A REPRESENTATIVE OUTSIDER AND THE INCLUSION OF THE OUTSIDER IN ACTS 8:26-40
In Luke’s two volumes, Luke is not interested only in Gentiles and those with high social status but also in the marginalized and those who are outsiders. This dissertation seeks to read Luke’s concern for outsiders and the theme of the inclusion of outsiders in the new kingdom of God in Luke’s narrative of the Ethiopian eunuch’s conversion in Acts 8:26-40. This paper examines the Ethiopian eunuch’s complex identity from the perspectives of the Greco-Roman world, Old Testament (LXX) allusions to the Elijah-Elisha narratives, and Luke’s interpretation of the Isaianic quotation of the Suffering Servant in Acts 8:32-33 (cf. Isaiah 53:7-8). This study pays close attention to the correlations between the theme of outsiders and three key characters in Acts 8:26-40: the Ethiopian eunuch, Philip, and the Suffering Servant. First, Luke depicts the Ethiopian eunuch as the consummate outsider—geographically, morally, socially, ethnically, and in terms of gender—and indicates that the eunuch represents other marginalized outsiders. The eunuch shows no one can prevent outsiders like him from inclusion in the kingdom of God. Second, Luke portrays Philip as a prophet, specifically a prophet like Elijah and Elisha. Philip emulates Elijah and Elisha by reaching out to the outsider (in this instance, the Ethiopian eunuch). Third, Luke presents the Isaianic Suffering Servant as a religious and social outsider and identifies the character with Jesus and the Ethiopian eunuch. The indescribable descendants of the Suffering Servant signify a universally inclusive messianic community and fulfill the outsiders’ inclusion within the people of God as Isaiah prophesied (Isaiah 56:3-8). This thesis finally suggests ways to read the story of the Ethiopian eunuch today and concludes that it is imperative to include those outsiders among us within the community of Jesus’s followers.
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