Robert L. Gallagher and Paul Hertig (eds.)
Mission in Acts: Ancient Narratives
in Contemporary Context
American Society of Missiology Series 34
Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2004. Pp. 324. Paperback.
$36.00. ISBN 9781570754937

Robert L. Gallagher and Paul Hertig edited a bookin the series of the American Society of Missiology on mission in Acts. Yet, this is not a pure exegetical exploration of the concept of mission in Luke’s second volume. Rather, as the subtitle suggests, it combines modern and ancient contexts.

Twenty-three authors have contributed to this project. These contributors have various denominational affiliations (Christian Missionary Alliance, Baptist, Anglican, United Methodist, Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian, and Pentecostal) and come from different professional as well as academic disciplines. The book contains twenty-six chapters. As it is written by a variety of authors, the in-depth analysis of both the primary as well as secondary sources differ. Some chapters are written with scholarly attention to both, while others show a lack thereof.   

In the first chapter, the authors, Paul Hertig and Robert L. Gallagher, set the stage for the entire book and give us some insight into introductory matters. The purpose of the book is to “introduce students, scholars, biblical interpreters, and mission practitioners to the Book of Acts through the interpretation of key passages and to demonstrate their relevance for contemporary mission practice”. Having taught the book of Acts they found a lack of textbooks on Acts with a “full missiological investigation that it deserves”. According to Hertig and Gallagher “Acts is the most explicitly missional book in the Bible, and it deserves scholarly, missional attention balanced with practical implications” (p. 1).

Hertig and Gallagher focus their study theologically on Acts alone and explore “its emerging missiological themes” (p. 4), yet structurally they examine Acts in its relation to the Gospel of Luke. They lean toward Lukan authorship relying on Col 4:10-14, the Muratorian Canon, and early church tradition (Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome). For them Acts 1:8 “lays out both the thesis and geographical outline for Acts” and hence “the overarching purpose of Acts is to explain the initiative of the Holy Spirit in the spread of the gospel throughout the Gentile world” (p. 8).

Concerning the unique genre of Acts, they (as others before them) maintain that the Holy Spirit is the main agent of the book and hence the title should be “Acts of the Holy Spirit” rather than “Acts of the Apostles” (p.3).[1] It comes as a surprise, however, that they have not really defined the genre of Acts but rather described its content. They conclude this section by stating that “the mysterious and somewhat mystical inner and outer workings of the Holy Spirit provide a unique twist to Luke’s two historiographical accounts” (p. 3). Only here at the end have they introduced the notion of Greco-Roman historiography.

In their last section, Hertig and Gallagher focus on the nature of the reader. For them their study is not complete if the practical application from the new insights found in Acts is not accomplished. Again, the role of the Holy Spirit is emphasized – in the book of Acts as well as in contemporary situations. Further, as Paul encounters believers in Rome, Hertig and Gallagher remind us of the missio Dei: “[M]issionaries do not carry God in their suitcases. God is already at work before Paul arrives” (p. 10).

In ch. 2 “The Launching of Mission: The Outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost Acts 2:1-41” Eddie Gibbs intertwines personal accounts with the study of the text. There seem to be some underlying assumptions of a “true NT ecclesiology” when Gibbs asks “how can the churches move from a bureaucratic, hierarchical institution to become the dynamic, decentralized, hub-and-spoke movement that it was during the period covered by the New Testament?” (p. 18).

Gibbs sees Acts 2:1-41 as the first time where the new Israel (represented by the Twelve) speak to the twelve tribes of Israel. It is not certain, however, that the twelve tribes were present. The text merely says: “Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven residing in Jerusalem” (2:5). Gibbs reminds followers of Jesus that everything depends on the work of the Holy Spirit. For Luke, baptism of the Spirit is truly missiological. The emphasis is not salvation but the empowerment of the Spirit to witness. The corporate movement is also emphasized by Gibbs (p. 22; see also p. 27).

In his shorter essay (ch. 3; “Dismantling Social Barriers through Table Fellowship Acts 2:42-47”), Santos Yao works out the implications of table fellowship, which are important in any culture. Table fellowship and having a meal together are socially and religiously significant and carry “social symbolism” (pp. 29-30).

