Thursday, May 25, 2017

False Claims about Duke

This post was originally going to be a tweet storm, but it got out of control. This is why it's bullet pointed. Please, read this article first because, if you don't, this post will make no sense.

·      Duke is one of the most progressive schools in the country. To claim that it’s systemically racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. just does not line up with reality.

·      You can find Duke’s statistics on ethnic diversity here: https://www.collegefactual.com/colleges/duke-university/student-life/diversity/

·      These are for the university as a whole rather than simply the Divinity school. DDS’s stats are found in the original article.

·      Let me be honest: I have heard of some students who have acted racist. But what counts for racism at Duke is often that which is mistaken for ignorance.

·      For example, I have a friend– a theologically conservative Christian– who preached a sermon in a preaching class wherein he said the word “gay.”

·      It was used like this, “Jesus commands us to see the poor and love them, to see the oppressed and love them, to see those who are gay and love them.” [Several other groups were also listed]

·      This was labeled as “incredibly offensive” and “boardering on homophobia.” Why? Because “gay” is not inclusive enough. LGBTQI was the appropriate term. My friend’s “ignorance” (if even that is fair) was mistaken for homophobia.

·      The same is frequently true of racism. For example, someone asking what “whooping” is in a preaching class is not racist; it’s ignorance.

·      The kinds of accusations made in this article have no real substantiation. The one story of someone using the N-word in class is so far-fetched that it’s beyond belief.

·      No professor at DDS would have allowed something like that to occur without serious punishment, even ones that write vitriolic emails.

·      While it is entirely possible that Black/African American students have been called the N-word by fellow students outside of class, this is no one’s in-class experience.

·      Had some situation occurred, the professor and the students would immediately have taken action. How do I know this?

·      Most students and professors are not conservative evangelicals, unlike the article’s description. Most are left-leaning, if not left-wing entirely.

·      I would estimate that out of the entire faculty (i.e., non-adjunct), there are perhaps only two that could fit the description of “evangelical” accurately.

·      While there is a significantly higher percentage of evangelical students than professors, most students are still left-leaning or left-wing, especially politically.

·      The article’s narrative that everyone is a Trump-loving evangelical at DDS is completely false. In fact, in every single class I’ve had at Duke during & after the election season, I have heard students openly insult or criticize only one side– the republicans. Trump is used almost as a curse word. It is not the case that most students or professors openly support Trump.

·      In fact, even those who opposed Hilary but didn’t vote for Trump are often afraid to share their opinions for fear of being labeled racist– because that is actually what happens.

·      Some left-leaning students are more level-headed about this kind of thing; but a good many aren’t. I didn’t go a week without hearing the words racist, homophobic, & other similar slurs.

·      Let’s talk grades. That black students are consistently given worse grades is particularly difficult to believe. Here’s why I think it’s just whining and complaining by those in the article.

·      First, it’s exceptionally difficult to get good grades at Duke. During the first year, every student is told in almost every class that they will not receive an A unless their work exceeds expectations and is of publishable quality.

·      Here is an excerpt from one of my syllabi– and this from an upper level, where grading is actually less severe:

·      “Papers that satisfactorily meet all of the above criteria will receive a grade of B. The grade of A is reserved for papers that demonstrate…

·      unusual precision and depth of analysis, along with originality and imaginative richness.”

·      My syllabus for ethics said something even more severe than this.

·      Second, many classes have A’s begin at 96. Most begin at 95.

·      It is very difficult to get a preceptor to give you above a 95. It’s frequently hard for a prof to do so either.

·      Strangely, many students, black and white, post their grades on FB. I think this is a silly practice. Nevertheless, the grades I see are consistent.

·      Students often make usually two or three B’s (either plus or minus), and sometimes an A- or two. Rarely are there any A’s. Rarer are there more than one.

·      Third, this is, of course, experiential and anecdotal, but I suspect that the students who complained in this article is thinking the same thing that everyone else is thinking: “Oh man, I’ll bet everyone in this room is doing better than I am…” without ever asking to see if this were true.

·      Most students at Duke assume that because they are at Duke, everyone else must be doing far better than they. In reality, this often turns out not to be the case– at least according to the experience of me and several of my friends, which group includes Black students, by the way.

·      Finally, could it not be simply that those Black students who the article claims compared their grades did so with very studious students? There are, after all, some extremely brilliant students at Duke. There are also some students who do not thrive in an academic environment. I know a number of (white) students with very poor grades.

·      As far as racial representation for students among faculty goes, their claims are also wrong. The article claims that 16% of students are African American. The article later claims that of the 42 faculty, 6 are Black. That means that 14% of the faculty is Black. Are they right, then? No. Within the past year, two black faculty members have left for Yale. (One white faculty member also left for Yale, by the way.) So before the two faculty left, 18% of DDS’s faculty was Black. If they were not over-represented by the faculty, they were at least equally represented. Even now, they are hardly under-represented. In fact, African Americans make up 13.2% of the US population. Given that percentage, one might expect fewer African American students and faculty, but that is not what one finds.

·      The demands to hire more Black faculty immediately evinces an ignorance of the state of higher education. Academic jobs are extremely hard to come by for would-be professors. Why? Because the universities are finding it more and more difficult to fund these positions. Duke’s situation is no different. In fact, I’m told by a member of the faculty that several important positions will go unfilled for a few years now because DDS literally does not have the money to employ anyone else. If this does not satiate the demands of those who have been protesting– white, Black, Asian, and Latinx alike– then I pose this simple question: which white professor would you like to fire so their position may be filled by a person of color?

