Goulder’s Presuppositions on Acts

I am currently reading through Anthony Le Donne’s book, The Historiographical Jesus, and came across his entry into presuppositions, which he quotes Goulder on Acts. Michael Goulder laid down two presuppositions for the study of Act in his 1964 work, Type and History in Acts:

1.) Where […] we find passages with no apparent root in symbolism, or with unimportant traces of types, we shall be justified in assuming that St. Luke was setting down a factual story…This will be our first criterion: where there are no types, Acts is intended to be factual.

2.) [W]here an incident or passage can be accounted for wholly, or almost wholly, on typological grounds, we shall have to be very wary indeed of giving it weight as history. This gives us a second criterion: the thicker the types, the less likely is the passage to be factual.

(For more on Goulder, you might check our Mark Goodacre‘s treatment of him.)

Le Donne, correctly in my opinion, assumes that with such presuppositions, it would be near impossible not to see Jesus as ‘ahistorical.’ (pg3) If we seek to authenticate the Historical Jesus through only our presuppositions while ignoring the central presuppositions of not just the Historical Jesus but the Historical Faith, which most notably existed in the faith communities, then do we not immediately invalidate any references to the Historical Jesus?

Typology is a method of literary style which connected the Old and the New (maybe more), but should not be used to discredit the historical reality of the event. Simply because where known words and phrases were chosen by Luke to typify the Old in the New, simply validates the event itself. We take the example of political rallies today. Many speakers use key words and phrases from either the founding documents or the bible to solidify their actions. Does this invalidate either event, or document? No, they are merely framing the argument in a way to solidify their approximation to the original event.

We must keep in mind that we all approach the Scriptures with our own presuppositions, rightly or wrongly.

While I am not reviewing this book yet, I will, perhaps, continue to interact. You can check out Dr. Jim West’s review, here.

Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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