Date of Graduation

Summer 2011


Master of Arts in Religious Studies


Religious Studies

Committee Chair

Mark Givens


Paul, Acts, Rome, anti-imperial, interpretation

Subject Categories



According to current interpretive trends in biblical scholarship, the epistolary Paul is notoriously anti-empire while the Lukan Paul of the book of Acts seems somewhat ambivalent of Roman rule and, at times, perhaps in favor of it. These two disparate portraits of Paul lead many scholars to discount the historical value of Acts and the picture of Paul that it presents. In this thesis, I argue that the Lukan portrait of Paul, contradictory though it may be, should be allowed to contribute toward scholarship's overall portrait of Paul. I suggest that the Lukan portrait be accepted as historically plausible for two reasons. First, Paul is a product of empire. Utilizing Michel Foucault's discourse of power, I show how Paul's utilization of empire in Acts and his constructed resistance of empire in the letters are molded in part by the Roman regime. Second, Paul is ultimately unapproachable as an historical figure. What we have before us is not Paul, but texts of Paul, texts that are, in and of themselves, interpretations of Paul. Drawing upon Dale Martin's observations concerning human agency in the process of interpretation and Ludwig Wittgenstein's theory of language, I argue that texts are ultimately at the mercy of their interpreters. Given this, historical writing on Paul should not lay a claim to ever having arrived at a singular and authoritative definition of Paul. Rather, contradictory interpretations and pictures of Paul, such as those that exist between the letters and Acts, should be allowed to inform one another.


© Darryl James Schafer

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