Regarding the first century Palestinian context, Yao observes Jewish exclusiveness and particularism in which the attitude towards non-Jews was unfavorable. Therefore, the kind of table fellowship Luke portrays is remarkable.[2] Yao also maintains that table fellowship had “an impressive evangelizing influence” demonstrating the oneness of the community, mentioning Acts (2:44-45; 4:32-35) (p. 33).

Concerning holistic mission, Yao writes that the Christian community “reached out to the marginalized in holistic mission” (p. 33). To my mind this seems to be a doubtful reading as table fellowship is an inner-church community activity.[3] At the end of his essay Yao points to contextual implications in Chinese and Filipino society regarding table fellowship.

Evvy Hay Campbell (“Holistic Ministry and the Incident at the Gate Beautiful Acts 3:1-26”; ch. 4) sees the healing ministry of Peter in Acts 3 as an integration of word and deed. In developing countries, the ministry of word and deed “are inseparably related, with the first often preparing hearts for the second” (p. 38). She also points to OT texts (like Exod 22:22-23, 25-27; 23:6) showing that justice for the poor, the needy, and widow and orphans was a duty of God’s people.

Campbell indicates that Peter’s using of Jesus’ name was to demonstrate Jesus’ presence, therefore, showing continuity of the churches’ mission which is grounded in Jesus’. She maintains that the specification “of Nazareth” accentuated “Jesus’ humanity” (p. 40). This may or may not be the case in this instance.

In terms of application Campbell points out that 1) holistic ministry needs to be holistic (proclamation, deed and power) and that 2) people in ministry need to be mature (spiritually), able to contextualize the message, and incisive in ministering being grounded in biblical truth.

Robert L. Gallagher starts and ends his essay (“From ‘Doingness’ to ‘Beingness’: A Missiological Interpretation Acts 4:23–31”; ch. 5) with personal reflections on his own life and ministry and how Western culture rather than Scripture influenced his work ethics and views of ministry. The major point of this essay is that one’s ministry/mission (he uses the terms interchangeably) flows out and depends on one’s relationship with God: being rather than doing.[4]  

Gallagher points out that Luke again emphasizes the unity of Jesus-followers (as in 1:14; 2:44-46; 4:32; 5:12a, 15:25) and that the prayer is “addressed to the Father” (p. 47), having three sections emphasizing God’s sovereignty: 1) over creation, 2) over humanity, and 3) over the current situation. Further, Gallagher maintains that Christ’s union with the church is through the Spirit. In Luke-Acts there is a strong connection between the Holy Spirit and “human proclamation” (p. 50). He further sees the oneness of the followers as a strong testimony.

Gallagher writes that the people of God by prayer “allowed the Spirit of God to bring forth God’s mission” (p. 54). This is also seen in Jesus’ baptism where Jesus prays, the Holy Spirit descends, and the Father’s voice speaks quoting from two missional texts from the OT (Ps 2; Isa 42). Thus, God and his mission (missio Dei) takes center stage.

In ch. 6 “Cross-cultural Mediation: From Exclusion to Inclusion Acts 6:1–7; also 5:33–42” Young Lee Hertig sees conflict as a universal phenomenon, despite its being manifested differently in various cultures. The chief issue, according to Y.L. Hertig, is that of inclusion or exclusion. Her main thesis is that “dealing openly and wisely with conflict can reduce the level of violence” (p 60). Conflict has to be dealt with and be confronted in a timely manner—which the apostles have done.

Y.L. Hertig further states that the food distribution issue is just the outer expression of an underlying historical-philosophical/theological struggle of Judaism and Hellenism and identity issues: “How do Jews maintain Jewishness in a dominant Hellenistic culture? What is nonnegotiable and what is negotiable in such a changing world?” (p. 63). The open and clear approach of the apostles and their giving the wounded group part in the mediation is for Y.L. Hertig a model to pursue. Yet, she also raises the question of whether this solution kept the one group as “other”. She further contrasts Gamaliel’s mediation in Acts 5 to that of the apostles in Acts 6 before writing up implications for local immigrant churches today.

In his essay (“Dynamics in Hellenism and the Immigrant Congregation Acts 6:8-8:2”; ch. 7) Paul Hertig comes from his experience as a minister in second-generation immigrant churches in relation to first-generation immigrants. Like the essay before, a tension between Hellenism and Judaism is seen, though Hertig sees the episode with Stephen more as an intramural-Hellenistic issue. His goal is to explore “tensions among Hellenists over issues of contextualization” by examining Stephen’s (a Hellenist) clash with the (Hellenistic) synagogue and to apply that to today’s ecclesial situation of first- and second-generation immigrants (p. 74).

