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 211
was provoked by all the idols. One can find similar statements in the
Scriptures of Israel. 1 Kgs 16,13 records that God was provoked by
the idols of the people. (Cf. 1 Kgs 16,26; 2 Kgs 17,16-17; Jer 8,19).
This is not to suggest that Paul is standing in the place of God, but that
to speak of one being provoked by idols is a well-known concept in the
Scriptures of Israel. This means that the narrative context of Paulâ€™s
speech begins with something common in the Scriptures of Israel:
being provoked by idols. Then Paul begins his speech and immediately
starts with echoes of scriptural traditions. Since the narrative context of
Paulâ€™s speech begins with scriptural echoes, and his speech is pervaded
by them, from a narrative perspective Lukeâ€™s discourse about Paulâ€™s
speech in Athens exemplifies framing in discourse via echoes of
scriptural intertexts. When Lukeâ€™s audience first encounters Acts
17,16, some of them at least will recall the background in the
Scriptures of Israel concerning God, or the prophets or kings being
provoked or grieved over the idols of the Israelites. This would lead
Lukeâ€™s audience to expect a narrative about condemnation of idolatry.
When Paul is presented as saying the same kinds of things that Israelâ€™s
prophets from the past said about idols, Lukeâ€™s audiences will
naturally interpret Paulâ€™s speech, based on this â€œpropheticâ€ discursive
framing as anti-idol polemic in the mold of the prophets of old (33).
Luke has purposely composed his narrative to frame his discourse with
scriptural echoes, especially those that point to the contrast between
pagan worship and conceptions of God, and proper worship and
correct understanding of the one true God. Since Luke provides this
framing in discourse through the Scriptures of Israel, his audience will
be led to expect a similar prophetic condemnation of pagan worship
and beliefs about the (false) gods. At every turn, Paul echoes the
traditional, scriptural concepts that are used by Israelite prophets in
their condemnation of idolatry. Therefore, on a narrative level, Lukeâ€™s
audience will be led to interpret Paulâ€™s speech as the same type of
anti-idol prophetic critique. This discursive framing guides Lukeâ€™s
audience in how to read the story of Paul at Athens and in how to
(33) This is not meant to suggest that there are specific categories of framing
in discourse, including a prophetic one. Framing in discourse does not come in
categories but is a narrative strategy to help an audience understand a narrative.
Therefore, when I refer to Lukeâ€™s discursive framing in this speech as
â€œpropheticâ€, I am only observing that in this particular account, and in this
particular speech, Luke uses intertextual echoes of prophetic anti-idol polemic to
frame his discourse. This is not like form criticism, where there are allegedly a
small number of categories into which every gospel pericope must fit.