The following is an excerpt from Gerald R. McDermott, ed., The New Christian Zionism: Fresh Perspectives on Israel and the Land (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2016).

Do the People of Israel and the Land of Israel Persist as Abiding Concerns in Luke and Acts?

At no point do the earliest Christians view the Holy Land as a locus of divine activity to which the people of the Roman empire must be drawn. They do not promote the Holy Land either for the Jew or for the Christian as a vital aspect of faith… The early Christians possessed no territorial theology. Early Christian preaching is utterly uninterested in a Jewish eschatology devoted to the restoration of the land. The kingdom of Christ began in Judea and is historically anchored there but it is not tethered to a political realization of that kingdom in the Holy Land.[1]

These words of Gary Burge place him in the mainstream of Christian scholars. It is commonplace for specialists in Christian theology and scripture to assert that the land of Israel loses its theological significance in the New Testament. Minimally, it seems self-evident to most that the theme of the land as a particular geographical location (as opposed to an eschatological symbol representing the entire world) lacks prominence in the New Testament texts.

I will argue in this chapter that Luke-Acts displays an orientation to the city of Jerusalem that contradicts these standard conclusions. According to Luke-Acts, Jerusalem possesses a unique status not only because "the kingdom of Christ" is "historically anchored" there, but even more because that kingdom will achieve its eschatological consummation within its walls. This means that the land of Israel also retains its unique status for Luke-Acts, for the city of Jerusalem functioned from the time of the post-exilic prophets as a symbol for the land as a whole, as well as for the people destined to inherit it.[2] It is no accident that the modern movement to restore corporate Jewish life in the land took the name "Zionism," for Zion (i.e., Jerusalem) represents the entire land of Israel.

Gary Burge recognizes the importance of Luke-Acts for any treatment of this topic, and rightly highlights a set of verses from the first chapter of Acts:

So when they had come together, they asked him, 'Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?' He replied, 'It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' [3] (Acts 1:6-8)

Burge interprets these words of Jesus as a denial of the validity of the disciples' question: "Jesus' correction of the apostles should not be taken to mean that Jesus acknowledges the old Jewish worldview and that its timing is now hidden from the apostles. Instead Jesus is acknowledging their incomprehension. He in effect says, 'Yes, I will restore Israel—but in a way you cannot imagine.'"[4]

This reading of Acts 1 draws support from two structural features of the Book of Acts. First, Acts 1:8 signals the geographical structure of the book as a whole. The volume begins in Jerusalem, moves on to Judea and Samaria, and then concludes in Rome (the "ends of the earth"). This structure suggests that Jerusalem is important only as the site of ecclesial origins; it represents the honored past but not the glorious future. In the words of Burge, "[T]he work of this messianic era is not centripetal but centrifugal: moving away from the center, Jerusalem, while remembering where it came from."[5] Second, many commentators see the tone and content of the book's final scene in Rome as implying a definitive judgment on the Jewish people, a judgment which deprives them of their covenantal privileges. The destruction of Jerusalem which will occur in the years immediately following this final scene confirms the decisive nature of this judgment. Thus, for the author of Luke-Acts, Jerusalem and the Jewish people represent the ekklesia's past, but her future belongs with the nations of the world.

I will first examine these two structural features of the Lukan writings and argue that their significance has commonly been misunderstood. I will then return to Acts 1:6-8 and offer my own interpretation of these crucial verses.

"He Set His Face to Go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51)

Luke underlines the thematic centrality of Jerusalem for his two-volume work by structuring his narrative geographically, with Jerusalem as its pivot. No other book in the New Testament adheres to such a defined geographical pattern as a primary principle of organization. This author also gives more attention to the destiny of Jerusalem than any other New Testament writer. An examination of the geographical structure of Luke-Acts, and of Luke's teaching concerning Jerusalem, will provide clues regarding the message which the two-volumes convey.

The Geographical Structure of the Gospel of Luke

Among the four gospels, only Luke begins in Jerusalem—and not merely in Jerusalem, but at the heart of the city, the holy Temple, where the future father of John the Baptist offers incense and receives an angelic visitation (Luke 1:5-23). While both Matthew and Luke describe Jesus' birth near Jerusalem in Bethlehem (Matt 2:1-12; Luke 2:1-70), only Luke depicts the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple, accompanied by the prophetic blessings of Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:22-38). Only Luke among the canonical gospels provides readers with a story of Jesus as a youth, and that story recounts the boy's visit to Jerusalem and his lingering in the courts of the Temple (Luke 2:41-51). Thus, Luke's two-chapter introduction centers on the city of Jerusalem and its Temple.

In chapter three the book shifts its focus to Galilee, and for the next seven chapters it follows generally the order of events recorded in the Gospel of Mark. Near the end of chapter nine Luke begins a new section of his narrative which combines material from the double tradition (i.e., units shared by Luke and Matthew but not by Mark) with material unique to Luke. The new section begins in this way: "When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51). The next nine chapters of Luke's "Special Section" (Luke 9:51-18:14) take the form of an extended travel narrative encompassing Jesus' final journey to Jerusalem. The material itself is only loosely geographical in character, consisting of parables and stories that usually lack an intrinsic connection to the journey. Nevertheless, Luke has chosen to organize the material around this Passover pilgrimage, with occasional editorial reminders of the geographical context (e.g., Luke 13:22; 17:11). In this way the central section of Luke's narrative, which occurs outside Jerusalem, employs the holy city as its point of orientation and source of structural unity.

As in all four gospels, the events of Luke's passion narrative occur in Jerusalem and its immediate environs. However, only Luke restricts resurrection appearances to the Jerusalem region, and only Luke includes the dominical command requiring the disciples to remain in the city (Luke 24:49). The gospel ends as it began—in the Jerusalem Temple, with a community of Jews worshipping the God of Israel (Luke 24:53).

Among the canonical gospels only Luke begins in Jerusalem, ends in Jerusalem, and orients its central narrative around a journey to Jerusalem. This geographical structure underlines Luke's unique concern for the holy city and its enduring theological significance.

