‘The Rise and Fall of the Twelve – A Study in the Use of Story Structure in Acts’
A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Peter Mansell University of Surrey, September 2016
- The aim of this thesis is to demonstrate the value of proper attention to ‘story structure’ in the study of Acts. After reviewing a number of models of story structure, plot and story schema (a mental structure consisting of sets of expectations about the way in which stories proceed), the thesis develops a suitable story structure apparatus which can be shown to apply to Acts. The thesis then demonstrates the value of that methodology by applying it to an example contested area in the study of Acts – the debate over the restoration of Israel. The focus question chosen for this illustration is, ‘What does Luke’s depiction of the Twelve in Acts tell us about the goals of the Lukan Twelve as disclosed primarily in Luke 22:14-30 and Acts 1:1-12 and the narrative realisation of those goals in either “comic” success or “tragic” failure?’
- This thesis starts from two premises. First, that the medium though which Acts communicates meaning is that of ‘story’. Second, that reading a story involves processing two types of information, the basic meaning of the clauses and sentences, and the coherence used to order those clauses and sentences into a narrative, i.e. the story structure. This story structure provides the lens though which we make ‘orderly’ sense of the agents and events described in the narrative.
- The thesis argues that, at the basic level of detailed reading, each clause has to be assessed as to its semantic function in its clause complex (sentence) and in the larger string of clauses that forms an episode. The thesis undertakes an in depth analysis of each narrative clause in Acts, focussing on Luke’s choice of verb form. The result is a classification of the semantic function of each of the narrative clauses in Acts. The thesis then demonstrates how clauses are combined into episodes and upwards in narrative layers to the macro-structure of the narrative, thereby constructing a complete narrative map of Acts.
- The second half of the thesis works through the narrative map of each episode and narrative layer of Acts 1–12 in which either the Twelve appear or where events shed light on their goals and the realisation of those goals. This analysis focuses on the ‘turning point’ in the story of the Twelve following the peak of their success in 5:12-42, i.e. 6:1-6, which leads to the Twelve gradually becoming less important in God’s plans until their demise, as a group character, in 12:1-17. The thesis argues that 6:1-6 demonstrates the ‘tragic flaw’ of the Twelve which they were warned against in Luke 22:24-27, hubris. However, the thesis concludes that the real tragedy of the Twelve, as portrayed by Luke, is that their goals for national repentance, the return of the Messiah and the restoration of all things (3:19-21) fail to be realised as their Jewish brothers (2:29, 37), who had flocked to them in huge numbers (5:14-16), protected them (5:26) and exalted them (5:12), in the final denouement are pleased by the death of one apostle (12:3) and are eagerly anticipating the death of another (12:11).
- The thesis makes a number of original contributions to the study of Acts including a comprehensive investigation of possible structuring methods, the analysis and cataloguing of the syntax of nearly two thousand narrative clauses, as well as the core story structure methodology and its application to the narrative arc of the Twelve. The thesis also makes original contributions to areas of debate in the study of Koiné Greek including the ongoing controversy over verbal aspect between Porter, Fanning et al., and the discussion over the ‘function’ of participial clauses between grammarians like Wallace and linguists like Levinsohn and Runge.
- This is Chapter 2 of Pete’s PhD and is recorded on my database so I can file it in due course and record reading / discussion time against it.
- I also – indeed mainly – booked to this “paper” time spent developing a database system, with associated website, to test out and demonstrate Pete’s theories on the Clause-structure of the Acts of the Apostles.
- See Acts: Test Site.
Footnote 1: This is the abstract of the Thesis as a whole, not just Chapter 2.
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