Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Robinson: Weaknesses and Strengths

It's probably no secret that I greatly appreciate the work of J.A.T. Robinson, specifically his Redating the New Testament. I've been thinking lately about its strengths and weaknesses, and thought I'd write some of them here, beginning with weaknesses.

1) The Significance of 70: an early chapter in Redating goes by that title. Robinson argues, I think convincingly, that Jesus's predictions of the temple's destruction in 70 do not constitute a terminus post quem (time after which) for the composition of the gospels. I think that he perhaps pushes the matter of 70 too far, though. He argues that the absence in the NT corpus of any incontrovertible reference to the events of 70 gives us reason to think that the NT as a whole dates prior to 70. I feel that this might be a somewhat illicit argument from silence. Admittedly, he does bolster this by observing that such prophetic material as the Olivet discourse (cf. Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) contain prophecies that are somewhat at variance with the known course of the First Jewish War (c. 66-73), which presents some difficulty for those who would argue that the text was written to conform with the events of those years. Given though that I see the text as more concerned with conforming itself to the Jewish prophetic tradition than to current or recent events, I'm not convinced that that would demonstrate that such variance indicates a pre-70 date either. My own feeling is that the prophecies of the destruction of the temple are probably non-probative, neither establishing a terminus post quem or terminus ante quem. That having been said, Robinson's argument does lead me to consider the following possibility: if, as the consensus chronology holds, the majority of the NT dates to between 70 and 100, and given the virtually complete absence to incontrovertibly mention of the events of 66-73, we should perhaps conclude that the events of that period simply didn't have too much impact upon the churches that produced our NT literature. If we conclude thus, then we probably also have to dispense with the argument that the eschatology that we find in things like the Olivet discourse could not have originated but in the context of the First Jewish War.

2) A Fixation with Nero: Robinson rightly objects that the reign of Domitian has become a sort of dumping ground for NT texts, especially those that mention persecution. Best I can tell, this practice began with Lightfoot. Of course, we now know that the 19th-century's understanding of Domitian's persecution is probably mistaken. Robinson is right in arguing that scholars have made too much of the events of his reign. But Robinson I think replicates this error to a large extent, by assuming that virtually any reference to persecution, unless it clearly indicates otherwise, must refer to the Neronian persecution. He replicates the error because the problem with ascribing so many texts to the reign of Domitian had not simply to do with misunderstandings about his persecutory activities, but also to do with the fact that in many cases the references to persecutions are sufficiently vague that they could refer to any number of moments in the first century of the Christian movement. In fact, Robinson's own argument with regard to the events of the First Jewish War potentially could apply here: just as there are no incontrovertible references in the NT to the events of the First Jewish War, apart from probably Revelation there are no incontrovertible references to the events of the Neronian persecution. I am inclined to think that Robinson's Nero is too big.

And now some strengths.

1) The Pastoral Epistles: Robinson was probably ahead of his time in realizing just how weak the arguments against their authenticity truly are. Let it be clear: I'm not arguing that they are authentic. In fact, I'm not here arguing anything about their status. Rather, I am noting that we are becoming increasingly aware that many of the classical arguments, such as from style, or from ecclesiastical development, or from inability to fit into the Acts narrative, are astonishingly weak. One can still argue that these texts are pseudepigraphical, but one needs to find better grounds for such an argument than the classical arguments (cf. Campbell's recent work in Framing Paul, which responds to this challenge with far greater sensitivity than most arguments against the authenticity of the Pastorals).

