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ACTS 17:16-34 – The resurrection of Jesus as a crucial moment in the encounter between gospel and culture Johan du Plessis 2006 When writing the first letter to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul was convinced that Jesus‟ crucifixion posed the major stumbling block for the acceptance of the gospel. He wrote: “…but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…” (1 Corinthians 1:23) Presently it seems that the crucifixion gradually made way for the resurrection to be the greatest ζθάλδαιόλ or κωξία for modern and post-modern people. One‟s belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ – often supplemented with adjectives like “bodily” – functions like a present day sjibbolet for orthodox doctrine. Lecturers at seminaries and speakers at large meetings are called to state their viewpoint on the issue. This crucial role assigned to the resurrection is not something new. We read about it in the so-called Athens episode in the book of Acts (17:16-34). The apologetic tendencies in the Acts render it a most appropriate source for the study of the encounter between gospel and culture in early church history. Before we continue with that, allow me to make a few introductory remarks about the relationship between gospel and culture according to Newbigin‟s model – the so-called conversion-encounter axis:1 What is the nature of this encounter between gospel and culture? According to a “wage negotiation model” the assumption is that it is a process in which both sides make some “sacrifices” to accommodate the other. The outcome is a negotiated settlement for the present. This is however not a fixed solution, rather but a stage in the ongoing process, leading to ever new “settlements.”2 It is clear that Newbigin did not have this model in mind. He rather speaks about points of conversion, where the culture on account of new insights and experiences provided by the gospel, makes adaptations in its “fiduciary framework” to incorporate the gospel. The church‟s task, according to Newbigin, is to, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, express the gospel and incorporate it into its life style in such a way that the culture is readily convinced to make the necessary changes to include the gospel within its own axioms How is the “gospel” determined? Newbigin is convinced that the Bible is the authoritative guide for the Christian faith, both in private as well as public life. He observes that the gospel has been progressively removed from the public spheres and restricted to the private lives of individuals, and therefore makes a passionate plea for the gospel to regain its rightful place in the public life of the market place. According to Newbigin the contents of the Bible message centres around two focal points, namely the Exodus-event in the Old Testament and the Jesus-event in the New Testament. This enables him to distinguish between centre and periphery within the gospel. Although there remain vast differences between different traditions‟ definition 1 This has been the focal point for the past two years within the GOCN study group in the Western Cape, resulting in several short papers delivered at meetings held at US. What follows here is but a general introduction to some issues in the current debate, without going into detail. 2 Somehow like the process at the meeting in Jerusalem, described in Acts 15. Such a settlement is per definition a temporary solution and very often implies a reduction of the gospel. Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club page 1 of the gospel details,3 I am convinced that there is a broad consensus regarding the essence of the gospel message. This is specifically the case when dealing with particular writings or parts of writings from the Bible.4 An already contextualised gospel text: A neutral, a-cultural gospel does not exist.5 This is also true of the biblical texts themselves, being full fledged cultural documents in their own right. One can say that the Bible texts have already been contextualised by their different authors who belonged to different cultures. Broadly speaking these are the cultures of the ancient Near East in the case of the Old Testament, and Early Mediterranean cultures in the case of the New Testament. This issue of contextualisation is further complicated by the fact that all readers of the gospel assign meaning i.e. reconstruct the gospel message, in terms of a vast diversity of cultures.6 Comparative culture analyses of the different parties in the communication process between the text and reader/hearer, throughout the course of the history of interpretation, are therefore indispensable. The current paper progresses as follows: It starts off with a brief overview of the exegesis of the Athens pericope, making use of the results from various exegetical techniques like grammatical-historical-, narrative- and structural analyses. This is then interpreted against the background of early Mediterranean Hellenistic culture to highlight the way in which the gospel encountered a specific culture towards the end of the first century AD. In terms of a simple communication model of Sender-Message-Receiver, taking into account the different obstacles to the communication process, attention therefore must also be paid to the reception process.7 In this paper it is done by means of a short rhetorical analysis. The paper concludes with some remarks on the reception of the gospel in a modern, suburban context. 