Easton's Bible Dictionary
The title now given to the fifth and last of the historical books of the New Testament.
The author styles it a "treatise" ( Acts 1:1 ). It was early called "The Acts,"
"The Gospel of the Holy Ghost," and "The Gospel of the Resurrection." It contains
properly no account of any of the apostles except Peter and Paul. John is noticed
only three times; and all that is recorded of James, the son of Zebedee, is his
execution by Herod. It is properly therefore not the history of the "Acts of the
Apostles," a title which was given to the book at a later date, but of "Acts of
Apostles," or more correctly, of "Some Acts of Certain Apostles."
As regards its authorship, it was certainly the work of Luke, the "beloved physician"
(Compare Luke 1:1 - 4 ; Acts 1:1 ). This is the uniform tradition of antiquity,
although the writer nowhere makes mention of himself by name. The style and idiom
of the Gospel of Luke and of the Acts, and the usage of words and phrases common
to both, strengthen this opinion. The writer first appears in the narrative in
Acts 16:11 , and then disappears till Paul's return to Philippi two years afterwards,
when he and Paul left that place together ( Acts 20:6 ), and the two seem henceforth
to have been constant companions to the end. He was certainly with Paul at Rome
(Acts 28 ; Colossians 4:14 ). Thus he wrote a great portion of that history from
personal observation. For what lay beyond his own experience he had the instruction
of Paul. If, as is very probable, 2 Timothy was written during Paul's second imprisonment
at Rome, Luke was with him then as his faithful companion to the last ( 2 Timothy
4:11 ). Of his subsequent history we have no certain information.
The design of Luke's Gospel was to give an exhibition of the character and work
of Christ as seen in his history till he was taken up from his disciples into
heaven; and of the Acts, as its sequel, to give an illustration of the power and
working of the gospel when preached among all nations, "beginning at Jerusalem."
The opening sentences of the Acts are just an expansion and an explanation of
the closing words of the Gospel. In this book we have just a continuation of the
history of the church after Christ's ascension. Luke here carries on the history
in the same spirit in which he had commenced it. It is only a book of beginnings,
a history of the founding of churches, the initial steps in the formation of the
Christian society in the different places visited by the apostles. It records
a cycle of "representative events."
All through the narrative we see the ever-present, all-controlling power of the
ever-living Saviour. He worketh all and in all in spreading abroad his truth among
men by his Spirit and through the instrumentality of his apostles.
The time of the writing of this history may be gathered from the fact that the
narrative extends down to the close of the second year of Paul's first imprisonment
at Rome. It could not therefore have been written earlier than A.D. 61 or 62,
nor later than about the end of A.D. 63. Paul was probably put to death during
his second imprisonment, about A.D. 64, or, as some think, 66.
The place where the book was written was probably Rome, to which Luke accompanied
The key to the contents of the book is in Acts 1:8 , "Ye shall be witnesses unto
me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost
part of the earth." After referring to what had been recorded in a "former treatise"
of the sayings and doings of Jesus Christ before his ascension, the author proceeds
to give an account of the circumstances connected with that event, and then records
the leading facts with reference to the spread and triumphs of Christianity over
the world during a period of about thirty years. The record begins with Pentecost
(A.D. 33) and ends with Paul's first imprisonment (A.D. 63 or 64). The whole contents
of the book may be divided into these three parts:
|Chapters. 1 - 12, describing the first twelve years of the
Christian church. This section has been entitled "From Jerusalem to Antioch."
It contains the history of the planting and extension of the church among the
Jews by the ministry of Peter.
Chapters. 13 - 21, Paul's missionary journeys, giving the history of the extension
and planting of the church among the Gentiles.
Chapters. 21 - 28, Paul at Rome, and the events which led to this. Chapters. 13
- 28 have been entitled "From Antioch to Rome."