2) The Approach to the Data: quite simply, Robinson considers a greater range of data than most. He has no qualms looking at Eusebius. And why not? If we can consult Josephus in our reconstructions of periods two, three centuries before his time, then why can't we consult Eusebius in our reconstructions of periods two, three centuries before his (especially when much of our consultation actually consists of looking at his quotes from no-longer-extant second-century texts)? So, Robinson, properly cognizant that there is in fact no good reason to ignore Eusebius and other Patristic writers, spends his time consulting their works rather than showing why this or that text that would appear to be relevant is not, or worse, simply ignoring them. Such data informs his historical judgment, and as such he is working with more information. And working with more information, he has simultaneously more material to inspire and greater controls to govern his historical imagination.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Dating the New Testament

There are really only three ways that I know that allow one to definitively arrive at a date for any text. The first strategy: one can determine the terminus post quem (time after which) by establishing the last independently-datable event to which the text refers, and the terminus ante quem (time before which) be looking at its first attestation in external evidence, such as manuscripts or quotations. This typically yields a range of dates, and thus often constitutes just an initial framing of the investigation; usually one or both of the other two strategies will be necessary to arrive at a date within the identified range. The second strategy: one can look at references in the text to the time of the author: the author might say "In X year of Y king I write this book." Or she or he might mention an event occurring at that time. Then we can synchronize that statement with chronologies known on other bases. Third strategy: one can consider accounts of the text's origin or the author's life in other texts.

The problems come when we consider the nature of the data. With most of the NT, the first strategy yields a range from the mid-first to mid-second century C.E. Narrowing down to a century or so is a good start, but only a start. The second strategy is of but limited use to us. What little use we can make of this strategy requires synchronization with the data provided by the Acts narrative, Josephus, Tacitus, etc., and is largely limited to certain Pauline texts and probably also Revelation. The third strategy is in fact where we find the majority of our data. We have a wealth of second century material discussing the origins especially of the gospels, the lives of the attributed authors, etc. Operating on the dictum that the scholar should go where the data lives, this is where the historian interested in the origins of the New Testament texts should be spending the bulk of her or his time. Strangely, it is where such historians tend to spend the least.

This, I suggest, is why we tend towards great imprecision in our historical narratives. We'll say that, for instance, Luke's Gospel was written in the 80s. By whom? Shrug. Where? Shrug. The thing is, our shrugs are not necessarily due to the state of the data, but rather because we have conscientiously refused to consider a large amount of data in developing our reconstruction. One of course cannot simply take these data at face value (anyone who would object to using such data on such a basis obviously does not actually understand the role of data in historical investigation), but neither can one operate as if they do not exist. If one does, one should not be surprised if one is unable to find answers. It's hard enough to assemble a puzzle; when one throws out two-thirds of the pieces it becomes virtually impossible.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Hermetic Specialization

I've received some push-back on FB from my friend Bill Heroman re: my post "A Tale of Five Johns." And that's fine: there's no point in discussing ideas if they aren't going to be genuinely debated. I'm not going to rehash that push-back, but I will state an observation that comes out of that. My primary interest in that post was to work out in practice my conviction that one of the recurrent problems with modern NT scholars is what we might call "hermetic" specialization. Specialization is good; it's necessary. No one scholar can do everything, so we specialize and then bring together the findings in our respective fields of study. Too often however this work of bringing things together never really happens. Synoptic scholars often tend to operate in isolation from Johannine scholars, and vice versa, and everyone just kinda leaves the Pauline scholars to do their own thing. But when specialists in NT history fail to interact with anything outside their narrow field of interest then what emerges is a disintegrated (in the literal sense: lacking integration) vision of Christian origins. One of the major tests of our historical hypotheses comes when we go about the work of integrating narratives about, say, the origin of John's Gospel and Letters, with narratives about the origins of Revelation, with narratives about the origins of Luke-Acts, etc. That's when we begin to see that we perhaps operate with suppositions in one area which are mutually exclusive to suppositions with which we operate in another (my favourite go-to example is a tendency to suppose that data from the Pauline epistles trump data from Acts, then to also argue Paul couldn't have written the Pastorals because they can't be fit into the Acts framework). It's the work of integrating "local" narratives into a "global" frame where the rubber really hits the road. Hermetic specialization fails to engage in such work. Anyone can describe in exhaustive detail a single puzzle piece, but that won't get one any closer to solving the puzzle. Finding how the pieces fit together, that's the challenge.

