The title “Acts of the Apostles” has always led the reader of his work astray. It should really be called “From Jesus to Paul”, with the sub-title “From Jerusalem to Rome”, and describes very strictly the straight line followed by the gospel from unbelieving Israel to the Gentiles. The apostles—including Peter—essentially have the function only of preparing for the appearance and activity of Paul, of providing a bridge between Jesus and Paul. Once they have done their duty, the can disappear. To serve Paul’s greater glory they have to leave the stage one after the other: he alone remains behind. The reason for such a “one-dimensional” account does not lie simply in the theme of divine guidance—this could also have been worked out in a multiform way—but in the central and positive interest in the person and missionary work of Paul. He is the real goal of this work.
Between Jesus and Paul: Studies in the Earliest History of Christianity: 2.
Unfortunately, theologians today increasingly lack historical knowledge and an interest in history, and above all are too ignorant of the legacy of the past, whether of the Old Testament and Judaism, or of Graeco-Roman antiquity. Since the so-called “scholars” are gradually failing us here, it is doubly important for us as Christians to try to acquire a deeper historical understanding of what took place more than 1900 years ago; without such historical understanding our theological thinking, too, will all too easily become barren.
Acts and the History of Earliest Christianity.
From what I can gather about the late Dr. Hegel, he did not pull any punches when it came to the New Testament and its historical background. I could not agree more with these words, and I could not be more convicted either.
1. Cited in Barid’s History of New Testament Research: Vol. 3
A few weeks Mohr Siebeck graciously sent a review copy of the recently published collection of essays honoring Martin Hengel entitled Earliest Christian History: History, Literature and Theology. Edited by Mike Bird and Jason Maston, these essays originated with the Tyndale Fellowship in Cambridge. Some of the contributors include former students and close associates of Hengel like Don Hagner, Seyoon Kim, and Roland Denies. Each of the essays represent areas of study that Hengel spent his life teaching and writing on.
I just finished reading the first to chapters of the book, both of which are biographical sketches on Hengel: “Martin Hengel as Theological Teacher” by Jörg Frey and “Martin Hengel: Christology in Service of the Church” by Roland Denies. These two chapters do much in introducing Martin Hengel’s influence in NT studies and the motivation and desire he had to serve the Church. They portray Hengel not just only as an astute historian, but also a man deeply engaged in the theological study of the NT. Hengel was a man who loved to teach and a man who never stopped learning. He is presented as a warm man, always approachable and interested in the work of his students, both while they were working on a PhD and after they already secured teaching posts. It is always nice when I hear such recollections of men that I look up to from afar, and Hengel is such a man. He loved the Bible and never tired of learning from it. Jörg Frey offers this memorable memory of Hengel in his opening paragraph:
The scene was unforgettable. During the orientation days for new students of Protestant Theology—beginning winter semester 1983/84—representatives of the famous Tübigen Faculty in the Evangelischen Stift had to introduce the various theological disciplines. Every one of them tried to feature the importance of their subject for theology as a whole, but they all missed to create that real tingle that could have fascinated the novice. Only one went beyond limits. He did not keep talking about his scholarly field for very long, but instead he put great emphasis on its object, the New Testament. Whilst pulling a little heavily worn blue booklet—his old “Nestle-Aland”—out of his pocket, swinging it through the air, he urged his audience with great vigour: “Read this book! In Greek! It’s a good book.