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Lukan Paradigm and Modern-day Trends in Missions

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Theology
Wordcount: 4421 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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            One of the many paradigms presented by Bosch that related to current and modern day mission trends was the Lukan Paradigm. The Lukan Paradigm, hence its name, represents the account and belief system that Luke approached his writings with. This research paper on the Lukan Paradigm is therefore split into two segments. The first part presents a study on contemporary scholarship. Following the discussion on contemporary scholarship, there is a debate of the confines of prior research, the top aspects of this current paper plus some socio theological methods to the book of Acts. The second part of this paper will present an evaluation of Luke’s idea of witness, which is sustained from the end of part one. Part II starts with an exegetical probe of two passages in the book of Acts that explain the corresponding character of the individual’s witness and the witness of the community. Moreover, this will be followed by a discussion of the sociology of conversion approach and a socio-theological case. The purpose of this paper is to examine how this paradigm relates to present day trends in missions.

A Study of Contemporary Scholarship: The community as part of Lukan Paradigm

            During the rise of Lukan scholarship, there was very little written about the community’s witness with regards to the true objective of the Church. A lot of the scholarly research on “witness,” which in Lukan description may be the evidence and proclamation of the Christian faith (Trites, 2004), have been on apostolic preaching and philological advancements (Dodd, 1963). Moreover, when studying the community in Acts, research has been largely guided through the Pauline or proto-Catholic lens. Consequently, Luke’s personal and unique voice on this issue has not been heard correctly because of earlier, significant doubts of his trustworthiness as historian-theologian. Though the movement has changed, the study on contemporary scholarship to follow will demonstrate to us that dialogue about the community as a method of Christian witness have remained limited.

Redaction Analysis

            The top Lukan research studies in the 1950’s originated from scholars predisposed to Bultmanian theology. The major suggestion at that time was that Luke‟s redaction of the Gospel and his organization of Acts intended to resolve early Christians’ misunderstanding on the delay of the parousia. Researchers such as P. Vielhauer, H. Conzelmann, E. Haenchen, S. Schulz, E. Grasser and G. Klein concur that Luke handled this waning eschatological hope (Brown, 2006). So that they could resolve the theological misunderstanding of the early community, they suggested that Luke historicized the kerygma (Brown, 2006). The most well known advocate of this idea, H. Conzelmann, suggested a structured salvation-background as the predominant theme in Luke-Acts (Harper & Row, 1960). It was also said by Conzelmann that Luke prohibited disenchantment among the first believers by changing their focus from being missiological to being institutional. In alignment with this thought, Ernst Haenchen, who penned an influential commentary on Acts, suggested that the first century church endured as a distinctive and unmatched experience of days past (Haenchen, 1971). Moreover, researchers in this era viewed Luke as a theologian who undoubtedly historicized the gospel and who presented an unbelievable picture of the first community of believers. Due to the fact that focus remained on the theory that Luke resolved the theological issue of parousia delay, dialogue of the community as witness persisted few to none.

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            Opportunely, in the 1970’s, the journal of Howard Marshall’s work, Luke: Historian and Theologian highlighted the frictions of the debate. His book spurred another period in Lukan research that motivated researchers to reexamine the tale of the first Christian community in Acts. For example, C. F. D. Moule viewed the book of Acts as the historical reality of early Christianity (C.F.D). He suggested a difference without departure of the three kinds of testimony in the book of Acts:

  1. By action – the first Christians observed this activity of the Holy Spirit in the people and in the community
  2. By word – they offered not so much a moral code but rather a remembrance of

            the Acts of God in history

  1. By communal way of living – they offered glory to God and

            testified to others. (C.F.D).