P. Hertig asserts that “Stephen sought to move Judaism from a static belief to a dynamic one, from the Temple to the world. He shattered the static walls of the Temple and opened the way for the contextualized mission of the church” (p. 75). This is saying that Judaism was a static belief. While one can appreciate P. Hertig’s explanation of the issues interrelated to his contexts, it is not necessary to see Judaism a static belief – or even speak of Judaism as if there were only one dimension to it. 

He insightfully observes that in Stephen’s speech both the incident with the calf (7:41) as well as the temple (7:48) are described as something being made by hand (ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις τῶν χειρῶν αὐτῶν and ἐν χειροποιήτοις respectively). Thus, the idolatry of the Israelites in the wilderness is linked to the temple by Stephen.

It is not clear to the reader if P. Hertig speaks of his own opinion or that of Stephen when he states: “The presence of God was embodied in the tent of testimony. Therefore, the building of Solomon’s Temple reflected a distorted understanding of God (7:47)” (p. 81). This might reflect Stephen’s understanding; yet it surely does not reflect Solomon’s “distorted understanding of God” (see 1 Kings 8:27 and Solomon’s repetitions of heaven being the dwelling place of God).

Another uncertainty in his essay is found when he states: “A possible generational split existed between the Hellenists whom Stephen confronted, who had returned from the Diaspora, and Stephen, who did not hold to the fixed traditions of some Hebraic Jews” (p. 83). P. Hertig rightly states cautiously that the generational split is only “possible”. What one wonders is why he brings in Hebraic Jews into this equation at the end. Has the issue not been introduced as an intramural one? And yet, the challenge that Stephen brings to old views is applied by P. Hertig to immigrant churches today.

Mary E. Hinkle brings the speeches of Acts into relevance in a smooth manner – transitioning from the “then” to “now” (ch. 8; “Preaching for Mission: Ancient Speeches and Postmodern Sermons Acts 7:2-53; 13:16-41; 14:15-17”). She maintains that speeches like stories create a narrative to pull their listeners in.

She examines these speeches answering two questions (taken from p. 90): 1) What stories are the speeches telling? and 2) How is the story told in such a way as to include the audience?  She finds three features concerning the second question in Stephen’s and Paul’s speech: 1) the usage of first-person plural, 2) the merging of past events with the current situation, and 3) direct address. Content and delivery are somewhat different in Paul and Barnabas’ encounter in Lystra. The starting point there is creation (and not the OT per se, though tradition guides their preaching without quoting it). In terms of “connecting” with the audience Paul and Barnabas show the Lystrans that they pertain to the same story and that their experiences illustrate this as well.

Concerning implications for today Hinkle names three aspects: 1) preaching means telling God’s story (creation, Israel, Jesus), in such a manner that 2) hearers find themselves in or experience that story, and 3) can give an answer to God’s promise in Jesus. She further points to preaching with our life in Christian community which in a postmodern context might be the “most persuasive story” to tell (p. 100).

In ch. 9 (“The Magical Mystery Tour: Philip Encounters Magic and Materialism in Samaria Acts 8:4-25”) Paul Hertig explores motivations of those seeking Christian power in analyzing Philip’s encounter with Simon. Again, the holistic approach (word and deed) as a missiological approach in Luke-Acts is stressed. Yet, P. Hertig names additional missiological approaches like the Spirit’s superiority over magic.

After detailing the encounter, P. Hertig moves to the contemporary scene where he detects an unhealthy “blend of faith and prosperity” (p. 107): recounting numerous accounts of tele-evangelists and the like. The danger he sees is amazing people into God’s kingdom and not helping them to fully trust and depend on him.

P. Hertig rightly points out that Luke does not narrate an end to the Simon-episode and states that thus the “reader has been warned of the choice between two divergent paths—to submit to the Holy Spirit’s authority or to suffer the dire consequences of submitting to self-centered interests” (p. 110). This is like Mark’s shorter ending though with a different emphasis.

Keith H. Reeves argues in his chapter (“The Ethiopian Eunuch: A Key Transition from Hellenist to Gentile Mission Acts 8:26-40”; ch. 10) that the Ethiopian eunuch serves as another example of Luke’s concern for the “outcasts”. The two primary questions for his investigation are: 1) “What is the ethnicity of the Ethiopian eunuch?” and 2) “How does the story fit within the overall narrative of the Book of Acts?” He further clarifies that Luke identifies the man as neither Jew nor gentile.

