Genre Sources And Historicity Of Acts
The title “Acts of the Apostles” would seem to identify it with the genre telling of the deeds and achievements of great men , but it was not the title given by the author. The anonymous author aligned LukeActs to the “narratives” which many others had written, and described his own work as an “orderly account” . It lacks exact analogies in Hellenistic or Jewish literature.
Acts was read as a reliable history of the early church well into the post-Reformation era, but by the 17th century biblical scholars began to notice that it was incomplete and tendentiousits picture of a harmonious church is quite at odds with that given by Paul’s letters, and it omits important events such as the deaths of both Peter and Paul. The mid-19th-century scholar Ferdinand Baur suggested that the author had re-written history to present a united Peter and Paul and advance a single orthodoxy against the Baur continues to have enormous influence, but today there is less interest in determining the historical accuracy of Acts than in understanding the author’s theological program.
Why Did Luke Write Acts
Lukes intent in writing the book of Acts can be found in the opening verses of Luke. From there we read:
Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed .
Since Luke in his own words, had perfect understanding of all things from the first, he set forth to write an orderly account of those things which had been fulfilled i.e., the life and ministry of Jesus. It is noteworthy that Luke addresses both of his books to an individual named Theophilus. His identity is unknown, except that it seems evident he was a man of authority as Luke refers to him as most excellent. What we can be quite sure of is that he was, like Luke, a Gentile. Based on his Greek name, and one who had been instructed in the ways of the Lord, he was possibly a convert to Christianity. With Luke being the only Gentile writer in the Bible, he alone addresses his letters to a Gentile.
Peter Gives The First Evangelistic Sermon
Immediately following the pouring out of the Spirit in Acts 2, theres a lot of confusion. All of the sudden a bunch of disciples from the Galilean region are praising God in languages previously unknown to them. It must have sounded chaotic because people start ridiculing them by saying theyre drunk .
Peter, who up till now has mostly been known for putting his foot in his mouth, stands up and addresses the crowd. And what comes out is a sermon so powerful that over 3,000 people respond to the gospel and get baptized.
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Lucan Apocalyptic Discourses Assume A Date After The Fall Of Jerusalem In Ad 70
The most central argument is that the eschatological discourseswhere Jesus predicts destructionassume a post-70 date. Thats because the temple, along with the city of Jerusalem, was destroyed in AD 70.
Here is what Jesus says in 19:4144:
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peacebut now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of Gods coming to you.
And here is what Jesus says in Luke 21:2024:
When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
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Title Unity Of Luke Acts Authorship And Date
The title “Acts of the Apostles” was first used by Irenaeus in the late 2nd century. It is not known whether this was an existing title or one invented by Irenaeus it does seem clear that it was not given by the author, as the word práxeis only appears once in the text and there it does not refer to the apostles but refers to deeds confessed by followers to the apostles.
The earliest possible date for Luke-Acts is around 62 AD, the time of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, but most scholars date the work to 8090 AD on the grounds that it uses Mark as a source, looks back on the destruction of Jerusalem, and does not show any awareness of the letters of Paul if it does show awareness of the Pauline epistles, and also of the work of the Jewish historian Josephus, as some believe, then a date in the early 2nd century is possible.
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Proof Through Eyewitness Historical Accuracy
Luke uses we throughout the Book of Acts. Only a sojourner of the mission could make that claim. A second century account would be a dishonest one.
When was the Book of Acts written? Let us now look at what is actually included to drive home its first century authorship. The Book of Acts is literally a historical anomaly. One of the most important factors of judging the historicity of a literary work is the historical accuracy of its content. There are facts that Luke mentions that point not only to a skilled historian, but an eyewitness.
In his book The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, Colin Hemer lists many instances where the Author speaks of subtle, yet powerful, accurate details of his journey. We could not say his journey if the book was written in the second century.
Tim McGrew, Professor of Philosophy at Western Michigan University, lists 41 examples of details that Luke gets right in an article titled On the Historical Accuracy of the Book of Acts. I encourage taking a look at the list but at a high level Luke mentions over 80 accounts that strengthen the authenticity that Acts was not only written in the first century but by an eyewitness.
- accurate accounts of natural crossings
- titles of leaders, terminology that was only used in the first century..
- Exact locations of synagogues and temples
- There are MANY more
Paul Goes To Caesarea : 31
v31 Thesoldiers obeyed the commanders orders. That night, they took Paul with them.They took him to the city called Antipatris. v32 The next day, thesoldiers that were walking returned to the *fort. The men on horses went withPaul. v33 They arrived in Caesarea and they delivered the letter to the*governor. They handed Paul over to him. v34 The *governor read theletter. He asked Paul, Which *province are you from? The *governor discoveredthat Paul was from Cilicia. v35 The *governor said, I will listen toyou later. The people that accuse you are coming here. As soon as they arrive,I will listen to you. Then he ordered men to guard Paul in Herods palace.
Verses 31-34 The first part of the journey wasthe most dangerous part. Antipatris was nearly 64 kilometres awayfrom Jerusalem. All the soldiers arrived in Antipatris with Paul. Then thesoldiers that were walking returned to *Jerusalem.
Paul and the other soldiers continued theirjourney to Caesarea. The distance from Antipatris to Caesarea was about 40kilometres .
Because Felix was the *governor of *Judea, hewas now responsible for Paul. Felix was Lysias boss. So Lysias had to explainthe situation to him. Lysias explained it in a letter.
Usually, a prisoner had his *trial in the*province where the crime had possibly happened. But sometimes the *governorcould send the prisoner to that prisoners own *province. However, Felixdecided to have Pauls *trial in *Judea. Paul had to wait until the *Jewishleaders arrived.
