Lectionary Year B
April 27, 2003
Step III: Immediate Context
(WL) A. IMMEDIATE CONTEXT
Pre: Following Pentecost and the giving of the Spirit, Peter delivers the
famous sermon of Acts 2. That chapter ends with a description of the
community of faith, saying some of the same things about the nature of
the community as cited in our pericope.
Chapter 3 begins with a story
of healing and bold testimony to Jesus and the resurrection by Peter and
John. Chapter 4 begins with the arrest of Peter and John. They are
questioned by the Jewish leaders and released with orders to be silent
on this matter of Jesus. They report what has happened to "their own."
There is a prayer of thankgiving and for boldness and power. A shaking
of the place where they have gathered is reported along with the testimony that
they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and were speaking God's word
It is here that our pericope is introduced.
Post: It is followed by the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphire who sell property
and kept back some of the proceeds. Ananias and Sapphire die as a
result. This appears to terrify those in Jerusalem. No one else joined
them but they were held in high esteem by all (5:13). Yet believers are being
added to the Lord. They would bring the sick out so the apostles'
shadows could fall on them.. (Interesting: "believers being added to
the Lord, but no else dared to join them." Does this speak to the
nature of the group described in the pericope: the apostles and the
early converts but not all who accepted Christ?). Then we return to the
Jewish leaders and the second arrest of the apostles.
(WL) B. COMPOSITIONAL WHOLE
Luke's stated objective is to offer an orderly account of the ministry of
Jesus. The Gospel composes the first section. Then, in this second
volume (Acts--which is again addressed to Theophilos ("lover of God"))
beginning with Jesus the story spreads into all the known world: first
to the disciples in Jerusalem, then to the city, then to Samaria, Asia
Minor, Greece and finally Rome.
Luke, assumed to be the author of both Gospel and Acts since the mid-
part of the second century, is reputed to be the traveling companion of the
Apostle Paul. Some of Acts (beginning in the 16th chapter) is written
in the first person plural. Linguistically and stylistically, both
writings appear to come from a common hand.
Dating remains in doubt. The absence of a description of Paul's fate in
Rome has led some to suggest an early dating of 65-67. Others suggest
that the work reflects a perspsective not available at that time,
suggesting a dating in the mid- to late-80s. As Luke's Gospel is often given a date in the late
‘70s to mid-'80s and if this is a companion piece written afterwards, then the later
dating is to be favored.
Assuming Luke to be with Paul from the 16th chapter on, Luke is not
reported to accompany Paul to the Council in Jerusalem in chapter 15.
My conjecture is that Luke witnessed Paul seeking accord with the
apostles in Jerusalem (as far as possible). He sees or hears of Paul
taking collections to support their ministry. It would appear that
those in Jerusalem are held in high esteem, even if the author knows of
their activity only at a second hand level. It is clear that they are
being lifted up as a norm for the behavior of the larger church--a norm
that was not followed anywhere else in NT times, at least to my
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