As a story about the expansion and dispersion of early Christian communities, Acts is as explicitly political as the Gospels. Christians are constantly coming into contact with political officials, and their discourse is often recorded (or ‘created’) by the author. The speeches of Peter (4:8-12) and Stephen (7:2-53) before the temple council are preeminent examples of the use of scripture in political situations. Drawing on the shared narrative of the Jewish scriptures, both Peter and Stephen retell parts of that narrative, naming Jesus as its culmination. Paul continues this pattern of scriptural debate in synagogues around
Since the epistles were written to encourage and guide specific churches in their communal life, there are no examples in them of scripture used to directly address political situations outside of the churches. Nevertheless, many of the epistles seem to counsel churches on how to act within their political settings. Hebrews is an especially interesting example, as it is basically a commentary on Old Testament scripture. Jesus is depicted both as the great high priest who opens up the inner courts of the tabernacle to us, and as the exalted Lord who rules the world and judges its rulers, just as portrayed by Psalms 2 and 110. These meditations are to strengthen the community’s resolve to be a kind of alternative political community that is ‘receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken’ (Hebrews 12:28). This community is to be marked by the welcome of strangers, care for prisoners, peace, and detachment from money, among other things (see chapters 12-13).
Though Revelation is notoriously difficult to interpret, I understand it as a political document denouncing the authority of the
Reflect on the various ways the biblical authors use Scripture in political situations. Are the authors consistent? Are there multiple ways to use Scripture in political settings? Do the uses change with the context?
As always, think about how political situations in biblical times are similar and different to our own (see past posts for questions).