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Acts Havent Always Been Called Acts
Finally, the Acts of the Apostles havent always been called the Acts of the Apostles. You see, the book didnt receive this traditional name until around the 3rd century or so. Therefore, the Church Fathers simply called the book by the artists name. For example, all Ranias called it Lukes witness to the Apostles and certainly and simply called it Lukes commentary. So who wrote the Acts of the Apostles well? It is generally believed that Luke Lokrum is also the author of the Gospel. Luke is also the author of this book, the Acts of the Apostles.
How Is This Book Different From The Gospels
The book of Acts is a continuation of the record Luke began in the Gospel of Luke. Lukes Gospel is his account of the life of Jesus Christ the book of Acts is his description of the fulfillment of the command Jesus gave His Apostles to preach the gospel in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem . Both books were addressed to Lukes friend Theophilus .
Acts is not a complete record of everything that happened in the Church after the Saviors Ascension. Luke wrote mainly about the ministry of the Apostle Paul and included a few records about Peter and the other Apostles. Acts is the last book in the New Testament that tells a story the rest of the books are letters and visions from that time.
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Paul The Church Persecutor And Planter
But towards the end of Peters ministry in the book of Acts, this other guy starts to take center stage. The Apostle Paul used to be a persecutor of Christians persecutor of the church. Now he gets saved in Acts chapter 9, and he now is getting ready to be the main spokesman to primarily the Gentiles.
Acts Reveals The Conversion Story Of Paul
Saul of Damascus was a staunch opponent of the gospel. When the crowd stones Stephen, Saul was there watching over everyones belongings. Soon he was going from house church to house church and dragging off and imprisoning Christians.
On his way to Damascus to round up more Christians, Saul had an unexpected encounter:
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?
Who are you, Lord? Saul asked.
I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting, he replied. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything .
From this point onward, Saul becomes a follower of Jesus and a significant force in the growth of the church.
Interesting sidenote: In much of the New Testament, Saul is called Paul. Many assume that this is due to a change in his name similar to Jesus changing Simons name to Peter. But thats not the case. Even during his conversion, Jesus calls him Saul.
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When Was The Book Of Acts Written And Why Does It Matter
According to our faith, the Book of Acts is not a story, like Homers Iliad. We claim it as the accurate historical account of Christianitys first generation. To make that claim, Acts has to be able to withstand tests of historicity. One of those tests is when was book the book of acts written? The timespan between an event and when it was recorded is extremely important.
If the skeptics are correct and it was dated into the second century, then Acts becomes less credible as a historical account. In the late 19th Century, a German Theologian named F.C. Bauer put forth a case for the Book of Acts being a creation of the second-century church. This view became widely accepted. If Acts was written after 100 A.D. were true, how would this damage the credibility of the Bible?
With nearly 2 generations passing, Acts would be a legend, not a historical account Remember, there was no internet or even encyclopedias. Things were spread by oral tradition or handwritten documents. Anything passed 2 generations is a legend.
A second-century dating would remove eyewitness accountsThis is important because eyewitnesses have the opportunity to agree or refute claims. Even the credibility of miracles could be called into question.
Why Did Luke Stop Writing So Suddenly
The book of Acts ends abruptly. Luke brings the story of Paul to the point where Paul, imprisoned in Rome, has been waiting for two years to be tried before Caesar.
But we read no more. What happened to Paul? Did he ever appear before Caesar? If so, was he condemned? Martyred? Acquitted? Released? Luke does not tell us.
Many suggestions are offered to explain the abruptness of this ending, but they are all speculation, and they all have holes:
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Acts Documents Three Pauline Mission Trips
Spurred by the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, Paul was constantly on the move. And while the three missionary journeys in Luke dont account for all of Pauls travels, theyre quite significant.
The first journey
- Paul and Barnabas start from Antiochs seaport Selucia where they sail to Cyprus
- From there they go to Pamphylia and the other Antioch in Pisidia
- They go down to Lycaonia, via Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe
- They return through Pisidia and Pamphylia, spending time in Perga
- Lastly, they go down to Attalia and take a ship back to Antioch in Syria
All told, the first journey lasted about two years and took them a little over 1,200 miles.
The second journey
- Paul and Silas begin by revisiting the locations in Pauls first journey
- They work in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium
- Paul, Silas, and Timothy go through Phrygia and Galatia, and then to Troas
- God gives Paul a vision calling him to Macedonia
- Paul goes to Achiah and works in Athens
- He moves on to Corinth where he meets Aquila and Priscilla
- The journey then takes him to Ephesus
- He takes a ship to the church in Caesarea and then returns to Antioch in Syria
This is a three-year journey that takes Paul over 2,700 miles.
The third journey
- Paul heads to Galatia and Phrygia
- Paul ends up in Ephesus
- Paul then heads back to Macedonia, Greece, Troas, and on to Miletus
- From Miletus, Paul sails to Caesarea and then back to Jerusalem
Acts Tells The Story Of The First Christian Martyr
We dont know a lot about Stephen, but Acts does tell us that the disciples ordained him as a deacon in the early church:
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word. This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them .
But Stephen soon began to stand out, making himself an essential member of the early church.
Now Stephen, a man full of Gods grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people .
Stephen gets dragged before the Sanhedrin for blasphemy against Moses and Yahweh. When asked if the charges were true, Stephen gave a beautiful and impassioned defense of Christianity . The leaders were so furious they dragged him out and stoned him.
The Spirit Transforms The Disciples
The night Jesus was arrested, He took the disciples to pray with Him, but they were too tired to keep watch. Then when the authorities take Jesus captive, the disciples scattered, frightened for their lives. In all the excitement, Peter famously denies three times that he even knows Jesus.
Of course, spending time with their resurrected Savior had a big impact on the faith of all the disciples, but their most dramatic change occurs after the Spirit comes. Almost immediately, they become explosive examples of the gospels power.