Divine Dissimulation and the Apostolic Visions of Acts

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This paper is an exercise in audience characterisation by means of dialogue patterns. It focuses on didactic dissimulation, a neglected but striking ploy used for the divine voice in the visions of Paul and Peter in Acts 9:1-9 and 10:9-16. As a characteristic device of the Socratic tradition and used more disconcertingly within Cynic pedagogy, its appearance here represents a telling marker of cultural interplay, particularly as some Jewish commentators were not comfortable with it. Classically involving not just individual statements, but the sustained cloaking of rhetorical intent, these dialogues in Acts see an anonymous interlocutor using enigmatic challenges, feigned ignorance and misdirection to trap the subjects into confessing ignorance, prejudice or wrongdoing. Apparently visible in the Jesus tradition, other NT texts seem to discourage this approach to teaching. Why it appears in these dream and vision accounts, therefore, becomes doubly intriguing. After investigating Graeco-Roman, Jewish and early Christian responses to the question, I ask what these accounts might tell us about Luke’s audience.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReading, Writing and Bookish Circles in the Ancient Mediterranean
EditorsJonathan Norton, Garrick Allen, Lindsey Askin
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)1350265020, 978-1350265028
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2022


  • Dreams
  • Visions
  • Graeco-Roman World
  • Cynicism
  • Ancient History
  • Audience Studies
  • New Testament

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