Vegetationsgott in der Umgebung von Lystra viele
Kultstatten hatte und unter dem Namen Zeus Bronton zusammen rnit Hermes verehrt wurde ... , Hiermit wird 0 ttEO~ 7;wv von einer landlichen Perspektive her naher
bestimmt als der Schopfergott, der in Bezug auf Regen und Ernte genau die Funktionen ausUbt, deretwegen die Heiden im anatolischen Gebiet Zeus verehrten. Fur die
Ernte auf dem Markt in Lystra sorgt der lebendige Gott und nicht Zeus, der in dieser
Gegend als Garant der Landwirtschaft verehrt wurde.

Against the background of v.17, the possibility of leaving behind the worthless gods and turning to the living God and provider is truly good news. The

410 P. 479. Pervo, Profit, 74 suggests that 'miracles may most visibly manifest providence, but they are merely the tip ofthe iceberg (14.15-17),. Pervo claims that the 'verifiability of God's "providence" is constitutive for the theology of Luke'; cf. his n. 90, p. 165.
4ll 'Zeus', 408f. The polemic thrust of this section of the Lystran speech has to be kept
in mind when we turn to the Areopagus speech which is in many ways similar. Breytenbach, 'Zeus', 398 proposes that Deut 11 constitutes the conceptual background. Deut 28
points in the same direction. But both texts presuppose and stress Israel's unique covenant relationship with God. Breytenbach assumes that rain or drought would have a
similar function in God's dealings with Gentiles;cf. Stenschke, 'Bedeutung', 133, n. 34 for
the significance of rain and drought in OT history.

190

111. The Gencile encounter

IIItCh

salvation

mere existence of a living God, who over a long period of time has demonstrated his goodness and care through manifold provisions, is good news for
the Gentiles who failed to recognise him. God's gracious character is evident in that he did so even when he was neither recognised nor worshipped
by his beneficiaries while his providential care was attributed to worthless
idols.
In contrast with other speeches in Acts, the Lystran speech was not interrupted by the audience.412 There are no indicators that more was said (ct.
Acts 2.40). Surrounded by crowds ready to sacrifice and worship, it is unlikely that they repea ted their previous proclamation of the good news (Acts
14.7). In Lystra the missionaries did not need to clarify a misunderstanding of
their previous proclamation as in Athens. Perhaps what was said in correction was all that this audience could take.m In Luke's portrait these Gentiles
were incapable of or indifferent to refuting the missionaries' claims.
2.2.9.4. The Gentile response (Acts 14.18f)
Acts 14.18. The missionaries refuted the immediate intentions and underlying presuppositions of their audience. Yet, though just told that the miracle
workers were mere men and that the living God should be worshipped exclusively, the crowds were only with difficulty restrained from sacrificing. 414
All that the missionaries achieved was preventing them from proceeding with
their idolatrous and blasphemous intention. Their appearance and position
among the crowds also hindered such worship. Nothing is said of a reversal
of the earlier identification according to the missionaries' affirmation. In
contrast with other reports of proclamation, this basic exhortation - tailormade for the audience and occasion - to turn from their mis-identification,
from their readiness to worship humans, their idolatry and failure to attri-

412 Cf. Cadbury, 'Speeches', 403f.


413 Against Marshall, 238: 'Luke's account of the preaching at Lystra is confined to this
aspect (the true nature of God) of the message; his readers could draw on their knowledge of the earlier sermons to provide what Paul was likely to have said in addition'. But
this is Paul's first speech before a Gentile audience. Little of Paul's synagogue sermon in
Pisidian Antioch would be applicable to the Lystran audience. The initial proclamation
of Acts 14.7 can be assumed. For interrupted speeches see Pervo, Profit, 166, n.108.Some
manuscripts (see NTG, 363; CL Bruce, 325) add that (after their speech) the missionaries
'stayed on and taught. Some Jews coming from Iconium and from Antioch reasoned
openly with the missionaries and persuaded the crowds to withdraw from the missionaries, saying that they were not telling the truth at all, but liars in everything they said'. The
conclusions that this variant would allow for Gentiles can also be drawn from similar yet
better attested texts (cf. Iy'3.3.1., III.2.2.8.2.).
414 Gempf, Appropriatelless, 211 sees in this remark a further suggestion of 'the possibility that communication with these natives in Greek was difficult'.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

191

bute God's provisions to h).m and to follow this testimony, remained without response. After the initial proclamation, the miracle and this speech the
living God was still not recognised; no conversions are reported. 415
Acts 14.19. Jewish opponents incited the idolatrous Gentile crowds
against the alleged deities in human form. While difficul t to convince of the
human character of the missionaries and of monotheism (still wanting
ihJLV av-ror~) through arguments delivered by people authenticated by a
miracle and who were earlier taken to be divine, the crowds were nevertheless won over by the Jews.416 The miracle was forgotten. They joined these
Jews against Paul, the undisputed benefactor of one of them, and stoned
him.417 Like a dead animal, the benefactor's alleged corpse was dragged
out of the city.418 If this were not enough, in their defiance even the meanest burial was denied.419 The blindness, fickleness and wickedness of these
Gentiles could hardly be described more forcefully.
TWo observations remain.!. Gempf suggests why Luke elaborated on
this episode of the first missionary journey:
... Luke's purpose is to emphasise the conceptual back-tracking that needed to be
done in such situations. There must be a preface of sorts to the usual gospel message
to preach a belief in One God, and against idols. Luke's point is that these types of
misunderstandings were real possibilities and should be dealt with in this way.42.

But Gempf overlooks'the initial specifically Christian proclamation (Acts


14.7), which continued to be the point of departure with Gentile audiences
(17.18). The Lystran speech is not a 'preface' to proclaiming the gospel,
rather it is a response to misapprehension of the missionaries' identity. The
recommended 'conceptual back-tracking' for such situations only with dif41S Readers discover only in passing in v. 20 that also others have responded to the initial proclamation; against Pervo, Profit, 26. Only belief in the good news would make
Christian disciples (the usual meaning of fla{h]1;-ri~), not response to the recorded speech.
416 Pervo's expression 'whip up the local rabble into a frenzy of hatred' (Profit,26) is
incorrect. Luke speaks of all Lystrans, while Acts 17.5 expresses Pervo's suggestion.
Pervo, Profit, 65 notes as a 'theme beloved of Greek literature: the fickle and irresponsible nature of barbarians'; et. the different scenario in Acts 19.33f.
417 For MarshaII, 239 the Jews are acting on their own. The crowds 'could easily have
been persuaded that the missionaries were in fact impostors and been content to let their
fellow-countrymen treat them as they thought fit'. Zahn, 481, differs: 'Die eigentlich handelnden Personen sind bei alledem die fremden Juden, aber doch so, daB die Mehrheit der
BevOlkerung, vor aIIem der Gassenpobel ihnen zur Seite stand'; on stoning cf. III.2.2.8.1.4.
418 et. Barrett 1,684 and Acts 17.6.
419 This treatment is in contrast to the several burials in Jewish settings. The usual procedure is described in Luke 7.11-17: the corpse is carried out on a bier. Joseph, a good
and righteous man, arranged a prop.er burial for Jesus (Luke 23.52~56; 24.1). Despite
their sin, Ananias and Sapphira received a proper funeral (Acts 5.6,10). Dorcas' corpse
was properly prepared for burial (9.37).
420 Appropriateness, 218:

192

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

ficulty succeeded in preventing idolatry, did not procure any positive results and was far less successful than the initial proclamation, which led at
least to some disciples.
Nevertheless Gempfs 'in such situations' reminds one that Luke probably considered
other Gentiles prone to similar misunderstanding, which would need to be addressed
similarly. The Lystran episode is not merely a curious incident told for the readers' entertainment, but paradigmatic as much in how such misunderstandings should be clarified
as also in its assessment of Gentiles: other Gentiles would react similarly to the proclamation of the good news and to miraculous signs. These types of misunderstandings are
indeed 'real possibilities'.

2. Taeger interprets 'from the power of Satan to God' in Acts 26.18 in the
light of 14.15: 'Was mit Satans Macht(bereich) konkret gemeint ist, darUber
gibt die einzige SteIIe Auskunft, an der sonst noch neben der Hinwendung
zu Gatt (EJtLa"CQEqJELV EJtt-frEOV) auch die Abkehr von etwas (ano) erwahnt
ist'. From this semantic link he concludes: 'Die Exousia des Satans steht
also mit dem heidnischen Gotzendienst in Zusammenhang, sie erstreckt
sich auf den Bereich, der durch die heidnische Verkennung des wahren
Gottes gekennzeichnet ist'. Against this observation it should be noted that
Luke never directly relates Satan to this spiritual failure (e.g. as its origin[ator] or beneficiary).421 When idolatry is mentioned, it never occurs
that Luke idolatry 'deshalb mit dem Satan in Verbindung bringt, so wie er
es auch sonst bei der DarsteIIung von in christIichen Augen Abgrtindigem
tut (Lk 22.3;Apg 5.1ffnach 4.32ff)'.422 Satan's power over Gentiles in Acts
26.18 is more than a reference to idolatry (cf. III.3.2.1.2.3.). This assessment
does not take seriously enough the consequences of Luke's references to
Satan for his anthropology.
On this premise Taeger concludes that' ... die Abwendung von der Exousia des Satans, konkret von der Idolatrie, van dem durch den christlichen
Verlctindiger aufgekHiiten Menschen vollzogen werden kann .. .'. Yet even
if this Abwendung were possible and Taeger's link granted, precisely such
turning did not occur: the Lystrans were merely prevented from sacrificing.
They did not revise their previous identification nor their polytheism or
idolatrous frame of reference in general and repent. 'EmO'tQEqJELV did not
occur. Taeger's aUfgekliirte Menschen, after receiving Aufkliirung which
only just restrained them from sacrificing to mortals, participated in the attempted murder of the Christian messenger. More than enlightenment and
correction through the Christian proclamation is required. Several notes in
this account caution against Taeger's emphasis on correction: The lame

Cf. Lev 17.7; Deut 32.17; Ps 106.37; Bar 4.7; 1 Cor 10.20; Rev 9.20.
All quotations from Mensch, 79 (see also p. BOf); arguing against Baumbach, Verstiindnis,167.
421

422

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

193

Lystran was not merely successfully corrected but had faith to be saved. The
content of the original proclamation was the good news, not explicit correction of Gentile notions. When correction became necessary through complete misunderstanding and application of their pagan paradigm by the
audience, correction proved far from successful.
Acts 14.7-20 contains several ingredients of the Lukan picture of Gentiles prior to faith. Once association with Judaism was left behind, response
to the Christian proclamation was minimal. Severe misunderstandings of
the nature and work of the missionaries occurred, which could hardly be
clarified. Gentiles interpreted events according to their frame of mind, dismissing the challenge and correction presented to them. They are portrayed as dedicated idolaters and polytheists. They continually failed to recognise the living God in his providential care and were turned away from
him. What God had provided for them in witness to himself, was readily
and with devotion ascribed to their gods. Correction of their assumptions
was not accepted. Though some Gentiles were prepared for the Christian
message, the vast majority was far from ready.
2.2.10. Paul's ministry in Philippi (Acts 16.11-40)
2.2.10.1. Lydia's conversion (Acts 16.13f)
In PhiIippi also ministry began at the Jewish place of prayer. The missionaries continued to attend and preach at this location (v. 16). Apart from Lydia
and her household - already among those worshipping God - Luke mentions no further response. 423
Lydia's response in faith is ascribed to divine activity: God opened Lydia's heart to listen eagerly and understand the Christian message.424
Through this 'opening' she became a believer in the Lord. Rackham comments: Paul's 'words went home, because the way was prepared by the di423 Though a longer stay is implied, nothing indicates missionary activity beyond these
confines. This limitation is somewhat unexpected after Acts 16.6-10. Possibly the charges
levelled against the ~issionaries and the reference to their identity (16.20f) imply that
they spoke outwith the prayer meeting. Lack of response among other Gentiles may also
be related to the counterproductive testimony of the slave-girl, see below.
424 On Lydia and her background et Peterlin, Philippians, 128-30, 155-60; Pilhofer,
Philippi I, 174-82, 234-40; for the place of prayer and its location et pp. 165-74,231-34 and
the extensive treatment by Richter Reimer, Women, 71-149. I have not seen L. Bormann,
Philippi - Stadt und Christengemeinde zur Zeit des Paulus, NT.S 78 (Leiden, New York,
Cologne: EJ. Brill, 1995;cf. the review by 1. Reumann inJBL 115, 1996,762-64) and y.A.
Abrahamsen, Women and Worship at Philippi: DianalArtemis and Other Cults in the
Early Christian Era (Portland: Astarte Shell, 1995; CL the review by G.F. Snyder in JBL
116,1997,557f).

194

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

vine grace, as at Pisidian Antioch: only instead of the military metaphor


['tE'tUYfJ.EVOL, 13.48], here S. Luke uses that of the door'.425 Through God's
intervention the proclamation penetrated, yet the response to that message
is not directly ascribed to him. However, it seems that once a heart is thus
prepared positive response follows. 426
Taeger proposes that Lydia's coming to faith 'laBt die Bekehrung fast als
selbstversUindliche Folge des l'tQOOEXELV erscheinen'. Taeger's emphasis is
on this verb and on 'auf die VerkUndigung folgende menschliche Glaubensentscheidung'.427 Luke's emphasis is on ~kllVOLl;Ev, whereby it is made feasible for her, successfully to l'tQOOEXELV. Bengel concludes: Cor clausum est
per se: sed DEI est, id aperire. Apart from this divine 'opening', the hearts of
Gentiles prior to faith were closed to the word of God and response to the
proclamation was impossible. Others, even though also associated with Judaism, merely listened without understanding. 428 Though rendering possible attraction to Judaism, the natural intellectual faculties of Gentiles were
inadequate to understand the message of Christian salvation.
The missionaries had just been called over to Macedonia. Now God affirmed their ministry beyond former fields in a different part of the world. 429
This note indicates that in Europe also it was God who continued intervening to grant the mission suceess. 430 This will be affirmed by the following
events in Philippi.

425 P. 283. Similarly MarshaIl, Power, 94: 'It is thus God who makes human hearts receptive to His Gospel; apart from His act the preaching of Paul would have consisted of ineffective words'.
426 Cf. E. Schweizer, Th WNT VI, 410.9f on Acts 16.14:' ... wo Lukas unterstreichen will,
daB das mot'Euom kein natUrliches, sondern ein von Gott wunderhaft geschenktes Ereignis ist', with reference to Acts 3.16: ~ :1tlOt'L~ ~ OL' mhou; cf. Barrett 1,200; Taeger, Mensch,
217-19.
'27 Both quotations Mensch, 214; cf. Zmijewski, 607.
428 Weiser, 241, comments: 'Lukas deutet auf diese Weise zugleich an, weshalb nur Lydia und nicht auch die anderen erwiihnten Frauen zum "Glauben an den Herrn" kam'
(italics mine); cf. Zmijewski, 607; similarly Taeger, Mensch, 214. Though an argument
from silence, it is noteworthy as for other places Luke reports generous response among
the Gentile associates; cf. e.g. Acts 14.1; 17.4. Possibly only Lydia is mentioned as she became the hostess of the missionaries. Elsewhere it is clearly indicated that not all Godfearers became Christians; cf. 13.50. This bears on Marshall's observation that Lydia was
already a worshipper of God (Power, 93f).
429 Cf. Taeger,Mensch, 214. Europe was traditionally perceived as a distinctive and different part of the ancient world; cf. e.g. the definition and description of Strabo,
Geography II.5.24-26. Cf. H. 1l"eidler, 'Europe. 2. Erdteil', KP 11, 448f; H. Berger, 'Europe.
2. Europa', RE VI, (12981309) for further ancient descriptions of Europe (1309.9-16)
and various definitions of Europe's south eastern boundary in cols. 1299f.
430 This note of God's intervention at this particular junction is not surprising in view
of the position of similar previous notes: Stress on God's activity in Acts 11.2123 appears with the move to Greeks not associated with Judaism: God will also intervene in

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

195

This note illustrates Luke 8.12 (cf. III.2.2.6.2.2.). As Lydia's xaQIiLa was opened for the
proclamation to penetrate, the devil could no longer take the word from her xaQIiLa. As
a consequence she believed (cf. III.33.2.2.6.1.), was saved and bore fruit (cf.IY.3.4.6.).
What others listened to was taken away as their hearts remained closed. The following
incident testifies to subtle demonic activity in Philippi.

2.2.10.2. The slave girl (Acts" 16.16-18)

1. Acts 16.16. The missionaries encountered a slave girl with a spirit of divination who was 'clairvoyant and able to predict the future'431 and brought
her owners great income through fortune telling. The later exorcism in the
name of Jesus indicates Luke's estimation of this spirit of divination. Next
to the Gerasene demoniac, this is the only other incident where Luke reports with some detail on a possessed Gentile and the consequences of
such possession. 432 In comparison to the Gerasene a harmless and friendly
form of possession appears. This girl moved freely among the people. Her
'spirit' was not considered dangerous, rather it was much appreciated and
many used her services. The 'great deal of money' indicates the extent to
which her and other such services were in demand. Her capacities enjoyed
trust and popularity. This is the 'word' Gentiles had and trusted. The real
origin of her ability was not recognised or not considered reprehensible.
Luke portrays a Gentile naivete vis-a-vis the demonic.
2. Acts 16.17f This girl gave the missionaries unsolicited attention.
2.1. Only this nu{}wv, apart from the Gentiles attending the :n:QoallJ(~, showed any response (see above). Despite the prolonged testimony of the spirit - otherwise freely consulted and trusted -, the Gentiles neither heeded nor became active against the missionaries and their message.m The consequences of the exorcism and the occasion of opposition
indicate the city's preoccupation (cf. Luke 17.27f), possibly explaining their indifference.

2.2. This observation also suggests examination of her identification of the

missionaries and summary of their proclamation. Was this ni,.{}orv faithfully


salvation with this Ilew group of people. The statement of predestination in Acts 13.48
follows Paul's first missionary speech in a synagogue context which is to become the
usual initial pattern for his missionary work. What is explicitly said on these occasions
can probably be assumed for others (cf. the discussion in III.3.3.2.2.).
431 R.E O'Toole, 'Slave Girl at Philippi',AncBD Vl, (57f) 58: 'The writer of the account
in Acts undoubtedly viewed the girl as possessed'. O'Toole rightly sees this incident and
Acts 19.11-20 as part of 'a group of stories of Paul's encounter with preternatural phenomena in Graeco-Roman cities'. For the other two incidents which O'Toole includes,
Acts 13.4-12 and 19.21-40, Luke fails to give clear indication of preternatural involvement; but cf.13.1O. ef. Peterlin,Philippians, 140-42 and the overly positive assessment by
Richter Reimer, Women, 151-94.
432 Fnr Acts 19.12-16 see III.2.2.12.
433 The course of events in Lystra might indicate why the missionaries tolerated the Python 'for many days' before intervening; cf. Trebilco, 'Paul', 63f for other explanations.

196

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

presenting their identity and message or was the indifference induced by


the spirit's paganizing interpretation of the missionaries' proclamation to
promote misunderstanding?
This latter understanding of her words is suggested a) by the use of 6 i}EO\;
ii'l(!LmO\;, which occurred among Gentiles either in a context of 'syncretism
with Judaism'434 or was applied with or without Jewish influence to Zeus and
other pagan deities. 435 Whatever exact connotations it had for these Philippians, this expression had the potential to cause confusion as to the identity
or exact nature ofthe God the missionaries proclaimed. 436 In v.20 the opponents knew of the Jewish identity of the missionaries. If known previously,
their identity would indicate which 'Highest God' they spoke ot: b) For oM\;
a definite and indefinite sense is possible: 437 The spirit could be referring to
their message as the way or a way of salvation (as e.g. NRSV). In the light of
Paul's ensuing action and our previous considerations, the latter is preferable.438 Thus the message proclaimed by these Jews was merely one way of a
vague Gentile concept of salvation. c) ~oot'llQta 'would not suggest to a pagan
that the content of the Christian message was being referred to'.439 d) The
girl's relation to the Python supports an ambiguous or misleading presentation of the Christian mission44o 1\s Elymas' previous attempt to bLaOtQe'l(!m
tfj\; nL<nEOO\; was linked to demonic influence.

