Paul's addresses to Jewish audiences in the Acts of the Apostles: Luke's model witness and his calling to testify to "the hope of Israel"

Larry David McCormick, Fordham University


Exegetes engaged in the study of Luke-Acts have frequently noted that the author of these two volumes demonstrates repeatedly his concern about the relationship of the Church to the chosen people of God, Israel. These same scholars have recognized that Luke, following the lead of Hellenistic historiography, addresses his "Godfearer" audience most directly in the speeches of Luke-Acts. With these two items of scholarly consensus in hand, the present study approaches Luke's understanding of Israel and the Church as this understanding is revealed in the addresses of Paul to Jewish audiences in the Acts of the Apostles. These addresses may be distinguished formally as Missionsreden (Acts 13:13-52; 18:1-17; 18:14-31) and apologiae (Acts 21:17-23:11; 24:1-26:32). Both forms of address as these are placed upon the lips of Paul present Paul as one who witnesses to the risen Jesus in the face of attack. Such attack leads Paul in each of the Missionsreden to declare his intent to take his missionary witness beyond Israel to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46; 18:6; 28:28). In spite of Jewish opposition to the Christian evangel, at the conclusion of the Acts Paul continues to reach out to all--Jew as well as Gentile--who come to hear him (Acts 28:30). Following the lead of Volker Stolle in his monograph Der Zeuge als Angeklagter, this study examines how the Pauline initiative to Gentile audiences is propelled by the very legal proceedings directed against Paul. The apologiae in the closing chapters of the Acts present a Paul who is, as he always has been, a pious law-abiding Jew. These speeches demonstrate Luke's belief that observance of all things Jewish should lead the children of Israel to see in Jesus' Resurrection the fulfillment of "the hope of Israel." It is this hope as proclaimed by Paul which relates the Church nurtured by Paul to the Israel of God. It is this hope which extends beyond the boundaries of ethnic Jewry to reach the Gentile as well as the Jew. A growing number of contemporary exegetes with whom this study enters into dialogue (Robert Maddox, Jack T. Sanders, and Charles H. Talbert foremost among them) have argued that Luke's two volume work closes the door once and for all on any further mission or ministry to the Jewish nation. Such exegesis fails to account for the openness which Luke's text expresses to just such mission and ministry. God's promise to the chosen people is not supplanted by the Gentile mission. Rather, the illumination of the Gentiles results in the glory of the Israel of God (Luke 2:32). It is the conclusion of this study that the Pauline speeches to Jewish audiences serve to comfort and advise the church of Luke's day as the speeches demonstrate for Christians how their community came to be not an omnium gatherum but a predominantly Gentile enclave. This state of affairs, Luke explains, is in full accord with the divine will as attested by the Scriptures. Christians who are fearful of the validity of the gospel in which they have believed have those fears allayed by a clear demonstration of how the Gentile majority was effected. The good news was presented first to the historic, chosen people of God. From that field has been brought in a great harvest. Now to that great number are added those Gentiles who believe.

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Recommended Citation

McCormick, Larry David, "Paul's addresses to Jewish audiences in the Acts of the Apostles: Luke's model witness and his calling to testify to "the hope of Israel"" (1996). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9628343.