The Geographical Structure of the Book of Acts

The Book of Acts likewise orders its narrative according to a geographical pattern centered in Jerusalem, and, as already noted, that pattern finds explicit articulation in Acts 1:8:

"You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Like the Gospel of Luke, the Book of Acts begins in Jerusalem, with a community centered on the Temple (Acts 2:46; 3:1-10; 4:1-2; 5:12; 5:20-21; 5:42). The story develops as the message of Jesus radiates outwards—first to the towns of Judea and Samaria, then with reference to Damascus.[6] In Acts 10 Peter proclaims the good news to Cornelius and his household in the coastal city of Caesarea. In Acts 11 the reader learns that persecution in Jerusalem has led some disciples to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch (Acts 11:19). From Antioch Paul begins his travels (Acts 13:1-3), wending his way through Asia Minor (Acts 13:4-14:26), and eventually crossing over to Europe (Acts 16:9-10) and establishing Jesus-believing communities in Greece. The story concludes with Paul in Rome, the capital of the Empire.

The geographical outline of Acts 1:8 and the above summary of the narrative of Acts leave out a particular detail which has profound implications for our interpretation of the geographical structure of Acts: while radiating steadily outwards, the story continually reverts back to Jerusalem. Paul encounters Jesus on the road to Damascus, and then returns to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-29). Peter proclaims Jesus to Cornelius in Caesarea, and then returns to Jerusalem (Acts 11:2). A congregation arises in Antioch, and then in a time of famine sends aid to Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30). Paul and Barnabas journey from Antioch to Asia Minor, and then return to Jerusalem for the central event in the book—the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:2). From Jerusalem Paul travels with Silas to Greece, and then returns to Jerusalem (Acts 18:22).[7] Paul completes his final missionary journey, and then returns to Jerusalem, where he is arrested (Acts 21:17-23:11). While this feature of the geographical structure of Acts is often ignored by commentators, Robert Brawley is a notable exception:

Although Acts begins in Jerusalem and ends in Rome, it is inaccurate to conclude that Jerusalem falls out in favor of Rome. The narrative in Acts actually reciprocates between Jerusalem and the extended mission. . . . Even when Paul is in Rome, his memory reverts to Jerusalem to reiterate his fate there (28:17). Hence, Acts does not delineate a movement away from Jerusalem, but a constant return to Jerusalem. In the geography of Acts emphasis repeatedly falls on Jerusalem from beginning to end. [8]

If indeed Acts 1:8 is a geographical outline of the book, then its language supports this conclusion, for it characterizes Rome as being located at "the ends of the earth." Given the city's overwhelming political, military, economic, and cultural dominance within the first century world inhabited by Luke, applying this phrase (even by implication) to Rome comes as a shock. For Luke, Rome may be the capital of a gentile Empire which rules much of the earth, but it was neither the center nor the true capital of the world.[9] That honor belonged to Jerusalem alone.

This assessment finds further confirmation in the geographical structure of the list of Jews gathered for the holiday of Pentecost (Acts 2:5, 9-11). Richard Bauckham has analyzed this list, and the results are striking:

Luke's list of the nations and countries from which the pilgrims attending the festival of Pentecost had come (Acts 2:9-11) provides a much more authentically Jerusalem perspective on the Diaspora. The order in which the names occur has perplexed interpreters. In fact, if we take the trouble to plot the names on a map of the world as an ancient reader would have perceived it, we can see that Luke's list is carefully designed to depict the Jewish Diaspora with Jerusalem at its centre. . . . The names in Acts 2:9-11 are listed in four groups corresponding to the four points of the compass, beginning in the east and moving counterclockwise. . . . The first group of names in the list . . . begins in the far east and moves in towards Judaea, which is then named. Recognizing that Judaea is in the list because it is the centre of the pattern described by the names is the key to understanding the list. The second group of names . . . is of places to the north of Judaea, and follows an order which moves out from and back to Judaea, ending at the point from which one might sail to Judaea. The third group of names . . . moves west from Judaea through Egypt . . . and Libya to Rome, and then back to Judaea by a sea route calling at Crete. Finally, a single name (Arabs) represents the movement south from Judaea, presumably indicating Nabataea, immediately due south of Judaea.[10]

Not only does this list depict Jerusalem as the center of the world; it also follows the same rhythm of outward and inward movement which characterizes the entire narrative of Acts. Reading Acts 1:8 in light of Acts 2:9-11 and in light of the overall structure of Acts, we might say that the Pentecost list portrays the historical spread of the good news in accordance with Acts 1:8, whereas the narrative of the Book of Acts focuses on one particular strand of that greater story—the strand associated with the controversial figure of Paul. In both the greater story of the advance of the good news and the more circumscribed story of Paul, Jerusalem is the heart from which the blood flows and to which it invariably returns. Contrary to Burge's claim, the centrifugal movement of the narrative of Acts is continually balanced by a centripetal movement

The Judgment/Redemption of Jerusalem and the Puzzle of Luke-Acts

This movement of outward-flow and inward-return continues until we reach the final chapter of Acts, at which point the movement is cut off mid-cycle. The story concludes in Rome, at "the ends of the earth," with no return to Jerusalem. If Jerusalem had only functioned in the narrative as a point of origin, as Burge suggests, then an ending in Rome would be natural and fitting. However, as we have seen, Jerusalem plays a much more prominent role in the geographical structure of Acts than this simple linear scheme would suggest. It is Luke's center, and Rome is but the periphery. Has that center now forfeited its privileged status? Has the former periphery now taken its place?

To answer this question, we must return to the Gospel of Luke, and reflect on a puzzling feature of its narrative which provides essential insight on the meaning of its companion volume. I refer to the Gospel of Luke's preoccupation with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., and its hints of Jerusalem's future redemption. While the Jewish war with Rome looms in the background of each of the canonical Gospels, Luke's orientation to this event is unique among the four of them. 