1. The gospel to the Athenians The resurrection of Jesus as the main point of contention The Athens-episode has a relatively simple structure. Paul‟s speech8 is framed by narrative remarks. It can be summarised as follows: 3 Newbigin‟s assertion that divine election poses as a central theme in the definition of gospel, will certainly be contested in several theological traditions. 4 I previously argued that the historical discipline of Biblical Theology is extremely helpful in this regard. 5 This crucial aspect, that the Bible texts themselves are already heavily impacted by culture, has to my mind not yet been fully recognised in GOCN circles. 6 Critical deconstruction theories like Queer Theory and Post Colonial Theory, as well as the different Emancipation theologies showed convincingly how power issues function in these texts, on the one hand confirming the reigning power structures through patriarchal and heterosexual interpretations and on the other hand themselves being confirmed as authoritative by the same forces. 7 Traditionally the major part of exegetical work concentrated on the first two elements of this model, namely that of the Sender and the Message. It was left to the so-called practical theological disciplines to ensure that the message was molded into something intelligible for the hearers. There has since been a reassessment with the rediscovery of the persuasive character of biblical texts that led to a more holistic exegetical approach. 8 Exegetes readily agree that this speech in its current form, like the others in Acts no matter who the characters is that delivered it, is also a creation by the author of the book. He seems to be combining two separate traditions within the speech, namely a “natural theology” taking its clue from creation (not unlike Romans 1:18ff.) and the more narrowly defined “salvation theology” grounded in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The latter seems to be the primary concern for the author of Acts. Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club page 2 17:16-17 The story is situated: Paul became very upset when he noticed the many idols in the city and while he was waiting for his colleagues to pitch up, he used the opportunity to talk to various groups of people, at different venues, about “Jesus and the resurrection”9 17:18-20 The reaction of the non-Jewish group on the message of the resurrection is disparaging and aggressive.10 Paul was taken to court (the Areopagus) to answer for his message 17:21 Interjection by the author: The Athenians liked to hear and talk about new things 17:22-31 Paul‟s speech: He uses the inscription on an altar he saw somewhere in the city, “To an unknown god,” as an introduction (22-23). Then he spells out the identity of this God, who he himself is serving (24-29). The climax of the short speech is reached with the message of a new time, “now” as opposed to the past, in which people are called to repent and thereby escape the righteous judgement of God. Jesus’ resurrection serves as the proof that this (new) message is true (30-31) 17:32 The reaction of Paul‟s hearers: They regard the message of the resurrection as absolute nonsense and laughable11 17:33-34 End result: Paul dissociated himself but there were a few people who responded positively to the message and joined the faith community It is clear from the above that the proclamation of Jesus‟ resurrection forms the framework of Paul‟s speech in Athens. The hearers respond specifically to it. The resurrection is the main point at issue. Why specifically the resurrection? To try to answer this question one has to look to the broader literary context, that of Luke-Acts. It seems as if the idea that Jesus‟ death was meant to be a sacrifice on behalf of sinners, is not advocated in Luke-Acts. Faith in – i.e. esp. in the Lucan context of meals as type scenes, association with – Jesus in his death and resurrection,12 is crucial for the inclusion into the new Although there are differences of opinion regarding the original historical context, there are no compelling reasons to regard the contents of this speech as in conflict with the teaching in the Pauline letters. 9 The term “because he proclaimed the Jesus and the resurrection” (νηη ηνλ Іεζνπλ θαη ηελ αλαζηεζηλ επαγγειηδεην) is susceptible to misunderstanding and explains the plural used in the charges brought against Paul, namely that he seemed to be an advocate for foreign gods. There is a progression in thought in the three references to the resurrection in the episode (cf. 17:18, “Jesus and the resurrection”; 17:31, “the resurrection of „the man‟” as a proof of God‟s message; 17:32, a general “resurrection of the dead”) that shows how Jesus‟ resurrection was reckoned to imply/inaugurate a general “resurrection of the dead.” 10 The context – i.e. persecution and uproar in the previous cities on Paul‟s journey as well as the allusion to Socrates‟ fate – explains the use of επηιακβαλω (translated “seize”) which is usually a technical term for making an arrest. Further, the parallel with Jesus, found throughout the narrative in Acts is verbally suggested at the end of the episode (17:33 cf. Lk 4:30 - δηειζωλ δηα κεζνπ απηωλ). 