Dean Pinter is the author of the Acts commentary in the Story of God Bible Commentary Series from Zondervan. He is also the rector of St. Aidan Anglican Church in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Rev. Dr. Pinter’s writing is informative and enlightening, yet there is also an undercurrent of warm pastoral care evident as he explains Scripture.
Even in the brief question-and-answer below, readers will likely learn something new about Acts as well as be reminded about the greatness of God and the importance of the Church.
Dr. Pinter received his B.A. in English from the University of Regina; a Master of Divinity and Master of Theology from Regent College; and a PhD in New Testament from Durham University (St. John’s College).
He began his ministry as a college professor teaching New Testament and History. He was ordained a Deacon in 2009 and priested in 2010.
Dr. Pinter is an avid reader. In the daytime, he often reads from Augustine, John Chrysostom, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Eugene Peterson, Gordon Fee, and John Barclay; in the evening he often reads from Frederick Buechner, Ellis Peters, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis; but in the mornings (especially Mondays) he often reads from George Herbert, G.M. Hopkins, Denise Levertov, Luci Shaw, Seamus Heaney, and Malcolm Guite.
7 Questions with Dean Pinter on Acts in the SGBC Series
I am grateful to have recently connected with Dr. Pinter about his Acts commentary. He kindly agreed to answers questions about it so readers can get to know him, this volume, and the book of Acts better.
1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Acts?
Before working on this commentary, I had not done any direct work on Acts. My previous research focused on the letters of Paul (especially Romans & Philippians) and the first century Jewish historian, Josephus. This background on Paul was of considerable help when it came to the latter half of the commentary where Paul is a primary character in the narrative. My familiarity with Josephus, as a contemporary historian to Luke, was also helpful when it came to providing background or corroborating details to historical figures (e.g., Herod Agrippa; Acts 12:19b-23), circumstances (e.g., Jewish legal privileges under Roman rule; Acts 18:13-15), or ancient sites (e.g., “the Gate Beautiful”; Acts 3:2) that Luke refers to in his story.
2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?
I am a full-time priest serving in a small, but vibrant, prairie parish in Canada. As such, I often had in mind pastors serving in local churches or parishioners like the ones I interact with on a daily basis. While I hope professors and students of the academy might benefit from the commentary, I envisioned my primary audience to be the pastors/priests and people of the Church.
3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Acts?
I think this commentary is unique in the same way that the entire The Story of God Bible Commentary Series – the series in which my commentary is a part – is unique. That is, it is God’s story that is given priority in the commentary and it is within that grand narrative that I have tried to listen to Luke’s telling of God’s story in the early Church. Within that frame I have tried to reflect on how our own stories intersect with and respond to God’s initiative and action. This is what made writing the “live the story” component (i.e., about 40%) of the commentary so challenging for me. While I benefited significantly from the preaching and prose of other pastors, theologians, and writers, at the end of the day I was trying to write from my unique vantage point. I reflected on this in my preface where I wrote, “This means that God incarnates the reality of the story of Acts in the place where I live and the people I live with…. I recognize that the everyday miracle of breathing in and out is the context in which the Spirit whispers and grants insight.”
In terms of what unique contribution my commentary may offer studies on Acts, this is hard to say for me. I have been influenced by the likes of Ellen Davis and Walter Moberly and their interest in reading Scripture with “a primarily theological interest” (as Davis puts it). This does not mean that when I read Acts, I was uninterested in the history that it conveyed, but the focus of my approach was to ask: What does this portion of Scripture tell us about the manifold things God is doing and saying? In this, my aim was to be a faithful interpreter rather than an innovative interpreter. In particular, I’ve tried to alert readers to the many faithful theologians throughout the centuries who have helped me to understand and to teach Acts better, including preachers from John Chrysostom (4th century) to Timothy Keller (21st century), scholars from the Venerable Bede (7th century) to Beverly Gaventa (21st century), and poets from Arator (6th century) to Eugene Peterson (21st century).
4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?