In this book it is worthy of note that no mention is made of the writing by Paul
of any of his epistles. This may be accounted for by the fact that the writer
confined himself to a history of the planting of the church, and not to that of
its training or edification. The relation, however, between this history and the
epistles of Paul is of such a kind, i.e., brings to light so many undesigned coincidences,
as to prove the genuineness and authenticity of both, as is so ably shown by Paley
in his Horae Paulinae. "No ancient work affords so many tests of veracity; for
no other has such numerous points of contact in all directions with contemporary
history, politics, and topography, whether Jewish, or Greek, or Roman." Lightfoot.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
The fifth book in the New testament and the second treatise by the author of the
third Gospel, traditionally known as Luke. The book commences with an inscription
to one Theophilus, who was probably a man of birth and station. The readers were
evidently intended to be the members of the Christian Church, whether Jews or
Gentiles; for its contents are such as are of the utmost consequence to the whole
Church. They are the fulfillment of the promise of the Father by the descent of
the Holy Spirit, and the results of that outpouring by the dispersion of the gospel
among the Jews and Gentiles. Under these leading heads all the personal and subordinate
details may be arranged. First St. Peter becomes the prime actor under God int
he founding of the Church. He is the centre of the first group of sayings and
doings. The opening of the door to Jews, ch. 2, and Gentiles, ch. 10, is his office,
and by him, in good time, is accomplished. Then the preparation of Saul of Tarsus
for the work to be done, the progress, in his hand, of that work, his journeyings,
preachings and perils, his stripes and imprisonments, his testifying in Jerusalem
and being brought to testify in Rome, --these are the subjects of the latter half
of the book, of which the great central figure is the apostle Paul. The history
given in the Acts occupies about 33 years, and the reigns of the Roman emperors
Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero. It seems most probable that the place of
writing was Roma, and the time about two years from the date of St. Pauls arrival
there, as related in ( Acts 28:30 ) This would give us fro the publication about
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
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 "Acts of Apostles" or "The Acts 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, "Acts of the Apostles"). So Griesbach, Scholz. Several fathers
(Clement of Alex, Origen, Dionysius of Alex, Cyril of Jerusalem, Chrysostom) quote
it as "The Acts of the Apostles" (Hai Praxeis ton Apostolon). Finally A2 EGH give
it in the form "Acts of the Holy Apostles" (Praxeis ton Hagion Apostolon). The
Memphitic version has "The Acts of the Holy Apostles." Clearly, then, there was
no single title that commanded general acceptance.
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.
The modern editions of Acts present the types of text (Textus Receptus; the Revised
Version (British and American); the critical text like that of Westcott and Hort,
The New Testament 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)
Acts see Rackham, The Acts of the Apostles, xxii.
In Acts 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 Acts (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.
|Bornemann in 1848 argued that Codex Bezae in Acts represented
the original text. But he has had very few followers.
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.
Chase (1893) sought to show that the peculiarities were due to translation from
Blass in 1895 created a sensation by arguing in his Commentary on Acts (Acta Apostolorum,
24) 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 Acts (Acta Apostolorum, secundum Formam quae videtur
Romanam). Blass calls this first, rough, unabridged copy of Acts (beta) and considers
that it was issued at Rome. The later edition, abridged and revised, he calls
alpha. Curiously enough, in Acts 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, 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.
Hilgenfeld (Acta Apostolorum, etc., 1899) accepts the notion of two edd, but denies
identity of authorship.
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 Acts of the Apostles, 1909, 45). See
also Knowling, The Acts of the Apostles, 1900, 47, for a sharp indictment of Blass'
theory as being too simple and lacking verification.
Harnack (The Acts 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.
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.
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). But Headlam is still shy of "Western"
readings. The fact is that the Western readings are sometimes correct as against
the Neutral (compare Matthew 27:49). It is not necessary in Acts 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 Acts 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. 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 (Acts of Peter, Acts
of the Seven, Acts 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 Acts 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 Acts 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
Perhaps the compilation theory of Acts 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 Acts 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 Acts and the
Gospel of Luke. The same man wrote the rest of Acts 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.
