Jerusalem in Acts

Here's a quick thought for the day from Mark Kinzer from his breathtakingly amazing book Postmissionary Messianic Judaism (seriously - it is currently my top book of the decade so if nothing better comes along before the end of the year it wins the Robin's best read 2000-2009 award!)

So here's the brief thought. It is often said that there is a geographical movement in Acts away from Jerusalem: From Jerusalem, to Judea, then Samaria, then the ends of the earth. This move is invested with theological freight (Acts starts in Jerusalem and ends in Rome - a move away from a Jewish-shaped faith).

Kinzer argues that the movement in Acts is actually complicated. "It does not begin in Jerusalem and then progressively and steadily radiate outward. Instead, the story continually reverts back to Jerusalem" (Acts 9:26-29; 11:2, 27-30; 15:2; 18:22; 21:17-23:11).

He suggests that the Acts 1:6-12 leads the reader to extect a narrative arc starting and ending in Jerusalem. "The drama would not reach its satisfying conclusion until the arc was again completed and the narrative returned to Jerusalem. Thus Luke deliberately composed an unsatisfying ending [Acts 28 is an odd end] so that we would know that it was not really the ending."

I think that this is a really interesting suggestion and my reading of Luke-Acts (which is not based on scholarly research but is based on lots of readings) inclines me to think that he is right.


Steve Walton said…
Forgive me, but isn't this blindingly obvious? I don't think there are many mainstream serious Acts scholars today who subscribe to the 'away from Judaism' view - Jervell's work, for one, has convinced most that the missions to Jews and Gentiles run in parallel throughout Acts, in accordance with Luke 2:32. But I may just know too much about Acts!
bkvasnica said…
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bkvasnica said…
Robin, a friend tiped me off to your blog and I have to heartily affirm two of your points: 1) I also think that Kinzer's book is my top read in many years; 2) I also was struck by that "returning to Jerusalem" motif in Acts that Kinzer pointed out. Paraphrasing the words of Semitic/Greek Scholar Randall Buth "I've been waiting nearly 30 years for a book like Kinzer's." (See 2008 Lindsey Lectures at To Steve Walton - While many scholars might not write in a "away from Judaism" Acts theology, they do have a "away from Jerusalem" Acts theology which then lends itself to broader NT "away from Judaism" contructs.
John Ottens said…
I'm sorry to be the dissenting voice here, but although I would gladly follow this line of reasoning I find myself a little bit skeptical. I hesitate because of Luke's post-70 status. Luke knows what ends up happening to the temple and what happens to Jerusalem, and so although he is feverishly committed to instructing his readers on the value and importance of the temple and of their Jewish heritage, we have to realize that he is also concerned with a subtle, salvation-historical theodicy which will equip his readers to make sense of the tragic events of recent history.

What do you think, is this fair?
Anonymous said…
And i'm just wondering, if Luke-Acts is post 70AD and destruction of Jerusalem, then could it not still have the same theology as Rev of St John the Divine:
ie that the New Jerusalem will be the true consumation. Another return to Jerusalem!
Robin Parry said…

Thanks. If it is blindingly obvious I am thrilled. I guess that I am used to reading supersessionist interpretations of Acts in which the book is fitted into a theological system that requires an away-from-Judaism movement. There is a lot of people who read the book that way still around (honest). And some of them are certainly scholars too. For instance, I might be mistaken but I think that Tom Wright sees the book that way (apologies to NTW if I have misrepresented him on the basis of my memories of material read many years ago).

So I am very encouraged to hear a solid Acts scholar saying that this is obvious. FAB!

Robin Parry said…

correction "there are a lot"

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