Kenneth D. Litwak, «Israel’s Prophets Meet Athens’ Philosophers: Scriptural Echoes in Acts 17,22-31», Vol. 85 (2004) 199-216
Generally, treatments of Paul’s speech note biblical parallels to Paul’s wording but find no further significance to these biblical allusions. This study argues that Luke intends far more through this use of the Scriptures of Israel beyond merely providing sources for Paul’s language. I contend that, through the narrative technique of "framing in discourse", Luke uses the Scriptures of Israel to lead his audience to interpret Paul’s speech as standing in continuity with anti-idol polemic of Israel’s prophets in the past. As such, read as historiography, Luke’s narrative uses this continuity to legitimate Paul’s message and by implication, the faith of Luke’s audience. Luke’s use of the Scriptures here is ecclesiological.
Israelâ€™s Prophets Meet Athensâ€™ Philosophers 201
treat Paulâ€™s wording as â€œparallelâ€ to many scriptural texts. They do not
take this beyond an observation, and do not generally seek to treat in
any systematic way what the force of these parallels signify. For
example, multiple scholars see parallels between Paulâ€™s words in Acts
17,23 and Isa 45,14; Acts 17,24-25 and Gen 1â€“2, Isa 42,5, Ps 145,6, Gen
14,22, Exod 20,11, 1 Kgs 8,27, Ps 50,7-13, and Gen 2,7; Acts 17,26 and
Gen 2,7-8, the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 10, Gen 11,9, Deut 32,8;
Acts 17,27 and Gen 1,28â€“2,3, Deut 4,29, Ps 10,4 (MT), Isa 55,6, and
Amos 5,6; Acts 17,29 and Deut 4,28-29, Psalm 113, Isa 40,19-19, Isa
44,9-20, and Isa 46,5-6; and Acts 17,31 and Pss 9,9, 95,13 and 97,9. It
is not at all my intent to deny these parallels. Rather, I want to ask what
these authors generally do not ask, What is the significance of the
intertextual echoes in Paulâ€™s speech? I will consider these and other
possible echoes below. While other scholars have recognized these
parallels, they have done nothing with such observations. For example,
Fitzmyer â€™s observation on the scriptural language of Acts 17,25 consists
of the banal statement that â€œPaul echoes a motif common to the OTâ€ (5).
While KÃ¼lling has a greater focus on scriptural parallels, even his
monograph related to the speech does little more with Lukeâ€™s use of the
Scriptures of Israel than observations such as that on Acts 17,24, when
he states that the phrase pavnta ta; ejn aujtw/' indicates that Luke has
introduced a proposition of OT cosmology into the Areopagus speech(6).
This study argues that these â€œparallelsâ€ serve a greater function within
Paulâ€™s speech than making it sound â€œbiblicalâ€.
I contend that, on the contrary, these are not merely parallels, but
intentional intertextual echoes that are pervasive in Paulâ€™s speech and
have a purpose far beyond simply making Paulâ€™s speech â€œparallelâ€ in
thought (7). To see these many echoes as merely â€œparallelsâ€ or texts to
be compared, e.g., â€œcf. Gen 2,7â€, while useful, is a reductionisitic
understanding of what Luke is doing with the Scriptures of Israel in
Paulâ€™s speech (8). Paulâ€™s speech echoes core scriptural traditions,
â€œDivine Revelationâ€, ERT 12 (1988) 226-239; and B. GÃ„RTNER, The Areopagus
Speech and Natural Revelation (Uppsala 1955).
(5) J. FITZMYER, The Acts of the Apostle. A New Translation with Introduction
and Commentary (New York 1998) 608.
(6) KÃœLLING, Geoffenbartes, 54.
(7) I am using the term â€œintertextual echoâ€ in much the same way as it is used
by R.B. HAYS, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven, CT 1989).
(8) For a similar argument based on other parts of Luke-Acts, see K.D.
LITWAK, Echoes of Scripture in Luke-Acts. Telling the History of Godâ€™s People
Intertextually (Ph.D. diss., University of Bristol 2003).