Recently I completed the skeletal structure of a paper that I am writing on the use of the Book of Psalms on the evangelistic speeches of the Book of Acts. By “evangelistic speeches” I mean narratives where a speech is being delivered by a Christian representative to a non-Christian audience. The speeches that qualified were Peter’s Pentecost Speech (2.14-36); Peter’s Trial Speech (4.8-12); and Paul’s Synagogue Speech (13.16-41). I aim to share the paper in its current state on the blog soon to solicit feedback. If all goes well I may propose the paper for a SBL regional next year.
What I found to be most interesting/exciting is the Lukan emphasis on the Davidic Covenant. In 2.14-36 there are quotations from Psalm 16.8-10 (vv. 25-28); 89.4 and 132.11 (v. 30); 16.10 (v. 31); and 110.1 (v. 34). In 4.8-12 we find Psalm 118.22 in v. 11. In 13.16-41 we find 89.20 (v. 22); 2.7 (.v 33); and 16.10 (v. 35).
In these speeches these psalms are used to (1) connect Jesus with David as the Davidic heir; (2) present Jesus as the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant; and (3) present the death and resurrection of Jesus as vindication for this claim using intertextual readings of the Book of Psalms along with other books like 2 Samuel and Isaiah.
Now I know Scot McKnight gave attention in The King Jesus Gospel to how the Gospel is presented in the Book of Acts, and I think he had something to say about this subject, but I remain surprised with how the Davidic Covenant (especially as it adopts and directs the Abrahamic Covenant) has disappeared from our presentation of the Gospel.
I know some may say that when we proclaim the Gospel we do so to a biblically illiterate audience. I understand this and I think Paul’s Athenian sermon shows that the Luke doesn’t expect David to be mentioned in every sermon. Also, I see that the speeches I mentioned have Jewish audiences. That said, it was important enough to Luke to give the subject prominence in at least two sermons.
That’s a worthwhile pursuit. For what other reason would Jesus be called “King,” if it were not for acknowledging some aspect, if not all aspects, of the Davidic covenant? I’m surprised that some people are so quick to neglect the Messiah-ship of Jesus from that perspective. Looking forward to what you write!
I think for many evangelicals there is an obsession with Jesus as Savior that ignores that this same Jesus is King and that to be our Savior he must be the King. The Gospel is not context-less. It isn’t an ethereal “plan” for getting into heaven and out of hell. It is about God calling Abraham to start a family through whom God will renew the world, and God calling a member of that family–David–through whom he will reign as King over the world, and Jesus being that King to whom allegiance must be given for salvation lest one receive judgment, ala Psalm 2.
Hey, why you don’t stop preaching the gospel of Jesus King to me?! Actually, don’t. I love it.
We sat at the feet of Gary Tuck (metaphorically), so we were bound to love it!
I think this one might have slipped it. The [Acts 13:34] quote you have correctly listed as 55:3 though it isn’t a [Psalms 55:3] quote, rather it is an [Isaiah 55:3] quote.
If non-Psalm quotes are fair game I’d also point out Peter’s Pentecost Speech citing [Joel 2:28-32] in [Acts 2:17-21], and the additional Davidic reference of [2 Sam 7:12] in [Acts 2:30].
In the Paul’s Synagogue Speech we have:
[Deut 1:31] in [Acts 13:18] (not Davidic, but representative of God’s mercy to Israel)
[Deut 7:1] in [Acts 13:19] (Abrahamic and a paraphrase)
[1 Sam 13:14] in [Acts 13:22b] (Davidic and complimentary “David as a man after God’s own heart”)
[1 Kings 2:10] in [Acts 13:36] (proving that David saw corruption)
[Habakkuk 1:5] in [Acts 13:41] (Purely messianic, doubtful a reference to David)
With respect to the speeches being “evangelistic speeches”, isn’t it interesting that each of the speeches were specifically to Israelites or Judeans?
For Peter’s Pentecost Speech he addresses them “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem” [Acts 2:14]. Of course there were Edomites in Jerusalem [Oba 1:11] but there were also Benjaminites, Judeans and Levites [Ezra 1:5]. He says “Men of Israel, hear these words” [Acts 2:22] which suggests he’s specifically targeting Israelites with his speech. His ‘David’ reference in [Acts 2:25] would make sense to Judeans and Edomite Jews, but likely not to others. Finally he refers to them as ‘brothers’ using the word ἀδελφός (adelphos G80) which strongly suggests his audience shared a literal kinship. He then restates his argument and concludes with “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain …” [Acts 2:26] which reveals his purpose. A case that Peter is purposefully addressing non-Israelites is doubtful.
