Oct 19, 2009

Witherington on Vertical and Horizontal Universalization in Luke-Acts

I noted in a previous post that I am currently working through volume one of Ben Witherington’s The Indelible Image and hope to post a review in the near
future. Regular readers also know that I have a particular interest in Luke-Acts. So I was intrigued by a statement on p. 669 which states: “Basically, the book of Luke focuses on the vertical universalization of the gospel, whereas Acts focuses on its horizontal universalization across geographical lines and through various ethnic groups and regions.” To further clarify the meaning of this statement I asked Dr. Witherington three questions and he graciously responded (He has given me his permission to share his answers below).

Question 1. I think I understand the horizontal aspect (e.g. Acts 1:8), but I am less clear on what you mean by the vertical aspect (perhaps Luke 19:10?). Can you elaborate on what you mean by "vertical universalization"?

Witherington’s answer: “By vertical universalization I mean up and down the social scale from the lowest of the low to the elites. Luke stresses that the least, last, and lost can become the first the most and the found, and the reverse of course. But his concern is to show the Gospel is for everyone from the down and out to the up and in. This is the focus of Luke’s Gospel.”

Question 2. Is it fair to say that vertical focus in Luke anticipates the horizontal focus in Acts and the horizontal focus in Acts presumes the vertical focus in Luke?

Witherington’s answer: “I would say the vertical universalization doesn’t really anticipate the horizontal universalization as it is a different matter in some ways. But it does prepare the hearer of the Gospel for the notion that the Gospel is for everyone.”

Question 3. What role do you think that the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 plays in the “horizontal universalization”?

Witherington’s answer: “As for my views on Acts 15.... please see now my artic
le on Eidolothuton in my recent book What’s in the Word.

No comments: