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 (Acts.16.10-Acts.16.17). Luke is next mentioned as being at Philippi toward the end of the third missionary journey, when Paul was about to sail for Palestine with the contributions of the Gentile churches for the poor at Jerusalem (Acts.20.4ff.; Rom.15.25ff.). We do not know whether Luke spent all the interval at Philippi. From this point Luke accompanied Paul to Jerusalem (Acts.20.5-Acts.21.18). Nor do we know how Luke spent the two years during which Paul was imprisoned at Caesarea, but Luke enters the narrative again in Acts.27.1 (“when it was decided that we should sail for Italy”); he continued with Paul, giving us a vivid account of the voyage to Rome. Acts breaks off abruptly at the end of Paul’s two years of ministry when he was enjoying the relative freedom of “his own rented house,” where he “welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts.28.30-Acts.28.31). If a later writer had incorporated these “we” sections, he would have named their author to enhance their authority. But the style of the “we” passages cannot be distinguished from the style of the rest of Acts nor from that of Luke’s Gospel. The author of Luke and Acts is the author of the “we” sections of Acts and a companion of Paul.

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” (Col.4.14). Luke is not otherwise prominent in the NT. Why should he have been chosen, unless he was the author? The medical language in Acts is not sufficient to prove that the author was a physician, but it is sufficient to confirm other evidence to that effect. Luke was with Paul shortly before his expected death (2Tim.4.11).

Luke cannot be certainly identified with Lucius of Acts.13.1 or with Lucius of Rom.16.21. There is wide and ancient support for connecting Luke with Antioch in Syria. It is not probable that he was from Philippi. The tradition that he was a painter cannot be traced earlier than the tenth century. From 2Cor.8.18 it is possible to infer that Titus was Luke’s brother and that Luke was “the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel.” Titus and Luke are named together in 2Tim.4.10-2Tim.4.11. The conjecture that Luke was the “man of Macedonia” of Paul’s vision (Acts.16.9) is attractive and inherently possible but not certain.

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 Apostolic Fathers are too indefinite to compel the setting of a date much before the end of the first century 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 Acts.28.30. The abrupt close indicates that it was written at that time, c. 61 or 62. Luke’s Gospel has an appropriate ending; Acts does not. We are not told how the trial of Paul came out. There is no hint of Paul’s release or of his death. The attitude toward Roman officials is friendly, and that would not have been the case after the persecution under Nero in 64. The Jewish War of 66-70 and the destruction of Jerusalem are not referred to. Acts.1.1-Acts.1.26-Acts.15.1-Acts.15.41 accurately picture conditions in Jerusalem before its destruction. It would be attractive to think that Luke’s two books were written to inform and influence well-disposed Roman officials in their handling of Paul’s case.

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 (Acts.5.25ff.), the Ephesian town clerk (Acts.19.35ff.), and Tertullus (Acts.24.2ff.). Similarities between the speeches of Peter and Paul are explained by the fact that Paul explicitly preached the same gospel as Peter did. Speeches by the same person are varied in type, each suited to the occasion.

VI. Summary of the Contents. Introduction. (1) Summary of ground covered by the “former treatise,” especially the resurrection ministry of Jesus, Acts.1.1-Acts.1.11. (2) The period of waiting; a ten-day prayer meeting in the Upper Room, Acts.1.12-Acts.1.14. (3) The choice of a successor to the betrayer as one of the Twelve, Acts.1.15-Acts.1.26.

1. The Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the church. (a) The occasion and the event, Acts.2.1-Acts.2.13. (b) Peter’s sermon, Acts.2.14-Acts.2.36. (c) The result: the beginning of the church, Acts.2.37-Acts.2.47.


3. The gospel spread to all Judea and Samaria, Acts.8.1-Acts.8.25. (a) The stimulus to expansion: Saul as persecutor, Acts.8.1-Acts.8.4. (b) Problems in Samaria, Acts.8.5-Acts.8.25.

4. Three “continental” conversions. (a) From Africa: the eunuch from Ethiopia, Acts.8.26-Acts.8.40. (b) From Asia: Saul of Tarsus, Acts.9.1-Acts.9.31. (Interlude: Peter in western Palestine, Acts.9.32-Acts.9.43.) (c) From Europe: Cornelius of Italy, Acts.10.1-Acts.10.48.

5. The Judean church accepts the mission to the Gentiles, Acts.11.1-Acts.11.30. (a) Peter convinces the Jewish Christians, Acts.11.1-Acts.11.18. (b) The extent of the early mission to the Gentiles, Acts.11.19-Acts.11.21. (c) Barnabas and Saul minister in Antioch of Syria, Acts.11.22-Acts.11.26. “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch,” Acts.11.26. (d) Response of the church in Antioch to need in Judea, Acts.11.27-Acts.11.30. (e) A further attempt to suppress the Christian movement frustrated by the miraculous escape of Peter from prison, Acts.12.1-Acts.12.19. (Note: The death of Herod, Acts.12.20-Acts.12.23.)

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, Acts.13.4-Acts.13.12. (c) The mission at Antioch in Pisidia, Acts.13.13-Acts.13.50. (d) The mission to Iconium, 13:51-14:5. (e) The mission to Lystra, Acts.14.6-Acts.14.20. (f) The mission to Derbe, Acts.14.20-Acts.14.21. (g) Return through the cities visited and formally established churches, Acts.14.21-Acts.14.25. (h) Furlough in Antioch, Acts.14.26-Acts.14.28.

7. The Church Council at Jerusalem: Terms of admission of Gentile believers settled, Acts.15.1-Acts.15.29.


9. Paul’s third missionary journey. (a) Confirming the disciples in Galatia and Phrygia, Acts.18.23. (b) Apollos at Ephesus, Acts.18.24-Acts.18.28. (c) The mission to Ephesus, 19:1-20:1. (d) Journeyings through Greece and Macedonia to Troas, Acts.20.1-Acts.20.6. (e) The mission to Troas, Acts.20.6-Acts.20.12. (f) The journey to Jerusalem, 20:13-21:16.

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, Acts.28.16-Acts.28.31.

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 Holy Spirit 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 nodetitle, 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 Council of Jerusalem (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 Agrippa II, 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 Acts of the Apostles (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).


Areopagus in the foreground with steps leading up. The plaque on the right contains Paul's speech of Acts 17.
Aerial view of Jerusalem.

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 title.

The accepted title of the fifth book of the NT, The nodetitle, 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 Twelve are listed in the first ch. and have collective reference in such contexts as that of the Jerusalem congress. Properly, the book is The Acts of Peter and of Paul, and the two themes divide the book with some precision. In fact, there is an Acts 1 and an Acts 2, divided at 15:35. The first section traverses the emergence of the global Gospel and the reception of the Gentile Christians into an emancipated Church. The second section traces the expansion of the Church to the capital of the Rom. empire.

The first section could be described as The Acts of the Church, the second, The Acts of the nodetitle in 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, Ralph Waldo Emerson can be quoted cogently. “There is properly no history; only biography.”

The author.

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 Muratorian Canon, 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. a.d. 133-c. 200), Clement of Alexandria (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?


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 Aquila and Priscilla, 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 contents.

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. From Antioch of Pisidia to 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.

The style.

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.

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 (2 Tim 4:11), and there is a strong presumption that he did not long survive his friend. A historian so diligent and accomplished would surely not have neglected the great and obvious duty which confronted him—to continue the story beyond its inconclusive ending in his second treatise. The trial before Nero, Paul’s further adventures, the arrest, and the end would have made a third book of surpassing interest and power. The fact that there is not even a tradition of such a book surely means that Paul’s chronicler did not survive long enough to write it. The Lucan authorship, therefore, if that is established, also precludes a late 1st cent. date. The allegation that Luke was familiar with the Antiquities of Flavius Josephus, published in a.d. 93, is no impediment. The allegation is quite ill-founded, and it might equally, and perhaps no more cogently, be urged in the contrary direction, that the writer of Acts was unfamiliar with the letters of Paul, which appear to have been collected and made generally available about a.d. 90. The date, late or early, must be determined on stronger grounds than this.

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 to nodetitle is 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.

The sources.

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, 21, 27, and 28 read like a personal diary. The use of the first person pronoun claims this authenticity, and the style and detail of the narrative in no way impugn the claim.

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 20 took place not far outside the orbit of Luke’s personal knowledge. He remained at Philippi when Paul, and later the rest of the party, moved on to Athens and Corinth, which was civilized territory with well-developed roads. There is no reason why a resident of Philippi who crossed to Troas to meet Paul should not have visted him in the course of ministries or sojourns in Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, and even Ephesus. Some of the events in these places are described with peculiar vividness.


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 John 8, though apparently by another hand than his, suggest a habit of recording and a disposition to grant authority to such records and to accept them on their merits. Luke may have had access to collections of such memoranda. It is again emphasized that it was a literate age. The Jerusalem council of ch. 15 would not have adjourned without something in the nature of minutes and a record of the debate which preceded the final decision. What were Paul’s treasured “parchments” (2 Tim 4:13)? The possibility already mentioned that Paul’s speeches, and perhaps Peter’s also, existed in written form, in full text or in précis, is also strong. The early Christians became rapidly aware that they were part of a great movement of history. It is the natural instinct of such people to record.

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 competent New Testament Introduction (Gospels and Acts), 330-344.

The purpose.

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 (6:1). He told in full the somber story of Ananias and Sapphira. In spite of the common hostility of the Jewish establishment against the Church, Luke recorded with consistent fidelity every favorable Jewish reaction (Acts 5:34; 6:7; 17:11; 28:24). The picture of the primitive Church, its personalities and problems and the major movement of its Gentile witness, is sharp and clear. If Luke had no other purpose, he had this, and fulfilled it well.

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” (Col 3:11). He is careful to show that the liberal policy of Paul antedated the apostle and was no exotic invention of the scholar from Tarsus imposed upon a new movement of Judaistic reform. Philip went to the Samaritans and found acceptance among them. Stephen died for a wider gospel. Peter, not Paul, persuaded the Church to open its doors to the non-Jewish world after his adventure at Caesarea. Luke stressed the Gentile membership of the church at Antioch, where the Christians first found their name and where, perhaps, he himself first became interested in Christianity and first met the man who was to be the greatest influence in his life.

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.

Sergius Paulus, 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 (Acts 16:35c.). In Corinth Gallio pompously swept the case from the order paper as one with which a Rom. court had no valid concern or jurisdiction (18:12ff.). The Asiarchs of Ephesus were manifestly well-disposed (19:31). The commandant of the Jerusalem garrison was respectful and had no reproach to make in his careful report to Caesarea (23:29). Festus saw no cause for punishment in the case as it was presented to him (5:24ff.). Agrippa II, a cultured and well-informed Jew, agreed.

