Sharing possessions in Acts

I recently gave a paper to a joint meeting of the Book of Acts and Use and Influence of the New Testament seminars at the British New Testament Society meeting in Liverpool. My full paper, offering an exegetical discussion of the sharing of possessions in Acts, especially in the early chapters, continues to be available for download for a short time here. It’s strictly work in progress, so please don’t cite it as a published work. I’d welcome feedback and comments.

I’m also now making the slides from my talk available here. The talk itself was briefer than the paper, and focuses on four key claims I’m making: that the sharing was voluntary; that the sharing resonates with both Jewish and Graeco-Roman cultures; that the sharing described is historically plausible; and then summarising what Luke is communicating by including these stories in Acts.

Responses are very welcome!


3 thoughts on “Sharing possessions in Acts

  • noel heather

    Many thanks indeed! I found this fascinating and enriching, having looked at related issues (maybe including more ‘sur le tas’ today terms) over many years from outside the classic theology etc quad. (Rather: ABC, Soton, Dr MLJ, Tim Chesterish-land; AND classic lang+lit academia, extensive theolinguistic mystery worshipping etc; books, SJT.) When I read the N.T. in narrative terms from my kind of world I tend to ask ‘Why am I hearing this?’. An Evangelical Anglican curate once told me that Acts represented the fledgling church, making me think of the question in my Stylistic Finals paper, ”Metaphors lie.’ Discuss’. If anything we could well be still in the fledgling church era now, with the (sorry) 312 AD++ period just being a parenthesis. So in short Acts as a Road Map, there to help Evangelicals back (now perhaps??) to a muscular-collectivist-spiritual consanguinity model in which the N.T. leads us from a theocratic, biological-family focused, co-believers?, Friday-night-with-the-children religion, to a collectivist, intersubjectively-driven, fellow believers religion. Not ‘are you like me socially or domestically?; rather (a la late Acts), ‘are you a spiritual colleague or sibling?’. Coming from Textual Linguistics/Discourse it seem obvious to point out that Christ’s first and last recorded social acts separate him from his biological DNA and focus more on the ideological DNA of Christianity as per when he gives his mother not to a biological relative, but to a spiritual one, the beloved disciple. When as I used to colour in my Children’s Bible on hot summer Sunday nights listening to Leith Samuel as a background, there used to be only two houses in Evangelical Street: the ‘What we believe,’ and the ‘What scripture says’ houses. My decades of mystery worshipping have of course charted the rise and rise of the ‘Me’ and ‘Mine’ houses on Evangelical Street. Though it’s good to see how churches (like ABC, Soton) still doing ‘proper preaching, Gov’ and holding onto scripture seem to be holding on. (The theology linked to this; Critical Postliberalism where good old GL can be seen to thrive anew perhaps in terms of critical linguistics.) I totemesque terms, as a child in the 50s, I noticed that when I was sick or too young, my parents would take it in term to stay home with me and the other would still go to church in the evening as well. Hopefully with joy and sincerity of heart.

    Reply
      • noel heather

        Thanks, that’s v gracious. [‘Suite et Fin’] After all the above you won’t be entirely surprised that besides being taken to see Dr MLJ from the first balcony of the Chapel as a child, my wife and I (no, I’m not making this up) used to share a pew with Lady C and Mrs MLJ there in the mid-80s. She would nod 🙂 . I do embrace fully MLJ’s notion of ‘Evangelical ecumenism,’ but now tend to take a nuanced view of the famous disagreement, using the (hopefully truthing!) metaphor of skating competition judging. I’d have to give MLJ 10 for Technical Merit, but perhaps less than that for Style – God’s Style of course? I’m also a great believer in Psalm 90 Time of a thousand years being as one day in all this. Thus the Acts 2 gathered joy and sincerity started, say, 48 hours ago; and the putative 312AD++ parenthesis started, say, only 4 hours later in God’s time; so lasting for just ‘a moment’ since then; perhaps permitted, a little bit like divorce maybe, for pragmatic and ‘we are dust’) reasons. In the shadow of the full 48 hours since late Acts 2, a gathered-model bachelor won’t tell you he’s going out tonight; he won’t map onto you the idea you may think he’s sad because he’s not married – the 48 hours social cognition/frame doesn’t have a slot for singleness, only for fellow-believer. For allied reasons, in a 48 hours Evangelical church – foregrounding the group and backgrounding the domestic – children are generally ‘not perceived as cute’, because ‘going to church is like going to work’ in God’s business. (Compare the parallel ‘backgrounding of children as cute’ in a secular place of work in general terms.) A little ‘sur le tas’ back-pew/seat lurking at 1030s across the UK would certainly support acceptance of this model – together with a greater and humbler appreciation of ‘what’s God’s doing here’. (The coffee – also the flowers – do seem to be improving too.)

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