IV. The Author.
Assuming the unity of the book, the argument runs as follows: The author was a
companion of Paul. The "we" sections prove that (Acts 16:10-17; 20:6-16; 21; 27;
28). These sections have the fullness of detail and vivid description natural
to an eye-witness. This companion was with Paul in the second missionary journey
at Troas and at Philippi, joined Paul's party again at Philippi on the return
to Jerusalem during the third tour, and probably remained with Paul till he went
to Rome. Some of Paul's companions came to him at Rome: others are so described
in the book as to preclude authorship. Aristarchus, Aquila and Priscilla, Erastus,
Gaius, Mark, Silas, Timothy, Trophimus, Tychicus and others more or less insignificant
from the point of view of connection with Paul (like Crescens, Demas, Justus,
Linus, Pudens, Sopater, etc.) are easily eliminated. Curiously enough Luke and
Titus are not mentioned in Acts by name at all. They are distinct persons as is
stated in 2 Timothy 4:10 f. Titus was with Paul in Jerusalem at the conference
(Galatians 2:1) and was his special envoy to Corinth during the time of trouble
there. (2 Corinthians 2:1; 12:18.)
He was later with Paul in Crete (Titus 1:5). But the absence of mention of Titus
in Acts may be due to the fact that he was a brother of Luke (compare 2 Corinthians
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 Acts
argues for Luke. The writer was a physician. This fact Hobart (The Medical Language
of Luke, 1882) has demonstrated. Compare Zahn, Einl, 2, 435; Harnack's Luke the
Physician, 177. 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 Acts 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 Acts 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 Luke 8:43. Now Luke was a companion
of Paul during his later ministry and was a physician. (Colossians 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 Acts (Acts 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 Acts are credited
to Luke the physician. The Muratorian canon ascribes Acts to Luke. By the end
of the 2nd century the authority of the Acts is as well established as that of
the Gospel (Salmon, Introduction to the New Testament, 1885, 366). Irenaeus, Tertullian,
Clement of Alexandria, 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 Acts ought to win all to this position.
The use of the Acts 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 Acts circulate. At
first we find literary allusions without the name of book or author. But Holtzmann
(Einl, 1892, 406) admits the use of Acts 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 Acts 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 Acts is now secure in the canon.
|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 Acts 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 Acts 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 Acts 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
(Acts 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 Acts(for instance,
Galatians 1:17-24 and Acts 9:26-30; Galatians 2:1-10 and Acts 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.
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 Luke 21:20 shows that this tragedy had
already occurred, as compared with Mark 13:14 and Matthew 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 Acts 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 Acts because of the uncertainty about the date of the Gospel.
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 Acts 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 Acts 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 Luke
1:1-4 for the general method of the author. He used both oral and written sources.
In the Acts 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, Acts 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.