There are so many significant and well-known theological “peaks” in Acts. Most readers might be able to guess the ones that were memorable for me, including: Pentecost (Acts 2), the conversion narratives of Saul and Cornelius (Acts 9 & 10), and Paul’s Areopagus Encounter (Acts 17). Besides those obvious passages, I was often struck by recurring themes in Acts. For example, I came to recognize the ongoing importance of the ascension of Christ in Acts and how frequently manifestations/words from Jesus’ place in heaven to earth occur in the narrative (e.g., Acts 2:2; 3:3; 3:21; 4:12; 5:31; 7:56; 9:3-6; 10:11-15; 11:4-10, etc.). Further, there were some of the less familiar “bridge” passages – like the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8) or the healing of Tabitha (Acts 9) – that I came to realize were not merely helping the reader get to the “important” stories of Saul and Cornelius, but were essential and memorable in their own right. Finally, I found the trial narratives (Acts 24-26) to be riveting. These trial scenes are not only climactic moments in Acts but, in many ways, they mirror the trial narratives of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. For me, these scenes provided further examples of the way Jesus continues “to do and teach” (cf. Acts 1:2) through his body, the Church, in its own trials.
5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?
Several occasions stand out as moments when I experienced the love of Christ in a meaningful way. The first example comes from a day deep in the middle of the Canadian winter when I was working through Paul’s speech before Felix (Acts 24). I was struck by this line by the superb scholar from Duke, C. Kavin Rowe: “From first to last, the Way is about the resurrection.” I don’t know Kavin personally, but if I did, I would want to thank him as his words were deeply meaningful for me. They came around a time when several people in my congregation had recently died, including a close friend. Although I know, propositionally, that the resurrection is the foundation of our faith, on that cold day in Moose Jaw my heart was warmed when I read that line in conjunction with Paul’s words in Acts 24; they continue to give me courage and hope.
Another example occurred when I was working on the passage in Acts 15 (vv. 36-41) where Paul and Barnabas had their falling out over John Mark. I reflected on Mark’s story – a story that includes failure, shame, and disappointment – that can be traced not only in Acts but at various points in the New Testament (e.g., Mark; 1 Pet 5:13; Col 4:10; Phlm 24; 2 Tim 4:9-11). I can personally relate to those feelings associated with John Mark’s life and, yet, I began to recognize that, like Mark, my own shortcomings and brokenness need not define my life, give ultimate shape to my ministry, or abort my God-given calling. When we trace John Mark’s story through the biblical narrative, we see that, in the end, failure and shame did not have the last word for him. In fact, he was not only forgiven and restored, he was transformed from a coward and quitter to a trusted writer (i.e., the Gospel of Mark) and a reliable co-worker to both Peter and, surprisingly, even Paul. In the story of John Mark, I discovered an unexpected “friend” and a meaningful connection to the love and grace of God.
6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Acts?
There are so many superb resources available to us today on the Book of Acts. These are some of the ones that I found helpful over and over. To start with, two places that I find helpful for geographical and historical contexts related to Acts
Bietzel, Barry J. The Zondervan Atlas of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.
Winter, Bruce and Andrew Clark, eds. The Book of Acts in Its First-Century Setting. 5 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993-96.
Here are my “Go-To” commentaries for Sermon Preparation:
Alexander, Loveday. Acts: The People’s Bible Commentary. Oxford: The Bible Reading Fellowship, 2006.
Dunn, James D.G. The Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016.
Gaventa, Beverly Roberts. The Acts of the Apostles. Nashville: Abingdon, 2003.
Wright, N.T. Acts for Everyone. 2 vols. Louisville: Westminster John Knox.
Here are my suggestions for “Digging Deep” into some of the critical questions:
Barrett, C.K. Acts. 2 vols. ICC. London: T & T Clark, 1994, 1998.
Keener, Craig S. Acts: An Exegetical Commentary. 4 vols. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012-15.
Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.
These two monographs are especially insightful and rich for me:
Levison, Jack. Inspired: The Holy Spirit and the Mind of Faith. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013.
Rowe, C. Kavin. World Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?
As for my immediate future, I will be taking a four-month sabbatical after Easter Sunday. After seven years of full-time pastoral ministry and trying to write this commentary, I’m a bit tired. Beyond that, I do not have any projects that I am working on except the “project” of being a better husband, father, friend, and priest. People can follow my work and ministry through our parish website (http://www.mjanglican.org) or, even better, by coming to worship with us at St. Aidan Anglican Church, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. You, or anyone else, would be most welcome!