Looking at external contexts Reeves states that this does not shed light on the man’s identity. The best clues, according to Reeves, are found in the overall narrative of Luke. One of the major hints that the Ethiopian is not a Gentile, is Luke’s emphasis on Cornelius being the first Gentile convert (10:1-11:18; pointing to 10:45 and 11:18). As a eunuch the Ethiopian is “unfit to worship in the Temple” (p. 120). Reeves maintains that the eunuch is portrayed by Luke as somebody like the Samaritans. Both were second class citizens – Jews, but not truly so.

In her essay Nancy J. Thomas starts and ends with her experience as a missionary mobilizer in Bolivia (ch. 11; “Worshiping, Working, and Waiting: Exploring Paul’s Call to Mission Acts 9:1-22”). Seeking advice from Paul’s missionary call, she has some recommendation for young Latin Americans wanting to be involved in God’s mission. N. Thomas mentions some research investigating missionaries’ early return from the field. In the study among the majority world sending forces it is shown that there are two major causes for attrition: 1) lack of support from home and 2) “lack of a clear call” (p. 124).

She tries to use Paul’s missionary call as a role-model for today. Hermeneutically (descriptive narrative) and salvation-historically in my opinion one could question using Paul as a “role-model” for a so-called missionary call. His role and ministry were quite unique and may not serve to help modern day discernment.

There are five implications N. Thomas draws from Lukan narrative of Paul: 1) foundational to all is God’s sovereignty; 2) God calls differently and in variety of ways; 3) oftentimes it can be a process; 4) God calls personally; and 5) he calls through community.

The essay by Charles E. Van Engen entitled “Peter’s Conversion: A Culinary Disaster Launches the Gentile Mission Acts 10:1-11:18” (ch. 12) could benefit from further investigation. Van Engen recounts a horse-back story of his missionary experience in Mexico, pretty much re-tells the story of Acts, and then relates “Do not despise what I have called clean” to a godly elderly woman of the mountainside of Mexico. 

The Antiochene model is what drives the essay of Norman E. Thomas (“The Church at Antioch: Crossing Racial, Cultural, and Class Barriers Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3”; ch. 13). The global challenge as well as his own experience in urban ministry lead him to introduce it.

Before summarizing the Antiochene model I wish to mention some problematic passages in his essay (which do not detract from the overall model). He states for example that it was in Antioch where the gospel had been preached “for the first time to Gentiles” (p. 146). But what about Cornelius? Even though he was a φοβούμενος τὸν θεόν (a God-fearer) he was still a Gentile. Also, he makes this point about laymen movement in Antioch. This seems to me anachronistic and an unfair comparison to the apostles as if they were the clergy. N.E. Thomas also calls Barnabas a layman. But he, as a Levite, could qualify as “clergy”. Hence, I think the distinction is a bit off. Maybe something along the line of “main characters” in the early church and “other followers of Jesus” (or something alike) would be better categories.

Anyway, the eight parts of the Antiochene model are (these are the subtitles given by N. E. Thomas): 1) evangelism through lay leadership, 2) every member a minister, 3) care for new believers, 4) witness to oneness in Christ, 5) compassion for the poor, 6) balanced leadership, 7) elimination of racial and ethnic barriers, and 8) mission for others.

In ch. 14 “Hope in the Midst of Trial Acts 12:1-11” Robert L. Gallagher relates his wife’s suffering and ultimately her death due to cancer to Peter’s prison escape. After giving a short background to Acts 12, he looks at 12:1-5 and 12:6-11 exegetically. Gallagher argues that Luke included this story to demonstrate the shift in focus from Peter to Paul (also seen in 12:17b – Peter’s last appearance in Acts other than at the council in Jerusalem).

According to Gallagher, Luke portrays Herod as the first enemy of the church and his “miserable death served as a warning to the enemies of Jesus and an encouragement to the believers (Acts 12:23)” (p. 159). It is debatable, however, if Herod was the first enemy of the church (Paul could take that place as well). Gallagher further portrays the parallel between the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt (their exodus) with that of Peter’s escape. And then later the parallel to Jesus who also dies at the time of Passover.

