Acts of the Apostles
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES. The book that gives the history of early Christianity from the ascension of Christ to the end of two years of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome.
II. Author. Not until A.D. 160-200 do we have positive statements as to the authorship of Acts. From that time onward, all who mention the subject agree that the two books dedicated to Theophilus (Luke and Acts) were written by “Luke, the beloved physician.” Only in modern times have there been attempts to ascribe both books to Titus or some other author.
By writing “we” instead of “they” in recounting events when he was present, the author indicates that he was a companion of Paul. Luke joined Paul, Silas, and Timothy at Troas during the second missionary journey and accompanied them to Philippi but did not go on with them when they left there (
The question remains: Which of the companions of Paul is the author of Acts? He cannot be one of those named in the “we” sections as distinct from the author. He is not likely to have been one of those named in Paul’s letters written at times other than those included in the “we” sections. Of those named in Paul’s letters written when the “we” author might have been with Paul, early Christian writers chose “our dear friend Luke, the doctor” (
Luke cannot be certainly identified with Lucius of
III. Place. The place where Acts was written is not named, though the sudden ending of the book, while Paul is residing at Rome awaiting trial, makes Rome an appropriate choice. The question of place is tied in with that of Luke’s purpose in writing and with the occasion for the publication of the book.
IV. Date. Allusions to Acts in the a.d. If Acts is dependent on Josephus for information, it cannot be earlier than 93. But such dependence is not proved and is highly unlikely. Acts must have been finished after the latest date mentioned in the book, in
V. The Speeches in Acts. Do the speeches report what was actually said? We do not expect stenographic reporting, but Luke is a careful writer, as a comparison of his Gospel with Mark and Matthew shows. The style of the speeches in Acts is not Luke’s, but that which is appropriate to each speaker: Peter, Stephen, Paul, even the minor characters such as Gamaliel (
VI. Summary of the Contents. Introduction. (1) Summary of ground covered by the “former treatise,” especially the resurrection ministry of Jesus,
1. The Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the church. (a) The occasion and the event,
3. The gospel spread to all Judea and Samaria,
4. Three “continental” conversions. (a) From Africa: the eunuch from Ethiopia,
5. The Judean church accepts the mission to the Gentiles,
6. Paul’s first missionary journey. (a) The church at Antioch commissions Barnabas and Saul as missionaries to the Gentiles, 12:24-13:3. (b) The mission to Cyprus,
7. The Church Council at Jerusalem: Terms of admission of Gentile believers settled,
9. Paul’s third missionary journey. (a) Confirming the disciples in Galatia and Phrygia,
10. Paul’s arrest and voyage to Rome. (a) Paul in Jerusalem, 21:17-23:30. (b) Paul in Caesarea, 23:31-26:32. (c) The voyage to Rome, 27:1-28:15. (d) Paul in Rome,
Bibliography: F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles, 1952 (on the Greek text), and The Book of the Acts (NICNT), 1954; E. Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles, 1971; W. W. Gasque, A History of the Acts of the Apostles, 1975; M. Hengel, Acts and the History of Earliest Christianity, 1979; I. H. Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles (TNTC), 1980.——ER
The first history of the Christian Church, covering certain important phases of the first thirty years of its existence, was originally the second and concluding part of a record of Christian origins, the first part of which is the gospel according to Luke. The traditional titles borne by the two parts were given them in the church of the second century; originally the complete work may have been called “Luke to Theophilus.” Luke,* to whom the twofold work is ascribed without dispute from the second century onwards, is probably identical with Paul's friend of that name, his “beloved physician” of Colossians 4:14. The sections of Acts which are narrated in the first person plural, the “we” passages (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16), are best regarded as extracts from his travel diary on occasions when he was present at the events related. Contents. The book may be divided into six parts, of which Part 1 (1:1-5:42) deals with the beginnings of the church in Jerusalem. After the last appearance of the risen Christ, the disciples in that city waited for the fulfillment of His promise that the would come upon them to empower them for their world-mission. This fulfillment was experienced on the Day of Pentecost, when, led by Peter, they bore such effective witness to the act of God in the resurrection of Christ that 3,000 believed and were baptized in Christ's name, thus forming the nucleus of the church. The life of this primitive community is then illustrated by a series of incidents showing its public triumphs and private problems. Part 2 (6:1-9:31) tells how the peace of the community was shattered by the campaign of repression launched by the Jewish establishment against the Hellenistic members of the church in particular, after the capital conviction of Stephen, one of their leaders, before the Sanhedrin on a charge of blasphemy against the Temple. In its earliest days the Jerusalem church included Hellenists as well as Hebrews, and the Hellenists appear to have taken up a radical attitude towards the temple order and religious tradition in general, whereas the Hebrews, led by the apostles, were more conservative in these matters. It is significant that in the persecution which followed the stoning of Stephen the apostles were immune from molestation. The Hellenists in the church were forced to leave Jerusalem and Judea, and in their dispersion they spread the Gospel, not only among their fellow Jews, but among the Samaritans (8:4-25). In this work Philip, another leader of the Hellenists, played an important part. The prime agent in the campaign of repression was , an alumnus of the school of Gamaliel; with his sudden conversion to faith in the risen Lord, who confronted him when he was in midcareer as a persecutor and called him into his service, the campaign quickly collapsed. Part 3 (9:32-12:24) records the beginnings of Gentile evangelization. The first step in this was taken-hesitantly-by Peter, who accepted an invitation to visit the house of the Roman centurion Cornelius in Caesarea and explain the way of salvation. Peter, as he spoke, was presented with a divine fait accompli when the Holy Spirit came on his hearers; Cornelius and his family were baptized as those who, despite their being formerly outsiders, had now been manifestly admitted to the believing community. This fraternizing with Gentiles may have lost the apostles much of the general good will which they had formerly enjoyed in Jerusalem, which explains how Herod Agrippa I could attack them with popular approval (12:1ff.) and how James replaces them in the leadership of the mother church (12:17; 15:13; 21:18). Not long afterward the Gospel was presented to Gentiles on a much larger scale in Syrian Antioch,* by Hellenists who made their way there from the persecution in Jerusalem. Barnabas,* sent by the Jerusalem leaders to supervise this forward movement, secured the help of Saul of Tarsus in his work, and under their guidance the church of Antioch flourished. It gave evidence of its positive Christianity by sending a gift to the Jerusalem church in time of famine. Part 4 (12:25-15:35) continues the record of Gentile evangelization. Antioch became a base for missionary outreach: Barnabas and Saul (to whom Luke henceforth refers mostly by his Roman cognomen Paul*) were released by the church there to carry the Gospel to Cyprus and Asia Minor. Churches were planted in the Phrygian and Lycaonian cities of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. The rapid increase of Gentile members in the church caused misgivings in Judea, but the (15:6-29), at which Barnabas and Paul were present with a delegation from Syrian Antioch, turned down a proposal that Gentile converts should be circumcised and taught to keep the Jewish law, contenting itself with some simple provisions which made it easier for Jewish and Gentile Christians to live together as fellow members of one fellowship. Part 5 (15:36-19:4) records a new advance in the Gentile mission-the evangelization of the provinces west and east of the Aegean-Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia. West of the Aegean, Paul's principal base was Corinth, where he spent eighteen months founding and consolidating one of his most important churches (18:1-18); east of the Aegean, his base was Ephesus where, during nearly three years, he and his colleagues planted Christianity not only in that city but throughout the province of Asia. In Corinth the proconsul Gallio's refusal to take up the charge that Paul was propagating an illegal religion must for several years thereafter have provided other Roman magistrates with a more powerful precedent than appears on the surface of Luke's narrative (18:12-17). In Ephesus the demonstration in the theater illustrates the sensitivity of property interests when threatened by the Gospel (19:23-41).
In 19:21 Luke records Paul's plan, conceived towards the end of his Ephesian ministry, to make for Rome after visiting Jerusalem. Part 6 (20:1-28:31) tells how this plan was realized by means unforeseen by Paul-his rescue by Roman soldiers from a hostile mob in the temple court at Jerusalem, his two years' custody at Caesarea, his appearances before Felix, Festus, and, his appeal to Caesar, and his consequent voyage to Rome (in the course of which he and his company were shipwrecked off Malta). The book ends with his spending two years under house arrest in Rome while he waited for his appeal to be heard, preaching the Gospel unhindered to all who visited him. Purpose and Perspective. In Paul's last words to the Roman Jews, “God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles and they will listen!” (28:28), we have one dominant theme of Luke's narrative. He is concerned to trace the advance of the Gospel throughout the world as a further stage in the continuous history of salvation. He concentrates on its advance along the road from Jerusalem to Rome, ignoring its advance in other directions. The greater part of his account is bound up with Paul's missionary career, but reference to Paul's letters shows that there are several phases of Paul's career which are not recorded in Acts. Even so, our indebtedness to Luke may be measured by our difficulty in constructing a history of Christian advance in the subsequent generations, for which no such record as Acts is available. After Luke we have no church historian until Eusebius* in the fourth century.
Luke lays distinctive stress on the presence, power, and guidance of the Holy Spirit in the Church from His descent at Pentecost onward. The current age is the age of the Spirit. In this, as in his emphasis on salvation, with special reference to the Gentile mission, Luke shows himself a disciple of Paul. The Parousia, resurrection, and judgment are fixed by divine appointment, but they are not so imminent as to foreclose the irresistible progress of the Gospel in the world. Yet there is no hint that their “delay” was felt to be a problem.
Luke anticipates the later Apologists,* not only by presenting Christianity as the true knowledge of God, as in Paul's Areopagitica (Acts 17:22-31), but more particularly by arguing that Christianity is no menace to imperial law and order. It has come to stay, as a factor to be increasingly reckoned with in public life. Several responsible officials throughout the provinces give their witness to this effect, and the note on which Acts ends, with Paul discharging his missionary task at the heart of the empire without interference, clinches the argument. The rioting which follows the arrival of the Gospel in city after city is mostly instigated by local Jews who refuse it themselves and resent its being offered to the Gentiles. Like Paul, Luke holds that blindness has befallen Israel, but he does not add, like Paul, that this condition is partial and temporary.
The date of Acts cannot be determined with certainty. A date about the outbreak of the Jewish War of a.d. 66 has its attractions, and is probably not ruled out by the consideration that this is very early for Luke's historical perspective to have taken shape.
F.F. Bruce, The(1952); H.J. Cadbury, The Book of Acts in History (1955); idem, The Making of Luke-Acts (1958); M. Dibelius, Studies in the Acts of the Apostles (ET 1956); H. Conzelmann, The Theology of Luke (ET 1960); J. Dupont, The Sources of Acts (ET 1964); L.E. Keck and J.L. Martyn (eds.), Studies in Luke-Acts (1966); A. Ehrhardt, The Acts of the Apostles (1970); W.W. Gasque and R.P. Martin (eds.), Apostolic History and the Gospel (1970); I.H. Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian (1970); E. Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles (ET 1971); W. Gasque, A History of the Criticism of the Acts of the Apostles (1975).
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
1. The title
2. The author
3. The contents
4. The style
5. The date
6. The sources
7. The purpose
8. The historical value
9. The religious value
10. The chronology
11. The church and the book
The accepted title of the fifth book of the NT, The, appears to date from the end of the 2nd cent. Its Gr. form, Praxeis Apostolôn, is tr. into Lat. as Acta Apostolorum and Actus Apostolorum, “actus” being the term for the acts of a drama and not noticed by Lewis and Short’s Latin Dictionary in its NT use. There are few significant variations. Acts, the common abbreviation, is found in ancient times as well as expansion into The Acts of the Holy Apostles.
It has been commonly realized that the title is not an exact description of the contents of the book. The preaching, journeys, and adventures of ten of the apostles are by-passed, and significant “acts” of preachers without apostolic rank and distinction are mentioned. Judas, John, and James, from the original Twelve, have incidental mention.
The first section could be described as The Acts of the Church, the second, The Acts of thein the Church. Neither title is inclusive, and to accept the suggestion that the book be called The Acts of the Holy Spirit ignores the fact that the book is primarily a document of history and can be read as such. The Acts of the Apostles must, therefore, retain its title, and if it be pleaded that the story merges into the biography of one great man, can be quoted cogently. “There is properly no history; only biography.”
No specific claim to authorship is contained in the text of the book itself. Tradition, however, is clear, ancient, and consistent. Tradition is supported by the internal evidence of style and subject matter. It will be convenient to examine the question under the following heads:
a. As early as the middle of the 2nd cent. the Church appears to have believed unanimously that Acts was written by Luke, the physician, the friend and fellow traveler of Paul. The evidence for this is strong. The a.d. 133-c. 200), (c. a.d. 150-c. 215), Tertullian (c. a.d. 160-c. 200), and Origen (c. a.d. 185-c. 254) may be quoted in support of the Canon. It might be urged that this evidence is not cumulative, but merely the repetition of an original conjecture. On the other hand, a living tradition can span a cent., and if leading Christian scholars in the latter half of the 2nd cent. believed that a document frequently quoted throughout the whole of the cent. was of a certain authorship, there is strong supposition that their belief was soundly based and not the mere repetition of conjecture. And negatively, had the Church in the 2nd cent. been forced back upon conjecture concerning a document of such importance, why, unless strong tradition supported the fact, should Luke have been the favored choice?, a document mutilated somewhat at its beginning and end, but listing in its eighty-five lines of bad Lat. most of the books of the NT, names the third gospel and Acts as the work of Luke the physician. Patristic evidence agrees. Irenaeus (c.
c. Little is known of Luke himself. He was a writer not given to revealing himself in his work. Perhaps there is a glimpse of the man’s self-effacing personality in his deliberate turning from the artificial and cultured language of his prologues to the plain vernacular with which he begins, continues, and ends his narrative. He sought not the creation of a literary masterpiece, but the plain effectiveness of his message. He was content to set forth Christ in his first composition, his friend in the second. Tradition has it that Luke was an Antiochene, and some stress has already been laid upon the sturdiness of tradition in this historical context. On the other hand, a careful reading of the Philippian sections seems to show that Luke, if not a native, was at least a sojourner of the Macedonian town. There is no reason why Philippi and Antioch should be exclusive. A Macedonian could easily count as a migrant Antiochene, or a man of Antioch could spend significant years in Philippi. Philippi had some standing as a medical center, and, in the close-knit Mediterranean world of the Rom. peace, movement was free, safe, and common. The movements of, of Apollos, and of Paul himself are evidence enough of such journeyings.
Luke’s character shows here and there. Paul’s adjective “beloved” says much. His style, mentioned above, is self-effacing and avoids all striving for effect. Tradition mentions that he was an artist, and the artist’s touch is evident in his words. His one aim was simplicity and the truth which accompanies it. Loyalty, a virtue allied to simplicity, was a shining mark of Luke’s character. He accepted Paul’s leadership without questioning, even after the apostle’s rejection of advice which circumstances certainly proved sound. Luke’s intellectual capacity is reflected in all his work. The gospel and its sequel are the writing of a first-rank historian and a man of exact and careful mind, painstaking in his research, accurate in his detail, and with a flair for the poetic and the dramatic.
The story overlaps the last scenes of the gospels and shows the risen Christ commissioning His apostles for a world-wide task, and their enabling for its performance by the gift of the Holy Spirit. It describes the first assault upon the world at Pentecost, with the scattered followers of Christ confident, united, and clear-cut in their message, proclaiming fearlessly in Jerusalem the truth committed to their care. It recounts their confrontation with the guilty hierarchy and the beginning of priestly and political persecution directed equally against the activities and the preaching of two distinct groups, those represented by Peter and the apostles on the one hand, and those represented by Stephen and the Hel. Jews on the other. The early appearance of the latter group in the internal and external activities of the Church is not without relevance in its careful pattern.
The brief but lucid outlines of Peter’s sermons and the long defense of Stephen before the Sanhedrin on the day of his martyrdom reveal the similarities and the differences of the twin movements of evangelism. Both are clear that Christianity is a consummation, that the risen Christ is the authentication of the Gospel, and that the Gospel finds its point and purpose in a proclamation of repentance. Peter stressed the OT preparation. Stephen, equally insistent on the outworking processes of history, had a wider world in view than the land of Israel and found historic precedent, as well as prophecy, in the OT. He was the predecessor of Paul and, at this point in the story, saw further than Peter.
The book is, in fact, early preoccupied to show the emergence of a new dynamic witness. Stephen, Philip, Paul is its sequence; Peter, at first the representative of a more exclusive and orthodox Jewry, is shown with subtle art adapting himself to a broader proclamation and merging his activities with those of the vigorous groups of Hel. Jews who claimed and won a part and place in the Church, and soon were thrust to the forefront of its testimony. Peter was found significantly in the home of a tanner at Joppa, when the historic call to Caesarea came to him.
It was primarily the enthusiasm and effectiveness of the Hel. Jews which precipitated major persecution and insured the expansion of Christianity beyond urban, parochial, or provincial limits. The Christian Diaspora found a rallying point in Syrian Antioch, which became the second capital of the Church. Through these early chapters the attentive reader will note the interweaving of the theme, a feature of the book’s style and pattern. Overlap, anticipatory reference, swift brevity, sudden expansiveness, and deliberate repetition reveal Luke’s own appraisal of the contents and his sense of the outworking theme.
From the call of the Gentiles to their formal acceptance by the Church at large is a span of six chs. With firm insistence the book shows that Peter, the champion of orthodoxy, opened the door. Peter is advisedly prominent in this section, though Paul has already appeared after the overlapping fashion of the book, arrested in his career of persecution on the Damascus road. The story of Paul’s missionary incursions into the Gentile world overlaps in similar fashion with the developing theme of Gentile-Jewish relations in the Church. A world is visibly opening as the reader turns the pages. Asia Minor is listening and eager. Neither Jerusalem nor Antioch could resist the evidence that something novel was afoot, a movement requiring decisions, vast reappraisement, and a wisdom in organization beyond anything envisaged in those first phases of the community’s life, which were described with cameo vividness in the opening chs.
The decisions of the Jerusalem congress bisect the book and officially and formally open the door to the Gentile convert. Christianity is obviously universal and not to be regarded as a reformed sect of Judaism or as a protest movement against corrupt religion, such as that which produced the Qumran community. With this vital question settled, the great man, who emerged as leader, adopted his final apostolic role. Paul (no longer Saul) moved along the trade routes to plant his Christian communities in the key cities of the world. It is possible to see the vision of the empire won for Christ forming in his mind. Fromto Rome itself, that pattern is visible in Paul’s evangelism.
The synagogues of the Dispersion were the stepping stones and the first point of contact. Paul was as clear as Peter that Christianity was a consummation and Judaism a preparation. But the blindness and archaism of Jerusalem is as evident abroad as in the metropolis. The readier acceptance, first evident among the Hel. Jews of Pal., is similarly a feature of the wider world. The book keeps this theme vividly in view.
The story moved from Asia to Europe, patiently analyzed the nature of opposition and persecution, and described the first attitudes of secular authority toward the Church. Neither the Areopagus in Athens nor Gallio’s court in Corinth saw aught pernicious or seditious in the new movement. The governor of Cyprus and the Asiarchs of Ephesus were also well-disposed. Two Rom. procurators of Judea and a puppet monarch, the best of the Herod family, failed to see any basis for legal or penal action against Paul, when metropolitan Jewry cornered its archenemy.