... ano

434 So BC W, 193 (with reference to F. Cumont, "'Y-IVLO"tO~', RE IX, 444-50). Cumont


also lists examples of genuine pagan occurrences and of various syncretising contexts.
For a more recent survey of the pagan and Jewish use of the designation see uebilco,
'Paul', 51-57 and the discussion of HengellSchwemer, Paul, 77,163f and nos. 399,412-14,
418,841.
435 Trebilco, Communities, 127-44; idem, 'Paul', 57f denies that most pagan occurrences
of this title derive from Jewish influence. The pagan connotations of this title explain
Paul's reaction. In the light of the ambiguity of Cumont's material, it is best to see a combination of Jewish and pagan connotations in the designation. Horsley, Documents, no. 5
discusses more recent examples showing Jewish influences; ct. also C. Breytenbach,
'Hypsistos', DDD, 822-30 and Pilhofer, Philippi I, 182-88 for extensive surveys. Cf. the
designation used for God in Acts 14.15.
436This is the conclusion of Trebilco, 'Paul', 60-65: 'There were many "Highest Gods"
and a pagan hearer would understand the referent of the term to be the deity he or she
considered to be supreme. Hearers would not think of Jahweh. Thus, the primary effect
of the term on pagans must have been to mislead them'.
m Ct. BC W, 193; cf. 'Il"ebilco, 'Paul', 64 for the significant omission of the article.
438 Cf. Rapske, Paul, 117, n. 13: 'the girl was implicitly denying an exclusive way of salvation'; Pilhofer,Philippi I, 187.
439 Trebilco, 'Paul', 64. For the pagan connotations of crO}"tTJQla cf. W. Foerster, ThWNT
VII, 969.28-970.28 ('cr<i>~O) und crO}"tTJQ(a im religitisen Sprachgebrauch'), 1005-12; C. Andresen, 'Erlosung', RAC VI, (54-219) 76-88. Possibly they saw their adherence to Roman
customs, later defended, as their way of 'salvation'.
440 Against e.g. Zmijewski, 608 (for others of the same opinion see TI-ebilco, 'Paul', 70,
n. 54) who suggests: 'Der aus ihr sprechende Wahrsagegeist "verrllt" n!lherhin 2 Wahr-

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

197

Paul's reaction to this presentation and its termination indicates that


such misunderstanding of the proclamation by Gentiles was a possibility
and danger. Though it needs to be recalled that Luke does not explicitly report proclamation in Philippi beyond the Jewish place of prayer and does
not identify the slave girl's presentation as a demonic attempt to thwart the
mission, this ambiguous presentation may explain why the Philippians did
not respond to the missionaries' proclamation. Possibly this continuous ambiguous and relativising attribution and description succeeded in immunising these Gentiles against the proclamation and its carriers. They accepted
the spirit's verdict on the missionaries' identity and what they proposed
was of no interest in their pagan estimation.
The accusation later levelled against them may imply some contact with
other Gentiles.441 Depending on the extent of previous ministry in PhiIippi,
the charge of advocating unlawful Jewish customs may indicate how little
was understood of the Christian mission and proclamation. 442 The missionaries were far from merely advocating Jewish customs. After this danger of
syncretism and misunderstanding was averted, financial concerns immediately took its place in opposing the mission. Only further miracles with tremendous personal impact procured the conversion of the jailer. Otherwise
Philippi remained unaffected.
2.2.10.3. 'Customary' resistance (Acts 16.19-24)

Following the exorcism the missionaries were charged with disturbing the
city.443 Their opponents did not state their real grievance, namely property
damage, but an accusation more likely to gain general public support,
namely 'die Romerwfude der stolzen Stadt, der XOAoovtU: Jtidische Storung
der mit Stromen romischen BIutes besiegeIten Ordnung'.444

heiten',see the survey of the treatment of this aspect and criticism by Trebilco, 'Paul',59f.
Ct. W. Foerster, ThWNT VI, (917-20) 920.5f for the link between the girl, the spirit and
the demonic (' ... die Magd ... mit dem Diimonischen in Yerbindung stand').
MI Ct. Zmijewski, 608. Possibly the slave owners merely drew conclusions from the
girl's exclamations or the missionaries' association with the Jewish place of prayer as to
their identity and message; cf. Pesch n, 113.
M2 Cf. Demetrius' summary of Paul's proclamation in Acts 19.26.
M3 For the whole incident see Rapske, Paul, 115-34, for the Gentile anti-Judaism displayed here see 1I.3.7.l.
#4 Bauernfeind, 210. This argument had greater importance in the Roman colony of
Philippi, which endeavoured to keep its Roman flavour, p. 210; et. PiIhofer, PhiIippi I,
189-93; Tajra, Trial, 5-8,12. For the Jewish association of the missionaries cf. PiIhofer, 173t.
The sweeping success indicates that the owners played the right card; cf. Rapske, Paul,
121-23.

198

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

The offence was advocating E~ not lawful for Romans to adopt or practise. 'E{}o~ refers
to 'die kultischen Gesetze der Juden' and is 'Ausdruck fUr die ganze aufMose zurtickgefilhrte kultische Gesetzlichkeit (Ag 6.14; 15.1; 16.21; 21.21; 26.3; 28.17)'. Wilson suggests
that in Luke E{}O~ refers 'in general to the Jewish way of life, described variously as customs' and that this set of customs is often identified with the law of Moses.441 The charge
was proselytising:
The slave-girl's owners ... were calling attention to the proselytising activities being
carried out in a Roman colony, amongst Roman citizens, by two Jewish missionaries.
In reality the apostles were being accused of attempting to convert Roman citizens to
an alien religion.446

For Luke association of Gentiles with ludaism was their first step in the right
direction (ct: ID.3.3.3.3.). That this step and its promotion was considered a serious offence and its prevention considered a matter of legislation indicates
the pagan understanding of religion and their blindness to revelation. 447
These Gentiles understood ludaism (from which the Christian message
was not distinguished) as a set of customs or a way of life closely linked to
a particular ethnic identity.44S Being Romans they already had their own
set of gods and customs and should not adopt a different set, which would
annul their customs. Protection of these Roman customs was the duty of
legislation and the local magistrates. 449
Any reference to transcendence beyond mere human Eihj was lacking.
These Gentiles failed to appreciate the living God revealed and worshipped in ludaism. Rather they considered their own religion as their customary expression of piety comparable and superior to ludaism. There is
ample evidence for the idolatrous nature of their customs. 450 This ethno441 H. Preisker, ThWNT Il,370f. On Gentile lips such identification would presumably
be less specific. WiIson, Luke, 103 notes: 'Cultured pagans also described Jewish laws as
customs.... It represents an enlightened, tolerant approach to the distinctive way of life
of the Jews, in which their laws/customs are viewed as the natural and legitimate expression of their nationhood'. Wilson presents references from pagan authors (Dionysius
Halicarnassensis, Antiquitates Romanae LVU.14.2; 18.52; Lxy'9.2; Diodorus Siculus,
Bibliotheke XL.3.1-8; 1.55.5) on pp. 10f. Cf. also HengeIlSchwemer, Paul, 191 and n. 398
who quote Philo, VitMos n.44.
4016 Tajra, Trial, 13. He continues: 'Their preaching of Jesus Christ was unsettling the local
religious scene as it was drawing men away from the worship of the colony'S gods especially Roma and Augustus'. This is an argument from silence;cf. Rapske, Paul, 117-19; Pilhofer, Philippil, 189-73; for the legal and historical background CL Tajra, Trial, 12-14,22f.
4017 Cf. Rapske, Paul, 118.
448 Tajra, Trial, 22: 'The Romans also tended to identify religion ethnocentrically. Thus
Judaism was considered the national religion of a particular people .. .'. On the significance and estimation of customs and laws in the ancient world cf. Siegert, Kommentar,
302, n. 8, 303.
4019 See Rapske, Paul, 119, n. 22.
450 On the pagan cults and practices in Philippi cf. 1. Schmidt, 'Philippoi', RE XIX,
(2206-44) 2241-43. Her list of 'griechisch-romischer, thrakischer und orientalischer Gotterkulte' (2242) contains twenty five deities; cf. Pilhofer, Philippi I, 92-113.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

199

centrism and understanding of their religion and of Judaism immunised the


Philippians to correction or proclamation. The one Gentile to convert was
the jailer whose assumptions were strongly shaken.
This understanding of religion is reflected throughout the account. Despite these solemn declarations, resistance to the missionaries was only triggered by the loss of clairvoyance capacities and the subsequent fmancial
IOSS.451 Prior to this event their customs were not defended against the threat
of Judaism or Christianity. The custom-conscious owners also readily used
this I1{rfrcov possessed girl to make their profit. Their Roman customs and
this demonic manifestation and their exploitative use of it were not in conflict. There was no sense of fear, amazement or even gladness over the deliverance. 452 Their resistance was not linked with concern for the honour
of the I1U{}cov. 453
This episode characterises the nature of these pagan 'customs'. They allowed for 'illicit dealings with the supematural'454, exploitation of a possessed girl, anger at her deliverance from demonic power, greed, anti-Judaism, tumultuous action overriding accepted legal practice and miscarriage
of justice.455 While a charge of proselytising readily upset the whole city
and led to far-reaching consequences, the civic status of Paul- granted and
guaranteed by the same legal authority - was neglected and justice denied.
An opportunistic approach to justice emerges: where suitable and promoting Gentile interests, Roman law is utilized, when in conflict with these interests, it is neglected.456
The Gentiles treated the Jewish Christian missionaries with contempt
and deprived them of all honour: They were publicly stripped of their gar-

451 ef. Tajra, Trial, 8; Rapske, Paul, 118.


452 Compare the contrasting reaction of other Gentiles to miracles, e.g. the Gerasenes
or the jailer (Luke 8.32f; Acts 16.29) and the Jewish responses to successful exorcisms in
Luke 4.40-42; 9.37-43a. Roloff, 246 comments: 'An die Stelle des dankbaren Lobpreises
fUr die Heilung eines Menschen lritt die Entrtistung derer, denen die QueUe ihres bisherigen Gelderwerbs versiegte. Wo das Religiose in zynischer Weise vermarktet wird, da
gilt auch der einzelne Mensch nur als Objekt zur Befriedigung des Gewinnstrebens. Die
hier dargestellte Mentalitat soU im Sinne des Enablers als reprasentativ fUr die religiose
Situation der heidnischen Gesellschaft gelten'.
453 Cf. Acts 19.26f. Bauernfeind, 210 notes: 'In unserem Fall macht es den XUQlOL keinerlei Schmerz, daB die angegriffene und vertriebene Macht heilig war'. Neither did the
opponents claim any threat to or breach of the pax deorum.
454 Barrett 1,406.
455 Though insisting on their Roman identity, they failed to follow Roman legal practice; cf Schille, 370; Rapske, Paul, 128-34!
456 ct. Rapske, Paul, 118.

200

IlL The Gentile encounter with salvation

ments and severely beaten. They were imprisoned in the innermost cells,
'reserved for dangerous low class felons'457, and their feet were fastened in
the stocks for security and torture.458 Throughout the account spiritUal and
moral-ethical failure appear side by side.
2.2.10.4. The conversion of the jailer (Acts 16.28-34)459

The unusual praise of the missionaries, the subsequent earthquake and the
miraculous survival and release of ail, let the Gentile prisoners stay (Acts
16.26). Once the jailer discovered what happened and was kept from committing suicide, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas to inquire:
'What must I do to be saved?' This question was occasioned by God's miraculous intervention on behalf of the missionaries.
The jailer's question is answered as having soteriological content. We need
to heed Zahn's caution: 'DaB die so Angeredeten das Wort oorfl'fjvaL sofort
im Sinne von Bewahrung vor dem verdammenden Urteil Gottes und vom
Erwerb der ewigen Seligkeit deuten, gibt kein Recht, auch der Frage des
Heiden diesen Sinn unterzulegen'.460 To examine what made the jailer ask
this questio~ will help in its assessment. He no longer immediately feared for
his own life and contemplated suicide. He was not asking what he must do to
be saved from the consequences of losing prisoners under his charge. 461
The jailer was charged to imprison and torture men who demonstrated
their power over the Python462 and who had now demonstrably received
miraculous vindication and liberation through the earthquake.

457 Rapske, Paul, 126. For a detailed description and the implications of such treatment
cf. Rapske, Paul, 124-27. The procedures recall the contemptuous Gentile treatment of
Jesus.
m Rapske, Paul, 127.
459 Compare my treatment of this incident in 'Need'. On Ihejailer's identity in light of
Graeco-Roman evidence see Peterlin,Philippians, 144-50.
60 P. 5S0. So also B. Witherington; 'Salvation and Health in Christian Antiquity: The
Soteriology of Luke-Acts in Its First Century Setting', in Marshall, Witness, 14566. In
view of the preceding depiction of Gentile religiosity in Philippi, it is noteworthy that the
jailer did not take refuge in pagan deities.
461 Cf. Acts 12.19. Paul had already 'saved' the jailer's life by assuring him that the prisoners had not escaped and thus preventing his suicide; ct Pesch n, 115. Suicide was his
immediate and spontaneous reaction to the events. Only through Paul's intervention
could he inquire about salvation. Only this Gentile contemplates suicide in Luke-Acts as
Luke describes Judas' death as an accident,Acts 1.18; ct Matt 275; Barrett I, 9Sf.
462 The jailer is likely to have known of this event, though not part of the charge against
the missionaries. For the power displayed by Paul see Zmij ewski, 60S.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

201

An earthquake followed the joint prayer of Jerusalem's church (Acts 4.32). The hardpressed church received this affirmation from God463 whom they earlier praised as the
Sovereign Lord (4.24). Possibly the jailer took the earthquake as an answer to the prayer
and hymns of the missionaries (16.25) and a sign of their vindication and the impending
doom of those who maltreated them previously.464 Conzelmann adduces examples of
such signs for answered prayer from the Graeco-Roman world.'" Such traditions might
have influenced the jailer's reaction.

The jailer's question is immediately related to the events and could be


paraphrased: ' ... was er, der sie, wie das Beben ihm angezeigt hat, frevelhaft
einkerkern muBte, tun mtlsse, um vor dem strafenden Zorn der G6tter bzw.
des h6chsten Gottes dieser Manner "gerettet zu werden"'.466 His question
indicates fear because of his previous cruel actions which events proved
wrong. Prior to the earthquake there was neither respect and fear of the
Jewish God nor any remorse over his deed. While expressing fear of the
retribution of the God of these Jews, the question does not indicate a deep
conviction of his immediate sin or sins in general. Only the apostles' answer
widened the scope of the necessary salvation. Again Pesch: 'Der Gefarrgniswarter erfahrt nun von einer Rettung in einem viel umfassenderen Sinn.
Sie liegt in dem Reil, das der Glaube an den "Rerrn Jesus" empfangt'.467
The jailer did not realise the full extent of his need of Christian salvation.
On the nature of salvation and its appropriation he had to plead ignorance.
The Jewish God and how to appease him or receive his pardon was unknown to him. As he was in dire need of salvation, his question was not refused. There are two contrasts between the jailer's question and the missionaries' answer which also indicate his ignorance:

463 Cf. Schille, 142: 'Die Zustimmung Gottes zeigt sich augenblicklich. Sie tritt an die
Stelle,an welcher gew(lhnlich die Mitbetenden durch "Amen" ihre Zustimmung aussprechen. Der ErdenbegrUnder lliBt den Erdboden erzittem'; Zahn, 177 referring to Acts
16.26 and Matt 27.50f; 28.2; Bruce, 159: 'a sign of divine assent (cf. Exod 19.18; Isa 6.4; 4
Ezra 6,15.29),; Pesch 1,174; G. Bertram, ThWNT VII, 70, n. 28 and the occurrences of
OaM:UW in the LXX (pp. 65-67).
464 For pagan interpretations of earthquakes cf. E. Wllst, 'Poseidon', RE XXII, (446557) 480.5-481.15 (Homer); 455.49-456.21; W. Capelle, 'Erdbebenforschung', RE S IV,
(344-74) 358-61 ('Das Erdbeben im griechischen Volksglauben'); for earthquakes perceived as expressions of divine wrath, 360.46-55. Due to pagan understanding of the relation between themselves and their gods, pagans prayed to the gods 'in jeder Lebenslage
als Retter, SchUtzer, Spender, Hater, Riicher, Zeugen ... ', W. Fauth, 'Gebet', KP II, (70810) 709.16-22 (italics mine); cf. F. Pfister, 'Epode', RE S IV, (323-44) 336.50-338 .
65 Apostelgeschichte, 44; Schille, 347 argues for the local limitation of the quake and
speaks of an 'Entfesselungswunder'; cf. Pesch, Wundergeschichten, 11 .
66 Pesch n, 116; similarly Zmijewski, 611. Luke notes pagan concepts of divine retribution (cf. the abstract goddess 6[,c1] and her 'vindication' in Acts 28.4-6).
467 H, 116.

202

Ill. The Genlile encounler with salvalion

1. The jailer asked what he must do in order to be saved. The answer with its charge to
believe did not demand an action or deeds but a spiritual commitment. The jailer did not
know what God required and the wording of his question betrays this ignorance. Says
Pesch: 'lm Horizont paulinischer Theologie wird auch als Akzent erkennbar, daJ3 kein
"Tun",sondem der Glaube an den Herrn Jesus (vgI.11.17; 15.11;auch 13.39) zur Retlung
erforderlich ist'.'68
2. The jailer addressed the missionaries as XUQLOL, which could also be translated 'Sirs' or
'Lords'. Though xUQto~ in itself is a common word, here it probably had divine undertones.'" Says Schille: 'da es sich urn das Erschrecken vor der Epiphanie gottlicher GewaIt handelt. Der FuJ3fall ... demonstriert den Schreck. Der Wllrter erkennt in den Gefangenen gottliche "Herren" und zollt diesen die gebiihrende Ehre'.70 Pesch notes his
physical reaction: 'Sein "Zittem", mit dem er vor den Missionaren niederfllllt, drUckt religiose Scheu vor den Gottesmllnnern aus, die der Heide - wie auch die Anrede "Herren" besagen kann - fUr Gotterboten Mlt'.471 This quick change in assessment (from indifference and contemptuous treatment to acclamation) recalls Acts 28.4-6; for the reverse order see 14.11-19. The missionaries' true identity and commission remained unrecognised. Again the missionaries' answer was corrective, 'wobei der Hinweis auf den
Kyrios die Ehrerbielung vor den Kyrioi (V. 30) stillschweigend korrigiert':472 There is
only one :>(veO" his name is Jesus. They then proclaimed not their own message - but 'tov
A6yov 'toii XUQLOU. This Lord and his word were unknown previously.

The man previously trembling out of fear and his household then believed
and rejoiced that they had become believers in God. Knowledge of him,
faith and this joy were previously absent. Other Philippians still lacked
knowledge of God and his word and this relationship with him (cf.
N.3.4.4.).

' 68 11, 116. The inward change required of and carried out by the jailer had immediate
and radical consequences for his behaviour; cf. IV.3.4.6.
'69 Pesch 11, 116. KUQto~ as an address and designation of pagan deities is widely attested; cf. L.w. Hurtado, 'Lord', DPL, 560f; cf. also the inscription adduced by Hengell
Schwemer, Paul, n. 412. W. Foerster, ThWNT Ill, 1045-56 'Gotter und Herrscher als
~vew'. On Acts 16.31 Foerster comments: 'Der Gefllngniswarter ... driickt mit seiner
Anrede XUQLOL den Gefangenen seine Ehrfurcht aus',1085.29-31. KUQU! as singularvocative appears in Peter's address as he responded to the voice commissioning him (Acts
10.l3t). Luke's usual address for men is av6QE~ (Acts 27.10,21; cf. 7.26; 13.26,17.22); cf.
BDR 146, n. 4. Gestures of refutation by the missionaries like those of Acts 10.26 or
14.14 are missing, but could be assumed.
,70 p. 348, against Zahn, 580, n. 4.
471 11,116; cf. also Schille, 348. Luke's Gentiles repeatedly mistake humans for divine
beings, indicating their ignorance of the living God and their perception of their gods and
their relation to them. ct. the pagan examples discussed by F. Pfister, 'Epiphanie', RE S
IV, (277-323) 312-14, for pagan fear in response to epiphanies cf. cols. 317.63-318.19; for
the reasons for such fear and potential punishment in the wake of an epiphany cf. cols.
320.55-321.38. Cf. analogous Jewish reactions in Luke 1.12,29; 8.47; 24.5,37 to angels or to
Jesus. Luke's Jews never pay similar homage to humans.
m Schille, 348. The 'word of the Lord' appears in contrast to and as a corrective to the
conglomerate of misconceptions present in the jailer'S question.

2. 1 he GentiLe encounter wah saLvaCion

203

Acts 16.35-39. The motivation for the missionaries' release is not given; it
is not explicitly related to the events of the night. 473 The attitude displayed
by the magistrates was not remorse over their previous procedure474, but
fear of the personal consequences of their miscarriage of justice was the
motivation behind their apology.
The missionaries were officially ordered to leave the city. Their presence
and ministry were perceived as too threatening for the city's peace, its D..nLS'
'tiiS' EQyctO'LctS' and pagan customs and the inhabitants' self-understanding.
The Philippian episode testifies to an unanimous, violent and contemptuous official Gentile rejection of the correction and salvation brought by the
mission. For the exceptional cases of Lydia and the jailer God's intervention is noted.
2.2.1I. Paul's ministry in Athens (Acts 17.16-34)

We are approaching a passage much interpreted and with widely diverging


results. 'IWo approaches and traditions of interpretation oppose each other
(cf. the survey in 1.2.2.2.). In view of this deadlock, one way forward is to examine afresh whether Luke really conveys a different message in the Athenian speech and its often neglected narrative setting from that of Lystra or
what is portrayed at other places. Does Luke make one major exception in
the otherwise unified portrait of Gentiles prior to faith that has emerged so
far? Is Taeger right with his claim: 'Was als Zugestandnis an die hellenistisch-philosophische Tradition erscheinen mag, ist tatsiichlich kaum ii.berbietbarer Ausdruck der Hochschiitzung des natiirlichen Menschen durch
Lukas'?475
2.2.1I.1. The initial ministry (Acts 17.16-21): Clues from the setting of the
stage
Acts 17.16. Athens was a 'veritable forest of idols'.476 This is the Lukan
characteristic of Athens.477 That this aroused Paul to great anger (nug473 Cf. Rapske, Paul, 128, n. 78. Rapske discusses and evaluates the procedure of the
magistrates. Codex D relates both events; cf. Rackham, 290; Bruce, 366; Schneider 11,218.
474 Cf. Rapske, Paul, 128, n. 79; cf. pp. 129-34 for Paul's concealment of his Roman citizenship (specifically religious motivation, pp. 133f).
475 Mensch, 103 (italics mine).
476 So the rendering ofWycherley, 'St. Paul';cf. Gill, 'Achaia', 443f. In v.23 Paul refers to
such an inspection and religious stock taking. Gill, 444f provides a description of all the
temples and statues that could have been seen from the Stoa Poikile on which Paul was
debating.
477 Gill/Winter, 'Religion',86 note: 'It is within this city ... that Paul appears before the
Areopagus .. .'. They describe what 'idols' and temples a visitor to the city would have
encountered and which for Paul would have been 'a daily reminder of the way that pa-

204

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

OO;UVEl'O to JtVEUIlU EV U1i1'ip; CL 15.39) is hardly surprising after earlier incidents involving idolatry. These idols and the pagan convictions they expressed and embodied were not taken lightly but deeply affected the
Christian missionary. This note of the spiritual condition of the city sets the
stage and tone for Paul's ministry and speech: The Athenians continually
failed to realise the worthlessness of their idols and their worship and had
not found the true God.