The way in which I am currently working to develop such an integrated narrative is via the dates of the New Testament texts. The question of date is not entirely an end on to itself. It's a way of focusing my investigation and arguments. I think that discussions about the dates of the New Testament need to include more than just considerations of the earliest and the latest at which a text could have been written. Of course, such considerations are necessary. They exclude the vast majority of years, narrowing down what in principle could be any time in the past to a relatively small range. But we need also to develop plausible narratives that demonstrate that the text in question could have been written at a particular time within that range, and that something like that time is more plausible than any other possible time. A big part of that is to show how the dates and their supporting narratives interlock, and a significant test of any chronological framework will consist of its coherency when narratives for all twenty-seven books of the NT as well as a half or so dozen other potentially more or less coeval texts (viz. Didache, 1 Clement, Ascension of Isaiah, Gospel of Thomas, Shepherd of Hermas, and Epistle of Barnabas) are brought together.

The Stages of the Gospels

In the third part of his review of Brant Pitre's Jesus and the Last Supper, Christopher Skinner recapitulates the basic three-stage model of gospel origins. I quote his recapitulation in full here.
Stage 1: Traditions from the Ministry of Jesus (Traditions stemming from the historical ministry of Jesus in the late 20s CE)
Stage 2: Post-Resurrection Preaching of the Disciples (Religious convictions about Jesus that arose after his death)
Stage 3: The Writing of the Gospels by the Four Evangelists (Texts and traditions about Jesus that developed during the writing of the gospel narratives; what is often referred to as the evangelist’s Sitz im Leben)
What interests me here is not Skinner's critique of Pitre's monograph. I haven't yet had a chance to said monograph, so I cannot speak one way or another to whether the review is fair. What does interest me is the history of this three-stage model. Skinner associates this with form criticism, and rightly so: the stage-model received a very clear articulation under the classic form critics. What I would like to observe here is that they are not limited to the form-critical model of gospel origins.

In point of fact, you can see exactly the same three stages supposed in the work of Birger Gerhardsson, who was hardly a classic form critic, and more recently in Bauckham, who is an inveterate critic of classical form criticism. In my own soon-to-be-published  monograph, which is as skeptical of form criticism as anything written by Gerhardsson and Bauckham, I suppose something much like these three stages as a structural, organizing, principle of the latter half of the book, describing them (respectively) as the dominical, the ecclesiastical, and the evangelical settings. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how you could think about the origins of the canonical gospels without something like this basic outline.

But this basic outline will admit of significant variation, precisely because it is so basic. The most obvious variations will have to do with the substance of each stage, which will vary from model to model. Bultmann and Gerhardsson do not vary because one has the second stage and the other does not. They vary because in filling out the substance of that stage Bultmann turned to 20th-century Yugoslavian folk singers, while Gerhardsson turned to contemporaneous Pauline and 4th-century rabbinic texts (yet somehow Gerhardsson is the one dinged for anachronism). Incidentally, we probably would want to quibble with privileging "preaching" in the second stage. Yes, preaching was important, but the extensive evidence of early Christian scriptural exegesis in the gospels suggests that there was also a lot more intellectual work going on then just preaching. Gerhardsson brings out this dimension much better than Bultmann.

