Monday, February 2, 2009

Initial Reactions to Richard Pervo's Acts

Update: I rewrote the third paragraph in response to this comment by Richard I. Pervo.

Those who are familiar with Pervo's earlier work (and with me), will surmise correctly that we don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. But Pervo's new Acts commentary (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009) is excellent--the sort of well-written, detailed, insight-filled and critical work we have come to expect from Hermeneia. It meets the #1 criterion for a good commentary in that it addresses my questions. And, like C.K. Barrett's ICC commentary, it is funny. For a commentary, that is high praise indeed.

My biggest complaint so far is that Pervo doesn't bother to defend his late dating of Acts, pointing readers instead to his 2006 monograph on the subject. Unfortunately, I can't buy Dating Acts this year, and I don't have time to read it anyway. A more detailed presentation of the case for a second century date is in order in a commentary of this size.

Pervo does explain his classification of Acts as an ancient historical novel or romance popular history that draws on conventions more commonly associated with ancient fiction: According to Pervo, an omniscient narrator, miracles, and the lack of a claim to objectivity are more typical of ancient novels fiction than ancient history writing. But It is worth noting that these characteristics were also typical of the OT narratives Luke modeled his story after. In my view, it is more helpful to think of Luke's story as apologetic historiography (some of which Pervo would include as popular history), but apologetic historiography in a biblical style.


Charles said...

I think that your remarks are fairly accurate. I am currently working through the volume myself and hope to write a review in the near future in my blog

Anonymous said...

From Richard I. Pervo. Thank you for kind remarks. Please note that the introduction to Acts does not identify the work as an historical novel. Cf also the interview published on Euaggelion.

Thank you

d. miller said...

Hello Richard: Thank you for the clarification. I obviously did not read your introduction carefully enough. I trust my revisions to the post more accurately reflect your conclusions about the genre of Acts.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this change. Re: date. At least one gave some reasons. Major bases are clear in course of commentary. These include use of a collection of pauline letters, Josephus' Ant., including bk. 20, and vocabulary, ideas, etc. current in era of Apostolic fathers.