There is no reason to think that Luke suddenly left Paul in Jerusalem and returned
to Caesarea only when he started to Rome (Acts 27:1). The absence of "we" is natural
here, since it is not a narrative of travel, but a sketch of Paul's arrest and
series of defenses. The very abundance of material here, as in Acts 20 and 21,
argues for the presence of Luke. But at any rate Luke has access to Paul himself
for information concerning this period, as was true of the second, from Acts 13
to the end of the book. Luke was either present or he could have learned from
Paul the facts used. He may have kept a travel diary, which was drawn upon when
necessary. Luke could have taken notes of Paul's addresses in Jerusalem (Acts
22) and Caesarea (Acts 24-26). From these, with Paul's help, he probably composed
the account of Paul's conversion (Acts 9:1-30). If, as I think is true, the book
was written during Paul's first Roman imprisonment, Luke had the benefit of appeal
to Paul at all points. But, if so, he was thoroughly independent in style and
assimilated his materials like a true historian. Paul (and also Philip for part
of it) was a host witness to the events about Stephen in Acts 6:8-8:1 and a participant
of the work in Antioch (11:19-30). Philip, the of Paul's company (21:8) on the
last journey to Jerusalem, was probably in Caesarea still during Paul's confinement
there. He could have told Luke the events in Acts 6:1-7 and 8:4-40. In Caesarea
also the story of Peter's work may have been derived, possibly even from Cornelius
himself (9:32-11:18). Whether Luke ever went to Antioch or not we do not know
(Codex Bezae has "we" in Acts 11:28), though he may have had access to the Antiochian
traditions. But he did go to Jerusalem. However, the narrative in Acts 12 probably
rests on the authority of John Mark (Acts 12:12,25), in whose mother's house the
disciples were assembled. Luke was apparently thrown with Mark in Rome (Colossians
4:10), if not before. For Acts 1-5 the matter does not at first seem so clear,
but these chapters are not necessarily discredited on that account. It is remarkable,
as ancient historians made so little mention of their sources, that we can connect
Luke in the Acts with so many probable fountains of evidence. Barnabas (4:36)
was able to tell much about the origin of the work in Jerusalem. So could Mnason.
Philip also was one of the seven (6:5; 21:8). We do not know that Luke met Peter
in Rome, though that is possible. But during the stay in Jerusalem and Caesarea
(two years) Luke had abundant opportunity to learn the narrative of the great
events told in Acts 1-5. He perhaps used both oral and written sources for this
section. One cannot, of course, prove by linguistic or historical arguments the
precise nature of Luke's sources in Acts. Only in broad outlines the probable
materials may be sketched.
VIII. The Speeches in Acts.
This matter is important enough to receive separate treatment. Are the numerous
speeches reported in Acts 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 Acts 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.
Luke heard Paul speak at Miletus (Acts 20) and may have taken notes at the time.
So also he almost certainly heard Paul's address on the steps of the Tower of
Antonia (Acts 22) and that before Agrippa (Acts 26). There is no reason to think
that he was absent when Paul made his defenses before Felix and Festus (Acts 24-25)
He was present on the ship when Paul spoke (Acts 27), and in Rome when he addressed
the Jews (Acts 28) Luke was not on hand when Paul delivered his sermon at Antioch
in Pisidia (Acts 13), or at Lystra (Acts 14), or at Athens (Acts 17) But these
discourses differ so greatly in theme and treatment, and are so essentially Pauline
that it is natural to think that Paul himself gave Luke the notes which he used.
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
1 Corinthians 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 Acts 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 (Acts 24) was made in public, as was the
public statement of Festus in Acts 26. The letter of Claudias Lysias to Felix
in Acts 23 was a public document. How Luke got hold of the conversation about
Paul between Festus and Agrippa in Acts 26 is more difficult to conjecture.
IX. Relation of Acts 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 Acts 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 Acts 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 Acts 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 Galatians 2:1-10 and Acts 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 Acts is therefore unhistorical Others save the
credit of Acts by arguing that Paul is referring to an earlier private conference
some years before the public discussion recorded in Acts 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 Galatians 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 Galatians
2:1-10 setting forth his victory over the Judaizers in behalf of Gentile freedom.
But in Acts 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 Acts that they agree. In Galatians also Paul's victory for
Gentile freedom comes out. Indeed, in Acts 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 Galatians 2:1 we
have the second (Galatians 1:18) visit to Jerusalem after his conversion mentioned
by Paul, while that in Acts 15 is the third in Acts (9:28; 11:29; 15:2).