In this excellent essay (“The Cursing Paul: Magical Contests in Acts 13 and the New Testament Apocrypha Acts 13:6-12”; ch. 15), Clark A. Walz introduces magical practices and beliefs of the ancient world and demonstrates how such knowledge might lead us to read certain passages from the Bible differently. For Walz, Luke “utilized concepts drawn from Greco-Roman popular religious practices” and those related to magic, and reasons that this “was part of a contextualized message” demonstrating the superiority of the Christian faith (p. 168).

Paul (Walz refers e.g. to Gal 1:7-9; 3:1; 4:3, 9; 5:10; Rom 1:18) was familiar with the language and concepts of paganism which he then utilizes to contextualize the Christian message. He then proposes that something similar happened here in the Lukan account where the encounter between Paul and Elymas is portrayed as an ancient literary motif: the magical contest (174; see also Exod 7-8; 1 Kgs 18:19-40 mentioned by Walz).

In ch. 16 (“Success in the City: Paul’s Urban Mission Strategy Acts 14:1-28”) Roger S. Greenway mentions that about one out of ten in Roman population in the first century was Jewish. Many Gentiles accepted Jewish belief and were soon identified as Jews themselves. He detects a kind of missionary zeal (contra Riesner and others) among the Jewish population. He attributes this to OT passages like Gen 12:3; Pss 66, 67, 10; and Isa 49:6.

Greenway further states five aspects which Jewish religion offered Gentiles: 1) worship of the on true God, 2) God’s law (which applies to all) and its condemnation of idolatry and unethical behavior, 3) the Torah as divine revelation with authority, 4) “Justice, truth, and mercy are to be practiced by all who worship God”, and 5) sabbath-keeping and circumcision (p. 186).

Two critical observations concerning his essay are that he does not mention kosher food in the last category (alongside sabbath-keeping and circumcision), and on p. 187 Greenway almost portrays Paul “using” his preaching in the synagogue to reach Gentiles. Is his outreach in the synagogues merely a means to reach Gentiles? (see Paul’s thought in Romans with the “to the Jew first” and chs. 9-11).

As an advice Greenway encourages us not to forget that God is always ahead of us and that He will still be working long after we are gone.

So, what are the strategies? City-centeredness, making converts, a display of “compassionate meta-narrative” (p. 190), enduring persecution, as well as starting and organizing churches.

In his essay David K. Strong defines contextualization as “the relationship of the Christian faith to its cultural context” (p. 196; “The Jerusalem Council: Some Implications for Contextualization Acts 15:1-35”; ch. 17). The Jerusalem Council is an interesting passage because these issues often come up in cross-cultural settings. Acts 15:1-35 stands structurally and perhaps theologically at the center of the book.

Strong thinks that for Luke, mission is prioritized “over cultural constraints” whereas in modern times we often times have the opposite tendency. He further maintains that in contextualization, culture needs to be addressed from Scripture. But he also stresses that change is necessary not primarily in one’s culture, but primarily in one’s allegiance.

Exegetically he points to three positions concerning the apostolic decrees (Acts 15:20): 1) with the background of Lev 17-18 (and its regulations for foreigners living in Israel) some see the decree as helping to create fellowship of Jew and Gentile (the Gentile is not under the Law but forsakes her rights); 2) there is a change in the Western text, giving the decree a moral overtone; and 3) leaning on Witherington, the setting of pagan worship (which Strong prefers).

Contextualization is always difficult as cultural identity and other deeply rooted issues are involved. Though it is difficult and problematic, it is of utter necessity in the communication of the gospel.

The question for young Christians “What is the will of God for my life?” is as common as breathing air. Gene L. Green seeks guidance from Acts 16:1-30 (“Finding the Will of God: Historical and Modern Perspectives Acts 16:1-30”; ch. 18). For this he also looks at how Romans, Greeks, and Jews understood “divine guidance” (a universal phenomenon).

How did Paul and his companions experience divine guidance as their travel was interrupted? The text does not specify but Green thinks that Silas, a prophet in the early church, might have had a vision/revelation. Green questions the modern-day notion of an “inner prompting”. Later Green writes that Acts is silent on that issue and that usually the Spirit guides through external circumstances.