By now readers know Luke's assessment of idolatry. A multitude of idols indicates alienation from God. As a result of idolatry, God handed Israel over in judgement to worship the host of heaven, pagan deities and idols. A plethora of idols bears witness to
God's judgement (Acts 7.40-43) rather than to acceptable or preparatory piety. The
Lystrans were charged to turn from worthless idols to the living God. A city teeming with
idols is one consequence of God allowing nations in the past to go on their own ways.
That idols and whatever is associated with their worship are typical Gentile traits which
need to be discarded is declared by the apostolic decree. Luke does not commend devout
idolaters and their spiritual capacities.

Acts 17.17. From the beginning Paul's Athenian ministry presents a twofold
thrust. Following his usual practice he made contact with the local synagogue to meet Jews and their Gentile associates. Luke notes nothing more
about Paul's reception and success in the synagogue. Paul also reasoned
daily with those who happened to be present in the market-place. 478 Nothing is said of any response in faith.479 The content of Paul's discussion was
the good news of Jesus and the resurrection (see below).
This summary contains a surprising element. Elsewhere Paul started his ministry with
the synagogue and its adherents. Acts 17.2 reminds readers o(the usual Pauline practice:
Ka1;a OE: -';0 etwM~ (17.2; 13.14,44; 14.1; 17.10; 18.19; 19.8).480 Only once his message was
rejected there did Paul turn to the Gentiles beyond this location. The missionaries immediately addressed Gentiles only in places for which no Jewish community is mentioned.
That Paul abandoned his usual practice, elsewhere ascribed to divine necessity (13.46)481
and pursued this twofold thrust from the very beginning is best explained by this abundance of idols, explicitly mentioned for no other place of ministry. In addition to the an-

gan religion, and especially Athena, dominated the life of the city'. For Pausanias' description of Athens see p. 86, n. 32; Moxnes, 'World', 119-23. Similarly Ramsay, Traveller,
239: 'In this centre of the world's education, amid the lecture-rooms where philosophers
had taught for centuries that it was mere superstition to confuse the idol with the divine
nature which it represented, the idols were probably greater in numbers than anywhere
else in Paul's experience';cf. Gill, 'Achaia',441-45.
478 In Athens Paul 'made himself like an Athenian and adopted the regular Socratic
style of general free discussion in the agora', Ramsay, Traveller, 237; cf. Gill, 'Achaia',
445f.
479 For Ramsay, Traveller, 239 this is 'fully explained by the shortness of the time. Paul's
stay in Athens can hardly have been longer than six weeks, and it was probably less than
four'; cf. pp. 23941.
480 Against Ramsay, Traveller, 239.
481 Cf. Barrett I, 656 (-57).

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

205

ger he felt over them, this manifestation of idolatry added urgency to his endeavour.oI82
Except that Paul was on his own, Luke gives no other indicators to explain this deviation
from the Etwt}6~.1I3 This intensity of ministry indicates the necessity of the Christian
proclamation.

Acts 17.18. Among Paul's disputants were some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. These men become Luke's focus for ~thens. The synagogue with
its Gentile associates and other people in the market are left aside. The following verses specifically report Paul's encounter with some Athenian philosophers and their responses, not Paul's representative ministry and message to the Gentile world at large. Because this limited focus has often been
overlooked, the following speech was given too much significance.
1. The formula 'Jesus and his resurrection' aptly summarises previous proclamation in
Acts and presents what readers would expect from Paul's lips. The resurrection belongs
to the end of Jesus' earthly biography. Its mention indicates that more was said about Jesus' life and ministry (in analogy to Acts 10.36-43; cf. 11.20). Paul's message must have
contained references to Jesus (like accounts of miracles; cf. Acts 10.38) that allowed the
conclusion that Jesus was not a mere man. In Acts Jesus' resurrection is the divine approval of his ministry of salvation. The resurrection and exaltation were essential for the
continuing ministry of Jesus in the church, for the spread of the gospel and for Jesus' future task as judge.54 The resurrection makes this office possible and was proof to all people of the coming judgement. To proclaim Jesus and his resurrection without reference to
God was impossible as God raised Jesus.

Luke notes the message which Paul originally delivered and intended. No
other message was proclaimed in Athens and to these philosophers than the
standard proclamation which Paul and others had preached so far and in
varying circumstances. This is in line with the programmatic statement in
Acts 4.12. Thus Harnack's conclusion is problematic:
So wie die drei Petrusreden ein Bild der urapostolischen Lehre unter den Juden enthalten, zeigen die drei maBgeblichen Reden des Paulus seine Lehre fUr die Juden
(Kp. 13),jUr die Heiden (Kp. 17) und filr die neu begrilndeten christlichen Gemeinden (Kp.20).485

482 Athens is also the only place where Paul is reported as evangelizing lIa1:a nnO'av
ti!!EQav from the very beginning; ct: Acts 19.8f; 14.7t: Otherwise the Lukan Paul seems to
have worked at his profession on weekdays and attended the synagogue every Sabbath
(e.g. 18.3f). Acts 20.31 describes Paul's pastoral ministry.
48JThis might have impinged on Paul's ministry in a Jewish context. For the significance of two witnesses, especially to testify and proclaim the eschatological fulfilment of
Scripture cc. Jeremias, 'Sendung'.
484 For a summary of the. Lukan view of th e resurrection, ascension, exaltation, present
and future role of Jesus see Fitzmyer, 193-96; cf. also pp. 197-227 (bibliography on p.263);
Kee,News, (6-27) 26f; Zmijewski, 68-72; Marshall, 'Resurrection '; Voss, Christoiogie, 13148.
'liS I quote from KUlIing's summary of Harnack, 'Rede' (Geheimnis, 5; italics mine).
For a summary of Harnack's arguments and criticism of E. Norden cf. KiiIJing, Geheimnis,5. We endorse Harnack's careful investigation and results stressing that this speech is

2U6

111. Ihe Gm/iie

enLOWlter

,nil, salvation

2. In arrogant self-confidence and with an air of superiority some philosophers ridiculed and discredited Paul and his message and treated him 'as
though he were rummaging through trash' .486 Their question was rhetorical, not a request for explanation or further elaboration. They did not interact with Paul. These philosophers completely failed to understand the
standard plain proclamation of the good news; what God intended for their
salvation was dismissed with contempt.
3. Though making more of an effort to understand Paul than the first group,
other philosophers still displayed lack of understanding by assuming that
Paul ~EVWV &aLIlOVLWV /lOXE! xaLaYYEAEiJ~ EIvaL. This misunderstanding
arose from Paul's proclamation of Jesus and the resurrection. They realised
that Paul's message was something unheard of. The Christian proclamation
was characterised as new and foreign. What they heard from Paul was not
something they had always known and recognised or could have concluded
themselves. Their attempt to understand this new proclamation consisted
of its interpretation within their existing pagan framework. Says Gempf:
... the initial sermon produces misunderstanding in some of the hearers' minds as
they try to fit this Christian preaching into their polytheistic beliefs . ... in Athens,Jesus
and 'the Resurrection' are interpreted as similar polytheistic deities which must however, be rejected as 'strange gods'.""

a) These philosophers recognised Jesus as divine within their polytheisticsyncretistic framework. He was one among the many strange gods. The
flexibility and range of this system is indicated in th~t two deities, possibly
of a different nature and sex - a deified person or {}EtO~ avfm and a goddess/deified abstraction - could easily be understood within it. What was
for Luke a crucial part of Jesus' fate (or the eschatological fate of all peopIe) was mistaken as a separate deity. This identification indicates failure to

an essential and original component of Acts: 'Man sieht, daB die kleine Periode von neun
Versen sprachlich und stilistisch durch die stiirksten Klammern mit dem ganzen Werk
verbunden ist und daB der Versuch daher ilberaus miBlungen ist, sie aus dem ursprilnglichen Werk herauszubrechen', quoted from KUlling, Geheimnis, 6. We hope to show that
the same is true for its anthropology and estimate of the Gentiles.
486 Kee, News, 63. Bengel, Gnomon sees in their question 'the haughtiness of a confused and scornful mind'. For discussion of CJ1tEQIlOt..oyo; see Ramsay, Traveller, 242f;
Spicq Ill, 268f; KUIling, Geheimnis, 22; Zmijewski, 639; Gllrtner, Areopagus, 48. Ct the
summary of the high requirements for public speech in the ancient world by Siegert,
Kommentar, 315. Siegert concludes against tbis background: 'Urn so berechtigter mag uns
jetzt das Urteil der Atbener Uber den "Komchenleser" aut dem Areopag erscheinen ... '.
487 Appropriateness, 217 (italics mine). That these gods were to be rejected is not quite
true, rather their 'strangeness' made them attractive and the audience wanted to know
more about them. Much depends on the role ascribed to the Areopagus council.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

207

understand the person, fate and saving significance of Jesus. This was their
only conclusion from Paul's proclamation of Jesus.
b) Jesus' resurrection was taken as the name of a separate deity or an abstract goddess. Paul was probably thought of as 'promulgating a religion with
a new male/female pair or divinities like Adonis and Venus or Osiris and Isis:
Jesus and Anastasia'.488 Their conclusion is illustrated by the various Hellenistic mystery religions in which deities die and rise (avlmT)J.lL) again.489
The Christian proclamation was met only with either scornful ridicule or
misunderstanding. What they heard did not penetrate but was interpreted
according to their pagan paradigm and thus neutralised. On this (mis)interpretation the following procedures were based. Luke elsewhere reports a
belief-unbelief division among the audience of the proclamation. For these

488 Kee, News, 64; already suggested by Chrysostom, Homilies on Acts 38, 233:' ... for in
fact they supposed "Anastasis" ... to be some deity, being accustomed to worship female
divinities also'. Possibly this is indicated by the two articles. Against Zmijewski, 639 who
argues that the eschatological general resurrection of the dead is intended as in Acts
17.31. Though it explains the absence of a possessive pronoun (au'tOu) for livO:<naoLv, it
does not give enough force to the plural liaLJlovlrov; cf. Gartner, Areopagus, 48, n. 5. O.
Seeck, 'Anastasia', RE I, 2065 only mentions one or possibly two women with this name
in late antiquity. Luke is familiar with pagan concepts of abstract deities and personifications; cf. the goddess .6.ixTl in Acts 28.4, II.3.11.1.
HengellSchwemer, Paul, 163 mention the inscription of a pagan sympathizer of Judaism in Pisidia with an altar and column, 'which is dedicated to 8Eip "Y'l'L<n!p xat ~YEL'<l
Ka'!;aqJUyfi', giving the highest God a female abstract partner deity called Refuge (cf.
Exod 17.15 and the authors' discussion and nos. 847f. JosAs 12.13; 15.7; 17.6; 195,8 give
the name Ka'talpuyrj to the exemplary convert Asenath). HengeIlSchwemer also mention a thanksgiving inscription from Pontus (third century A.D.) dedicated 'to the invincible God Asbamaios and the Lady Proseuche' (1:fi xUQL~ :n:Qo<JEuxfi): 'Asbamaios is
probably another name of Zeus which comes from a source in Tyana in Lycaonia; in
other words, this is originally an anonymous local god on the frontier of Cilicia. By contrast ... the "Lady Proseuche" is to be derived from the Jewish synagogue'. Against this
background, it becomes understandable that the Athenians identify a Jewish preacher as
the messenger of an unknown local male deity with the proper name Jesus and his female abstract consort Resurrection. a. also R. Merkelbach, Isis regina - Zeus Serapis:
Die Religion um Isis und Serapis in griechisch-riimischer Zeit (Stuttgart, Leipzig: B.G.
Teubner, 1995).
489 Cf. H. WiBmann, 'Auferstehung I. 1. ReIigionsgeschichtlich', TRE IV,442f. G. Bertram, 'Auferstehung I (des KuItgottes). A. NichtchristIich', RAC 1,919-26 lists Osiris,
Adonis, Attis, Dionysos,Mithras,etc.; cf. cols. 927-29 for Christian apologetic demarcation
against these concepts. In light of the revival of 'Lokalkoloritforschung' (cf. TheiBen,
Lokalkolorit, 10-12) in Acts and of the illuminating reconstruction of the background of
the Lystra episode by Breytenbach ('Zeus' and Paulus, 31-38,53-75), it seems worthwhile
to investigate systematically for further links between the Lukan setting and speech and
the actual and specific religious practice in Athens or Eleusis. Points of departure would
be Klauck, Umwelt 1,77-95 (bibliography p. 84!); Mylonas, Eleusis and AlderIink, 'Mysteries'; for Dionysos see Kerenyi, Dionysos, 273-388; cf. also Winter, 'Introducing' and
our n. 529, p. 219.

208

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

philosophers no initial response in faith is noted: the division was only one
of derision and total misunderstanding of the most basic Christian tenets.
Both reactions are attributed to the best educated Gentiles of the time and
of Luke's books, the wisdom-loving Gentile intelligentsia in the centre of
education and learning. Their natural ability, training and Gentile wisdom
proved inadequate to understand the proclamation and its significance.
Luke's narrative is a scathing disclaimer of Gentile 'philosophy of religion'
and their natural faculties. 490 This backdrop to Paul's speech precludes expectation that Paul assumed much common ground with his audience or
was overly appreciative of its pluralistic theology. It also cautions against
overestimating certain statements of the speech. Luke's note of their assessment indicates that the proclamation was not understood in enlightened
philosophical terms but within their religious-pagan paradigm. Precisely
this understanding will be addressed and refuted in the speech; the speech is
not a refutation of or assimilation to pagan natural theology.
Acts 17.19-21. Following the estimation that Paul proclaimed strange
gods, he was brought by the latter group of philosophers to the Areopagus
and requested to speak to them again. 491 Winter proposes that Paul was understood as an official
herald of new gods. The Areopagus informed him of its legitimate role in this matter
in Athens. It was appropriate that he should give account of his teaching before them
since, as they claimed, 'We possess the right to judge what this new teaching is being
spoken of by you. You are bringing "strange (foreign) things" to our ears: we therefore wish to judge what it is being claimed ... "these things" are'.492

The Areopagus intended to assess Paul's claim and then decide whether
these new gods should be worshipped and incorporated into their existing
pantheon.493 The underlying principle behind this institution and its procedure is significant: Only by investigation and consent of certain bodies can
new gods be added to an existing polytheistic pantheon and then be 'legally' worshipped. 494 Should the proposed god(s) fail to gain approval, recognition would be denied. The god and his worship would be banned from
490 Ramsay notes another disclaiming element: 'The different opinions of the philosophers in v.IS are purposely placed side by side with a touch of gentle sarcasm on their inability, with all their acuteness, to agree in any opinion even about Paul's meaning', Traveller,242.
491 For a reconstruction of the circumstances see Ramsay, Traveller, 245-47; Winter, 'Introducing'.
m 'Introducing', 90.
493 For details cf. Winter, 'Introducing'. What Paul proclaimed, the philosophers called
strange ideas; et WB,110S: 'befremdliche Dinge'. Their appreciation did not go beyond
recognition that it was something new and foreign. That the proclamation was not understood or accepted suggests that their philosophy had not prepared them for this message.
494 For the procedure see Winter, 'Introducing' and the literature cited there.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

209

Athens. On these presuppositions the mere possibility of God revealing


himself and demanding response and exclusive obedience according to his
terms is excluded a pr~ori (ct. Luke's salvation-historical accounts of God's
revelation to and dealings with Israel or e.g. Paul's own conversion). At
most, a fortunate new god can join the traditional divine assembly and their
more recent associates.495 The Athenians496 decided how many and what
kind of gods they were ready to accept on their own terms into their own
pantheon and worship according to their own ideas.497 That these proceedings and their underlying assumptions made them almost immune to the
challenge and correction of the Christian proclamation is indicated in the
following verses. In arrogance and self-confidence these Gentiles held full
sway and control over what they considered divine and worthy of worship
in their 'home-made' religion. The gods fortunate enough to be accepted
were recognised and venerated by the grace of those who accepted and
then looked after them. Paul was truly addressing the foresters of 'a veritable forest of idols'.
Acts 17.21. Apart from these 'official' concerns, their desire to hear more
did not transcend superficial curiosity. It did not indicate any recognition of
need or of the importance or validity of the message, but reflected the general character of Athens: All its inhabitants would spend their time with
nothing but telling and hearing the latest news.49B This mind-set could easily mistake the Christian proclamation as a current new idea of some entertainment value, soon to be modified or replaced by further new ideas and
gods499: little wonder that Paul found such a city teeming with various idols.

495 Winter, 'Introducing', 75-77 lists the more or less illustrious additions during the
first century. The Areopagus was ready to investigate whether the 'gods' proclaimed by
Paul were worthy of addition to Roman emperors and their (extended) families. Adding
Jesus to such deified humans the pagan philosophers were ready to consider. The quality
of the existing pantheon indicates the lack of spiritual perceptiveness of those investigating and approving of these additions; cf. the Lukan instances of Gentiles mistaking men
for deities. The divine status granted to them shows that the criteria (cf. Winter, 72) for
acceptance (e.g. an epiphany) were hardly taken seriously. These gods and the process of
their accreditation was probably known to Paul who is reported to have carefully inspected the city's religious monuments and their inscriptions (Acts 17.23, for examples
see Winter, 76-78).
496 According to Winter, 'Introducing', 76f the Areopagus, the Council of the 600 and
the Demos were involved in this process.
497 Winter, 'Introducing', 74 notes on the implications of approval:' ... it is certain that
those who secured the introduction of a cult had to have SUbstantial means, for they had
to buy consecrated ground (temenos) and build an altar for sacrifice. There was also the
requirement to endow an annual feast'. Winter, 84f shows how these notions were refuted
one by olle in the following speech.
498 See Ramsay, Traveller, 248f.
499 Cf. O.Jessen, wAyvw<TtoL{}eoL', RE S I, (28-30) 29.11-16.

210

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

His audience wanted something congenial to their curiosity, some entertainment, intellectual stimulus and simply something 'new', rather than
spiritual truth. For them, the proclamation and hearing of such news did not
imply accepting and acting upon it. Again a mind-set appears which was almost inaccessible to correction through the proclamation. sOO
It is hardly surprising that the rural, uneducated and superstitious
Lystrans failed before the initial proclamation (Acts 14.7). In Athens, cosmopolitan, educated and 'enlightened' ears, itching for and accustomed to
hearing new things, failed once the gospel rang in them. Lack of interest or
absolute misconceptio'ns occurred at a placeS01 and in an intellectual climate ideal for the propagation of a new faith. In view of this failure, Paul
presented the same Christian essentials again in his address. so2
The setting of the speech provides crucial clues to Luke's estimate of
Paul's audience. These keys, guiding the readers, may not be neglected.
Treatment of the speech without examination of its context is illegitimate.
In his consideration of Paul's speech, Taeger reached the conclusion quoted
above which contradicts everything we discovered so far. Because Taeger
interpreted the speech apart from its narrative context, vital clues were
missed. It needs to be seen whether results based on this setting and the
speech, respecting this sequence, lead to a revision of his verdict
2.2.11.2. Paul's Areopagus speech (Acts 17.22-31)
Acts 17.22. 1. Paul attested W\; IIELOLllaLflOVEOLEQOlJ\; the Athenians were in
everything. Were they extremely religious or superstitious? Which of the
meanings of this expression is correct?503 Is this merely a captatio benevolentiae, similar to what Tertullus and Paul employed before Felix? However, a comparison with these captationes indicates their different character. Does this expression imply criticism from the very outset?

500 Against the interpretation of Winter, 'Introducing', 86f. There is a strong contrast
between this superficial attitude and the serious Jewish searching in Berea, mentioned at
the beginning of the chapter (Acts 11.11; cf. the suggestions discussed by Winter, 'Introducing', 86ffor the relation between vs. 21 and 22). Acts 17.21 contrasts the reference to
Paul's continuous manual labour in 18.3f;cf.IY.3.3.S.2.e.
SOl Athenian piety was a locus communis (Norden, Theos, 33), yet such dedication is
not evaluated positively or as preparatory for the Christian mission;cf. Acts 19,23-41.
502 For the place and its significance see Zmijewski, 640f. The situation is different from
Acts 13.42 when Paul and Barnabas were urged to speak about these things again the
next Sabbath. Their original proclamation had been understood.
503 For a survey see K. Grayston, Theology as Exploration: Inaugural Lecture at Bristol
University (London: Epworth, 1966), 3-6; er. WB, 347.