Out of such events came an appeal to Caesar, when the Rom. citizen from Tarsus, who was also an accomplished Hellenist and a superbly educated Jew, exercised his civic right. With a memorable tale of shipwreck to mark the course of the narrative, and with Paul moved to Rome by way of Crete and Malta, the story concluded indecisively with the apostle to the Gentiles under house arrest amid the densest concentration of Gentiles in the ancient world, imperial Rome herself.
Obviously the theme has followed one movement of history, and its reason for doing so will be analyzed in a later section. In the process it has become unwittingly a document of Rom. history, revealing life and government in the towns and cities of the empire, glimpsing the provincial proletariat, revealing the form and fashion of travel in that unified and well-policed world, and showing the unmistakable signs of the growing tension which reached breaking point in a.d. 66 with the Great Rebellion and Rome’s four years of grim disastrous war in Pal. Apart from the gospels, few other ancient texts show the empire in action so vividly and from so unusual an angle.
Manifestly, there were “acts” of other apostles and ministries like those of Stephen and Philip. Apollos of Alexandria was of their order. Who took Christianity to the great Egyp. city of the Nile delta? Who were the disturbing visitors “from Syria,” mentioned by Claudius in an imperial communication to the Alexandrians in a.d. 42? There were Christians in Rome awaiting Paul’s coming. Of their number were the much traveled Aquila and Priscilla, Paul’s hosts in Corinth. They had been expelled from Rome with the whole Jewish ghetto in a.d. 49 following disturbances, if Suetonius is read correctly, arising from the first preaching of Christianity in the capital city of the empire. But, by whom?
Similarly, the message passed unrecorded down other lines of communication and trade. The bearers are mentioned only in tenuous traditions. Was it Thomas who took Christianity to India? The trade routes were wide open, and the Italian seamen had found the secret of the monsoons. Did Matthew die in Persia or in Ethiopia? Who evangelized Bithynia from which Paul was turned aside? In the first decade of the 2nd cent., Pliny, the Rom. governor, found the area strongly Christian. The Acts of the Apostles has nothing to say about these parallel and divergent streams of activity and testimony. It remains a fascinating and often allusive story of one great drive of Christian expansion, one aspect of thirty years of church history. The writer clearly had his purpose and plan and was not to be diverted from it. He set out to use one roll of papyrus and used it well.
Acts is written in clear and competent Gr., with a command of language and expression which marks the writer as an educated man seeking without self-conscious art to communicate efficiently with literate men. He wrote lucidly in the common dialect which was the lingua franca of the Eastern Mediterranean and its second language. At the same time there is found in all Luke’s writing more of the flavor of classical Gr. than anywhere else in the NT. His language matched his ability as a historian, and that was high. The simplicity of sincerity, conviction, and first hand reporting shows through, producing some memorable passages of descriptive narrative. The stories of the riot at Ephesus and the wreck of the big grain ship on the Malta beach merit a place in any anthology of ancient descriptive prose. As vivid, if more brief, are the stories of Peter’s release from prison, the noontide adventure on Simon’s roof where Peter dozed at Joppa, the debacle at Lystra, and the riot and rescue at Jerusalem.
Efficient reporting in brief is a feature of the book. Peter’s group of sermons and speeches of defense, the astonishing précis of the Areopagus address, with its allusiveness and evocation of atmosphere, and the communication to the Ephesian elders on the beach at Miletus are examples. The longer speeches of Stephen, Peter, and Paul are similarly vivid and efficiently interwoven with the theme. The book is in the full tradition of Gr. historiography, which uses speeches to evoke a background and to analyze meaning and motive, as well as to report. The speeches are not, however, fictional, but based on reliable report, sometimes at firsthand. They reveal some of the art of the writer for they are manifestly in character. Not only do Peter, Stephen, and Paul emerge in their reported words in sharp characterization, but even such minor characters as Gamaliel, the incisive town clerk of Ephesus, and the rhetorical Tertullus stand out clearly and individually.
The book, in short, is the writing of one who had command of his material, who knew what he wished most to say, who could stress with patience and repetition his most significant reports, and could cut and abbreviate ruthlessly when his main purpose was not directly furthered by the narrative. Such decisiveness requires a clarity of mind and a literary ability of no mean order.
The date of publication is to some extent decided by its authorship. If Luke wrote the book, a 2nd cent. date is forthwith excluded on this ground alone. The date of Luke’s death would determine the narrower limits, and on this there is no information. Luke was with Paul during his last imprisonment, perhaps in a.d. 66 or 67 (
The argument for a Lucan authorship thus confines conjecture to the brief span of years between Paul’s first arrival in Rome and Luke’s death or incapacity, in other words to the seventh decade of the cent. It is possible on other evidence to press the matter a little more closely than this and to argue that the date was prob. early in the decade. The main points may be set forth as follows:
a. The book represents a view of Rome and the imperial power free from the fierce hostility which marks the Apocalypse, demonstrating a benevolent attitude which could hardly have survived the savage personal assault of Nero upon the Church in July, a.d. 64. It most certainly could not have been maintained after the same persecution had been broadened, written into law, and had claimed Paul as one of its victims. When the book was written, apparently there was still reason to hope that a proper presentation of Christianity might convince authority that the new movement was beneficent and certainly not politically disruptive or disloyal. Much less could the book have been written from such a hopeful angle after Domitian (a.d. 81-96) staged his empire-wide attack upon the Church.
b. Consonant with this date is the writer’s narrative of events. He writes as an eyewitness or as one in direct touch with eyewitnesses. His account, for example, of the procurator’s deference tois vividly true to life and to the facts of history, at a time when Rome was eager to conciliate influential opinion in an area obviously heading for major rebellion. Felix is a portrait true to life and consistent with Tacitus’ scorn. The sensible Gallio, brother of Seneca, appears in character. None of these accounts could have been written at a time too remote from the occurrences of the incidents described. References to titles, details of administration, life and government under Rom. rule, exact in varied nomenclature and true in atmosphere, similarly fit a 1st cent. context in a manner hardly to be achieved by other than a contemporary.
c. The evocation of atmosphere may be further stressed, for it points with some cogency to the date here advocated. The writer obviously knew Pal. when the heat and pressure of Jewish nationalism was building up for the great explosion of a.d. 66. He was also aware of the closely-knit character of world-wide Jewry, where sympathetic passions were rife. The fact that Jewish sedition was a wider and more serious imperial problem than even the costly and perilous revolt in Pal. has been adequately appreciated among historians only recently. It has been suggested that the absence of any reference to the grim climax of the war, the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, also points to a date for the book earlier than a.d. 70, the fatal year, but too much weight cannot be given to this. Luke was a competent historian and knew what to exclude. His focus was upon ten years earlier, and he reflected the spirit of that time with exactitude.
d. Also consonant with an early date is the simplicity of the theology evident in the book. The Resurrection is a prominent theme, and it might be supposed that this was the first and most relevant Christian emphasis. Later, mainly owing to the work and elaboration of Paul in his epistles, the doctrine naturally and salutarily took its place in the developed corpus of Christian truth. The primitive organization of the Church is described as if it were recent and relevant experience. The question of Gentile acceptance had a similar prominence and is stressed in a manner which would hardly have been necessary a generation later after the blow received by Jewry in the destruction of its home and center, together with the world-wide repercussions which must have followed.
This theme is one of comparative simplicity and may be set forth as follows.
a. Major portions of the second half of the book are the report of an eyewitness and a participant in events. The account of the visit to Philippi in ch. 16 and that of the two voyages in chs. 20,
b. Events between chs. 21 and 27, where no personal participation is implied or claimed, nevertheless took place while Luke was in contact with the situation and are recounted with detail and a sureness of touch which mark them either as the work of an eyewitness or one in immediate contact with reliable witnesses. As for the speeches, Paul was a highly educated man and moved in a literate society. It would be quite surprising if he had retained no written outline of his major pronouncements. This applies to earlier speeches as well as the elaborate apologies of the later chs., and notably the Areopagus address.
c. Events falling between chs. 16 and
e. Nor is it impossible that there were written records. Luke, at the beginning of his gospel, speaks of many written accounts of Christ’s ministry, and these narratives are likely to have covered the events of the opening ch. or chs. of the Acts of the Apostles, which follow in natural sequence on the closing chs. of the “former treatise.” A certain episodic character in the first five chs. of the book could be accounted for by the supposition of written accounts. R. B. Rackham (Introd. xliii) goes so far as to suggest that John was the first historian of the Church, and supports his suggestion by an analysis of style and language which is not without effectiveness. Such fragments of narrative as the story of the woman taken in adultery, found in
This account of the book’s sources presupposes both Lucan authorship and the essential unity of the document. It has, therefore, by-passed the many suggestions of source and origin which arise from, or are invented to justify, sundry theories of authorship, date, and composition which a determined rejection of tradition and authority have inspired. Extravagance and audacity in theorizing and conjecture, which scarcely would be tolerated in other spheres of literary study, have been too frequent a feature of Biblical scholarship for almost a cent. and Acts has not escaped such destructive attention. Those interested in the major curiosities of this criticism will find a brief but documented summary in D. Guthrie’s competentIntroduction (Gospels and Acts), 330-344.
Every writer has his reasons and his motives, a point of view to urge upon his readers, a message to communicate, and vital information to set down and transmit. He is measured by the power of his persuasion, by the art with which he marshals and balances his facts, by the worth of what he has to say, and by the value of the history which he preserves and records. The writer’s purpose can be multiple, and to compass successfully more ends than one in a piece of historical writing is a heavy demand upon intelligence and conviction. Such success is the mark of Luke’s ability. More than one aim and purpose have been attributed to him by sympathetic commentators. They are not exclusive. Three views that Luke had in mind may be considered.
a. He sought, like any historian, to give permanence to extraordinary events and to record the birth of a movement which he sensed would change the course of history, and in which he himself was a privileged participant. His aim, in short, was that of the most austere of the great Gr. historians, Thucydides of Athens. The Great War which determined the future shape of Greece, and ended the Golden Age of Athens, had broken out between Thucydides’ Athens and the grim state of Sparta. The young historian, for Thucydides was no more than thirty years of age, set to work, “believing it would be a great war, and more worthy of relation than any which had preceded it....” Indeed it was, he believed, likely to be “the greatest movement yet known in history....” Luke might have had these words in mind when he penned the prologue to the gospel, of which the Acts of the Apostles is its necessary sequel.
