The Temple's Role in Luke-Acts: Perspectives from Ritual Studies

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Luke's gospel gives the Temple more weight than Mark and Matthew as in the Infancy Narrative. Luke also removes tensions relating to the Temple by shortening the "Cleansing" of the Temple and omitting the Temple charge from the trial scene. In the Acts of the Apostles, the Temple has a considerable narrative role, when Peter and the apostles as well as Paul visit and pray there several times. In both Luke and Acts, the author mentions the hour of the Tamid daily sacrifice and prayer in the Temple, both public and private. The purpose of the present paper is to explain why the Temple was important for Luke almost a generation after its destruction? First of all, it should be recognized that for Luke's readers the Temple was a Jewish symbol. Luke stresses that Jesus and the apostles attended the Temple which may represent Jewish piety adherence to Jewish tradition. The idea of the Temple therefore connects his readers to the (now lost) center of Judaism. Furthermore, I suggest interpreting the Temple discourse (namely, the text about ritual) in Luke-Acts as if it represents ritual. Cultural anthropologists stressed the major role of ritual for religious perception and social relations. Ritual exercises power over those observing it (Lukes), and also adjusts to reality when it reflects on what is and what ought to be (J.Z. Smith). Following this methodological shift from text to ritual I would like to use several different models in ritual studies to examine the narrative and symbolic roles of the visits of Jesus and the apostles at the Temple. 1. Like many rituals, the visits at the Temple enable the reader to experience the sacred: the story of attending the Temple reconciles the reader and the holy place. 2. Visiting the Temple also confers ritual power upon Jesus and the apostles. The authority of the Temple as a holy institution and proximity to the divine is transmitted, from the reader's point of view, to the founders of early Christianity. 3. Jesus' teachings at the Temple advance his authority, as if he administers the ritual there. 4. The activity in the Temple, thus gaining ritual power, is also at the expense of the chief priests and the Temple administration. In a sense, this acts as ritual of rebellion. To conclude, the Temple discourse in Luke-Acts serves multiple aims. It contributes to the shaping of early Christian identity both in continuity with traditional Jewish aspects, as well as by challenging Jewish leadership.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2017
EventSBL 2017 Annual Meeting - Boston, United States
Duration: 18 Nov 201721 Nov 2017


ConferenceSBL 2017 Annual Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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