·      The pastor, Kenny, who was interviewed by the writers of the article claimed “When I arrived at Duke, there was a place for dialogue around issues of race and homosexuality. But the evangelical thrust has pushed Duke in a different direction.” I do agree that the school has gone in a different direction, but I do not agree that it has been back towards conservatism. Diversity necessarily includes contradictory beliefs; otherwise, it is not genuine diversity. Hence if there is space for dialogue at DDS about race and homosexuality (and we could also include transgenderism and social justice), this necessarily means that dissenting opinions must be included. If they are excluded, you do not have a dialogue; you have a monologue. The explosion my first year among many students over some claims that a certain theology professor made concerning Black and queer theologies demonstrates that at least one side is not interested in dialoguing about these issues. I repeatedly heard that someone should not be included in the faculty if they maintained such a position. How is this diverse? How is this dialogical?

·      Two more points:

o   First, the article says this: “ "That's my primary concern, that the future of the black church is at risk," he said. "In the future, you no longer will have people like Jeremiah Wright and Johnny Ray Youngblood who are really centered around black liberation theology and giving a message to people about social justice. You will see the kind of conservative black pastors who support the Trump administration, with an emphasis on reconciliation without any dialogue. That's a very dangerous place for those who are committed to the black tradition." ” I can think of a very few things more absurd than this. Please, Pastor Kenny, give a list of professors who support the Trump administration. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single one. But this isn’t my point. What’s so absurd is that he’s claiming that the future of DDS will refuse to encourage Black students to read black liberation theology and ignore social justice. What he is probably unaware of is that in the stairwell on the second floor of DDS, there is a display that everyone passes in order to get to the second and third floors. This display has in it something like ten books all on black liberation. In the center you will find James Cone’s God of the Oppressed. This has been there my entire time at Duke. The kinds of claims he is making are incredible; they do not match up with reality.

o   Finally, the article claims in the first sentence that African American students are “being fed a curriculum with no inclusion of black religious tradition.” Yes, you read that correctly. With no inclusion of black religious tradition. Folks, every single MDiv student at Duke has to take a Black church studies course. This is from the Divinity school’s website: “Duke Divinity School is the first school in the nation to have a course requirement in black church studies for all of its M.Div. students. The school also offers courses open to all its master's and doctoral students.” Well one class hardly makes one an expert on the Black church, to be sure. But the initial claim of the article is already proved false by a simple, quick glance at DDS’s website. The claim is that there is no inclusion; but there is obviously some inclusion. All you have to do to find this information is to google “MDiv Duke Divinity Black church studies” and you’ll find the exact page that I just referenced. But this is not the whole story! In fact, the MDiv at DDS has eight (yes, eight) elective courses. Do you know what you could do with those electives? You could take all Black church studies courses. That would total nine Black church studies courses. If this does not demonstrate that even the most basic claims of the article are factually false, I don’t know what will.


·      In conclusion, are there racial problems at Duke? Sure. The entire US has racial problems. Are they anywhere near as pronounced as this article would lead you to believe? Not by a long shot. The claims of this article are so obviously exaggerated– some even obviously fabricated for someone who has attended– that it boarders on slander. I do want to see the Black church thrive, and I am glad that I have had the opportunity to work alongside so many great Black students at the Divinity school. Indeed, I think that Duke is perhaps one of the best places for those who would like to study and work in the Black church. Finally, I want Duke to be an ever more effective institution at training Black ministers, but calumniating this institution as “a racial nightmare seemingly from another era” is not the way to do so. It’s hurtful, and it’s false. The best thing for NPR to do would be to remove the article so that someone can do actual investigation into these claims to see to what degree any of these claims are true.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Review of "Martin Luther in His Own Words"



Martin Luther in His Own Words is an edited volume of some of Luther’s writings, which were written between ca. 1520 and 1530. The book is divided into five sections (excluding the four page introduction) corresponding to the five solas (faith alone, grace alone, scripture alone, Christ alone, and glory to God alone). This is an interesting approach to Luther’s writings. I think the purporse of organizing the writings this way is helpful heuristically. Happily, the editors provide a very brief introduction to each work; these introductions usually span about 1½ to 2 pages– though some are shorter, and some longer. These introductions are also printed in a smaller font, so there is a little bit more than a first glance would suggest. The introductions are helpful, but they would be more effective had a brief overview of Luther’s life been provided in the introduction to the book. (Perhaps this is the point. At the end of the book, they have printed a very large advertisement for Lutzer’s other book on the Reformation, which covers Luther’s life more extensively, though still briefly.)

I think the selections from Luther’s writings are excellent. I was happy to see On Christian Liberty among the works. Along with that, selections from his commentary on Galatians and his translation of Romans have been included. These too are very good places to begin with Luther. I was surprised at the inclusion of Luther’s That Doctrines of Men Are To Be Rejected since it is seldom found in other Luther anthologies. This is both good and bad: good because the reader is introduced to a work that might otherwise have been missed; bad because this hardly should be included in a volume composed of “essential writings of the Reformation.” Alas, Luther’s Two Kinds of Righteousness and the Ninety-Five Theses have not been included in this short volume. Surely the Theses are “essential” reading for the student of the Reformation or of Luther. And Two Kinds of Righteousness is one of my favorite works by Luther. In addition to these, his Introduction to the Gospels, Babylonian Captivity, and selections from his Romans commentary (or its introduction) are some others that might have been included. But this is a review of what is there, not what isn’t. I think what is present in the volume is good. The translations are very easy to read, and for the most part, Luther’s works have been abridged in a way that doesn’t diminish the character of the work. That is, you get the “essentials” of what Luther has to say in them, though you certainly do not get it all. But this is not a book for scholars or even those who are studying the Reformation. This is a book for pastors and for laity. Insofar as this is the case, this is an excellent book. Admittedly, I was skeptical of this little volume when I signed up to review it. Having read and reviewed Lutzer’s Rescuing the Gospel a few months ago, the dearth of references to primary source material suggested to me that Lutzer might not be too familiar with the writings of Luther. However, I am pleasantly surprised with this book, and I happily recommend it to pastors and lay people who have neither the time nor desire to read Luther’s lengthier works but still would like a brief introduction to Luther’s work. For those who would wish to dig a little deeper, or for those who discover that they can’t get enough of Luther from this little volume, I would recommend John Dillenberger’s anthology, Martin Luther:Selections from His Writings, Edited and with an Introduction (Garden City: Doubleday, 1961). In either case, you can’t go wrong with reading Luther!






Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher. I was under no compulsion to write a positive review. All thoughts or opinions expressed in this review are my own.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Apocalyptic Preaching of Paul: The Reality Behind Magic and Ministry

Introduction
            The mission of Paul and Barnabas to Cyprus in Acts 12:25-13:12 illustrates more than a conflict simply concerning religion or power. The pericope at hand displays a conflict between God and Satan. The conflict is an apocalyptic struggle for power.[1] It is the kingdom of God asserting dominance over the kingdom of Satan and the latter’s attempt to fight back. The apocalyptic theme of cosmic war of the kingdom of God against the kingdom of Satan is a continuation of a theme that runs throughout the book of Acts. This is especially clear in the scenes of conflict with magic and magicians (8:9-24; 12:25-13:12; 19:12-19; cf. also 16:16-21). The kind of existence that being a citizen of God’s kingdom creates runs counter to that of Satan’s kingdom. While it does not necessarily mean that the citizens of God’s kingdom are insurrectionists who will necessarily violently overthrow the present world order because of their citizenship in God’s kingdom, their way of life is diametrically opposed to those who dwell within the kingdom of Satan.[2] In this meeting in particular, Luke shows that magic is not a viable way of life for those in God’s kingdom.[3] Further, those who practice magic are set up as enemies of the message of the Gospel and children of Satan. The conflict is therefore not merely one of flesh and blood. The missionaries and magician conflict precisely because two different kingdoms are colliding and cannot remain peaceably side by side.