The divisions thus marked seem clear in the writer’s purpose, but refraining from punctuating the theme, the reader cannot fail to see the expanding purpose and the emerging dynamic Christian community, zealous, aggressive, experimenting, organizing with widening aim, vision, and endeavor. It is an honest picture. The abortive experiment in a community of possessions is shown for the failure it was, without unnecessary comment. Luke similarly recorded without comment the premature attempt to fill Judas’ place. He mentioned with frankness the tension between the Hel. and metropolitan Jews in the charitable ministrations of the Church (
b. A second purpose, necessarily interwoven with the first, is to set forth the universality of Christianity. Luke had only to tell with sympathy and understanding the story of Paul’s progress from Antioch and Jerusalem to Rome, to write simultaneously a commentary on Paul’s own contention: “There can not be Greek and Jew...slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all” (
c. A second apologetic purpose is also clear. The allegations and insinuations of the hostile Jewish hierarchy, beginning with the trial of Christ Himself and reflected in the attitudes of many synagogues, made it relevant and urgent to stress the fact that Christianity was neither seditious nor disruptive. Apart from Jewish slander and intrigue, anyone who read aright the significance of such outbursts of hostility as the riot at Ephesus might have seen the urgency of such apology. Persecution was based in the proletariat. When the proletariat sickened of his cruelty, Nero himself was forced to call off the torment and murder of the Christians of Rome (Tac. Ann. 15. 44). Pliny, the governor of Bithynia, at the end of the first decade of the 2nd cent. was forced, at the insistence of the guild of the butchers, to commence formal suppression of Christianity in his province (Pliny, Letters 10. 56, 97). The shadows were gathering. Paul’s great vision of the empire for Christ was to be lost in their murk. Luke’s endeavor to show by repeated incidents that competent authorities had seen the Church in action, had heard the allegations against it, and had cleared it of all disloyalty, malice, or sedition was a highly relevant action. He did this effectively in a manner arising from the development of his theme. It is, in fact, an emphasis carried consistently forward from the gospel, where neither the procurator, Pilate, nor Herod Antipas found substance in the charges brought against the prisoner, and a Rom. centurion paid his tribute at the scene of death.
, the proconsul of Cyprus, was convinced of the claims of Christianity. In Philippi, the Rom. colony and military bastion of northern Greece, the magistrates panicked when they found they had illegally assaulted and confined a Rom. citizen (
It has even been suggested, in the light of this consistent stress, that Luke looked upon his book as a brief of Paul’s defense before the imperial tribunal in Rome. No doubt the book supplied sufficient detailed information for such a purpose, but Luke looked to a wider audience than the judge or judges of Paul’s appeal. Moreover, the apologetic theme is interwoven and not to be disassociated from the narrative as a whole. Luke told his story, doubtless with these emphases, but the events of significance which he underlined were meaningful in the same manner in the context of their occurrence, and at the time of their happening. Rome was a very real goal in Paul’s evangelism. It ranked with educated Jewry. To Rome, in the wide pattern of its imperialism, and to the devout Jews of his own Pharisaic caste, Paul sought with passion to bring the enlightening truth which he had received. That he failed in both objects, within the narrower span of his life’s effectiveness, does not diminish the value of a ministry which still influences history. Luke saw Jewry at large turn its back. At the time of Paul’s stay in Rome, the object of winning the empire, or at least winning freedom to preach and teach without let or hindrance wherever the writ of the empire ran, was still a real and attainable goal, canvassed in conversation and watchfully observed in its progress. That the apologetic thread should be visible and prominent in the whole woven skein of the book was inevitable and a tribute to the writer’s art.
The historical value.
This theme has been touched at various angles under earlier headings, but it will be convenient to summarize and introduce a few other matters of importance.
a. If the Acts of the Apostles was written by Luke before a.d. 64, it was a contemporary document, both of the Early Church and the 1st cent. of the Rom. peace, of paramount importance. It portrayed life in the provinces of the empire from the point of view of the alien, underlined problems and difficulties of government, revealed the machinery of imperialism in varied action, and provided vivid glimpses into the daily life of the cities of the eastern Mediterranean not to be matched elsewhere. Roman history, for the period from Tiberius’ closing years to the principate of Nero, is dependent upon literary sources which were Rome-centered, and epigraphical sources which were impersonal and often problematical. Luke’s narrative fills in some of the gaps in this one-sided and fragmentary record.
b. It is fortunate that such a work was that of a trained mind and of a historian dedicated to accuracy and truth. The unity of the book has already been stressed. It builds to a climax and welds a complex variety of material together, omitting but never suppressing, emphasizing but never exaggerating, in a manner which demonstrates consistently the writer’s clarity of purpose and complete honesty of mind. The frank revelation of the shortcomings of the early Christians is matched by the plain report of the “sharp contention” (
c. Authenticity may be tried at various points. Luke’s narrative traverses an immense tract of scene and circumstance and provides varied opportunity for that acid test of all historical writing—truth to life and veracity of detail. Paul went to Lystra and found himself for the first time in a Gentile environment, both alien and primitive. He and Barnabas became the center of an embarrassing experience, were mistaken for Hermes and Zeus in human form, and almost became the objects of worship and sacrifice (
Other localities are the scene of experiences just as revealing. With the ready adaptability which was the product of his Hellenism, Paul proceeded to Athens and forthwith adopted the manner and method of a Socrates. He argued and taught in the agora (
Was it not the same Paul in an utterly different context, but betraying the same rhetorical technique, who addressed himself to the Pharisaic section of the Sanhedrin, with whom he had some intellectual contact, disregarding the Sadducees as he disregarded the Epicureans? And was it not the writer who thus briefly but surely depicted the same mind in action, simultaneously passing a stringent test of historiography? Ephesus is equally instructive. In smaller compass is the scene on the storm-driven galley, replete with details of ship and navigation and vivid in its stark reporting.
d. With similar surety Luke moved through the ramifications of imperial administration. Detail again provided a test. In 22 b.c., for example, Augustus made Cyprus a senatorial province. In the disguised autocracy called the empire, provincial administration was divided between the emperor and the now largely impotent Senate. Senatorial provinces continued to be governed by proconsuls—the deputy of
Luke’s accuracy in the terminology of magistracy was mentioned in connection with the proconsul of Cyprus. It may be similarly tested in Gr. political contexts. In Philippi, for example, the officials are called “strategoi,” the Gr. equivalent of praetors (
In the following ch. where Luke mentioned the magistrates of Thessalonica (
These tests of detail support the contention that Luke’s book must be treated with deep respect by all historians, not only ecclesiastical but also classical, a fact not sufficiently recognized by the latter class.
The religious value.
There must be a certain overlapping of theme, for Christianity is historically based, and the religious value of the Acts of the Apostles is interwoven with its significance and worth as a document of Early Church history, its evangelism and teaching. Luke wrote as a historian, but as a Christian historian.
a. The book reveals the emergence of the Christian Church as a separate entity. It is clear that at the beginning the first Christians had no thought of disassociating themselves from Judaism in which they had been bred. They continued to use the Temple as their center and rallyingpoint (
Christianity itself had been preceded by a wilderness movement of unprecedented proportions, but the first Christian groups sensed no call to withdraw or to separate. They remained where they were, predominantly in the cities, it appears, in confrontation with the Judaism they sought to enlighten and reform. But all societies demand a measure of organization, and it rapidly became clear that the Church, conscious of the apostles’ leadership, and increasingly aware that it was a society apart from both hierarchy and synagogue, needed some framework of authority, hence, the appointment of the deacons (
It was the scattering occasioned by persecution (
Luke described frankly enough this potential schism, but was more impressed by the emerging unity of the Church than by any of its divisions or differences. Paul is revealed as the model of all church statesmen, strong in controversy (
b. The book records the content of the first Christian preaching, and the first formulation of doctrine. In the first five chs. there is reference to four sermons or speeches of Peter (
Stephen’s long statement before the hostile Sanhedrin is revealing as the utterance of a Hel. Jew and a spiritual and intellectual predecessor of Paul. He began with OT Scriptures, showing on a broader scale than Peter how the whole history of Israel and the message of its prophets found fulfillment and meaning only in Christ. To Him he ascribed a Messianic title, “Righteous One” (
It is interesting to set the first reported sermon of Paul alongside the statements of Peter and Stephen. The four elements noted earlier are all present: the Deity of the crucified Christ, the witness to the Resurrection, the confirmation of the OT, and the call to repent.
It is the same with the addresses to Gentile audiences, of which there are two interesting examples. All the elements noted are present except that of OT confirmation, irrelevant in such a context. Paul resorted to natural theology in the case of the sermon at Lystra, and to philosophic, theistic speculation in the case of the more sophisticated approach to the Areopagus Court in Athens. The whole speech was a brilliantly interwoven structure of Hebraic and Hellenic thought.
A complete Christology can therefore be constructed from the Acts of the Apostles alone. That He “suffered under, was crucified, dead and buried, descended to the Unseen World, rose again on the third day” can be taken phrase by phrase, like the rest of the Creed, and illustrated and documented by quotation from the book. The doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ is implicit. He bears Messianic titles. The Atonement is implied in the call to repentance and faith, and baptism for the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit is a fact of daily experience, enabling, guiding, enlightening.
