Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Religious Studies

Major Professor

James F. Strange, Ph.D.


Book of Acts, Covenantal dismissal, Languages, Judgment, Tongues


The purpose of the book of Acts is still not well understood. Various interpretations have been offered in order to make sense of the narrative and its author's intention. What is the point of Luke's second book in portraying the evangelization of the Roman Empire as a rabid confrontation between Jewish followers of Jesus and other Jewish people? This matter calls for an examination of the relationship between the mother religion and the Jesus movement as it expands into a universal religion. Luke portrays the Jesus movement as the focus of divine favor, in contradistinction to the Jewish nation which is presented as opposing the plan of God. Christians respond to persecution by declaring the opponents guilty of opposition to the very work of the Holy Spirit. This portrait of a troubled relationship has led to many confusing or misguided interpretations of the text.

What are the implications of the apparent break of continuity between the Jesus movement and the Jewish people? Does the book of Acts give to Israel a place in the divine plan, or is this work an anti-Semitic polemic? This question is so complex that three schools of thought have arisen to attempt to reconcile the conflicting themes. These scholars recognize the friction between Christians and Jews, but debate the significance of the missing explicit repudiation of Israel. Two of these schools view God as continuing to work through the people of Israel, while the third proposes that God has repudiated Israel as the elect nation, replacing her with the Christian Church. This thesis proposes that there has been inadequate attention to the possibility that the narrative is imbedded with neglected Jewish themes, like Pentecost and the gift of Languages (Tongues).

Several texts in the Hebrew Scriptures provide indications that Languages have specific implications to the Covenant with Israel, and her place in the plan of God. A deeper study of a first century understanding of these themes will produce substantial, new light on all of these questions.