Characters in the Story
            There are five major characters in this pericope and one minor character. The major characters include the Holy Spirit, Paul (who receives this new name in v. 9), Elymas (or Bar-Jesus), and Sergius Paulus. The two minor characters are Barnabas and Satan, who features in the background.[4] The conflict that drives the plot of the story is the fight over the faith of Sergius Paulus. On the one side of the fight is Paul, Barnabas, and the Holy Spirit. On the other side is Elymas and (implicitly) Satan. The cosmic battle that is waged in the preaching (13:5, 7), the opposition (13:8), the prophetic rebuke (13:9-11), and the faith of Sergius Paulus (13:12) constitute the different offensives of Paul and Elymas ( = the Holy Spirit and Satan) and their results. The characterizations of these characters displays the apocalyptic outlook of Acts. Human disputes are elevated to a comic position of importance. This scene is not merely a dispute between a missionary and a power-hungry advisor.[5] It is, in fact, the attack of God’s kingdom on the kingdom of this world, the kingdom of Satan (cf. Luke 1:45-55).
            The Holy Spirit is among the first characters that act in this pericope (13:2).[6] The opening scene begins in prayer (1:1-2), which throughout Luke-Acts results in an opportunity for the action of the Holy Spirit, and in many of these cases, this results in being impelled toward mission (cf. Luke 3:21, 22; 4:14, 18; Acts 1:14; 2:1-4, 5-41).[7] The Holy Spirit sets into action the events that follow. He[8] commands those in Antioch to set aside (φορίσατε)[9] Paul and Barnabas for the service to which he has called them.[10] The Holy Spirit then sends the two missionaries to Seleucia and from there, to Cyprus. In Cyprus, the Holy Spirit then initiates the conflict between the missionaries and the μάγος Bar-Jesus/Elymas, who was a Jewish ψευδοπροφήτης. Behind all that follows, the reader henceforth assumes that the Holy Spirit is present and working the will of God.[11] All of the major action in the scene that Paul and Barnabas will do has been impelled by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, Paul’s being filled with the Holy Spirit may suggest further that the Holy Spirit is not merely the one impelling characters into action but is performing those actions himself, making Paul the “actor” in the proper sense.[12] If this is the case, the actions of Paul truly parallel the actions of God; they are, in fact, the same acts.
Therefore the question of what Paul does naturally arises. We are initially told that he and Barnabas went into the Jewish synagogues and were proclaiming the word of God (κατήγγελλον τν λόγον το θεο). With John’s help, they preached throughout the whole island (at least ρχι Πάφου). Their message apparently causes enough of a stir for them to meet Elymas, the proconsul’s advisor.[13] Their message has transcended the strata of society and impressed not only the lower classes but also those in power. Luke’s understanding of the effect of the Gospel might not be particularly amenable to those in power (cf. Luke 1:52). However, in Acts, being a government official does not exclude a person from knowing and accepting the Gospel. Therefore Paul does not shy away from preaching to him, as we will also see in his interaction with other government officials throughout the narrative (24:10-26; 26:1-29). When he is opposed by Elymas, Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit and τενίσας ες ατν. This is not the first time that the reader has encountered these words and it will not be the last (see 1:10; 3:4, 12; 6:15; 7:55; 10:4; 11:6; 14:9; 21:3). In Acts, this phrase takes on a special significance because often it is followed by a miraculous vision or healing. In this case, however, it is followed by a curse: Paul strikes Elymas with blindness.[14] In so doing, Paul informs Elymas that χεὶρ κυρίου ἐπὶ σέ. This line recalls an Old Testament expression that implies negative effects (cf. Judg 2:15; 1 Sam 7:13; 12:15; Job 19:21; Ezek 13:9).[15] More importantly, however, it implies that God is acting through Paul against Elymas. The passage therefore continues the theme of parallel action. God is acting in Paul against those who would oppose him. This action then brings about the desired result: belief in God.
Elymas is said to be a ψευδοπροφήτης.[16] This is a category to be perceived over and against the category into which Paul and Barnabas fall. They are grouped together with the προφῆται καὶ διδάσκαλοι of 13:1-3. From the outset, the reader perceives that Elymas is everything that Paul and Barnabas are not. He is their opposite, the antithesis of the Christian way of living (cf. 13:8). Worse, he is a μάγος.[17] Luke has no friendly attitude toward magic or its practitioners. In Acts, we find that magic is presented as a way of life incompatible with– and in opposition to– Christianity. In 8:9-24, Simon the magician[18] is nearly cursed by Peter for treating the Holy Spirit as he would a magical spell (even after he has been baptized as a Christian!), that is, as a way to make a profit. In 19:19, many who practiced magic come into the streets and burn their magical books, which results in a loss of about fifty thousand silver coins. The tendency recorded at the beginning of Acts of Christians selling their possessions and giving the proceeds to the church does not seem to have died out here (2:44; 5:1-11). Rather, they would rather burn their very valuable possessions than to sell them and let the practice of magic continue. Finally, in his first volume, Luke (2:1-21) notoriously omits any reference in his birth account to the μάγοι that Matthew (2:1) seems to praise.[19]
Nevertheless, Elymas is understood to oppose God by his very nature as a ψευδοπροφήτης.[20] The opposition to God of this ψευδοπροφήτης forces him to face a true prophet. During this encounter he is identified as a υἱὲ διαβόλου. That Luke mentions earlier that Elymas is a Jew makes this identification all the more poignant. Though he should be identified as a son of Abraham by virtue of the covenant with Israel, he has instead alligned himself with God’s enemy,[21]­ which is ironic given his other name is Βαριησοῦ (son of Jesus).[22] This identification does for the reader what the mention of the Holy Spirit filling Paul did: the actions of Elymas are, in fact, alligned with actions of Satan. His actions do not simply represent a human sphere of influence. Instead, Elymas’ actions represent the demonic assault on the purposes of God. That Satan is working through him is made clear in the contrast between Luke’s description of Paul as “filled with the Holy Spirit” and Elymas as “full of all deceit and fraud.” However, when this false prophet faces a true prophet of the Lord, he is overcome and left helpless.
This naturally leads us to wonder what Elymas does to incur Paul’s wrath– that is, what Satan is doing to attack the Holy Spirit and the mission of God. Apart from the ambiguous ἀνθίστατο, we are also told that Elymas is διαστρέφων τὰς ὁδοὺς κυρίου τὰς εὐθείας. This peculiar phrase recalls John the baptizer’s (one who was a true prophet) statement concerning his own mission to make straight the path of the Lord (Luke 3:3-6) and illustrates Elymas’ antithetical relationship to the church, which Luke often refers to as “the Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4, 14, 22). Elymas’ opposition to Paul’s witness to Sergius Paulus is magnified to cosmic proportions. He is opposing the eternal plan of God for salvation. He does precisely what Satan attempts in the Gospel of Luke, who tries to make crooked God’s way of salvation by tempting Jesus immediately after his baptism and reception of the Spirit.[23] In the same manner that Satan opposed Jesus’ ministry (4:1-13) immediately following his reception of the Spirit (3:21-22), Elymas opposes Paul’s ministry immediately following his commission by the Spirit.[24] In both instances, therefore, Satan is working against the same Spirit that has come upon both Jesus and Paul.
The two men that make up the primary content of the conflict ironically constitute the greatest parallel in the story. Earlier in the narrative, Paul was opposing the Christian mission and functioning as a tool for Satan, just as Elymas is doing here. However, while Bar-Jesus attempts to “make crooked the paths of the Lord,” Paul goes to the “street called Straight” (9:11). Both are blinded on account of their opposition to God’s mission. Nevertheless, only Paul responds in faith after transitioning from darkness to light, while Bar-Jesus remains in darkness (at least for “a time;” 13:11). It is not, therefore, the person that is the biggest problem in either of these cases. It is the one controlling the person. Satan is the primary antagonist. Satan, through various individuals, opposes “the Way” of the Lord. But these individuals are not trapped to do Satan’s will. Like Paul, Elymas has the opportunity to change his ways and join the true Way. The primary source of conflict is Satan and his attempt to interfere with God’s salvific intentions in the spread of the Gospel.
Sergius Paulus is identified as a proconsul (ἀνθύπατος). He is labeled ἀνδρὶ συνετῷ, a man of intelligence. In contrast to Elymas who is “full of all deceit and fraud,” Sergius Paulus is respectable. Despite his respectability and intelligence, however, he is nevertheless under the influence of Elymas by employing him as the court magician. Taking into consideration Sergius Paulus’ intelligence, we have to conclude that Elymas was no charlatan. A man of intelligence would see past this. Elymas must have had real power to work miracles or magic. Despite this fact, Sergius Paulus is presented in an amenable light. What is particularly important about him in this passage is the mention of his rank. As proconsul, Sergius Paulus governed a province. Some proconsuls were local dynasts, such as the Herods. Others were appointed by the senate. However, some proconsuls were chosen directly by the emperor.[25] There is little extra-biblical mention of Sergius Paulus that is of any value,[26] but the significance of his social position can hardly be stressed sufficiently here. It is likely that he would have known, or at least met, the emperor himself. Mention of his governmental position reflects Luke’s interest in the conversion of those of high social status to the Christian faith.[27] Of note is the fact that Sergius Paulus is the one who expresses interest in hearing the Christian message (ἐπεζήτησεν ἀκοῦσαι τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ). Not only is Sergius Paulus an intelligent man of high social rank; he is also interested in hearing the Gospel. However, like in the parable of the sower in Luke 8:4-8, 11-15, Satan is still at work trying to keep the Gospel from taking root. Satan’s attempt, however, fails as Elymas is struck with blindness. Sergius Paulus believes (ἐπίστευσεν)[28] and Paul and Barnabas are victorious over their opposition Elymas.
Satan, the final character we will discuss, is in the background of the conflict, much like the Holy Spirit. Although Satan is not a primary actor in the story, he nevertheless functions as a character.[29] Satan is the true identity behind the conflict in which Elymas engages. Satan is presented in antithesis to the Holy Spirit. So just as the Holy Spirit guides Paul and Barnabas to go certain places and do certain things and fills them in order to cause them to say certain things (cf. Luke 12:12; Acts 13:9), so also Satan can fill his subordinates and cause them to go, do, and say.[30] Satan is in charge of what happens through Elymas. His purposes are still the same as that in the Gospel of Luke: he opposes the spread of the Gospel. In this case, Satan wishes to stop the Gospel message before it even has a chance of being received by Sergius Paulus. Satan wants to keep this man under his sphere of influence. His attempt to stop the spread of the word of God before it reached Sergius Paulus fails and his servant Elymas suffers for it. Yet Satan does not get out of the debacle unscathed. He has lost ground, so to speak. The kingdom of God has asserted itself in his territory. Those who were once under his influence are now under the influence of God. Those through whom he could rule others have been struck down, cast down from their thrones and made lowly, to grope around in the dark needing assistance (cp. Luke 1:52).

