Death and Resurrection: The Shape and Function of a Literary Motif in the Book of Acts

By Dennis J. Horton

An exploration of the motifs of death and resurrection in the Acts of the Apostles, and its theological and sociological role in the Lukan narrative.

ISBN: 9780227173657


In this well-argued and clear-structured work, Dennis Horton highlights the shape and function of the death-and-resurrection motif by applying William Freedman’s criteria of a literary motif to the Acts narrative. By analysing the statements about death and resurrection together with the examples of this messianic pattern within the experiences of major and minor characters, the motif becomes clear. This primary motif of death and resurrection is then contrasted with a secondary motif of death and decay, which functions as a warning to Christians. Thus suffering is ultimately an integral part of the life in Christ, but one that becomes balanced by renewed and eternal life.

Death and Resurrection provides a clear example of a biblical motif and how it develops and functions within the narrative, serving as a valuable guide for future studies of biblical motifs. The work also supplies a needed balance between the extremes of past and present Lukan scholarship by considering the combined effect of suffering and renewed life within a single motif.

Both the statements and actions of the characters reveal the importance of the two elements for Lukan theology and soteriology. The function of the motif derives from its usage within the narrative and proves insightful for gaining a better understanding of the aesthetic quality of the story while simultaneously showing how the narrator skillfully wields the motif to provide encouragement to the followers of “The Way”, to issue a warning to would-be persecutors, and to deliver an evangelistic message to potential converts such as the “God-fearers”. The messianic pattern of death and resurrection becomes a heuristic tool that the narrator carefully applies to create a potent motif with a multifaceted message for a growing and often suffering Christian community.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 136

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Dennis J. Horton is Associate Professor of Religion and Associate Director of Ministry Guidance at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. His research has focused on the academic study of the New Testament and its practical implications for Christian ministry.



1. Diegesis and the Messianic Model: “Telling” the Motif
2. Mimesis and the Major Characters: “Showing” the Motif (Part I)
3. Mimesis and the Minor Characters: “Showing” the Motif (Part II)
4. Intensification through Contrast: The Secondary Motif of Death and Decay

Index of Modern Authors
Index of Scripture and Ancient Writings


Endorsements and Reviews

In Biblical Studies, a monograph that is both careful and creative is a rare thing to treasure. Dennis Horton has produced such a volume in Death and Resurrection. The work enriches the study of the Book of Acts and carefully helps us all think about how to study a literary motif in a biblical book. Serious and informed readers of the Book of Acts will be richly rewarded by Horton’s study.
W. H. Bellinger Jr., Marshall Professor of Bible, Baylor University

Dennis Horton’s Death and Resurrection brings together two areas of research in biblical studies that are both current and developing ideas: studies in the Lukan writings and biblical narrative criticism. Horton’s book is a wonderful contribution to both of these areas of study and should be used by any Luke/Acts scholar in their future research. … Death and Resurrection is a work that should be on every scholar’s bookshelf because of its addition to the scholarship regarding how one should study literary motifs within a biblical book and integration of narrative criticism with biblical studies.
Mike Fightmaster, in Reviews in Religion and Theology, Vol. 19 (3)

Horton’s study provides a well-written and concise application of literary model to a biblical text. … I would highly recommend this book to students, pastors, and teachers who are interested in the literary analysis of the Bible.
Coleman A. Baker, in Biblical Theology Bulletin: Journal of Bible and Culture, Vol 44, Issue 167