The literary genre of Acts 1(a): Ancient Prologue followup

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by Neil Godfrey

My post on the style, content and function of ancient prologues or prefaces in relation to the Book of Acts has been misunderstood as interpreted by some as an attempt to argue or prove from the prologue itself that the author did not intend to write history. Continue reading “The literary genre of Acts 1(a): Ancient Prologue followup”

Reviewing Chris Price’s and Marion Soard’s critiques of Pervo’s “Profit with Delight”

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Christopher Price has published online a lengthy discussion titled Genre, Historicity, Authorship and Date of Acts (several places, e.g. here and here). In his 12 to 13 page section of this essay where he discusses Richard Pervo’s Profit with Delight he references Marion Soard’s 1990 review of Pervo’s book in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Both Price’s essay and Soard’s review are classic illustrations of how sometimes people can so completely misread the clearest text. Perhaps this is the result of careless assumptions substituting for a careful engagement with the text. In the case of the fundamentalist Price, however, there also seems to be an assumption that any unorthodox critique of the Bible must by definition be a bad argument, and this leads him to misread — or misrepresent — Pervo’s text repeatedly.

I’ll address both Price’s and Sourd’s criticisms of Profit with Delight here. Continue reading “Reviewing Chris Price’s and Marion Soard’s critiques of Pervo’s “Profit with Delight””

The GOOD legacy of a fundamentalist and cultic life: 3

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Continuing from Leaving the Fold Marlene Winell’s encouraging list of some of the good one can take away from the fundamentalist or cultic experience, mingled with my own thoughts . . . .

Vision of the Possible

In the church or cult to which I once belonged a common phrase used was “the human potential”. This was in some ways nothing more than a clever PR term: what it meant in religious language was “salvation”. But still, the term helped focus on a vision of an ideal.

Marlene Winell cites another ex-fundamentalist saying:

I am striving to achieve this dream of a full life. I don’t know anyone who has it, but I must say that I would rather spend my life working for something that might not ever materialize in its entirety than just give up and have nothing.

I personally have found the thought of striving for an ideal to be anathema. It reminds me too much of attempting to live out an “inhuman” perfection, a life governed by “principles” in place of “humanity”. But maybe a lot of this is just semantics. I know I really am constantly mindful of what we/people are, of the nature of humanity and the human condition, and the many different paths individuals and societies opt to follow for “the good life”, or at least the best one possible. This is always at the back and front of my thinking when I bury myself in my hobby readings of history, anthropology, neurology, human evolution and prehistory, even cosmology.

Maybe I do have an ideal, and it is to understand and just be what we are, not what we can never be. Or is that an anti-ideal? Anyway, I do do my bit when opportunities arise to expose and demolish those things I see as crippling us emotionally and mentally or otherwise wasting our lives.

Marlene speaks of “ex fundies” as:

likely to retain idealized notions of love, peace, beauty, compassion, fulfillment, . . . . [They] can probably imagine a life that is expansive and creative, full of power, joy, serenity, and generosity. These are Christian ideals, from the positive side of Christianity.

I guess I do have “idealized notions” of one or two items in that sort of list. But I do not like the word “idealized”. I prefer something much more prosaic and practical and real, that avoids any risk of trying to be something other than human. Nevertheless, compassion, fulfillment, generosity, and a few other things are very important to me.

The trouble with Christianity – and Marlene makes this point – was that it very often taught these “ideals” or good qualities in ways that led to them being dysfunctional goals.

Then they were to be obtained through self-denial, self-abnegation, from without instead of from within, or only after death.

See also Marlene’s new website Recovery from Religion

The literary genre of Acts. 8: clarification

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by Neil Godfrey

Some have misread my notes from Pervo’s book as if I/Pervo claimed Acts is itself an ancient romance or a fictional historical novel. Pervo demonstrates that Acts shares many similarities with ancient novels. The theological and historical intent of Acts is expressed through many novelistic features. How much “historical fact” is to be found in Acts is a separate, although inevitably related, question.

Pervo writes in his preface:

[M]ost studies have concentrated upon the profit and ignored the delight. A major task of this book is to elucidate the entertaining nature of Acts. Since one customary means for rejecting popular literature has been to label it pure entertainment, I wish to make clear that there is no intent here to deny Luke’s serious theological program. . . .

Through comparison of Acts with ancient popular narratives I seek not only the identification of literary affinities but also clarification of the religious and social values of the milieu in which it emerged. . . .

In chapter 4 (p86) he writes:

Although clearly a theological book and a presentation of history, Acts also seeks to entertain.

Pervo also concludes with:

By reference to novels in general and historical novels in particular I have attempted to provide detailed evidence for the ancient novel’s relevance to the understanding of Acts.

My intent is that such comparison proceed alongside, as well as in competition with, investigations using historiographical models. . . . Reconsideration of the question of genre does not eliminate the possibility of sources.