A. W. Blunt summarizes well in the Clarendon Bible: “The impression which Acts gives is of a society with an astonishing power and vigour, of a common life which has not yet learnt or tried fully to define the conditions of its own existence, but which understands enough to acknowledge in, exalted at God’s right hand, the source from which it flows, and to rely on the Spirit of Christ as its permanent principle of vitality. Interpretation and formulation were necessary stages, and soon followed; but this was the first and originative phase in the story of the doctrinal development of Christianity.”
To underline then, in conclusion of this section, a point already made: without Luke’s narrative of this first generation of the preaching and endeavor of the Church, the epistles of the NT would have stood apart from the gospels as mature but isolated statements of doctrine. Since so large a portion of their corpus is from the fertile pen of Paul, it would have been more possible than it now is to disassociate the teaching of Christ and the teaching of Paul. The attempt has been made with persistence and ingenuity enough. The narrative of Luke denies the likelihood or possibility. This is the supreme religious contribution of the book to Christian theology.
In view of Luke’s undoubted carefulness in chronology, it is disappointing to find some quite intractable problems in his second book, for which he is hardly to blame. It was his rejection of all conjecture concerning dates which led to the use of vague phrases such as “in those days” or “after certain days,” in the earlier part of the book. On this point Luke reflected the uncertainty of his authorities, the men and women of the early days of the Church, who lived amid fast-moving events of peril and toil and had not considered the fact that they were making history. In the second half of the book, where chronology was more completely the historian’s responsibility, Luke was not neglectful in his references to time. The difficulties arise from the lack of external points of reference and sheer paucity of information on matters of importance.
Two problems will provide sufficient illus.
a. Just prior to the record of Herod’s persecution of the Church and the story of the king’s own horrible death, there is a brief report of a threatened famine, a reference to a relief fund in Antioch, and the employment of Paul and Barnabas to carry the contributions to Jerusalem (
b. A problem equally insoluble gathers around the date of Felix’ departure from his procuratorship and the arrival of his successor, a.d. 55, and Festus, presumably, arrived soon afterward. But, this date is difficult to fit into a reasonable Pauline chronology. Space forbids a survey of the controversial details (R. J. Knowling collects the variant authorities, EGT, II. 39ff.), but the situation illustrates the margin of two or three years’ uncertainty which haunts the chronology of Acts, and indeed may be traced back to the very date of the Nativity.. The latter event is a crucial date, for from it Paul’s voyage to Rome, his trial, and his probable release are to be relatively dated. Unfortunately the year is quite uncertain. According to Eusebius, Felix left at the end of
A tentative chronological scheme may be set out as follows:
1. The Crucifixion, a.d. 29. This follows a date late in 5 b.c. for the birth of Christ. (See the author’s Century of the New Testament, 147-151.)
2. Paul’s conversion. This cannot have been as early as a.d. 30. Time must be allowed for the developments of the first seven chs. of the book, prob. c. a.d. 33 or 34. Paul’s reference to Aretas (
3. The first missionary journey and the visits to Cyprus and Galatia may have occurred in c. a.d. 46, 47, or possibly 48.
4. The a.d. 48.on Gentile admission can best be assigned to
5. The second missionary journey and the crossing to Greece would then belong to a.d. 48 to 52. Aquila and Priscilla, Paul’s hosts in Corinth, were expelled from Rome in a.d. 49. Gallio came to Corinth in a.d. 52.
6. Asia and associated activities, a.d. 52 to 55.
7. Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem, a.d. 56.
8. Incarceration in the garrison town of Caesarea, a.d. 56 to 58.
9. Journey to Rome. Late autumn, winter, and early spring of a.d. 58, 59.
10. House arrest in Rome, a.d. 59 to 61.
11. Outbreak of imperial persecution, a.d. 64 (July).
12. Paul’s death prob. occurred in a.d. 66 or 67.
Conjecture haunts the list. With equal probability, F. F. Bruce thrusts most of the list forward by about a year. No problems of historical accuracy or authenticity are involved. Fuller information, literary or epigraphical, could clear up the major problems outlined. Under the latter head, information could still be forthcoming.
The Church and the book.
Luke’s book was not circulated to specific groups like Paul’s letters, and there is no clear information on the manner in which it gained currency in the Church. Its association with the gospel of the same author was, of course, sufficient to secure its survival and multiplication. It was so obviously a sequel to the first book, that it could hardly be separated when the four gospels gained authoritative currency early in the 2nd cent.
At the same time, the NT epistles, and esp. the Pauline corpus, gained canonicity. They already possessed the authority which would naturally be granted them in the church communities to which they were originally addressed, and it could easily be assumed that the Acts of the Apostles, gaining popularity at an earlier date in the Church, actually stimulated the collection and wider publication of the epistles.
Whatever the case may be, it is clear that the value and significance of the book would be obvious when the two other collections attained their place of usefulness and authority among Christians. Gospels and epistles were separate, sacred collections and needed a strong link. The Acts of the Apostles provided this link, demonstrated Paul’s apostleship, and showed its intimate connection with the apostleship of Peter and the rest. It also demonstrated the unity of the first work and testimony of the Church and provided the indispensable historical background for the letters. It is, therefore, as Harnack remarked, the pivotal book of the whole testament, and in a very real sense binds the canon together.
The date of the book has been fixed on other grounds than these quotations, apparent quotations, and references. None of them could be pressed with certainty. Other explanations of verbal similarities and of resemblances of content are possible. Nevertheless, the cumulative evidence suggests a wide currency for Acts during the 2nd cent. Since that cent. is not a well-documented period, the traces thus listed are even more convincing.
R. J. Knowling, The Acts of the Apostles, EGT (1897); J. R. Lumby, The Acts of the Apostles, CGT (1897); W. M. Ramsay, Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen (1898); R. B. Rackham, The Acts of the Apostles, Westminster Commentaries (1904); W. M. Ramsay, The Cities of St. Paul (1907); F. J. Foakes-Jackson, The Acts of the Apostles, Moffatt Commentary (1931); A. W. F. Blunt, The Acts of the Apostles, Clarendon Bible (1948); F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles (1954); E. M. Blaiklock, The Acts of the Apostles, Tyndale N. T. Commentaries (1959); E. M. Blaiklock, The Century of the New Testament (1962).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
a-pos’-ls: I. TITLE II. TEXT III. UNITY OF THE BOOK IV. THE AUTHOR V. CANONICITY VI. DATE VII. SOURCES USED BY LUKE VIII. THE SPEECHES IN THE ACTS IX. RELATION OF ACTS TO THE EPISTLES X. CHRONOLOGY OF ACTS XI. HISTORICAL WORTH OF ACTS XII. PURPOSE OF THE BOOK XIII. ANALYSIS LITERATURE
I. Title. It is possible, indeed probable, that the book originally had no title. The manuscripts give the title in several forms. Aleph (in the inscription) has merely "Acts" (Praxeis). So Tischendorf, while Origen, Didymus, Eusebius quote from "The Acts." But BD Aleph (in subscription) have "Ac of Apostles" or "The Ac of the Apostles" (Praxeis Apostolon). So Westcott and Hort, Nestle (compare Athanasius and Euthalius). Only slightly different is the title in 31,61, and many other cursives (Praxeis ton Apostolon, "Ac of the Apostles"). So Griesbach, Scholz. Several fathers (Clement of Alex, Origen, Dionysius of Alex,, Chrysostom) quote it as "The Ac of the Apostles" (Hai Praxeis ton Apostolon). Finally A2 EGH give it in the form "Ac of the Holy Apostles" (Praxeis ton Hagion Apostolon). The Memphitic version has "The Ac of the Holy Apostles." Clearly, then, there was no single title that commanded general acceptance.
II. Text. (1) The chief documents. These are the Primary Uncials (Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Vaticanus, Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, Codex Bezae), Codex Laudianus (E) which is a bilingual Uncial confined to Acts, later Uncials like Codex Modena, Codex Regius, Codex the Priestly Code (P), the Cursives, the Vulgate, the Peshitta and the Harclean Syriac and quotations from the Fathers. We miss the Curetonian and Syriac Sinaiticus, and have only fragmentary testimony from the Old Latin. (2) The modern editions of Ac present the types of text (; the (British and American); the critical text like that of Westcott and Hort, The in Greek or Nestle or Weiss or von Soden). These three types do not correspond with the four classes of text (Syrian, Western, Alexandrian, Neutral) outlined by Hort in his Introduction to the New Testament in Greek (1882). These four classes are broadly represented in the documents which give us Acts. But no modern editor of the Greek New Testament has given us the Western or the Alexandrian type of text, though Bornemann, as will presently be shown, argues for the originality of the Western type in Acts. But the Textus Receptus of the New Testament (Stephanus’ 3rd edition in 1550) was the basis of the of 1611. This edition of the Greek New Testament made use of a very few manuscripts, and all of them late, except Codex Bezae, which was considered too eccentric to follow. Practically, then, the King James Version represents the Syriac type of text which may have been edited in Antioch in the 4th century. Various minor errors may have crept in since that date, but substantially the Syriac recension is the text of the King James Version today. Where this text stands alone, it is held by nearly all modern scholars to be in error, though Dean Burgon fought hard for the originality of the Syriac text (The Revision Revised, 1882). The text of Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek is practically that of Codex Vaticanus, which is held to be the Neutral type of text. Nestle, von Soden, Weiss do not differ greatly from the text of Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek, though von Soden and Weiss attack the problem on independent lines. The text of the Revised Version (British and American) is in a sense a compromise between that of the King James Version and the critical text, though coming pretty close to the critical text. Compare Whitney, The Reviser’s Greek Text, 1892. For a present-day appreciation of this battle of the texts see J. Rendel Harris, Side Lights on the New Testament, 1908. For a detailed comparison between the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) Ac see Rackham, The Ac of the Apostles, xxii.