There is a less obvious variation on these stages however, namely to do with how the stages interact. Gerhardsson is much more conscious than, say, Bultmann that they are heuristically-sequential rather than temporally-sequential phases. For instance, he allows more fully for the possibility that all three stages could have begun during Jesus' lifetime. Not only was Jesus teaching during his ministry, but his followers were drawing religious convictions about him and thus beginning the memorial processes that led to the composition of the gospels (and he allows for the possibility that writing, in the form of notes based upon Jesus' teaching, were being generated already during his ministry; I don't know if we can show this to have been the case, but I also don't know if we can show that it wasn't. Incidentally, Gerhardsson's narrative helps us see why it is perhaps not quite adequate to restrict the development of religious convictions about Jesus to the post-resurrection period: such convictions were modified after Easter, no doubt, and perhaps extensively, but they began earlier). Ultimately, "stages" might not be the best term. It would seem to suggest a strict temporal succession between the three that is perhaps not warranted by the data. Indeed, even on form-critical terms alone, the preaching did not end when the writing began. The stage-model has much truth to it, and in its basic insights probably indispensable, but like many heuristics tends to be somewhat aseptic.

Friday, 12 August 2016

A Tale of Five Johns

There is a fascinating cluster of data that associates five different first-generation Christian figures named "John" with Ephesus. Some or all of these figures might be the same person, but I think it useful for heuristic purposes to treat them initially as five distinct entities. These figures are:

1) John the Baptist, of whom there are said to be believers who know only his baptism present in Ephesus in the 50s (cf. Acts 18:24-19:7). Technically a pre-Christian figure, but here associated with Christian believers, so we'll group him in with the rest.
2) John the Evangelist, author of the Gospel and Letters of John (and I am fully convinced that whoever wrote the Gospel also wrote the Letters). Irenaeus, Eusebius, et. al., locate this figure in Ephesus.
3) John the Seer, writer of the Book of Revelation, to which Ephesus and nearby cities are addressed, and about whom Irenaeus, Eusebius, et. al., say he went to Ephesus after being released from imprisonment on Patmos.
4) John, son of Zebedee. Irenaeus, Eusebius, et. al., locate him in Ephesus, and frequently identify him with the Evangelist and less frequently with the Seer.
5) John the Elder, known to us from the writings of Papias. He seems to have been a follower of Jesus. He is sometimes identified with John, son of Zebedee, and sometimes as a distinct figure.

Let us begin with the Evangelist. If the Gospel and Letters are to be identified with a figure named "John" known to us independently, then John the Elder seems to be the best candidate. 2 John 1 and 3 John 3 explicitly refer to the author as "The Elder." Indeed, if the traditional attribution to "John" is taken seriously then what you have are explicitly two letters written by a man named John, the Elder. The question becomes whether this person could also be John, son of Zebedee, and of this matter I am dubious. The Papian data referring to John the Elder seems to clearly distinguish between him and the son of Zebedee. I think that there is also good reason to think that the author of John's Gospel was more at home in Jerusalem than the Galilee and quite probably moved in elite circles, which seems less likely to be an adequate description of the son of Zebedee. While I cannot rule out the possibility that the Elder and the son of Zebedee are the same person, I think this to be highly unlikely. I am close to fully convinced that the Gospels and Letters of John originated from in or around Ephesus, were written by the figure that we know elsewhere as John the Elder, and that this figure was not John, son of Zebedee.

That said, it seems to be highly unlikely that the author of the Gospel and Letters also wrote the Revelation. Strictly speaking it's not impossible: I am unaware of any study that has shown conclusively that common authorship is 100% excluded. But it does seem that in the Revelation we're moving in a sufficiently different conceptual world so as to make common authorship highly improbable. So, we have at least one other Christian leader named "John" operating in Ephesus during the first-century. At the same time, we have data that indicates that John, son of Zebedee, also ended his days in Ephesus. We could thus be dealing with as many as three Christian leaders in this city during the first-century. I think however that two is a much more likely number.

Now, the possibility of more than one leader in the same city named "John" is hardly incredible, as we know that this was one of the most common Jewish names of the time. And we also have Eusebius telling us that were two tombs to John in the city, and saying that one belonged to the Elder, and the other the son of Zebedee. What is crucial for my purposes is that early Christians apparently had some recollection that there were two prominent first-century leaders named John active in the city, but not of three. Sometimes they confused and fused them, but the crucial point is that they had no recollection of three such leaders named John. Given the strong recollection that both the Seer and the son of Zebedee were active in Ephesus (the former confirmed by Revelation itself) I want to suggest the following: John, son of Zebedee was John the Seer.