            P. H. Menoud also referred to the missionary curiosity of Luke and claimed that the focus of Luke resided in the expansion the Spirit provided to the church through the apostolic testimony (Menoud, 1954). The researcher referenced Acts 1:8 in which Jesus commanded his witness to declare the good news in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and also to the ends of the earth. Menoud displayed in his work that the book of Acts portrayed the achievement of the missionary paradigm (Menoud, 1954). Nonetheless, Menoud lists just three primary witnesses: Peter, the spokesperson of the Twelve who appeared to the Jews; Stephen, the witness to half-Jews; and Paul, to the non-Jews (Menoud, 1954). For the researcher, this form accomplishes the program in Acts 1:8. Peter G. Bolt comes after this thesis by reducing the witness in Acts to the experience of the Twelve and of Paul (Bolt, 1998). The writer viewed mission as mainly the task of God in guiding Christ to the Jews and the Gentiles through the testimony of his witnesses (Bolt, 1998). Followers, post-Acts, were not to be described as witnesses, but as individuals that answered with faith and repentance to the message of the witnesses (Bolt, 1998). According to Bolt (1998), there is no objective of the church because Acts did not describe the Church as a sent organization. The people may be sent, but the church itself was not (Bolt, 1998). According to Bolt (1998) and Menoud, (1954) the calling of witness and the enablement of the Spirit for witness had concluded by the end of the apostolic age. Accordingly, they argue that contemporary believers should stop determining themselves as witnesses of Christ and they should also stop discussing the mission of the church as if that mission still lived.

Socio-Theological Approaches to Acts

            The exegetes of the 1970’s have long been tinkering with socio-scientific practices in order to advance our knowledge of the Acts story. As a result of this, the usages of socio-theological methods aren’t completely new (Barton). An encouraging aspect to this method is an enhanced socio-historical understanding. This technique provides a “thick explanation” in analysis (Barton). A good model of a contemporary author who has used this process is Philip Francis Esler. He used socio-redactional criticism to separate Luke’s motive, in light of the projected socio-political pressures encountered by the community (Esler, 1989). Esler suggested that Luke redacted his components to demonstrate the correctness of Christianity. His primary argument was that Luke wrote in an environment where in fact the known associates of his community, who were generally Jews and Gentiles (including some Romans) . . . required solid reassurance that their choice to switch and also to embrace a new life style had been the right one (Esler, 1989).

            Esler had a noteworthy influence, due to the fact that he acknowledged the socio- political demands that the community may have experienced because of their conversion. It’s vital that you note because “witness” acts as a musical instrument for conversion (Barclay, 1964). Characteristic of Christian faith is a call to quickly turn toward God, or to convert. Its reformist and integrative procedure also has implications in the community (Rambo vol. 8). As a result of this, the concept of “witness” progresses significantly beyond distinct considerations, therefore revealing the truth is as a sociable phenomenon. Sadly, Esler‟s socio-redactional analysis applies a sect-church typology (Barton, 469-470). This led to the conclusive belief that Luke rewrote history in order to defend his new community. Ultimately, his suggestion ran contrary to the mentioned goal of Luke-Acts, which was to declare an exquisitely exposed truth that had worldwide implication.

Another researcher by the name of Matthias Wenk, conducted research with a socio-theological methodology as well. In his publication, Community-Forming Power: The Socio-Ethical Part of the Spirit in Luke-Functions, he implemented speech-acts theory to the Holy Spirit’s prophetic enablement (Wenk, 2000). Wenk contended that the witness of the community was reliant not merely on verbal declaration but also within their renewed shared lifestyle. He suggested that the expression of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was a way for covenant regeneration, specifically with regards to a cleansing encounter (Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36) (Wenk, 58). Unfortunately, his argument is inconsistent with Luke’s focus on the Pentecostal outburst as an enablement for witness (Clark, 2004). Moreover, it reduces the missiological insertion of Luke, and portrayed the idea of “witness” as a lifeless symbol in Acts, due to the community becoming merely an object of regeneration, and not necessarily an active kind of witness (Trites, 153). The short study again elicits some essential questions. Is it possible that Luke depicted the life of the community in Acts as a kind of witness? If so, how essential could the Christian community be for the objective of the Church?