First, Luke is unique in his portrait of Jesus' sympathy for the suffering that Jerusalem will undergo. Like Matthew, Luke depicts Jesus' frustrated longing for Jerusalem's repentance: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" (Luke 13:34). But in Luke this verse follows a warning from the Pharisees to Jesus that Herod seeks to kill him (Luke 13:31-33)—a warning which distances these Pharisees from Herod's malicious intent and portrays them as quasi-allies of Jesus.[11] In contrast, Matthew positions this saying (Matt 23:37-39) as the climax of a fierce denunciation of the Pharisees which holds them culpable for the blood of the prophets (Matt 23:34-36); the Matthean context undercuts the pathos accentuated in the Lukan setting, and inherent in the words themselves.[12]

Luke also emphasizes this pathos by including two incidents in his Gospel that are absent from Matthew, Mark, and John—one describing Jesus' public entrance into Jerusalem, and the other portraying his public departure. When Luke recounts Jesus' triumphal procession into the holy city, he alone among the gospel writers informs us that Jesus wept as he contemplated the suffering she would experience forty years later at the hands of the Romans (Luke 19:41-44). When Luke describes Jesus' humiliating exit from the city under the whip of Roman soldiers, he alone among the gospel writers tells us of the women who follow along wailing for him (Luke 23:27), and of Jesus' response to them—a response which again anticipates the future suffering of Jerusalem:

But Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us'; and to the hills, 'Cover us.' For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (Luke 23:28-31)

Luke includes more of these proleptic flashes of impending judgment than the other gospels, but in doing so the author evinces no sense of joy or vindication at Jerusalem's tragic fate. In pondering the city's day of judgment, the Lukan Jesus weeps.

A second unique feature of Luke's orientation to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. appears in his account of Jesus' eschatological discourse (Luke 21:5-36). In Mark and Matthew this discourse so combines and compresses references to the imminent destruction of Jerusalem and the ultimate distress of the eschaton that the two events are inextricably entangled. This overlay of one event upon the other is especially evident in Mark 13:14-20:

But when you see the desolating sacrilege [to bdelugma tes eremoseos] set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; someone on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; someone in the field must not turn back to get a coat. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not be in winter. For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days. 

The "desolating sacrilege"—or, more literally, "the detestable thing of desolation"—alludes to the apocalyptic prophecies of Daniel (Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11) and their description of an idolatrous altar or image erected in the Temple; the phrase thus refers to an event immediately preceding the resurrection of the saints and the transformation of heaven and earth. In contrast, Luke's version of these verses distinguishes clearly between what will happen in Jerusalem in 70 CE and what will happen when Jesus returns.[13]

When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation [eremosis] has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfillment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people [laos]; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations [ethne]; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles [ethnon], until the times of the Gentiles [ethnon] are fulfilled. (Luke 21:20-24)

Luke transforms Mark's reference to the desecration of the Temple (to bdelugma tes eremoseos) so that it becomes a description of the "desolation" (eremosis) of the entire city. The sign which leads the disciples to flee is no longer an idolatrous altar but instead the sight of Jerusalem surrounded by Roman armies. The Markan text implies a cosmic distress, whereas the Lukan version speaks of "wrath against this people" (i.e., the Jewish people who inhabit Jerusalem). Most significantly, the world in its unredeemed form—and the Jewish people—remain in existence after this event, for not all of the inhabitants of Jerusalem are slain but some are "taken away as captives among all the gentiles [ethne]," and "Jerusalem will be trampled on by the gentiles [ethnon], until the times of the gentiles [ethnon] are fulfilled."[14] This concluding statement about Jerusalem implies that an extended period of time will elapse between the destruction of the city by the gentiles and the end of the age (which will occur only after "the times of the gentiles are fulfilled").

The above text from Luke 21 also displays the third unique feature of Luke's orientation to the destruction of Jerusalem. Verse 24 states that "Jerusalem will be trampled on by the gentiles, until [achri] the times [kairoi] of the gentiles are fulfilled." Robert Tannehill considers this verse in light of other Jewish literature of the period, and draws the most reasonable conclusion:

That Jerusalem or the sanctuary has been or will be "trampled on" is a repeated theme in ancient Jewish writings…This trampling of Jerusalem will last only "until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." We are not told explicitly what will happen then, but if we return to the other texts that speak of this trampling, we find the expectation that Jerusalem will be restored.[15]

This interpretation of Luke 21:24 receives further support from a similar use of achri ("until") in Peter's Temple speech in Acts 3:

And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times [kairoi] of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until [achri] the period of restoration [apokatastasis] of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. (Acts 3:17-21; NASB)

I will comment further on this passage below, but at this point I only note its connection to Luke 21:24. The "times [kairoi] of the gentiles"—referring to exclusive gentile sovereignty over Jerusalem resulting from Israel's rejection of the prophetic message—will give way to the "times [kairoi] of refreshing" when Israel repents and welcomes "the Christ [i.e., Messiah] appointed for you." The resurrected Messiah will remain in the heavenly sphere "until [achri] the period [chronoi] of restoration [apokatastasis] of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets"—which is apparently equivalent in meaning to "until [achri] the times [kairioi] of the gentiles are fulfilled." According to Albrecht Oepke, the verbal form of apokatastasis becomes in the Septuagint and Josephus a technical term "for the restoration of Israel to its own land."[16] From its context, the noun form in Acts 3:21 evidently includes this meaning.

Luke is thus unique among the Gospels not only in its emphasis on Jerusalem's coming destruction but also in its anticipation of the city's future restoration. This theme occupies an especially prominent place in the Lukan infancy narrative, where Simeon and Anna's encounter with the child Jesus satisfies their longing to see the beginning of "the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38) and the "consolation of Israel" (Luke 2:28). Since the hope for Jerusalem's redemption resounds at the beginning of the Gospel, but is not in fact attained in the course of the events recounted in Luke's two volumes, attentive readers recognize that Luke's story is incomplete.

Luke displays this sense of incompleteness—or, one might even say, of the temporary frustration of God's redemptive purpose—through the verbal connections linking two of his key texts. The first is the Song of Zechariah in Luke 1:69-79, uttered by the father of John the Baptist on the occasion of the child's circumcision. The song is a celebration of God's saving power at work in the fulfillment of God's promises to Israel. The object of praise is "the Lord God of Israel" (vs. 68), and God's redeeming act is in accordance with the oath sworn to Abraham (vs. 73) and the covenant established with the patriarchs (vs. 72). In the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, God has "visited [epesekpsato] his people to redeem them" (1:68), "to give knowledge [gnosis] of salvation to his people" (1:77), and "to guide our feet into the way of peace [eirene]" (1:79). God's work through John and Jesus will result in Israel being "saved" and "rescued" from its enemies [echthroi] (1:71, 73).