This actually makes a great deal of sense. If one reads Revelation alongside the Synoptics and the Johannine literature and then asks "To which of these bodies of literature is Revelation most closely affiliated?" one would most likely answer "Synoptics." I would suggest that this is a product of John's membership in the Twelve, whom I believe gave the most definitive shape to the Synoptic tradition. Meanwhile, I would argue that the Elder's distinct voice in the Gospel has to do with his own experiences as a follower of Jesus who was not one of the Twelve.

What about the Christians associated with John the Baptist? I would argue that Luke has made exactly the same sort of error that we would see in later generations of Christian writers: he has confused Johns. He's learned that Paul encountered Christians baptized by John in Ephesus. He mistakingly associates that John with the Baptist, when he should have associated him with the Elder or the son of Zebedee. If that is what happened, then my suspicion is that these were followers of the Elder: son of Zebedee seems too prominent for him to have made this error. If they were associated with a relatively unknown Christian leader than it seems to make better sense that Luke would assimilate that figure to the Baptist than if they were associated with one of the most prominent Christian leaders. If I am correct, then we have evidence of Johannine Christians in Ephesus already in the early-50s.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Peter and Paul in Asia

The other day, I wrote about why Luke goes out of his way to offer an explanation for why Paul did not evangelize in Asia, Mysia, or Bithynia during his second missionary (cf. Acts 16:6-7). We know of course that he did eventually end up working in Asia (cf. Acts 19 and the numerous references to Ephesus in the Pauline corpus), and the significance of that will be considered below. For now though, let us consider why he did not go to Asia, Mysia, and Bithynia at the time of the second missionary journey.

Let us recall my argument regarding why Luke felt that he had to explain why Paul did not evangelize in these regions at that time. I argued that this was because Luke understand that Paul was operating in accordance with an understanding of the geographic expansion of the Word from Zion, based upon early Christian exegesis of Isaiah 66:19. In this exegesis, it was understood that the Word would proceed from Cilicia, to Cyrene, to Asia, to Mysia, to Bithynia, to Greece, in that order. I further suggest that Luke understands that Paul should proceeded via that course and knows that his readers would expect that he had, and as such Luke presents Paul as doing so as best he can. He knows however that Paul did not go to Cyrene, and thus foregrounds the presence of Cyrenean Christians from the early days of the movement, and that Paul did not go to Asia, Mysia, or Bithynia, at least not when he was supposed to, and thus offers an explanation for that.

Now, here's where I begin to take a step beyond that discussion: if Luke understood that Paul should have proceeded thus, and knew that it was a common enough interpretation Isaiah 66:19 that his readers would expect that Paul should have proceeded thus, it seems highly likely that Paul in fact would have preferred to have proceeded thus. So, the first question is, Why didn't Paul go to Cyrene? The answer, I suggest, is to be found in Rom. 15:20-24: "It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written: 'Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.' This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you. But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain." I would propose that for the same reason that Paul had not yet traveled to Rome, neither had he traveled to Cyrene: he knew that there had already been a Christian mission in Cyrene (that a mission to Cyrene has occurred this early is a reasonable inference from the apparent presence of so many Cyreneans of Jewish descent in the early church: all it took was one of these to return home and engage in a degree of successful missionary activity for Paul to consider Cyrene another man's foundation. Moreover, we lose track of Barnabas and Mark after they set sail for Cyprus in Acts 15:38, but given the traditions that designate Mark as a Cyrenean Jew and which place him in Alexandria during the 50s and 60s, it would not be altogether insane to suggest that they proceeded to North Africa from Cyprus).