11 I regard the words “We shall hear you again on this” (αθνπζνκεζα ζνπ πεξη ηνπηνπ θαη παιηλ (17:32)) as a sarcastic remark. 12 Short summaries of the contents of faith in Jesus found esp. in the speeches in Acts usually contain these two elements, the death and the resurrection of Jesus, e.g. 1:21-22 (choosing a substitute for Judas); 2:22-24,31- 32,36 (at Pentecost); 3:13-15,18 (Peter to the crowd); 4:10 (Peter and John before the Sanhedrin); 5:29-31 (again before the Sanhedrin); 7:37,52,56 (Stephen); 13:23-37 (in Pisidian Antioch); 17:3 (in Thessalonica); 26:23 (Paul before Agrippa). Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club page 3 fellowship of the Jesus community. The resurrection is clearly, also in this speech, regarded as the authentication or validation of Jesus‟ claim to be the saviour – “He (God) has given proof of this to all men by raising him (Jesus) from the dead.” (17:31) What is the nature of Jesus’ resurrection? Whereas the bodily resurrection13 of Jesus is accentuated in the Johannine writings, and also in Paul‟s first letter to the Corinthians (ch.15), most likely as a refutation of Gnostic teaching about Jesus, I am of the opinion that, although part of the oral tradition, it is not on the foreground in Luke-Acts, nor is it a matter of dispute. According to Luke 24 Jesus’ resurrection becomes especially clear at a meal, at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (cf. the verbatim allusions to the earlier institution of the Last Supper), which is an indication of the metaphorical character of the language used by the author.14 The author of Luke-Acts asserts, through the proclamation of the resurrection, that Jesus is indeed alive (cf. Acts 1:3)! Paul’s conversational partners in Athens (in terms of a narrative analysis, the focus here is on the characters and setting) Paul talks to different two groups of people, each at a different location. Firstly, he addresses the Jews and god fearers, a religious community, in the synagogue. So, the conversation/confrontation (δηαιέγνκαη) within the religious community takes place in a religious building, i.e. in a “private” setting. Secondly, he daily speaks to the people he met at the market place. This encounter with the non-religious community takes place in a very “public” setting. In both instances the setting is emphasised by placing it first in the sentence, and in the second sentence also the time receives focus (ελ ηε αγνξα θαηα παζαλ εκεξαλ (acc. of duration)) – secular people do not adhere to a religious timetable, and most probably are absent from religious places! The rest of the episode deals with Paul‟s encounter with the second, i.e. the non-religious, group. This receives all the attention. Among these daily conversational partners, some followers of the two main philosophies of the time, some Epicureans and Stoics, start to argue with Paul. There are initially two reactions on Paul‟s message: some (from the syntax it is the Epicureans) regard him as a babbler; the others (i.e. the Stoics) are curious about the “foreign gods” he spoke about. The νηη-sentence gives the reason for both reactions, “because Paul proclaimed Jesus and the resurrection.” The author does not elaborate on the doctrines of the two groups – he simply presumes that the reader has the basic knowledge about it. In the first century A.D. the Stoics were the more influential of the two groups. Paul is arrested and brought before the court, the Areopagus, to defend himself – again this is a very public setting for the encounter. A lot has been written about Paul‟s defence but Neyrey is probably correct to state that Paul initially aligns himself with stoic ideas – because Epicureans did not accept either God‟s providence, or his final judgement – to show the court that he himself is presenting what can be called a “respectable theology.” As the climax of his defence, Paul himself goes on the offensive stating that (cf. 17:30-31): - God overlooked the times of ignorance in the past15 - But now He commands all people, everywhere, to repent16 13 The belief in Jesus‟ resurrection is currently a burning issue within the Dutch Reformed Church. I refer for example to the exchanges in the Kerkbode earlier this year between prof. Julian Müller and others on the issue of Jesus‟ bodily resurrection. 14 For a short, clear discussion of the limits and possibilities of metaphorical thinking and language, see Brümmer: 3-19. 15 “Ignorance” here, like elsewhere in the Bible, has definite ethical implications: it deserves punishment. Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club page 4 - For He has set a day when He will judge the world in justice (ελ δηθαηνζπλε) - Through a man He has appointed (ελ αλδξη ω ωξηζελ)17 - As proof of this to all people, He resurrected him from the dead The overwhelming, initial reaction to Paul‟s message of the resurrection is negative. The different emotions and actions arising from the contact situation Paul became severely distressed18 when he observed the many idols in the city. This motivates him to publicly proclaim the message about Jesus, and more precisely, the message of his resurrection. In Athens, as also in Philippi (Acts 16) and Ephesus (Acts 19), it is mainly the non- Jewish communities who rebel against this proclamation. They aggressively belittle and ridicule the resurrection message. In the end Paul left the council with exasperation.19 There is but little positive reaction to Paul‟s message – only a few people, of whom two are named, become followers of Jesus. Repentance and judgement The encounter between gospel and culture in Athens has a sharp edge: It requires nothing less than repentance from people belonging to a specific culture, to escape God‟s imminent judgement. One finds a structural-typological similarity with the earlier story of the rich young man (Luke 18:18-30): For him there also arose a moment of decision, namely to forsake his material possessions and distribute it among the poor, and to become a follower of Jesus (18:22). That means that he had to become a follower (and imitator) of a highly a-typical male (Moxnes 2003:96) in terms of the first century Mediterranean society, to enter into God‟s kingdom. Only through repentance – that is a radical re-alignment in thinking, values and norms, and association with Jesus – entrance into the new dispensation is possible. In Luke‟s gospel, as here in the story of Acts, this choice and its implications for people who encounter the gospel cannot be avoided. 2. The aim is to persuade the hearers and readers of the story Luke-Acts is persuasive literature. This is clear from the prologues to both narratives, Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-8 respectively. This is true all New Testament literature: It challenges the reader to align him- or herself according to the narrative. One can therefore expect that Paul in the episode under discussion make a big effort to establish a favourable rapport with his hearers. Through his characters the author of Acts aim to persuade the reader to make the necessary changes to become a follower of Jesus (i.e. to “repent”), or in the case of a reader already being a Christian, to confirm him/her in discipleship. 16 In Acts “repentance” (κεηαλνηα) is consistently linked to the act of associating with Jesus. To repent is to recognise that Jesus‟ claims are valid and true, to align yourself with it, and to act accordingly. This indeed also has social-ethical implications, but these are in the background in the Athens-episode. 17 The identical dative construction shows that the “appointed man” is identified with “righteousness” by which God is going to judge the world – a specific feature of Lucan Christology. 18 The expression, παξωμπλεην ην πλεπκα απηνπ ελ απηω, is used to denote severe emotional concern (cf. Nida & Louw, vol 1 § 88.189) 19 I already mentioned the parallel between Paul at the Areopagus and Jesus in Nazareth (Lk 4:30). Note also the fact that the author repeats the setting of the narrative in 18:1, thereby emphasising the end of the Athens- pericope. I therefore take the expression, δηειζωλ δηα κεζνπ απηωλ, as meaningful in that it denotes not only locality, but also purposive emotional distancing from Paul‟s side. Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club page 5 Paul establishes rapport with his hearers by linking his message to something fairly well known to them, namely “the altar of an unknown God”20 somewhere in Athens, and also by putting them in a good light; they are “in every way very religious.” Furthermore, in the fist part of his defence, he uses concepts of God known to his hearers with whom they most likely would also be willing to identify – that is, the Stoics among them.21 The utilising of apologetic material from the Old Testament (Isaiah 43) is well attested and to expose his argument Paul also uses a well- known citation from Greek literature, “We are his offspring” (17:28).22 What persuasive techniques are used by the author? According to classical rhetoric, a person has three different methods, depending on the situation, at his/her disposal with which to persuade the audience, jury or judge. These are logical argumentation (especially in a legal setting, as is the case in the Athens-episode), ethical argumentation (the choice between right and wrong), and emotional appeal (according to modern American TV stories, this is the most effective way to persuade juries…). Logics (λογος): Paul widely uses logical argumentation in his defence. Conjunctions like ηε…θαη, νπδε, θαη γε, etc. establish the easy flow of the argument; others like ωο, γαξ, νηη provides a logical sequence – according to Neyrey, Paul tries to present