But there was no particular reason for Paul to mention the visit in Acts 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 Acts
and Ga occurs in Galatians 1:17-24, and Acts 9:26-30. In Acts there is no allusion
to the visit to Arabia, just as there is no mention of the private conference
in Acts 15. So also in Acts 15:35-39 there is no mention of the sharp disagreement
between Paul and Peter at Antioch recorded in Galatians 2:11. 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 Acts and the epistles vary, they really supplement
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 (Luke 2:1), and the entrance of John the Baptist upon his ministry with
the names of the chief Roman and Jewish rulers of the time (Luke 3:1) So also
in the Acts 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 (Acts 1:3), and the great Day
of Pentecost would then come ten days later, "not many days hence" (Acts 1:5)
But the other events in the opening chapters of Acts 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 Acts 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 Acts
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 Galatians 2:1 as already shown probably point to the visit
in Acts 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 (Galatians 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 (Acts 11:26). The visit to Jerusalem in Acts 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
Luke has divided this period into minor divisions with relative dates. Thus a
year and six months are mentioned at Corinth (Acts 18:11), besides "yet many days"
(Acts 18:18). In Ephesus we find mention of "three months" (Acts 19:8) and "two
years" (Acts 19:10), the whole story summed up as "three years" (Acts 20:31) Then
we have the "two years" of delay in Caesarea (Acts 24:27). We thus have about
seven of these fifteen years itemized. Much of the remaining eight was spent in
the journeys described by Luke. We are told also the times of year when the voyage
to Rome was under way (Acts 27:9), the length of the voyage (Acts 27:27), the
duration of the stay in Melita (Acts 28:11), and the times spent in Rome at the
close of the book, "two whole years" (Acts 28:30). Thus it is possible to fix
upon a relative schedule of dates, though not an absolute one. Harnack (The Acts
of the Apostles, chapter i, "Chronological Data") has worked out a very careful
scheme for the whole of Acts. Knowling has a good critical resume of the present
state of our knowledge of the chronology of Acts in his Commentary, 38, compare
also Clemen, Die Chronologie der paulinischen Briefe (1893). It is clear, then,
that a rational scheme for events of Paul's career so far as recorded in the Acts
can be found. If 57 AD, for instance, should be taken as the year of Festus coming
rather than 59 or 60 AD, the other dates back to 44 AD would, of course, be affected
on a sliding scale. Back of 44 AD the dates are largely conjectural.
XI. Historical Worth of Acts.
It was once fashionable to discredit Acts as a book of no real value as history.
The Tubingen school regarded Acts 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 Acts 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
(2 Corinthians 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 Acts
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 Acts "is more trustworthy
than previous critics allowed" (Ramsay, Luke the Physician, 5). Schmiedel (Encyclopedia
Biblica) still argues that the writer of Acts is inaccurate because he was not
in possession of full information. But on the whole Acts 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 (Luke 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 Acts 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 (Acts 16:20), and are accompanied by lictors or rhabdouchoi (Acts
16:35). In Thessalonica the rulers are "politarchs" (Acts 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 (Acts 17:19) and the proconsul
in Achaia (Acts 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"
(Acts 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" (Acts 19:35). Then observe the town clerk (Acts 19:35), and the
assembly (Acts 19:39). Note also the title of Felix, "governor" or procurator
(Acts 24:1), Agrippa the king (25:13), Julius the centurion and the Augustan band
(Acts 27:1). Acts 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" (Acts 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 Acts
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 Luke 2:2 and Acts 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 (Acts 5) Luke as compared
with Josephus outclasses his rival. Harnack (The Acts 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
Acts 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 Acts 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 Acts 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 Acts 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 Acts 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 Acts 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 Romans 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 Acts 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 Acts 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 Acts 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 (Acts 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 Acts
1:8. Rome was not "the nethermost part of the earth," Spain more nearly being
that. Nor did Paul take the gospel to Rome.
Besides, to make the arrival of Paul in Rome the goal in the mind of Christ is
too narrowing a purpose. The purpose to go to Rome did dominate Paul's mind for
several years (Acts 19:21), but Paul cuts no figure in the early part of the book.
