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With St. Paul, Luke traveled to several different destinations including Samothrace and Philippi -- where he appears to have lingered to guide the Church. The duo then reunite in Troas and Luke is with St. Paul during the latter's stay in a Roman jail. As Paul says: "Only Luke is with me" (2 Timothy 4:11).
Exactly what Luke did with Paul during this time is debated: "St. Jerome thinks it is most likely that St. Luke is 'the brother, whose praise is in the gospel through all the churches' (2 Corinthians 8:18), and that he was one of the bearers of the letter to Corinth" (Knight, 2011).
Luke also brings special awareness to the importance of mercy and forgiveness, with the parable of the Prodigal Son and the tale of the woman whose sins were forgiven because she bathed Christ's feet in her tears.
But this special awareness is also seen in Acts 25:30, when Paul reminds the Ephesian Elders that it is the duty of the Christian to help support the weak, just like (a fuller reading of Acts reveals) Christ helps and supports sinners through His sufferings and death on the cross.
Finally, according to Kevin Knight (2011), "St. Luke had a great knowledge of the Septuagint and of things Jewish, which he acquired either as a Jewish proselyte (St. Jerome) or after he became a Christian, through his intercourse with the Apostles and disciples." Thus, the overall picture of St. Luke is one of a scholar, a doctor, an artist, a philosopher, a teacher, a kindred spirit, a traveling companion, and a writer. It is not outlandish, therefore, to imagine that Luke would have wanted a reader of Acts to look at its verses within the fuller context of the whole work, illuminated by Jesus Christ Himself.
Understanding Christ and the Christian Mission in Acts 25:30
As the title of the book indicates, Acts is about the actions of the early missionaries. In other words, it is a narrative of what it means to act as a Christian -- or, to act like Christ. It is a guide for human beings, as Paul states in Acts 25:30: "I have shown you in every way…" Paul, according to Luke, is emphasizing that through his actions one may perceive the spirit of Christ. That is to say, through Paul, Christ resonates. Indeed, the Biblical basis for Christ's humanity is illustrated throughout Scripture. There is the story of the Incarnation, the birth, the Passion. Jesus walks, eats, drinks, fasts, prays, sweats, dies, and comes back to life. None of this would be possible if He were not a man. Christ Himself points to his human soul when He says, "My soul is sorrowful even unto death" (Matthew 26:38) and "Now is my soul troubled" (John 12:27). In Acts 25:30, this principle is also implied when Paul states to the Ephesian Elders that they should learn from him, a man like them -- but a follower of Christ and a doer of His teachings. The Communicative Approach makes this reading possible. But there are other approaches that are less helpful.
Certainly there are complaints against modern exegesis and Christology. For example, J.A. Sanders (1969) states that "of the first eleven verses of Philippians 2 a.B. Bruce once said, 'The diversity of opinion prevailing among interpreters is enough to fill the student with despair, and to afflict him with intellectual paralysis" (Sanders, p. 279). This despair should be avoided because it primarily stems from modern skepticism and an emphasis on subjectivity. One should bear in mind the objective reality of Christ's existence. Indeed, we have the history of Christ in the form of the Bible
Keeping this fact in mind, one can realize that Christ's humanity contains many lessons for us. Christ gave us the example of how to resist temptation -- by fasting and praying and refusing to enter into dialogue with Satan. Holding onto the truth is important, for the devil will always try to distort reality. Christ also gives a good example of how to have humility and why humility is important. Only when one is humble can he really see his true relation to God.
Again, this idea may be viewed in Acts 25:30, as well as in Christianity as a whole. The crux of what Paul says to the Ephesian Elders is that charity is the highest good. Charity has always been a part of Catholicism -- in both its teachings and its practices. Indeed, as Benedict XVI (2009) shows in Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), charity is that "to which Jesus Christ bore witness by his earthly life and especially by his death and resurrection…caritas…is a force that has its origin in God" (p. 7). or, as Monika Hellwig (2002) observes, "Practical charity…is the matrix or flow of Catholic tradition out of which official formulations are distilled from time to time" (p. 10). In other words, charity is to Catholic culture as the deposit of faith left by Christ Himself is for the Church to consider. Similarly, Thomas E. Woods attempts to erase what he suggests is the myth of modern philosophy -- that all learning and scientific inquiry began with the Renaissance and blossomed and flowered with the Enlightenment. According to Woods, what looked like the end of an Empire (and was rightfully termed the Dark Ages) actually grew into something much greater -- and in fact into something that flourished under the protecting/guiding watch of Christendom (through a number of men whose identities he reveals). As Woods (2008) states, it was because of its foundation in charity that "the Church made an indelible imprint on the very heart of European civilization and was a profoundly significant force for good" (p. 7).
The "force for good" that Woods speaks of had many manifestations, ranging from the time of Constantine to the time of Gregory the Great, Clovis, Charlemagne, Francis of Assisi, and on (and that is not to leave out a few of the many names that had a hand in transforming the pagan Empire into a Christianized continent). The religious foundation, however, was Christ -- whom the disciples preached as the fulfillment of the Jewish Old Testament.
One of the weaknesses of concentrating on Acts 25:30 without regard to the rest of the book may be seen in the development of Liberation Theology. Paul E. Sigmund begins his description of Liberation Theology by citing the Boff brothers, both Leonardo and Clodovis: "For the Boffs, it is clear how people should act -- to establish socialism and abolish capitalism" (Sigmund, 1990, p. 85). By making a verse like Acts 25:30 the center of an idea or theory, a movement like Liberation Theology can bloom, becoming more than just Christianity from an economic, political, and moral standpoint -- but an entirely materialistic concept: liberation not from sin but from economic oppression. As economic conditions fluctuate around the world, the relevance of Liberation Theology may be questioned, and the concentration on one verse in particular may be viewed as a weakness.
Indeed, the Theology of Liberation emphasizes Jesus' reaching out to the poor, which Paul also appears to do in Acts 25:30. But the Theology, rather than consider the context of Acts, considers instead the social doctrine of Marx. The theory takes control of the verse, in other words. This is not what the Communicative Approach recommends. As Jeannine Brown intimates, this is one of the weaknesses of "ignoring whole-book context" (p. 214). The methodology involved in this new direction (which sees Vatican II as the springboard from which it has been able to be launched) takes "four elements" into account: "God, man, the world, and the Church," and unites them under the banner of unity, liberty, and equality -- echoing the mantra of the French Revolution (Barla, 1999, p. 122) -- rather than charity, the mantra of Jesus.
Barla's notion of Liberation Theology, therefore, is of a movement that brings Christianity into the lives of others, not through doctrinal conferences or dogmatic ecclesiology, but through social manipulation and visceral uplifting. He employs the terms "light, truth, and salvation," but their usage pales before the underestimated force of the "liberation" colloquy.
Conclusion: Why Acts 25:30
But the beauty of choosing a verse like Acts 25:30 and analyzing it from a Communicative Approach is that it allows one to open up the whole of the book and discern an even greater message than a mere verse might be able to convey. As Ronald Allen (1984) states, "Strictly speaking, many of the exegetical disciplines are descriptive and not theological" (p. 3). The Communicative Approach, however, allows one to place Acts 25:30 squarely in the spiritual realm where it belongs, with Christ and His sacrifice on the cross as its foundation.
By remembering the person of Luke, his own background and his own preoccupations, one also maintains a better sense of the direction…[continue]
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