The second text is Luke's account of Jesus' weeping over Jerusalem before his triumphal entry to the city:

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, "If you, even you, had only recognized [egnos] on this day the things that make for peace [eirene]! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies [echthroi] will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize [egnos] the time of your visitation [episcope] from God." (Luke 19:41-44)

While the language of these verses recalls that of the Song of Zechariah, the tone and content of the two texts are diametrically opposed. The ecstatic joy of the song has been transmuted into profound grief. John and Jesus came to bring Israel "the knowledge [gnosis] of salvation," but the people "did not know [egnos]" this salvation when it appeared. God has "visited" [epesekpsato] Israel for their good, but the people did not discern this "visitation" [episcope]. God had wanted to bring Israel "peace" [eirene] and rescue from "enemies" [echthroi], but Israel did not recognize "the things that make for peace [eirene]" and consequently will be surrounded and defeated by its "enemies" [echthroi].[17]

The contradictory tone and content of these two texts represent in vivid fashion the puzzling and paradoxical character of Luke's geographical structure and message. As the Jewish people's longed-for Messiah, Jesus comes to bring redemption to Jerusalem and consolation to Israel. Nevertheless, his mission results in the destruction of Jerusalem and Israel's second exile. Luke highlights both themes and sets them in jarring juxtaposition, rather than accentuating one and downplaying the other. Luke then proceeds to treat this destruction and exile as the beginning of an era—associated with "the gentiles"—which at some point in the future will come to an end. Finally, he implies in Acts 3:19-21 (and also in Luke 13:35) that Jesus will return in response to Jerusalem's repentance and corporate welcome. In this way the content of Luke and Acts supports our conclusion regarding the geographical structure of the latter book: the end of the book is not the end of the story. Luke intimates that the outward flow will once again be followed by an inward return, and Israel's second Babylonian exile will culminate in a final pilgrimage to Zion.

Traditional interpreters such as Gary Burge have looked to the geographical structure of Luke-Acts in order to support their reading of Acts 1:6-8. Our examination of that structure in the light of the Lukan teaching concerning the judgment and redemption of Jerusalem shows that the opposite is the case. Far from confirming the traditional view of Acts 1, the geographical structure of the book effectively undermines that view. Luke tells a story that remains unfinished, and that points forward to a day "when the times of the gentiles are fulfilled." In that day Israel's Roman exile (anticipated by Acts 28:23-31) will come to an end, as did its earlier Babylonian exile, and "the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing" (Isa 35:10).

"This Salvation of God has been Sent to the Gentiles" (Acts 28:28)

The Traditional Reading

The ending of the Book of Acts is significant not only because its scenes are set in Rome. Traditional commentators also underline the fact that the book ends with Paul's prophetic rebuke of the Jewish leaders of the city.

"The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah, 
'Go to this people and say,
You will indeed listen, but never understand,

and you will indeed look, but never perceive. 
For this people's heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—and I would heal them.'
Let it be known to you then that this salvation [soterion] of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen." (Acts 28:25b-28)

Paul's citation of Isaiah 6 has been taken as marking the definitive dissolution of the Jewish people's covenantal status. Thus, Hans Conzelmann asserts, "Israel's turning away from salvation is final, as is clear in Paul's concluding statement in Acts 28:28."[18] While Joseph Tyson considers Luke's view of Judaism to be conflicted and complex, his assessment of Acts 28:28 echoes that of Conzelmann: "The text that exhibits such profound ambivalence in regard to Jews and Judaism [i.e., Luke-Acts as a whole] moves toward a resolution without ambivalence or ambiguity: an image of Jewish people as rejecting the gospel and thus as a people without hope."[19] If that is the case, then Luke envisions no eventual "return to Jerusalem," and Burge is justified in reading Acts 1:6-8 as an instance of apostolic misunderstanding and dominical correction.[20]

This conclusion draws support from the way Luke structures his narrative of Paul's missionary expeditions. In his initial journey Paul delivers a lengthy speech in the synagogue of Antioch of Pisidia in Asia Minor (Acts 13:16-41). At first the Jewish audience welcomes Paul's message (Acts 13:42-43), but the following week they turn hostile. Paul's response anticipates his words to the Jewish elders of Rome, though he here cites Isaiah 49:6b rather than Isaiah 6:

"It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, 'I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'" (Acts 13:46-47)

In his second missionary journey Paul receives a vision beckoning him to leave Asia Minor in order to begin a new work across the Aegean (Acts 16:9-10). Paul eventually makes his way to Corinth, a city situated on an isthmus and described by Strabo in 7 B.C.E. as "master of two harbors, of which the one leads straight to Asia, and the other to Italy."[21] Here Luke describes briefly a scene that resembles what occurred earlier in Antioch of Pisidia (in Asia) and what will occur later in Rome (in Italy):

Paul was occupied with proclaiming the word, testifying to the Jews that the Messiah was Jesus. When they opposed and reviled him, in protest he shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." Then he left the synagogue and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshipper of God; his house was next door to the synagogue. (Acts 18:5-7)

Thus, Paul's declaration that he is "going to the gentiles" is recounted three times in three geographical settings which represent the crucial stages of Paul's expanding apostolic sphere. As with the three accounts of Paul's vision on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19; 22:6-16; 26:12-18), and the three accounts of Peter's encounter with Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48; 11:4-16; 15:7-9), the literary technique of threefold repetition emphasizes the importance of Paul's words in the eyes of the author.

Therefore, the traditional commentators have good reason to stress Paul's final words to the Jewish elders of Rome. But how does Luke understand these words, and what is he trying to say through them? And how might they help us understand the words of Jesus at the beginning of the Book of Acts (i.e., Acts 1:6-8)?

To answer these questions, I will first examine the intertextual network underlying Acts 28:28 and Acts 13:47, and then reflect on the impact of social context on the prophetic rhetoric of Paul's speeches.