And Paul wished to push on from Rome to Spain (Romans 15:24). It is probably true
that Luke means to announce his purpose in Acts 1:1-8. One needs to keep in mind
also Luke 1:1-4. There are various ways of writing history. Luke chooses the biographical
method in Acts. Thus he conceives that he can best set forth the tremendous task
of interpreting the first thirty years of the apostolic history. It is around
persons (compare Harnack, The Acts of the Apostles, 117), two great figures (Peter
and Paul), that the narrative is focused. Peter is most prominent in Acts 1-12,
Paul in 13-28. Still Paul's conversion is told in Acts 9 and Peter reappears in
Acts 15. But these great personages do not stand alone. John the Apostle is certainly
with Peter in the opening chapters. The other apostles are mentioned also by name
(Acts 1:13) and a number of times in the first twelve chapters (and in Acts 15).
But after Acts 15 they drop out of the narrative, for Luke follows the fortunes
The other chief secondary figures in Acts 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 (Acts 1:1). 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 Acts
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 Acts 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.
|1. The connection between the work of the apostles and that
of Jesus (Acts 1:1-11).
2. The equipment of the early disciples for their task (Acts 1:12-2:47).
|(a) The disciples obeying Christ's parting command (Acts
(b) The place of Judas filled (Acts 1:15-26).
(c) Miraculous manifestations of the presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-13).
(d) Peter's interpretation of the situation (Acts 2:14-36).
(e) The immediate effect of the sermon (Acts 2:37-41).
(f) The new spirit in the Christian community (Acts 2:42-47).
3. The development of the work in Jerusalem (Acts 3:1-8:1).
|(a) An incident in the work of Peter and John with Peter's
apologetic (Acts 3).
(b) Opposition of the Sadducees aroused by the preaching of the resurrection of
Jesus (Acts 4:1-31).
(c) An internal difficulty, the problem of poverty (Acts 4:32-5:11).
(d) Great progress of the cause in the city (Acts 5:12-16).
(e) Renewed hostility of the Sadducees and Gamaliel's retort to the Pharisees
(f) A crisis in church life and the choice of the seven Hellenists (Acts 6:1-7).
(g) Stephen's spiritual interpretation of Christianity stirs the antagonism of
the Pharisees and leads to his violent death (Acts 6:8-8:1).
4. The compulsory extension of the gospel to Judea, Samaria and the neighboring
regions (Acts 8:1-40).
|(a) The great persecution, with Saul as leader (Acts 8:1-4).
(b) Philip's work as a notable example of the work of the scattered disciples
5. The conversion of Saul changes the whole situation for Christianity (Acts 9:1-31).
|(a) Saul's mission to Damascus (Acts 9:1-3).
(b) Saul stopped in his hostile course and turns Christian himself (Acts 9:4-18).
(c) Saul becomes a powerful exponent of the gospel in Damascus and Jerusalem (Acts
(d) The church has peace (Acts 9:31).
6. The door opened to the Gentiles, both Roman and Greek (Acts 9:32-11:30).
|(a) Peter's activity in this time of peace (Acts 9:32-43).
(b) The appeal from Cornelius in Caesarea and Peter's response (Acts 10).
(c) Peter's arraignment before the Pharisaic element in the church in Jerusalem
(d) Greeks in Antioch are converted and Barnabas brings Saul to this work (Acts
(e) The Greek Christians send relief to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem (Acts
7. Persecution from the civil government (Acts 12).
|(a) Herod Agrippa I kills James and imprisons Peter (Acts
(b) Herod pays the penalty for his crimes (Acts 12:20-23).
(c) Christianity prospers (Acts 12:24).
8. The Gentilepropaganda from Antioch under the leadership of Barnabas and Saul
|(a) The specific call of the Holy Spirit to this work (Acts
(b) The province of Cyprus and the leadership of Paul (Acts 13:4-12).
(c) The province of Pamphylia and the desertion of John Mark (Acts 13:13).
(d) The province of Galatia (Pisidia and Lycaonia) and the stronghold of the gospel
upon the native population (Acts 13:14-14:24).
