Eschatology, history and mission in the social experience of Lucan Christians : a sociological study of the relationship between ideas and social realities in Luke-Acts
The subject of this thesis is the relationship between eschatology and history in the Christian community for which Luke-Acts was written. Chapter 1 formulates the problem in terms of Luke's eschatology. It argues that Luke and his community thought of the End as 'near' and that Luke's historical perspective affected his eschatology. Luke-Acts represents a community that held a relevant eschatological hope and was aware of continuing history. This is the interpretive problem this thesis seeks to enlighten. The perspective to be used in approaching this problem is that of sociological analysis. Chapter 2 explores the use of sociological perspectives in New Testament study and the benefits to be achieved by the use of the sociology of knowledge. Chapter 3 is a sociological analysis of the community in terms of date, location, stratification, racial composition, boundaries, social institutions, and charismatic roles and functions. This material suggests that mission was an important community task. Chapter 4 establishes a sociology of mission for the community, investigating commitment as the mechanism that motivated community members to pursue mission, the importance of mission to the community, the motivation of converts, and the problems encountered in mission. Chapter 5 investigates the social functions of eschatology in the community and finds that it functioned in legitimating numerous aspects of the community's mission experience. Chapter 6 investigates the social functions of history in the community and finds that it functioned in legitimating various aspects of the community's mission experience. In the conclusion it is shown that history and eschatology were functionally related to one another in legitimating aspects of the community's mission experience. This functionality also provided a meaningful relationship in helping the community to make sense of its world. This further prepares us to try and understand these ideas theologically by placing them in a social context.