The Significance of the Distribution of Self-designations in Acts

in Novum Testamentum
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An analysis of the distribution of self-designations in Acts reveals that Luke’s use of these self-designations is not random. Rather significant insight into Luke’s theology and into early Christian history can be gained by looking at the way these self-designations are distributed throughout Acts, when they are actually used, and whether they are used by Luke’s narrator or by actors in his story. The self-designations discussed here are ἀδελφοί, µαθηταί, ἐκκλησία, “the believers” and “the saints” or “the sanctified ones.”

The Significance of the Distribution of Self-designations in Acts

in Novum Testamentum



  • 3)

    G.N. StantonThe Gospels and Jesus (2nd ed.; Cambridge: CUP2002) 271.

  • 6)

    See R. Aasgaard“Brothers and Sisters in the Faith: Christian Siblingship as an Ecclesiological Mirror in the First Two Centuries,” in The Formation of the Early Church (ed. J. Ådna; WUNT 183; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck2005) 315.

  • 7)

    See H.J. Cadbury“Note XXX. Names for Christians and Christianity in Acts,” in The Beginnings of Christianity Part 1: The Acts of the Apostles Vol. 5: Additional Notes to the Commentary (ed. K. Lake and H.J. Cadbury; London: Macmillan1933) 379; see e.g. Acts 2:29 37; 3:17 22; on fourteen occasions ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί is used rather than ἀδελφοί; see e.g. Acts 1:16; 2:29; cf. 4 Macc 8:19; Barrett Acts 1:96.

  • 24)

    See BarrettActs 1:95.

  • 25)

    D. Seccombe“The New People of God,” in Witness to the Gospel: The Theology of Acts (ed. I.H. Marshall and D. Peterson; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans1998) 372 notes that ἀδελφοί in Acts indicates that “transcending all ethnic cultic and social differences they are one new people brothers and sisters to each other and also to the human Jesus.” But Luke indicates this in a very careful way as I hope to have shown.

  • 26)

    See BarrettActs 2:759; 9:25 and 19:1 are two probable exceptions to the general usage of µαθητής with the meaning of “Christian.”

  • 29)

    See W. ReinboldPropaganda und Mission im ältesten Christentum: Eine Untersuchung zu den Modalitäten der Ausbreitung der frühen Kirche (FRLANT 188; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht2000) 16-17; J.P. Meier A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus Vol. 3: Companions and Competitors (New York: Doubleday 2001) 41.

  • 30)

    See Seccombe“New People” 372; Meier A Marginal Jew 3:41 84 n. 4. Luke uses µαθητής 37 times in his Gospel.

  • 32)

    See MeierA Marginal Jew3:41.

  • 37)

    E. HaenchenThe Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary (Oxford: Basil Blackwell1971) 460 argues that as we have it Luke is responsible for the wording of this speech; see also Meier A Marginal Jew 3:84 n. 5.

  • 42)

    TaylorPaul’s Understanding178.

  • 45)

    See R.B. HaysThe Faith of Jesus Christ: The Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3:1-4:11 (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans2002) 123; H.D. Betz Galatians (Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress Press; 1979) 115 with n. 28.

  • 50)

    See Acts 6:1; J.D.G. DunnBeginning From Jerusalem: Christianity in the Making Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans2009) 312 314.

  • 54)

    J. Roloff“ἐκκλησία,” EDNT 1:412.

  • 55)

    See J. HainzEKKLESIA: Strukturen Paulinischer Gemeinde-Theologie und Gemeinde-Ordnung (Biblische Untersuchungen 9; Regensburg: Friedrich Pustet1972) 236 251; H. Merklein “Die Ekklesia Gottes: Der Kirchenbegriff bei Paulus und in Jerusalem” in Studien zu Jesus und Paulus (WUNT 43; Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck] 1987) 301-302; W. Krauss Das Volk Gottes: Zur Grundlegung der Ekklesiologie bei Paulus (WUNT 85; Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck] 1996) 112.

  • 56)

    DunnBeginning600. Note also 1 Thess 2:14.

  • 57)

    See H.-J. Klauck“Volk Gottes und Leib Christi, oder: Von der kommunikativen Kraft der Bilder. Neutestamentliche Vorgaben für die Kirche von heute,” in Alte Welt und neuer Glaube: Beiträge zur Religionsgeschichte Forschungsgeschichte und Theologie des Neuen Testaments (NTOA 29; Freiburg: Universitätsverlag1994) 289; A.B. du Toit “Paulus Oecumenicus: Interculturality in the Shaping of Paul’s Theology” NTS 55 (2009) 133.

  • 58)

    See DunnBeginning274-278.

  • 62)

    D. Seccombe“Luke’s Vision for the Church,” in A Vision for the Church: Studies in Early Christian Ecclesiology in Honour of J.P.M. Sweet (ed. M.N.A. Bockmuehl and M.B. Thompson; Edinburgh: T & T Clark1997) 47-48; see also Seccombe “New People” 353.

  • 64)

    Seccombe“Luke’s Vision” 48.

  • 65)

    J.Y. Campbell“The Origin and Meaning of the Christian Use of the Word ΕΚΚΛΗΣΙΑ,” in Three New Testament Studies (Leiden: Brill1965) 41.

  • 66)

    See J.A. Fitzmyer“The Designations of Christians in Acts and Their Significance,” in Unité et diversité dans l’Église: Texte officiel de la Commission Biblique Pontificale et travaux personnels des Membres (ed. Commission Biblique Pontificale; Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana1989) 231.

  • 71)

    Fitzmyer“Designations” 229.

  • 72)

    See O.E. EvansSaints in Christ Jesus: A Study of the Christian Life in the New Testament (Swansea: John Perry Press1975) 38. It is possible that in using οἱ ἡγιασµένοι here Luke has been influenced by Deut 33:3-4 where the participle is found but J. Dupont Le discours de Milet testament pastoral de saint Paul (Actes 20:18-36) (LD32; Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf 1962) 281 notes that Deut 33:3-4 is quite different in content from Acts 20:32.

  • 75)

    See TrebilcoEarly Christians in Ephesus177-183.

  • 76)

    See TrebilcoEarly Christians in Ephesus143-145.

  • 77)

    EvansSaints41; italics original.

  • 80)

    N. TurnerA Grammar of New Testament Greek Vol. 3: Syntax (Edinburgh: T & T Clark1963) 264-265 emphasis original; see also Barrett Acts 2:981.


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