How does Paul change his speeches according to his audience

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Last updated: November 17, 2019

“If the inclusion of speeches highlights important phases and aspects of Paul’s mission, then we should note how Luke focuses first on mission to the Jews and then mission to the Gentiles. ” – James D. G. Dunn (The acts of the Apostles) This quote suggests that Paul was in fact more concerned with the Jews than he was with the Gentiles. This is further shown by Paul’s speeches, he seems to spend far more time explaining about how Jesus was in fact the messiah, and how they should worship him. But with the Gentiles he seems to be more concerned with the fact that they should convert and become what is essentially Judaism.

Paul changes his speeches in the book of ‘Acts of the Apostles. ‘ In Acts 13 v. 16 (in Antioch Pisidia) Luke records what Paul says. Paul is speaking in a synagogue and so most of the people there will either be Jews or God-Fears, this means that they will know the Scriptures and they will know the prophecies. This means that when Paul stands up and summarises the Scriptures the people in the synagogue will understand what he is trying to say. He has three sections to his speeches. In section one, he makes a summary of the Old Testament.

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He lists the Patriarchs, the Prophets, the Judges and the Kings. He then goes on to section two of his speech. He summarises the New Testament. He says that the messiah will come of the line of David. He then goes on to tell about John the Baptist who says that he is not the messiah but there is one who is greater who will come.

Paul talks about the rejection of Jesus and the role of Pilate who makes Jesus die on a tree! But Jesus rises and there are witnesses! That links up to section three of his speech, the proof: Psalm 2, Psalm 16 and Isaiah 55.These all basically say that David (who was thought by some people to have been the messiah) saw corruption. Meaning that David died and the worms and other such creatures corrupted his flesh.

But Jesus did not see corruption. He rose from the dead, he fulfilled the prophecies, and therefore he must be the messiah. Paul’s speech takes the form of a historical retrospect, just as Stephen’s defence did in Acts 6 v.

2. Paul has taken into his speech what has been said a thousand times before, in the Old Testement Kerygma.The events Proclaimed in Paul’s speech are shown to have taken place as the inevitable sequel to Gods dealings with people in ancient days. ” – G. E Wright. This all takes place in a synagogue where all the people there would understand what he was saying beacduse they would know the scriptures. They would understand that the first section of his speech was the Kerygma, and that he was using that as a base to say that he had God ion his side.

This means that Paul will have to change his speech when he is preaching primarally to Gentiles.For example when Paul preaches to the Gentiles in Lystra. He starts off by startling them by performing a miracle whereby a man who was crippled could walk. This got the crowds attention.

He then shows his versatility in presenting a brief message to the Gentiles. He starts by using the Old Testament as his basis by saying that God is creator, active and one. God has revealed himself to all nations at different levels. Paul tries to suggest that their ancestors had tried to worship God but had only managed in a ‘shadowy’ way.

Paul does not dismiss their own religion but makes sure that they understand that Christianity goes past their religion and could fulfil them in ways that their religion never could. This shows that Paul is very capable of making Gentiles listen to him as Jews do. Paul is always very sure never to insult them, but he does make sure that they know exactly why the one true God of Abraham and Moses is much better than the ‘Gods’ of Lystra.

There is a much better example of Paul preaching to Gentiles in Acts 17, when he is in Athens. In Athens Paul is brought to a meeting place where he is told to preach.So he starts by saying that they are obviously a very religious people. Paul makes a cultural compliment to the people. Paul is very clever, for he proclaims no ‘new’ God, but in fact an old one who they had already recognised, though inadequately. But although he has said all this, he goes on to say that they are still wrong for they should worship this ‘unknown God’ as the one true God, as the only God.

He proclaimed that they were too liberal in their views of God and that to have only one God – like the Jews – was the only answer.Paul then goes on to further consolidate what he had already said. Many of the people from this assembly believed in what Paul had told them.

These three examples show how Paul is very capable of changing his speech as his audience differs. Whilst talking to Jews or to God-Fears Paul is able to recount certain parts of the Old Testament, for example Deuteronomy 26 v. 5 -10. But we have to take into account the fact that the author of acts (whom in this case I am taking to be Luke) might not have recounted everything that Paul said and might have in fact got a lot of it wrong.Historians and writers in the 1st Century AD all say that when they heard someone speak and they wrote down later what that person said (for example Thucydides (a Greek historian) and Lucian (a Roman Historian)), they never put down exactly what that person said. They put it down as they understood it, and as they remembered it.

Luke might have done the same thing with Acts. He was probably not there when Paul made all of his speeches, and when he was there unless he was taking notes he would have to rely on is memory. We must also take into account the reason for Luke writing this book.For example if he was writing this book to prove to the Romans that he was not a threat to the empire then he might have change some of the speeches so that they proved that he was only converting people to a religion and not trying to make them rebel against the empire.

Luke might also only have written Acts as a history of the Earlky Church. Then he would have change Paul’s speeches so that it would look like everyone in the Church were all agreeing with each other and that they were all inb unison about what they were trying to achieve.This would have been a good thing for the early Christians because it would have meant that they would be more united. For if they thought that Peter, James and John were in oppostion to Luke then the Early Church might not have been so united as they were. So in conclusion, Paul was very good at changing his speeches, and he did so regularly. He had to change them if only so that the Gentiles would understand what he was saying.

Paul was a brilliant orator (according to Luke) and he made people believe. His speeches are one of the most important things that happened in the entire of the New Testament.

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