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” (Acts 15:39) between Paul and Barnabas, and the obvious disapproval with which Luke viewed Paul’s last journey to Jerusalem. Paul had Luke’s unstinted admiration and strongest loyalty, but neither quality quenched Luke’s independence of mind and pursuit of historical truth. He wrote down what he judged worthy of transmission.

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 (14:6-19). It is curious to find the Rom. poet Ovid writing half a cent. before and detailing the story of Philemon and Baucis, which explains the local cult of Zeus and Hermes and accounts for the mistake of the rustic Lycaonians (Met. 8. 620-724). Let the story be probed a little more deeply in detail. Paul was the speaker, and thus he filled the role of Hermes, the gods’ interpreter. Barnabas, more silent and withdrawn, was called Zeus. The population prepared to sacrifice “before the city.” Archeologists have uncovered at Isauria, not far away, an altar to “Zeus before the gate.” An inscr. from Lystra dedicates an altar to the same two deities. The consistency of the evidence is striking.

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 (Acts 17:17) with any who would talk and listen, and the scene might be duplicated from more than one Platonic dialogue. The Areopagus Court, which appears to have held some jurisdiction over who should teach in Athens, invited Paul to explain himself. Addressing himself rather to the Stoics with whom he had some points of contact, both in basic theology and by virtue of his Cilician origin, Paul spoke in a manner superbly adapted to the occasion and with a relevance and understanding of his audience which no one acquainted with Athenian thought and Athenian lit. could possibly miss.

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 Acts 13:7 being an officer of this order. In a ch. further on (14:6), it is implied that in passing from Iconium to Lystra, Paul and Barnabas crossed an administrative frontier. Literary evidence from the 1st cent. appeared to contradict this assumption, and Luke seemed convicted of geographical error. Local inscrs., obviously the final proof, show that Luke, and not two eminent Rom. writers, was correct. (F. F. Bruce assembles the material in his Acts of the Apostles, 289.)

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 (16:20, 35). It can be demonstrated from epigraphical evidence that this was a courtesy title for the “duumviri” of a Rom. colony. Cicero speaks a little ironically of the practice (De Leg. Agr. 2. 93).

In the following ch. where Luke mentioned the magistrates of Thessalonica (Acts 17:6, 8), the term “politarch” is used, a title not found elsewhere in extant lit. It was once dismissed as ignorance on Luke’s, or the writer’s, part. Sixteen epigraphical examples have since come to light from the area to prove that it was a Macedonian term. Epigraphy similarly confirms Luke’s title for “the first man” of Malta.

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 (2:46; 3:1, 11; 5:21, 42), just as Christ Himself had done, and the faithful remnant before Him (Luke 2:37). The priests, from whom numerous converts were drawn (Acts 6:7), no doubt continued in their formal duties. It is true that the Church in those first days had the coherence of any protest movement, but that was no uncommon situation. The Qumran sect had sought the desert, in deliberate separation from urban Jewry and its manifest corruption. It was an old instinct of Israel to seek the desert and the old pure sources of undefiled devotion. Urban religion, ever prone to apostasy of one sort and another, was never safe from the sudden irruption of an Elijah, an Amos, or a John the Baptist with a fearless challenge and a call to repentance.

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 (6:1-6).

It was the scattering occasioned by persecution (8:1) which accelerated the process of self-awareness. Driven from Jerusalem, and finding a second headquarters in Antioch, the Christian community which separated from the apostles’ authority seems to have developed a democratic organization on the model of the Gr. political “ecclesia” (11:29; 13:1-3), which assumed responsibility for the dispatch of missionaries (13:2) and relief of the poor (11:29). The primacy of the Jerusalem community was recognized, both because of the presence of the apostles and because of the ancient sanctity of the Holy City. This preeminence was to pass with the destruction of Jerusalem in the Great Revolt (a.d. 66-70). There are indications that this tragedy was for the health of the Church, for Jerusalem was clearly the home of the Pharisaic wing of the Church, more rigid in its Judaism than the task of world evangelism warranted and aloof from Gentile participation. The scattering of the Jerusalem church members relieved Christians at large from the embarrassment felt by Paul and James before the intransigence of this group (21:17-26).

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 (15:2), conciliatory, as his world-wide collection for the poor of the Judean church pathetically demonstrated, clear-cut in his doctrine, and unwavering in the drive to his goal. The whole attitude of the Church, as the book reveals it, was a zeal for expansion and extension, a sense of mission, which has inspired the missionary effort of all the centuries. The book is “the great handbook of Christian missionary enthusiasm” (A. W. Blunt).

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 (2:14-40; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:30-32). The outline is brief, but Luke is something of a master in the art of précis, and the account of what was said was prob. direct from Peter himself. An examination of these four short statements is enough to establish certain significant facts. It is clear that Paul’s Christology was not the elaborate invention of the apostle to the Gentiles. It is visible in its fundamentals in Peter’s doctrine. The approach is invariably an appeal to the OT with full acceptance of its authority. Christ was the promised Messiah, whose coming, death, and resurrection were foretold in prophecy. The bodily historical resurrection is given prominence. This, it should be noted, took place in Jerusalem, where the verification of the empty tomb was a simple matter. In short, Luke’s revelation of the first forms of Christian doctrine give no manner of encouragement or excuse to any modification or corruption of Christianity which diminishes the authority of the Heb. Scriptures, denies the full messiahship of Christ, or questions the historicity of the resurrection. It must be noted that Peter in his earlier pronouncements, like Paul after him (17:30, 31), preached for decision and pointed his appeal with a strong call to repent. Little is said in these early speeches of the life and ethical teaching of Christ, but the context of the utterances accounts for this omission. The Church was first in confrontation with the world. These were not directions to Christian communities anxious to interpret their Christian faith in daily behavior and social attitudes.

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” (7:52). The speech was interrupted by tumult, and it is clear enough that the end is hurried and abbreviated. In Acts 7:56, however, there is the clearest declaration of the Resurrection.

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 Pontius Pilate, 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 nodetitle, 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.

The chronology.

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 (Acts 11:27-30). This was, of course, one of those anticipatory references by which Luke habitually prepared the way for the entrance of major actors on the stage of his narrative. At first sight the passage seems to contain chronological promise, for Herod died in the late summer of a.d. 44, and the sharp persecution of the Church prob. took place in the early months of the same year. Was Paul’s visit to Jerusalem, therefore, in the closing months of a.d. 43, or early in a.d. 44? Was it the second visit of Galatians 2:1 in connection with which he makes an ambiguous reference to “fourteen years”? The date of the famine does not help. Josephus mentions a famine which afflicted Judea under the procurators Cuspius Fadus and Tiberius Alexander that was between a.d. 44 and 48. It might be supposed that famine relief would be called for in the later rather than in the earlier years of the dearth. This assumption would disrupt a chronological sequence which it is natural to assume between the two successive chs. involved. Or did the Church, moved by the vividness of Agabus’ prophecy and the appeal which doubtless accompanied it, send aid in advance? But since authorities as diverse as Tacitus, Suetonius, Dion Cassius, and Eusebius refer to the frequent affliction of dearth through the Rom. world in Claudius’ principate, need the famine of Josephus’ account be the one referred to in Acts 11:27-30? In other words, the date of Paul’s journey to Jerusalem with his future colleague can only be guessed. It was before the outbreak of the Herodian persecution, and prob. not long before. The marg in of doubt is slight but real.

b. A problem equally insoluble gathers around the date of Felix’ departure from his procuratorship and the arrival of his successor, Porcius Festus. 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.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.

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 (2 Cor 11:32) is no help. It provides another tantalizing problem of two or three years’ margin of uncertainty.

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 nodetitle on Gentile admission can best be assigned to a.d. 48.

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.

Bibliography

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, Cyril of Jerusalem, 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 (Textus Receptus; the Revised Version (British and American); the critical text like that of Westcott and Hort, The nodetitle 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 King James Version 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 Gospel of Luke (Philology of the Gospels, 1898). In 1896 Blass published this Roman form of the text of Ac (Acta Apostolorum, secundum Formam quae videtur Romanam). Blass calls this first, rough, unabridged copy of Ac (beta) and considers that it was issued at Rome. The later edition, abridged and revised, he calls alpha. Curiously enough, in Ac 11:28, Codex Bezae has "when we had gathered together," making Luke present at Antioch. The idea of two editions is not wholly original with Blass. Leclerc, a Dutch philologist, had suggested the notion as early as the beginning of the 18th century. Bishop Lightfoot had also mentioned it (On a Fresh Revision of the New Testament, 29). But Blass worked the matter out and challenged the world of scholarship with his array of arguments. He has not carried his point with all, though he has won a respectable following. Zahn (Einl, II, 338 ff, 1899) had already been working toward the same view (348). He accepts in the main Blass’ theory, as do Belser, Nestle, Salmon, Zockler. Blass acknowledges his debt to Corssen (Der cyprianische Text der Acta Apostolorum, 1892), but Corssen considers the alpha text as the earlier and the beta text as a later revision.

(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 Roman Empire, 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 Mt 27:49). It is not necessary in Ac 11:20 to say that Hellenas is in Western authorities (AD, etc.) but is not a Western reading. It is at any rate too soon to say the final word about the text of Acts, though on the whole the alpha text still holds the field as against the beta text. The Syriac text is, of course, later, and out of court.

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 Apostolic Age (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 (Titus 1:5). But the absence of mention of Titus in Ac may be due to the fact that he was a brother of Luke (compare 2Co 8:18; 12:18). So A. Souter in DCG, article "Luke." If Luke is the author, it is easy to understand why his name does not appear. If Titus is his brother, the same explanation occurs. As between Luke and Titus the medical language of Ac argues for Luke. The writer was a physician. This fact Hobart (The Medical Language of Luke, 1882) has demonstrated. Compare Zahn, Einl, 2, 435 ff; Harnack’s Luke the Physician, 177 ff. The arguments from the use of medical terms are not all of equal weight. But the style is colored at points by the language of a physician. The writer uses medical terms in a technical sense. This argument involves a minute comparison with the writings of physicians of the time. Thus in Ac 28:3 f kathapto, according to Hobart (288), is used in the sense of poisonous matter invading the body, as in Dioscorides, Animal. Ven. Proem. So Galen, De Typis 4 (VII, 467), uses it "of fever fixing on parts of the body." Compare Harnack, Luke the Physician, 177 f. Harnack agrees also that the terms of the diagnosis in Ac 28:8 "are medically exact and can be vouched for from medical literature" (ibid., 176 f). Hobart has overdone his argument and adduced many examples that are not pertinent, but a real residuum remains, according to Harnack. Then pimprasthai is a technical term for swelling. Let these serve as examples. The interest of the writer in matters of disease is also another indication, compare Lu 8:43. Now Luke was a companion of Paul during his later ministry and was a physician. (Col 4:14). Hence, he fulfils all the requirements of the case. The argument thus far is only probable, it is true; but there is to be added the undoubted fact that the same writer wrote both Gospel and Ac (Ac 1:1). The direct allusion to the Gospel is reinforced by identity of style and method in the two books.

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, nodetitle, 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, Justin Martyr, 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 Ac 5:36 f and Josephus (Ant., XX, v, 1 f). In Josephus the names occur some twenty lines apart and the resemblance is only slight indeed. The use of peitho in connection with Theudas and apostesai concerning Judas is all that requires notice. Surely, then, two common words for "persuade" and "revolt" are not enough to carry conviction of the writer’s use of Josephus. The matter is more than offset by the differences in the two reports of the death of Herod Agrippa (Ac 12:19-23; Josephus, Ant, XVIII, vi, 7, XIX, viii, 2). The argument about Josephus may be definitely dismissed from the field. With that goes all the ground for a 2nd-century date. Other arguments have been adduced (see Holtzmann, Einl, 1892, 405) such as the use of Paul’s epistles, acquaintance with Plutarch, Arrian and Pausanias, because of imitation in method of work (i.e. parallel lives of Peter and Paul, periods of history, etc.), correction of Ga in Ac (for instance, Ga 1:17-24 and Ac 9:26-30; Ga 2:1-10 and Ac 15:1-33). The parallel with Plutarch is fanciful, while the use of Panl’s epistles is by no means clear, the absence of such use, indeed, being one of the characteristics of the book. The variation from Galatians is far better explained on the assumption that Luke had not seen the epistles.

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 Lu 21:20 shows that this tragedy had already occurred, as compared with Mr 13:14 and Mt 24:15. But the mention of armies is very general, to be sure. Attention is called also to the absence of the warning in Luke. Harnack (The Ac of the Apostles, 291 f) admits that the arguments in favor of the date 70 to 80 are by no means conclusive. He writes "to warn critics against a too hasty closing of the chronological question." In his new book (Neue Untersuchungen zur Apostelgeschichte, etc., 1911, S. 81) Harnack definitely accepts the date before the destruction of Jerusalem. Lightfoot would give no date to Ac because of the uncertainty about the date of the Gospel.

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 Ac 1:1 is quite gratuitous, since in the Koine, not to say the earlier Greek, "first was often used when only two were mentioned (compare "our first story" and "second story," "first wife" and "second wife"). The whole tone of the book is that which one would naturally have before 64 AD. After the burning of Rome and the destruction of Jerusalem the attitude maintained in the book toward Romans and Jews would have been very difficult unless the date was a long times afterward Harnack wishes "to help a doubt to its lust dues." That "doubt" of Harnack is destined to become the certainty of the future. (Since this sentence was written Harnack has settled his own doubt.) The book will, I think, be finally credited to the time 63 AD in Rome. The Gospel of Luke will then naturally belong to the period of Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea. The judgment of Moffatt (Historical New Testament, 1901, 416) that "it cannot be earlier than 80 AD is completely upset by the powerful attack of Harnack on his own previous position. See also Moffatt’s Introduction to the Literature of the New Testament (1911) and Koch’s Die Abfassungszeit des lukanischen Geschichtswerkes (1911).

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 Lu 1:1-4 for the general method of the author. He used both oral and written sources. In the Ac the matter is somewhat simplified by the fact that Luke was the companion of Paul for a considerable part of the narrative (the "we" sections, Ac 16:11-17; 20:5; 21:18; 27 and 28). It is more than probable that Luke was with Paul also during his last stay in Jerusalem and during the imprisonment at Caesarea.


XIII. Analysis. 1. The connection between the work of the apostles and that of Jesus (Ac 1:1-11).

2. The equipment of the early disciples for their task (Ac 1:12-2:47). (a) The disciples obeying Christ’s parting command (Ac 1:12-24). (b) The place of Judas filled (Ac 1:15-26). (c) Miraculous manifestations of the presence of the nodetitle (Ac 2:1-13). (d) Peter’s interpretation of the situation (Ac 2:14-36). (e) The immediate effect of the sermon (Ac 2:37-41). (f) The new spirit in the Christian community (Ac 2:42-47).

3. The development of the work in Jerusalem (Ac 3:1-8:1). (a) An incident in the work of Peter and John with Peter’s apologetic (Ac 3). (b) Opposition of the Sadducees aroused by the preaching of the resurrection of Jesus (Ac 4:1-31). (c) An internal difficulty, the problem of poverty (Ac 4:32-5:11). (d) Great progress of the cause in the city (Ac 5:12-16). (e) Renewed hostility of the Sadducees and Gamaliel’s retort to the Pharisees (Ac 5:17-42). (f) A crisis in church life and the choice of the seven Hellenists (Ac 6:1-7). (g) Stephen’s spiritual interpretation of Christianity stirs the antagonism of the Pharisees and leads to his violent death (Ac 6:8-8:1).

