Banished from the City: The Exilic Ecclesiology of Luke-Acts

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2023

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This dissertation examines those scenes in Acts where members of the church are banished, exiled, or displaced from the city, such as Acts 8:1, 13:50, and 16:35-39. It argues that Luke-Acts presents the church as a community of political exiles who have been exiled or banished from the cities of the Roman Empire. This narrative displacement prompts a response or solution, which in Luke-Acts is found in the community itself. Unlike other early Christian texts, which spoke of the church in exile from heaven or awaiting a city to come, Luke-Acts portrays the church itself as this “new city” that becomes a refuge for the displaced believers. Furthermore, exile or homelessness in Luke-Acts is not a problem requiring an otherworldly solution, but a part of the new way of life engendered by the proclamation of the gospel—it is a core part of following the way of Jesus, who himself is exiled from Nazareth in the gospel of Luke.The primary methodology I employ is literary criticism, by which I mean a careful, contextualized reading of Luke-Acts that attends to the form and content of the entire narrative. My reading of Acts is also a contextualized reading, by which I mean a reading that seeks to understand Acts in its late first-century context. This is especially important when talking about exile, since the study of exile in the New Testament has primarily focused on Israel’s exile without an adequate understanding of the socio-historical and literary reality of exile in the first century. To remedy this, I primarily read Luke-Acts alongside the consolatory literature of Plutarch, Musonius Rufus, and Favorinus. These texts address the problem of exile from different perspectives, but they all address the common themes of the loss of one’s homeland, the loss of possessions, and the loss of free speech or παρρησία. By reading Acts alongside these texts, which provide their own alternative visions of political belonging in the face of exile, I show how Luke-Acts envisions a new form of political belonging in local communities centered around the gospel.

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Jeong, Mark Yunseok (2023). Banished from the City: The Exilic Ecclesiology of Luke-Acts. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/29089.

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