Acts (SCM Theological Commentary on the Bible) Hardcover – 28 Jun 2006
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From the Back Cover
Catholic Press Association Book Award Winner
"[Acts] has all the marks of Pelikan's scholarship: a close reading of the Greek text; a verse-by-verse commentary on that text studded with references to the great patristic commentators; and a constant eye on the theological and homiletical possibilities of the text itself, as well as its place in the liturgical life of the church both West and East."
--Lawrence S. Cunningham, America
"The commentary serves as a rich storehouse of information on historical theology, providing [Pelikan] with the opportunity to expound on the intersections of Acts with the major teachings of the church. . . . The book will be of great value to all who are interested in the reception history of Acts and in theological interpretation of biblical texts."
--Shelly Matthews, Catholic Biblical Quarterly
"A fascinating peregrination through the history of Christian thought. . . . Pelikan offer[s] a very selective verse-by-verse theological commentary on Acts that supplements the primary focus of the volume: a series of theological excurses covering a broad range of loci communes. If such is the theological journey one seeks, one would be hard pressed to find a better guide."
--John F. B. Miller, Review of Biblical Literature
"What Jaroslav Pelikan offers us . . . [is] a set of observations on what phrases and passages in Acts might remind us of in the later history of Christian doctrine. As a sampler of vintage Pelikan tidbits, it is a scintillating piece of work, a tour de force in the history of dogma, a kaleidoscope of brilliant reflections by a generous and faithful Christian scholar."
--Brian E. Daley, SJ, Pro Ecclesia
"Pelikan's volume robustly demonstrates what reading enlivened by tradition and dogma can look like. It is a timely invitation to the church and the academy."
--Angus Paddison, International Journal of Systematic Theology
"[Acts] is a tour de force of the history of doctrine, as Pelikan draws in his lifetime to remark upon a vast panoply of subjects."
--Steven J. Koskie, Journal of Theological Interpretation --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Dr Jaroslav Pelikan is Sterling Professor Emeritus of History at Yale University. His previous works include The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine and Jesus Through the Centuries.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Pelikan's thematic approach (3 themes per chapter) makes this commentary more suitable for topical preaching than for full, verse-by-verse exposition of the book of Acts. Preachers and teachers will want to supplement Pelikan's volume with a more exegetical Acts commentary that addresses the text of the book in its entirety. Some of the topics discussed by Pelikan are more firmly connected to the text of the book of Acts than others. However, the topics dealt with are so interesting that it's hard to fault Pelikan for taking this approach. Pelikan's discussions of 'The Gospel of the Forty Days,' Mary as Theotokos ('Mother of God'), 'Christus Victor, ' baptism, religious affections, private revelations, the authority of Church councils, the theological importance of textual variants, the Church's relationship to government, and 'due process' are among some of the best articles in this commentary. They provide excellent material for topical preaching and teaching. Pentecostals and Charismatics in particular, who generally view Acts as a mere 'handbook' on ecclesiology and pneumatology, would do well to read Pelikan's commentary. They'll quickly discover that Luke's account is much more than that.
The commentary seems to focus on post-apostolic theological/creedal formulation without firmly connecting it to the texts under discussion in several instances. This volume seems to fall short of the series' goal because of this weakness. While Pelikan offers some perceptive insights regarding Luke's historiography, he offers almost nothing specific to help the reader understand Luke's theological framework, which shapes the book of Acts itself. Having a discussion of Luke's theology in addition to the topical and historical discussions would've made this a more well-rounded commentary. Pelikan seems too quick to enter into historical discussions without addressing the text being highlighted in several instances. Perhaps the decision to approach Acts topically was meant to ensure that Pelikan completed this commentary. He wrote it while battling lung cancer, which ended his life on May 13, 2006, less than three and a half-months after its publication. However, the series preface by general editor R.R. Reno indicates that some of the other contributors to forthcoming volumes also will be using a topical approach when commenting on their respective books of the Bible.
Due to his Orthodox commitments, Pelikan uses the Western Byzantine Greek text of the NT as his primary source material on the book of Acts. It is important to note that the Western Byzantine text is slightly longer than the Alexandrian Greek text traditionally used in translation of the New Testament by other ecclesiastical bodies within the Christian church since the mid-nineteenth century. As a result, Pelikan provides some interesting commentary on textual variants, particularly Acts 8:37, which are often dismissed by commentators writing from within other ecclesiastical traditions and relegated merely to footnotes in most English translations of the NT.
I wish Pelikan would've spent more time addressing Luke's citations from the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It's surprising that he did not do so, given that the Orthodox Church views the Septuagint, not the Hebrew Masoretic Text, as the authoritative translation of the OT.