Luke’s Theories – Philological Examinations of the word “Witness”

            In the New Testament, the term “witness” had 14 cognates that emerge a minimum of 200 times (Trites). Nonetheless, in the book of Acts the reader is able to encounter perhaps the utmost likeness on the implication of witness as it pertained to the mission of the church (Trites). In short, the word “witness” originated from legal language linked to the courtroom. Etymologically, it identified somebody who recalled or who provided understanding of something by remembrance and who could hence tell about any of it (Trites). According to extra-biblical Koine Greek, witnesses were individuals that provided proof in a trial regarding occurrences during the past (Strathmann, 1037). Witness might also be utilized to make reference to declaration of sights or truths, which the speaker is usually convinced (Trites, TDNT). In the Old Testament, the idea closely pertained to the legal sense of providing testimony in a courtroom of legislation (e.g., witnesses prior to the judgment, Nu. 5:13, 35:30; Deut. 17:6-7, 19:15) (Strathmann, 483). The Old Testament criticism, conversely, is that a testimony could only be approved with the backing of several witnesses (Deut. 19:15). Trites attributes the juridical usage of “witness” in the Old Testament (Trites, 47). For instance in Isaiah 40-55, God appeared in an enormous dispute with the countries concerning his state to be the real God. The nations made an effort to proclaim the supremacy of their gods, but they failed due to a lack of support and proof (Trites, 47). In this framework, it was found that a witness would simply advocate an allegation, provide proof, and attempt to convince his opponent. The New Testament used this forensic notion of witness also. Mainly, it identified somebody who could discuss a truth from his personal direct knowledge specifically in legal proceedings (Mark 14:6-3; Matt. 6:25) (Strathmann, 489).

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            Luke’s utilization of the word in Luke 24:48 and Acts moved the reader beyond the popular usage. Luke used “witness” as a symbol for followers who Jesus commended with the declaration and confirmation of His message. This was similar to the forensic view of followers appearing before courts, hearings, and hostile celebrations (Luke 21:12-19, Acts 6:8-8:1). Adversaries of Christ debated His proclamations, and therefore Luke sought to meet the challenge by providing eyewitness descriptions (Luke 1:2) and offering many convincing arguments (Acts 1:3). Additionally, his witness did not just include basic facts, but also contained divinely disclosed truth. The validity of Acts could not be verified by witnesses solely, but must have been believed in and corroborated to, by evidence and proclamation.

            Therefore, readers were able to understand that Luke used “witness” in two distinct ways: apostolic witness and evangelistic witness. Luke created his ideas of witness by initially accrediting the word to the apostles. At that time, the apostles had been informed that they were to be witnesses of Jesus (Acts 1:2, 8). Peter noted that they, who were directly selected by God as witnesses, were also those who had observed Jesus firsthand, and were individuals who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead (Acts 10:41). Simultaneously, Luke recognized Paul (Acts 22:15, 26:16) and Stephen (22:20) as witnesses as part of the Twelve. Moreover, Luke extended the idea of witness to people apart from the Apostles. While the Apostles operated as the divinely selected eyewitnesses, those convinced by their testimony place their trust in Christ became a member of the believing community and could provide their evangelistic witness. It was at that point that the city of witnesses began to play a substantial role. The Acts narrative displayed that witness to Christ consisted of the witness of the general community, not just a select few.

Community as a kind of Witness

            Surprisingly to some, Peter G. Bolt would not recognize the importance of the wider band of followers, who experienced the post-resurrected Jesus (Luke 24; Acts 1-2). His argument is that he believed Luke relegated them to the backdrop to be able to focus on the Twelve as the principal witnesses of Jesus. He suggested that when the Twelve weren’t present, Jesus didn’t discuss the need for declaration (Bolt, 196). If the larger group had been also designated as witnesses, he argued, the election of Matthias in Acts 1:26 would have been useless.

            It is therefore not uncommon that many scholars subscribe to the notion that the Apostles’ unique role as selected eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life, resurrection, and ascension (Marshall, 1999). Nevertheless, Luke did mention disciples apart from the Twelve. For example, he stated that it was two women who knew about Jesus’ resurrection first (Luke 24:1-12). Luke also chronicled two unnamed disciples on the path to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) and the group alongside the Twelve before, during, and after Pentecost (Acts 1-2). Without question, the Twelve maintained a special function in Jesus’ transformed Israel, but those that committed with them by trust in Jesus were to operate in this task of witnessing as well. Another researcher confirmed the importance of the general audience arguing that Luke did not plan to discount others, but merely to focus interest on the Apostles specifically who performed a distinctive theological part in the restoration theme of Acts 1 (Penney, 1997). Bolt’s rejection to include the duty of witnessing to individuals beyond the Twelve and Paul could be viewed as a rebuttal to view Luke’s softened usage of the word “witness.” H. Strathman described this as a semantic development in the term “witness” in Luke-Acts (Strathman, 492). Use by the Lukan extends beyond the existing use (witness of occurrences where an individual is personally present), but also contained witness to evangelistic truths (Strathman, 492). Evidently, the Gospel involved not merely raw data but also of divine revelation (Strathman, 492).  According to Penney, the calling of witness as the principal role of the new community (Penney, 1990).