I would suggest something similar with regard to Asia, Mysia, and Bithynia: Paul did not go to these regions during his second missionary journey because he knew them to be another man's foundations. That another early Christian leader might have been involved in missionizing these regions is not mere supposition, but in fact hinted at via an independent set of data. If we look at 1 Peter 1:1, we note that he wrote specifically to the churches of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. With the exception of Galatia (and "Galatia" is a notoriously ambiguous regional term) this reads almost like a list of the places in Asia Minor that Paul never evangelized. Let me then advance the following suggestion: Paul does not go to these regions on his second missionary journey because he knows that Peter has already preached there.

If correct, then we can in fact pinpoint when this Petrine mission took place. It presumably post-dates the Agrippan persecution that broke out around Passover of either 41, 42, or 43 (I lean to 41, for a variety of reasons), as we have enough data on Peter's movements prior to that point that we can say with some confidence that he probably wasn't in Asia Minor. But it had to have occurred prior to Paul's arrival in Corinth, probably eighteen months prior to Gallio's arrival in July of 51. Before that, traveled through Macedonia and Greece, missions that he perhaps undertook in 49. As such, the terminus ante quem for Paul's activity in Asia Minor is probable 48ish. Since Peter was at the Jerusalem conference (Acts 15) which occurred perhaps earlier that year, 47 seems to be the absolute latest at which Peter could have evangelized in Asia Minor. As such, it appears that Peter was likely active in Asia Minor during the early to mid 40s. This incidentally probably helps to account for why Luke does not mention Peter's activity in those regions: it occurred later than the period of Peter's ministry that best fits in with the narrative that Luke wants to tell. He wants to present Peter and Paul operating in sequence, not more or less in parallel. But I digress.

It was noted above that Paul eventually did spend a considerable amount of time in Ephesus. Asia is a really big province. It's hardly inconceivable that Peter could have spent time in Asia without spending much if any time in Ephesus. That said, there is in fact some evidence that there was a very small Christian community in Ephesus before Paul (cf. 18:18-19:7), associated with John (the Baptist, according to Luke, but I've long suspected that Luke has confused his Johns here) rather than Peter. Given that this pre-existent community is associated with a named figure other than Peter I am inclined to think that Peter's time in Asia was spent outside that major city. Rather, I suspect that he traveled by foot from Judea, passing through Cappadocia and likely northern Galatia, before traveling to coastal locales in Pontus, Bithynia, and Asia by ship along the southern the Black Sea. Paul's decision to later set up shop in Ephesus thus makes perfect sense.

My thinking is that during the first and second missionary journeys Paul was focused upon fulfilling Isaiah 66:19. In his mind, it was not necessary that the Word be preached in every corner of the regions that he understood to be named in those passages, but merely that it was preached somewhere in those regions. If he had reason to think that any missionary work took place there, he would skip over the place. Thus does he skip over Cyrene, Asia, Mysia, and Bithynia. By the third missionary journey, he considers Isaiah 66:19 to have been fulfilled, and thus is free to work in regions that he bypassed in his earlier fervour to satisfy prophecy. Thus does he proceed to Ephesus, a very strategic locale that allows him to further his missionary aims in this new phase of activity. The pre-existing Christian community amounts to only a very small number (only around a dozen, perhaps), and Paul perhaps thought that this "other man's foundation" was sufficiently small that he saw Ephesus as basically "virgin" territory. This might also be why Luke emphasizes the heterodoxy (from a Pauline perspective) of their beliefs: this foundation was a bit shaky, and thus needed Pauline refounding. Perhaps Paul then saw the foundation as his own from that point forward. In any case, I've written enough, and I'll leave it there.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Luke and the Messiness of History

Acts 16:6-7 has a curious narrative, in which it is explained that the Spirit forbade Paul and Silas to preach in Asia, even though they very much wanted to, and that they were further forbade to preach in neighbouring Mysia and Bithynia. This narrative is really strange, when you start to think about it. Why does Luke feel the need to go out of his way to explain that Paul intended to travel to these regions, but didn't? He doesn't even mention that Paul preached in Arabia (as we know he did on the grounds of his own writings), so why does Luke go out of his way to mention that Paul didn't preach in Asia, Mysia, or Bithynia? I would suggest that Luke's narrative only makes sense if we understand that early readers would have expected Paul to evangelize in those regions. The answer is, Why would they expect that Paul did such?