In contrasting Christian “divine guidance” with its first century cultural context, Green points out that “Christian revelation was marked by clarity and directness” – pointing as well to Pauline passages like 1 Cor 14:6-12 and 14:23-25 (p. 215). Further, Luke’s portrayal of Silas and Paul being in jail, demonstrates to Theophilus that being in adverse circumstances does not mean that one has strayed from God’s will. In general Luke portrays mission “as an endeavor guided by God from the very outset (Acts 13:1-3) and given divine direction at significant junctures (16:6-10)” (p. 217; missio Dei). Green argues that guidance often was “more community oriented than individualistic” (p. 218) which in (post)modern times is often absent in our discussion of God’s guidance.

Lynn Allan Losie explores the possibility of “natural theology” (variously defined; e.g. general revelation) in Paul’s speech in Acts 17:16-34 (“Paul’s Speech on the Areopagus: A Model of Cross-cultural Evangelism Acts 17:16-34”; ch. 19). Losie wants to see if Paul’s speech might shed some insight in using general revelation in cross-cultural evangelism.

He sees the philosophical traditions of Greco-Roman society and not their religions as the starting point of conversation. Losie further draws on similarities between this speech and the one given in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch (13:13-41). For him, Paul’s remarks in Athens are used as a bridge-builder rather than being critical comments by the apostle.

At the end, Losie maintains that Paul’s speech in Athens does demonstrate the use of general revelation in evangelistic outreach. His question of how ministers and theologians can use insights from other traditions and cultures to further Christian theology is of interest – specifically for me, serving in a more Andean context.

Grace Preedy Barnes explores Paul’s leadership style in terms of servant-leadership and how Paul finished his course well (“The Art of Finishing Well: Paul as Servant Leader Acts 18:1-28 and 20:17-38”; ch. 20). She describes Paul’s ministry as “incarnational”. I think that theologically this adjective should be reserved for the Christological content. Nevertheless, the concept is often used otherwise. Because Paul was working in his trade, he could “identify with common people” and this also demonstrates to Barnes that all work can be as sacred (“if done unto the Lord and for God’s purposes in this world”; p. 242).

Paul was able to contextualize his message with his lifestyle. Barnes remarks that for Paul evangelism was “the beginning stage of discipleship” and not the end (p. 243). For Paul to be an apostle is to be a servant; thus, the aspects of servanthood and leadership come together.

Stephen J. Pettis, in this more anecdotal essay (“The Fourth Pentecost: Paul and the Power of the Holy Spirit Acts 19:1-22”; ch. 21), tells us of his lack of experiencing the Holy Spirit. Although he was a firm believer, he did not truly experience the Spirit’s empowerment.

Pettis maintains that in Acts 19:1-7, the twelve men lack an experience of the Holy Spirit rather than a lack of knowledge. To my mind Luke indicates otherwise when he writes ἀλλʼ οὐδʼ εἰ πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἔστιν ἠκούσαμεν as the response to Paul’s question if they have received the Holy Spirit. Pettis also states that Jesus’ disciples in John 20:21-23 have only been baptized in John’s baptism. But where do we read that? I generally find it interesting that we never read of the disciples’ baptism.

As the Ephesian believers receive the Holy Spirit, Pettis again makes a curious observation: “The key element here is that the knowledge of Christ was transformed into a dynamic relationship. The personal struggle for growth and accomplishment was replaced by a total surrender to God” (p. 252). Again, where do we read that? For Pettis, the key to powerful manifestations is a relationship with God.

In his essay “For Missionaries and Leaders: Paul’s Farewell to the Ephesian Elders Acts 20:17-38” (ch. 22) Dean S. Gilliland sees Acts 19 as a perfect “case study for missions”. In Acts 20, Paul recounts principles out of his own life as a model for the leaders in Ephesus.

Gilliland divides the speech into two: 1) Paul and his personal example (20:18-27) and 2) Paul’s exhortations of the elders (20:25-35).

A. Scott Moreau writes about his own failures in cross-cultural ministry, and that following Christ brings no guarantee “except perhaps the guarantee that life will blow up” (275), in his essay “Do the Right Thing—But Results Are Not Guaranteed Acts 21:17—22:36; 24:10-21” (ch. 23). He also talks about the concept of “accommodation”. Moreau reasons that “as long as the ritual does not demean Christ or contradict the essentials of the gospel, Paul showed flexibility in what he practiced and allowed” (p. 278).

