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The Acts of the Apostles: Interpretation, History and Theology Paperback – March 18, 2016
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"This study of the book of Acts presents Luke not only as author but also as exemplary historian, storyteller and theologian. Luke's three-stranded cord of authorial discourse is on conspicuous display in his composition of Peter's, Stephen's, Philip's and Paul's speeches. Where other textbooks often focus on the narratives in Acts (e.g., Pentecost) and the practices of the early church, Padilla highlights the speeches in Acts and their continuing significance, going beyond the call of New Testament duty by dialoguing with postliberal theologians and asking whether they can do justice to the speeches in Acts and in particular their truth claims. The result is an introductory text that not only illumines the book of Acts, but also encourages Christians today to 'act out the acts of the apostles' (John Donne), to speak out their speech acts." (Kevin J. Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)
"It is rare to find a work that blends epistemological, hermeneutical and historiographic sophistication with mature handling of the extensive primary and secondary literature, but this is such a work. Padilla's introduction to questions of the authorship and genre of Acts and the character of its speeches is a superbly informed and trustworthy guide." (Craig Keener, F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary)
"Osvaldo Padilla has put students and professors in his debt with this lucid and wide-ranging 'advanced introduction' to Acts. He shows a fine grasp of Acts itself and the extensive scholarly discussion over the last two hundred years. He identifies the key points at issue in the debates and provides accessible and well-thought-out assessments that guide readers clearly through the forest of opinions. He addresses issues that particularly concern readers who hold a 'high view' of Scripture and want to relate historical claims to faith. His concluding chapter, engaging with the justification of truth claims as expounded in post-liberalism, is fresh and provocative, showing a thoughtful and nuanced understanding of the claims that Acts makes as part of Christian Scripture. A valuable and helpful book." (Steve Walton, St. Mary's University, Twickenham, London)
About the Author
Osvaldo Padilla (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is associate professor of New Testament at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. He is the author of The Speeches of Outsiders in Acts: Poetics, Theology, and Historiography and he has written articles and reviews for Themelios, Bulletin for Biblical Research, New Testament Studies and Ex Auditu. Previously, he taught New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and served as pastor of Jesus el Buen Pastor, a Hispanic congregation in the Chicago area. He is married to Kristen, and they have one son.
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In the next chapter Padilla covers genre, first providing a brief history of genre theory and then summarizing and evaluating the major proposals for the genre of Acts. His own conclusion is that Acts is a “Hellenistic historical monograph in the Jewish tradition” (62), and Padilla justifies this suggestion robustly by looking at predecessors (e.g. OT historical books, 1-2 Macc., etc.) as well as analyzing the form, subject, features, and preface of Acts. This chapter concludes with a reflection on how seeing Acts as a historical monograph aids our interpretation of this text. In Chapter 3 Padilla examines how Luke wrote history. He begins by looking at the preface to the Gospel According to Luke; in showing how it’s filled with both historiographical and theological terminology, Padilla demonstrates that Luke was a theological historian. Next, he looks at Luke as storyteller and shows how Luke compresses stories for theological effect and how he presents a cohesive narrative for theological purposes. This chapter concludes with a look at the professionalization of history and postmodern historiography. One of the key things Padilla aims to demonstrate in this chapter is that the theological and storied characteristics of Acts do not prevent it from being reliable history.
The next two chapters deal with the speeches of Acts, with the first looking at speech-writing in ancient history. There seems to be a spectrum, but Padilla argues that Luke was on the end that was concerned about providing an accurate summary of what was said. At the end of this chapter Padilla’s evangelical convictions come out, which will delight evangelical readers and frustrate others. He affirms the importance of historical work and being open to the conclusions wherever they may lead, but also notes that we trust the veracity of the speeches because they are part of Scripture. The second chapter on speeches expounds upon the theology of five key speeches in Acts: Peter at Pentecost (2:1-41), Stephen (7:1-53), Peter at the home of Cornelius (10:24-48), Paul’s speech in Athens (17:16-31), and Paul’s speech before Agrippa (26:1-32). This is obviously the most theologically rich chapter of the book and one that every Christian would enjoy and benefit greatly from, even those who do not have interest in introductory matters. The final chapter provides an overview of postliberalism and then looks at how its main proposals can help us answer the question of how Acts justifies its truth claims.
The Acts of the Apostles: Interpretation, History, and Theology is a must-read on Acts for advanced Bible college and seminary students as well as advanced lay students of the Bible. I used the word advanced not just because Padilla himself refers to this book as an advanced introduction (hence it might be too difficult without some prior exposure to these subject matters), but also because there’s a good bit of Greek (more than I’ve ever seen in an IVP book), none of which is transliterated. While there is some overlap with traditional matters of prolegomena on Acts that you’d get in the introduction of a solid commentary, what’s presented here is conversant with the latest scholarship on Acts; even discussions of “typical” topics are informed by new proposals. But what is unique about this book (new questions, new perspectives) is certainly worth the price of the book. I appreciated the robust chapters on speeches (which I assume was influenced by Padilla’s Cambridge dissertation on speeches in Acts), as well as the interactions with philosophical hermeneutics and postliberalism (pretty rare in biblical studies books!).
*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review*
The first chapter is about who wrote the book of Acts. He arrives at the traditional conclusion of Luke after he deals with all the other views and criticisms of the traditional view. When he writes on the genre of acts, he concludes that it is a Hellenistic historical monograph the Jewish tradition. Along the way, he surveys a lot of scholarly nonsense that has been believed. On the subject of how Luke writes history, he deals with a lot of negative scholarship that has concluded bizarre things. Still, he concludes that Luke is a trustworthy historian.
The next two chapters on the speeches in Acts were the best in the entire book. He is known as a specialist in the speeches and it shows. His working through each of the speeches provided many amazing insights. A great deal of theology is also revealed. The final chapter on the justification of truth-claims in Acts is merely answering postliberalism’s attack on Acts that has been relentless.
This book will delight scholars. Some parts of it will be less interesting to pastors, but it is clear in what it discusses and will be considered a very important contribution in the study of the book of Acts.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.