Chapter 12 Class and Ideology in Acts 16: The Philippian Narrative as a Failed Revolution

In: Philippi, From Colonia Augusta to Communitas Christiana

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Abstract

This paper uses Fredric Jameson’s work to locate the Philippian stories of Acts 16 within History that hurts; i.e., the catalogue of failed liberatory struggles that define “the inexorable limits of individual and corporate praxis.” The literary features in Acts 16 identify mainstream society’s hostility toward the apostles as the social contradiction that the narrative tries to resolve. The class conflicts manifest in the attempted resolution show that the implied author’s sympathies lie primarily with the upper middle bourgeoisie – the merchants, the jailers, the householders, in short, the relatively powerful class fraction that made a living off the labor of others but did not dominate city, region, or empire. While the text is a failed revolution in the sense that it also participates in multiple forms of alienation of Roman imperial life (e.g., slavery, household, patriarchy, commodity, and prison), the ephemeral reconciliation of the imprisoned apostles with their captor provides a fleeting glimpse of the text’s impossible vision for the shape of social life beyond alienation.

Philippi, From Colonia Augusta to Communitas Christiana

Religion and Society in Transition

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