Abstract of McKeever, Michael Colin. “Sacred Space and Discursive Field: The Narrative Function of the Temple in Luke-Acts.”

McKeever, Michael Colin.  “Sacred Space and Discursive Field: The Narrative Function of the Temple in Luke-Acts.”  PhD diss., Graduate Theological Union, 1999. [Israel/Herod/Sacred Space/Christian]

Abstract:  This dissertation examines the narrative function of the temple in Luke-Acts in dialogue with a socio-cultural understanding of sacred space . Although the temple in Luke-Acts has received some attention from both sociological and literary perspectives, these studies have yielded remarkably ambiguous results and there has been little methodological synthesis in this area. Luke-Acts evinces a complex yet notable critique of temple ideology concerning social barriers and marginalization on the basis of gender, ethnicity, purity and status. By utilizing a socio-rhetorical framework developed from Robert Wuthnow’s Communities of Discourse , this study illustrates how Luke engages concepts of sacred space to legitimate an inclusive mission while simultaneously undermining the role of the temple as a culture center in Luke-Acts.

Within the narrative world of Luke-Acts the temple functions as the center in a number of ways. In the world of the text, the temple and Jerusalem serve as the deictic center, with much of the story taking place within the context of, or oriented around the temple and its precincts. Within the religio-symbolic universe of Luke-Acts, moreover, the temple is underscored as a sacred center or axis mundi .

Though, many scholars note this Lukan emphasis as well as his alleged ambiguous and conflicting imagery in this regard, the present study argues that the seemingly conflicting aspects of Luke’s presentation of the temple can be better addressed by what Robert Wuthnow has termed the problem of articulation . The concept of articulation addresses the enigmatic balance between environmental conformity and cultural ingenuity that challenges the status quo and shall help us better account for Luke’s temple emphasis.

The present study argues that much of what has been deemed ambiguous concerning Lukan temple ideology can be better understood as Luke’s sustained and deliberate employment of the process of articulation in regard to his temple emphasis, both with and against its social environment. That is to say, Luke’s discourse draws from and is shaped by the social environment of the first century and, to a degree, is in accord with the then-existing temple ideology and symbolism; yet, as an instrument of cultural innovation which seeks to transcend this particular originating environment, Luke’s discourse also exhibits significant discord with this social environment, evincing a sustained critique of temple ideology. This enigmatic balance in Luke’s discourse in regard to the temple is an intricate and intrinsic part of Luke’s wider theological agenda and has broad implications for understanding Luke-Acts as a whole.

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