Backstage Characters and the Primary Conflict
Although the story seems at first as if it were a conflict between humans, close reading of the narrative shows that this is not the case.[31] The humans in both cases are possessed, so to speak, by a higher power. Paul is πλησθεὶς πνεύματος ἁγίου and Elymas is πλήρης παντὸς δόλου καὶ πάσης ῥᾳδιουργίας. Both are filled, but each is filled with the other’s opposite. Paul who has the Holy Spirit is set in antithesis to Elymas who is an ἐχθρὲ πάσης δικαιοσύνης. One could hardly think of a more divisive term than ἐχθρός to describe their relationship. Yet these are the descriptions that Luke provides for Paul and Elymas within a span of two verses. The proximity of these descriptions is important. It solidifies the equivalency that Luke is creating.[32] But it also reveals the role played by the supernatural beings with whom these two men are connected. The claim that Elymas was a ψευδοπροφήτης indicates to the reader the reality that Elymas was something other than he seemed. He turns out to be a puppet who fits over the hand of Satan. Paul, on the other hand, is precisely what he seems: in league with God (cf. Acts 14:12).
As we mentioned above, Elymas was no charlatan.[33] His ability to work wonders must have been obvious; otherwise, it is difficult to conceive how he would have remained employed in the service of a man of intelligence.[34] We are not given the details about what concrete steps Sergius Paulus took in his attempt to “oppose” Paul and Barnabas, but given the double mention of his vocation, it may not be unreasonable to assume that Elymas was attempting to curse Paul and Barnabas. Whether the curse (or whatever manifested his opposition) has any effect is not clear. What is certain, however, is that this invoked the wrath of the Holy Spirit, who fills Paul and causes him to strike Elymas with blindness. Aside from the parallels with Paul’s own past, the wording may also echo Deut 28:28-29. In this passage, those who have forsaken the Lord are afflicted with blindness, among other things, and are said to “grope in darkness.” The mention of Elymas as a Ἰουδαῖος may serve to emphasize that Elymas forsook God as he became a servant of Satan.[35] If this echo is indeed present, this would serve to suggest that although supernatural beings were possessing the individuals, the humans still remain culpable for their actions. Thus Elymas was repaid for his abandonment of God in his conflict with Paul. Although this conflict was taking place among those existing outside of the human plane of existence, the battle truly was waged within history and among humans, for it is humans who suffer the consequences.[36]
The battle seems to have been waged primarily over Sergius Paulus. Whether it was because his prominent status could grant Christianity a legitimacy it had not yet attained or just a general desire to keep the Roman administration pure from Christian pollution, Satan risked– and lost– much to stop Paul and Barnabas from evangelizing Sergius Paulus. The advantages for Christians to having a high-ranking Roman official as a Christian are obvious for those who know read through the many trials that Paul had to withstand to prove his innocence of inciting στάσις.[37] On the other hand, there are also many advantages for Satan to having a high-ranking Roman official under the influence of Satan. That this battle was waged over this particular man contains an interesting insight into the biblical understanding of politics as well. Although the kingdom of God is not of this world (John 18:36) in the same way that the kingdom of Rome is of this world, the assertion of the kingdom of God could involve political action on the part of Christian Roman officials. Just as the Holy Spirit uses Paul and Satan uses Elymas, the kingdom of God could use Sergius Paulus for the advancement of its purposes.
The battle between Paul and the Holy Spirit on one side and Elymas and Satan on the other does not indicate merely clashing ideologies or philosophies of life. They are the war brought about when two diametrically opposed kingdoms meet. The Christian way of living and being in the world is fundamentally incompatible with the way that Elymas lived. One cannot serve the Lord Jesus and search for power apart from him (cf. Luke 8:44). Paul’s victory over Elymas was one step of many in the gradual overthrow of the dominant world order: not Rome but the kingdom of Satan. Rome is left to remain– though certainly not unchanged– when Paul and Barnabas leave Cyprus. The kingdom of Satan, on the other hand, has lost a stronghold. The power of its enforcer, the magician, has been taken away, and he is left powerless to grope in the darkness. The two kingdoms of God and Satan cannot coexist side-by-side. One will overcome the other. While Christians might not be insurrectionists in the kingdom of Rome who seek to overthrow the powers that be, they must be revolutionaries seeking to overthrow the kingdom of Satan.