.::. 1 ne ue/llHe

encounte.r Wall

sai~allon

L..ll

The pejorative meaning 'superstitious' follows from the previous context. 504 The city teemed with idols. The members of the audience ridiculed
or completely misunderstood the Christian message. The underlying assumptions of the very occasion of this speech were idolatrous. sos In the
light of Paul's earlier strong reaction against the incorporation of himself
and his message under old labels into a similar polytheistic paradigm (Acts
14), now that Jesus and his resurrection were interpreted similarly, Luke's
Paul would hardly compliment his audience for their religious dedication.
Luke uses other terms to express piety in an unmistakably positive sense,
e.g. the present participial forms of OEj30IJ.aL.S06 Deliberate ambiguity is
possible: Paul intended 'superstitious', while his audience - not recognising
this correction after and despite Paul's initial proclamation - felt complimented. Irony is also conceivable; in view of the occasion (,Should more
gods be added to the existing pantheon?') their piety is indeed superstitious veneration of a plurality of gods or demonsS7 which is manifest in
504 For the opposite conclusions see Zmijewski, 641; cf. his observations on KIiesch,
Credo. The German 'aberglaubisch' well designates the character of this superstition. It
is a belief-system in contrast and opposition to the Christian proclamation.
sos Grayston, Theology, 6 follows the NEB in translating /)L()L/)aLfLOVE:m;EQ01J~ as 'uncommonly scrupulous'. Though this seems a neutral synthesis between the poles introduced above, in its context it is not positive: Luke has described in what ways and activities they were uncommonly scrupulous. None of them is commendable.
506 See Acts 13.43,50; 16.14; 17.4,17; 18.7 in contrast to 18.13 and 19.27; ct WB,1721.2.
G. Downing, 'Freedom' suggests that even according to some of the philosophic reasoning of the time the Athenians are far from truly religious: 'dL()LOa41ovm;eQo1J~ may be
an ironic remark that the Athenians are assuming something senseless in their supposition that an unknown deity would claim worship from anybody (senseless even in nonChristian standards), this concept would be a prime example of superstition. What God,
if he were one at all, would be content to be unknown and to receive little attention?
(49) .... Observance becomes superstition when it suggests that God or gods demand
some action that does no good to the community or the individual worshipper. Thus an
unidentified God would not have an area of competence, therefore no benefits would accrue from proper worship (50). The idea that a deity will quickly take offence if the ritual
is not punctiliously observed is impious.... The Athenians with their (supposed) worry
about offending a (supposed) unknown god are superstitious in this way'. Ct also Polybius' assessment ofsuperstition and his theory of its origin in Rome (Histories VI.56):' ...
the Romans have adopted these practices for the sake of the common people ... the ancients were by no means acting foolishly or haphazardly when they introduced to the
people various notions concerning the gods and belief in the punishments of Hades ... ',
quoted according to Polybius: The Rise of the Roman Empire: Translated by L Scotl-Kilvert, Selected with an Introduction by F.w. Walbank, Penguin Classics (Harmondsworth:
Penguin, 1979), 349; cf. XVI.12.3-11; Walbank's introduction, pp. 24f; Siegert, Kommentar,
311.
.
So, Luke could have both in mind, without necessarily or explicitly identifying the former with the latter; cf. 1 Cor 1O.20f. Zmijewski, 641 translates literally: 'die Dilmonen
fiirchtend' (/)e[/)Ol, /)a[flove~ pI.; cf. WB, 337.1). That they venerated their gods is evident,
Acts 17.16. For the ideas and veneration of /)a[flov~ cf. C. Colpe, C. Zintzen, 'Geister

212

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

their idols and permeates their life XIl'tCx miv'ta. Despite all this they still
failed to find and to worship the true God; their piety was characterised by
UYVOLIl.
Acts 17.23. Paul records inspecting the Athenian objects of worship (recalling 17.16) and discovering an altar dedicated to an unknown god. 508 The
Athenians worshipped this unknown god among the gods of the many
other aE~clafl(l't(l. Though the origin or reasoning behind this worship is
not given, it can be reconstructed. Rather than offend a deity forgotten or
as yet unknown to them and risk retribution for such disregard, worship of
the unknown god was established in precaution. There was 'fear or anxiety
that by naming one god instead of another their acts of worship would not
yield the results desired. To be on the safe side, a Greek could use the formula "unknown god"'.509 This altar and its inscription indicates that even a
god whose existence and identity were dubious was worshipped, showing
the uncertainty and confusion in which these Gentiles were. Worship of yet
another god, though unknown, is not surprising in their polytheistic paradigm. P.W van der Horst concludes:
So the quotation of the inscription functions as a way of introducing his own proclamation of the unknown god. 'There was, to be sure, no real connection between "an
unknown god" and the true God; Paul hardly meant that his audience were unconscious worshippers of the true God. Rather, he is drawing their attention to the true
God who was ultimately responsible for the phenomena which they attributed to an
unknown god'. The altar inscription enables Paul to emphasise the ignorance of his
audience concerning the true identity of God. It is not only by ayvootiVtE; in v.23 that
he stresses this point, but also and again in v. 30 where he says that God has overlooked the times of their ignorance ... Until the coming of the revelation of God's
true nature in Christianity men lived in ignorance of him.slO

2. In the following speech Paul had to introduce the God whom they did
not know despite all their knowledge, curiosity and eagerness to hear more
and their concern for the completeness of their pantheon. There was no

(Damonen)" RAC IX, (546-797) 615-26,640-47; F.Andres, 'Daimon',RE S Ill, (267-322)


269-310; W. Foerster, ThWNT 11,1-9.36.
508 On shrines with this dedication and their interpretation cf. e.g. Gill, 'Achaia',446f.
509 Van der Horst, 'Altar', 1449. We follow van der Horst's second category. For the detailed argument and bibliography cf. pp. 1446-49, 1451. Nilsson describes it as 'das angstliche Bemiihen, alle Gatter lU erfassen' (van der Horst, 1451, n. 99); p. 1443 for the ambiguity of the expression. O. Jessen's reconstruction (''j\yvOlQ'tOL {)-o[', RE S /,28-30) is
similar (cf. 28.63-29.30, most succinct summary); cf. W. GlIber, 'Theoi Agnostoi', RE V A,
1988-94; D. Wachsmuth, 'Theoi Agnostoi', KP V,708 (,mllglichst vollstandige Beriicksichtigung der Gottheiten, also auch der "Unbekannten''') and also Downing's conclusion quoted above. K. Berger, 'Geschichte', 51, n. 22 considers whether the unknown god
could be a reference to the God of Israel and suggests a possible parallel (this is van der
Horst's first category,1444-46).
510 'Altar', 1454; the enclosed quotation is from Marshall, Acts, 286.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

213

natural knowledge or recognition of this God, his nature and worship; he


was different from anything known to the audience. Even though God had
not left himself without testimony (Acts 14.17), he remained unknown
even to the Gentile intelligentsia. His testimony to himself was not recognised and appreciated, but perverted into idolatry (later thus interpreted in
the speech), tokens of which filled the city.
Acts 17.24f The subsequent proclamation shows point by point how com-

pletely - in theory and praxis - these Gentiles were mistaken. This full scale
analysis, refutation and rectification and its necessity indicates the inadequacy of Gentile recognition and notions. The true God, his nature and
proper worship must be proclaimed ab extra from the very beginning and
basics. God made the world and everything in it. As creator and Lord of
heaven and earth, he does not live Ev XLQO:TtOL~'tOL~ vao~ in the care of his
creatures.511 Since he himself gave to all mortals life and breath and everything else, he does not need anything that people could offer.
1. There is only one God to whom the whole universe is to be ascribed, not
various gods with their respective areas of competence. S12 He is the one
and ultimate source behind everything.

2. As Lord of the universe God does not need or live in hand-made edifices. S13 This affirmation rejects 'die vermessene Einschiitzung, man konne
liber ihn (God) in irgendeiner Weise verfiigen, er lasse sich eingrenzen oder
sei sogar aut Menschen angewiesen und van ihnen abhiingig'.S14 Because
God, his nature as transcendental creator and his continuous Lordship remained unrecognised, the Gentiles substituted their deities for God. These
lived in the temples they had erected for them. Each such edifice attests

511 cr. Gill, 'Achaia', 442: 'Moreover several older temples seem to have been transplanted from the Attic countryside and placed in the agora' (listed there). Gill also lists
the new shrines and statues erected since the reign of Augustus. Paul rightly assumed
that their religion was very much alive and practised.
5uCf.Zmijewski,642 for the Gentile notions corrected by this statement.
513 The adjective XELQOltOirll;o~ is not a neutral term, but in the LXX and early ludaism
it appears frequently as a periphrasis for an idol; cf. HengellSchwemer, Paul, 165. P.w. van
der Horst, 'New Altar of a Godfearer', in idem, Hellenism -Iudaism - Christianity: Essays on Their Interaction, Contributions to Biblical Exegesis and Theology 8 (Kampen:
Kok Pharos, 1994 = lIS 43, 1992), (65-72) 67 concludes: 'In fact XELQOltOLrJ1;o<; has become
a technical term for an idol, a pseudo-god' (cf Horst's suggestions about the origin of the
altar mentioned in Acts 17.23, pp. 70f); cf. E. Lohse, Th WNT IX, (413-28) 426.4-8; against
W. Rebell, EWNT Ill, (1112-14) 1113: 'An beiden Stellen wird keine grundsatzliche Kritik am Tempel zum Ausdruck gebracht .. .'. Stephen levelled similar criticism against a
paganized, superstitious understanding of the Jewish temple, Acts 7.48; cf.II.3.3.3.
514 Weiser, 261.

214

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvatioll

their failure to recognise God, his nature and humanity's relation to him
and indicates the Gentiles' blindness. Apart from the underlying ideology,
as there is only one God, a multiplicity of such constructions further testifies to the Gentiles' spiritual failure.
3. God also does not need human services or anything people can offer. 515
Rather he is the one who gives life and all that is required for its sustenance. The creator is obviously independent of his creatures; rather he is
the continuous provider, fundamental to human existence (Acts 14.17).
a) The exposed and criticised pagan notion and praxis of worship again indicate that the Athenians failed to recognise God and their indebtedness to
and dependence on him. God's provisions failed to enlighten them as to his
true nature and worship. b) The theology and piety they substituted for recognition and appropriate veneration of God, concerns gods closely reflecting their worshippers, living in edifices, in need of provisions and of
care. In his narrative portrayal of Gentiles Luke illustrates the pagan theology addressed here (cf. Acts 14.11-13; 19.27-37). This failure to recognise
the essential contrast between the true God and his human creatures is the
cause behind the several instances of humans being considered divine.
These points expose and refute Gentile misconceptions. The true state of
affairs was unknown to them, they had to be told. This line continues.
Acts 17.26. After God's relationship with and claim to the world have been
established, his claim to and authority over all humanity is proclaimed. This
God was not the God of one particular group of people, however defined,
but the universal God from the very beginning. Though unknown previously, he is not a new usurper or a deity irrelevant or incompetent in Athens. The likely understanding of the audience is again challenged: this God
was God and claimed all humanity with legitimate authority long before
the Areopagus ever met. The Gentile procedure and decision on whether
to recognise and venerate him is irrelevant.
This clarified, God's universal sovereignty, purpose and concern was now
revealed. The nations which God made from one ancestor had a twofold vocation. Firstly, they were to inhabit the earth. God allotted the times of their
existence and the boundaries in which they should live.516 From the very be-

515 This is directed 'gegen den Versuch, ilber Gott auf dem Weg des Kults "verfilgen"zu
konnen', Zmijewski, 643.
516 See Taeger, Mensch, 95; Zmijewski, 644; Ktllling, Geheimllis, 91-93 for the discussion
whether KaLQol and oQoih!ulm are to be taken as historical or philosophical references.
KmQoi could refer to seasons - a thought familiar from Acts 14.17 - or to 'times of existence (e.g. as in Luke 21.24 or Acts 1.7). As provisions similar to those of 14.17 were already mentioned in v.25 and as an OT background seems preferable to a philosophical

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

215

ginning throughout history, the sovereign God dealt with and had a purpose
for all of humanity under his claim. Credit for history does not go to Gentile
rulers and nations and their proud endeavours and claims, but to God's direction of history. Despite these provisions and God's revelation in these arrangements, God remained unrecognised. Rather, the Gentile reaction to
God's sovereign and beneficent rule over all humanity has previously been
described as one of rebellion against his rule and establishment (Acts 4.25f).
Acts 17.27/1. Paul then revealed humanity's second vocation. God created
and 'organised' humanity not merely to inhabit the earth according to his
temporal and spatial arrangements, but also with the specific purpose and
charge of ~T]"tEi:v .ov {}Eov.S17 God's beneficent direction of humanity - in
addition to the testimony in his provisions, Acts 14.17 - was to provide
guideposts and incentive to do so. Yet against this charge, Luke's references
to Gentiles prior to faith indicate that they not only failed to find and recognise God, but also failed to seek him. Against God's purpose, he was still
unknown to the Athenians and had to be proclaimed and introduced to
them under circumstances that are hardly flattering to the audience. These
Gentiles missed God's purpose for their existence. Instead of searching for,
finding and worshipping God, they had gathered a plethora of idols,
erected altars and temples for them and worshipped the gods of their making. At the present moment they were deciding whether the 'deities' of
Paul's proclamation could be admitted to this illustrious circle.
2. People were to search, perhaps to grope for God and find him. Zmijewski refers to the
OT background of 1jJT]Aa<pUV and concludes that the expression 'laBt an das unsichere
Tasten eines Blinden den ken ... oder ob sie ihn (sogar) so, wie er es wUnscht, "finden" ...

understanding, we follow Gartner's arguments for 'times of existence' (Areopagus, 14752; against Kiilling, Geheimnis, 90-104 who here follows Dibelius; cf. 1.2.2.2.1). The verse
alludes to the Gentile resistance to God's intention in Gen 11.4,8 and the following involuntary scattering of the nations to their respective places; cf. Zmijewski's discussion of
the meaning of 1:a~ oQo-ll'a[a~ Tii~ )Ga1:oL)da~ aU1:wv. Scott, 'Horizon', 54lf proposes a
'foreshortening the story line of Gen 1-10'; cf. Gartner, 151 and the time reference in De
10na 104: 'Die Tage eures Lebens hat euch der Herr der Welt verkiirzt. Eure Zeit ist begrenzt .. .'.
517 For discussion of the full implications of ~Tp;eLv see Zmijewski, 644 ('ein "Einlassen
der ganzen Existenz" ... auf den Sch6pfergott, das als Ziel die rechte Gottesverehrung
ha!'; Kiilling, Geheimnis, 104-09; against Taeger, Mensch, 95. De 10na goes further in
claiming that failure to find God and respond to him accordingly renders human life
senseless: 'Wenn sie [the NinevitesJ nun weder mir gegenUber zu Dank bereit sind, noch
sich untereinander etwas gonnen, sind sie selbst den Elementen eine Last, von denen ihr
sinnloses Leben sich bisher nahrte' (18, italics mine). On the judgement of Acts 17.31 cf.
Appendix 3.2.

216

III The Gentile encounter with salvation

ist ... ungewiB'.sls However Luke theoretically evaluates the Gentiles' capacity to respond to these sign-posts and to find God, the setting and previous elements of the
speech - congruent with his portrayal of Gentiles prior to faith elsewhere - demonstrate
that the Gentiles best equipped to do so have not found God. Rather, their religious convictions and practices indicate the opposite."o

3. The Gentiles' failure to seek, grope for and find God is heightened by the
assertion that God was actually not far from them.520 In his creation, continuous providential care and rule and revelation in history (cf. vs. 24-26)
God was close to the Gentiles for them to seek, find and worship him. He
had not left himself without testimony (CL Acts 14.17). God was not to
blame for the current state of affairs! Against this backdrop the Gentile
failure to find God - not further accounted for here - is all the more severe.
4. The two quotations 'In him we live and move and have our being' and 'For
we too are his offspring' aptly summarise the preceding argument that human
existence originates from and is dependent upon God. For that reason and to
that extent these snippets have their validity. They do not endorse Gentile
thought in general521 because they are surrounded by assertions of Gentile
failure to recognise God and to worship adequately the God close to them.
Even if these Gentile poets - not the philosophers so often adduced for the interpretation of this speech - were granted to have recognised the true God's closeness to them
(which the briefest glance at Aratus' Phaenomena quickly discourages), for Luke they

S18p' 644. Similarly KUlling, Geheimnis, 110: 'Dieser Optativ .. bezweifelt die Gewillheit, ob das Finden dem Suchen folgt. Das Finden wird zwar als mllgliche Folge des
Suchens ins Auge gefaBt, aber es bleibt unsicher, ob es sich verwirklichen liiBt'.
519 Similarly KUlIing, Geheimnis, 112: 'Der Optativ laBt allerdings ... Zweifel offen, daB
die Menschheit aus eigenen Kr!lften jemals diese Gottesgemeinschaft erreichen wird,
und die iiYVOLa, der die Athener in ihrer eigenen Gottesverehrung verfallen sind, beweist, daB sie sie verfehlt haben. Sie ist eine Bestimmung, die sich erst mit der VerkUndigung des Evangeliums verwirklicht'.
520 V. 27b 'hIIlt fest, daB Gott fUr jeden einzelnen Menschen erreichbar ist und deshalb
nicht vergeblich gesucht werden mua', KUlling, Geheimnis, 113; cf. pp. 113-19.
521 1. For this reason their exact source and significance in their original context is irrelevant (cf. Taeger, Mens,h, 97f; Zmijewski, 645; KUlJing, Geheimnis, 119-33). We are
concerned with these quotations as integral parts of Paul's speech, in which setting they
have to be interpreted; cf. Zmijewski for their relation to and definition through the preceding verses. 2. These quotations from Gentile poets do not add anything new. 3. Luke
indicates elsewhere that the Gentile awareness of the nearness of the divine expressed
by these quotations led to blasphemous and hardly commendable conclusions fully
within the pagan paradigm. This has been amply demonstrated in the Lystran episode
and in other instances of Gentiles taking humans as divine. 4. There is an element of
irony: Paul was previously belittled as an 'ignorant plagiarist' (Souter, Lexicon, 239).
Now Paul employs their own recognised words in a context that demonstrates that their
recognition was not followed up and accused them of not even practising what they considered their 'ftrst-hand knowledge'. Not even the little they ridiculed Paul for being able
to pick up, had made any difference.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

217

only stated the obvious. In addition, (1.) such insight would not be surprising in view of
some previous references to Gentiles. Luke mentions many God-fearers who came to
recognise, and beyond that, to fear the true and near God, which does not apply either to
the poets or to the audience; (2.) from this realisation no or wrong conclusions were
drawn as to God's purpose for humanity and for his worship. Though the Gentiles were
God's offspring and moved, lived and were in his sphere, they were not ready or able to
move further to seek and find God. What was known, if it was known, was not pursued.
Rather, the opposite was the case. From the Gentile notions of their relationship with the
divine and from their own existence and needs consequences were drawn regarding the
deities and their needs (cf. Acts 17.24f). This reflects how Gentiles understood these quotations. V. 29 outlines the proper conclusions.

Acts IZ29. After temples and the pagan ideology of worship has been criticised and the Gentile failure before God's revelation has been indicated, the
idols which they substituted for God come under attack: Because they were
the offspring of the living God, who was just introduced to them, the Gentiles
should not think tha t the dei ty is like inanimate material, an image formed by
human art and imagination.m Their divine origin as creatures, their own life
and the tokens of God's vivacity should have kept the Gentiles from assuming that 'to 'frEtov couldbe captured or reproduced in dead matter.
Yet it is precisely this which the Gentiles have done as God's nature and
its aniconic implications were not recognised. Rather than search for the
living God, who was not remote, they formed gods out of metal and stone.
Their failure in this regard is evident: The city filled with such products of
human craftsmanship testifies to the extent of this misconception. What
was produced, present and venerated among them is incongruous with

522 Cf. Taeger, Mensch, 98; Zmijewski, 646; Gill, 'Achaia', 445. L. GoppeJt, 'Versohnung
durch Christus', in idem, Christologie und Ethik:AuJsiitze zum Neuen Testament (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1968), (147-64) 151 notes that 'to {}ei:ov indicates Gentile
notions of deity: 'Die heIlenistische Welt aber kennt Gott nur als das Gottliche, das als
Kraft und Ordnungsprinzip den Kosmos durchwaltet und als Inspiration aus gottlichen
Menschen spricht. Die heIlenistischen Schriftsteller pflegen unpersonlich neutral von
dem {}etov, dem GBttlichen, der {}la cpuoU; oder der {}eta IiUvalW; zu reden'. In contrast,
'Der Gott des Neuen Testaments ist der streng personhafte Gott des Alten Testaments;
der gibt den Menschen nicht Orakel, "er gibt ihnen sein Wort", so daB eine Partnerschaft
entsteht .. .'. Cf. also LSI, 788,s.v. II.2. and H. Kleinknecht, ThWNT 1I1, (65-128) 122.28123.30 who notes that 'to il-ELOV does not occur in the LXX (123.23). Through his choice of
words Paul carefully distinguishes between his God (introduced in vs. 24-29: 0 -oeo~ 0
:n:mTjoas ... , mentioned again in v. 30: u:n:eQwwv 0
and the notions of divinity of his
audience ('to il-ELOV), which he sets out to correct: oux 6CPELA0f1EV VOf1(!;ELV ... (against
Bruce, 385 'its use here instead ohov {}e6v is probably stylistic,and not theologically motivated'). On the variants in v. 27, (f1aAlO'ta) !;,,'tELV'tO {}etov (EO'tLV), see Metzger, Commentary, 457. Siegert, Kommentar, 308 affirms this conclusion: 'All dies ist mehr oder
weniger griechisch gedacht, ebenso wie der vage Ausdruck "die Gottheit" ('to {}eLOV) in
[De Sampsone] c.10.23;De Iona 14.174.180'; e[ Siegert's n.24.

-oeo,)

their origin. m As God and their relationship to him were not recognised,
this paradox was not realised. Their own divine origin and God's proximity
were denied in their notion and practice of worship. Also in this last reference to the audience's pagan convictions, failure to recognise and revere
God is exposed.
Gill describes the temples and statues of Athens showing the pertinence
of Paul's claim that God does not inhabit such buildings and of his indictment of idols:524
Yet this is exactly how the Athenians would have perceived the gods: for example, the
chryselephantine cult statue of Athena Parthenos, a representation,par excellence, of
the art and imagination of man (17.29), in the Parthenon, and the bronze cult statues
of Hephaistos and Athena in the Haphaisteion.

Acts 17.30. After this stock-taking of actual Athenian theology and piety
and factual lack of response to God, Paul announced God's response and
explained why God did not intervene earlier. Though people could be held
responsible for their failure, God renounced judgement and graciously
overlooked the past times of ignorance. Divine intervention would have
meant judgement over the failures exposed. 525
1. All religious activities of Gentiles before the arrival of the proclamation
are subsumed as ignorance of God, his nature and worship.526 What was
present and practised at Athens testifies to this ignorance. This estimation,
the ensuing command of repentance and announcement of judgement criticises the natural faculties of Gentiles and supports our interpretation of
vs. 27f. Continuous correction of the past in God's challenge of their convictions through his provision and sovereign control of their lives did not remedy this ignorance but only affirmed their mistaken notions.
2. God now commands all people evelywhere to repent. Such failures and the
need of repentance were not limited to Athens. The universal scope of this
charge is not surprising as God was introduced as the Lord of heaven and
earth and sustainer of all people. As such, God has every right to demand uni-

S23 Should the quotations concede the partial insight of some Gentiles into the divine
origin of humanity and its relation with God, the Gentiles as a whole were not only unable to draw the right conclusion but did and produced the opposite.
524 'Achaia', 444f, quotation from p. 445.
S25 We contend that the cases of temporal judgement over Gentiles of the past did
probably not involve ignorance; et. III.3.2.2.1.2. Ct. Siegert, 'Heiden', 56 on the notion of
ignorance in De Iona.
526 Cf. Zmijewski, 641f. The fact that no exception is made for the poets and their insights and that no other differentiation occurs here, also suggests that the use of these
quotations does not recommend the natural faculties of their Gentile authors.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

219

versal repentance. The change of mind demanded includes recognition of (a)


failure to recognise God and his character and therefore to venerate him
adequately, (b) failure to search for and find God and (c) withholding the
honour and gratitude due to God and lavishing it on idols. 527
3. The comprehensive scope of past and present failure, which requires such repentance
and the past failure to recognise and respond to correction, indicates that more divine intervention is necessary for this repentance than the mere provision of an opportunity to
do so. The force of the position of Acts 17.30 after 17.16-29 is overlooked by Conzelmann.
In view of the setting and speech, it is problematic to propose: 'die Gelegenheit zur BuBe
ist gegeben'.528 When the opportunity was given through the proclamation of the good
news in Acts 17.18, not a single note or case of repentance occurred.