4. The compulsory extension of the gospel to Judea, Samaria and the neighboring regions (Ac 8:1-40). (a) The great persecution, with Saul as leader (Ac 8:1-4). (b) Philip’s work as a notable example of the work of the scattered disciples (Ac 8:5-40).

5. The conversion of Saul changes the whole situation for Christianity (Ac 9:1-31). (a) Saul’s mission to Damascus (Ac 9:1-3). (b) Saul stopped in his hostile course and turns Christian himself (Ac 9:4-18). (c) Saul becomes a powerful exponent of the gospel in Damascus and Jerusalem (Ac 9:19-30). (d) The church has peace (Ac 9:31).

6. The door opened to the Gentiles, both Roman and Greek (Ac 9:32-11:30). (a) Peter’s activity in this time of peace (Ac 9:32-43). (b) The appeal from Cornelius in Caesarea and Peter’s response (Ac 10). (c) Peter’s arraignment before the Pharisaic element in the church in Jerusalem (Ac 11:1-18). (d) Greeks in Antioch are converted and Barnabas brings Saul to this work (Ac 11:19-26). (e) The Greek Christians send relief to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem (Ac 11:27-30).

7. Persecution from the civil government (Ac 12). (a) Herod Agrippa I kills James and imprisons Peter (Ac 12:1-19). (b) Herod pays the penalty for his crimes (Ac 12:20-23). (c) Christianity prospers (Ac 12:24 f).

8. The Gentilepropaganda from Antioch under the leadership of Barnabas and Saul (Ac 13-14). (a) The specific call of the Holy Spirit to this work (Ac 13:1-3). (b) The province of Cyprus and the leadership of Paul (Ac 13:4-12). (c) The province of Pamphylia and the desertion of John Mark (Ac 13:13). (d) The province of Galatia (Pisidia and Lycaonia) and the stronghold of the gospel upon the native population (Ac 13:14-14:24). (e) The return and report to Antioch (Ac 14:25-28).

9. The Gentilecampaign challenged by the Judaizers (Ac 15:1-35). (a) They meet Paul and Barnabas at Antioch who decide to appeal to Jerusalem (Ac 15:1-3). (b) The first public meeting in Jerusalem (Ac 15:4 f). (c) The second and more extended discussion with the decision of the conference (Ac 15:6-29). (d) The joyful reception (in Antioch) of the victory of Paul and Barnabas (Ac 15:30-35).

10. The second great campaign extending to Europe (Ac 15:36-18:22). (a) The breach between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark (Ac 15:36-39). (b) From Antioch to Troas with the Macedonian Cry (Ac 15:40-16:10). (c) In Philippi in Macedonia the gospel gains a foothold in Europe, but meets opposition (Ac 16:11-40). (d) Paul is driven also from Thessalonica and Berea (compare Philippi), cities of Macedonia also (Ac 17:1-15). (e) Paul’s experience in Athens (Ac 17:16-34). (f) In Corinth Paul spends nearly two years and the cause of Christ wins legal recognition from the Roman governor (Ac 18:1-17). (g) The return to Antioch by way of Ephesus, Caesarea and probably Jerusalem (Ac 18:18-22).

11. The third great tour, with Ephesus as headquarters (Ac 18:23-20:3). (a) Paul in Galatia and Phrygia again (Ac 18:23). (b) Apollos in Ephesus before Paul comes (Ac 18:24-28). (c) Paul’s three years in Ephesus (Ac 19:1-20:1). (d) The brief visit to Corinth because of the troubles there (Ac 20:1-3).



14. Paul a prisoner in Caesarea (Ac 23:23-26). (a) The flight to Caesarea and presentation to Felix (Ac 23:31-35). (b) Paul’s appearance before Felix (Ac 24). (c) Paul before Festus (Ac 25:1-12). (d) Paul, as a matter of curiosity and courtesy, brought before Herod nodetitle (Ac 25:13-26:32).

15. Paul going to Rome (Ac 27:1-28:15). (a) From Caesarea to Myra (Ac 27:1-5). (b) From Myra to Fair Havens (Ac 27:6-8). (c) From Fair Havens to Malta (Ac 27:9-28:10). (d) From Malta to Rome (Ac 28:11-15).

16. Paul in Rome at last (Ac 28:16-31). (a) His quarters (Ac 28:16). (b) His first interview with the Jews (Ac 28:17-22). (c) His second interview with the Jews (Ac 28:23-28). (d) Two years afterward still a prisoner, but with freedom to preach the gospel (Ac 28:30 f). LITERATURE

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:

1. Introduction:

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 Canon of the New Testament (1869), Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament (translation, 1909), Moffatt, Introduction to the Lit. of the New Testament (1911).

2. Text:

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 History of Israel); 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 Christian Churches (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, Voyage and Shipwreck of Paul (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).

5. Commentaries:

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 1Co 9:22) toward the standpoint of the Greeks (but compare Col and Eph). However, Paul does not sacrifice his principle of grace in Christ. He called the Athenians to repentance, preached the judgment for sin and announced the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man here taught did not mean that God yanked at sin and could save all men without repentance and forgiveness of sin. Chase (The Credibility of Acts) gives a collection of Paul’s missionary addresses. The historical reality and value of the speeches in Ac may be said to be vindicated by modern scholarship. For a sympathetic and scholarly discussion of all of Paul’s addresses see Jones, Paul the Orator (1910). The short speech of Tertullus (Ac 24) was made in public, as was the public statement of Festus in Ac 26. The letter of Claudias Lysias to Felix in Ac 23 was a public document. How Luke got hold of the conversation about Paul between Festus and Agrippa in Ac 26 is more difficult to conjecture.