Conclusion
The arrival and spread of the kingdom of God in Acts details a massive shift in the human way of being in the world. Citizenship in the kingdom of God truly turns one’s world upside down (cf. Acts 17:6). Such is the case with the meeting of the missionaries and the magician in Acts 13. The kingdom of Satan is being overturned. The strongholds that Satan once held are being lost. Paul’s preaching of the Gospel is a manifestation of the apocalyptic war that God is waging on Satan and his kingdom. Satan, thus, will stop at nothing to stop the spread of the word of God (13:7-8). But just as God’s war on Satan manifests in Paul’s preaching, Satan’s defensive against God’s assaults manifest in his magician’s resistance, among other ways. There is thus a clear reality that is running parallel to the human one in Acts: through the human characters, God and Satan are doing battle. Victory here reflects victory there. It is not simply two realities running parallel to one another, however. In the spread of the Gospel and the change in our way of being in the world, God truly is expanding his kingdom and tearing down the strongholds of Satan. Paul’s conflict with Elymas shows that preaching of the Gospel is cosmic war and its acceptance is the eradication of demonic power that sits behind the present world order.



BIBLIOGRAPHY
Barrett, C. K., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. 2 vols. ICC. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1994.

Bellinger, W. H. “The Psalms and Acts: Reading and Rereading.” Pages 127-143, in With Steadfast Purpose: Essays in Honor of Henry Jackson Flanders, Jr. Edited by Naymond H. Keathley. Waco: Baylor University Press, 1990.

Bock, Darrell. Acts. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.

Bultmann, Rudolf. Exegetica: Aufsaẗze zur Erforschung des Neuen Testaments. Edited by Erich Dinkler. Tübingen: Mohr, 1967.

Chatman, Seymour. Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Film and Fiction. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979.

Collins, John J. The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature, 2nd edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.

Conzelmann, Hans. Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary on Acts of the Apostles. Hermeneia. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987.

———. The Theology of St. Luke. Translated by Geoffrey Buswell. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1960.

Cornils, Anja. Vom Geist Gottes erzählen: Analysen zur Apostelgeschichte. TANZ 44. Tübingen: Francke Verlag: 2006.

Culpepper, R. Alan. Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Literary Design. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1983.

Eisen, Ute E. Die Poetik der Apostelgeschichte: Eine narratologische Studie. NTOA 58. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006.

Fitzmyer, Joseph. Acts of the Apostles: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AB 31. New York: Doubleday, 1998.

Garrett, Susan. Demise of the Devil: Magic and the Demonic in Luke’s Writings. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989.

Goodacre, Mark. The Case Against Q: Studies in Markan Priority and the Synoptic Problem. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2001.

Green, Joel. The Gospel of Luke. NICNT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997.

Haenchen, Ernst. Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary. Translated by Bernard Noble et al. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971.

Johnson, Luke Timothy. Acts of the Apostles. Sacra Pagina. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1992.

Kittel, Gerhard, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. 10 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-1976.

Lin, Szu-Chuan. Wundertaten und Mission: Dramatische Episoden in Apg 13-14. Europäische Verlag der Wissenschaften 623. Frankfort am Main: Peter Lang, 1998.

Marshall, I. Howard. “Acts.” Pages 513-606, in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Edited by D.A. Carson and G.K. Beale. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.

McFague, Sallie. Models of God: Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1987.

Parsons, Mikeal C. and Martin M. Culy. Acts: A Handbook on the Greek Text. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2003.

Pervo, Richard I. Acts: A Commentary. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009.

Pesch, Rudolf. Die Apostelgeschichte. 2 vols. EKKNT. Zürich: Benziger, 1986.

Powell, Mark Allan. What Is Narrative Criticism? Guides to Biblical Scholarship. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990.

Sakenfeld, Katherine Doob, ed. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. 5 vols. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006.

Scheiber, Stefan. Paulus als Wundertäter: Redaktiongeschichtliche Untersuchungen zur Apostelgeschichte und den authentischen Paulusbriefen. BZNW 79. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1996.

Slee, Nicola. Faith and Feminism: An Introduction to Christian Feminist Theology. London: Darton Longman and Todd, 2003.

Talbert, Charles H. Reading Acts: A Literary and Theological Commentary, Revised Edition. Reading the New Testament. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2005.

Tannehill, Robert. The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts: A Literary Interpretation: Volume Two: The Acts of the Apostles. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990.

