Now that one has understood the plot line (and with biblical narratives, the sensitivity to the various levels of plots: the individual stories are part of larger narratives), and has undertaken to understand the look and feel of the story from the inside; there is a need to learn why the story is being told: what is the story about?
There are a few ways to begin to understand the story. Consider what the characters do and say? Does the narrator give explicit comment (and is the narrator “reliable”)? There is a “good guy” and a “bad guy” in the story. If the “good guy” wins or loses, why is that? Look for irony: are the character’s expectations upset? Why did the narrator tell me this story? To entertain me? To change me?
When we read the Biblical narratives, there is always a “strangeness” to the story: we must be changed.
In the narrative of Acts 4 here are some observations:
In verses 13, Peter and John are arrested for preaching: but the arrest was not successful in stopping the power of the proclamation:
But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.Acts 4:4 (ESV)
The power lay in the Word, not in Peter and John. Later in Acts 5:38-39, Gamaliel puts his finger on the issue:
38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice,Acts 5:38–39 (ESV)
(Continued in the next post).