The Intertextual Network Underlying Acts 28:28

Paul's concluding words to the Jewish elders of Rome are as follows: "Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God [to soterion tou Theou] has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen" (Acts 28:28). The Greek word soterion is rare in the New Testament, appearing only five times. Three of those occurrences are found in Luke-Acts. The most important of the three, which illuminates the others, is Luke 3:4-6. Here Luke parallels Mark and Matthew by characterizing the mission of John the Baptist in terms of Israel 40:3, but then goes beyond Mark and Matthew by citing Isaiah 40:4-5 as well:

As it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight. [The citation of Isaiah 40 in Mark and Matthew ends here.]
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth; 
and all flesh [pasa sarx] shall see the salvation of God [to soterion tou Theou].'" (Luke 3:4-6)

In Acts 28:28 Paul states that "the salvation of God" [to soterion tou Theou], which Israel is now failing to receive, will be experienced by gentiles. Yet, citing Isaiah 40:5, Luke 3 tells us that this "salvation" will be seen (i.e., experienced) by "all flesh." It thus appears that Acts 28:28 witnesses to only a partial fulfillment of Isaiah 40:5.

How does Luke understand the phrase "all flesh" (pasa sarx) in Isaiah 40:5 (LXX)? Who are those who are destined to "see the salvation of God"? Luke's intention becomes clear in the Song of Simeon, the remaining text in which the word soterion is found.[22]

Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 
for my eyes have seen your salvation [soterion], 
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples [panton ton laon], 
a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. (Luke 2:29-32)

Simeon's "all peoples" (panton ton laon) is equivalent to Isaiah's "all flesh" (pasa sarx), and the meaning of "all peoples" is then explained in the line that follows: the phrase refers to Israel and the gentiles (i.e., the nations) together. Verse 32 alludes to Isaiah 49:5-6:

And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him,
for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— 
he says, "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations, 
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

God sends the servant to accomplish a dual mission: he is to be a "light to the nations (i.e., gentiles)," but also "to raise up the tribes of Jacob." Luke perceives these verses of Isaiah to be fundamental to the divine purpose, and they give shape to his overall narrative. When Paul bears witness before King Agrippa, Isaiah 49:5-6 underlies his formulation of the mission of the risen Messiah conducted through his ekklesia: "To this day I have had help from God, and so I stand here, testifying to both small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would take place: that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaimlight both to our people and to the Gentiles" (Acts 26:22-23, emphasis added). Even more telling is the explicit citation of Isaiah 49 in Paul's words to the Jewish community of Antioch in Pisidia, already noted above:

"It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, 'I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'" (Acts 13:46-47)

While the Song of Simeon refers to both parts of the dual mission of the servant, and the reference to "all flesh" in Luke's citation of Isaiah 40:5 likewise asserts a comprehensive salvific purpose in the work of the Messiah (i.e., including both gentiles and the "tribes of Jacob"), Paul in Acts 13 ignores Isaiah 49:5-6a (which speaks of Israel) and mentions only Isaiah 49:6b (which speaks of the gentiles). As we have seen, this anticipates the final scene of Acts 28 in which Paul rebukes the Jewish elders of Rome and announces his "going to the gentiles."

The most reasonable conclusion to draw from this intertextual puzzle is identical to the one we reached regarding Luke's geographical puzzle: Luke never tires of asserting that the prophetic words of scripture must be fulfilled, and Isaiah 40:5 ("all flesh will see the salvation of God")—understood in light of Isaiah 49:5-6 ("all flesh" = Israel + the nations)—takes a place of prominence in his reading of those prophetic words. Because of Israel's corporate resistance to the message of the Messiah, Jerusalem will be judged, and only the gentile portion of Isaiah 49 will be realized in the immediate future. This is the significance of Paul's "going to the gentiles." However, Jesus has come not only as "a light for revelation to the gentiles"; he is also destined to bring "glory to your people Israel" (Luke 2:32). Isaiah 49:5-6a will come to pass, but only in a future beyond the events of 70 C.E. and Israel's second exile, when "the times of the gentiles are fulfilled" (Luke 21:24).[23] Just as in its original context Isaiah 6 pronounced a judgment and exile whose goal and result was to purify Israel and lead to its ultimate restoration, so Paul in Acts 28 cites these words of Isaiah with the same intent and meaning.[24]

The Social Context of Paul's Prophetic Rhetoric in Acts

In order to understand Paul's rebuke of the Jewish leaders in Acts 28 and Luke's threefold description of Paul's "going to the gentiles," it is necessary to notice the social context in which Paul speaks. In this regard, Acts 28 sheds light on the earlier narratives in the book.

Soon after Paul arrives in Rome, he invites the Jewish leaders of the city to visit him.

Three days later [after arriving in Rome] he [Paul] called together the local leaders of the Jews. When they had assembled, he said to them, 'Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, yet I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans…For this reason therefore I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is for the sake of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.' (Acts 28:17, 20)

This is a formal gathering, in which Paul addresses a set of communal representatives. His mode of address displays a rhetoric that emphasizes his relationship with these leaders as fellow members of the same people. He calls them his "brothers," refers to Israel as "our people" and to Judaism as "the customs of our ancestors," and speaks of his apostolic mission as oriented to "the hope of Israel." Luke then describes the discussion that ensued:

From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe. So they disagreed with each other. (Acts 28:23b-25a)

Luke stresses the division of opinion that exists among these Jewish leaders. Some accept Paul's message while others reject it. From Luke's brief summary description, the reader may assume that there are as many Jewish leaders in the former group as in the latter.[25] This is the social context in which Paul rebukes his audience by citing Isaiah 6 (Acts 28:25b-27), and announces his intention of "going to the gentiles" (Acts 28:28).