Thompson, G. L. “Roman Administration.” Pages 959-962. In Dictionary of New Testament Background. Edited by Craig Evans and Stanley Porter. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

Wall, Robert W. The Acts of the Apostles: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections. NIB. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002.

Witherington, Ben. The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.




[1] John Collins’ definition of an apocalypse (in The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature, 2nd ed. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998], 5) is “a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial insofar as it involves another, supernatural world.” Some of this is at play in the text at hand: e.g., although there is no explicit disclosure to the characters recorded in the narrative (except, perhaps, 13:2), Acts no doubt conceives a parallel, transcendent reality is taking place in the earthly events that transpire. Thus, Acts elicits an apocalyptic outlook because, as Susan Garrett puts it (in The Temptations of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999], 63), in the “apocalyptic view, events transpiring on the earthly plane are merely the reflection or outworking of events happening on a higher, unseen plane.” She attributes this view to Mark’s Gospel, but it is equally true of Acts.
[2] See C. Kavin Rowe, World Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 59-89 (esp. 87-88).
[3] I use the appellation “Luke” throughout to refer to the implied author of Luke’s gospel and the book of Acts. For a definition of the implied author, see Seymour Chatman, Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Film and Fiction (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979), 28, 149-152; R. Alan Culpepper, Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Literary Design (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1983), 6-7; and Mark Allan Powell, What Is Narrative Criticism? (Guides to Biblical Scholarship; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), 25-27.
[4] This count excludes the minor characters mentioned in 13:1-3. Barnabas will receive no individual attention below because he is virtually absent from the story except in the commissioning and in the request of Sergius Paulus. Everything that can be said of Paul could equally be said of Barnabas, however, because the narrative treats them as a unit throughout the pericope.
[5] The Greek description of Elymas says he was one ὃς ἦν σὺν τῷ ἀνθυπάτῳ. The σὺν τῷ ἀνθυπάτῳ is an ambiguous description in terms of Elymas’ status. Mikeal Parsons and Martin Culy (in Acts: A Handbook on the Greek Text [Waco: Baylor University Press, 2003], 245, 247) translate ἦν σὺν τῷ ἀνθυπάτῳ as “was associated with the proconsul.” In what capacity he is associated with the proconsul is not clear. However, as Charles Talbert notes (in Reading Acts: A Literary and Theological Commentary [Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2005], 117-18), the Mediterranean world frequently had court astrologers and magicians who would advise the local leaders. The grammar may not make it clear but the reader acquainted with politics contemporary with the composition of Luke probably would have understood Elymas’ position as one of advisement, especially regarding matters astrological or magical, Lin’s comments (in Wundertaten und Mission: Dramatische Episoden in Apg 13-14, Europäische Verlag der Wissenschaften 623 [Frankfort am Main: Peter Lang, 1998], 89: “Als Bestätigung genügt die Tatsache, daß das Verbot und die Ächtung der Magie fast in jeder Kultur zu finden sind”) notwithstanding. Cf. C. K. Barrett, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, 2 vols, ICC (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1994), I: 613; Joseph Fitzmyer, Acts of the Apostles: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, AB 31 (New York: Doubleday, 1998), 503.
[6] For a detailed discussion of character and whether/how the Holy Spirit– a non-human– qualifies as a character, see William H. Shepherd, Jr., The Narrative Function of the Holy Spirit as a Character in Luke-Acts, SBLDS 147 (Atlanta: SBL Press, 1994), 90-98. Cf. also Stephen D. Moore, “Why There Are No Humans or Animals in the Gospel of Mark,” in Mark as Story: Retrospect and Prospect, ed. Kelly R. Iverson and Christopher W. Skinner (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2011), 71-94 and Ute E. Eisen, Die Poetik der Apostelgeschichte: Eine narratologische Studie, NTOA 58 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006), 134-39.
[7] See Robert Tannehill, The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts: A Literary Interpretation: Volume Two: The Acts of the Apostles (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), 161.
[8] Throughout this paper I will use the masculine singular pronouns “he/him/himself” to refer to the Holy Spirit. Although neuter in Greek, referencing the Holy Spirit with the English neuter pronoun de-personalizes the referent– which is the opposite of what I am trying to do in this brief character study– and abandoning the use of pronouns quickly becomes cumbersome. The solution of some authors and theologians to use feminine pronouns to depart from engendering God does not actually solve any more problems than it creates. For these and related issues, see Sallie McFague, Models of God: Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1987), esp. 91-124 and Nicola Slee, Faith and Feminism: An Introduction to Christian Feminist Theology (London: Darton Longman and Todd, 2003).
[9] Note the biblical connotations this word often carries (cf. LXX Exod 13:12; 29:26-27; Lev 13:4-5; Num 12:14-15; 2 Sam 8:1; Isa 52:11). It also reflects Paul’s own understanding of his call (Rom 1:1 and Gal 1:15). See Luke Timothy Johnson, Acts of the Apostles, Sacra Pagina (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1992), 221.
[10] Though Luke does not say so explicitly, the words of the Spirit might not have sounded from the heavens as in a Bat Qol. Instead, they might have been mediated through the words of a prophet, which is not something foreign to Acts (e.g., 11:28). See F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles: The Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 294; Ernst Haenchen, Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary, trans. Bernard Noble et al (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971), 396.
[11] Tannehill’s comments (in Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts: Vol 2, 160) are to the point: “The initiative for this new mission comes not from the apostles but from the Holy Spirit active in the Antioch church. The Spirit indicates through a small circle of prophets and teachers that two of their number should be selected for a particular task. The reference to Paul as a prophet provides the background for the next scene, in which Paul speaks as a prophet, filled with the Holy Spirit.” It is the Holy Spirit who is guiding the actions of Paul and Barnabas throughout the narrative.