(e) The return and report to Antioch (Acts 14:25-28).
9. The Gentilecampaign challenged by the Judaizers (Acts 15:1-35).
|(a) They meet Paul and Barnabas at Antioch who decide to
appeal to Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-3).
(b) The first public meeting in Jerusalem (Acts 15:4).
(c) The second and more extended discussion with the decision of the conference
(d) The joyful reception (in Antioch) of the victory of Paul and Barnabas (Acts
10. The second great campaign extending to Europe (Acts 15:36-18:22).
|(a) The breach between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark
(b) From Antioch to Troas with the Macedonian Cry (Acts 15:40-16:10).
(c) In Philippi in Macedonia the gospel gains a foothold in Europe, but meets
opposition (Acts 16:11-40).
(d) Paul is driven also from Thessalonica and Berea (compare Philippi), cities
of Macedonia also (Acts 17:1-15).
(e) Paul's experience in Athens (Acts 17:16-34).
(f) In Corinth Paul spends nearly two years and the cause of Christ wins legal
recognition from the Roman governor (Acts 18:1-17).
(g) The return to Antioch by way of Ephesus, Caesarea and probably Jerusalem (Acts
11. The third great tour, with Ephesus as headquarters (Acts 18:23-20:3).
|(a) Paul in Galatia and Phrygia again (Acts 18:23).
(b) Apollos in Ephesus before Paul comes (Acts 18:24-28).
(c) Paul's three years in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-20:1).
(d) The brief visit to Corinth because of the troubles there (Acts 20:1-3).
12. Paul turns to Jerusalem again with plans for Rome (Acts 20:4-21:16).
|(a) His companions (Acts 20:4).
(b) Rejoined by Luke at Philippi (Acts 20:5).
(c) The story of Troas (Acts 20:7-12).
(d) Coasting along Asia (Acts 20:13-16).
(e) with the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Acts 20:17-38).
(f) From Miletus to Tyre (Acts 21:1-6).
(g) From Tyre to Caesarea (Acts 21:7-14).
(h) From Caesarea to Jerusalem (Acts 21:15).
13. The outcome in Jerusalem (Acts 21:15-23:30).
|(a) Paul's reception by the brethren (Acts 21:15-17).
(b) Their proposal of a plan by which Paul could undo the work of the Judaizers
concerning him in Jerusalem (Acts 21:18-26).
(c) The uproar in the temple courts raised by the Jews from Asia as Paul was carrying
out the plan to disarm the Judaizers (Acts 21:27-30).
(d) Paul's rescue by the Roman captain and Paul's defense to the Jewish mob (Acts
(e) Examination of the chief captain (Acts 22:24-29).
(f) Brought before the Sanhedrin (Acts 22:30-23:10).
(g) Cheered by the Lord Jesus (Acts 23:11).
(h) Paul's escape from the plot of Jewish conspirators (Acts 23:12-30).
14. Paul a prisoner in Caesarea (Acts 23:31-26).
|(a) The flight to Caesarea and presentation to Felix (Acts
(b) Paul's appearance before Felix (Acts 24).
(c) Paul before Festus (Acts 25:1-12).
(d) Paul, as a matter of curiosity and courtesy, brought before Herod Agrippa
II (Acts 25:13-26:32).
15. Paul going to Rome (Acts 27:1-28:15).
|(a) From Caesarea to Myra (Acts 27:1-5).
(b) From Myra to Fair Havens (Acts 27:6-8).
(c) From Fair Havens to Malta (Acts 27:9-28:10).
(d) From Malta to Rome (Acts 28:11-15).
16. Paul in Rome at last (Acts 28:16-31).
|(a) His quarters (Acts 28:16).
(b) His first interview with the Jews (Acts 28:17-22).
(c) His second interview with the Jews (Acts 28:23-28).