Why does Paul respond so negatively to what Christians today might consider a rather successful evangelistic encounter? His fierce reaction appears disproportionate to the mixed attitudes of his audience. This scene makes little sense if we view Paul's audience as a collection of Jewish individuals, and Paul's aim in addressing them as the "salvation" of as many of them as possible. Instead, this assembly of prominent Roman Jews must have a corporate and representative function, and Paul's unattained goal in relation to them must likewise be defined in communal terms. Robert Tannehill interprets this scene in a way that takes account of these factors and explains the apparent disproportionately of Paul response:

The presence of disagreement among the Jews is enough to show that Paul has not achieved what he sought. He was seeking a communal decision, a recognition by the Jewish community as a whole that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Jewish hope. The presence of significant opposition shows that this is not going to happen.[26]

In other words, the point of the passage is not that these leaders, as individuals or as a group, are definitively saying "no" to Paul's apostolic message. Instead, the point is that they are failing to definitively say "yes," i.e., to offer a communal welcome to the announcement of Israel's risen Messiah. The significance of such a "yes" becomes clear if we interpret Acts 3:19-21 (and Luke 13:35) as a prophetic promise that Israel's corporate repentance and reception of the apostolic message would trigger the events which culminate in Messiah's return. Paul's rebuke of this divided group of Jewish leaders should not then be taken as a sign that the Jewish people have forfeited their promised inheritance, but as implying the exact opposite: the Jewish people retain their unique covenantal status, a fact which increases both their responsibility when they fail and the cosmic blessing that ensues when they succeed.

Tannehill applies this same insight to the previous two incidents in which Paul faults Jewish communal recalcitrance and declares that he will henceforth "go to the gentiles":

Paul's announcement that he is going to the Gentiles indicates a shift from a synagogue-based mission, addressed to Jews and to those Gentiles attracted to Judaism, to a mission in the city at large, where the population is predominantly Gentile…Paul…has fulfilled his obligation to speak God's word to God's people. They are now responsible for their own fate. The pattern of speaking first to Jews and only later turning to the Gentiles testifies to Paul's sense of prophetic obligation to his own people. He is released from this obligation only when he meets strong public resistance within the Jewish community. Then he can begin the second phase of his mission within a city, a phase in which the conversion of individual Jews is still possible, although Paul is no longer preaching in the synagogue nor addressing Jews as a community.[27]

Paul must go to the Jewish community first, for they are the people of God, and the Messiah is in a unique way their Messiah. (Paul's commitment to this truth provides the theological rationale for the initial rhetoric of Acts 28:17-20, in which the apostle stresses his solidarity with the wider Jewish community and its leadership.) Once it becomes evident that the Jewish community in a region will fail to corporately acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, Paul is free to speak to Jewish and gentile individuals and to form a distinct ecclesial body in that location. The transition from the first to the second phase of Paul's apostolic strategy in Acts means not that Israel forfeits its status, but that it exposes itself to divine judgment (as in past eras), and delays the ultimate arrival of both national and cosmic redemption.

By ending his two volumes with this scene in Rome, Luke signals that a new judgment—and a new exile—was about to befall the people of Israel. While individual Jews would continue to receive the message of Jesus, the Jewish community as a whole would for the immediate future withhold its corporate acclamation of Jesus as the one sent to be "the consolation of Israel." This does not, however, imply a definitive divorce of the Jesus movement from identification with that community, nor a surrendering of hope for an eschatological reversal of that official communal response.[28] Far from undermining the thesis we have argued based on the geographical structure of Luke-Acts and its treatment of Jerusalem's coming judgment and redemption, this reading of Acts 28 offers further support for that thesis.

"The Time when You will Restore the Kingdom to Israel" (Acts 1:6)

We are now ready to analyze Acts 1:6-8 itself.

So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time [chronos] when you will restore [apo-kathistemi] the kingdom to Israel?" He replied, "It is not for you to know the times [chronoi] or periods [kairoi] that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:6-8)

One of the most striking features of this text is the way its language and meaning coincide with two interrelated passages examined above—namely, Luke 21:24 and Acts 3:17-21. The first of these passages speaks of "the times [kairoi] of the gentiles" as a temporal period intervening between the destruction of Jerusalem and its restoration. The addition of the word kairoi by Jesus in Acts 1:6 (the question of the apostles uses only the synonym chronos) may point the reader back to this crucial verse in the eschatological discourse, and imply that the apostles have not yet understood that Jerusalem would be judged before being redeemed.

The second passage is found in Peter's speech in the Jerusalem Temple:

"And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times [kairoi] of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until [achri] the period [chronoi, lit. "times"] of restoration [apokatastasis] of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. (Acts 3:17-21; NASB)

We have already noted the connection between the use of achri ("until") in verse 21 and the appearance of the same word in Luke 21:24 ("until [achri] the times of the gentiles are fulfilled"). At this point we must attend to the parallels between these verses in Acts 3 and our main text, Acts 1:6-8. In both passages the two roughly synonymous nouns, chronoi and kairoi, are paired. More significantly, Acts 1:6 employs the verb apo-kathistemi (translated by the NRSV as "restore") while Acts 3:21 uses the cognate nominal form apo-katastasis (translated by the NASB as "restoration"). As noted above, Albrecht Oepke views the verb as a technical term in wider Jewish use "for the restoration of Israel to its own land." The language of the apostles' question to Jesus in Acts 1:6 is thus echoed by Peter's speech to the people of Jerusalem in Acts 3, with the same meaning in both cases: Peter tells the Jerusalemites that the kingdom will be restored to Israel (as a central and essential element in "the restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets") when they acknowledge Jesus as Israel's returning king. This echo implies that Peter has not interpreted Jesus' answer in Acts 1:7-8 as a rejection of the legitimacy of the question.

The verses immediately following the opening dialogue between Jesus and his disciples in Acts 1 provide further confirmation of our thesis:

When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.' Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. (Acts 1:9-12)

What is meant by the revelation that Jesus "will come in the same way as you saw him go"? Verse 12 hints at the answer by telling us that the ascension occurred on the Mount of Olives. Luke's mention of the location points the reader to the eschatological prophecy of Zechariah 14:

For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle…Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley…Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. (Zechariah 14:2-5)

In light of Zechariah 14 and Luke's Jerusalem-centered cartography, we should interpret the phrase "in the same way" as including the physical site of the two events. Just as Jesus ascends now from the Mount of Olives, so he will descend at the end to the Mount of Olives. Just as he ascends now from Jerusalem, so he will descend at the end to Jerusalem. Jerusalem will suffer many things, just as Zechariah 12-14 foretells. But she will be consoled when her Lord comes to defend her at the end, his feet standing on the Mount of Olives. At that time the Lord will be welcomed by Jerusalem in a fitting manner, with her leaders and people taking up the cry uttered at Jesus' first coming only by his disciples: "Blessed in the king who comes in the name of the Lord" (vs. 38; see Luke 13:35). This triumphal entry will be an occasion of messianic joy rather than lament (see again Luke 19:41-44).

