The covenant concept as an organising principle in Luke–Acts
Kovács, Frank Zoltan
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Thematic interrelation is an underdeveloped field of inquiry in Lukan studies. The design and elegance of Lukan theology begs for guided investigation into a possible system of organisation that governs history and theology, that is, narrative and theme. Based on the Greimasian Actantial Model, morpho–syntactical structural–critical analysis of Luke and Acts reveals that the covenant concept in its operative aspect of service functions as an organising principle, structuring the narratives and facilitating thematic interrelation. A survey of representative Lukan research consisting of five methodologically determined approaches shows a commonality regarding Lukan purpose. These all share the “plan of God” as a fundamental concept, thus intimating its plausibility as a common organisational principle in the text. This observation encourages further analysis of Lukan narrative and meta–narrative as relevant subject matter. Investigation into the purpose and goals of Ancient Jewish and Ancient Greek literature suggests that the concepts of piety/holiness and justness combined with a notion of divine order and expectation demonstrates organisational capacity. Under the terms and conditions of the Old Covenant three non–exclusive themes/concepts hold organisational functionality and ability to facilitate thematic interrelation: Exodus typology, the covenant concept and the eschaton idea. Exodus typology connects narrative with theme, developing Israel’s story. The covenant idea frames stories using parallelism and gives the meta–story progression. The eschaton idea presents the Day of YHWH as an organisational principle guiding the story of judgment to restoration. It is observed that the covenant concept is the most prevalent of these themes/ideas. Assuming the conceptual unity of Luke and Acts and adopting a morpho–syntactical structuralist approach, it was observed that the covenant concept in its operative aspect of service occurred as Helper at ten places, determining the development and structure of the meta–narrative. According to the Greimasian Actantial Model, Israel failed to fulfil its covenant–based mandate to serve God and shine God’s light of mercy to the nations. Jesus, Israel’s new Helper, becomes the Subject and by his covenant–based ministry, characterised as the greatest service, resolves the problem that prevents Israel from carrying out its divine mandate and sets the stage for its fulfilment. In Jesus Israel is given new leaders, an ethical platform of discipleship and the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul as the epitomised and exemplary witness and servant of Jesus fulfils what Israel could not. He is vindicated in righteousness and shares in the Isaianic ministry of Jesus, to bear witness to leaders and to shine God’s light to the nations. Paul is unhindered in this ministry. Additionally, in thematic–critical terms, the key placement of the covenant concept in its operative aspect of service at plot–defining junctures features its catalytic dynamic as a “template” concept advancing the re–conceptualising of themes and providing a platform for meaningful relation. The evidence thus suggests that the covenant concept in its operative aspect structures the conjoined narratives of Luke and Acts. It also provides a basis for relation between the divine and humans in the context of the history of God’s salvation, linking history and theology, and makes possible a discernible means to thematic interrelation.
- Theology