EVALUATION OF THEMATIC DEVELOPMENT
Acts 1:8 serves as the key verse of the book.Jesus’ words give an “inspired outline” for Acts, as the witnessing mission is launched in Jerusalem (Acts 1-7), spreads throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8-12), and then advances across the Mediterranean world to the capital city of Rome.
This geographic advance of the church is not Luke’s only indication of his structure for the book.Acts divides neatly into 2 parts, focusing in the first12 chapters upon Peter’s witness of the resurrected Jesus.Then Acts focuses upon Paul witnessing for the resurrected Jesus in chapters 13-28.Luke carefully draws parallels between the ministries of these two men (Peter heals a lame man, Paul heals a lame man; Peter raises a woman from the dead, Paul raises a boy from the dead; Peter confronts Simon the sorcerer, Paul confronts Elymas the magician; etc.).
Perhaps the most helpful markers of Luke’s development of the book’s content are the periodic “summary statements” or “progress reports” that punctuate the narrative.The first and most extensive summary comes at the end of chapter 2 (verses 42-47), closing the introductory portion of Acts.The preparations for the witnessing mission have been completed by Jesus (the indisputable proofs of His resurrection; the Great Commission to His followers; the promise of the baptism by the Holy Spirit to empower the witnesses; His ascension to the Father’s right hand to receive and pour out the Holy Spirit) and by His followers (obediently and prayerfully awaiting “the promise of the Father”; discerning the one Jesus has chosen to replace the betrayer as the 12th Apostolic witness).The witnessing mission has been launched with great success, and more than 3,000 believers now constitute the newborn church, poised to go forward in obedience to Jesus’ command.
Chapter 3 begins the second “panel” of the unfolding story of the church’s witness to the risen Lord.It ends with the summary statement at 6:7.Succeeding “panels” of the story end with summaries at 9:31, 12:24, 16:5, 19:20, and 28:30-31.
In Modules/Weeks 1-7, you are provided with a template to complete as you evaluate the thematicpanels of the Acts narrative.The template consists of 4 columns:
1. The paragraphs.
2. The immediate context units.In the Acts narrative, these are stories and speeches.
3. The major points.These are thematically-related stories and speeches.
4. The title and statement of the theme for the panel.
• Prepare to begin your evaluation of a thematic panel by reading through that section of Acts.The NIV text of Acts is already included in your textbook, so choose a different translation.The New American Standard Bible is an excellent choice and is available online, as is the New English Translation.Reading through the material several times from different translations will help you grasp the scope of the panel and the themes Luke is developing.
• Once you’ve read the panel through at least twice, you are ready to begin filling out the template.
1. In Column 1 of the template
a. Write a brief statement of the main point of each paragraph.
b. The paragraphs are already identified for you on the template.Do not change the paragraphing.
c. Column 1 will have titles in every block; it will contain no arrows.
2. In Column 2 of the template
a. Identify how the paragraphs fit together to form immediate contexts (stories or speeches).
b. Give each unit a title that captures its main thematic point.Do not attempt to create titles that are novel or “cute.”Use the arrows provided in the template to showwhich paragraphs are included in each context and where that section of text ends. For example, Peter’s testimony to the risen and exalted Christ on the day of Pentecost is found in Acts 2:14-36.In the template, you will place your thematic title for the speech in the box in Column 2 beside Acts 2:14-21 (the first paragraph of the speech).
c. In the box underneath the one in which you wrote the title, you will then paste a downward-pointing arrow , indicating the speech continues.
d. Finally, in the next box in Column 2 (beside paragraph 2:29-36) you will paste a left-pointing arrow, indicating that the speech ends with this paragraph.
e. Follow this pattern throughout the column.
3. In Column 3 of the template
a. Identify how the stories and speeches fit together to form major points within the panel.
b. Give each major point a title that communicates its main thematic emphasis.
c. This column will have more arrows and fewer titles than Column 2.
4. In Column 4 of the template
a. Write a title and a statement that describes the primary themes you see Luke developing in this panel of the Acts narrative.Polhill delineates 8 major thematic emphases in Acts.Ask yourself, “Which of the themes is Luke developing in this panel?” Make sure that the titles in the immediate context and major point columns reflect the themes introduced or developed in them.