Acts 17.31. The immediate motivation for repentance was the coming
judgement: God will have the world judged in righteousness by a man
whom he has appointed. S29 Of this appointment God has given assurance
to all by raising him from the dead. Again the scope is universal.
1. All humanity comes under its Creator's jurisdiction and judgement for
the failures which were exposed and corrected previously. Only full turning
away from these failures, and nothing pagan whatsoever, can spare people
from sure condemnation on this occasion (ct our conclusions from previous references in 11.4.4.).

2. With these words Paul returned to the original message of the market
place (the good news of Jesus and the resurrection) to complete the Lukan
527 Again Luke misses an opportunity for displaying the moral-ethical understanding
of sin proposed by Conzelmann. Norden's explanation of ayvmo as ignorance 'hinsichtlich kultischer Verehrung des hochsten Gottes' (Theos,45) underestimates v. 27. God's
purpose for humanity as searching after him implies more than proper kultische Verehrung. Ct Siegert's conclusions for the scope of repentance in De Iona and De Sampsone (Kommentar, 313).
528 Conzelmann, Mitte, 214, n. 1; cf. p. 92 and our discussion of Conzelmann's proposal
in 1II.2.2.4.33.
529 In contrast to human judgement, this will be a XQt~o Ev OLXmOOlJvT\. This modification implicitly criticises Gentile legal procedure and judgement (e.g. 16.20-24,35-37;
Luke 23.1-25);cf. the previ9us criticism of Gentile governments (Luke 22.25; ct 7.25) and
inadequate administration of justice. The description of b XQL'tl]<; 'tfj<; aliLxLo<; in Luke
18.1-8 as 'neither fearing God nor man' (18.2,4) may indicate a Gentile; cf. Plummer, 411.
Beyer, 109 suggests a local reference and contrast to the Erinyes (cf. HJ. Rose, QCD,
406f; E. Wtlst, 'Erinys', RE S VIII, 82-166), deities of revenge whose sanctuary was by the
Areopagos hilI: 'Die Rache der Erinnyen ist Todesverhlingnis, vor dem es kein Entweichen
gibt. Das Gericht des Christus, der den Tod Uberwunden hat, ruft zum Glauben auf und
schafft die Moglichkeit eines neuen Lebens'. God does not take revenge, rather he overlooked past failure and now commands repentance before the judgement. For the functions
ascribed to these deities cf. Wtlst, cols. 112-17; for the Athenian sanctuary, its location, ritual and close relation to the Areopagus Council cc. cols. 128f (including references to
Pausanias).

220

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

indusio. The significance of vs. 30f is missed when they are merely considered Christian additions to an otherwise Jewish sermon or a Hellenistic
excursus de natura deorum. Once the speech is isolated from its narrative
context, this bracket and others are missed.
The speech so far provided a basis on which Paul's earlier and essential
message of Jesus and the resurrection can be understood: Jesus is not
merely a foreign deity whose acceptance and veneration is open to debate 530, but he is the divinely appointed human agent of coming universal
judgement. Therefore the Athenians had to hear of him (Acts 17.18). ~vf}Q
is not a cryptic reference to Jesus, but deliberate correction of the previous
Athenian syncretising apprehension of him - failing to appreciate his significance - as a pagan deity to be treated in this frame of reference. 'H
&vcicnum;, rather than being a separate deity or concept, is a fact of crucial
importance to all humanity. Jesus' resurrection was God's proof of this
coming judgement and of Jesus' appointment as the judge. As God's proof
to all people, it had to be proclaimed previously, though they failed to appreciate its nature and significance.
3. Before we study Luke's concluding remarks we briefly look at Taeger's conclusions: 'Sicher, zur wahren Gotteserkenntnis sind die Athener nicht gelangt,
doch wird dies nicht zum AnlaJ3, Schwache, Fehlbarkeit oder schuldhaftes
Versagen des Menschen in dieser Hinsicht anzuprangem'. In addition to our
observations for vs. 22-29, the call to repentance and the announcement of
judgement also contains such Anprangerung. Taeger con!inues:
Auch und gerade angesichts der zu konstatierenden Agnoia werden die Menschen
auf ihre Bestimmung und auf das ihnen durch ihr Gottesverhiiltnis naturlich eignende
Erkenntnisvermogen, also auf ihre eigenen Moglichkeiten verwiesen, urn in der mit
der christlichen Mission angehenden Epoche ... das, was eigentlich immer schon
moglich war, nun auch tatsllchlich zu vollziehen ... SJ1

The failure of the Gentile Erkenntnisvermogen and eigene Moglichkeiten


has been demonstrated in the setting and in the previous correction and in-

530 This verse contains a reversal. While the Areopagites intended to decide whether
these deities should be accepted and venerated, Paul announced God's impending judgement over them: the very Jesus under discussion will be their judge and God's proof of
judgement to them.
531 Mensch, 99f. Taeger continues: 'SolchermaBen mit den eigenen im Gottesverhllltnis
gegebenen anthropologischen Moglichkeiten, bei eigenem Wissen und ahnender Frommigkeit (Y. 22f.) behaftet, wird der Weg aus dem ayvoELV geebnet, und jedermann kann
diesen Weg gehen'. It has to be noted that the possibilities given with their relation to
God have not been used in the past. This interpretation puts too much emphasis on v.22,
based on the positive understanding of IiEL01.liaLj.LOVEO"tE!!OU~. The subsequent speech indicates that such altars and the notions behind them are not indicative of spiritual understanding or possibilities. Only a minority of Gentiles actually walked on this way.

2. The Gentile encounter with saivalion

221

struction of the speech. Even if true knowledge of God was eigentlich immer schon moglich, it was not attained in Athens and Luke does not mention it for any other place or time. Though Taeger also notes this faiIure 532,
this recognition does not modify his assessment of Gentile natural faculties.
For this interpretation Taeger builds on previous observations of Luke
12: 'In Lk 12.54ff. wurde der Mensch bei dem ihm konstitutiv eignenden
Vermogen zur rechten Erkenntnis behaftet. Apg 17 verbalt es sich nicht anders' .533 In addition to serious doubt whether this is Luke's purpose in Acts
- as Luke consistently points up the failure of the ihm konstitutiv eignenden
Vermogen zur rechten Erkenntnis -, this combination is dubious. Though Jesus conceded to his Jewish contemporaries the ability to 'interpret the appearance of earth and sky' (Luke 12.56; cf. the examples for their successful
reasoning in 12.54f), he scolded them for their inability to interpret the present eschatological time (12.56). In spiritual matters these Jews failed. This
is not recognised by Taeger. Ability of correct weather forecast and spiritual perceptiveness need to be distinguished!
Verse 57 belongs to the following paraenesis which serves as a call to 'readiness for the
last judgement'.D! Following the accusation of 12.56, it is not a commendation of their
Vermogen zur rechten Erkenntnis. The audience is challenged to discern 'what is fitting to
do in the circumstances'53S, which they had failed to discern and do. Therefore 'to ObtaLOv
is outlined/or them (12.58). The most that is assumed in the illustration is that the Jewish
audience should know themselves how to settle a dispute when guilty. This call to consider for themselves 'to o[XaLOV closes a chapter of extensive and explicit instruction on
'to o[xaLOv in light of the future. Thus the charge 'xQlve'tE' is not based on the konstitutiv
eignenden VermlJgen zur rechten Erkenntnis but on previous teaching, which is now to be
applied to their lives.

Therefore Taeger's conclusion is risky: 'Apg 17.27f entspricht dem a<p'


EUU'tWV in Lk 12.57. In beiden Fallen geht es urn die rechtzeitig vor dem
Gericht zu treffende Entscheidung'. Though the second statement is a keen
observation, in both cases the verses stress human failure in their Vermogen
zur rechten Erkenntnis. The teaching previously delivered to the Athenians
was misunderstood. In light of these observations and those on the speech,
we fail to see the speech with Taeger as a 'kaum uberbietbarer Ausdruck
der Hochschatzung des natilrlichen Menschen'.536

532 'Da die Athener tats1!chlich nicht van sich aus zur rechten Erkenntnis gelangt sind
und in der Agonia geblieben sind, bleibt gewahrt, daB erst durch die christIiche Verkiln
digung das Heil erlangt wird', Mensch, 101. .
S33 Mensch, 102; for Taeger's exegesis of Luke 12.54ff see pp. 9094.
534 cr. Marshall, Luke, 552 for various identifications.
535 MarshaIl, Luke, 551.
S36Both quotations Mensch, 103. Comparison with other missionary speeches (e.g.
Acts 13.16-41) also sheds light on Luke's assessment of the audience of the Areopagus
speech. While Jewish and Godfearing audiences received longer speeches, shared the

222

Ill. The Gentile encounler with salvation

2.2.11.3. The response to Paul's Areopagus speech (Acts 17.32-34)


Acts 17.32/ The Athenians received what their previous lack of understanding required (Acts 17.18f). The announcement of God's universal sign
for the coming judgement caused division of the audience. The difference
in reaction was not between ridicule and misunderstanding as previously,
but one of scoffing and cautious interest.
Interruption of speeches in Acts often occurs after the crucial statement
to indicate the emphasis of the speech.537 Thus in Athens the main concern
was not natural theology as such, but repentance, the 'man' Jesus, his
authenticating resurrection and God's impending jUdgement. At this resurrection some listeners scoffed. Unaffected by the explanation they had required, the previous scorn and ridicule revived. As a new goddess avam;um~ was attractive and comprehensible to their curious pagan minds (Acts
17.21) and acceptable, but not as God's assurance. They not only failed to
recognise but contemptuously rejected the proof for the coming judgement
also provided for them and which had now been announced to them.
As the core of Paul's message was not accepted, it is of little significance
whether th.e philosophers in the audience would have agreed with some
elements or all of Paul's criticism of Gentile religion and contrasting positive assertions. Whatever true insight they may have had is disqualified by
failure of implementation and by their lack of preparation and failure to
understand the essential Christian proclamation and to recognise and accept God's proof.
The response of others was but a more polite way of expressing the reaction of the first group:
Die anderen Zuhorer speisen Paulus mit einer unverbindlich-nichtssagenden Vertrostung auf ein andermal ab ... Die auf diese Weise reagieren, gehen so der Entscheidung aus dem Weg; sie halten das Kerygma fOr einen diskutablen Gegenstand und
miBverstehen es SO."8

At best this group wanted to discuss things further: they failed to appreciate the nature of Paul's proclamation as a matter demanding faith and obedience (6 -frE6~ ... JtUQUYYEAAEL, Acts 17.30) and considered it to be one curious and stimulating new teaching, which could provide further entertaincommon ground of Scripture and salvation history and could be told of the fulfilment of
Scripture through Jesus the Messiah, the fully Gentile audience was ready only for basic
and thorough correction of their misunderstandings of the Christian proclamation and
of God.
m Cf. Haenchen, ''fradition', 212: ... daB diese Unterbrechungen ein bewuBt gehandhabtes Kunstmittel des Schriftstellers Lukas sind und immer erst dann eintreten, wenn
das ihm Wich tige gerade gesagt ist'.
538 Zmijewski, 647.

i.. lhe Gentile encounler WUhSQlVallOn

223

ing discussions. Some might not have understood Paul's simple message
and needed to hear him again to do so.
Acts lZ33f As his speech was interrupted and the previous reactions to his
proclamation continued undiminished, Paul left the assembly (cf. Luke
4.29f). No questions were asked. S39 Paul did not continue (cf. Acts 2.40) as
what needed to be clarified and announced had been said.
A third group appears: Dionysius, Damaris and others of the audience
joined Paul and believed.540 In the light of these conversions is difficult to
see how G.A. Lehmann, representative of many others, can conclude:
Die ganz zum SchluB (17.31) deutIich ausgesprochene VerkUndigung der Totenauferstehung, der Wiederbelebung des Fleisches, war schon heikel genug und hat bekanntlich zum vollstilndigen Fehlschlag geftlhrt.S41

Yet Lehmann raises an important issue. Comparison of Paul's ministry


among Jews and their Gentile associates and among Gentiles in Acts 17
further indicates Luke's assessment of Gentiles: in Thessalonica some Jews
and many of the devout Greeks were persuaded by Paul's claim 'that it was
necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead'. The proclamation of the resurrection was not ridiculed or misunderstood and required no further clarification. Jewish opposition arose through the success,
not the content of the proclamation. Among the Beroean Gentile associates the proclamation had considerable success. These Gentiles shared the
basis of Scripture and the reactions and complete misapprehensions of
Athens were absent. Among the 'genuine' Gentiles, the initial proclamation
was misunderstood. Even after clarification and correction the response
was meagre. Judaism, not Gentile philosophy or natural theology, is Luke'.s
preparatio evangelica.
In our interpretation of the speech we followed the clues of the preceding context and demonstrated that the speech can be understood accordingly. The whole Athenian episode forms a unity and does not support
Taeger's proposal quoted above. In a city teeming with idols the proclamation was either contemptuously rejected or misunderstood according to
syncretistic polytheism. The purpose behind the occasion for clarification

S39 Cf. Acts 2.37. When the Athenian response is compared with positive Jewish responses, the negative Jewish responses should not be neglected (cf. Acts 7.54-59; 22.22f).
540 Why these responded in faith is not indicated; cf. Luke's previous explanations of
response in Acts 13.48; 16.14.
541 ~beitspapier', 310 (italics mine); differently Schille, 361: 'keinen gewaltigen, aber
doch einen sich tbaren Erfolg'. Others, overlooking or depreciating these conversions, resort to a link with 1 Cor 2.2f; 1 Thess 1.9f or Acts 18.5 (01lVEiXE"tO -rq; AOYrp 0 rraiil..o~ liLallaQ"t1JQ6IlEVO~); see e.g. Ramsay, Traveller,252f.

224

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

was idolatrous and polytheistic. The speech addressed and revealed at


every point the misconceptions behind and the inadequacy of pagan theology, worship and piety, all of which are branded as ignorance of the true nature of God and his worship. Though God was close, people did not search
for or find him and thusmissed God's purpose for their existence. Repentance was mandatory. to escape the coming judgement. This correction,
proclamation and the divine proof of its validity were not received but rejected. Only a few people responded in faith under circumstances most
congenial to the Christian proclamation. The best-educated Gentiles on
Luke's pages appear as spiritual 'write-offs'. It becomes clear that more
than correction is needed. Our previous investigation of Luke's view of
Gentiles prior to faith confirms these conclusions from Acts 17.16-34.
2.2.12. Paul's ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19.9-20)

Through Paul's regular and prolonged public teaching all the Jews and
Greeks of Asia heard the word of the Lord. 542 Nothing is noted of their response to it.543 God did miracles through Paul as part of and authentication
of this message.544 Diseases left the sick and evil spirits came out. Nothing
is reported on how these miracles were received.
1. This lack of report is remarkable in view of Luke's notes elsewhere (cf
Acts 19.20). The following verses describe local acquaintance with the work
of Jewish exorcists and with various magicians and tools of their trade. This
portrayal is indicative of the pagan/magic frame of mind operating in
Ephesus. The Gentiles most likely misunderstood the extraordinary miracles of Paul the Jew545, described in Acts 19.12, in these categories546 and

542 For conclusions from this proclamation cf.III.3.2.2.2.


543 The wide spread of the message presupposes Gentile curiosity or interest (cf. Acts
19.20,26). This cautious note (Qxou(JaL) is different from the mass conversion reports for
Jews (e.g. Acts 21.20: nE3ttCJ"tEuxo1:OJv;Jervell, 'People', 44-49); cf. Schneider n, 268; Zahn,
677-81. Paul's ministry within the Jewish community ended in 19.9. For this synagogue no
Gentile adherents are mentioned. This might account for the prolonged ministry and
Luke's cautious remarks on the success of the mission; cf. Pereira, Ephesus, 138-76; Strelan, Paul, 131 on the lack ofresponse in Ephesus.
544 For the nexus of proclamation and miracles see Garrett, Demise, 91. For the details
of Paul's healing miracles see Trebilco, 'Asia', 313; for general background information
see pp. 302-12; cf. also Pereira, Ephesus, 177-82.
545 ef. Acts 13.9-11; 14.3(?),9f; 16.18 and 5.15;Schille,379; Pesch 11,172.
546 Meyer, 348 rightly notes the contrast between Paul's miracles (Acts 19.1lf) and
those of the Jewish exorcists: 'mit denen der jUdischen Exorcisten (v. 13) nicht zu vergleichende'. Luke certainly considers Paul's miracles superior; the question is whether
they were recognised as such by the Gentiles. Previous miracles among Gentiles led to
fear, misunderstanding or persecution. Except for Samaria, no positive Gentile response

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

225

therefore failed to realise that God was working to authenticate an equally


extraordinary message.S47 In this frame of reference the extraordinary
character of Paul's signs and their function was not recognised. The challenge that these unusual miracles presented to their mindset and the message they embodied and authenticated remained unnoticed. The breakthrough only came when Paul and the message proclaimed by him (i.e. Jesus; cf. Acts 11.20; 17.18) proved itself superior to anything locally known or
practised and surpassed what could be understood or accounted for within
their pagan and magic paradigm.
2. Together with Acts 8.7 and 16.16 these exorcisms point to a larger
number of possessed people among the Gentiles. Though Luke does not
mention that these healings and exorcisms occurred in a city that, in addition to its dedication t9 Artemis, had its own sanctuary of Asclepius s48 and
a famous medical associations49, the presence of sick people and evil spirits
shows that the Ephesians, however qualified, could not heal these diseases
or exorcise these demons themselves (cf. below on the 'E!JlEOLCl YQaf.Lf.LCl'tCl).
Though not all the Ephesians were possessed (to an extent that it was recognised and dealt with), where manifest possession occurred, Gentiles
were helpless. 550 The task of healing and deliverance remained for the
Christian missionary. The Gentiles' own inability as victims and helpers and
the apparent failure of their gods, even if realised, did not lead to their
abandonment and openness to the Christian proclamation.551
3. Acts 19.13-16. Luke introduces itinerant Jewish exorcists.S52 Their presence
also suggests that possession was a regular occurrence even after the long
ministry of Paul. That they were still in business indicates their relative poputo miracles is reported. Positive response among Gentiles is consistently linked to the
proclamation of the gospel.
547 Cf. Zmijewski, 692f.
548 Cf.L. Btirchner, 'Ephesos', RE V, 2804.66f; D. Knibbe, 'Ephesos', RE S XII, (281-87)
284.54-60;ltebilco, 'Asia' ,312; W.Foerster, ThWNT VlI, 1006.1-42.
549 Cl. Knibbe, (271-76) 276.3-19, also 284.57-60;288.52-54.
550 Despite Ephesus' role as temple keeper and local devotion, the Jewish exorcists
were tolerated. The later vibrant outburst of anti-Judaism (Acts 19.33; cl. II.3.7.4.) suggests that unless desperate, Ephesian Gentiles were unlikely to accept Jewish services.
Resistance to the Christian missionaries and exorcists only arose once their ministry impinged on the local economy, not for their interference with local pagan healing and ex
orcising.
SS! According to R. Herzog, 'Asklepios', RAC I, (79599) 798 these implications were
made explicit by early Christian apologists: 'Gegentiber den daemoniaci ist Asklepios
ohnmlichtig; er kann sie nicht heilen, weil er Uber Dlimonen keine Macht hat; er ist eben
selbst einer' (with reference to Lactantius,lnstitutiones Divinae IV.27.12).
SS2 Cl. Zmijewski, 693; Pereira, Ephesus, 18287. Luke does not link the exorcists with
the synagogue. There are no indications that their efforts were limited to Jews.