            Additionally, Bolt refutes the notion of a mission of the church. According to Bolt, the reader isn’t missioner but mission field (Bolt, 2012). Moreover, Bolt argued that the guarantee of the Spirit in Acts isn’t for witness, but for the pardon of sins, so when the Spirit is obtained by those beyond combined group of selected witnesses, it is with regards to being followers rather than witnesses (Bolt, 2012). Bolt’s assumptions then became very clear. It was the duty of the Twelve and Paul to occupy exclusive historical roles, however, the duty of declaration was never restricted to them. In reality, evangelistic witness distinguished a follower of Christ integrally. Paul typified a complete life of self-sacrifice for the declaration and validation of the Gospel. Paul, along with the twelve, served in a way truly exemplified by Christ while witnessing in the energy of the Spirit. This was the very Spirit that was poured out at Pentecost not really for transformation/initiation, but for emboldened witness (Acts 1:8) (Menzies, 2000). Prior to Acts, the disciples had already experienced and received the Spirit of renewal relating with their trust in the risen Savior (Luke 24:36- 53 and John 20:22). As witnesses to the whole scope of Jesus’ ministry, ascension and resurrection, there is no doubt that they trusted and had faith in Jesus as the true Messiah. As a result, them receiving the Spirit at Pentecost was for missiological/prophetic empowerment instead of for initiation (Menzies, 2000). Descriptive of this is Acts 15:6-11, which Bolt used to support his point that the scripture did not depict the Spirit as the Spirit of regeneration but instead welcomed the Gentiles into the prophetic community of transformed Israel (Stronstad, 1999). The scripture also demonstrated prophetic empowering following conversion. It marked a significant era in the history of salvation where God openly made missions legitimate to the Gentiles, which fulfilled the Abrahamic guarantee. Penney acknowledged this, stating that the function of witness wasn’t just limited to the Apostles, but also considered the province of each follower (Penney, 59). The Lukan Great Commission included not merely the Twelve (Luke 24:33-36) but it included individuals that were in their community. This reality is found in Acts 2:15, where 120 followers were baptized in the Spirit and received the gift of tongues. This is also observed in Acts 4:23-33 where followers prayed and were given an additional releasing of the Spirit. They started to declare boldly the Gospel and also to bond in a collective way of living that mirrored the truth of Gospel message. Furthermore, after Stephen was martyred in Acts 8, common Christians, who were scattered due to the tyranny, started to declare the kerygma and pass on the Gospel beyond Jerusalem. It is rather clear that according to Luke, witness consisted of not just apostolic witness but also evangelistic witness also. It consisted of not just individuals but the general community as well. This growth of the idea of witness in Luke-Acts permitted the theme of witness to persist beyond the apostolic era.

            More significantly, the first century world that Luke existed in was not individualistic, but rather dyadic or group-oriented. In research by Malina and Neyrey, they argued that the Mediterranean domain of Luke-Acts vastly differed from the American world of individuality with a keen focus on self (Malina & Neyrey, 2008). Malina and Neyrey further argued that they were mainly part of the group where they discovered themselves to be implanted. As they experienced the naturally grounded phases of psychological recognition, they were continuously proven that they existed exclusively and only due to the group in which they existed (Penney, 59). They went on to include that, durable group people believe it is overwhelmingly apparent they are implanted in an organization and that they generally represent the group (Penney, 59). As a result, it is clear that first century individuals are persons implanted in relationships. Their dyadic character orients them to believe stereotypically, that is, the instant they became a member of the Nazarene group, called the Way (Acts 24:5-21), they classified with those that affirmed the Lordship and Messiahship of Jesus and as people who lived relating to His methods (Luke 9:51-19:27). While there have been individuals who were emphasized in witnessing, for instance, Paul, Stephen, and Peter, they always understood that they were members of a larger community. Therefore, in Acts, the person’s witness was in correlation to the community’s witness (Acts 4:31). A debate of both passages that implied the partnership between community and witness further elucidates this aspect.