(3) In Ac the Western type of text has its chief significance. It is the meet of the late Friedrich Blass, the famous classicist of Germany, to have shown that in Luke’s writings (Gospel and Acts) the Western class (especially D) has its most marked characteristics. This fact is entirely independent of theory advanced by Blass which will be cussed directly. The chief modern revolt against theories of Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek is the new interest felt in the value of the Western type of text. In particular Codex Bezae has come to the front in the Book of Acts. The feeble support that Codex Bezae has in its peculiar readings in Ac (due to absence of Curetonian Syriac and of the Old Latin) makes it difficult always to estimate the value of this document. But certainly these readings deserve careful consideration, and some of them may be correct, whatever view one holds of the Codex Bezae text. The chief variations are, as is usual with the Western text, additions and paraphrases. Some of the prejudice against Codex Bezae has disappeared as a result of modern discussion.
(4) Bornemann in 1848 argued that Codex Bezae in Ac represented the original text. But he has had very few followers.
(5) J. Rendel Harris (1891) sought to show that Codex Bezae (itself a bilingual MS) had been Latinized. He argued that already in 150 AD a bilingual manuscript existed. But this theory has not won a strong following.
(6) Chase (1893) sought to show that the peculiarities were due to translation from the Syriac.
(7) Blass in 1895 created a sensation by arguing in his Commentary on Ac (Acta Apostolorum, 24 ff) that Luke had issued two editions of the Acts, as he later urged about the
(8) Hilgenfeld (Acta Apostolorum, etc., 1899) accepts the notion of two edd, but denies identity of authorship.
(9) Schmiedel (Encyclopedia Biblica) vigorously and at much length attacks Blass’ position, else "the conclusions reached in the foregoing sections would have to be withdrawn." He draws his conclusions and then demolishes Blass! He does find weak spots in Blass’ armor as others have done (B. Weiss, Der Codex D in der Apostelgeschichte, 1897; Page, Class. Rev., 1897; Harnack, The Ac of the Apostles, 1909, 45). See also Knowling, The Ac of the Apostles, 1900, 47, for a sharp indictment of Blass’ theory as being too simple and lacking verification.
(10) Harnack (The Ac of the Apostles, 48) doubts if Luke himself formally published the book. He thinks that he probably did not give the book a final revision, and that friends issued two or more editions He considers that the so- called beta recension has a "series of interpolations" and so is later than the alpha text.
(11) Ramsay (The Church in the, 150; Paul the Traveler, 27; The Expositor, 1895) considers the beta text to be a 2nd-century revision by a copyist who has preserved some very valuable 2nd-century testimony to the text.
(12) Headlam (HDB) does not believe that the problem has as yet been scientifically attacked, but that the solution lies in the textual license of scribes of the Western type (compare Hort, Introduction, 122 ff). But Headlam is still shy of "Western" readings. The fact is that the Western readings are sometimes correct as against the Neutral (compare
III. Unity of the Book. It is not easy to discuss this question, apart from that of authorship. But they are not exactly the same. One may be convinced of the unity of the book and yet not credit it to Luke, or, indeed, to anyone in the 1st century. Of course, if Luke is admitted to be the author of the book, the whole matter is simplified. His hand is in it all whatever sources he used. If Luke is not the author, there may still have been a competent historian at work, or the book may be a mere compilation. The first step, therefore, is to attack the problem of unity. Holtzmann (Einl, 383) holds Luke to be the author of the "we" sections only. Schmiedel denies that the Ac is written by a companion of Paul, though it is by the same author as the Gospel bearing Luke’s name. In 1845 Schleiermacher credited the "we" sections to Timothy, not to Luke. For a good sketch of theories of "sources," see Knowling on Acts, 25 ff. Van Manen (1890) resolved the book into two parts, Acta Petri and Acta Pauli, combined by a redactor. Sorof (1890) ascribes one source to Luke, one to Timothy. Spitta also has two sources (a Pauline-Lukan and a Jewish-Christian) worked over by a redactor.
Clemen (1905) has four sources (History of the Hellenists, History of Peter, History of Paul, and a Journey of Paul), all worked over by a series of editors. Hilgenfeld (1895) has three sources (Ac of Peter, Ac of the Seven, Ac of Paul). Jungst (1895) has a Pauline source and a Petrine source J. Weiss (1893) admits sources, but claims that the book has unity and a definite aim. B. Weiss (1902) conceives an early source for the first part of the book. Harnack (The Ac of the Apostles, 1909, 41 f) has small patience with all this blind criticism: "With them the book passes as a comparatively late patchwork compilation, in which the part taken by the editor is insignificant yet in all cases detrimental; the `we’ sections are not the property of the author, but an extract from a source, or even a literary fiction." He charges the critics with "airy conceit and lofty contempt." Harnack has done a very great service in carefully sifting the matter in his Luke the Physician (1907). He gives detailed proof that the "we" sections are in the same style and by the same author as the rest of the book (26-120). Harnack does not claim originality in this line of argument:
"It has been often stated and often proved that the ’we’ sections in vocabulary, in syntax, and in style are most intimately bound up with the whole work, and that this work itself including the Gospel, in spite of all diversity in its parts, is distinguished by a grand unity of literary form" (Luke the Physician, 26). He refers to the "splendid demonstration of this unity" by Klostermann (Vindiciae Lucanae, 1866), to B. Weiss, who, in his commentary (1893, 2 Aufl, 1902) "has done the best work in demonstrating the literary unity of the whole work," to "the admirable contributions" of Vogel (Zur Charakteristik des Lukas, etc., 2 Aufl, 1899) to the "yet more careful and minute investigations" of Hawkins (Horae Synopticae, 1899, 2nd edition, 1909), to the work of Hobart (The Medical Language of Luke, 1882), who "has proved only too much" (Luke the Physician, 175), but "the evidence is of overwhelming force" (198). Harnack only claims for himself that he has done the work in more detail and with more minute accuracy without claiming too much (27). But the conversion of Harnack to this view of Ac is extremely significant. It ought not to be necessary any more to refute the partition theories of the book, or to set forth in detail the proofs for the unity of the book.
Perhaps the compilation theory of Ac is nowhere set forth more cogently than in McGiffert’s The(1897). See a powerful refutation of his argument by Ramsay in Pauline and Other Studies (1906, 302-21). "I think his clever argumentation is sophistical" (305). Harnack is fully aware that he has gone over to the rode of "Ramsay, Weiss and Zahn": "The results at which I have arrived not only approach very nearly to, but are often coincident with, the results of their research" (The Ac of the Apostles, 302). He is afraid that if these scholars failed to get the ear of critics "there is little prospect of claiming the attention of critics and compelling them to reconsider their position." But he has the advantage of coming to this conclusion from the other side. Moreover, if Harnack was won by the force of the facts, others may be. This brief sketch of Harnack’s experience may take the place of detailed presentation of the arguments for the unity of the book. Harnack sets forth in great wealth of detail the characteristic idioms of the "we" sections side by side with parallels in other parts of Ac and the Gospel of Luke. The same man wrote the rest of Ac who wrote the "we" sections. This fact should now be acknowledged as proven. This does not mean that the writer, a personal witness in the "we" sections, had no sources for the other parts of Acts. This aspect of the matter will be considered a little later.
He was later with Paul in Crete (
The external evidence is clear on the matter. Both Gospel and Ac are credited to Luke the physician. The Muratorian canon ascribes Ac to Luke. By the end of the 2nd century the authority of the Ac is as well established as that of the Gospel (Salmon, Introduction to the New Testament, 1885, 366). Irenaeus, Tertullian,, all call Luke the author of the book. The argument is complete. It is still further strengthened by the fact that the point of view of the book is Pauline and by the absence of references to Paul’s epistles. If one not Paul’s companion had written Acts, he would certainly have made some use of them. Incidentally, also, this is an argument for the early date of the Acts. The proof that has won Harnack, the leader of the left in Germany, to the acknowledgment of the Lukan authorship of Ac ought to win all to this position.
V. Canonicity. The use of the Ac does not appear so early or so frequently as is true of the gospels and the Pauline epistles. The reason obvious. The epistles had a special field and the gospels appealed to all. Only gradually would Ac circulate. At first we find literary allusions without the name of book or author. But Holtzmann (Einl, 1892, 406) admits the use of Ac by Ignatius,, Polycarp. The use of the Gospel according to Luke by Tatian and Marcion really revolves knowledge of the Acts. But in Irenaeus frequently (Adv. Haer., i. 23, 1, etc.) the Ac is credited to Luke and regarded as Scripture. The Canon of Muratori list it as Scripture. Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria attribute the book to Luke and treat it as Scripture. By the times of Eusebius the book is generally acknowledged as part of the canon. Certain of the heretical parties reject it (like the Ebionites, Marcionites, Manicheans). But by this time the Christians had come to lay stress on history (Gregory, Canon and Text of the New Testament, 1907, 184), and the place of Ac is now secure in the canon.
VI. Date. 1. Luke’s relations to Josephus.
The acceptance of the Lukan authorship settles the question of some of the dates presented by critics. Schmiedel places the date of Ac between 105 and 130 AD (Encyclopedia Biblica). He assumes as proven that Luke made use of the writings of Josephus. It has never been possible to take with much seriousness the claim that the Ac shows acquaintance with Josephus. See Keim, Geschichte Jesu, III, 1872, 134, and Krenkel, Josephus und Lucas, 1894, for the arguments in favor of that position. The words quoted to prove it are in the main untechnical words of common use. The only serious matter is the mention of Theudas and Judas the Galilean in
2. 80 AD Is the Limit if the Book Is to Be Credited to Luke.