his message as “respectable theology.” The sudden break in this logical sequence at the end is therefore all the more conspicuous and unexpected. Ethics (ηθος): Ethical argumentation plays a minor role in Paul‟s speech, yet it is present. Terms like “ignorance,” “judgement” and “repentance” have ethical connotations. These terms are utilised at the end of Paul‟s argument and in the narrative framework of the scene. It is therefore not so much a logical conclusion to identify oneself with Jesus‟ resurrection; it is rather the strange/illogical, right thing to do.23 Appeal to the emotions (παθος): Emotion does not play a part in the defence (dialogue) as such, but there are references to fierce emotions in the narrative framework, depicting Paul‟s own reactions and those of his hearers... This narrative framework provides the setting and the tone of the episode, and that has a significant effect on the reader of the story and is a major instrument used by the author to persuade readers to associate with Jesus‟ programme. Conclusion: The strangeness of the gospel never disappears As stated at the beginning of this paper, the “gospel” as it is encountered in the writings of the New Testament, is cast in the moulds of early Mediterranean and Palestine cultures, which make it strange – and sometimes even illogical, unrealistic, unfair and unintelligible – to a modern 20 The expression is elsewhere generally used in the plural. 21 A brief survey of sermon collections show that this part of Paul‟s speech is quite popular among preachers, whereas the last part (vv. 30-31), consisting of his main argument, is regularly left aside. The theological debate about the existence of a generally accepted “natural theology” which can be utilised by the church in the proclamation of the gospel cannot be taken up here. Paul is clearly using similar ideas to that of the Stoics about God, as a rhetorical device to persuade his audience and one should take care not to over-interpret it. 22 Although the citation is usually ascribed to Aratus, the idea is present in the work of several classical authors. 23 In the light of Paul‟s initial logical argumentation about God, one might be tempted to describe the association with the resurrection, as accepting a kind of “metaphysical logic” – a kind of logic above ordinary human conceptions. The Christian faith is sometimes defended along these lines, but this gives too little credit to the sudden, conspicuous change in the tone at the end of the argument. Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club page 6 reader. Therefore the gospel must be constantly modelled and translated within new cultures with their own sets/frameworks of ideas and values. But there is more to it… Jesus himself, his conduct and the message about salvation through his death and resurrection, are all per definition a-typical. It also sounded strange to the contemporary cultures in which the early church operated. In that sense the gospel of Jesus constantly deconstructs every society which it encounters; it never loses its unexpected, odd identity. Newbigin is correct when he describes the acceptance of the gospel as repentance that is the acceptance of a new “fiduciary framework.” 3. The encounter between the gospel of Jesus’ resurrection with modern, affluent culture in the suburbs of Bellville/Durbanville The gospel must constantly be inculturated.24 One “cannot simply repeat the (previous) words…” It also seems to me an oversimplification to only assert that “the gospel speaks for itself” without taking into account the huge cultural differences that exist between current societies and that of the New Testament. In the following paragraph I want to make a few remarks with the hope of stimulating a renewed concern for the conversion/encounter axis in Newbigin‟s model and to make a case for the gospel‟s retrieval of the public sphere in our society. Some conspicuous aspects of the current cultural context in a suburban congregation like DRC Kenridge…25 I am not convinced that the transition to a post-modern era is completed in the affluent, suburbs. Typical modernist views like the conviction that good organization and management remain the primary solution to all problems that financial considerations need to be top priority that success is extremely important and must be attained at all cost, etc., still have the upper hand. Generally speaking there is a strong preference for a more optimistic theology and spirituality (in Rahner‟s terminology: a summer faith vis-à-vis a winter faith). People resent to feel uncomfortable in church, or to be made uncomfortable by the gospel. The strong insistence that the individual needs of people must be addressed primarily, leads to a consumer-type of spirituality. The church is seen as a vendor of religious goods, competing with other similar institutions, having to market itself in such a way as to ensure its market share. This all happens against the background of growing isolation between different societies and even groups within a community, to such an extent that suburban people are often unaware