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. The Epistle to the Romans was 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 Ga 2:1-10 and Ac 15 the matter might be dropped at this point.

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 Ac 15. This is, of course, possible in itself, but it is by no means required by the variations between the two reports. The contention of Lightfoot has never been really overturned, that in Ga 2:1-10 Paul gives the personal side of the conference, not a full report of the general meeting. What Paul is doing is to show the Galatians how he is on a par with the Jerusalem apostles, and how his authority and independence were acknowledged by them.

This aspect of the matter came out in the private conference. Paul is not in Ga 2:1-10 setting forth his victory over the Judaizers in behalf of Gentile freedom. But in Ac 15 it is precisely this struggle for Gentile freedom that is under discussion. Paul’s relations with the Jerusalem apostles is not the point at all, though it in plain in Ac that they agree. In Galatians also Paul’s victory for Gentile freedom comes out. Indeed, in Ac 15 it is twice mentioned that the apostles and elders were gathered together (15:4,6), and twice we are told that Paul and Barnabas addressed them (15:4,12). It is therefore natural to suppose that this private conference narrated by Paul in Galatians came in between 2:5 and 6. Luke may not, indeed, have seen the Epistle to the Galatians, and may not have heard from Paul the story of the private conference, though he knew of the two public meetings. If he did know of the private meeting, he thought it not pertinent to his narration. There is, of course, no contradiction between Paul’s going up by revelation and by the appointment of the church in Antioch. In Ga 2:1 we have the second (Ga 1:18) visit to Jerusalem after his conversion mentioned by Paul, while that in Ac 15 is the third in Ac (9:28; 11:29 f; 15:2).

But there was no particular reason for Paul to mention the visit in Ac 11:30, which did not concern his relation to the apostles in Jerusalem. Indeed, only the "elders" are mentioned on this occasion. The same independence between Ac and Ga occurs in Ga 1:17-24, and Ac 9:26-30. In Ac there is no allusion to the visit to Arabia, just as there is no mention of the private conference in Ac 15. So also in Ac 15:35-39 there is no mention of the sharp disagreement between Paul and Peter at Antioch recorded in Ga 2:11 ff. Paul mentions it merely to prove his own authority and independence as an apostle. Luke had no occasion to record the incident, if he was acquainted with the matter. These instances illustrate well how, when the Ac and the epistles vary, they really supplement each other.

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 (Lu 2:1 f), and the entrance of nodetitle upon his ministry with the names of the chief Roman and Jewish rulers of the time (Lu 3:1 f) So also in the Ac he does not leave us without various notes of times. He does not, indeed, give the date of the Ascension or of the Crucifixion, though he places the Ascension forty days after the Resurrection (Ac 1:3), and the great Day of Pentecost would then come ten days later, "not many days hence" (Ac 1:5)

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 Ac 9, but the year again is not given. We have no hint as to the age of Saul at his conversion. So again the relation of Peter’s work in Caesarea (10) to the preaching to the Greeks in Antioch (11) is not made clear, though probably in this order. It is only when we come to Ac 12 that we reach an event whose date is reasonably certain. This is the death of Herod Agrippa I in 44 AD. But even so, Luke does not correlate the life of Paul with that incident. Ramsay (St. Paul the Traveler, 49) places the persecution and death of James in 44, and the visit of Barnabas and Saul to Jerusalem in 46. About 44, then, we may consider that Saul came to Antioch from Tarsus.

The "fourteen years" in Ga 2:1 as already shown probably point to the visit in Ac 15 some years later. But Saul had been in Tarsus some years and had spent some three years in Arabia and Damascus after his conversion (Ga 1:18). Beyond this it is not possible to go. We do not know the age of Saul in 44 AD or the year of his conversion. He was probably born not far from 1 AD. But if we locate Paul at Antioch with Barnabas in 44 AD, we can make some headway. Here Paul spent a year (Ac 11:26). The visit to Jerusalem in Ac 11, the first missionary tour in 13 and 14, the conference at Jerusalem in 15, the second missionary tour in 16-18, the third missionary tour and return to Jerusalem in 18- 21, the arrest in Jerusalem and two years in Caesarea in 21-26, all come between 44 AD and the recall of Felix and the coming of Festus. It used to be taken for granted that Festus came in 60 AD.

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 (2Co 12:12). It is not scientific to rule a book out beforehand because it narrates miracles (Blass, Acta Apostolorum, 8). Ramsay (St. Paul the Traveler, 8) tells his experience in regard to the trustworthiness of Acts: "I began with a mind unfavorable to it, for the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the Tubingen theory had at one time quite convinced me." It was by actual verification of Ac in points where it could be tested by inscriptions, Paul’s epistles, or current non-Christian writers, that "it was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth." He concludes by "placing this great writer on the high pedestal that belongs to him" (10). McGiffert (The Apostolic Age) had been compelled by the geographical and historical evidence to abandon in part the older criticism. He also admitted that the Ac "is more trustworthy than previous critics allowed" (Ramsay, Luke the Physician, 5). Schmiedel (Encyclopedia Biblica) still argues that the writer of Ac is inaccurate because he was not in possession of full information. But on the whole Ac has had a triumphant vindicatioin in modern criticism. Julicher (Einl, 355) admits "a genuine core overgrown with legendary accretions" (Chase, Credibility, 9). The moral honesty of Luke, his fidelity to truth (Rackham on Acts, 46), is clearly shown in both his Gospel and the Acts.