The next chapter (ch. 24) entitled “The Contextualization and Translation of Christianity Acts 9:1-9; 22:3-33; 26:2-23” is written by Shawn B. Redford. He sees Paul’s conversion accounts in Acts 9, 22, and 26 as an integration between contextualization and the translation model. Further, he argues that Acts 1:8 is narratively illustrated through the conversion accounts: “Beginning in Jerusalem and Judea (Acts 9), moving thematically to Judea and Samaria (Acts 22), and onward to Samaria and the ends of the earth (Acts 26)” (p. 283). Although he later recognizes that in Acts 9 Paul is on his way to Damascus (far from Jerusalem and Judea). He argues that Paul and those with him represent Jerusalem and Judaism. Again, one could also say that in Acts 22 Paul is in Jerusalem, but Redford argues that “Acts 22 represents a mixture of ethnically Jewish and Gentile people (21:27, 29) that includes Jewish Christians (21:20) and Gentile Christians (21:25)” (p. 288). In my mind, the narrative-illustration of Luke is not as clear or obvious as Redford makes it appear.

Redford describes the translation model as “the effect that takes place when indigenous Christians move away from any original missionary influence (often this takes multiple generations) and freely allow their own interests and concerns to bring new questions, shape, meaning, and focus to the Christian message” (p. 285). And then he reads through the conversion accounts with these two missiological models—contextualization and translation—in mind. One wonders, however, how the translation model can at all be seen in Acts. Do we truly see “indigenous Christians mov[ing] away from any original missionary influence”? I find that hardly to be the case.

In his chapter “The Apostle Paul’s Acts of Power Acts 22—28” (ch. 25), Robert C. Linthicum tries to demonstrate that Paul “turned Christianity from a Jewish sect into a worldwide religion” (p. 297) and how he rightly used power. I am not sure that we can talk of Paul in those terms (or of Christianity for that matter!).

Linthicum stresses that power can be misused and used rightly and that “[m]uch of the Book of Acts is a textbook on Paul’s use of power in behalf of Christ’s kingdom” (p. 300). For this he looks at  Paul’s claim to Roman citizenship; Paul’s divide-and-conquer method among the Sanhedrin; as well as Paul’s appeal to Caesar, which for Linthicum was “a very deliberate act of power” (p. 306). To me, this all sounds a bit far-fetched and a definition of power would probably clarify some of the issues. Also, his statement that “Paul knew how to utilize power to protect himself, advance the gospel, and position the church to influence profoundly both the present and the future empires” (p. 310) seems to go too far.

Lastly, Paul Varo Martinson (“The Ending Is Prelude: Discontinuities Lead to Continuities Acts 1:1-11 and 28:23-31”; ch. 26) looks at the beginning and end of Acts to see Luke’s theology of the book[5] – a “threefold dynamic—Spirit’s activity, divine plan, christological content” (p. 316).

Martinson also points to the missio Dei. Further, he equates Rome with “the ends of the earth” and points to Lukan usage of YHWH texts applying them to Jesus. He also points to a lacuna in stating: “Third, in Luke-Acts the context of the language about the divine plan for Jesus’ suffering is always in connection with God’s relation to Israel, not to the Gentiles” (pp. 319-320).

Overall this is a helpful book in several aspects. It gives a good overview and examples of missionary work in the book of Acts. It further demonstrates (sometimes better than at other times) hermeneutical moves from ancient to contemporary contexts. Further, it also shows contemporary issues in missiology and missiological praxis. This book stimulates the reader to think further and accomplishes its goals: i.e., to “introduce students, scholars, biblical interpreters, and mission practitioners to the Book of Acts through the interpretation of key passages and to demonstrate their relevance for contemporary mission practice” (p. 1).

[1]          But see Steve Walton, “The Acts – of God? What Is the ‘Acts of the Apostles’ All About?” Evangelical Quarterly 80, no. 4 (2008): 291–306.

[2]          See also Joshua W. Jipp, Saved by Faith and Hospitality (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2017).

[3]          But see Ulrich Wendel, Gemeinde in Kraft: Das Gemeindeverständnis in den Summarien der Apostelgeschichte. NTDH 20. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1998, esp. 183-86, as pointed out to me by Steve Walton.

[4]          See also Dean Flemming, Recovering the Full Mission of God: A Biblical Perspective on Being, Doing and Telling (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013).

[5]          See also the section on “Framing Narrative” in Steve Walton, “The Acts of the Apostles as the Mission of God.” Public Lecture, Laidlaw College, August 17, 2015