[12] Cf. Anja Cornils, Vom Geist Gottes erzählen: Analysen zur Apostelgeschichte, TANZ 44 (Tübingen: Francke Verlag: 2006), 100-103; Shepherd, Narrative Function of the Holy Spirit, 90-93.
[13] Some scholars have suggested that it is possible that the author has combined two independent stories in 13:4-12, indicated by 1) Barnabus and Saul finding the magus and 2) the proconsul summoning Barnabus and Saul. (See, e.g., So Hans Conzelmann, Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary on Acts of the Apostles [Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987], 73.) Barrett (Acts of the Apostles, 609) adds to this evidence the two names given to the μάγος. However, this kind of speculative search for earlier sources and traditions boarders on guess-work. For further form-critical comments on this passage and the following, see Barrett, Acts of the Apostles, 599ff.; Rudolf Bultmann, Exegetica: Aufsaẗze zur Erforschung des Neuen Testaments, ed. Erich Dinkler (Tübingen: Mohr, 1967), 418-19; and Stefan Schreiber, Paulus als Wundertäter: Redaktiongeschichtliche Untersuchungen zur Apostelgeschichte und den authentischen Paulusbriefen (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1996), 30-76.

[14] Ben Witherington (in The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998], 446) says that this is “an oath curse.”
[15] See I. Howard Marshall, “Acts,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, ed. D. A. Carson and G. K. Beale (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 582 and Rudolf Pesch, Die Apostelgeschichte, 2 vols, EKKNT (Zürich: Benziger, 1986), II: 25.
[16] Fitzmyer (Acts of the Apostles, 501) asserts that the description of Elymas “boarders on fantastic.”
[17] Barrett (Acts of the Apostles, 613) includes the word Ἰουδαῖος in the list of descriptors that Luke uses for Elymas to indicate the quality of this character. However, I am not convinced that Luke always viewed the Jews negatively.
[18] Μάγος is used only of Elymas in Acts. However, Simon is said to have practiced magic (8:9: προϋπῆρχεν... μαγεύων).

[19] On Luke’s use of Matthew in composing his gospel, see Mark Goodacre, The Case Against Q: Studies in Markan Priority and the Synoptic Problem (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2001), esp. 81-120.
[20] Rendtorff notes that the term in the LXX is used in place of נביא when the reference is to those prophets who oppose Jeremiah (TDNT 6:812). Moreover, so long as prophet is defined as one who speaks on behalf of God, Rendtorff is correct to say that the Ψευδοπροφήτης is “one who says he is a prophet when he is not.” This should not be taken to mean, however, that Elymas had no prophetic insight about the future or premonitory abilities. He was, after all, also called a magician.
[21] Cf. Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 176, 525.
[22] See Darrell Bock, Acts, BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 446.

[23] The temptation is immediately subsequent to the baptism in narrative time despite the separation of the two scenes by the genealogy of Jesus (3:23-38). Cf. W. H. Bellinger, “The Psalms and Acts: Reading and Rereading,” in With Steadfast Purpose: Essays in Honor of Henry Jackson Flanders, Jr., ed. Naymond H. Keathley (Waco: Baylor University Press, 1990), 139-142.
[24] Hans Conzelmann’s thesis (in The Theology of St. Luke, trans. Geoffrey Buswell (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1960, 16, 80-81, 132, 156-157, 200) that Satan is defeated by Jesus in the temptation and absent throughout the rest of the narrative is rebutted by the parallels found here and throughout Acts.

[25] See G. L. Thompson, “Roman Administration,” in Dictionary of New Testament Background, ed. Craig Evans and Stanley Porter (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 960-962; Eugene Boring, “Palestine, Administration of,” NIDB, ed. Katherine Doob Sakenfeld (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006), IV: 359-365; and Marianne Blickenstaff, “Proconsul,” in NIDB, IV: 616 for more on the Roman administration of provinces.
[26] Barrett (Acts of the Apostles, 613-614) mentions one inscription that refers to one L. Sergius Paulus beside five other men’s names. This inscription dates to around 41 to 54 AD. It could very likely speak of the same Sergius Paulus of Acts.
[27] See Talbert (Reading Acts, 119) who lists several more examples throughout Acts. See also Rubén R. Dupertuis, “Paulus, Sergius,” in NIDB, IV: 421.
[28] The usage of πιστεύειν in Acts, and particularly here in 13:12, suggests that “believe” is not a sufficient translation. In addition to believing, it also connotes conversion at least a dozen times (cf. esp. 13:48).
[29] See Shepherd, Narrative Function of the Holy Spirit, 61-67 and Susan Garrett, The Demise of the Devil: Magic and the Demonic in Luke’s Writings (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989).
[30] So Garrett, Demise of the Devil, 80.
[31] Contra Robert W. Wall, The Acts of the Apostles: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections, NIB (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), 190.
[32] Garrett, Demise of the Devil, 80-81.
[33] Contra Garrett, Demise of the Devil, 83.
[34] Cf. Barrett’s (Acts of the Apostles, 614) discussion of the connection of Luke’s compliments for Sergius Paulus to the fact that Sergius Paulus converts.
[35] See Marshall, “Acts,” 581-582 for a detailed discussion of the use of scripture in this passage.
[36] A similar point is made with regard to Mark in James M. Robinson, The Problem of History in Mark and Other Marcan Studies (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), 76-80.
[37] See Rowe, World Upside Down, 53-89.

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