I begin with my conviction that the earliest Christians believed that in their operations certain HB/OT prophecies were being fulfilled, especially those of the last chapters of Isaiah. I then note that in Isaiah 66:19 YHWH states that he will send "survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Put, and Lud—which draw the bow—to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the nations." Now, this is where it gets interesting. There is good reason to think that by the first century "Tarshish" was frequently identified in Jewish exegesis with Tarsus, i.e. Paul's hometown, and that this was expanded into Cilicia and perhaps southeastern Anatolia in general. "Put" almost certainly was taken to refer to Cyrene. Josephus identifies "Lud" as the ancestor of the Lydians, and ancient Lydia of course laid largely within what was by the first-century Roman Asia. Rabbinic literature identifies Tubal with Bithynia. Javan was generally identified with the Greeks (indeed, the LXX renders it as "Greece" Ἑλλάδα), and in rabbinic material more specifically with Macedonia. The LXX also includes a reference to Μοσοχ between Lud and Tubal, which seems to correspond to Meshech, which the rabbis apparently identified with Mysia. (Riesner attempts to suggest that Second Temple Jewish exegesis located Put in Anatolia, in or around Cilicia, but I find his arguments unpersuasive).

Cilicia; Cyrene; Asia (Lydia); Mysia; Bithynia; Greece. This is almost exactly the order in which Luke attempts to narrate Paul's missionary journeys in the Diaspora. There is work in Cilicia and thereabouts, interrupted by intervals back "home" at Antioch and Jerusalem and Cyprus; then the effort to enter Asia; then the effort to enter Mysia; then the effort to enter Bithynia. Then, Paul heads off to Greece. Only Cyrene stands out, but three notes are in order. One, Luke goes out of his way to highlight the role of Cyreneans in the early spread of the gospel to the Gentiles; two, he frequently links Cyrenean Christians with Cypriot Christians; three, there is evidence that the Cyrenean and Cypriot Jewish communities had a particularly close relationship. I would suggest that Luke was aware that Paul never traveled to Cyrene, and thus did as much as he could to bring Cyrene into a geographically-structured narrative as close to the place where it should have appeared. This also accounts, I think, for why he neither mentions Paul's time spent preaching in Arabia while also going out of his way to explain why Paul never entered Asia, Mysia, or Bithynia: the former did not fit into his geographical scheme, while the latter was mandated by it.

But here we come up against a question: why didn't Luke just make up Pauline journeys to Cyrene, Asia, Mysia, or Bithynia? And the answer is deceptively simple: Luke didn't just make things up. His aim was precisely to show how prophecy was being concretely fulfilled in the activities of the early Christians (cf. the language of Luke 1:1). That aim was incompatible with just making things up. But it was not incompatible with an attempt to "bring out" what Luke considered to be the divine plan evident in the pattern of those activities. This created situations wherein the messiness of history did not conform to Luke's relatively tidy prophetic schema, and Luke had to account for that. His account not surprisingly conformed to the theological outlook that structures his work: the Spirit decided that Paul was not to operate in these areas.

If the above is a correct interpretation then the following seems also to be the case: Luke could expect his readers to be aware of the geography of prophecy found in Isaiah 66:19. He could expect them to expect that Paul would enter into Asia, Mysia, and Bithynia. Otherwise it is hard to account for why he would feel a need to give an explanation. He could have just passed over it in silence. It is precisely because these particular prophecies of Isaiah 66 were not fulfilled by Paul (again, cf. Luke 1:1) that he must mention them.