Book of Acts at ETS

I am attending the Evangelical Theological Society meeting in New Orleans this week.  I realize the SBL bloggers get all the press, but I enjoy ETS as well.  It is obviously a lot more tame and evangelical, but there is some good scholarship going on which unfortunately gets dismissed since it is coming from conservatives, relatively speaking.

I attended what was billed as the “Luke/Acts Consultation,” although it was only three papers, one of which was a last minute replacement.  Mark Strauss began with a great paper on the purpose of Luke / Acts, surveying the several suggestions found in the literature and concluding that the purpose was to “legitimatize” the Christian / Gentile mission rather than an evangelistic purpose (i.e., to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ).  During the discussion after his paper, several expressed the thought that it is hard separate this from the purpose of evangelism,

While I have always been attracting to the idea that the document as we have it now served some function in Paul’s legal defense, Strauss made the comment that no Roman official would wade through all of the obvious theology of the books in order to get a few items of legal interest.

David Pao read a draft of a paper which is to be published in JBL.  He dealt with the problem of the deacons, who appear to be selected to deal with food distribution but instead are noted preachers and evangelists, never actually “waiting tables.”  Pao’s suggestion is that the food distribution was an extension of Jesus’ own table fellowship and therefore part of the eschatological banquet.  They were not called to “wait tables” but to be leaders who facilitated table fellowship.  As much as I enjoyed his paper, I think that there are a few serious problems with the thesis, not the least of which is that the Apostles themselves made the distinction between waiting tables and preaching when they suggested appointing the seven.  I am a bit more inclined to see the activity of the Seven in terms of Hellenistic / Greek speaking Jewish ministry in the Synagogue of the Freedmen at the same time that the Apostles are in the Temple area doing ministry among Aramaic speaking Jews. I do think that he is correct to see table-fellowship in the context of Jesus’ ministry, especially in Luke / Acts.

Since my dissertation deals with the eschatological banquet in Jesus’ ministry, I will return to Pao’s article in the future – it is a worthy contribution.

David Pao now chairs this consultation and hopes to expand the paper offerings next year.

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