Have you ever wondered how other people process through a passage of Scripture when they are doing exegesis? Asking questions is essential to good biblical interpretation, so I often write questions down in a notebook or if I’m using my iPad (which I was), I’ll jot down questions in the note section of the ESV Study Bible.
This morning I read through Acts 5:12-16 during my “quiet time” or “devotional” or whatever spiritual-formation-term is popular these days. Here are the questions I typed out:
Is there any relevance to Luke’s statement that “signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles?” Does this imply that “signs and wonders” are a regular part of New Testament Christianity? Or is the focus on the apostolic authority?
When Luke says these miracles occurred “by the hands,” is he referring to the technical (sacramental) usage? I assume he is, but I need to check the Greek.
Who are the pronouns in vv. 12-13 (“they were all together,” “none of the rest dared join them,” and “held them in high esteem”). This seems quite important to our understanding of these two verses. Is Luke saying that none of the early Christians would join the apostles in the gospel ministry that went on in Solomon’s Portico, or is he saying that none of the unbelievers were willing to join then?
Notice that Luke is emphasizing the fact that they were “all together.” There’s a strong emphasis on the early Christian communities unity (cf. Acts 2:42-47; 4:23-35; 5:11). Does this theme have prevalence throughout the rest of the book? I need to check later.
Luke mentions that both men and women were added daily. I wonder if this is an accurate translation. Is it aner and gune or is it anthropos? I highly doubt it is adelphos, but it might be worth it to spend some time checking out how often, or even if other translations will render these words as “men and women,” along with “people” or “brothers and sisters.” Hmmm. This probably proves something about the gender debate that I’m obviously missing…
Three themes keep popping out to me: apostolic authority by way of signs and wonders, early Christian unity, and whether these early miracles were the result of the faith of the apostles or the faith of those who were bring out the sick.
Actually, I think those issues are not the point. Luke seems to be focusing on the Spirit’s “stamp of approval” upon the apostles and the work of the gospel. It seems a bit anachronistic to ask questions related to just whose faith was used as a means to “stir up” healing. Those questions probably just stem from charismatic and pentecostal related issues. But I still wonder how much was a result of the people’s faith? I mean, they brought out the sick to fall under shadows for crying out loud!
Luke seems to make distinctions between being “sick” and in need of healing versus having an “unclean spirit.” In fact, Luke 6:18 and Acts 8:7 seem to also support what Luke seems to be saying here – healing and demons are not necessarily a result of each other or dependent upon each other. At least you can’t make that case from Luke. Or are there verses that connect them more?
Peter plays a very prominent role in the first part of Acts. Interesting. Maybe he was the first pope. Is Luke trying to establish him as the primary voice for the church, as the “head pastor” and all of that? Hmmm. Acts 15 doesn’t seem to support that view.
What is Luke’s narrative theology attempting to show us here? Are there any patterns that follow in more of Luke’s writings?
As you can see, lots of questions pop up. You might not be able to read a Greek New Testament, but you can see that consulting some sort of Greek tool will pretty much be the only way to find out some of the answers. That’s why a good lexicon or Bible dictionary can be helpful.
These are the types of questions that I generally jot down or think out loud before I begin working through the text in a “word by word” fashion, often with my Greek New Testament. But you really don’t have to read Greek to do this. Seriously, just ask a lot of questions and then work through the text while consulting good resources. You’ll be surprised to find a lot of good rabbit trails in your quest… and don’t worry, your questions become better as you continue.