AbstractMy thesis argues that through the literary technique of recursion, the key stories and major characters in the depiction of Paul in Acts 9-28 were strategically arranged by the author to parallel the key stories and major characters in the portrait of Jesus in the Third Gospel. Recursion is a literary device that has wide currency in the Hebrew Bible, is common to the Hellenistic literature of the day, and is part and parcel of Luke’s literary strategy. The narrative technique of recursion is the author’s conscious shaping of narrative events so that key elements of one narrative are repeated with variation in others. We argue that Luke concentrates on Paul in Acts 9-28 because to some Jewish and Gentile readers, his apostleship was suspect, handicapped by an unknown association with Jesus, an adversary of Jesus, persecuting and attempting to wipe out the church. As part of his larger strategy to sanction Paul, the author shapes selected narrative portions of Acts 1-12 so that the depiction of Peter, the Jerusalem apostle par excellence, well established in the minds of readers, is aligned by recursion to remind readers of his association with Jesus in the Third Gospel. If Jesus raises the dead, heals a man lame from his mother’s womb, and gives the Holy Spirit, so does Peter. Having reaffirmed Peter’s connection to the founder, Jesus, Luke begins in Acts 9 with an extended series of recursions that show Paul as an apostle on par with Peter, performing the same miracles, paving the way to show that Paul is a legitimate apostle to the Gentiles. The major characters and key events of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles are aligned by recursion to remind readers of the major characters and key events of Jesus’ ministry in the Third Gospel. If there was a Joseph, a key figure in Jesus’ early life, there was also a Joseph in Paul’s early ministry. If Jesus experienced a major event like Gethsemane, so did Paul. As the Acts narrative unfolds, readers are made increasingly aware of Luke’s co-occurring arguments: the pattern of Paul’s apostolic ministry to the Gentiles is a recursion of Peter’s apostolic ministry to the Jews, and the extended depiction of Paul is a recursion of the portrait of Jesus in the Third Gospel. Presented with this comprehensive and compelling series of strategically arranged recursions, validating Paul’s equality with Peter, and repeated imitation of Jesus, Luke’s readers could overcome suspicion about Paul and become certain that he was equal to Peter, a true apostle of Jesus, who guarantees the authenticity and continuity of the Christian proclamation. Luke’s legitimizing of Paul via recursion, then, is one key to understanding the content of Acts 9-28.
CitationCole, T. J. (2021). Paul as Jesus: Luke's use of recursion in Luke-Acts [Unpublished doctoral thesis]. University of Chester.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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