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 (Lu 1:1-4). His attitude and spent are those of the historian. He reveals artistic skill, it is true, but not to the discredit of his record. He does not give a bare chronicle, but he writes a real history, an interpretation of the events recorded. He had adequate resources in the way of materials and endowment and has made conscientious and skillful use of his opportunity. It is not necessary here to give in detail all the points in which Luke has been vindicated (see Knowling on Acts, Ramsay’s books and Harnack’s Luke and Acts). The most obvious are the following: The use of "proconsul" instead of "propraetor" in Ac 13:7 is a striking instance. Curiously enough Cyprus was not a senatorial province very long. An inscription has been found in Cyprus "in the proconsulship of Paulus."

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 (Ac 16:20), and are accompanied by lictors or rhabdouchoi (Ac 16:35). In Thessalonica the rulers are "politarchs" (Ac 17:6), a title found nowhere else, but now discovered on an inscription of Thessalonica. He rightly speaks of the Court of the Areopagus at Athens (Ac 17:19) and the proconsul in Achaia (Ac 18:12).

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" (Ac 19:31), "the presidents of the `Common Council’ of the province in cities where there was a temple of Rome and the Emperor; they superintended the worship of the Emperor" (Maclean). Note also the fact that Ephesus is "temple-keeper of the great Diana" (Ac 19:35). Then observe the town clerk (Ac 19:35), and the assembly (Ac 19:39). Note also the title of Felix, "governor" or procurator (Ac 24:1), Agrippa the king (25:13), Julius the centurion and the Augustan band (Ac 27:1). Ac 27 is a marvel of interest and accuracy for all who wish to know details of ancient seafaring. The matter has been worked over in a masterful way by James Smith, Voyage and Shipwreck of Paul. The title "First Man of the Island" (Ac 28:7) is now found on a coin of Melita. These are by no means all the matters of interest, but they will suffice. In most of the items given above Luke’s veracity was once challenged, but now he has been triumphantly vindicated.

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 Lu 2:2 and Ac 5:37.

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 (Ac 5) Luke as compared with Josephus outclasses his rival. Harnack (The Ac of the Apostles, 203-29) gives in his usual painstaking way a number of examples of "inaccuracy and discrepancy" But the great bulk of them are merely examples of independence in narration (compare Ac 9 with 22 and 26, where we have three reports of Paul’s conversion). Harnack did not, indeed, once place as high a value on Luke as a historian as he now does. It is all the more significant, therefore, to read the following in Harnack’s The Ac of the Apostles (298 f): "The book has now been restored to the position of credit which is its rightful due. It is not only, taken as a whole, a genuinely historical work, but even in the majority of its details it is trustworthy 6 ..... Judged from almost every possible standpoint of historical criticism it is a solid, respectable, and in many respects an extraordinary work." That is, in my opinion, an understatement of the facts (see Ramsay), but it is a remarkable conclusion concerning the trustworthiness of Luke when one considers the distance that Harnack has come. At any rate the prejudice against Luke is rapidly disappearing. The judgment of the future is forecast by Ramsay, who ranks Luke as a historian of the first order.

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 Ac 10:25, and that to Paul in 14:11; see also the punishment of Ananias and Sapphira and that of Elymas). But Knowling (Acts, 16) well replies that curiously no use is made of the death of both Peter and Paul in Rome, possibly at the same time. If the Ac was written late, this matter would be open to the knowledge of the writer.

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 Ro 15), but that is not to say that he has given the book a political bias or colored it so as to deprive it of its historical worth. It is probably true (compare Knowling, Acts, 15; J. Weiss, Ueber die Absicht und den literarischen Charakter der Apostelgeschichte) that Luke felt, as did Paul, that Jusaism realized its world destiny in Christianity, that Christianity was the true Judaism, the spiritual and real Israel. If Luke wrote Ac in Rome, while Paul’s case was still before Nero, it is easy to understand the somewhat long and minute account of the arrest and trials of Paul in Jerusalem, Caesarea and Rome.

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 (Ac 1:1), a possible though by no means necessary inference from "first treatise." It was a climax to carry the narrative on to Rome with Paul, but it is rather straining the point to find all this in Ac 1:8. Rome was not "the nethermost part of the earth," Spain more nearly being that. Nor did Paul take the gospel to Rome.


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 (Ac 1:1 f). Christ chose the apostles, commanded them to wait for power from on high, filled them with the Holy Spirit and then sent them on the mission of world conquest. In the Ac Luke records the waiting, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the planting of a powerful church in Jerusalem and the expansion of the gospel to Samaria and all over the Roman Empire. He addresses the book to Theophilus as his patron, a Gentile Christian plainly, as he had done with his gospel. The book is designed for the enlightenment of Christians generally concerning the historic origins of Christianity. It is in truth the first church history. It is in reality the Ac of the Holy Spirit as wrought through these men. It is an inspiring narration. Luke had no doubt whatever of the future of a gospel with such a history and with such heroes of faith as Peter and Paul.