L.L.O

ill, L he

Gemile encowlter with salvation

larity and real or pretended success, the despair of those concerned and also
that Gentiles had little equivalent to offer. Imitating Paul's ministry553, these
exorcists tried to employ the name of Jesus for their exorcisms rather than
their own formulas or the well known local formula of the 'Ephesian
words'.554 This quick change indicates the impotence of such formulas.
The impressive defeat of the seven sons of Sceva555 demonstrated the
strong reaction of the evil spirit against Jesus' name and demonstrated Jesus' surpassing and real power in a city well acquainted with magic and
magical formulas. 556 'fraditional formulas of whatever origin, sorcery or
Gentile deities could not procure this result. These deities the spirits neither knew nor feared. The magical approach of the exorcists, employed to
please and fully shared by t~eir Gentile customers, received correction.
4. Acts 19.17. Through this unexpected event everyone was awe-struck and
the name of the Lord Jesus was praised.
Their ignominious defeat by the demon shows the Ephesians that 'Jesus' is a power
that cannot be controlled: he will not act as a lackey for anyone who calls upon his
name. This name ... is of a wholly different character than the names that magicians
invoke.... Jesus' name cannot be corrupted or misappropriated. Hence 'the name' deserves grandest praise.sS7

Now the Jesus previously proclaimed - yet misunderstood or neglected was recognised as XUgLO;- over the spirits. The Gentiles were affected by this
SS] Cf. Garrett, Demise, 92.
.
SS. In the context of magical formulas and spells used in Ephesus, Luke's readers
would probably be reminded of the widely known specific 'Eq:>Ema yguf.lf.lata; cf. E Kuhnert, "Eq:>Ern.a yguf.lf.la1;a', RE V, (2771-73) 2772.64-2773.3. These six words were used for
various magical purposes and came to be associated with Ephesus, 2772.42. Their miraculous power was proverbial and unlimited (2772.61-64) and they were also used in exorcising demons. The possessed person had to recite the 'Eq:>ern.a yguf.lf.lata (2772.65-67) or
the exorcist would quietly recite the words (2772.34-36). The presence of the ltveuf.lata
'ta ltOVTlga shows that the use of this (and other) formula proved to be of little use even
in Ephesus. Zmijewski, 695 wrongly identifies books of magical content with the words
themselves.
555 Fitzmyer, 'Sceva' suggests that Sceva was more likely a high priest in the Ephesian
imperial cult (301-03) than of Jewish high priestly origin (301; further bibliography on
p. 305; cf. Zmijewski, 693). The possessed man's Gentile identity is not indicated, yet in
the light of Acts 19.8-10 it is unlikely that the Jewish exorcists would resort to Paul and
Jesus when dealing Jewish patients and employers! The description of this man's reaction
recalls the Gerasene demoniac and the futile Gentile attempts to control him, Luke
8.27,29. Luke's two most dire cases of possession occur in a Gentile setting.
556 Zmijewski, 694 notes (cf. pp. 692f): 'Wieder wird damit einem rein magischen Verstandnis gewehrt: Der Name Jesu wirkt nicht automatisch; vielmehr ist seine Wirkung an
den Glauben gebunden. Er wirkt insofern auch nur im Munde derer, die zu seinem
Gebrauch dadurch legitimiert sind, daB sie sich selbst der Macht Jesu im Glauben unterstellen'.
557 Garrett, Demise, 94f.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

227

destructive 'miracle' (not even done by Paul) not by Paul's previous teaching and extraordinary constructive signs, Acts 19.11. Only once their neutralising interpretation and integration of Paul's message and miracles into
their own magic pagan paradigm was shattered558 , and he whom Paul proclaimed and in whose name he ministered proved to be more powerful
than anything these Gentiles knew, does Luke report response to the earlier proclamation (ct Acts 19.10,20): thus the word of the Lord grew and
prevailed. Prior to this revealing event Paul was seen as merely one teacher
of the oxo}..~ and a worker of miracles like others. The message and real nature of Paul's miracles, the futility of their own approaches and the great
power of the demonic remained unrecognised.
In Luke's account (ct 11.3.8. for 19.23-41) Ephesus is the city of rampant
idolatry combined with greediness and anti-Judaism, of unaddressed disease and demon possession, of the dedicated practice of magic, of misunderstanding of the Christian proclamation until forceful correction and of
prolonged lack of response to the mission despite its intensity, quality and
wide spread. These Ephesians were far from seeking or finding the true
God. Significantly, Ephesus is also the city for which Luke mentions no
Gentile adherents of the local synagogue (et Acts l1.19f). The portrayal of
these Gentiles could hardly be bleaker.
2.2.13. Paul before Felix (Acts 24.22-27)

1. Felix was well informed about the Way.559 Whether this was due to personal interest or his duty as governor is not indicated. Though well informed, Felix had not become a Christian. Felix sent for Paul and heard
him speak concerning et\; XgLOt'OV 'blOOUV 31:(01:'1';<0\;.560
Whether this was what Felix sought to hear is not indicated. Schneider suggests that
''ijxouoEV alJ1;oii soli ein wirkliches Interesse zeigen'.561 Yet in view of the subsequent
characterisation of Felix, simple curiosity, wish for entertainment or ulterior motives are

558 Cf. Zmijewski, 694; Garrett, Demise, 93, 96: ' ... despite the evangelist's compressed
narration, it must be concluded that Luke supposed that the defeat of the seven had
prompted a great many persons to believe in the Word'. On p. 97 she notes on the local
scene:' ... the seemingly relentless grip that the practice of magic - the trafficking in evil
spirits and concomitant loyalty to their master, the devil- had exercised on the Ephesian
people'.
559 Cf. Acts 24.22; with Bruce, 482 against Schneider 11,349, n. 70.
560 This interview is not related to Paul's trial. The earlier adjournment of the trial- because Felix was well informed and appreciated the delicacy of this case - was ordered for
Lysias to arrive, not to obtain more information from Paul in private hearings.
561 11,352.

228

III The Gentile encounter with salvation

more likely than serious spiritual interest. s", Felix's interest in Paul and his message was
not necessarily spiritual. Says Rapske:
(The way) was well worth closely watching as it had existed for nearly 25 years to this
point and currently consisted of many thousands (Acts 21.20) of Jewish adherents in
Jerusalem. Felix would have known that, beyond this, the Way's adherents were also
dispersed throughout the Empire, particularly in Caesarea (Acts 8.1ff;21.8f) and even
within the Roman armed forces (Acts 10.lff).S6J

2. Paul's proclamation is summarised as faith in Christ Jesus (cf. Acts 17.18).


As Felix was well informed about Judaism and the Christian movement, no
misunderstanding occurred. The message of Jesus as the Christ was understood. As an integral part of this faith Paul addressed topics on which Felix
failed to score high.564 As Paul came eventually around565 to justice, selfcontrol and the coming jUdgement, Felix became frightened. 566 Felix sent
Paul away intending tQ call him again at some convenient moment. Felix's
subsequent behaviour shows the relevance of Paul's references (see 4.).
Felix did not show any reaction to the proclamation of faith in Jesus
Christ. It was only when his lifestyle came under scrutiny, a time of reckoning was announced and drastic changes were required, that Felix was startled: 'Vor dem Ernst verbindlichen Anspruchs schrickt Felix zurtlck ... '.567
2.1. The message and its implications were not lost on Felix. His fear implies realisation of his failure, of responsibility and of the impending doom.
The origin of these pangs of conscience/realisation is not indicated. However, such realisation and fear were quickly overcome.
2.2. The proclamation was acceptable while theoretical (i.e. Jesus' identity, fate, authentication and role in the plan of God; cf. the missionary
562 Cf. the characterisation
563 Paul 164
564 Ancient

of Herod in Luke 9.7-9; 23.8.

~ources and vs. 26f provide evidence of the relevance of Paul's address; cf.

Schneider n, 351, nos. 5, 9; 345, n. 18; P. v. Rohden, 'Antonius. 54. Antonius Felix', RE I,
2616-18;Schiirer, History 1,459-66.
565 So rightly Schneider n, 351: 'AIs aber die Rede ... kam'. Conzelmann claims that
this is a 'typisch lukanische Zusammenfassung des Christentums' (143). This vote underestimates the previous proclamation of faith in Christ. Schneider n, 352, n. 17 rightly
notes: 'Ethik und Eschata sind nicht als Zusammenfassung der Christusbotschaft verstanden, sondern als deren Abrundung'. Both were already linked in Acts 24.15f. Paul's
message recalls the preaching of John the Baptist, who 'with many other exhortations (cf.
Luke 3.10-14), proclaimed the good news to the people' (3.18). In both cases this message
went hand in hand with ethical correction and instruction.
566 Cf. EWNT 1,1092. Though this is the only Lukan occurrence of this expression without reference to a supernatural apparition (cf. Luke 24.5,37; Acts 10.4; 22.9 v.l.), Luke is
probably not relating this massive twinge of conscience to superhuman origin.
567 Pesch H, 262. Schneider H, 35lf notes: 'Jedoch ist zu beachten, daB V.25 nur auf den
abschlieBenden TeiI der paulinischen Predigt bezogen ist. ... Der Statthalter erschrickt,
als die Botschaft den Punkt erreicht, an dem er und DrusiIla sich am rneisten betroffen
fiihlen mllssen'.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

229

speeches before Jewish audiences) and not personally applied to demand


change in the light of eschatology.S68 That the required change was inseparably linked to the identity and position of Jesus and to faith in him, Felix
probably failed to recognise. The correction presented to Felix, and with it
the first part of Paul's proclamation, was rejected, which the following
events attest. Apparently more than good acquaintance with Christianity,
further exposition and specifically-applied correction through the exemplary
proponent of the Gentile mission is necessary.
2.3. 'The day when God will have the world judged in righteousness'
(Acts 17.31) is part of the Christian proclamation. Preceded by the resurrection of the righteous and unrighteous (24.15), the coming judgement applies to all people. Because of it, Felix's unbelief and sins transcended their
interhuman and temporal character. In view of this eschatology Paul did his
best to 'always have a clear conscience toward God and all people' (24.16)
and called others to repent in preparation (17.30). In contrast, Felix, though
frightened, did not repent to escape condemnation.
As similar challenges and responses on other occasions are not reported,it
is difficult to assess whether that of Felix was a representative Gentile reaction to divine claim and responsibility.Felix himself repudiated the required
consequences and with them salvation; no exterior human or demonic efforts
are mentioned in turning Felix from the faith (cf. Acts 13.8). Though Luke
does not relate both aspects, this passage suggests a close relationship between personal morality and spiritual receptivity. Weiser observes that:
... der Adressat aber wegen mehrfacher unrechter Bindungen sich der Botschaft nicht
zu offnen vermag. Die eine unrechte Bindung, in der er lebt, ist seine Ehe mit der anwesenden Drusilla. '" Die andere unrechte Bindung des Felix ist sein habgieriges Besitzstreben, das auch vor Bestechung (Y. 26) nicht zurtlckschreckt. ... Lukas erwllhnt
sie hier, urn zu zeigen, daB eine solche Haltung der Aufnahme des Evangeliums und
seiner Ausbreitung im Wege steht .. .' .S6J

3. Acts 24.26/ Paul's choice of the particular ethical topics is well illustrated
in the following events. Felix was corrupt and hoped to receive money from
the very man who spoke to him about justice and self-control.S7O
Felix did not recognise that his expectation and the content of PaUl's proclamation were
mutually exclusive. As it was unknown to himself, Felix did not reckon with Paul's per-

568 Nowhere in Luke's descriptions of Gentile piety or religious belief is there indication that adherence or practice led to or demanded a distinctive lifestyle beyond ritual
observance.
S69p.350 (italics his). These Bindungen are not related to the devil. Compare the
description and conversion of Cornelius.
570 On Felix's venality and what might have sparked his expectations see Rapske,Paui,
166f. Meyer, 419 notes: 'Felix bleibt verworfen genug, urn von einem solchen Manne noch
Bestechung zu erwarten'.

230

111. The Gentlie encounter wLlh sa/vaLion

sonal integrity. Though Felix's lack of Eyxga'tELu could also have been illustrated by his
various marriages and how he arranged themS1i , Luke focuses on Felix's greediness, the
aspect of his character which had to do with Paul and in which Luke elsewhere shows
strong interest.S7l

For {)LXaLOaUVTJ Luke's portrait is likewise bleak; he is silent as to whether


Lysias ever was called or appeared as announced (Acts 24.22). Nothing is
said of any attempt during the two year period to settle the case. In order to
suit Felix's corruption, Paul's case was procrastinated.573 While in office Felix expected a bribe and was probably ready to release Paul upon payment
regardless of the Jewish accusations, the unsettled case, Paul's legal status
or his own duty. During this time, Felix's interest was money, not justice.
When the time came to hand over to Festus - and thus to abandon all hopes
that he would receive a bribe - Felix left Paul in prison. Though not pursuing their case previously and ready to release Paul on payment, now Felix
wanted to grant the Jews a favour (24.27).574 At this point his interest was
enhancement of his personal future and career. Again Paul lost and was
misused to enhance Felix's selfish purposes (ct. III.2.1.2.2.). The portrayal
of this moral-ethical failure in his administration of justice goes hand in
hand with Felix's spiritual failure. His knowledge of the Way, repeated encounters with the Christian message, the threat of impending judgement
and even his reaction of fear, made no difference to his behaviour. The
characterisation of Felix is devastating.
2.2.14. Paul and his God - his fellow-travellers and their gods (Acts 27.9-44;
28.11)
1. Though rejection of the prophets is a recurring Jewish trait in Luke's
writings575 , disregard of such a man also occurred among Gentiles. Unasked, Paul warned against continuing the sea-journey and predicted great
571 Cf. Bruce, 483. Paul's challenging of a political leader with his lifestyle recalls John,
whose reprimand of a particular wrong in Herod's life is reported more directly, Luke
3.19f.
m Weiser, 348. Material concerns as an antidote to the gospel's claims appear also in
Luke 18.1825. Bruce, 483 is lenient with Felix:' ... the material consideration mentioned
in v.26 was a SUbsidiary motive for his frequent interviews with Paul; there is no reason
to doubt his interest in religious discussion - so long, of course, as it was kept within
purely academic limits'.
m Cf. Rapske, Paul, 164-66; on the form of Paul's lightened custody cf. pp. 167-72.
574 Against this background Schille's explanation (437) is misleading: 'Nicht einmal die
Verschleppung durch Felix wird im Kontext als schlechte "Verschleppung" geschildert'.
Bauernfeind,264 is more to the point: 'Felix, der sich Uber das Recht des Paulus keinen
lIIusionen hingeben konnte, will sich durch die Verschleppung des Verfahrens seine
Gegner verpflichten'; cf. Rapske, Paul, 165.
S75 Cf. Stenschke, 'Bedeutung', 132-40.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

231

peril (Acts 27.9f).576 Paul's prophetic identity was not recognised and his
advice simply dismissed by these Gentiles: 'Doch niemand hOrt auf den
Warner. Das ist das normale Prophetenlos, daB man die Prophetie erst
beachtet, wenn es zu spiit ist'.577 The following account illustrates the dire
consequences of not having listened previously.
2. Luke, well acquainted with nautical matters and terminology578, was
probably also familiar with the religious aspect of ancient seafaring (cf. the
material adduced in II.3.10.).579
H.D. Betz draws attention to several passages from the writings of Lucian of Samosata
which shed light on Luke's account~'" He includes a section entitled 'Wunderbare Rettung aus Seenot'.S81 'DaB Gotter aus Seenot retten, ist allgemein antiker Glaube .. .'.s"
Salvific intervention was attributed to the gods, above all to the Dioscuri.583 'Auch in dem
Reisebericht des Paulus wird diese offenbar feststehende Notiz beztlglich der Dioskuren
vermerkt: Act 28.11'.s" Betz believes that Luke's reference to the Dioscuri would not
have been surprising to his readers as the gods were widely known in and for this func
tion ascribed to them. Their function and popUlarity is reflected in their use as a ship's
figurehead.

Long and desperate distress at sea was the consequence of disregarding


Paul. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small
tempest raged, all hope of being saved was at last abandoned (Acts

576 Paul's advice was not unreasonable; cf. W. Kroll, 'Schiffahrt', RE II.A, 410.1-53. Predictions of a shipwreck through ancient astrologers were frequent, col. 413.11-13.For pagan practices accompanying sea voyages and designed to avert distress at sea cf. cols.
41355-414.9. Possibly Paul's clear and confident prophecy appears in contrast to such
preparations and predictions.
S77 Schille, 462.
578 Cf. Holtzmann's often-quoted dictum that Luke's account is 'eines der instructivsten Documente flir Kenntnis des antiken Schiffahrts- und Seewesens' (421).
S79 Cf. Kroll,413.28-414.9.
580Lucian (120-180 A.D.) was not an original thinker and his writings reflect earlier
tradition (cf. W.M. Edwards, R. Browning, 'Lucian', OeD, 621; H. Giirtner, 'Lukianos',
KP Ill, 774.20-25, 775.1-10). Depending on the date of Acts, there may be as little as two
generations separating both authors.
581 Lukian,l71-74.
582 Schille, 465, with reference to Lucian, Navigium 9 (as 'Beilage I' in Conzelmann,
Apostelgeschichte, 161).
583 Betz, Lukian, 173; ef. W. Kraus, 'Dioskuren', RAC IIl, 1122-38; H. von Geisau,
'Dioskuroi', KP ll, 92-94; E. Bethe, 'Dioskuren', RE V, (1087-1123): 'Retter zur See',
10965-1097.18; K. Dowden, 'Dioskouroi', DDD, 490-93; Jaisle, Dioskuren. Yet sea-rescue
was not exclusively the Dioscuri's domain. Kroll, 'Schiffahrt', 414.3-5 mentions vows to
Melicertes, the Nereids, Leucothea, Poseidon, Zephyrus and prayers to the gods of the
sea. F. Pfister, 'Epiphanie', RE S IV, (277-323) 295.67-296.6,298.9-12 mentions Sarapis,
Apollo and the Tritons (cf. cols. 284-86).
584 Betz, Lukian, 174.

232

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

27.20).585 The absence of the heavenly bodies made orientation impossible.


Philo says:
By observing the courses of the stars he (the skilful navigator) has been able to open
up in the pathless waste highroads where none can err, with this incredible result, that
the creature whose element is land can float his way through the element of water.S86

Possibly Luke had more than lack of orientation in mind with his description. In his account the impotence and absence of the pagan gods, in
whose area of competence sea rescue would have been, becomes apparent. The characteristic depiction of the Dioscuri with stars above their
helmets587 goes back to the belief that as helpers of distressed sailors they
showed themselves as 'St. Elmsfeuer oder als rettende Sterne'.588 Luke's
account suggests their failure to do precisely this: neither the pagan gods
specialising in sea rescue589 nor their signs appeared or intervened to rescue.590 What Paul has denounced pagan gods to be, they proved to be: "ta
!l<lLmu (Acts 14.15).
3. In contrast to these pagan gods, an angel of the God to whom Paul belonged and whom he worshipped appeared591 and gave him an encouraging message for all on board (Acts 27.23-25). While the sun and stars were
hidden, Paul's God found him and encouraged him. All lives had been grasas Schille,465 speaks of the 'nautische Hoffnungslosigkeit der Situation'.

SpecLeg IV.155, quotation from Winston, Wisdom, 266. The pseudo-Philonic sermon De Iona 134 notes: 'Wenn Seefahrer in den Wogen nach den Sternen ihren Kurs
ausrichten .. .'.
5B7 Geisau, 'Dioskuroi', 93; Bethe, 'Dioskuren', 1122.67f,1123.20-22. This manner of
portrayal occurs e.g. on a coin from Rhegium (et. Acts 28.13), reproduced in drawing by
W.J. Conybeare, 1.5. Howson, The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, new edition (London, New
York: Longmans, Green, 1896), 666; see also p. 662, n. 7 and p. 663, n. 3. Compare the corresponding description of their appearance in Lucian's Dialogi Deorum XXVI.2: 'the
half egg-shell on the head, and the star above it ... '.
588Kraus, 'Dioskuren', 1131; Bethe, 'Dioskuren', 1096.57-1097.18. For an impressive
description of such an apparition and the response of an early 18th century sailor cf. A.C. Settgast, Der Mann in Tranquebar: Ein Portrlit des Bartholomlius Ziegenbalg, gestaltet
nach Urkunden und Briefen, 2. ed. (Berlin: EVA,1986),149f.
589 Kraus, 'Dioskuren',1131; cf. Geisau, 'Dioskuroi', 93.
S90The Homeric Hymn 33 to the Dioscuri (German translation in Pesch, Wundergeschichten, 16) describes the prayers and sacrifices of pagan sailors and the ideal intervention of the gods (cf. Pfister, 'Epiphanie', 295.59-66); for similar praise of the Dioscuri
see Bethe, 'Dioskuren', col. 1096.19-29; the Dioscuri as l:w"tiiQ; cf. col. 1094.17-59.
God gave apostate Israelites over to worship the starry host of heaven with the Gentiles (Acts 7.42; cf. II.3.3.2.). In times of need these very gods fail to appear. Could this
close association of pagan deities with heavenly bodies be a contributing factor to Luke's
omission of the visit of the Magi of Matt 2.1-12, if known to him? Cf. 'xat1:o um:Qov "tou
{tEOU 'PaLlpav' in Acts 7.43 and au"toii "tov CLm:EQa in Matt 2.2; cf. also Luke 21.25.
591 Rapske,Paul,359 argues that a pagan would take Paul's uyye>..o;to refer to a divine
messenger from PaUl's God.
586

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

233

ciously 'given' to Paul by his God, despite the fact that they had disregarded Paul's advice previously. Through appearing, intervening and granting safety and salvation, God proved to be living and present (ct. Acts
14.9f,15).592 Not only was Paul's God concerned with those who knew and
served him, but his grace also extended to others (cf. 14.17).
P. Pokomy summarises the suggestion of R. Merkelbach that in Acts 27f elements of the
Graeco-Roman mystery novels can be found: 'Die Analogie mit dem synkretistischen
Mysterienroman ware also eine polemische Analogie'.s93 His summary of the incidents
of this polemical juxtaposition ends with Acts 28.11: 'Die Dioscuri, die Retter in Seenot,
tauchen zu split auf.S94 That 28.11 is a polemical reference to these gods is not unthinkable in view of LUke's other references to pagan deities. The mention of the deities which
Gentiles believed to protect sailors and their ships after the detailed description of the
shipwreck and God's intervention in ch. 27, is trenchant irony. Luke, 'well informed
about pagan concepts and beliefs of his time'S9S may have built this indirect but forceful
device in his narrative.