The majority of modern critics who accept the Lukan authorship place it between 70 and 80 AD. So Harnack, Lechler, Meyer, Ramsay, Sanday, Zahn. This opinion rests mainly on the idea that the Gospel according to Luke was written after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. It is claimed that
3. Before 70 AD.
This date is supported by Blass, Headlam, Maclean, Rackham, Salmon. Harhack, indeed, considers that "very weighty considerations" argue for the early date. He, as already stated, now takes his stand for the early date. It obviously the simplest way to understand Luke’s close of the Ac to be due to the fact that Paul was still in prison. Harnack contends that the efforts to explain away this situation are not "quite satisfactory or very illuminating." He does not mention Paul’s death because he was still alive. The dramatic purpose to bring Paul to Rome is artificial. The supposition of a third book from the use of proton in
VII. Sources Used by Luke. If we now assume that Luke is the author of the Acts, the question remains as to the character of the sources used by him. One is at liberty to appeal to
XIII. Analysis. 1. The connection between the work of the apostles and that of Jesus (
2. The equipment of the early disciples for their task (
3. The development of the work in Jerusalem (
4. The compulsory extension of the gospel to Judea, Samaria and the neighboring regions (
5. The conversion of Saul changes the whole situation for Christianity (
6. The door opened to the Gentiles, both Roman and Greek (
7. Persecution from the civil government (
8. The Gentilepropaganda from Antioch under the leadership of Barnabas and Saul (
9. The Gentilecampaign challenged by the Judaizers (
10. The second great campaign extending to Europe (
11. The third great tour, with Ephesus as headquarters (
14. Paul a prisoner in Caesarea (
15. Paul going to Rome (
16. Paul in Rome at last (
Besides the works referred to above see Wendt’s edition of Meyer’s Kommentar (1899); Headlam in HDB; Knowling on Ac in Expositor’s Greek Testament (1900); Knowling, Witness of the Epistles (1892), Testimony of Paul to Christ (1905); Moffatt, Historical New Testament (1901).
Here is a selected list of important works:
Bacon, Introduction to the New Testament (1900); Bennett and Adeney, Biblical Introduction (1899); Bleek, Einleitung in das New Testament (4 Aufl, 1900); S. Davidson, (3rd edition, 1894); C. R. Gregory, Canon and Text of the New Testament (1907), H. J. Holtzmann, Einleitung in das New Testament (3 Aufl, 1892), Jacquies, Histoire des livres du New Testament (1905-8); Julicher, Introduction to the New Testament (translation, 1904); Peaks, Critical Introduction to the New Testament (1909); Reuss, Canon of the Holy Scriptures (translation, 1886); Salmon, Hist Introduction to the Study of the Books of the New Testament (7th edition, 1896), von Soden, The History of Early Christian Lit. (translation, 1906), B. Weiss, A Manual of Introduction to the New Testament (translation, 1889), Westcott, History of the(1869), Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament (translation, 1909), Moffatt, Introduction to the Lit. of the New Testament (1911).
See general works on textual criticism of the New Testament (Gregory, Kenyon, Nestle, Tischendorf, Scrivener, von Soden, B. Weiss, Westcott, etc.). Of special treatises note Blass, Philology of the Gospels (1898). Acta Apostolorum (1895); Bornemann, Acta Apostolorum (1848); Chase, Old Syriac Element in the Text of Codex Bezae (1893), Corssen, Der cyprianische Text der Acta Apostolorum (1892); Klostermann, Probleme im Apostel Texts (1883), Klostermann, Vindiciae Lucanae (1866); Nestle, Philologia (1896); J. Rendel Harris, Study Codex Bezae (1891).
3. Apostolic History:
For literature on the life of Paul see Robertson, Epochs in the Life of Paul (1909), 321-27, and article PAUL in this encyclopedia. Important general works are the following: Bartlet, The Apostolie Age (1899); Baumgarten, The Apostolic History (translation, 1854); Blunt, Studies in the Apostolic Age (1909); Burton, Records and Letters of the Apostolic Age (1895); Doellinger, The First Age of the Church (translation, 1867); Dobschutz, Christian Life in the Primitive Church (translation, 1904); Ewald, History of the Apostolic Times (translation, Vol VI in); Farrar, Early Days of Christianity (1887); Fisher, The Beginnings of Christianity (1877); Gilbert, Christianity in the Apostolic Age (1908); Harnack, The Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries (translation, 1904-5); Hausrath, Neut. Zeitgeschichte (Bd. 2, 1872); Heinrici, Das Urchristentum (1902); Holtzmann, Neut. Zeitgeschichte (1895); Hort, Judaistic Christianity (1898); Organization of the Early (1895); Lechler, The Apostolic and Post-Apostolic Times (translation, 1886); Lightfoot, Dissertations on the Apostolic Age (1892); Lindsay, The Church and the Ministry in the Early Centuries (1902); McGiffert, A History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age (1897); Neander, History of the Planting and Training of the Christian Church (1889); Pfleiderer, Christian origins (1906), Pressonse, The Early Years of Christianity (1870); Purves, Christianity in the Apostolic Age (1901), Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire (1893); Ritschl, Die Entstehung der altkath. Kirche (1857); Ropes, The Apostolic Age in the Light of Modern Criticism (1906); Weizsacker, The Apostolic Age of the Christian Church (translation, 1894-95); Pictures of the Apostolic Church (1910).
4. Special Treatises on the Acts:
Belser, Beitrage zur Erklarung der Apostelgeschichte (1897); Benson, Addresses on the Ac of the Apostles (1901); Bethge, Die paulinischen Reden der Apostelgeschichte (1887); Blass, Acta Apostolorum secundum Formam quae videtur Romanam (1896); Chase, The Credibility of the Book of the Ac of the Apostles (1902); Clemen, Die Apostelgeschichte, im Lichte der neueren Forschungen (1905); Fiene, Eine vorkanonische Nebenlieferung des Lukas in Evangelium und Apostelgeschichte (1891); Harnack, Luke, the Physician (translation, 1907); The Ac of the Apostles (1909); Hilgenfeld, Acta Apostolorum Graece et Latine (1899); Jungst, Die Quellen der Apostelgeschichte (1895); Krenkel, Josephus und Lucas (1894); Luckok, Footprints of the Apostles as Traced by Luke in the Ac (1897); J. Lightfoot, Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations on the Ac of the Apostles (1768); Paley, Horae Paulinae (Birks edition, 1850); Ramsay, Paul the Traveler (1896); Pauline and Other Studies (1906); Cities of Paul (1908), Luke the Physician, and Other Studies (1908); J. Smith,(4th edition, 1880); Sorof, Die Entstehung der Apostelgeschichte (1890); Spitta, Die Apostelgeschichte, ihre Quellen und deren geschichtlicher Worth (1891); Stiffler, An Introduction to the Book of Ac (1892); Vogel, Zur Characteristik des Lukas nach Sprache und Stil (1897); J. Weiss, Ueber die Absicht und die literarischen Charakter der Apostelgeschichte (1897); Zeller, The Contents and Origin of the Ac of the Apostles (translation, 1875); Maurice Jones, Paul the Orator (1910).
There are the great standard works. like Bede, Bengel, Calvin, Chrysostom, Grotius. The chief modern commentaries are the following: Alexander (1857), Alloral (6th edition, 1868), Bartlet (1901), Blass (Acta Apostolorum, 1895), Ewald (Apostelgeschichte, 1871), Felten (Apostelgeschichte, 1892), Hackett (1882), Holtzmann (Hand-Commentar, 3 Aufl, 1901), Knabenbauer (Actus Apostol, 1899), Knowling (Expositor’s Greek Text, 1900), Luthardt and Zoeckler (Apostelgeschichte, 2nd edition, 1894), McGarvey (1892), Meyer (translation by Gloag and Dickson, 1885), Meyer-Wendt (Apostelgeschichte, 1888). Noesgen (Apostelgeschichte, 1882), Olshausen (1832), Page (1897), Rackham (1901), Rendall, (1897), Stokes (1892), B. Weiss (Apostelgeschichte, 1892, 2nd edition).
A. T. Robertson
VIII. The Speeches in Acts. This matter is important enough to receive separate treatment. Are the numerous speeches reported in Ac free compositions of Luke made to order a la Thucydides? Are they verbatim reports from notes taken at the times and literally copied into the narrative? Are they substantial reports incorporated with more or less freedom with marks of Luke’s own style? In the abstract either of these methods was possible. The example of Thucydides, Xenophon, Livy and Josephus shows that ancient historians did not scruple to invent speeches of which no report was available. There are not wanting those who accuse Luke of this very thing in Acts. The matter can only be settled by an appeal to the facts so far as they can be determined. It cannot be denied that to a certain extent the hand of Luke is apparent in the addresses reported by him in Acts. But this fact must not be pressed too far. It is not true that the addresses are all alike in style.
It is possible to distinguish very clearly the speeches of Peter from those of Paul. Not merely is this true, but we are able to compare the addresses of both Paul and Peter with their epistles. It is not probable that Luke had seen these epistles, as will presently be shown. It is crediting remarkable literary skill to Luke to suppose that he made up "Petrine" speeches and "Pauline" speeches with such success that they harmonize beautifully with the teachings and general style of each of these apostles. The address of Stephen differs also sharply from those of Peter and Paul, though we are not able to compare this report with any original work by Stephen himself. Another thing is true also, particularly of Paul’s sermons.
They are wonderfully stated to time, place and audience. They all have a distract Pauline flavor, and yet a difference in local color that corresponds, to some extent, with the variations in the style of Paul’s epistles. Professor Percy Gardner (The Speeches of Paul in Acts, in Cambridge Biblical Essays, 1909) recognizes these differences, but seeks to explain them on the ground of varying accuracy in the sources used by Luke, counting the speech at Miletus as the most historic of all. But he admits the use of sources by Luke for these addresses.
