Archive for January, 2009
The falling of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his household is traditionally understood as the “Gentile Pentecost” or the first time the Spirit falls on Gentiles (10:44 and 11:15). And, in the narrative of Luke-Acts this episode is quite important, no doubt. But, I wonder if it is right to say it is the FIRST time the Spirit had fallen on a Gentile. I have no investment in this theory and I am sure there are valid rebuttals, but…
Acts 6:5 mentions last in the list of the seven deacons Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. This mention does a couple of things for the narrative—one of the clear signs that the seven deacons were Hellenists (and in Nicolaus’s case, a Gentile); a mention of Antioch, which will become a central city in the story. What rarely gets attention is the fact that at least one Gentile is among the early Christian community before the “Gentile Pentecost.” Also, we can confidently say that Nicolaus was filled with the Spirit, since this was a qualification for the deacons (6:3). And, we can wonder whether Nicolaus was among those who were filled with the Spirit after the prayer in ch. 4 (see 4:31; there is some debate about whether the gathering was of the apostles alone or several members of the community. The debate hinges on how one understands “their own” in 4:23). Or, could Nicolaus have been present at the original Pentecost event (ch. 2)?
Just a thought.
From the forthcoming Cascade Companion on the Theological Interpretation of Scripture by Stephen Fowl:
…asserting that any single concept, perspective or theme works to unify the NT often leads others to claim that to give one perspective priority over the others establishes a canon within the canon, thus failing to treat the entire NT with equal seriousness. In the light of this charge, it is not unusual for some to claim that there is really no way to unify the differing theological perspectives in the NT, much less the entire Bible, without doing a disservice to some of these other perspectives. In response to this, NT theologians tend to move back towards a practice of simply cataloging the diverse theologies of Scripture. As noted above, this is not very satisfying theologically. This dissatisfaction then tends to start the whole process over again.
After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea,’ they told him ‘for this is what the prophet wrote:
And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah,
for out of you will come a leader
who will shepherd my people Israel.’
Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. ‘Go and find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’ Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward, and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way. (NJB)
I wonder if using Oliver Stone and his many biopic movies is a good way to discuss Luke’s historic narrative of the early church. Like Luke, Stone does his homework—whether we agree with his interpretation of history is another question. Like Luke, he has to be selective with the scenes he retells—and, with the ones he does retell, some get more attention than others. Like Luke, he has a purpose other than reporting history.