With his account of the hopeless situation, the reference to the pagan gods
and their failure to intervene, Luke demonstrates the folly of the Gentile
veneration of such gods. Though in distress at sea these gods proved to be
useless, still they were venerated and retained as figure heads. Their inefficacy remained unrecognised.
This interpretation of Acts 28.11 agrees with Luke's other references to pagan deities
and his general depiction of pagan religion. In this area other suggestions often fail.s"

592 Cf. Zmijewski, 863.


593 'Romfahrt', 23Sf;Roman.
594 'Romfahrt', 236. Pokorny also notes possible further polemics: 'In Act 19.21-40 lesen wir lib er den Aufruhr in Ephesus,dessen Mitte die Akklamation der Artemis-KybeJe
bildet (v. 34). Magna Mater - Kybele wurde damals oft mit Isis in Verbindung gebracht.
Nun hilft in der Seenot statt Isis - der Gtittin der Seefahrt - der Gott, dem Paulus dient
(27.23). Das Getreide, die Gabe der Gottin, wird ilber Bord geworfen (27.38)'. Strelan,
Paul, 116 confirms the identification of Artemis and Isis and notes that 'Isis was honored
in Ephesus ... as protector of sailors on the seas; in addition, the first fruits of the new
year's navigation were offered to her'; ct also aster, 'Ephesus',1678.
59SP'W. van der Horst, 'Dike',DDD, (476-80) 479. Through this reference to the Dioscuri Luke may also in retrospect identify the addressees of the sailors' prayer shortly before the actual shipwreck (Acts 27.29; cf. II3.10.). Epictetus counselled: 'Call upon God
to help you and stand by your side, just as voyagers, in a storm, call upon the Dioscuri'
(reference and translation according to Winston, Wisdom, 263). Hemer, Book, 206 lists
Acts 28.11 under 'Peculiar Selection of Detail'. The inclusion of this 'seemingly unnecessary detail' introduces rnaterial 'which does not lend itself to theological explanation'.
On 28.11-13 Hemer,209 writes: 'The second Alexandrian ship is said to be called "Dioscuri", and the detailed account of its prosperously uneventful voyage is given .... An interesting case was the ship. Paul completed his voyage on a famous "clipper", perhaps
the fIrSt that year to have braved the earliest spring seas'.
596 E.g. Milesmompf, 'Luke'; Ladouceur, 'Preconceptions'; Praeder, 'Acts 27.1- 28.16';
for the latest summary see Rapske, 'Acts'. Possibly there is increasing satire in Luke's depiction of Gentile ideas of the divine. The Lystrans mistook rnen for gods after they per-

234

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvalion

The nature of these gods is also shown by the fact that their images can be painted on a
ship's prow, while no hand-made building can contain God, as the heaven is his throne,
and the earth his footstool, Acts 7.48. Luke affirmed God's authority over the sea (Acts
4.24; 14.15): God was there and intervened to save.
4. Convinced of the reliability of God and his promises'''', Paul took bread, thanked God
before all and began to eat."" Paul's confidence in the presence and power of his God
was exceptional; the Gentiles were without any encouragement, help or courage in a
situation like this. They lacked any assurance for themselves, let alone were they able to
mediate it to others. Paul affirmed that he not only belongs to God, but also actively
serves him (Acts 27.23).'99

5. The account of the sea voyage contains several references to Gentile behaviour.
5.1. The centurion Julius treated Paul kindly (<piJ..av{}QW1t!Il~ ... XQl]mil-tevo~, Acts 27.3),
allowing him to visit his friends to be cared for.6/JO Later he acted upon Paul's counsel60l
and spared Paul's life against the intention of his soldiers (27.42f}.602 This positive portrayal of a Gentile prior to faith should not be overestimated. Allowing Paul to be cared
for by friends meant that lulius did not have to supply provisions for the journey.603 Although a prisoner's escape could have had serious consequences (Acts 27.43; et 12.19),
killing an unconvicted prisoner who had appealed to the Emperor before a much higher
official (25.1-12) was not a light alternative."" The Gentile soldiers without such personal
responsibility were less concerned (27.42a).6'" In addition,lulius may have come to recognise Paul's usefulness for his own purposes (27.30-36). The relation of 27.23f and the
officer's wish is not clarified.

formed a healing miracle. The Ephesians were concerned about the image of a goddess
that fell from heaven and which humans had the privilege and burden of keeping. Finally,
though failing completely, such gods were positioned or painted on fragile ships.
591 Cf. Zmijewski, 862.
598 For possible eucharistic overtones in Luke's comment see Schille, 467; Schneider Il,
396f; Zmijewski, 863f; Haenchen, 707, n. 3. It seems best to conclude with Bauernfeind,
275: 'Auch Paulus und seine Begleiter werden an das Mahl des Herrn gedacht haben; das
Mahl, das sie jetzt hielten, war jedoch ein Mahl zur Silttigung'.
599 On Aal;QE1)(1l cf. Zahn, 834, n. 84. I fail to find support for Zahn's suggestion (834)
that Paul testified 'daB der Gott, den er anbetet, der einzige wahrhaftige Gott der ganzen
Welt und Menschheit ist cf. 17.23f; rather see Meyer,451! Other than Paul's lewishness,
identification of his God is lacking. The angelic messenger does not necessarily point to
God;cf. WB,12;W. Grundmann, ThWNT I, 73.1-74.3 for IiYYEAOL in Graeco-Roman religions. F. Andres, 'Angelos',RE S Ill, (101-14) 101.66-106.19,107.64-111.37 describes the
variety of pagan iiYYEAOL and frequent syncretism with ludaism.
600 Cf. WB, 1712. Zmijewski, 859 adds: 'natilrlich unter Bewachung dUTCh einen
Soldaten (vgl. 28.16)" likewise Pesch 11,289; Haenchen, 698. On Julius and this incident
see Rapske, Paul, 267-70. Rapske, 270 discusses reasons for lulius' kindness.
601 Cf. Rapske, Paul, 271.
602 Cf. Zmijewski, 864; Pesch n, 293; Rapske, Paul, 270f.
603 Cf. the discussion in Rapske, Paul, 223f.
604 ct. Rapske, Paul, 271; cf. p. 32 for the punishment of guards who kill their prisoners.
60S Cf. the discussion in Haenchen, 708; Rapske, Paul, 3lf,271.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

235

However, these positive traits appear in the context of spiritual failure: Julius rejected
Paul's prophetic advice and relied on advisers presumably more competent (Acts
27.11).606 Only after Paul's first prediction had come true and the dire consequences of
disregard became all too evident, did Julius regard Paul's advice (27.31f). Nothing is said
of any spiritual interest or response despite his prolonged exposure to Paul and the fulfIlled prophecies and miracles.
5.2. The fact that Paul was visited by a divine messenger in a situation where the Gentile gods proved useless, had prophesied the deliverance of all travellers (Acts 27.22-26)
and prevented the sailors' escape (27.30-32), together with his ministry in 27.33-36 did
not keep the soldiers from intending to kill Paul.607

2.2.15. Paul's ministry on Malta (Acts 28.7-10)

1. Like the kind islanders of the site of the shipwreck (Acts 28.2; cf.
II.3.11.1.c.), Publius was hospitable. He extended three days of hospitality608 to the large contingent of needy travellers (IJlLAoIJlQ6vw~ E;VLoev). In
gratitude for healings 609, the islanders bestowed many honours on Paul and
his companions and supplied them with the necessary provisions. The same
is said offellow Christians in Acts 27.3 (btLlleA.Eta~ "CUXetv).
In view of their scarcity these positive references to moral-ethical behaviour of Gentiles are noteworthy.61O Luke reports and acknowledges their vir006 Cf. Rapske, Paul, 374, 376, p. 377 for the options Julius had in responding to Paul's
advice. Cf. Zmijewski, 860; cf. p. 865 for Paul's prophetic role and depiction throughout
the following narrative. Haenchen, 700, n.4 notes that Luke 'does not want to praise Paul
as an experienced and weather-wise traveller, but as a man gifted by God with prophetic
foresight' .
(IJ7 Cf. Rapske, Paul,271, 360 on the soldiers' relation to Paul. Chrysostom,Homilies on
Acts 53,317 sees a demonic attempt to hinder the fulfilment of the prophecy behind the
sailor's plan.
008 Cf. IV.3.4.6. On his identity see Schneider H, 403; Zmijewski, 871f. They and others
unduly limit the ';Ila~ of Acts 28.7 to 'die Gruppe urn Paulus' (Schneider). See Rapske,
Paul,273 for the provision after these days.
009 In other summary reports of the healing of Gentiles, demon possession and exorcisms also appear (cf. Acts 8.6f; 19.11f). Unless Luke conveys demonic influence over the
islanders through the reference to their diseases (ao-&vELa; cf. G. Stahlin, ThWNT I,
(488-92) 491.18f; Fitzmyer, 545), nothing is indicated here. In Luke 8.2 uo-&evEla occurs
together with evil spirits; cf. Nolland, 366 and Luke 9.2,6; 10.9; cf. the discussion in No 1land,213f.
610 Cf. III.2.2.14.5.1. This concentration invites speculation. Does Luke want to rehabilitate Gentiles whom other Gentiles consider barbarians? Does he want to encourage
mission among them? Of all the Gentiles Luke describes in some detail, these islanders
are geographically the most Western. Does Luke want to encourage mission in the Western half of the Mediterranean (possibly aware of Paul's plans to travel to Spain, Rom
15.23f,28; cf. 1 Clem. 5.6f?), possibly indicating that even where there are no or not as
many Diaspora Jews as in the East, missionaries will - though facing paganism as elsewhere - also experience hospitality? Cf. Siegert's conclusion for the pseudo-Philonic sermon De Iona ('Heiden', 58): 'Es ist eine Predigt, die es wagt, die Heiden ganz unvoreingenommen in den Blick zu nehmen, und die ennutigt, auf sie zuzugehen'.

236

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

tues. These Gentiles showed hospitality and expressed their gratitude for favours received. For other Gentiles the opposite holds true (Luke 8.37; 9.52f).
However, these positive traits occur in the context of spiritual failure (cf.
II.3.11.1.c., Ill.2.2.14.5.1., Iv.3.4.6.). Despite Paul's miraculous survival of
the deadly bite, the healings and a prolonged stay, neither Publius nor other
islanders became Christians. While the islanders were unusually kind and
expressed their gratitude in an exemplary way, no conversions are recorded. 611 Schille claims far too much in proposing that Paul was accompanied by the 'stiindig gesteigerten Ehrungen der GHiubigen' or speaking of
the 'Versorgung des Apostels durch die Gemeinde'.612 Bauemfeind is more
to the point: Paul
filr einen Gott anzusehen oder seine Handauflegung anzunehmen, sind die Einwohner auch gem bereit; zwischen ihnen und dem Evangelium dagegen scheint eine unUberschreitbare Grenze zu bleiben.613

2. To heal Publius' father, Paul prayed and put his hands on him.614 Pesch

observes:
... im Kontext ist jedenfa1ls wichtig: 'Mit der Feststellung, daB Paulus vor der Heilung
betet, wird darauf verwiesen, daB er nicht kraft eigener Vollmacht handelt (also kein
Gott ist, vg\. V. 6!), sondem sich bittend an seinen Herrn wendet'.6ls Similarly Weiser,
370: Darin ist ein wichtiges Korrektiv gegenUber der verbreiteten hellenistischen Auffassung von Wundertlltem als 'gllttlichen Menschen' (theoi andres) zu sehen.

61l Though not explicitly mentioned, proclamation can be safely assumed (against
Roloff, 367). Rapske, Paul, 360 suggests: 'what ministry of the spoken word there must
certainly have been on Malta is passed over in favour of .. .'. There is no evidence for
Schwank's suggestion (,Rom', 178): 'wenn es auch nach dem Bericht ... nicht unwahrscheinlich ist, daB Paulus bei der Abfahrt bereits eine kleine Christengemeinde hinterlieB'. For the varying Gentile response to miracles see Luke 23.47; Acts 8.7f,12; 13.12;
14.10f; 16.19; 19.11-20.
612 P. 473 (italics mine).
613 p. 276. In Rolofrs positive estimate of Acts 28.6 (p. 367: 'Die gottliche Lenkung, die
iiber dem Weg des Paulus steht, ist so augenfllllig, daB selbst Heiden sie erkennen und in
ihrer - gewiB unzulllnglichen - religii.isen Begrifflichkeit zum Ausdruck bringen mUssen') it is even more surprising that their recognition had no consequences.
614 Kirchschlllger, 'Fieberheilung', 514 observes: 'Einzigartig ist fUr das NT und fUr die
jUdisch-hellenistische Tradition dieser Zeit die Kombination von Gebet und HandaufJegung bei einer Heilung'.
615 II.299; the included quotation is from Kirchschlllger, 'Fieberheilung', 516. Similarly
Weiser, 370: 'Das Gebet vertraut den leidenden Menschen Gott an, anerkennt ihn als
den wirklichen Herrn des Lebens und erbittet seine Hilfe. Im vorliegenden Text wird
tiberdies dadurch zugleich deutlich, da/3 Paulus kein ... Gott ist und da/3 sein Heilvermi.igen Geschenk von Gott her is!. Die Bindung der heiIenden Boten an den Herrn, in dessen Dienst sie stehen, wurde auch schon in 3.6; 4.10-12,30; 6.8; 8.20; 9.12,17,34,40; 14.3;
16.18; 19.11 von Lukas hervorgehoben'.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

237

Paul's procedure served to avert false identifications and to correct Gentile


notions. Paul was God's servant and dependent upon him (cf Acts 27.23),
not divine himself His power derived from God. Without these precautions
the Gentiles would have continued to interpret Paul's miracle within the
frame of reference displayed earlier (28.6). Paul's action indicates their
spiritual blindness and its persistency.
This last episode of Paul enjoying considerable freedom does not present the crown of his career as the missionary to the Gentiles. Paul's conviction that this salvation of God had been sent to the Gentiles and that they
would listen (Acts 28.28), was hardly based on the events on Malta.
2.2.16. Paul's ministry in Rome (Acts 28.30f)

In Rome Paul welcomed all who came to him. In view of his previous discussion with the Roman Jews and his confidence that God's salvation has been
sent to listening Gentiles, this reference includes Gentiles. 616 To them he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. 617
The kingdom of God features mainly in the missionary preaching to
Jews. 618 Yet God and the nature of his rule over and claim to the world was
also proclaimed to Gentiles (Acts 14.15-17; 17.24,26,30f) as it remained unrecognised. Concerning God's rule and its nature and consequences the
Gentiles had to be instructed. The Gentiles were in rebellion against God's
universal rule (Acts 4.25f). The expression 'the kingdom of God' captures
what Gentiles needed to know about God and his relation to the world and
their own calling apart from the specifically Christian message summarised
by Paul's second subject.
The proclamation of God's rule in the capital of the Roman empire also
challenges and corrects pagan notions. Despite all claims to the contrary,
God's kingdom is the one and only legitimate universal rule. 6l9
616 Cf. Weiser, 377: 'womit Lukas entsprechend dem Kontext vorwiegend Heiden
meint, Juden aber nicht ausschlieBt'; similarly Schneider n. 420: 'Lukas denkt bei den
Besuchem des Paulus offenbar an "Griechen... Some manuscripts identify the audience
as 'Io1J.sato1J~ 1:2 )taL E)J.~va~; cf. NTG, 408; Metzger. Commentary, 502.
617 For the close relation of both topoi see Bruce,542f; Zmijewski, 888: 'Paul us spricht
in der Weise vom Reich Gottes, daB er anhand der Jesusgeschichte nachweist, wie Gottes
Reich mit Jesus gekommen ist ... Paulus verkUndigt damit genau die Botschaft, die im
gesamten lukanischen Doppelwerk inhaltlich und in Form geschichtlicher Darstellung
... Uberzeugend und mitreiBend zur Sprache gekommen ist'.
618 Cf. Acts 9.22; 173; 185,28; 19.8;28.23, but cf. also 8.12. Paul summarises his proclamation in Ephesus in 20.21,24 in familiar terms. In 20.25 it is also summarised as 'tlte
kingdom'; cf. NTG. 384; Metzger, Commentary. 479. Possibly this is due to the characterisation of Ephesus in ch. 19. In this city the rule of God had to be affirmed.
619 Cf. Zmijewski, 888.

238

Ill. The Gentile encounter wilh salvation

The second topos also recalls earlier proclamation to Gentiles (cf. Acts
10.42; 11.20; 17.31; 18.25?; 24.25).620 As on previous occasions, the Lord Jesus Christ is the standard content of the proclamation to Gentiles. It follows
from the declaration of Acts 4.12 that salvation cannot be found in any
other name. The name, person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ was the
message to these Gentiles. Only where this proclamation was misunderstood, did the prolegomena and clarification found in Lystra and Athens
become necessary.621
The proclamation of the kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus Christ under all circumstances (e.g. by the prisoner Paul) implies that the Gentiles
needed to hear and receive God's rule and this salvation. This necessary
message had to be proclaimed to them. Apart from such proclamation,
God, the nature of his rule and his salvation were inaccessible to Gentiles.
2.2.17. Luke's portrait of Gentiles prior to faith
2.2.17.1. The Gentile encounter with salvation

Luke's narrative of encounters of various Gentiles with salvation contributes two aspects: 1. In Luke's reports of the setting of these encounters
and of the proclamation further pagan beliefs and practices appear. They
do so in close conjunction. These beliefs and practices indicate the spiritual
state of the people who hold and practice them. This perspective adds to
Luke's direct statements on and descriptions of Gentiles prior to this encounter (cf. IT.). 2. The second aspect is the actual response of Gentiles to
Christian salvation once confronted with it. Often this response follows
from the portrayal of the nrst aspect. Therefore both types of material were
treated together in this section, instead of including the first aspect in section 11. What do these aspects indicate for Gentiles prior to faith?
1. The beliefs and practices of Gentiles prior to faith. In spite of God's creation and living in his world, and his gracious provisions, Gentiles did not
know, recognise or respond to the living God. God's providential care was
not recognised but ascribed to various deities. Like their worshippers, these

620 Cf. Pesch U,311; Zahn, 859: ' ... und die Tatsachen der Geschichte Jesu vortrug'. 'Die
Forrnulierung bezieht sich ungefiihr auf den Stoff des dritten Evangeliums, vornehmlich
aber auf Tod und Auferstehung Jesu: 18.25; 23.11; Lk 24.19,27', Schneider 11,421, n. 10l.
Some Latin manuscripts add: dicens quia hie est Christus Jesus filius dei per quem incipiet
totus mundus iudicari, recalling Acts 17.31; cf. NTG, 408; Zahn, 859, n. 31; BC W,349;
Metzger, Commentary, 503.
1521 Misunderstanding was unlikely for the Gentiles who came to see Paul, the Jew, in
confinement. They knew what Paul stood for and about his origin.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

239

gods dwell in houses built for them,require altars and sacrifice and are represented by material images. As a consequence of these 'humanised' gods,
distinction between human and allegedly divine was vague. In addition to
devoted idolatry, superstition and also magic practices enjoyed great popularity and attracted considerable material involvement. These failures bring
Gentiles under God's judgement.
The falseness and futility of their gods, their worship, of other practices
and their underlying assumptions were not recognised. The Gentiles were
in ignorance of the true state of affairs. That Gentiles can be easily impressed or influenced also indicates their lack of judgement. The Christian
proclamation, including God, his true nature and rule, his requirements and
claims, had to be brought to them. Luke's Gentiles did not already know or
reach the right conclusions on their own. The natural intellectual faculties
of Gentiles are inadequate.
2. The Gentile response to Christian salvation. a) Once confronted with the
Christian proclamation, the Gentiles' response is not enthusiastic. Though
individual Gentiles from various walks of life respond, mention of large
numbers of converts is limited to the early Jewish chapters of Acts. Mention
of large numbers of Gentiles is exceptional, Acts 11.21; 19.18. Responding
Gentiles are in most cases already associated with JUdaism. 622 Other Gentiles are usually characterised by indifference, misunderstanding or contemptuous rejection. At crucial junctures Luke explains Gentile conversions with reference to God's intervention (ct. III.3.3.2.2.). Such notes are
not surprising in view of the characterisation of Gentiles.
b) Due to Gentile presuppositions, the proclamation of the Christian
message or Christian actions can lead to severe misunderstandings and
wrong associations. At times the mission is interpreted within a pagan paradigm and thus 'neutralised'. Where these essential misunderstandings occur, the gospel is far from making inroads. The correction brought in the
proclamation (in both the announcement of the good news and particular
challenge of pagan notions) and action is not gratefully received but rejected by the majority. When accepted, it does not necessarily lead to conversion (Lystra, Athens). Gentiles do not present an intellectual refutation.

622 Even these Gentiles were in need of proclamation and salvation. The account of the
Ethiopian shows that commitment and education will not unravel the Scriptures. The
outside input of a Christian missionary was needed to open them and to pave the road
for rejoicing. Cornelius' case demonstrates that despite his exemplary fear of God, prayers and ethical integrity, he still needed to hear the Christian proclamation. Only on
hearing and responding to this message did the audience receive the Spirit, which previously they had lacked. In both cases God arranged the encounter.

240

III The Gentile encounter with salvation

c) Though positive response of individual Gentiles (Sergius, jailer) occurs in the context of miracles, often miracles were ignored or interpreted
within and to affirm the ever present pagan paradigm, rather than ch alh~nge or overthrow this paradigm.
d) Moral-ethical failure of Gentiles appears closely related to their spiritual failure vis-a-vis salvation. Their moral-ethical failure towards the mission cannot be separated from their spiritual failure; the former expresses the
latter.

In these encounters Luke presents a mistaken Gentile world in need of


salvation, unable to help itself and without orientation. Although urgently required, correction alone proves inadequate. We can fully affirm our previous
conclusions. Also in these incidents Luke shows the Gentiles' lack of revelation and its consequences. They continue their rebellion against God in their
rejection of the mission and of the salvation and correction it seeks to bring.
2.2.17.2. Gentiles and the devil

We already drew some conclusions (Ill.2.1.1.3., 111.2.2.6.2.) regarding the


demonic involvement in the Gentile encounter with salvation (Acts 13.812) and in the human response to the word of God (Luke 8.12). The devil
appears behind an effort to turn a Gentile away from faith. In a more general context he is said to withhold response from some people by removing
the word. We also noticed how on other occasions Luke does not explicitly
explain lack of response by demonic interference, giving other or no explanations. Now we summarise what the other incidents of Luke and Acts add
to previous conclusions.
1. Luke's reference to manifestations of the devil among Gentiles is limited,
namely Luke 8.27-30; Acts 8.7; 13.1O(?); 16.16; 19.12.623 Likewise manifestations of demonic presence are limited: not all Gentiles seem to be affected
by the demonic (e.g. as demon-possessed) in a perceptible way. Not all visibly affected suffer to the same extent.
The Gerasene demoniac appears among many Gerasenes without this bondage. Though
many were possessed by unclean spirits, this is not said of all Samaritans nor of Sirnon.
Philippi's possessed slave girl was one among many other Philippians; the same holds true
for the possessed people in Ephesus.

623

Diseased Gentiles appear in Acts 8.7; 14.3(7),8; 19.12; 28.8f.

2. The Gentile encounter with salvation

241

2. Though not all Gentiles were manifestly to the same degree under the
power of Satan, when Satan's power becomes manifest in possession or sickness 624, Gentiles were helpless and their attempts to bring relief futile. 625
Luke suggests that Jews fared better in this regard. Jewish exorcists are granted some
measure of success (Luke 11.19): 'Jesus here assumes the reality of such acts and that
they were carried out by the power of God'.626 Lack of this power of God renders Gentiles helpless.

