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.

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Neil Godfrey

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