(d) Two years afterward still a prisoner, but with freedom to preach the gospel
Besides the works referred to above see Wendt's edition of Meyer's Kommentar (1899);
Headlam in HDB; Knowling on Acts in Expositor's Greek Testament (1900); Knowling,
Witness of the Epistles (1892), Testimony of Paul to Christ (1905); Moffatt, Historical
New Testament (1901).
Here is a selected list of important works:
Bacon, Introduction to the New Testament (1900); Bennett and Adeney, Biblical
Introduction (1899); Bleek, Einleitung in das New Testament (4 Aufl, 1900); S.
Davidson, (3rd edition, 1894); C. R. Gregory, Canon and Text of the New Testament
(1907), H. J. Holtzmann, Einleitung in das New Testament (3 Aufl, 1892), Jacquies,
Histoire des livres du New Testament (1905-8); Julicher, Introduction to the New
Testament (translation, 1904); Peaks, Critical Introduction to the New Testament
(1909); Reuss, Canon of the Holy Scriptures (translation, 1886); Salmon, Hist
Introduction to the Study of the Books of the New Testament (7th edition, 1896),
von Soden, The History of Early Christian Lit. (translation, 1906), B. Weiss,
A Manual of Introduction to the New Testament (translation, 1889), Westcott, History
of the Canon of the New Testament (1869), Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament
(translation, 1909), Moffatt, Introduction to the Lit. of the New Testament (1911).
See general works on textual criticism of the New Testament (Gregory, Kenyon,
Nestle, Tischendorf, Scrivener, von Soden, B. Weiss, Westcott, etc.). Of special
treatises note Blass, Philology of the Gospels (1898). Acta Apostolorum (1895);
Bornemann, Acta Apostolorum (1848); Chase, Old Syriac Element in the Text of Codex
Bezae (1893), Corssen, Der cyprianische Text der Acta Apostolorum (1892); Klostermann,
Probleme im Apostel Texts (1883), Klostermann, Vindiciae Lucanae (1866); Nestle,
Philologia (1896); J. Rendel Harris, Study Codex Bezae (1891).
3. Apostolic History:
For literature on the life of Paul see Robertson, Epochs in the Life of Paul (1909),
321-27, and article PAUL in this encyclopedia. Important general works are the
following: Bartlet, The Apostolie Age (1899); Baumgarten, The Apostolic History
(translation, 1854); Blunt, Studies in the Apostolic Age (1909); Burton, Records
and Letters of the Apostolic Age (1895); Doellinger, The First Age of the Church
(translation, 1867); Dobschutz, Christian Life in the Primitive Church (translation,
1904); Ewald, History of the Apostolic Times (translation, Vol VI in 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 Acts 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 Acts 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 Acts 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 Acts (1897); J. Lightfoot, Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations on the Acts
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 Acts (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
Acts of the Apostles (translation, 1875); Maurice Jones, Paul the Orator (1910).
There are the great standard works. like Bede, Bengel, Calvin, Chrysostom, Grotius.
The chief modern commentaries are the following: Alexander (1857), Alloral (6th
edition, 1868), Bartlet (1901), Blass (Acta Apostolorum, 1895), Ewald (Apostelgeschichte,
1871), Felten (Apostelgeschichte, 1892), Hackett (1882), Holtzmann (Hand-Commentar,
3 Aufl, 1901), Knabenbauer (Actus Apostol, 1899), Knowling (Expositor's Greek
Text, 1900), Luthardt and Zoeckler (Apostelgeschichte, 2nd edition, 1894), McGarvey
(1892), Meyer (translation by Gloag and Dickson, 1885), Meyer-Wendt (Apostelgeschichte,
1888). Noesgen (Apostelgeschichte, 1882), Olshausen (1832), Page (1897), Rackham
(1901), Rendall, (1897), Stokes (1892), B. Weiss (Apostelgeschichte, 1892, 2nd
A. T. Robertson
acts of the apostles, bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, define, gospel of the holy ghost, the gospel of the resurrection, historical book, luke, new testament, the book of acts