3. The devil is assigned a relatively low profile.


3.1. Though S. Garrett rightly concludes:
... Luke regards Satan as a powerful being with much of the world under his authority. He controls individuals by means of sickness and demon possession. He controls
entire kingdoms, whose inhabitants live in the darkness of idolatry, worshipping Satan
and giving him the glory that is due God alone6%7,

the notions and actions of Gentiles in opposition to God are not (directly)
ascribed to the devil:

624 Baumbach, Verstiindnis, 166 claims much when he concludes for Acts 10.38: 'Lukas
hebt durch diese Zusammenfassung all er Menschen, denen Jesu Heilswerk gaIt, zur
Gruppe der vom Satan Beherrschten hervor,daB aUe Wohltaten und Heilungen Jesu der
Entmachtung des Sa tans durch die Befreiung der Menschen aus seiner Gewalt dienten,
die in V.43 als 'Vergebung der SUnden' charakterisiert wird'. Taeger rightly counters that
ElieQye1:OJ (cf. ElieQyeoi.a, Acts 4.9) as also [aollaL refers to the sick and possessed, not to
humanity in general, Mensch, 72, n. 282. For the relation between exorcism and physical
healing see the discussion in Nolland, 213f; G. Stllhlin, ThWNT I, (488-92) 491.18f: Diseases 'sind die Wirkungen von Geistern z.B. Mt 17.18 und bes Lk 13.11: 1tVei:illa
ll(rfh:v[a~'; cf. Nolland, 724 on Luke 13.11 and Acts 10.38 ('best taken as referring to
healing in genera!'); Fitzmyer, 544f on Luke 4.33; U.B. MUller, 'Krankheit III. NT', TRE
XIX, (684-86) 684f;TheiBen, Wundergeschichten, 94-102; o. Bllcher, 'Dllmonen IV. NT',
TRE VIll, (279-86) 281.43-282.2,283.35-284.4.
62S All efforts and the physical restraint applied to the Gerasene demoniac were futile.
Simon was unable to heal or to exorcise demons from the many Samaritans afflicted by
them. Only through the missionaries was the Philippian slavegirl delivered from the Python (in the latter cases no notice of previous attempts to do so). Through Paul's extraordinary miracles in Ephesus evil spirits came out of the sick. While some references to
physicians occur in Jewish settings - Luke 4.23 (proverbial); 5.31 (metaphorical); 8.43 (?
cf. Metzger, Commentary, 145) - Gentile physicians are not mentioned, although Gentile
magicians appear.
626 Marshall, 474. Luke mentions itinerant Jewish exorcists in Ephesus who prior to
Paul's ministry were probably somewhat successful. The demon chaUenging the sons of
Sceva does not question their general capacities but their use of a name that was not
theirs to use,Acts 19.13-16.
627 Demise,43.

242

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

a) Gentile spiritual failure (pagan concepts, idolatry and the practice of magic628) is not
explicitly associated with the demonic. Luke does not suggest that 'the devil made them
do it'. When Gentiles were addressed, their failures were assigned to their ignorance and
own spiritual failures. m
b) For the two places of genuine Gentile resistance to Christianity, Philippi and Ephesus, Luke also records demonic activity. But rejection of the missionaries is not explained
by demonic influence or instigation, rather it is traced to the threatened material interests of Gentiles.
c) Though the Roman Empire is depicted as one of the devil's vassals63 and though Judas' betrayal of Jesus is linked to the devil entering him (Luke 22.3)631, the Gentile involvement in the death of Jesus is not explicitly linked with the devil. Possibly this reference (ct the 'reminders' in Luke 22.31,53) also extends to the Gentile involvement in the
death of Jesus.
d) Gentile moral-ethical failure toward Gentiles, Jews or Christians is not associated
with the devil.""

3.2. Yet in view of this 'low profile' it is necessary to consider whether regu-

lar and consistent occurrence or attribution shOUld be expected. To answer


this question it is important 1. to remember that Luke's main concern is to
describe God's universal salvation in Jesus. The same attention is not given
to related or subordinate themes or to the adversary of this mission and his
influence over the people Jesus came to save; 2. to remember that the
above observations of absence appear between two statements of universal
and far-reaching demonic dominion over Gentiles (Luke 4.5f; Acts 26.18).
Within these ramifications, repeated and consistent reference and association is not necessarily to be expected; and 3. to note that incidents mentioning the devil or his influence appear at key points ~n Luke's narrative,633

628 Simon is not portrayed as possessed, neither is his magic ascribed to this source.
Elymas is not associated with the devil as a magician, but only in his attempt to turn away
from the faith. Demon possession and magic appear in Sarnaria and in Ephesus, though
not in Paphos.
.
629The context of the Areopagus speech (Paul rectifying a severe misunderstanding of
the plain Christian proclamation which was not understood) does not foster expectation
that the message would be further complicated by explaining the origin of their ignorance and its relation to their own responsibility. The speaker was at pains to procure
adequate understanding of Jesus and his resurrection without risking the introduction of
a biblical understanding of the devil! The same applies to the Lystran speech.
630 Luke 4.5-7; cf. 111.3.2.1.2.3. Sergius, one of the Empire's sub-vassals, entertains a
man who turns out to be a demonic agent.
631 ct III.3.2.1.2.2.3.2.
632 A possible exception is Luke's critical reference to the style of Gentile government
(Luke 22.25): because the kingdoms of the world and their authority are distributed by
the devil (Luke 4.6), the ~a01.i..et~ ,;wv ih'lvwv and ot ~~ouota~ov,;e~ av,;wv are his vassals.
Possibly their behaviour reflects their overlord.
6J3 Mention of possession in Samaria (Acts 8.7; cf. 1.8!); demonic resistance to the mission at the beginning of the systematic Gentill! mission (13.8-11); demonic attempt at falsification and neutralising the proclamation at the first stop in Europe (16.16f); mention
of possession in Ephesus, the longest and geographically most extensive Pauline ministry

3. The state and salvation of Gentiles prior to faith

243

which suggests that what is made explicit there could be assumed elsewhere. Such assumption would be encouraged by the bracket indicated in
the point 2.634
The picture emerging from these incidents prepares us for Luke's direct
declaration on this subject treated in the next section, the Gentile existence
under the E!;OUULCI tOU UCItCIvd (ct. III.3.2.1.2.3.). There we shall be in a position to consider the relation of Luke's narrative portrayal and his direct
declarations on the subject. 635 A summary will appear in our conclusions
(V. 1. 6.).

3. The state and salvation of Gentiles prior to faith


3.1. Introduction
We have studied the incidents when Gentiles came in contact with Jesus or
with the Christian mission. In this section we turn to Luke's references to
the state of Gentiles prior to faith (III.3.2.) and to the implications of
Luke's statements about how Gentiles are saved (III.3.3.). Our pursuit of
these questions of Lukan soteriology is limited to what this portrayal indicates about Gentiles prior to faith. 1bis section supplements the preceding
observations from the various incidents in Luke's narratives.
1. From Luke's direct statements on the Gentiles' state and from the solution offered we draw conclusions about their plight prior to faith. What
conclusions regarding the recipients of this salvation and their plight prior
to faith can be drawn from the nature and necessity of God's salvation?
2. We need to ask to what extent God is involved not only in the preparation of the salvation but also in the Gentiles' actual appropriation of salvation. What other factors are involved? How does Luke portray and relate
God's involvement, Satanic interference and the Gentiles' own contribution to the appropriation of salvation?

to Gentiles (19.12-16). This distribution is comparable to that of statements emphasising


divine activity in the Gentile appropriation of salvation.
634 Despite this 'demonic bracket', Gentiles are held responsible for their failure, which
is not explicitly ascribed to demonic influence or instigation. Though the devil may have
been active in originating and/or sustaining Gentile ignorance, Gentiles were challenged
to repent (Acts 14.15; 17.30).
63SThese conclusions then need to be related to Luke's references to divine and human activity in appropriating salvation. In view of Luke's assessment of the devil, how
active does God need to be;how active can the Gentiles be themselves?

244

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

3.2. The state of Gentiles prior to faith


We begin our first quest with Luke's most extensive statement on Gentiles
prior to faith and its context (II13.2.1.). To avoid fragmentation, we gather
similar material from elsewhere in Luke-Acts into the outline provided by
this statement and treat the relevant material together. Then we briefly try
to illuminate the conceptual background of Luke's statement (III.3.2.1.4.).
Finally we examine other references or implications as to the state of Gentiles prior to faith (III.3.2.2.).

3.2.1. The state of Gentiles prior to faith in direct address (Acts 26.16-29)
The close link between solution and plight, between God's saving intervention and the Gentiles' state prior to faith is most obvious in the summary of
Paul's ministry and message in Acts 26.18. This most comprehensive estimate of the Gentiles' state occurs in Paul's speech of defence before the
Gentile Festus and his visitor Herod Agrippa 11 (Acts 25.23-27). In addition
to its comprehensiveness, two further characteristics add to the significance
of this passage. 1. Paul summarises his ministry by quoting his commission
through the risen Christ (Acts 26.15f) who constitutes the highest authority
on Luke's pages. 2. This passage provides the 'theologische Begrtlndung filr
die Notwendigkeit des missionarischen Dienstes des Paulus'636 which was
not undisputed.
As with earlier speeches it becomes apparent that the speech and its context are closely related.

3.2.1.1. The preceding context (Acts 26.16f)


Paul is to serve and to testify to the things in which he has seen the risen Jesus and to those in which Jesus will appear to him. Jesus in turn promises
Paul to rescue him from his own people and from the Gentiles to whom he
was sent.
1. The description of Paul's message indicates that it was inseparable from
Jesus and consisted of him. Paul was to proclaim to Gentiles what neither he
nor anybody else could know naturally or conclude apart from this revelation of Jesus. Paul himself had to be and would be shown Jesus and his significance and through his proclamation the Gentiles had to be shown. 637 With
this message Paul was to fulfil the task outlined in Acts 26.18.

636
637

Baumbach, Verstiindnis, 166f.


Previous references p.icture Paul fulfilling this charge,Acts 14.7; 17.18,31.

3. The state and salvation of Gentiles prior to faith

245

2. Divine protection is needed from the Gentile recipients of Paul's message. Though Paul is to proclaim what otherwise could not be known, this message and its messenger would not find enthusiastic acceptance, rather lifethreatening resistance and rejection would arise (ct. Luke 10.3). What Gentiles did not and could not know, would be violently rejected once made
known. Salva tion and correction are not eagerly awaited nor warmly received.
Paul requires divine rescue from the very beneficiaries of his message. Ibis
promise already gives some indication as to the state of the Gentiles.
This reference to the rejection of God's messenger with this testimony ties in with
Luke's previous description of Gentiles: Not only did such rejection occur, but on several
occasions also the Gentiles were quick to endorse unworthy causes and characters.6Ja

3.2.1.2. Paul's message and ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 26.18)

Paul was sent to the Gentiles with this message 'to open their eyes so that
they might turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God,
so that they might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who
are sanctified by faith in him'. Apart from this message Gentiles are blind
(1), in darkness (2) and under the power of Satan (3). They need to turn to
God (4) and need forgiveness of sins (5). The unholy Gentiles need to receive a new position among those sanctified by faith in Jesus (6).
What Luke offers here is a general description of the Gentiles (v. 17) and therefore not
applicable in detail to every individual. Luke has previously mentioned individual Gentiles attracted to Judaism and the positive consequences of such an association. The description is clearly less applicable to such God-fearing Gentiles. TIlOugh they were well
on their way to salvation, Luke still affirms their need of salvation (cf. the discussion of
the God-fearers in 111.3.3.3.3.).

3.2.1.2.1. Closed eyes

Paul's commission to avo~UL o<Pf}uAllouS- implies that' the Gentiles' eyes


are closed and need to be opened so that they may turn from darkness to
light. As with darkness-light imagery, this expression is familiar on Luke's
pages, as are references to seeing and failing to perceive.639
~voU;aL

{lIp!l-a)"fLou; describes a revelation of something otherwise unknown: The two


disciples' eyes had to be opened to recognise the risen Jesus (liLT\VOLx-&r]oav ot oqJ"!l-aAfLol,

638 Non-Jews enthusiastically accepted Simon, Elymas had some influence over Sergius, the Philippian crowds joined the slave owners and the Ephesians supported the
guild's cause. Gentiles followed Jewish instigation against Paul. The very occasion of
Paul's speech in Acts 26 reflects this Gentile characteristic: Felix rejected Paul's message,
failed to administer justice to Paul and left him in prison for Festus to deal with his case.
639 Cf. Luke 8.10; Acts 9.8;Taeger,Mensch, 68,n.257.

246

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

Luke 24.31), Jesus then opened the Scriptures to them (~LTJ"OLY" "ta~ YQa'Pa~, 24.32).
Later he opened the minds of the other disciples to understand Scripture (~LTJVOLI;EV
alJ"t(j)V tOY vovv, 24.45; for Acts 16.14 cf. III.3.2.1.3.2., 111.3.3.2.2.6.). Paul opened the
Scriptures in their new interpretation (~Lavo(ywv, Acts 17.3). In these other references
the subject of this 'opening' is always distinct from the objects or beneficiaries. Likewise,
the Gentiles did not and could not open their eyes themselves.

Gentile eyes are closed to the truth and their true state. This observation
cautions against assuming much adequate 'natural' insight among the Gentiles. Through their blindness they do not recognise the darkness they live
in and the bondage they live under. They continue in their blindness and
even resist attempts to enlighten them in the proclamation (cf. Acts 26.17).
Only through God's intervention is sight restored. However the Gentiles' own contribution to their turning is to be assessed, it is only possible
after the initial divine opening. Luke adduces ample evidence for this
blindness (in their thinking and practice, e.g. their idolatry and repeated ascription of divinity to humans) and for the fact that the Gentiles have not
opened their eyes themselves.
3.2.1.2.2. In darkness

Gentiles are to turn from their state of darkness to light. On two previous
occasions OX()"T;O~ or OX01;(U was the implied state of Gentiles, when God's
salvation is described as the light to illumine them.
1. Simeon identified Jesus as the salvation which God had prepared in the
presence of all peoples 64o, 'a light for revelation to the Gentiles' (cpw~ Et~
U3tOXUAtJ'I\'LV, Luke 2.30-32). This salvation and light of revelation is needed
to illuminate those in darkness.
Das Licht des Messias wird den HeidenvOlkern so scheinen, daB sie die notwendige
'Enthiillung', 'Offenbarung' bekommen, die sie herausrettet aus ihrer Finsternis, ihnen heraushilft aus ihrem Irrtum liber Gott und liber sein Yolk Israel. Selbstverstiindlich ist dieses enthlillende Licht als wirkkriiftig gedacht ... 641

2. The missionaries are to be 'a light for the Gentiles (cpWS- e-8vwv, Isa 49.6;
cf. 42.6f) so that they may bring salvation to the ends of the earth' (Acts
13.46f). While Israel had a history of salvation to reflect on (13.17-25), prior
640 Aawv here refers to Israel and the Gentile nations. Cf. Farris, Hymns, 148 for discussion and arguments why both expressions also refer to Gentiles; against Kilpatrick,
'Aaol'.
64! Schlirmann 1,126; cf. Nolland,120. Both areas of error suggested by SchUrmann are
amply illustrated in Luke-Acts. Berger, 'Canticum' ,36 interprets God's revelation as 'sie
in die Erkenntnis und Anerkenntnis Gottes hineinzufiihren'; cf. A. Oepke, ThWNT Ill,
(565-96) 573.34-580.4 for revelation in the OT. Gentiles lack and can not attain themselves all that revelation is and entails; cf. Oepke's summary pp. 595.5-596.8.

3. The state and salvation of Gentiles prior to faith

247

to this light Gentiles are in darkness and do not know or have salvation. In
Acts 26.23 Paul returns to this proclamation of cpUi~: Through his proclamation of light to Jews and Gentiles, the risen Messiah will dispel all darkness
(ct. Luke 1.78f).
In addition to having closed eyes, Gentiles are in darkness, in need of divine light and revelation to dispel darkness and to recognise the true state
of affairs and need for salvation. The theoretical and practical consequences of these needs have been illustrated in Luke's portrayal of Gentiles prior to faith. Gentiles have been characterised as lacking revelation.
This repeated application of darkness-light imagery to Gentiles also indicates that whatever Gentiles have to offer is subsumed under the verdict
'darkness'. What Gentiles know or can know of themselves is insufficient.
In their present situation Gentiles are unable to help themselves. They have
no light and cannot illumine themselves. Paul's commission indicates that
help from outside is necessary to dispel this darkness, to proclaim the true
state and to procure change.
3. The imagery of darkness also occurs in contexts relevant to Gentiles.
3.1. The disciples are sons of light (Luke 16.8) in contrast to the darkened children of
this age. According to Baumbach, !jlw~ is
Bezeichnung ... fUr den durch Christus erschlossenen Heilsbereich .. , Dementsprechend wird 'diese Welt' als 'Finsternis' bezeichnet und als 'Herrschaftsgebiet des Satans' verstanden ... 'Diese Welt' mit ihrer Macht und ihrem Glanz wird vom Satan beherrscht, die 'S6hne dieses Aons' stehen darum im 'Machtbereich des Satans' (Apg.
26.18), die 'S6hne des Lichts' geh6ren dagegen zu der in Jesus erschienenen zukUnftigen Welt des Lichtes ... 6<2
The reference to the darkened sons of this age appears in a context familiar for Luke's
Gentiles. The steward of Luke 16 tried to secure his existence with what he had at his disposal. This material preoccupation is ascribed to Gentiles in Luke 12.30; 17.27f and illustrated in several incidents. Also the second concern of the people of this age, namely to
marry and be given in marriage (Luke 20.34-36) appears as a Gentile concern in Luke
17.27.
3.2. The following mention of Satan in Acts 26.18 is also not surprising as on two previous occasions darkness and the devil were closely related.
The conspiracy to engineer Jesus' death gained momentum when Satan entered Judas
(Luke 22.3).643 In the subsequent arrest the 'power of darkness' became manifest
Verstiincinis, 197,199.
Cf. Nolland, 1029f; Brown, Death, 259; Fitzmyer, 1374-76. Though another motive is
not provided, there possibly is reference to Judas' greediness in Luke 22.5. Fitzmyer,
1375 suggests on 22.5: 'this detail takes on a significantly ominous nuance. It specifies the
Satanic element in the evil that Judas does'. Satan triggered and drove the passion events
including Gentile involvement; cf. III.2.1.2.
In John 13.26f Satan enters Judas during the Last Supper (not previously as in Luke 22.
3), immediately afterwards Judas ESf]k-frEV E-uthi~. ~v 6E w; (v. 30; Luke's only temporal
reference is Luke 22.14); cf. C. Dietzfelbinger, Der Abschied des Kommenden: Eine
Aus/egung der johanneischen Abschiedsreden, WUNT 95 (TUbingen: lC.B. Mohr, 1997),
642

643

248

Ill. The Gentile encounter with salvation

(22.53).64< Brown concludes from Luke 22.53: darkness 'is the domain of sin and ignorance presided over by Satan, a domain opposed to Jesus who is light and whose followers must walk in light'.645
As a punishment, physical blindness and darkness came over Elymas, the devil's agent,
in accordance with his inner state (Acts 13.11). Pesch notes: 'Mit den Mitteln der Wundergeschichte ist der theologisch-anthropologische Zusammenhang von "Verblendung"
und "Blindheit" als Tat-Folge-Zusammenhang ("Strafe") interpretiert'.646

3.2.1.2.3. Under the power of Satan

Gentiles are to turn a:7to ... "tfi\; t!;OlJOLCl\; "tou OCl"tClVc'i E:7tL "tov -frEOV. Though
blind and in darkness, Gentiles were not on neutral ground but were under
the power of 8atan.647
Satan and his influence on Gentiles were previously described on several occasions....
Though not all Gentiles were equally and perceptibly affected, some Gentiles were
manifestly under demonic possession, though possessed Gentiles are nowhere described
as being subject to Satan's power to a greater extent than others. The same is true for disease, another expression of Satan's power. Luke's portrayal does not indicate a striking
concentration of possession or disease among Gentiles, nor that deliverance from such
was a regular or dominant feature of the Gentile mission (although see below on 1.).
However, we noted that incidents mentioning the devil's dominion appear at key points
in Luke's narrative and are representative rather than exceptional (III.2.2.17.2.3.2.).
Where such demonic power became manifest, Gentiles were helpless.

17f; R.E. Brown, The Gospel according to John (xiii-xxi): Introduction, Translation, and
Notes, AncB 29a (Garden City: Doubleday, 1970),576,579; G. Delling, Th WNT IV, 111720.
64< Cf. NolIand, 1089; Brown, Death, 291-93. Baumbach, Verstiindnis, 190 suggests that
E!;ouoiu 'tou ou'tuvd (Acts 26.18) is 'die lukanische Interpretation von ox6to~.... 1st
ab er die E!;ouoiu tOU outuvd mit dem ox6to~ identisch, dann muG die E;OUOLU 'tOU
(JX6'tou~ mit dem Satan gleichgesetzt werden .... Die Verbindung "eure Stunde und die
Macht der Finsternis" zeigt, daB in der Gefangennahme Jesu durch die jUdische Obrigkeit der mit der Finsterni.s identische Satan zur MachtfOlle gelangt'. Cf. pp. 171,189;
Brown, Death, 16lf, 186, 1042. Nolland. 1156 comments on the darkness of Luke 23.44:
'For the Lukan sense, surely 22.53 must direct our understanding: Luke thinks of the Satanic onslaught that stands behind the cruel deed that comes now to its fruition ... this
climax to Satan's activity'.
64S Death, 292; cf. H. Conzelmann, ThWNT VII, 429.9-32 for the OT significance of
darkness (darkness expresses the concealment of God, p.430.16f). Luke does not explain
this Gentile darkness as a punitive darkening in response to their sin (cf. pp. 431.23-432.2;
Rom 1.21;Eph 4.17-19).
646 Cf. MuBner, 78: 'Ely