The Acts of the Apostles

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A module on the Study of Book of Acts is coming up this September. I have not yet decided whether to take it up or not. I am still 50-50 about it but knowing myself, I would regret it if I were to miss it. So, here goes.

1. Outline and Content
The book of Acts takes up the story where the Gospel ends with the resurrection of Jesus. It goes on to record his ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the rise and the early progress of Christianity. It also covers the dispersal of the Hellenistic members of the church, the execution of Stephen, the evangelisation of distant region as far north as Antioch, the beginning of the Gentile mission, the account of Paul's conversion, Peter's evangelisation of the plain of Sharon that brought about the conversion of the first Gentile household, Paul's arrival in Antioch to take part in the Gentile mission there and Peter's departure from Jerusalem after his escape from Herod Agrippa I, Paul's apostolic ministry with Barnabas, Silas and others. Acts covers mission on the road from Jerusalem to Antioch and thence to Rome.

2. Origin and Purpose
The preface of the Gospel of Luke (Lk 1:1-4) applies equally to both books: so that Theophilus would have a consecutive and reliable account of the rise and progress of Christianity. The date of the Book of Acts is not indicated precisely. It could not have been written earlier than the latest event it records. Hence, with Paul spending 2 years in custody in Rome, covering probably AD 60 - 61. If it is dependent on the Antiquities of Josephus, it would not be written earlier than AD 93.

3. Historical Character
The historical trustworthiness of Luke's account has been amply confirmed by archaeological discovery. The characteristics of the book includes being apologetic, the0logical, with detailed accuracy and as a narrative of contemporary history. It is full of references to city magistrates, provincial governors, client kings and the like, allowing just the opportunity to prove the place and time in question.

4. Apologetic Emphasis
Luke in both his work set out to demonstrate that Christianity is not a menace to imperial law and order. He cites judgements of governors, pronounces 3 times that Jesus is not guilty of sedition and that the charges that were brought against his followers in Acts cannot be sustained.

5. Theological Interest
The dominating theme of Acts is the activity of the Holy Spirit. It also covers the inauguration of the new age in which Jesus reigns as Lord and Messiah.

Source: IH Marshall, et al (eds), New Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, (Leicester, IVP): 11-3

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