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The Mystery of Acts: Unraveling Its Story Paperback – December 9, 2008
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This is Pervo's amazing, clear, and unsullied conclusion to his long and magnificent scholarship on Acts. Pervo's conclusion is stunning because it is won by impeccable scholarship and thorough consideration of the traditional views of Luke as historian. It changes the picture of Christian beginnings, and should change the minds of New Testament scholars. --Burton Mack, Professor of Religion and Early Christianity, emeritus Claremont Graduate University
Pervo writes with verve and has a commanding knowledge of the literature on Acts, and his assessment of the theological intent of Acts is informative. --The Bible Today
Richard Pervo, who has dedicated most of his scholarly life to the study of Acts, is an international authority in this area. His new book is intended specifically to introduce the non-specialist to recent research in the field by focusing on the problems of attempting to derive history from the text; indeed, Pervo appreciates the author of Acts more as a creative catechist than as an historian. Ever the thorough expositor, Pervo takes the whole text of Acts into account and, adopting the guise of a detective searching for clues, presents his conclusions in such a lucid and enjoyable way that any intelligent reader will be both instructed and entertained. The specialist, too, will profit from the book, for it presents complicated data along with insightful observations in a simple and thus convincing way. Pervo s new volume is the best concise analysis of Acts that I know of, and that is to say nothing of its wry wit and stylistic polish. --Gerd Ludemann, Professor of New Testament at the University of Gottingen, Germany
About the Author
Richard I. Pervo is the author of several books on Acts including Profit with Delight: The Literary Genre of the Acts of the Apostles (1987), Luke's Story of Paul (1990), Rethinking the Unity of Luke and Acts (with Mikeal A. Parsons, 1993), Dating Acts: Between the Evangelists and the Apologists (2006), and Acts. A Commentary (Hermeneia, 2008).
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Top customer reviews
Altogether, this little book is a biblical block-buster. Expect more wonderful work from Pervo!
If you are truly seeking a deeper level of understanding of Acts, this book is surely a valuable reference.
Pervo's thesis is simple: Acts is beautiful literature, but it is not a historically accurate or reliable book. In the conclusion of the book he states, "...Acts is not a reliable history of Christian origins. One important point is that it does not attempt to be. Another is that the literary techniques are too artistic. The use of cycles, parallels, repetitions, melodramatic characterization, stereotyped scene construction, inventing or presenting stories that replicate biblical narrative, unbalanced narrative with evident symbolic import, and a balanced structure. History cannot be so symmetrical" (Pervo, p. 151).
Pervo makes the point that "Luke," the name given to the anonymous author of the book of Acts and the Gospel of Luke, was not intending to write a history book; he was trying to demonstrate the legitimacy of the Pauline gentile Christianity. Even so, Pervo shows how there are many instances where the Paul of Luke and Acts is different from the Paul of Corinthians or Thessalonians.
Pervo observes, "...Paul is Luke's hero, but the Paul of Acts is often at odds with the Paul revealed in his letters. Historically speaking, there has been a battle over "the real Paul" for more than 150 years" (Pervo, p.143).
Pervo makes it apparent that Luke had bigger motivations than writing for historical accuracy, especially in regards to Paul. "Luke's portrait is clear. Paul is certainly heroic, multi-cultural and omnicompetent, but Luke did not wish simply to paint a larger than life character. his "Renaissance man" is a universal figure, the all-but-perfect representative of an aspiring world religion that would clothe its Jewish message in Greek finery and conquer the Roman world. History would show that Luke was an insightful portrait painter... Acts is replete with historical implausibility, an almost non-existent chronology, and a quite improbable characterization of its leading personality, none of which elements serve history and all of which serve the purposes of the author" (Pervo, p.148-149).
One important point Pervo makes is that just because Acts is not a good history book, this doesn't mean it isn't good literature. Pervo believes that Acts is in fact very good literature, full of rich symbolism, parallels, motifs, allegory, etc. This is a point New Testament scholar Robert M. Price often makes, that whether any book of the New or Old Testament are giving the truth in any sense of the word is irrelevant to appreciating the scriptures as "treasures," as Dr. Price puts it. The entire bible is full of beautiful stories but goes often unappreciated for it's literary charms due to the insistence by Christians that it is the inspired, inerrant word of a deity and should be read as a divinely-inspired history book.
Overall though, The Mystery of Acts is a very insightful, scholarly, short and fairly easy read for those who are interested.
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This one is going to be referred to in my library many times.Read more