The theory of pure invention by Luke is quite discredited by appeal to the facts. On the other hand, in view of the apparent presence of Luke’s style to some extent in the speeches, it can hardly be claimed that he has made verbatim reports. Besides, the report of the addresses of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel (as in the other gospels) shows the same freedom in giving the substance exact reproduction of the words that is found in Acts. Again, it seems clear that some, if not all, the reports in Ac are condensed, mere outlines in the case of some of Peter’s addresses.
The ancients knew how to make shorthand reports of such addresses. The oral tradition was probably active in preserving the early speeches of Peter and even of Stephen, though Paul himself heard Stephen. The speeches of Paul all show the marks of an eyewitness (Bethge, Die paulinischen Reden, etc., 174). For the speeches of Peter, Luke may have had documents, or he may have taken down the current oral tradition while he was in Jerusalem and Caesarea. Peter probably spoke in Greek on the day of Pentecost. His other addresses may have been in Aramaic or in Greek. But the oral tradition would certainly carry them in Greek, if also in Aramaic.
The sermon at Antioch in Pisidia is probably given as a sample of Paul’s missionary discourses. It contains the heart of Paul’s gospel as it appears in his epistles. He accentuates the death and resurrection of Jesus, remission of sins through Christ, justification by faith. It is sometimes objected that at Athens the address shows a breadth of view and sympathy unknown to Paul, and that there is a curious Attic tone to the Greek style. The sermon does go as far as Paul can (compare
IX. Relation of Ac to the Epistles. There is no real evidence that Luke made use of any of Paul’s epistles. He was with Paul in Rome when Col was written (4:14), and may, indeed, have been Paul’s amanuensis for this epistle (and for Eph and Philem). Some similarities to Luke’s style have been pointed out. But Ac closes without any narrative of the events in Rome during the years there, so that these epistles exerted no influence on the composition of the book. As to the two preceding groups of Paul’s epistles (1 and 2 Thess, 1 and 2 Cor, Gal, Roman) there is no proof that Luke saw any of them. Thewas probably accessible to into while in Rome, but he does not seem to have used it. Luke evidently preferred to appeal to Paul directly for information rather than to his epistles.
This is all simple enough if he wrote the book or made his data while Paul was alive. But if Ac was written very late, it would be strange for the author not to have made use of some of Paul’s epistles. The book has, therefore, the great advantage of covering some of the same ground as that discussed in the earlier epistles, but from a thoroughly independent stand-point. The gaps in our knowledge from the one source are often supplied incidentally, but most satisfactorily, from the other. The coincidences between Ac and Paul’s epistles have been well traced by Paley in his Horae Paulinae, still a book of much value. Knowling, in his Witness of the Epistles (1892), has made a more recent study of the same problem. But for the apparent conflict between
It is argued by some that Acts, written long after Gal, brushes to one side the account of the Jerusalem conference given by Paul. It is held that Paul is correct in his personal record, and that Ac is therefore unhistorical Others save the credit of Ac by arguing that Paul is referring to an earlier private conference some years before the public discussion recorded in
This aspect of the matter came out in the private conference. Paul is not in
But there was no particular reason for Paul to mention the visit in
X. Chronology of Acts. Here we confront one of the most perplexing questions in New Testament criticism. In general, ancient writers were not so careful as modern writers are to give precise dates for historical events. Indeed, it was not easy to do so in view of the absence of a uniform method of reckoning times. Luke does, however, relate his narrative to outward events at various points. In his Gospel he had linked the birth of Jesus with the names of Augustus as emperor and of Quirinius as governor of Syria (
But the other events in the opening chapters of Ac have no clear chronological arrangement. The career of Stephen is merely located "in these days" (6:1). The beginning of the general persecution under Saul is located on the very day of Stephen’s death (8:1), but the year is not even hinted at. The conversion of Saul comes probably in its chronological order in
The "fourteen years" in
Wieseler figured it out so from Josephus and was followed by Lightfoot. But Eusebius, in his "Chronicle," placed that event in the second year of Nero. That would be 56, unless Eusebius has a special way of counting those years Mr. C. H Turner (art. "Chronology" in HDB) finds that Eusebius counts an emperor’s regnal year from the September following. If so, the date could be moved forward to 57 (compare Rackham on Acts, lxvi). But Ramsay (chapter xiv, "Pauline Chronology," in Pauline and Other Studies) cuts the Gordian knot by showing an error in Eusebius due to his disregarding an interregnum with the reign of Mugs Ramsay here follows Erbes Todestage Pauli und Pertri in this discovery and is able to fix upon 59 as the date of the coming of Festus. Probably 59 will have to answer as a compromise date. Between 44 AD and 59 AD, therefore, we place the bulk of Paul’s active missionary work.
XI. Historical Worth of Acts. It was once fashionable to discredit Ac as a book of no real value as history. The Tubingen school regarded Ac as "a late controversial romance, the only historical value of which was to throw light on the thought of the period which produced it" (Chase, The Credibility of Acts, 9). There are not wanting a few writers who still regard Ac as a late eirenicon between the Peter and Paul parties, or as a party pamphlet in the interest of Paul. Somewhat fanciful parallels are found between Luke’s treatment of both Peter and Paul "According to Holtzmann, the strongest argument for the critical position is the correspondence between the acts of Peter and the other apostles on the one rode and those of Paul on the other" (Headlam in HDB). But this matter seems rather far fetched. Peter is the leading figure in the early chapters, as Paul is in the latter half of the book, but the correspondences are not remarkably striking.
There exists in some minds a prejudice against the book on the ground of the miracles recorded as genuine events by Luke. But Paul himself claimed to have wrought miracles (
This, after all, is the chief trait in the true historian (Ramsay, Paul the Traveler, 4). Luke writes as a man of serious purpose and is the one New Testament writer who mentions his careful use of his materials (
The `first men’ of Antioch in Pisidia is like the (13:50) "First Ten," a title which "was only given (as here) to a board of magistrates in Greek cities of the East" (MacLean in one-vol HDB). The "priest of Jupiter" at Lystra (14:13) is in accord with the known facts of the worship there. So we have Perga in Pamphylia (13:13), Antioch in Pisidia (13:14), Lystra and Derbe in Lycaonia (14:6), but not Iconium (14:1). In Philippi Luke notes that the magistrates are called strategoi or praetors (
Though Athens was a free city, the Court of the Areopagus at the times were the real rulers. Achaia was sometimes associated with Macedonia, though at this time it was a separate senatorial province. In Ephesus Luke knows of the "Asiarchs" (
The force of this vindication is best appreciated when one recalls the incidental nature of the items mentioned. They come from widely scattered districts and are just the points where in strange regions it is so easy to make slips. If space allowed, the matter could be set forth in more detail and with more justice to Luke’s worth as a historian. It is true that in the earlier portions of the Ac we are not able to find so many geographical and historical corroborations. But the nature of the material did not call for the mention of so many places and persons. In the latter part Luke does not hesitate to record miraculous events also. His character as a historian is firmly established by the passages where outside contact has been found. We cannot refuse him a good name in the rest of the book, though the value of the sources used certainly cuts a figure. It has been urged that Luke breaks down as a historian in the double mention of Quirinius in
But Ramsay (Was Christ Born at Bethlehem?) has shown how the new knowledge of the census system of Augustus derived from the Egypt papyri is about to clear up this difficulty. Luke’s general accuracy at least calls for suspense of judgment, and in the matter of Theudas and Judas the Galilean (
XII. Purpose of the Book. A great deal of discussion has been given to Luke’s aim in the Acts. Baur’s theory was that this book was written to give a conciliatory view of the conflict between Peter and Paul, and that a minute parallelism exists in the Ac between these two heroes. This tendency theory once held the critical field, but it does not take into view all the facts, and fails to explain the book as a whole. Peter and Paul are the heroes of the book as they undoubtedly were the two chief personalities in apostolic history (compare Wendt, Apostelgeschichte, 17). There is some parallelism between the careers of the two men (compare the worship offered Peter at Caesarea in
There is in truth no real effort on Luke’s part to paint Paul like Peter or Peter like Paul. The few similarities in incident are merely natural historical parallels. Others have seen in the Ac a strong purpose to conciliate Gentile(pagan) opinion in the fact that the Roman governors and military officers are so uniformly presented as favorable to Paul, while the Jews are represented as the real aggressors against Christianity (compare Josephus’ attitude toward Rome). Here again the fact is beyond dispute. But the other explanation is the more natural, namely, that Luke brings out this aspect of the matter because it was the truth. Compare B. Weiss, Einl, 569. Luke does have an eye on the world relations of Christianity and rightly reflects Paul’s ambition to win the Roman Empire to Christ (see
The point would be that the legal aspect of Christianity before Roman laws was involved. Hitherto Christianity had found shelter as a sect of Judaism, and so was passed by Gallio in Corinth as a religio licita. If Paul was condemned as a Christian, the whole aspect of the matter would be altered. Christianity would at once become religio illicita. The last word in the Ac comments on the fact that Paul, though still a prisoner, was permitted to preach unhindered. The importance of this point is clearly seen as one pushes on to the Neronian persecution in 64. After that date Christianity stood apart from Judaism in the eye of Rome. I have already stated my belief that Luke closed the Ac when he did and as he did because the events with Paul had only gone thus far. Numerous scholars hold that Luke had in mind a third book (
The other chief secondary figures in Ac are Stephen, Philip, Barnabas, James, Apollos, all Hellenists save James (Harnack, 120). The minor characters are numerous (John, Mark, Silas, Timothy, Aquila and Priscilla, Aristarchus, etc.). In most cases Luke gives a distinct picture of these incidental personages. In particular he brings out sharply such men as Gallio, Claudius, Lysias, Felix, Festus, Herod, Agrippa I and II, Julius. Luke’s conception of the apostolic history is that it is the work of Jesus still carried on by the Holy Spirit (