In addition, I would've appreciated reading Pelikan's perspective on some of the more perplexing events recorded in Acts, such as the unsuccessful attempt by the seven sons of Sceva to perform an exorcism and its obvious juxtaposition with the genuine miracles performed by the apostle Paul in Acts 19:11-16. Clearly, Luke shows the fulfillment of Judaism's eventual inability to miraculously authenticate its spiritual authority, which Jesus predicts in Luke 11:14-28 (cf. Matthew 12:22-37). According to the parable of the tenants found in Matthew 21:33-46, Mark 12:1-12 and Luke 20:9-19, the obedient Jewish Apostles (both who recognize Jesus as Messiah and do not refuse to evangelize Gentiles) would gain the authority that would be stripped from the disobedient Jewish leaders. How I wish Pelikan had addressed this clear transition of Spiritual authority, despite its controversial nature. Its ecclesiological importance is significant.
Theological reflection on why Luke arranges the events recorded in Acts the way he does would have been extremely informative and helpful also. Exegetical commentators writing on Acts do not address this area nearly as thoroughly as needs to be done and tend to address the events individually. Pelikan could have surely filled that gap with this commentary by helping readers view the book of Acts more holistically, which would have allowed for greater theological reflection on the Church, the Holy Spirit, etc.
Hopefully, someone will revise the present work with specific discussion of Luke's theology as it unfolds throughout the book of Acts. So much has been written about Luke's theology over the years. It's a shame that Pelikan fails to interact with such a large body of scholarly work. This commentary is still a great read despite that obvious weakness. Readers within the Orthodox tradition will find this commentary particularly useful. However, Leithart's volume on 1 & 2 Kings is a much better representation of what a theological commentary should be. It balances theology, historiography and exegesis more adequately than this volume. The end result is a commentary more suitable for preaching and teaching the entire text. Hopefully, future volumes in the series will follow the chapter-by-chapter format of Leithart instead of the topical approach used by Pelikan.
There has been a worldwide steady decline in traditional Protestant church membership, and an increase in churches with more recent origins. Research has proven that the common denominator for this has been an unprecedented return to the Book of Acts and the re-interpreted views on church growth, which was exponentially phenomenal in the first two centuries of the church's existence. Emblematic of this trend, C Peter Wagner includes extra-biblical spiritual gifts and offices in his The Book of Acts - martyrdom, exorcism, voluntary poverty, and modern missionaries as "apostles" based on the Vulgate's Latin poor translation for apostles: "missio". Wagner lists 27 spiritual gifts, but preaching is not one of them. As far as Wagner is concerned, there is no correlation between preaching and church growth.
What makes this commentary great to use, is the 3-per-chapter anecdotes, or loci communes (p 30) of the developing church. All 84 are all listed in front of this edition. It makes a pleasure to discover alongside the Lord's apostles how the church expanded. The formulation of doctrine and tradition is well recorded here, and is standard Lutheran fare, with a good touch of Eastern orthodoxy. The 'catholic' church in its embryo stage is brilliantly analyzed by a theologian whose strength was early church history.
'It bears explaining, on the basis of the distinction between 'theology' and 'economy' (15:8, 9), that this 'sending' of the Holy Spirit by Father and the Son was described as 'economic', that is, within the dispensation of human history, by contrast with the eternal 'proceeding' within the Godhead (John 15:26).' p 51
On Acts 2:31:
'The resurrection of Christ was the supreme manifestation of the divine dialectic that had been typologically foreshadowed in the recognition scene between the patriarch Joseph and his brothers: "You took counsel against me for evil, but God took counsel on my behalf for good." (Gen 50:20 LXX) - that declaration "but God took counsel" is suggested also in the phrase of this chapter "the definite plan and foreknowledge of God". The crucifixion and resurrection supremely documented the fulfillment of prophecy. Peter's Pentecost message was a catena of the familiar passages from the prophets and the Psalms in which David "foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ." pp. 54-5
'The distinction between Scripture and the word of the gospel (Anglo-Saxon good spell) was that the word of God in the gospel was primarily oral, because it did not come by reading, but "faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ" (Roman 10:17). The verb that went with "the word of God" in the book of Acts was not 'write', but "speak" or "preach" or "proclaim" or "announce" or "teach".' pp. 112-3
A definite change occurred when Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, began to pen his epistles. Hopefully the Word will always remain the primary means of grace. Pelikan's is an informative and historiographical presentation, with the added anecdotes definitely a worthwhile resource for students and pastors alike. It is not a verse-by-verse commentary.
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