The narrative presentation of ethical paradigms in Dionysius's "Roman Antiquities" and Luke-Acts

John Mark Lilley, Marquette University


Few doubt today that literary critics have provided an appropriate impetus to treat biblical narratives as literary units and to take the narrative world seriously. Yet some of us who see great promise in narratology are concerned about the "environmental displacement" that can result from failure to take into account the temporal and cultural distance that separates us from the origins of biblical narratives. This investigation addresses the problem of distance by elaborating and testing a critical method for the reading of ancient, historical narratives. The method is comprehensive in that it draws upon both modern and ancient literary theory; it is comparative in that it compares the narrative strategies of two analogous and nearly contemporary works: Luke-Acts and Roman Antiquities of Dionysius of Halicarnassus. To test the method, I focus on the narrative strategies that Luke and Dionysius use to present ethical paradigms in their works. I define the method in chapter 2 as a text-centered narrative poetics, and, drawing on modern and ancient literary theory, I explore two topics which affect the narrative presentation of ethical paradigms, i.e., characterization and ideological point of view. I also demonstrate how a knowledge of ancient literary features can inform the modern reading of ancient narratives. I test the method in chapter 3, where I analyze how Dionysius communicates his ideals through his characters, and I describe his strategies for presenting some of his characters as models for imitation. I further test the method in chapter 4, where I study Lukan characters, showing how Luke employs the same strategies found in Roman Antiquities, plus some of his own, to present ethico-religious paradigms. This research establishes the following theses: (1) Luke does present some of his characters as ethico-religious paradigms. (2) We can discover which characters are paradigmatic by observing Luke's use of paradigm indicators. (3) A comprehensive and comparative critical method can guide and validate the use of modern literary theory in the interpretation of biblical narratives.

Recommended Citation

Lilley, John Mark, "The narrative presentation of ethical paradigms in Dionysius's "Roman Antiquities" and Luke-Acts" (1994). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9517934.