            The Lukan concept is directly relevant today as it relates to missions because it demonstrates the detailed fashion in which missions aren’t the responsibility of only a select few but rather a responsibility to be shared by each person who calls him or herself a believer of Jesus Christ. It further demonstrates where this call originated and where exactly the call to be a witness started. This is especially good news if for nothing more than it offers readers and believers encouragement to do the work as a community that we have all been called to do. 


  • A. Trites, The New Testament Concept of Witness, Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series vol. 31 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004) 128-145.
  • H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments: Three Lectures, with an Appendix on Eschatology and History, 3rd ed. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1963), 4-22. A. A. Trites, The New Testament Concept of Witness, 1-4.
  • F. D. Moule, “Christ‟s Messengers: Studies in the Acts of the Apostles” in Bovon, 353.
  • P. H. Menoud (1954) in Bovon, 419.
  • Peter G. Bolt, “Mission and Witness,” in I. Howard Marshall and David Peterson,
  • eds., Witness to the Gospel: The Theology of Acts (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998) 191.
  • For Bolt, a church may send individuals to do a particular work (cf. Acts 13:1-4), but the church itself is not sent (ibid., 210-211).
  • Stephen C. Barton, “Sociology and Theology” in I. Howard Marshall and David Peterson (eds.), Witness to the Gospel: The Theology of Acts (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998) 456.
  • Barton, 460-462.
  • Philip Francis Esler, Community and Gospel in Luke-Acts: the Social and Political Motivations of Lucan Theology, SNTSMS, no. 57 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 2.
  • William Barclay, Turning to God: A Study of Conversion in the Book of Acts and Today (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1964), 45.
  • Lewis R. Rambo, “Current Research on Religious Conversion” Religious Studies Review vol. 8, no.2.
  • Barton, Witness to the Gospel, 469-470.
  • Matthias Wenk, Community-Forming Power: The Socio-Ethical Role of the Spirit in Luke-Acts (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 133.
  • Robert P. Menzies, Empowered for Witness: The Spirit in Luke-Acts (London: T&T Clark, 2004). 44-45.
  • (Wenk, 58)
  • (Trites, 153)
  • Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-35
  • Trites, The New Testament Concept of Witness, 64
  • Strathmann, NIDNTT, 1037
  • Trites, TDNT, 477-480
  • Strathmann, TDNT, 483
  • Trites, The New Testament Concept of Witness, 47
  • Mark 1:44, par. Matthew 8:4 and Luke 5:14). Strathmann, TDNT, 489
  • (Luke 21:12-19)
  • (Acts 5:17-42, Acts 6:8-8:1)
  • Strathmann, TDNT, 494
  • (Acts 22:14-15, 26:16)
  • Bolt, Witness to the Gospel, 196
  • Howard Marshall, Acts, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 65-66
  • John Michael Penney.The Missionary Emphasis of Lukan Pneumatology (Sheffield, Eng.: Sheffield Academic, 1997), 56
  • Penney, 56. Also, H. C. Kee, Good News to the Ends of the Earth: The Theology
  • Of Acts (London: SCM Press, 1990), 89
  • Bolt, Witness, 212
  • William W. Menzies and Robert P. Menzies. Spirit and Power: Foundations of Pentecostal Experience, A Call to Evangelical Dialogue (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 110-118.
  • Roger Stronstad, The Prophethood of All Believers: a Study in Luke’s Charismatic Theology (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1999), 11
  • Penney, The Missionary Emphasis, 59
  • Bruce Malina and Jerome Neyrey, “First- century personality: Dyadic, not individual” in Social World of Luke-Acts: Models for Interpretation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 72-81


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