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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Healthy Dose of Informed Discussion, August 13, 2004
In Paul in Acts, Porter contributes some excellent analysis to issues related to Paul and Acts. He begins with informed and helpful discussions about the "we passages." He does not come across as an advocate for "liberal" or "conservative" positions on Acts. He stops short of concluding that the "we passages" are authorial, instead favoring the theory that these portions of Acts were derived from an earlier written source--probably by a companion of Paul. Though his reasons for favoring a written nonauthorial source are lacking in my opinion, his analysis regarding certain radical approaches to the "we passages" is first rate. Porter effectively refutes the notion that Acts is "Ancient Romance," as advocated by Richard Pervo. He then even more decisively refutes the lingering notion that the "we passages" were a common literaty device for narrating sea voyages, popularized by Vernon Robbins.

Porter also has a chapter on the Holy Spirit and Paul that is interesting, but seemed a little out of place given the selection of topics in the rest of the book.

Next, Porter turns his attention to the speeches in Acts. The discussion is somewhat informative, but despite a paragraph on Thucydides, engages the comparative literature of the period less than I would have liked. The strength of these chapters, however, is distinguishing between what we can learn about Paul's rhetoric from his letters as opposed to the reality of Paul's skills. Porter does not believe that a comparison between Acts' depiction of Paul's speeches and the "rhetoric" of Paul's letters is a fair analysis. But Porter gleans more from a comparison of the theology of Paul's letters to that of Paul in Acts, and finds that "there are greater theological commonalities . . . than is often admitted."

Porter concludes with an excellent discussion of how the Paul of the letters compares with the Paul in Acts. Indeed, Chapter 9 is one of the best treatments I have read of this issue. Though Porter recognizes that Acts was written with its own agenda and purpose, he debunks many of the usual lines of attacking Acts as inconsistent with the "historical Paul." Discussing topics ranging from Paul's mission and relations with Jews to his Christology and Eschatology, Porter shows again and again that many scholars have exaggerated (or manufactured) the tension between the Paul of Acts and the Paul of the letters. Ultimately, Porter concludes that there is nothing about the supposed differences that precludes the author of Acts from having personally known Paul.

Just to dispell any expecatations, Porter spends little time on some issues you might expect to find in the book (judging it by its cover). He spends little or no time discussing issues like Paul's Tarsus origins, his Pharisaic upbringing and training, his Roman citizenship or even his conversion. What I described above is about all you get. Of course, I think it is well worth the price and a valuable addition to my library on matters Paul and Acts.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tasty Preview of Porter's Upcoming Commentary on Acts, August 28, 2006
Stanley Porter has a major evangelical commentary coming out based upon the Greek text of Acts, and this book is an excellent preview of coming attractions. Porter does a good job at showing Paul's career as orator, missionary, and apologist in the context of Acts.

He begins by surveying the first person plural "we" passages in Acts, (small collections of material found in Acts 16:8- Acts 28:20) and concludes that this is a written source that comes from someone other than Luke, but that Luke has woven it seamlessly into his narrative. I wish Porter would have given us a couple of reasons why he feels this is so. At this time, I remain unconvinced by this. I prefer the traditional position that Luke has given us his eyewitness account of his travels with Paul in these passages.

But Porter does a good job of showing how these "we passages" highlight the integrity and character of the apostle Paul.

In a later discussion, Porter shows that in the book of Acts, there are references to the Holy Spirit at most of the key and transitional moments in Paul's ministry. But he says there is no clear, systematic pattern. Some texts show the Spirit hindering Paul from going to certain places (Acts 16:8), other references are to Paul being filled with the spirit (Acts 9, 13), and still there are other references to Paul placing his hand on the disciples of Ephesus so that they received the Spirit (Acts 19).

Porter also argues convincingly that even though the speeches of Paul in Acts are probably just summaries of what Paul said on those occasions, they are accurate chronicles of his theology and his apologetics. He goes on to say that there is no clear evidence that the Paul of Acts is fictitious as opposed to the "real Paul" of the epistles.

I thought the book was excellent. Porter shows a good grasp of the Greek text of Acts, and he has a tremendous command of the secondary literature in Pauline studies. This books makes me look forward even more to his already overdue commentary slated to appear in the New International Greek Testament series (NIGTC).
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Paul in Acts (Library of Pauline Studies)
Paul in Acts (Library of Pauline Studies) by Stanley E. Porter (Paperback - November 1, 2000)
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