and unaffected by the harsh realities of poverty, aids, estrangement (cf. the 7 “giants” at SACLA in 2003). There is little evidence of the profound inclusiveness that should be characteristic of the faith community. Members usually operate with strong “insider vs. outsider” paradigm. Non-members often experience the faith community as closed and inaccessible. The absolute premium placed on (material) success and on accumulating tokens of success, comes at a high price, namely the very high levels of stress and anxiety of a performance-driven society. In our affluent suburbs the effects of rationalisation in the work place, with the accompanying loss of (senior) jobs, are devastating… 24 The term “inculturation” is a composition of two other terms, namely that of incarnation and acculturation. 25 The following remarks are based upon personal contact of the past twelve years and demographic tendencies that became clear from an analysis done by BUVTON in 2003. Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club page 7 Families are under great stress. The need to succeed is prevalent, but very often there is an inability to start and maintain long-term relationships. Family life is fragmented. There is generally little hope for the future of the RSA and Africa as a whole. The prospect to leave the country is very attractive for many people from all generations. My colleague, who specifically works with high school pupils, is of the opinion that this young generation is more positive about the future, but that they are often negatively influenced by the older generations. There is a strong individualization of faith – faith is regarded as a private affair. This is true of both the contents and the exercising (ethics) thereof. Strangely enough, this individualism is balanced by a strong identification with role models and in this instance communities are still relationship-driven. How do people from this society hear and understand the gospel of Jesus’ resurrection? In a well-written article Crossan pointed out that the pre-Enlightenment world and the post- Enlightenment world have different problems with the message of the resurrection. Whereas the latter must be convinced that it could really have taken place – i.e. a debate between the anti- Christian “impossibility option” and the pro-Christian “uniqueness option” – the former asks questions about its relevance, the so-called “so what?” or “cui bonum” criterion. It seems as if both of these sets of questions might be present in the reactions of Paul‟s adversaries: the Epicureans championing the impossibility option and the Stoics having reservations about the relevance of Jesus‟ resurrection. Even in a post-Enlightenment world the debate in the private sphere, i.e. within the faith community itself, seemed to centre on the question of relevance (cf. Heidelberg Catechism). It has been only recently that the question of possibility entered the discussion inside the church; in the public sphere however this question had dominated debates. One of the ways Crossan put forward to deal with the problem of the impossibility of a (bodily) resurrection of a dead human being is to regard the message of the resurrection as a metaphor of God‟s justification of the world, thereby removing the demand to regard the resurrection as a literal event. Metaphorical language Speech about God is per definition metaphorical language, in the sense that it refers to the “conceptual activity in which we understand things by comparing them to each other.” (Brümmer: 6) This can be a very handy tool, but it also has definite limitations that can become dangerously misleading when they are ignored. Some of these limitations are as follows: Metaphorical thinking tends to be generalising, it ignores individuality; it is selective and especially when developed into conceptual models, it is prone to a kind of “illegitimate totality transfer,” whereby metaphors (which work with analogy) are treated as if it denotes identity. Is the gospel of the resurrection to be understood metaphorically or literally? The answers to this question to this question vary. To my mind the results from the exegesis point in both directions. Crossan is correct in ascertaining that the New Testament writers have a literal, bodily resurrection in mind, which in itself is not the main point of contention for them. What is special about Jesus‟ resurrection is that it signifies/inaugurates the general resurrection of all mankind, when God will finally judge the world – some will be vindicated and saved, others will receive their due punishment. Furthermore, especially in the Lucan narratives, the resurrection is a vindication of Jesus Himself. In that sense it completes the divine plan of salvation. Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club page 8 To my mind a limitation of the message of the resurrection to either metaphorical or literal meaning, will seriously jeopardise the integrity of the gospel and in some way involves a reduction of it. 4. How do the death and especially the resurrection of Jesus shape the dialogue between the Christian and Muslim faith?26 One of the advocates of a dialogue between Islam and Christianity is Vincent Brümmer, philosopher of religion at Utrecht. Brümmer uses the metaphor of a true, loving relationship between God and human beings as the matrix of faith. In the closing part of the book he then draws a parallel between Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith, all deriving from the Abraham- tradition and all having the same basic matrix of faith (117). He ends with an appeal for inclusiveness in the dialogue between these three traditions “to discern the faith of their common father, Abraham, in each other and thus together seek their ultimate happiness in the loving fellowship of Abraham‟s God.” (121) I am however convinced that this is a denial of the real point of difference between the Christian and Muslim faiths, namely the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The Qur‟an does not mention the resurrection of Jesus at all, most probably because of the specific tradition about his death, i.e. that Jesus was saved by God (Surah IV, 157). Newbigin‟s insistence that the encounter between gospel and culture must lead to repentance, i.e. the acceptance of a new fiduciary framework, is also applicable in this instance. Epilogue The contents of the gospel includes more than the resurrection. In the short summaries of the gospel contents regularly found in the speeches throughout the book of Acts, the resurrection is usually accompanied by the passion and death of Jesus. Several other themes are frequently mentioned in proposed missiological theologies for the modern, Western world: Newbigin emphasised the importance of eschatology, freedom, a theology for the laity, church unity, insight in one‟s own culture, faith and praise and worship. Bosch mentions six important dimensions for a missional theology for the Western world, namely “ecological, counter-cultural, ecumenical, contextual, ministry of the laity, and worship.” A missional theology for the African context should at least address the issues of land, poverty, sickness, family (including the ancestors), and the position of women in society and church. Perhaps the challenge to this workgroup for the next few years is to start developing a missional theology for modern African society. 26 I am not an expert on Muslim theology, but it seems to me that comparative studies of the so-called Abrahamite religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam), as well as the promotion of dialogue between them, do not always give due recognition to the death and resurrection of Jesus as the corner stone of the Christian faith. In the discussion within the forum group an example was given of how the death of Jesus can be incorporated into the dialogue with Islam, but the resurrection of Jesus remained a problem in this regard. Maybe the fact that a general resurrection of the dead is also accepted in Judaism and Islam, can pave the way for an inclusion of the topic of Jesus‟ resurrection in the discussions between these three religions. Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club page 9 Bibliography Apart from the general commentaries on Acts, the following short bibliography can serve as a reading list: Bosch, D.J. 1995. Believing in the future. Toward a missiology of Western culture. Pennsylvania: Trinity Press Brümmer, V. 2005. Atonement, Christology and the Trinity: making sense of Christian doctrine. Hampshire: Asgate Crossan, J.D. 2003.”The resurrection of Jesus in its Jewish context.” in Neotestamentica 37(1) Du Plessis, 2005. “The „apostolic decree‟ (Acts 15) – stroke of genius or a reduction of the Gospel?” Article on the GOCN website at Buvton Elliger, W. 1978. Paulus in Griechenland. Stuttgarter Bibelstudien 92/93. Stuttgart: Katolisches Bibelwerk Hunsberger, G.R. 1991. “The Newbigin gauntlet: Developing a domestic missiology for North America.” in Missiology: An international review, Vol XIX, no. 4 - 1998. Bearing the witness in the Spirit: Lesslie Newbigin’s theology of cultural plurality. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Louw, J.P. and Nida, E.A. (ed.) 1988. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament based on semantic domains. Vol 1 & 2. New York: UBS Moxnes, H. 2003. Putting Jesus in his place. A radical vision of household and kingdom. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Newbigin, L. 1986. Foolishness to the Greeks. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans O‟Neill, J.C. 1970. 2nd Ed. (revised). The theology of Acts in its historical setting. London: SPCK Punt, J. 2005. “Queer theory, Postcolonial theory, and biblical interpretation. A preliminary exploration of some intersections.” Paper read at SBL meeting in Singapore, 2005. Soards, M.L. 1994. The speeches in Acts. Their content, context and concerns. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Witherington, B. 1998. The Acts of the apostles: A socio-rhetorical commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Draft Constitution of the Zevenwacht Social Club page 10
"The resurrection of Jesus as a crucial moment"