neilgodfrey wrote: ↑Sat Feb 03, 2024 12:46 am
Spin introduced the "Westar Institute Acts Seminar findings on the book of Acts". It is worth taking a look at the basis of that Seminar's conclusions.
Why Does This Study Make Such
a Severe Break with Previous Scholarship?
Many of our colleagues in New Testament studies will disagree with our conclusions, primarily because we have departed so radically from previous interpretations of Acts. We reached these conclusions, however, because we developed a different set of working hypotheses, as outlined in the Introduction. Our conclusions are based on our view that Acts was written in the early second century and that it used the letters of Paul as a primary source. Much of the previous scholarship had assumed that Acts was written in ca. 85 ce, did not use the letters of Paul, and could possibly have had access to eyewitness sources. With a methodology based on these presuppositions, previous scholarship often found Acts to be a mostly reliable historical resource. In contrast, our presuppositions tend to rule out all previous methods for analyzing Acts as history. Once one understands Acts as a second-century document, the methodology and the burden of proof completely change. From this perspective, we now consider Acts to be unreliable unless proven otherwise.
The Acts Seminar, therefore, is the product of a paradigm shift that is taking place in scholarship. No longer can scholarly consensus assume a first-century date for Acts. The arguments for dating Acts in the second century are substantial and compelling. What we have accomplished in the Acts Seminar project is a complete and systematic re-reading of Acts according to the new paradigm.
Smith, Dennis Edwin. Acts and Christian Beginnings: The Acts Seminar Report, 2013 p. 329
I would like to suggest that a shorter route to the same conclusion was possible, or at least one that did not rely entirely upon identifying the letters of Paul as sources.
We have no independent evidence to help us identify the author or provenance of Acts. Our most secure starting point is the late second century references pointing us to our earliest documented awareness of Acts (i.e. Irenaeus).
Countless studies have long pointed to various sources for the individual narratives of Acts -- these have ranged from adaptions of episodes in the Gospel of Luke (e.g. the trials of Jesus alongside the trials or hearings of Paul); adaptations even of characters within Acts (e.g. the duplication of Peter's experiences in those of Paul); the adaptations of the healings in the Gospel of Mark to those in Acts (e.g. the healing of the bedridden); the adaptations of Maccabean literature (e.g. details of Paul's conversion); adaptations of "OT stories (e.g. Pentecost/Babel).... a long bibliography of detailed episodes could be compiled.
Moreover, on top of such suggestive hints of sources for specific incidents, one can cite studies examining the grand overview of Acts also being adapted from grand overviews of the founding myth of Rome and epics of Homer (e.g. Bonz, MacDonald).
Further, once we begin with this most secure starting point (second century provenance on the basis of independent witness) we further have additional independent factors making a contribution to our reading: anti-Marcionism becomes relevant and interpretable in Acts once we move it to this time period (Tyson).
In other words, by beginning with the time bracket where we have our most secure independent supports, and taking into account the many evident sources for episodes in Acts (GMark, GLuke, 2 Maccabees, Genesis, contest with a Marcionite Paul, along with its patent repetition and mirroring of Peter in the later chapters of Paul) and taking note of our ignorance of the identity of the author of Acts (notwithstanding -- or because of -- the prologue and "we passages") and its provenance, along with observations about its blended fictional-epic-historiographical genre, we have few grounds for accepting any of the contents of Acts as historical.
Contrast other Greco-Roman historiographical writings in which the authors generally make some effort to assure readers/auditors of the authenticity of what they are reading/hearing by reference to appeals to quite specific incidences of eyewitness reports or specific authorial declarations of authenticity. Acts is a poor comparison.