Whether read in light of parallel verses in Luke and Acts, or in its own immediate context, or in relation to the ending or geographical structure of the books, or in connection to the wider Lukan teaching regarding Jerusalem's judgment and redemption, there is little evidence to suggest that Acts 1:6-8 should be read as anything but a dominical promise of the ultimate restoration of the kingdom to Israel in the holy city of Jerusalem. Moreover, there is likewise little evidence to suggest that the "Israel" which is spoken of is an entity separate from the Jewish people. With the prophet Simeon, Luke continues to await the "redemption of Jerusalem."


While necessary and richly suggestive, exegesis of Luke-Acts—or of any other New Testament texts—is not a sufficient ground for the cultivation of a 21st century theological Zionism among the disciples of Jesus. The development of such a theological vision will also require (among other things) sustained and disciplined reflection on the identity of the ekklesia, her relationship to the Jewish people, and her vocation in the realm of worldly politics; in addition, it will demand a theological and ethical assessment of a multitude of contingent facts of history. The remaining chapters in the present volume address some of these essential matters, and take us further on the road to a new 21st-century theological Zionism.

The question I have addressed in this chapter (as expressed in its title) is more circumscribed in character: Do the people of Israel and the land of Israel persist as abiding concerns in Luke and Acts? My answer is a resounding "yes." Exegesis of Luke-Acts is sufficient to undermine the arguments of those who assert that the New Testament delegitimizes the theological claims of the Jewish people in relation to the city of Jerusalem and the land of Israel. That is precisely the intent of the assertions of Gary Burge with which we began, and which we will again cite as we conclude:

At no point do the earliest Christians view the Holy Land as a locus of divine activity to which the people of the Roman empire must be drawn. They do not promote the Holy Land either for the Jew or for the Christian as a vital aspect of faith…The early Christians possessed no territorial theology. Early Christian preaching is utterly uninterested in a Jewish eschatology devoted to the restoration of the land. The kingdom of Christ began in Judea and is historically anchored there but it is not tethered to a political realization of that kingdom in the Holy Land." (Burge, Jesus and the Land, 59)

Luke-Acts refutes each of the above propositions: this two-volume work does "view the Holy Land as a locus of divine activity," does "promote the Holy Land…as a vital aspect of faith," does possess a "territorial theology," is intensely concernedabout "a Jewish eschatology devoted to the restoration of the land," and—depending on the meaning assigned here to the word "political"—is "tethered to a political realization" of the "kingdom in the Holy Land."

The story told by Luke-Acts is unfinished. Its last recorded chapter is set in Rome, at the "ends of the earth." While yet unwritten, we know where the final chapter of the story will take place—and it will not be Washington D.C., Beijing, Brussels, or Moscow. When the outward flow of the apostolic mission has reached its appointed limit, the current will reverse and return to its center, so that from there it might nurture the entire world. Then will be realized the words of the prophet:

On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter. And the Lord will become king over all the earth; on that day the Lord will be one and his name one. (Zechariah 14:8-9)


[1] Gary M. Burge, Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to "Holy Land" Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010), 59.

[2] "Isaiah, like Ezekiel, reorients the blessing of Abraham so that it comes to center almost exclusively on Jerusalem, on Mount Zion…What had formerly been attributed to the land as a whole is now transferred to the city and the holy mountain…Like Ezekiel, Zechariah uses the traditional formulas associated with the promise of the land, but he has centered them solely on Jerusalem and Judah…" (Robert L. Wilken, The Land Called Holy: Palestine in Christian History and Thought [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992], 15-16, 18).

[3] All citations from the New Testament in this chapter are from the NRSV unless otherwise stated.

[4] Burge, Jesus and the Land, 61.

[5] Ibid., 62.

[6] On the spread of the movement to Judea and Samaria, see Acts 8:1, 4-25; on the city of Damascus, see Acts 9:1-2, 10, 19.

[7] The Greek text of Acts 18:22 says merely that "Paul went up and greeted the church" (see KJV, RSV, NIV). However, commentators generally recognize that Luke is employing the traditional Jewish idiom ("to go up") for a journey to Jerusalem. The translators of the NRSV were so confident of this interpretation that they incorporated it into their English text: "When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch." I. Howard Marshall concurs with this understanding of the verse, and also notes its significance: "When he [Luke] goes on to say that Paul went up and greeted the church, this is usually understood as a reference to going up to Jerusalem and seeing the church there. . . . If this is a correct assumption, it means that each of Paul's missionary campaigns concluded with a visit to Jerusalem, so that Paul's work began from and ended in Jerusalem in each case" (I. Howard Marshall, Acts [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980], 301-2).

[8] Robert L. Brawley, Luke-Acts and the Jews: Conflict, Apology, and Conciliation (Atlanta: Scholars, 1987), 35-6. Emphasis added.

[9] "Luke rejoices that the word of God and the good news about the Jewish messiah and king Jesus flow out of Zion to the rest of the world, conquering even Rome, which, vis-à-vis Jerusalem, lies at the extremities of the earth, not at the center" (Isaac W. Oliver, Torah Praxis After 70 CE: Reading Matthew and Luke-Acts as Jewish Texts [Mohr Siebeck 2013], 28).

[10] Richard Bauckham, "James and the Jerusalem Church," in The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting (ed. Richard Bauckham; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 419. Emphasis added.

[11] See Peter J. Tomson, 'If this be from Heaven…': Jesus and the New Testament Authors in their Relationship to Judaism (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 2001), 223; Brawley, 84, 102.

