How to Kill Things with Words Ananias and Sapphira Under the Apostolic-Prophetic Speech-Act of Divine Judgment (Acts 4:32–5:11)
McCabe, David R
This study is an examination of the dynamics of the Ananias and Sapphira episode in Acts (5:1–11) and its role in the narrative of Luke-Acts. The study begins by locating the passage within its literary context, emphasizing the framing of this divine judgement discourse by its literary surroundings, and the manner in which it is embedded in a discourse on the life of the Christian community expressed through shared goods. The study then moves on to examine the dynamics in the verbal encounter between Peter and the couple. Utilizing Speech-Act Theory, I argue that Peter’s words, divinely sanctioned, directly execute the divine judgement upon Ananias and Sapphira. This thesis is argued by appealing to the social processes and conventions of language-use within the context of community-of-goods discourse as manifest in the Lukan narrative. Appeal is made to the socio-cultural repertoire of community-of-goods discourse in contemporary traditions sharing the socio-cultural milieu of Luke-Acts. I look at both a Hellenistic example (the Pythagoreans) and some Jewish examples (the Essenes and the Qumran covenanters). Next, I appeal to the conventions deployed in the narrative world of Luke-Acts which undergird the efficacy of prophetic speech to effect divine judgement. This includes the patterns established by prophetic figures in the Scriptures of Israel and Luke’s own characterization of Jesus as Prophet-King. Attention is also given to Luke’s strategy of preparing his audience to see the character of Peter as an apostolic-prophetic successor to Jesus, deputized to speak on behalf of God. Finally, there is an examination of the successful execution of the speech-act of divine judgement.