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The Canonical Function of Acts: A Comparative Analysis (Scripture) [Paperback]

By David E. Smith (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   144
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.98" Width: 6.34" Height: 0.38"
Weight:   0.52 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 31, 2002
Publisher   Liturgical Press
ISBN  0814651038  
EAN  9780814651032  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
The book of Acts was recoginized as canonical throughout most of the Cathloic Christian world by the early third century. Its canonization was due largely to its linking of the Old Testament with the ministries of Jesus, the Jerusalem apostles, Paul, and the "bishops" of ephesus. In this way it functioned as a unifier of the developing Biblical canon and provided justification for episcopal hermeneutical authority.

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More About David E. Smith

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! David E. Smith is a professor of Political Studies at the University of Saskatchewan.

David E. Smith was born in 1939.

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Early Chruch Fathers Reading with Intent  Apr 5, 2009
This book represents a relatively narrow and focused undertaking. However, it was a necessary one, and the author's work here admirably fills a scholarly need. The reception history of the Acts of the Apostles is a fairly well covered issue. However, its function within the cannon of the early Church is less well explored. As to its reception history, Richard I. Pervo proposes a date of about one hundred thirty CE, and Andrew F. Gregory's extensive work on the topic finds possible traces of the Acts in the epistles of Polycarp, 2 Timothy, and 1 Clement. The first sure use of the Acts of the Apostles by the Church fathers is in the work of Irenaeus. And, this is Smith's starting point. However, prior to the body of his argument, the author provides an extensive introduction that covers the basics and history of canonical criticism. For those not familiar with this important area of scholarship, this introduction moves from the seminal work of Brevard S. Childs and James A. Sanders and misses no scholars of distinction in a straight forward explication of the discipline up to the date of this book's publication in two thousand and two. Minor omissions include a lack of contact with Timothy D. Barnes' work on Tertullian and Joseph B. Tyson's on the Acts of the Apostle. Neither of these omissions ultimately detracts. But, Smith's biographical sketch of Tertullian is annoyingly dated. Almost, all of the rest of the scholarship germane to the author's project is well considered.

Since nineteen hundred, no scholar of note known to me has suggested a composition date for the Acts of the Apostles after about one hundred twenty-five CE. Irenaeus' use of the document at circa one hundred eighty CE is universally accepted fact at present. And, exactly to what ends did Irenaeus and following early Church fathers use the Acts? According to Smith, the Acts functioned both as a unifier of the developing canon and as a justification for episcopal claims that these ends were accomplished through the agency of the Holy Spirit. The recognition of the importance of the activities of the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles goes back at least to Johann Albrecht Bengel in the early seventeen hundreds when he stated that the second Lukan volume "...describes, not so much the Acts of the Apostles, as the Acts of the Holy Spirit; ..." However, to the best of my knowledge, it is in this book that for the first time the import of those acts of the Holy Spirit have been studied systematically in patristic tradition. To understand this patristic thought, one must remember the situation pertaining in the late second and third centuries CE Church. It was locked in a struggle with a group of heresies, Marcionism, Montanism, Gnosticism, and Monarchism which threatened orthodoxy or proto-orthodoxy if one prefers. It was in response to these threats that the Church fathers turned to the Acts of the Apostles for an authoritative justification of their exclusive rights to interpret scripture, to specify a valid "rule of faith," to unify the cannon, and ultimately to define orthodoxy.

Gnostic Christianity, Marcionism, and catholic Christianity all claimed apostolic authority in one way or another through the fourth century CE. However, gnostic sectarians tended to claim the authority of individual apostles with variations in who that apostle might be depending on differing group identities. Of course, Marcion could only claim the authority of Paul based on his truncated canon of scripture. Irenaeus and Tertullian claimed the authority of the entire first Christian generation based on the apostolic unity depicted in the Acts. In book three of Irenaeus' "Against Heresies," he states his "rule of faith" which is a form of developing trinitarianism. The authority for this "rule of faith" is the apostolic succession secured in the Churches founded by the apostles. All who do not stand in that line of succession have no right to the scriptures, and any faith that they might proclaim has no authority. Tertullian twenty some years later reinforces this message with his usual emphatic style and pugnacity. As to the unity of the canon, the concept is really quite simple. It is a straight forward reading of the activities of the Holy Spirit as attested to in the Acts of the Apostles. It is the Holy Spirit who directed the prophets of old, descended upon Jesus at his baptism, consumed the apostles at Pentecost, and directed every action of the apostolic Church and the spread of the "Word." Therefore, the Old Testament, the fourfold gospel which was vigorously endorsed by Irenaeus, and the New Testament epistles are made a unified whole through the Holy Spirit.

These themes are followed into the fourth century where they receive strong support in the cathetical instructions of Cyril of Jerusalem and John Chrysostom's commentary on the Acts. As a punctuation to all this, Athanasius' festal letter thirty-nine of three hundred sixty-seven CE laid out the N.T. canon in its final form. Beyond this, the author moves forward into the early eighth century and the work of the English scholar, Bede the Venerable. In his commentary on the Acts, Bede finds in Acts 1:12 that Christ sent the Holy Spirit "... by whose anointing we are taught all things ... in perfect knowledge." Bede's work on New Testament scripture has at its center the Acts of the Apostles. In essence, he consolidates, validates, and expands on the work of his predecessors. A chapter follows on the apocryphal Acts of Peter, John, and Paul is provided for comparative purposes. Smith illustrates how these documents were incapable of being used by the early fathers in the same fashion as were the canonical Acts. A short conclusion recapitulates and reinforces the points so well made by Smith previously. In closing, it is well stated that prior canonical criticism has tended to focus on the formation of the entire corpus be it either the Old Testament or the New Testament or both. Herein, the author by concentrating only on the Acts of the Apostles has managed to provide a new way forward, and the results are illuminating. In my opinion, this book is a must read for any serious student or scholar of Christian origins.


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