What We Assume About Early Christianity
Here is an excerpt:
. . . . Acts might well be called “From Jerusalem to Rome: The Story of Paul’s Triumph.” Luke is anxious of course to show great harmony between Peter and Paul, and even a kind of tacit agreement of James, the brother of Jesus, whom Luke has to relunctantly (sic) admit was the leader of the Jesus movement at that time. In fact the “kerygma” or “preaching” of the apostles according to Luke, as reflected in Peter’s speeches in Acts 2:22-38 and 3:11-26, is pure “Paulinism” in terms of its basic parameters–that Christ was sent from God as Messiah, that he died for the sins of mankind, that he was raised from the dead, and that he has ascended to heaven, soon to return as apocalyptic Judge.I would like to comment on a few things here. I agree about the way that Luke brings James on to the scene to offer "a kind of tacit agreement". Luke's portrait of James is quite odd, like that of a major historical character playing a minor role in the drama. It's like Hamlet in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead but more so. Indeed, it is worth noting that Luke never even identifies James as the brother of Jesus. We know that he is not James the son of Zebedee, who dies in Acts 12, but otherwise the reader unacquainted with other early Christian sources like Galatians 1-2 would have no idea who this character was.
I have a couple of qualms, though, about the characterization of the preaching of the apostles in Acts 2 and 3 as pure "Paulinism", and from two different angles. First, and following Käsemann, Conzelmann et al, I can't help thinking that there is something very odd going on with the theologia crucis (theology of the cross) in Luke-Acts. The thing conspicuously absent from those early Acts sermons is any declaration that "Christ died for our sins". This is a really striking fact, all the more striking given the absence of Mark 10.45 (the "ransom for many" saying) in Luke.
My second qualm relates to the idea that things like "Christ died for our sins" are pure Paulinism. If there is one thing we do know from those "dark ages" of 30-50CE, it is that the earliest Christian preaching, which Paul gave to the Corinthians as of first importance, and which had been handed on to him, placed at its heart Jesus the Messiah's death for his people's sins according to the Scriptures, his burial, and his resurrection according to the Scriptures. Paul is pretty clear in 1 Corinthians 15.1-3 that this key material was traditional. On this, one of my favourite articles is Jeff Peterson, "The Extent of Christian Theological Diversity: Pauline Evidence", Restoration Quarterly 47 (2005): 1-12 [PDF], which I have mentioned on a previous occasion.