So those who received his word

Currently I am reading Kenneth Bailey’s Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes and in a number of instances he showed how the biblical authors employed literary techniques in their writings. To detect the literary structure embedded in the passage then could help us in understanding the passage better. For example, if it was some kind of chiastic structure, then the crux of the passage is located in the middle of the passage. For example, perhaps this is the literary structure of Acts 2.41-47:

A. GROWING CONGREGATION – So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

B1. DEVOTION/WORSHIP – And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship,
B2. BREAKING OF BREAD – to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
B3. RESPONSE – And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.

C. SHARING POSSESSIONS – And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

B1′. DEVOTION/WORSHIP – And day by day, attending the temple together
B2′. BREAKING OF BREAD – and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
B3′. RESPONSE – praising God and having favor with all the people.

A’. GROWING CONGREGATION – And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Looking at this structure, we could see three themes emerging in this passage: (1) Congregational gathering that included worship and breaking of bread, (2) which is accompanied by acts of love (sharing possessions), and in effect (3) grows in size or number. In this sense an apostolic congregation is a worshipping community which is characterized not only by its organized meetings, but in the end is substantiated by its love toward others.


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