[12] The Matthean version of this saying is typical of the book's polemical attitude towards the Pharisees. As I have argued elsewhere, Matthew's polemics derive in large part from the author's ideological proximity to Pharisaic thought (see Mark S. Kinzer, Postmissionary Messianic Judaism: Redefining Christian Engagement with the Jewish People [Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2005], 247-55. They do not imply a view of the Jewish people or the land of Israel that diverges radically from what is found in Luke-Acts.

[13] N.T. Wright famously interprets the entirety of Mark 13 as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. (see N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996], 339-68). His argument for this position has convinced few scholars. Dale Allison's trenchant critique of this reading of Mark 13 represents the trustworthy consensus of New Testament scholarship. See Dale C. Allison Jr., "Jesus and the Victory of Apocalyptic," in Jesus and the Restoration of Israel (ed. Carey C. Newman: Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1999), 126-41. Wright's response to this critique is found in the same volume (261-68).

[14] It is unfortunate that the NRSV translates ethne in vs 24a as "nations" and then renders the two uses of ethnon in vs 24b as "gentiles." This obscures the connection between the two halves of the verse, which preserves throughout the distinction between the Jewish people (the laos of vs 23b) and the gentiles who are the agents and the locus of their exile.

[15] Robert C. Tannehill, Luke (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996), 305-6 (emphasis added). The "other texts" to which Tannehill refers include Zechariah 12:3 (LXX) and the Psalms of Solomon 17:21-24.

[16] Albrecht Oepke, TDNT, 1:388. See LXX Hosea 11:11; Jeremiah 16:15, 24:6; Jospehus Antiquities 11:2, 63.

[17] Robert C. Tannehill notes the link between these two texts, and the literary effect it produces: "The narrator intends to connect the arrival in Jerusalem with the birth narrative in order to highlight the tragic turn which the narrative is now taking. The great expectations in the birth narrative for the redemption of Israel and Jerusalem are not being realized in the anticipated way and with the anticipated fullness, because Jerusalem is failing to recognize the time of its visitation" (The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts, Volume 1: The Gospel according to Luke [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986], 160).

[18] Cited in Joseph B. Tyson, Luke, Judaism, and the Scholars: Critical Approaches to Luke-Acts (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999), p. 88.

[19] Ibid., pp. 144-45.

[20] Like Burge, Conzelmann contends that Jesus will restore the kingdom to a redefined Israel, and the basis for his contention is Acts 28: "Acts i,6 speaks of the Kingdom being restored to Israel…The emphatic passage, xxviii, 28…shows who now shares in this hope: salvation is passing to the Gentiles…Luke thinks of the Christians, according to plan, taking over the privileges of the Jews as one epoch is succeeded by the next" (Theology of Luke, 163). In other words, the question of the apostles in Acts 1:6 is not in itself misguided; they only misunderstand the meaning of the term "Israel," which in the new dispensation refers to the church of the gentiles. Of course, this also implies a dramatic change in the nature of that kingdom (i.e., it will be non-geographical) and its restoration. [some readers might think this last sentence and its previous phrase reflect your view. It might be good to make clear that you are only paraphrasing Conzelmann. 

[21] Cited by Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians (Louisville: John Knox, 1997), 3.

[22] The importance of Isaiah 40 as an intertextual reference in the Song of Simeon is highlighted also by the way Luke introduces the figure of Simeon: "Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation [paraklesis] of Israel" (Luke 2:25). The phrase "the consolation of Israel" alludes to the opening words of Isaiah 40: "Comfort, comfort [parakleite, parakleite] my people" (Isaiah 40:1 LXX).

[23] Charles B. Puskas skillfully identifies the intertextual network discussed here, and its relevance to the interpretation of Acts 28. Unfortunately, ignoring the evidence to the contrary, he thinks that Acts 28 indicates the fulfillment of the promises of Isaiah 40 for "all flesh," i.e., both gentiles and Jews: "Paul at Rome brings the universal significance of God's salvation in the person of Jesus, to its completion" (The Conclusion of Luke-Acts: The Significance of Acts 28:16-31 [Eugene: Pickwick, 2009], 103). This reading of Acts 28 fails to attend to the lack of completion which Luke conveys by ending his narrative in Rome, with Israel about to fall under divine judgment.

[24] Justin Taylor takes a similar approach to Paul's use of Isaiah 6 in Acts 28: "As in the original context in the Book of Isaiah, it is a call to conversion [i.e., repentance] rather than a declaration of rejection" ("Paul and the Jewish Leaders of Rome: Acts 28:17-31," in Thomas G. Casey and Justin Taylor, Paul's Jewish Matrix [Rome: Gregorian and Biblical Press, 2011], 323). Moreover, Taylor argues that the Lukan Paul "who meets with representatives of the Jewish community in Rome in Acts 28 is in substantial agreement in his attitude to Israel with the Paul of Romans 9-11" (321).

[25] As Taylor notes, "The text simply shows the group who heard Paul as divided: we are not even told that those who did not accept Paul's message were more numerous than those who did" (Ibid., 315)

[26] Robert C. Tannehill, The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts, Volume Two: The Acts of the Apostles (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), 347.

[27] Ibid., 222-23.

[28] Tannehill adopts a view similar to that expressed here. Joseph Tyson endorses Tannehill's insight into the communal dimension of Paul's efforts among the Jewish people, but he disagrees with Tannehill's suggestion that Israel's future is still open. Tyson thinks that Luke sees Israel as "a people without hope." As my entire argument shows, I find Tyson's contention unconvincing. See Joseph B. Tyson, "The Problem of Jewish Rejection in Acts," in Luke-Acts and the Jewish People (ed. Tyson), 126-27, and Luke, Judaism, and the Scholars (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999), 142-45.

Dr. Mark Kinzer is Moderator of Yachad BeYeshua, an international interconfessional fellowship of Jewish disciples of Yeshua, Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Zera Avraham in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Senior Scholar and President Emeritus of Messianic Jewish Theological Institute, a graduate school preparing leaders for service in the Messianic Jewish movement. He is the author of Postmissionary Messianic Judaism (2005), Israel's Messiah and the People of God (2011), Searching Her Own Mystery (2015), and Jerusalem Crucified, Jerusalem Risen (2018)

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