In Peter’s Trial Speech he addresses “Rulers of the people and elders ..” [Acts 4:8] then scopes his speech to “you (House of Judah who was represented in Jerusalem) and to all the people of Israel (meaning the House of Israel who wasn’t) ..” [Acts 4:10]. Even if there were Edomite Jews present, Peter’s own words show he is address the House of Judah an the House of Israel.
Finally in Paul’s Synagogue Speech he addresses them as such “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen.” [Acts 4:16] The “and you who fear God” could be inclusive but then he says “..the God of this people Israel elected our fathers ..” [Acts 4:17] showing that even this audience were Hebrews (‘this people Israel’ and ‘our fathers’). He goes on to say “Brothers, sons of the race of Abraham, and those amongst you who fear God “; again his kinsmen.
I’ve said this before, that Michael Rydelnik’s book The Messianic Hope argues that the Hebrew bible was fundamentally Messianic. Paul exegesis certainly treats it that way.
Paul appears to have been showing Israelites, how their Messianic hope had been fulfilled in Christ.
Good catch, yes, that was Isaiah 55.3.
Brian. I think Luke was writing his Gospel as a Gentile to both Gentiles and Jews Many of the speeches were initially to Jewish hearers, and so the speakers would have been drawing on their understandings. I also think that within the early church framework, there would have been a wide spread understanding of Jewish culture amongst the Gentiles, an understanding that we don’t have today.
So in many ways, Luke is saying that Jesus is the fulfilment of the Davidic line.
Definitely, I think that is exactly what Luke is saying.
Craig, the speeches Brian’s cited (Peter’s Pentecost Speech (2.14-36), Peter’s Trial Speech (4.8-12), Paul’s Synagogue Speech (13.16-41), Peter’s and Paul’s own words address their audience as such (brothers, Men of Israel, Let all the house of Israel .., and to all the people of Israel).
The bible is clear Peter and Paul were addressing Israelites (in these cases); nothing more is suggested biblically. Therefore to take it further is speculative; reading into the text what is not actually there.
Besides, how would an argument about Jesus’ relationship to David, an Israelite King, have resonated with non-Israelites? It wouldn’t have. Whereas the same message would have resonated strongly with Israelites harbouring a messianic hope for they had been promised a Messiah:
2. He made my mouth like a sharp sword;
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow;
in his quiver he hid me away.
3. And he said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
4. But I said, “I have laboured in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my right is with the LORD,
and my recompense with my God.”
5. And now the LORD says,
he who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him;
and that Israel might be gathered to him—
for I am honoured in the eyes of the LORD,
and my God has become my strength—
6. he says:
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
7. Thus says the LORD,
the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,
to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation,
the servant of rulers:
Kings shall see and arise;
princes, and they shall prostrate themselves;
because of the LORD, who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
I expect you agree this promise found in [Isa 49:2-7] is about the Messiah? If so, what was He to do? He would make the preserved of Israel a light for the nations (by making them like Himself), He would raise up the tribes of Jacob, and it was they who he chose.
Look at the promise made to the House of Judah and the House of Israel in [Jer 33:14-15]:
14. Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
15. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
16. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’
No – as nice as it sounds, the messages Brian is focusing on were intended for the same audience who had received the promises of Isaiah and Jeremiah; namely Judah and Israel. Peter and Paul’s arguments about the branch of David was intended for, and delivered to God’s sheep [Jer 23:1][Eze 34:31] for whom it was everything, and not to the goats.
Brian: You rightly note that the speeches highlight the focus on the Kingdom of God, which is the concern of the apostles at the beginning of the book. “When is the kingdom coming?” It places the focus squarely in a Jewish context. Jesus is the Jewish messiah who will lead an earthly kingdom as the representative of YHWH, much as David was a real king leading an earthly kingdom.
Agreed, I have posted my paper in its current form. Feedback welcome. http://nearemmaus.com/2012/06/29/the-use-of-the-psalms-in-the-evangelistic-speeches-of-the-book-of-acts/
It wasn’t needed early on to Gentiles, IMO. They wouldn’t have had a clue who David was or care.
I think it’s good now as at least in western societies we’ve inadvertently been exposed to a rough outline of the OT narrative and it’s awesome to see Christ in all these types and predictions even though the fact is some of the NT authors had a hermeneutic we do not.
They appropriated passages to Christ, many times the passages are not really forward looking beyond the day they were spoken.
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